Posts Tagged ‘caregivers’

It’s not that most caregiving families want to, but there may come a time when your spouse’s or elder-parent’s care becomes more than you can physically or emotionally manage at home. Caregivers need to look past the initial bells and whistles of a care facility to make sure that your loved one is receiving the very best care at all hours of the day and night.

How to Choose a Care  Facility For a Loved One:

  • Plan early—don’t wait until it’s an emergency. The highest rated
    care homes usually have a waiting list.
  • Don’t pay for more than you need. Know that cost rises with care needs, so don’t pay for services your loved one doesn’t need–yet. Ask if they have a graduated care situation or whether your loved one will have to find another home if their care needs increase.
  • Consider smaller care facilities or even a group home. Bigger isn’t always better.
  • Don’t get razzle-dazzled by fancy entrances/amenities. Look past all that and notice how the staff interacts with their residents–are they caring, engaged, friendly, and prompt?
  • Visit several times/and several shifts before making your
    decision–and eat the food for yourself–and if you can, talk to a resident or family member of someone who’s already living there
  • Consider visiting with a friend or someone who is impartial and can notice things you don’t want to–or can’t see.
  • Ask other caregivers if they know about this facility and
    “what’s the word on the street?” Check out a care home rating site such as the ones listed at: http://www.consumerhealthratings.com/index.php?action=showSubCats&cat_id=268
  • Check online for more facility information and reviews–Caring.com lists care homes, facilities and hospices in your area–along with helpful checklists and other info to assist you http://www.caring.com/local
  • Does the facility offer family support services, such as caregiver support
    groups and family event days?
  • Discuss how client and family concerns are handled, what is the
    protocol for disputes? Also find out the procedure for how to move your loved one to another facility if that becomes a necessity.
  • Ask about turnover rate of employees and residents. If people are happy–they stay.
  •  Ask how they screen their employees and how often this is
    updated (know that some care facilities allow employees to have misdemeanors, etc. on their record)
  • Ask to view the ACA survey. It will list the facility’s records on everything from safety records, employee issues, MRSA and other infections, bed sores, accident/fall rates.
  • How is orientation handled and what efforts are made to
    integrate your loved one with the staff and other clients?
  • Find out if your spouse/parent’s doctors/hospital serve this
    care facility or if you will have to find all new doctors. (Many physicians or their assistants visit care homes, which can make it easier than your family member having to make a trip into the doctor’s office.
  • Consider location and how often you–and others–can visit.
  • Consider other location factors–should your loved one stay in their own community where they have friends, doctors, and religious support?
  • Never forget that you are your loved one’s care advocate. Stay involved, hang out, and continue to be aware of their physical, financial, and emotional needs.
  • Visit often and make sure it’s not a “to do” session. Caregiving can strip you of your most important role–to be the spouse, partner, daughter or son. Once your loved one settles in, then it’s time to make an effort to be their emotional support–brighten their day by wearing a smile, bringing small presents, taking them outside (if possible) or bringing them home for a few days around the holidays.

~Carol O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother, available on Kindle

Other great care facility information can be found at:


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The happy caregiver–is that an oxymoron? Not at all. Yes, caregiving is inherently stressful, but it also has many rewards. A recent study featured on Good Morning America shows that having a positive attitude actually adds years to your life–not to mention its impact on the quality of life from everything from fighting depression to boosting your immune system.  

You may not consider yourself a happy caregiver–not every moment of every day, but it’s not too late to change your ‘tude, or realize you actually have more going for you than you realize. Happy isn’t birthday party giddy. Sometimes happy is about a deep sense of knowing you’re in the right place at the right time–doing the right thing.

The Happy Caregiver:

  • Is caregiving because they want to
  • Knows they’re needed
  • Keeps it in balance
  • Has other things going on–friendships, activities, learning
  • Knows that caregiving won’t last forever
  • Laughs off stress
  • Sometimes yells, sometimes slams doors a bit too hard
  • Asks forgiveness
  • Sees themselves as a part of a tribe
  • Asks for help
  • Doesn’t fall for bullying or manipulation
  • Does what’s best–for everyone
  • Keeps the bigger picture in mind
  • Doesn’t even begin to do it all
  • Can tell a good joke
  • And give a good toast
  • Appreciates the moments of surprize and insight that pop up at the most unusual times
  • Accepts imperfection in herself and others (her is just a place holder–guys care-give, too)
  • Keeps short range and longe range plans and goals in mind
  • Stands up for what’s right
  • Curses–occasionally
  • Knows they’re an advocate, a voice when their care buddy needs them
  • Occasionally exhausts all their resources–physically, emotionally, and spirituallly
  • And knows those resevoirs have to be refilled
  • Has a deep sense of faith and hope
  • Accepts that no one gets out of this world–alive
  • Faces their fear–not because they’re uber brave or crazy-strong–but because it’s the only way
  • When the time comes, they embrace the sweetness and quietness of a good death
  • Gives into grief
  • Relies on friends and family for strength
  • Counts blessings
  • Sees life in its many seasons
  • Sees life as precious, precarious, and profound
  • Reinvents herself/himself again and again and again

Maybe you don’t feel bubbly right now–but I bet you see yourself in a few of the lines above. Caregivers are pretty amazing–and the more you choose to view what you do with a sense of honor and integrity and knowing that every day you make a difference, the more you’ll realize you just might be…a happy caregiver.

~Carol D. O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother, available on Kindle

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I always say in my talks that my mother was a dictator in search of a country. She had no problem ordering me–and everyone else around. She was an “old school” Grande Dame who was comfortable ruling the roost, bellowing out orders, and using just about any manipulative tactic known to womankind to get people to do it “her way” (Lord, bless her–that’s the southern way to say something bad about somebody and for it to be okay) Caregiving my mom was an extreme challenge in finding my balance and keeping the ship of our lives on proper course. Even with Alzheimer’ s and Parkinson’s, my mother had a bigger-than-life persona and I had to learn how to be strong–and loving–at the same time.

I’m not alone. I know lots of caregivers who struggle with feeling intimidated.

I know  a woman whose husband is in a wheelchair (due to a car accident) and can’t talk or eat (he has a feeding tube) and still, he controls the entire house–with his eyes and body language. He fusses (moans, turns away, scowls) and his wife and their aides scramble to please him, and do all they can to placate him. They also avoid him as much as possible because no one enjoys his company. That’s a lot of power–without ever having to speak a word!

Even though my mom was a force to be reckoned with, I had to learn how to make decisions and follow through even when she disagreed. Some days were better than others. Some days she was in a foul mood. Some days I was the fussy one.

I had to break it down to 5 minute increments. I used to put a band-aid on my finger–something to “fiddle” with that kept reminding me not to get sucked into the argument, latest demand, or fall down the sink hole of her emotions.

3 Tips to Break the Intimidation Cycle:

  • Pick your battles, but once you pick one–follow through. Once you establish a new edict, you have to, have to, have to stick with it. “Intimidators”  look for chinks in the armor–and will attack with twice as much arsenal as before!
  • Do what’s right–and best for everyone. As a caregiver, you don’t have the luxury of thinking about just one person. If you’re a part of the sandwich generation or have a multigenerational household, you have to consider the other members of your family.  Doing “what’s best for all” is a way to measure and balance your decisions, and it’s also something to fall back on or “blame” for what you have to do. Consider yourself the general of a vast army, and it’s your job to look at the big picture–and to come out of the war as victor and with the least casualties.
  • Dig deep. Do lots of self talks. When you feel yourself slipping, second-guessing, cowering…leave the room and go take three deep breaths. Even if they’re yelling at you not to leave the room, leave anyway.  Be alone for a minutes and let the fear, hostility, anxiousness leave your body. Remember the overall plan, what’ s best–and go back in when you’re ready.
  • BONUS TIP: Are you a people pleaser–times ten?  We’d (I throw myself in this category) rather keep the peace than speak up, but when we stuff our emotions, they tend to come out in other ways–depression, overeating, apathy, anxiety. Ask yourself what you’re afraid of? Will they be mad at you? Is that so bad? Let them have their own emotions and that you don’t have to get sucked in. Once they learn they can’t manipulate you, they may give up–but it won’t matter what they do once you find your own quiet center.

Being an “intimidator” or being intimidated isn’t a healthy basis for a relationship. Breaking the cycle takes awareness and consistency. But I’m here to tell you that it is possible–to relearn how to talk with and treat each other. In small, but significant ways, we can change. But the only person we need to worry about changing–is ourselves.

