Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘elder care’

I finished my blog, “How to Live and Die Well” and while I meant every word, my sarcastic side was reeling.  Admit it, most of us will leave this earth kicking and screaming ( at least on the inside). We don’t want to eat our veggies as much as we’d prefer to dive into a bag of Lays, and aren’t there some days when you want to embrace your inner grump and blast the world? So here’s my comedy version–and on some/most  days–it’s a tad closer to the truth.

How to Live a Horrible Life:

  • Indulge my every whim–even when I’m repeating an already disastrous scenario that didn’t exactly work out the first time.
  • Refuse to forgive–especially myself.
  • Hold on to, nurse, and even embellish grudges, past hurts, and assumed wrongs.
  • Accuse others of stealing from you, talking about you, disliking you (which they probably do by this point) because that further endears you to folks.
  • Watch lots of television.
  • Buy a scooter. Walking is for sissies.
  • Try and force things to happen. It’s exhausting and not trusting, but it’s based on believing that I’m actually in control–of anything and everything.
  • Keep that inner monologue of self-doubt and self-loathing going 24/7.
  • –while simultaneously blaming anybody and everybody else for my crappy life.
  • Get too little sleep, indulge in too many processed foods/sweets, and take a pill, any pill, all the pills I can find–for everything from a hangnail to hemorrhoids.
  • Never do anything that’s not for my own direct benefit.
  • Give up, give in, and then complain about how nothing ever works out for me.
  • Never say thank you.
How to Die a Horrible Death: 
  • Repeat the above steps for the next 40/50 years.
  • Get more demanding and grumpy with each passing year.
  • Threaten that “I’m going to die soon, so please just do this one thing for me,” to get people to cater to your every whim.
  • Go to a doctor for every little thing and take all the meds and all the free med handouts they give me.
  • Read lots of articles about horrible diseases and become convinced I have them all.
  • Push people out of the way with my cart and mumble “Move it, I’m old!” (my mother used to do this)
  • Become incontinent as soon as possible…
  • because we all know that our family members just LOVE changing adult diapers.
  • Insist others feed you and then let the food dribble out on your chin and down your shirt–your family will be sure to love that one, too.
  • Become so cantankerous that even the grim reaper doesn’t want to spend time with you.
  • Refuse to “go to the light.”
  • Fake your death scene–clutch your chest and gasp for air–just to get people all crying and worked up. Then yell, “Surprise!” (Facetious, I know, but don’t you want to try it now?)
Yeah, I’m having a bit of fun, but this list just might help keep me motivated.
I’m working on my Oscar-worthy death scene now….
Have some to add? Send ’em my way and I’ll add them to the post.
In the meantime, happy living!
Carol D. O’Dell
Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Last week I was asked as a Caring.com senior expert to speak on NBC Miami Live show and talk to folks in South Florida about how to choose a senior care facility for your aging loved one. Sometimes no matter how much we want to keep our loved one in their own home, or with us, it’s jut not possible. Working caregivers, frequent falls, severe dementia or other round the clock care needs can make it impossible for your loved one to remain with family. If, or when that time comes, it helps to have a plan and to already know your area and what it has to offer for families.

Here is a link to Caring.com’s YouTube channel to view the NBC Miami Live interview:

http://www.youtube.com/user/caringcom#p/u/0/u_8LHy-Cjto

It’s such a big decision and you want to make sure your loved one adjusts and is safe and well cared for. Are there specific points to help guide you through the search? It’s so overwhelming I thought I’d just bring up three key points to help guide you.

3 Tips to Consider When Searching for a Senior Care Facility:

  • Look past the fancy “storefront” and notice how folks are being treated. More and more facilities are beginning to look like country clubs, and that’s great but real care is what you’re after. Look past the golf carts that whiz you in and out, look past the luscious garden-like entrance, past the swanky lobby and even ask to see something other than the staged guest room all decked out with new pictures on the wall and a great view of the courtyard. Ask to have lunch with the residents. Stroll to the community center or gathering room. See if you can go down the hall where your loved one might be placed and see who their neighbors will be.
  • Don’t just take the tour–branch off–ask the residents (and their family members) who live there. Ask the residents if they like the food, if they get their medications on time. Ask their family members if they’ve ever had a bed sore or have problems with any of the staff or other residents. Even if they say the right words, notice how they hesitate, get antsy, or look around as if they’ll be heard. If your loved one has dementia ask to see that ward. Make sure there are safety measures for them not wandering away, and also make sure they are spoken to in a firm but kind manner. Look in their faces and see if they have that hazy drug look. Notice if they’re dressed, if their rooms are tidy, and if there’s a smell of urine in the air.
  • Ask how concerns will be handled, and what you can do if you need to change care facilities. Face it, you’re going to have certain questions and concerns. You’re going to have to ask them if they’ll change something to accommodate your loved one’s needs–that’s just normal adjustments. Find out how that’s handled up front. Talk to not only the day staff, but the night and weekend staff. Ask how they do their background checks and if they’re updated. Ask how you handle serious issues and what happens if you choose to move your loved one to a different facility.

