Posts tagged ‘caregiving’

June 18, 2019

Five Ways to Cope When Life Feels Like it’s Always About Someone Else

Here are five ways to cope when life feels like it’s always about someone else. If you are an attentive, involved caregiver you know how difficult it can be to prioritize yourself. There’s often no time and energy remaining once you’ve taken care of feeding, bathing, dressing, medications, recreation, transportation and cleaning required to provide for an ill or disabled relative. On top of that, you may be responsible for paying bills and taking care of other children. You may also have a job.

I feel overwhelmed just typing that list. And I feel tired this morning in spite of 9 hours of sleep. Yesterday, I kept my medically fragile granddaughter who had been throwing up everything, including meds, for two days. It is a draining experience. And that’s the reason I offered to keep her. Her parents and brother needed a break!
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For those of you who have never been a caregiver, it’s easy to assume that being organized, prepared, and energetic will be sufficient to handle the job without undue strain. It helps. Having sufficient financial resources along with family and social support lessen the impact. But until you’ve done the job, there’s no way to understand the toll it can take.

Data say a large majority of caregivers report adverse effects to daily routines of sleep, eating, and exercise. They also report a significant negative impact on social and recreational life. A majority also report often neglecting their own health during caregiving. Even if you view caregiving as rewarding, this eventually affects your quality of life.

I recently ran into a nurse who works in the hospital unit my granddaughter frequents. She told me how much she LOVES my family. She’s so impressed that my son & daughter-in-law still have jobs and lives. She said that most parents with similar children quit their jobs.

Of course that’s an anecdotal assessment, but it’s telling. At a certain level, caregiving can require you to limit your hours, change the level of job you hold, or stop working altogether. That not only affects income, it can lessen your social connections.

Nurture Supportive Friendships

When I look back at the years I owned my previous business, I see lots of inclusion in birthday drinks, holiday parties, family weddings, and funeral visitations. I also see how much effort I put into maintaining the connections that led to that inclusion. Once I had less time to “market” myself, many of those invitations ceased.

The following year when circumstances demanded I begin caregiving, an additional level of friends fell away. Now, I have a core group of friends who understand that I must often say no. They don’t take it personally. They endure my initial nonstop talking the days I haven’t spoken to anyone besides children in weeks. They are patient when nothing seems funny to me.

I am grateful for these friends. I’ve known most of them for more than 15 years. Some I’ve known for 30. If I had not already had an established set of friends, it would have taken a great deal of deliberate effort to cultivate them once caregiving began.

Allow Yourself to Receive

One of the best ways to cope when all of the focus in your household is on someone else, is to allow yourself to receive. Of course, that requires someone to give. It is often friends who are willing to lend a hand with cooking, shopping, or other errand running. Don’t hesitate to ask or to say yes when they offer.

If offers of help aren’t sincere, you’ll learn that quickly. You’ll also learn that many are. I recently had a friend research the availability of Quick Dams online while I wet vacuumed water from my flooding office building. That was one less task I had to do that night.

Hire a Service

When friends run shorter than finances, a service can help with care. After my mother suffered a stroke and no longer met the criteria for rehab, my stepfather took her home. He had been very impatient with the staff at rehab and frequently let them (and us) know that believed he could do a better job of caring for her, keeping her bed clean, and getting her to eat than they had.

My sister and I arrived at the end of her first week home. One look and it was clear that NewDaddy could not handle another day without assistance. He had grossly underestimated the care required to deal with her impairment.My sister and I lived hours away, so I hired a service that would do household chores, dispense meds, and eventually provide hospice care.

The emotional drain of caregiving can be exhausting. The roller coaster of hospitalization, code blue, ventilator, return to baseline, stable period, minor illness, rapid decline, and hospitalization in the medically fragile is traumatic for both patient and family. It becomes difficult to relax and renew between medical events because the natural reflex is to remain braced for the next escalation. Often the stable period does not last long enough to process through the most recent past trauma making the effects cumulative.
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Make Time for Grieving

With dementia, stroke, traumatic brain injury, down syndrome or cerebral palsy comes a sense of loss that must be grieved. Grief requires stillness which requires time away from tasks including those of self-care like cooking. Unfortunately, church groups, civic clubs, book clubs, and informal groups of friends who happily provide meals and household support when someone dies do not recognize the prolonged grief of slow decline with the same kind of assistance.

Healthy caregivers may set good boundaries, make sure to add an hour of sleep or a nap, eat well, and continue to work out and still end up hitting the wall. It happened to me in 2018 and it came as a shock. I have always been able to work long and hard and still find the energy to play. I had no idea how much energy it takes process grief and trauma.