Carol O’Dell

Author, Mothering Mother

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Holidays, birthdays, other celebrations when you’re having your grandparents, in-laws, teens, college kids, dates, toddlers, spouses and sometimes ex-spouses all under one roof–it can make you feel like you”re a lion tamer and you never know when one’s going to take a swipe at you.  You may be the primary caregiver, or the out-of-town sister, the peacemaker, the black sheep, or even feel like you’re the one who gets lost in the crowd. Families often bring out the worst in us, even when we’re really trying to be on our best behavior. So how do we come together–multigenerational famileis –and  really be together in meaningful ways?

How to Really Be with Your Family:

  • Be yourself. You don’t have to be rude and crude, but also try not to put on a front. Let them love you for who you are–warts and all. If they rib you a bit too much, say, “Hey guys, that hurts. Please don’t kid about that.” But go ahead and be who you are. It’s our quirks, our vulnerabilities, our oddness that makes us unique. So what if you’re divorced–again, if you’re gay, if you have a reputation for drinking a bit too much eggnog or if your housekeeping skills (or lack thereof are legendary) Let them talk. In the end, it’s better just to be yourself. When you like you–everybody else falls in line.
  • Embrace your wild and crazy relatives! While you’re with your family, decide to be with you family. No iPhones, Blackberries, Facebooks. Be present. Give smelly Aunt Gladys and great big hug and make her day. Don’t fuss about the 1,000 calorie casserole–eat a spoonful and enjoy it–or eat the whole thing and don’t worry about it. Sit among your aunts, uncles, ex’s, kids, grandparents and feel the connection you have–the DNA cocktail that connects you–for better or worse–and accept them as part of you.
  • Decide right now not to let anyone push your buttons. If you know someone really like to zero in and dig at you–then don’t hang out with that person. Get up and move. Ask someone to take stroll around the block, play chess with your dad. If you get cornered and they start in on you, open your arms and give them a big hug and say Merry Christmas and then walk away–even if they’re still going at it! And remember, if a good ole’ family fight breaks out, it’s par for the course and will give you something to talk about in years to come!
  • Do something together–play a game, charades, start singing some Carols, play Scene It or Wii. Pitch in and wash dishes so mom doesn’t have to. Or find someone who’s all alone–and sit with them–you may be surprised that they really do have a lot to say.  We tend to fight and nit-pick a lot less when we’re engaged, when our hands are occupied.
  • Find someone to give to. Look for opportunities to give–maybe your grandmother has Alzheimer’s. Get out an old album and look at each picture with her. Many times their memories go deep and you’ll find a connection, something  or someone from long ago. If your dad’s caregiving your mom, then hire respite care and take him off for the afternoon–to a car show or an indoor shooting range, or to do a little shopping.  The gift of your time and ability to touch someone’s life is the best gift you have to offer.
  • Put a time limit on your visit. If you have one of those families that things get ugly as the night wears on, then set a timer on your phone and leave before the werewolves come out to play. It’s better to be with your family for three hours–and then leave with good memories–rather than stay for eight hours and see the ugly side emerge. You’re also sending an important message–that you don’t have to subject yourself to verbal abuse and people acting in ways that are hurtful to themselves and others.
  • If your family gathering is at your house, then take a few “smoke” breaks. You know how smokers sneak out about every two hours and sit outside for ten minutes in the quiet? Who says we need to smoke to take a smoke break! About every two hours, slip outside. Bundle up and take a short walk. Go to your room and take a ten minute nap. Being together doesn’t mean you can’t get away and decompress. Trust me, if you step out for just a few minutes, you’ll come back refreshed.
  • Look for a “God moment.” That’s what I call that one special moment during the season when I feel the true essence of the holiday spirit. I’ve come to expect that holy sacred time to emerge when I least expect it. Sometimes it’s a random act of kindness from a stranger, other times it’s a red cardinal that lands on a frozen bird bath, or a child’s hug that simply takes my breath. We get what we ask for–and if you come to expect life to delight and surprise you, it will.

Yeah, our families can drive us crazy–but we love them, too. Love them for who they are. Be yourself and come together with all your edges, your oddness, your hurts–and spend just a few hours really being with your family. Then leave- with those new memories safely tucked away-before things go amuck!

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If you haven’t seen Pixar’s UP, get in the car and head to the movies. I’m not kidding. That’s an order:) And if you are a part of or direct a care home, an adult day care or a senior community center, load them all in the van and take them to see UP. You won’t regret it.