Don’t think that once you move them in that your job as a caregiver is over. It’s not. You’re their care advocate. Visit often and not at the same time. Be cordial with the staff, get to know them and genuinely care about them. Bring in a treat or send them a thank you card if they’ve done something thoughtful or helpful. People respond to positive reenforcement and caring for a (sometimes) cantankerous, sick person who isn’t always jolly is more than a job, it’s a calling. It’s to your benefit to reach out. People who are visited often receive better care, and besides, it’s just the right thing to do.

There’s so much more I could talk about, but this is enough for now. In the end, follow your gut instinct. Stay involved and do all you can to surround your aging loved one with good care–no matter where that might be.

~Carol O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother, available on Kindle

Got a caregiving question: Send it to me, Carol O’Dell, Caring.com’s Family Advisor at Carol@caring.com

(NBC Miami Live interview is now on Caring.com’s YouTube channel (click on link below):

http://www.youtube.com/user/caringcom#p/u/0/u_8LHy-Cjto

Read Full Post »

I’m heading to France this summer and I’m taking a small photo of my dad standing in front of the Eiffel Tower during World War II. This Memorial Day we honor those who have served in war. We remember what they did. How they defended us. How they stood up for the helpless, the defeated. And now, many who have fought for our country are our elders. Their bodies are failing–and it’s our job to care for them and to give them the honor they deserve. Caregiving is more than meeting someone’s physical needs. It’s about remembering–all they are and have ever been.

Our fathers and grandfathers, brothers and mothers helped to stop Hitler–among others intent on destroying life. That’s amazing–and there are still atrocities going on in the world. People are still not free, and as flawed as we are, we still stand for justice. Maybe our government has mixed motives, but the men and women who serve in our Armed Forces have some pretty high ideals. We don’t want tyrants to take over, to kill and destroy, to obliterate the simple opportunity to live and work, marry and have families, eat and make a life for themselves and those they love.

So this weekend, look someone who has served our country right in the eye–and say thank you.

Ask them what it was like–to be “over there,” to be scared, to liberate a country, to ride in a tank. Give them the chance to tell their stories. Give them the opportunity to talk about it, for their chest to fill with pride. For them to relive their glory days. Get out those albums. Hang a flag. We’re far less patriotic than previous generations, and yet we are the ones reeping the benefits of their valiant efforts. Forget politics. Thank the men and women who protect us–who gave their time and for many, their limbs for something bigger than themselves.

I’m taking that photo of my dad to Paris with me. He was a sharpshooter and he helped to liberate France and Germany. He fought at the Battle of the Bulge. He stayed two more years to rebuild Paris. He absolutely loved serving our country–and now, he’s gone–but I won’t forget. I’ll tell his stories. I’ll visit Paris and Normandy. I’ll wear his dog tags.

~Carol O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother, available on Kindle

Read Full Post »

A friend of mine told me that she confronted her mom about her memory loss and told her she was concerned it might be dementia or Alzheimer’s. Like many caregivers her hope was that she could convince her mom to visit a neurologist. Instead, her mom got furious and now won’t talk to her. My friend is devastated. She wonders if she stepped over the line, if she should have just made up another excuse to get her to the doctor, or if she should have just let it go. Now, there’s nothing but silence.

Being shut out of a loved one’s life really hurts. You question everything you said or did. You feel rejected when all you wanted to do was to help. What do you do now?

There’s no one right answer. Every family is different.

Suggestions for getting past the hurt: 

  • Give it some time–many people come around after their hurt and anger has subsided.
  • After a cooling off period, act like nothing has happened.
  • Try reasoning with them and assure them that avoiding the matter only makes it worse–and it might be a medication interaction or something else, but it’s best to know and be proactive.
  • Pull the “big guns” and insist the two of you go to the doctor–some people respond to a firm hand.
  • Try a bribe–is there something they’ve been wanting to do? For you to take them to see their sister, or take them to play the slots? Use whatever helps them safe face.
  • Send gifts and cards and lure them back. Be the bigger one and realize that you’re their lifeline and they need you right now–and if they want to “feel”  or “look” in charge, then let them.
  • Get someone else who’s on their good side to take them. They may not want to give into you, but they may go with their sister or best friend.
  • Leapfrog over a diagnosis and start dealing with the day-to-day concerns and issues you can do something about.

