My mother liked to cook with a pressure cooker, a heavy steel pot with a lid that locked in place. What fascinated me was the tiny attachment that bobbed on top to let out the steam. Without the ability to release the pressure the pot would have exploded. (The disgusting part was that my mother loved to cook rutabagas in that pot. Nastiest smell there is). That’s what happens when you’re caregiving and you don’t give yourself an escape valve. Somebody’s going to get hurt.
Anger, resentment, anxiety, frustration…these are your signs. They’re the clues that let you know the pressure is building. That agitation is there for a reason, so honor it. Sure, it’s not pretty, but playing “nice” and living a lie can really get ugly–and dangerous.
If you’re experiencing any (or all) of these emotions, then congratulations, you’re alive–and fairly normal. Don’t be afraid of your emotions, observe them and ask them to guide you. Those who work in anger management remind us that anger, when understood, helps us.
Anger teaches, anger signals, and anger looks for solutions.
Now that you recognize that you have a pulse, it’s time to figure out how to destress.
3 Tips to Destress for Caregivers:
- Use your emotions. If you’re feeling rage, then rage, just do it in a safe way. Scream into your pillow. Throw an old coffee cup against the outside wall of your house (watch for fly-backs), jump up and down, find a punching bag and wale away. The point is, get the anger up and out.
- Vent. Stop stuffing and call a friend. Ask for a ten minute rant. Complain away. Say it all. Get it out. Trust they won’t take everything you say as gospel truth or think you’re a horrible person. Purge your worry, your guilt, your frustrations, and then when the timer is up–STOP! If you don’t, it’s like a faucet left running that spills onto everything and gets harder and harder to clean up. You can also vent on the page, or vent in the car–alone. Talking aloud and having imaginary arguments helps you work through many issues without destroying relationships.
- Get away. Five minutes or five days. Respite is crucial for caregivers, but it’s so so hard to convince a care provider to take a break. Why? We’re control freaks. I know you don’t want to hear that, but I did put myself in the mix as well. We think that no one can do what we do. We think our loved one will decline or not respond to anybody else. That’s ego talking. We don’t want to admit it, but it is. It’s time to realize that if we don’t step away, if we don’t mend our souls, get some sleep, and gain some perspective that we’ll ruin our health and be of little good to anybody. Step outside the front door for five minutes. Take longer in the shower, longer at the store. Steal moments. Make it game or a challenge. How can you get 30 minutes to yourself?
We don’t realize it, but we thrive off being needed, and sometimes we’re even addicted (mildly) to the drama that comes with care. Face it, it’s exciting (in a bizarre way) Wean yourself away.
My mother would tell me to stand back and she’d take that hot and heavy pot to the sink and the first thing she’d do is let it cool down. She didn’t rip off the lid. If she did, it would explode, give her a steam burn, or simply refuse to budge. It had to sit, calm down, and wait for the pressure to subside. Caregivers have to realize that they’re going to have to try a lot of different “tricks” to figure out what works best for them and their loved one. They can’t rip into stress and demand it go away. It took a long time to build up that much pressure and it takes time to create balance once again.
And for the record, I still don’t like rutabagas. Nasty. Nasty. Nasty.
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Posted in aging, Alzheimer's, boomers, caregiver, caregiving, dementia, elder care, health, healthcare, heart disease, memoir, parenting, parents, parkinson's, sandwich generation, Uncategorized, women's health, writing, tagged aging, boomers, health, inspiration, oldest woman, women on April 17, 2011|
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All of us worry about aging. Perhaps we should worry less–and learn from a pro. So, who’s the oldest person who ever lived?
The oldest woman (that can be documented) is Jeanne Louise Calment. She lived to the age of 122.
Born in Arles, France, February 21, 1875, and left this earth on August 4, 1997. Now, that’s impressive–but what’ more impressive is her mindset, her ability to embrace challenges and change. If anything is the key to longevity–with quality–it’s embracing challenges and changes with a measure of wit and grace.