If you’ve been reading my blog, you know I don’t use it as a way to endorse or promote anything I don’t passionately believe in–so I hope you’ll trust me on this.

And it’s absolutely perfect for Fathers Day! 
If you’re a caregiver, what a perfect outing and take your loved one. Sandwich Generation? Take everybody to the movies!

Oh, and take a box of tissues–and be ready to laugh, cry, smile, and leave feeling completely rejuvenated.

Yes, it’s a cartoon, but I’m not sure Pixar’s great films (Monster’s Inc. Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Wall E) can be placed in the category with Sponge Bob (sorry, Bob).

What’s UP about? I’m not telling. I will let you know what you could pick up from the commercials–it’s about a seemingly grumpy old man who has longed for adventure all his life–and about a young boy who so needs a friend. It’s much much more than that and old and young alike will identify with both these characters, their wants, needs and fears. It’s about dreams and adventures and how we find–and lose–and find our way through life.

Oh, and if you’re a dog lover, Doug the dog is adorable! He’s my dog, Rupert on the big screen–lovable, daffy, and most of all, loyal.

It’s about time that our elders were given their on-screen debut and delivered as the complex, meaty, powerful protagonists they are. Yes, it’s super-hero status in the best sense of the word–not because he can fly or walk through walls–but because he still has something amazing to offer the world–his time, love, and experience. It’s about time that the media portrays our elders with the respect they so deserve.

No, Pixar’s not paying (but feel free). I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been deeply touched. Take your dads. Take your moms. Take your aunts, uncles, kids, grandkids, and neighbors. UP will warm your heart, unhinge your tear ducts, and boost your heart.

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If you missed Michael J. Fox’s ABC special based on his book, Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist, you might want to check it out on ABC.com because it might change the way you think–about caregiving, disease, and life.

Michael J. Fox has a way of making life look easy. The hour special showed him talking with his wife (great eye contact and flirty body language), playing golf, flying to Bhutan (known as one of the happiest countries on earth), and hanging out at a dairy farm and the streets of New York. No matter where he was, he was there. The ability to be present is a gift and perhaps a talent that takes a bit of cultivating for most of us. He even “thanks” Parkinson’s for what it’s taught him. Now that’s class.

So I started thinking about the two words Michael explores: optimism and happiness.

Optimisim starts with “opt” which is latin for “to see.” It’s a perspective thing. It’s not what you see (your disease, your circumstances), it’s how you see it, how you perceive it. Princeton Wordnet says that an optimist is “a person disposed to take a favorable view of things.”

Happiness starts with “hap,” which is an old Anglo-Saxon word which means “luck or chance.” For me, that means that you can’t make happiness happen. You can’t force it–it’s like optimism in that it’s perception, and it’s a little like chasing a butterfly–you can exhaust yourself trying to chase the thing down, or you can just sit in your lawn chair and watch it flit all around you and appreciate when it’s even near you–and if it happens to land on you, well then you’re just darn lucky, blessed, whatever word that suits your beliefs.

I like that neither optimism nor happiness are concrete objects. You can’t go buy a pound of optimism and you can’t nail happiness to a wall. It’s a way of looking at things. It’s a way of holding life loose.

Like Michael, my mother’s Parkinson’s (she also had Alzheimer’s) held some ironic gifts. If anyone would have told me that I would be “on the other side” of caregiving, and I would be profoundly grateful for what I learned, for the time I had with my mother, for how the experienced changed me and taught me about life–I think I would have laughed really hard and then I would have given you a sarcastic, “Yeah….right.”  

All you can do is face each day–with its limitations and challenges–and skew your head a bit, squint your eyes, give the day a cocky smile and say, “Hey, I’ll give it a go!” With an attitude of optimism and happiness, you just might be able to squeeze a drop or two of  goodness out of even your most challenging times.

~Carol D. O’Dell, Author of Mothering Mother

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You’re stuck at home caregiving. You can’t come and go as you please. Your loved one could fall, can’t go to the bathroom without you, is afraid when you’re gone. You find yourself envying neighbors walking out their front door and getting into their cars–such a simple and easy thing for most people to do. Not you. The days feel long and exhausting.

I know, I ‘ve been there. When I first moved my mother in with my family and me, I could get out–some. She didn’t like when I left her at home, but at least I could go to the grocery store and take an extra 15 minutes to stop by the library. I could also take my mom out–but that took more than an hour to get her ready, another 15 minutes to get her in the car, and that doesn’t count the time needed to get her out of the car, into a store, out of the store.

Oh shoot, forget it, was what I wound up saying a lot of the time.

I tried to take her out, stimulate her interests (and mine), meet new people and do what we women love to do–shop. It was just so exhausting.

It’s hard to wake up and face a new day–some days–as a caregiver. My mother had Parkinson’s  and Alzheimer’s. Meds needed to be started early if we had any hopes of having a “good day.” She was hungry early, too. I tried my best to have coffee and bit of “me” time (journaling, stretching) before she heard me. I even bought a small coffee pot for my bedroom. Once my mother saw I was up, it was all over. I think she laid in bed and planned out how to order me around all day. That woman had a to-do list a mile long. “Nip it in the bud,” was her motto.

The thought of every day all day at home felt like a prison sentence. No ankle monitor could have kept me more chained. But I learned how to make it work in my favor. I learned in caregiving you have to turn things around and find the good.

When you think about it, most people would LOVE to be at home (or so they think). One day, I decided to stop dreading it.

How to Find Adventure in Your Own Home:

  • Get cable, or the Dish. Television is a link to the outside world. Don’t watch the news (too depressing). Watch the Food Channel, HGTV, or Discovery Channel. Use it to educate yourself. Use it to entertain yourself. Pay a bit more for more channels. They’ve got yoga, old movies, religious channels, sports–whatever floats your boat. You can preach all you want about mindless television, but if you use it right, you can keep yourself company and even learn a thing or two.
  • I took a daily yoga “class” on tv, learned to cook Southwest foods, became a Paula Deen aficionado, and found some great old movies my mother really liked.
  • Got books? I bet you do. You probably have books you haven’t read or barely skimmed. Pull one off the shelf. One a week, in fact. Educate yourself by catching up on what you already have.
  • Got unfinished projects? I sure do. It may take you ten times longer (being interrupted all the time), but why not spread out an art project on the diningroom table and work on it 15 minutes a day.
  • Sign up for an online class. Yes, you’re under house arrest (so to speak), but that doesn’t mean you don’t have access to the world. They don’t call it the World Wide Web for nothing! There’s a class for everything–university level to hobby enthusiast level.
  • Go to a caregiver’s group with an agenda–to make friends. Start a caregiving co-op. Find someone nearby and agree to “mom sit.” Even once a month gives you a day out you don’t have now–and with a fellow caregiver who knows the ropes. Also, trade phone numbers and start calling each other. Remember when you were a new mom and needed a friend? Same thing, make a call and start up a conversation with someone you already have something in common with.
  • Buy magazines. I kept myself inundated with new material. Learning is something you can easily do right at home. Step outside your comfort zone and get a magazine you’ve never bought before–Kayakers, Digital Photography, Psychology, Dog Fancy, you name it and there’s a magazine out there. So it adds ten dollars to your grocery bill. Better ten dollars in beautiful visuals, interesting articles and a chance to daydream is a far better use of your money than Paxil and Zoloft (which ten dollars won’t’ get you much…and if you need them, they’re a godsend).

These are just a few suggestions to help you focus on something other than caregiving. You’ll actually be a better caregiver by cultivating and maintaining your own interests. Resentment, guilt and frustration build when you give yourself no outlets.

Yes, it all takes energy–something you don’t have much of, you argue. You have more than you think. Your exhaustion has more to do with being apathetic (depressed, angry, frustrated–pick your adjective). It’s not all physical. The body (and mind) is resilient–and when you give it a purpose it can endure, persevere, and find untapped sources of joy and enthusiasm you didn’t even know you had.

These were some of my solutions. I hope you find your own. Find your path through caregiving and share your secrets with others. Don’t stop being you. In fact, this caregiving “cocooning” time is quite valuable to you. Yes, you may be pretty much “stuck at home,” but it’s not all bad. Change your perspective and begin to see all the opportunities and adventures you can have in your own four walls (and your own backyard).

What if…you could come out of caregiving renewed and reinvented…What if, caregiving worked in your favor? 

~Carol O’Dell

Need a good read? Check out my book, Mothering Mother

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