***

In the meantime, keep a journal. Make a note of any excuse, lie, avoidance, any times of confusion or bizarre findings such as the keys in the freezer, when they got lost coming home from the corner bank, or when they mentioned visiting a long deceased relative. As a caregiver you need to know what you’re dealing with and how often it’s happening.

Realize that a diagnosis isn’t going to do much–not in practical ways.

There’s no cure for dementia or Alzheimer’s and that the meds only work during the early phases of the disease and the medications only work on about half the people taking it, only slows the progression of the disease and typically only helps for about a year. But if your loved one is experiencing paranoia, anger issues, or anxiety, then ask about medications that can help these very real and very frustrating conditions.

If you suspect your loved one has memory loss then they probably do. so start working on practical aides (notes around the house, home monitoring, safety precautions such as a medical alert bracelet, and home help or live-in assistance, just to name a few).

Alzheimer’s and dementia certainly has its challenges, especially emotional ones. As the caregiver you have to be the bigger person. You have to do what’s right and not think about your feelings. Step over the hurt and find a way to reconnect.

~Carol D. O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother, available on Kindle

Read Full Post »

My friend Amy opens her front door and a hospice care person steps inside. They walk back to Amy’s dad’s room–a small Christmas tree sits on table positioned for him to see.  It’s the only holiday decoration in the house. Caregiving and the holidays can be a tender time–and a time of dread.

You might be asking, “Is this our last Christmas together?”

If your loved one is in hospice, it might be. But this is Amy’s second Christmas–with hospice in tow. Still, she feels that her dad won’t make a third.

“There’s a finality to this holiday we haven’t had before. Even dad knows it.”

I asked her what means the most to her this season–what’s the one thing she has to do.

“Our family tradition is that on christmas Eve we gather around the tree, drink egg nog and open our gifts.  Dad always reads from the Book of Luke and we sing Silent Night.”

Amy teared. She’s worried her dad won’t make it that long.

I suggested she move up Christmas Eve–that her dad probably wouldn’t question the date. Her face lit up and a smile spread across her entire face, softening worry lines.

What do you do if this is your last Christmas together?

Whatever brings you relief, whatever comforts you–do it now.

Surround you and your loved one with support and ease.

Ask for help, say exactly what you need–or ask for space–whichever you need.

Let go of expectations.

Let go of everything and everybody who causes you stress.

Pull in. Get Quiet.

Find your place of peace.

Make your own Christmas. Don’t wait.

~Carol D. O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother, available on Kindle

Read Full Post »

One of the most challenging and heart wrenching parts of caregiving was that I felt I was losing little parts of me every day–my intellect, my creativity, my humor, my friendships…the list went on.

It wasn’t necessarily true, but the sheer amount of time it takes to care for an elder or someone with a chronic illness or disability is pure mathematics–and then there are the emotional hurdles–the zombie-like state that comes with lack of sleep, the grief of losing someone you love right before your eyes, the longing for the life you had–your career, your connections–some of it is pretty darn real and not in your head. And yet boundaries create energy.

Boundaries create energy?

View your life as the Colorado River–tumbling on its merry way–and then someone gets a grand idea. Build the Hoover Dam (aka caregiving). Major roadblock.

You can consider your free and frolicking river/life has come to a screeching halt–or you can see all that pent-up energy as power. Electric. Energy.

Yes, a major part of you is held back. Yes, there’s lots you can’t do.

If you think your life is over, well, it is. Thoughts create our reality.

But…if you find a channel, some way however imperceptibly small to tap into the essence of you–what you love–to learn, to write, to garden, to connect, to read, to create art and craft–then you have a way to live inspite of all that’s going on around you.

This is how I survived and thrived in my caregiving years.

I was fiercely determined to seek out what I love–to invest in me in some small way every day.

For me, that means art, nature, and faith. Those are my tenants.

Art, for me, was/is everything from:

  • painting (sporadically)
  • reading the Letters of Vincent Van Gogh
  • reading poetry, snippets of the Psalms, Song of Solomon, and Job (love when God talks back to Job!)
  • the books and art materials I’ve collected over the years–and never fully explored
  • heading down to the river to cry, curse, scream, and pray (my prayers were mostly tears and moans)
  • walking around my own yard/weeding/exploring
  • journaling–every day in small chunks
  • watching the Food Channel, HGTV, History Channel and Discover–things that fed my need to learn
  • friends to call/vent/invest in their lives
  • surrounding myself with what I love–fresh flowers, good coffee, candles, magazines

I was so hungry for life, color, meaning, connection.