When you begin to notice life is never about you, it may feel selfish to sleep an additional two hours per night. It can also make you feel old, unfun, and unattractive. But catching up may not be a matter of sleeping-in one weekend. It can take months of added sleep to get ahead when you’re a caregiver.

Change What You Can

I now begin to say no much sooner–before I get too tired. I pay more attention to subtle body signals. And I work less. Since I am my own boss, my work schedule is something I can change.

While maintaining connections is important, I no longer choose to give my time to people who make things more difficult. I feel much less distress over the relationship shifts this causes than I do accommodating friends and relatives who regularly create interactions that are convoluted, vague, chaotic, argumentative, unnecessarily complicated, manipulative, inconsiderate or filled with turmoil. Any offer of “help” from these parties is not helpful and therefore declined. Ditto for those who have proven repeatedly unreliable.

Finding the time, resources, and energy to plan an actual vacation has been difficult the past couple of years. I’ve made plenty of trips, but they haven’t exactly included recreation and relaxation. I can reframe how I view days off and vacations and I can certainly give up feeling bad about relaxing when my to-do list remains long.

The Sum Total is Self-Kindness

Big change begins with small changes. When you deliberately practice self-kindness it eventually becomes habit. And practicing self-kindness is really the best way I can think of to cope with any difficulty in life!

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2791523/?ncid=edlinkushpmg00000313

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5453737/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5453737/table/TAB2/?report=objectonly

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4924075/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/least-feel-like-party-need-one/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/id-tell-you-but-then-id-have-to/

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May 23, 2018

Travel Tip #20: Use a Travel Agent

Travel Tip #20: If you’re ready to book a much needed vacation, use a travel agent. No, I don’t mean a web based travel search engine, I mean a real person. I know it’s tempting to book everything online. I do it all the time, but if you’re truly needing a break, there are benefits to having a knowledgable professional with good connections handle your travel plans.
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Planning a trip can be time consuming. If you’re already taxed from long hours, illness, or caregiving, that time can be better used for restorative activities like sleep, walking in the park or on the beach, yoga, or visits with friends. Using a professional will give you access to options you may never have considered. And if you run into a problem during your trip, a travel agent can find a solution while you relax. And that’s the key — relaxing.

Believe it or not, there are still thousands of travel agents in the US. The Bureau of Labor & Statistics listed 81,700 in 2016. Some agencies are available 24 hours per day (just like the internet) and many offer agents who speak foreign languages. A well-matched professional will offer a level of service technology just can’t duplicate.

I’m pretty independent and I don’t enjoy hiring a company that I have to beg to be responsive or do a good job. Because of that, I’m often tempted to just do things myself. I’m not kidding. I’ve cut my own hair, repaired my toilet, sold my house, repaired my washing machine, and other things I don’t know how to do. I suppose my get-it-done determination has some advantages, but it has some drawbacks as well.

Doing it myself can sometimes be the one thing that puts me past the point of exhaustion. It can be the thing that interrupts a project that’s more important. It can be the thing that keeps me from feeling that great feeling of being taken care of. I was recently reminded of that feeling when I hired a childhood friend to sell my cousin’s farm.

I thought it would take months to move that thing. The top part of the 109 acres was rocky and unusable. There’s no road through the property, no fences, and scrub trees have been running amok for a few years. I was very, very wrong. My friend sold it in a week for the price we wanted. Then, she gave me a gift certificate to my favorite store in that town. The whole thing felt great!

Last summer, I wanted to take a week off. I freed up the time, but ended up staying home. Planning a trip was more than I could muster. Did I know I could use a travel agent? Yes, I’ve had wonderful experiences using them before. The thing is, I sometimes make things harder than they could be. It’s not my best habit.

In the past two days, I’ve hired 3 new people to help me while I split my time between work, landlord, and caregiving duties. Next up, a vacation — time to call a travel agent!

https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/06/travel-agent/488282/

https://www.bls.gov/ooh/sales/travel-agents.htm

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/travel-tip-19-pack-light/

November 29, 2016

When You Least Feel Like a Party is When You Need One

tableWhen you least feel like a party is when you need one most. I’m tired. My sons are worn out. The holidays are here with family expectations to fill. Sounds like a nightmare! So what am I doing? Planning a party. Have I lost my mind? Maybe, but here’s what I’m thinking…

It’s been an unusual year. I lost my mother. With that my sister & I inherited 3 tenants and numerous properties to clean up and oversee. I inherited my 96-year-old cousin’s care. Soon after, she broke her leg. She’s been to the hospital, rehab, temporary long-term care, rehab, and now to permanent long-term care. Add her house to the properties I’m maintaining — all of which are 3 hours away from where I live.

My ex-husband lost his mother. My kids lost two grandmothers. One son got married 1700 miles away just a month after the other had a baby. I had to be at each place for each event. One son starts finals today for his 5th semester in law school. The other one is working 18 hours a day to please some difficult clients.

I’ve traveled many times, accommodated extended family, sorted boxes of papers, dealt with appraisers, lawyers, and bankers, gathered information for 4 tax returns, and now keep my 4-month-old grandson two to three days a week. Oh, and I work.

Blah, blah, blah. The point is, we’re all stretched so thin physically, intellectually, and emotionally, we’re not much help to each other. In order to keep our sanity, we all have to be focused on self-care and being patient with each other. I won’t say it’s easy. I certainly won’t say it’s fun.

Which brings me back to the party planning. In my previous job, I had lots of people contact. In my current job, I have very little. Most of my people time is spent with the helpless. While I’m not a full-time care giver, I am experiencing some of the isolation that can result from overwhelming obligations at home. I recognize that I need more lighthearted moments, more joy, more fun!

I am not alone. In the US, about 43.5 million people have provided unpaid care to a child or adult in the past 12 months. About 75% of those are women. Unpaid caregivers report that positive activities in their daily lives are reduced by 27.2% as a result of caregiving activities.(1) And the truth is, when you’re emotionally and physically exhausted, it’s harder to enjoy anything.

I have no patience left for immature or selfish behavior. I don’t even have the energy to get mad about it. It just reduces me to tears which makes it even harder to socialize. I feel like I have to have my guard up or I might start crying. I have plenty of tears. I hold them in when I’m encouraging my cousin to overcome her fear and try to stand. I hold them in when the long-term care facility staff tries to push me into changing doctors. I hold them in when the facility staff can’t find the time to call me when the doctor’s orders change, but can call and email me repeatedly over internal staff gossip. I hold them in when we have to remain on the waiting list at a better facility for months and months.

Aware of the sheer number of tasks I must accomplish and the stress they bring, I regularly prioritize eating healthy, exercise, and rest. I recognize I must or I’ll be consumed by the weight of the responsibilities. What I haven’t done as well is spend time with people who renew me. While it may be lumping them altogether, a party seems like a good way to spend some time with my friends and have some fun. With a little planning, I think I can pull off an event that leaves me more energized than exhausted.

First, I’m carefully choosing the participants. I only want to invite people with whom I feel I can be myself. I am including those who leave me feeling upbeat. I am leaving for another time, friends who require emotional support themselves, special treatment to avoid offending them, and anyone who leaves me feeling drained for any reason. I’m not hesitating to include people I don’t know well, but who I feel good about. This can help me expand my circle of support.

Second, I’m partnering with some friends. My house is filled with baby stuff and I don’t have time to decorate for the holidays. A friend has agreed to host at her house. That eliminates clean-up and decorating time for me! The other friend travels for work, so she can run by the liquor store and provide drinks. Both are inviting their friends. I have an opportunity to meet new people who may turn out to be new friends.

Third, we’re throwing this together the week of the party. That means no time to build it up in my mind into something big. It also means I’m texting the invitations and not worrying about who can or can’t show up.

Fourth, I’m choosing food I can prepare in advance over a period of days. With one friend hosting and another bringing the drinks, much of the food falls to me. I’m keeping it simple. Party mix, sausage balls, and individual panna cotta topped with leftover cranberry/orange relish. I have milk and cream left from Thanksgiving so this is a great chance to use it.

I can supplement with a relish tray, some Wholly Guacamole with chips, and fresh veggies with hummus purchased from the store. Since I’ll be providing the food, I know there are plenty of gluten-free choices. That means I don’t have to worry about pre-eating or carrying food for me in my purse.

Finally, I intend to be mindful and present at the party. I want to fully experience the friends who show up. And, I intend to be open to receiving. If someone compliments me, I will take a moment to feel and appreciate the compliment. If someone offers assistance, help, or relief, I will accept it. If something is funny, I’ll laugh. I will not make anyone else’s enjoyment my responsibility. I will express appreciation to those I appreciate.

Yes, it can feel like a stretch for me to plan a frivolous event right now, but I know it’s important to my long-term mental and physical health and my family isn’t available to help at the moment. If I can shoulder the care of helpless relatives, I can undertake some self-care on my own behalf. It is not selfish. It is necessary.

If you have a caregiver in your family, please give them a break this holiday season. Don’t complain if the house isn’t decorated, a large meal isn’t planned, your present isn’t exactly what you wanted, or if they don’t want (or do want) to discuss how things are going at the dinner table.

Instead, do the dishes, take a shift with the person for whom they care, express appreciation even if it’s just for the effort it took to get you a gift and wrap it, invite them to a party or, better yet, plan a party for them ’cause when they least feel like a party is when they need one most.

1) https://www.caregiver.org/caregiver-statistics-demographics

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”