What attributes do you need to live a long, healthy, and meaningful life? Living past 100 isn’t just about longevity–it’s about quality. Being a caregiver, I got to see “old age” close up. My mom lived to the age of 92 and it was only the last two years that were extremely difficult. ( My mom had Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and heart disease). There isn’t always rhyme or reason why one person makes it well past 100 with a sharp mind and a spry body while another person seems to hit one health problem after another.
Many centenarians have eaten what they wanted, smoked, drank (usually in moderation)–while someone else who tries to follow all the rules finds a not so pleasant diagnosis. Life isn’t fair. That’s a mantra we must embrace–and not in a negative way–but by choosing to love what is kind of way, and knowing the only thing we can change is our attitude. Life’s a crap shoot, so let’s play some craps.
Highlights of Jeanne’s Louise Calment’s Amazing Life:
- Born the year Tolstoy published Anna Karennina
- Born one year after Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone.
- She met Vincent Van Gogh in Arles, her home town, when she was just 14. She wasn’t impressed.
- In the end Calment was blind and almost deaf, but she kept her spunk and sharp wit to the end.
- At age 121, she released her two CDs, one in French and another in English titled, Maitresse du Temps (Time’s Mistress). the CD features a rap and other songs. She wrote or contributed to five books.
- Her husband died of a dessert tainted with spoiled cherries–she was a widow for more than half a century.
- She outlived her only daughter who died of pneumonia at the age of 36. She raised her grandson who became a medical doctor and lived him as well (he died in a car accident in 1963).
- Calment took up fencing at the age of 80, and rode her bike until 100.
- Calment enjoyed port wine and a diet rich in olive oil–and chocolate–two pounds a day.
- At the age of 119 she finally agreed to give up sweets and smoking–because she could no longer see to light up.
- Calment enjoyed a life of relative ease–from a bourgeois family, she always had enough money–not wealthy mind you, but enough.
- She was active–and enjoyed tennis, bicycling, swimming, roller skating, piano and even opera. In her later years she sold some of her real estate and lived comfortably in a nursing home in Arles until her passing. She was affectionately known in France as “Jeanne D’Arles.”
Calment’s attitude and longevity s attributed to her decision not to worry: “She never did anything special to stay in good health,” said French researcher Jean-Marie Robine. She once said “ If you can’t do anything about it, don’t worry about it.”
Calment recommended laughter as a recipe for longevity and jokes that “God must have forgotten about me.” ( L’Oubliee de Dieu?) as her reason for her long life.
For skin care, she recommended olive oil and a dab of make-up. “All my life I’ve put olive oil on my skin and then just a puff of powder. I could never wear mascara, I cried too often when I laughed.”
“I’ve waited 110 years to be famous, I count on taking advantage of it,” she quipped at her 120th birthday party.
Also on her 120th birthday, when asked what kind of future did she expect, she replied “A very short one.”
Getting used to growing media attention with every year that passes, she quips: “I wait for death… and journalists.”
“When you’re 117, you see if you remember everything!” She rebuked an interviewer once.
On her 120th birthday, a man in town said, “Until next year, perhaps.”
“I don’t see why not,” she replied. ” You don’t look so bad to me.”
Clement’s Best Quote:
“I’ve never had but one wrinkle, and I’m sitting on it.”
I don’t know about you, but aging like this doesn’t sound too bad. It sounds like a good life.
Enjoy life, learn to let go–even of those you love, crack a good joke, eat what you love, and don’t worry about the rest.
Mothering Mother is now available as an e-book! (click here to order for your Kindle)
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Posted in abc.com, Alzheimer's, caregiver, caregiver stress, caregiving, depression, elder care, tagged caregivers, caregiving, faith, good morning america, immune system, inspiration, positive attitude, stress on March 1, 2011|
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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
- 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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Posted in caregiver, caregiving, end of life, hospice, tagged caregiving, Christmas, elder care, holidays, inspiration, parent care on December 18, 2010|
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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
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