Even when I could barely dress I searched out the things that made my soul, my Geiger counter, go off the charts. Thank God (and I do mean that) for books, for paint, for the Internet, for television, for the nature that surrounded me. You don’t have to go far to find beauty and passion. Nothing is more breathtaking and comforting than a red cardinal, the morning rays as it streams through your kitchen window, or the purr of a contented kitty.

Her are a couple of photos of some paintings and sculpture I did during my caregiving years. I’m still so amazed I could even keep my eyelids open–shows you that your heart’s desire is (at times) stronger than exhaustion and grief.

Six months after my mother died I started editing my journal entries–it became Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir.

At the same time I began a short story about a woman who quits her life (call it my personal fantasy!) and finds herself in the South of France painting with the apparition of Vincent Van Gogh.

Seven years later, it’s novel=length and ready for publication–White Iris. The seed of this story began in my dammed-up life–caring for my mom, reading Vincent’s letters, painting sunflowers and irises on my kitchen cabinets.

My hope is that you will find your way, dear caregiver. Tap into what you love. Surround yourself with it.

Don’t give up. Give in–to what you love.

~Carol D. O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother, available on Kindle

***The artwork was created during the time I cared for my mom.

Read Full Post »

“I quit!” That’s what you’d like to say some caregiving days.

You feel like crap. You’ve gained a ton of weight. Your life consists of round the clock care–oftentimes for someone who doesn’t seem to appreciate it, and the only way out of this is…death. Yours or your loved ones–not great choices. You don’t know whether you feel like screaming or crying, but running away is definitely topping the list.

You’ve checked into other forms of caregiving–hiring more home health care, nursing home care–both expensive options.  The economy isn’t exactly helping these days.

It’s not as if you can just stand up and say, “I don’t want to do this anymore.”

Or can you?

Isn’t everything in you is screaming that very sentiment?

Not that you don’t love them. Not that you don’t want them to be treated with the utmost care and dignity, it’ just that it’s never ending. There’s never enough of you.

How to Caregive When You Want to Give Up:

  • Embrace your inner Eyore. Sometimes it helps to be grumpy–to get it out of your system. To just let all that negativity out–give yourself permisssion to be a real curmudgeon–especially if you’re always  the “nice,” the “up” one. Sometimes we make caregiving look too easy. It’s time to tell it like it is!
  • Change one thing. Most caregivers do more than they need to. They don’t say no, not even to the trivial things. It’s time to change that. What’s one thing that drives you nuts? Stop doing it. I got so tired of rechecks. Every doctor wanted to see mother–who had Parkinson’s and could barely walk–and Alzheimer’s back in six weeks. Forget it. I stopped the rechecks. We went only when she needed new medication or had a new problem. Having power in this one area felt so good!
  • So quit–for five minutes, or five hours. If you’re being treated ugly or you’ve just had it, say it“I QUIT!” Then walk out of the room. Walk out the front door. Get your keys and purse and sit in your car. You may not have to or need to go any further than that but I guarantee you, you’ll feel amazing!
  • Pretend you’re free. Take it one step further, what would you do if you weren’t caregiving today? Go to the zoo? Zip over to get your hair done? Take a nap? Can you imagine–down to the smell of ammonia and nail polish? Stay in that zone–where you truly believe you’re free–for the next five minutes or five hours–or whatever time you can afford yourself. You quit, remember? So act like it. Give your brain cells a rest.

Why go to all this trouble of pretending? Isn’t that for kids?

Neurologists are finding that we can trick our bodies–by visualization–and if you’re a great little actor/actress your body actually thinks you did that amazing thing–skiied, won an Emmy, or…quit~! It gives your muscles and your mind the break it’s longong for. Don’t be surprised if you kind of miss caregiving–it’s addictive. But you may feel this huge sense of relief, even if it’s only temporary.

Why be so bold? Because you should be caregiving because you want to. Yes, because you’re needed, but also because you love someone and you genuinely want to make their life better.

When you quit it’s like recalibrating something inside you.

When you walk back through that door–do it as a choice–with your heart leading the way.

This won’t solve all your issues. It won’t miraculously give you 20 hours sleep or magically make Alzheimer’s disappear, but it will relieve a little bit of angst.

It  will remind you that each day you must choose to love, to give, to be there for yourself and those you love.

When we feel stuck we fall into resentment –or worse, apathy.

So when you need to, quit, give up, and start anew.

~Carol D. O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother, available on Kindle

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »