Today It’s All About You

how do you feel todayKnow that I think of you every day. And pray for you each night.  You are not alone and I truly want to know how you feel today. In fact, I invite you to comment and share your thoughts, frustrations, rants, moments of clarity and grace, the funny stuff and the heartbreaking interactions that bring on that insidious guilt we have all experienced.

Blessed be, caregivers.  Sharing your story may help a caregiver who is feeling very alone.

Join me in urging Dr. Phil to use his resources and the Dr. Phil Foundation to create a grant to provide help and respite for caregivers most in need.

To Contact Dr.Phil and add your voice to mine click on the links below.

http://drphilfoundation.org/

http://www.drphil.com/

@DrPhil

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Despite All My Good Intentions, I’d Let Him Down.

 

where have I gone wrong

The first time I met him, when Mike and I first started seeing one another, he reminded me so much of someone dear to me that I felt as if I’d already known him for a long time.

Mike was living with his parents then, renting a large room on the third floor of the row house he’d grown up in, while looking for an apartment closer to work. We’d spent the afternoon together, and then he’d taken me to his room to show me his drum set and to play a few songs before I had to go home to my kids. Recently divorced and not used to dating, I was shy and unsure of myself. I wasn’t comfortable being there at all and was relieved when he played the last note and offered to walk me to my car.

Descending the stairs, I noticed just the toes of a man’s shoes, cheap, black, and rubber-soled. Then white socks, sagging around his ankles, came into view. His pants were navy blue. Since he was still seated, I couldn’t confirm that their seat was almost worn through, but I knew instinctively that would be the case. It’s just the same with the brown pair he wears when the blue ones are in the wash, I thought.

I watched him dig his heels into the footrest of his chair, easing the back upright so he could stand and offer a hand in greeting. A too-large brown belt circled his waist, welts of strain scarring the surface at various places, marking recent fluctuations in his weight. His shirt was a whisper-thin old thing, tucked inexpertly into the baggy pants he pulled up to a height only very old men find comfortable.

I felt a smile of recognition cross my face when his features came into view. Everything about him reminded me of my Uncle Louie. The fact that Louie was not just my uncle but my great-uncle, my personal godfather, and the only Italian in my big Irish family made him appear to be a man of epic proportions. He was shorter, darker, fatter, and far more interesting than any of the skinny, red-headed, freckle-faced men who chased after us when my brothers, sister, and cousins and I couldn’t contain our wild selves a minute longer and tried to uphold the age-old Celtic tradition of fighting like a bunch of hooligans.

Whenever I’d stay with my godparents for a weekend, Uncle Louie would let me sit on his lap while he drank a beer or a highball. He even let me have a sip now and then. I didn’t like the taste of either one but I never told him so. I had an idea in my head that sipping whiskey just naturally went along with watching the Friday night fights, and I wasn’t about to risk losing that privilege for anything.

While Uncle Louie’s gaze remained glued to the tiny black-and-white TV screen, I’d watch the crinkly lines around his eyes deepen each time he’d take a drag off his Camel cigarette and wonder how he got those puffy little bags to grow beneath his lower lashes like that.

My God, I thought as Mike began the introductions, even his chair looks the same.

“Dad, I’d like you to meet Bobbi.”

Shaking off the memory of one person in order to acknowledge the presence of another, I greeted the man who would become my father-in-law, convinced I’d seen something familiar in him. They have the same light in their eyes, I thought with affection.

Sitting in a hospital parking lot so many years later, I was just beginning to discover how very wrong I’d been.

Had he been pretending all these years? Is the real Rodger the one who announced to the nursing staff that I’m useless and no damned good? Does the medicine he takes every day allow him to be himself, or does it mask his true nature? Who is this man who lives in my house and paces the halls late at night?

As hard as I tried to block out the thoughts, I couldn’t stop the images from coming. Flashes of movie maniacs appeared, unbidden. Norman Bates from Psycho leered through a curtain of memory only to be replaced by rapid-fire clips of Jack Torrance careening through the halls of the Overlook Hotel in The Shining.

“Stop being ridiculous,” I said, shaking off the mood I’d created and starting the car.

As I turned onto the highway I told myself that my thoughts and the fact that I was now talking to myself in an otherwise empty car were more an indication of my mental state than his.

I knew from my research that schizophrenics aren’t the knife-wielding lunatics often portrayed in movies. Most of them are timid, introverted people who want to be left alone. Unfortunately, very often when they get their wish they end up homeless, in the hospital, or in jail. And sometimes, even when they aren’t left alone, those things happen.

Where did I go wrong? What did I miss and how can I make sure this doesn’t happen again? Those questions and more went unanswered as I covered the miles between the hospital and home, my mind and body too tired to cope with the guilt I felt at that moment. Despite all my good intentions, I’d let him down.

This post  above is an excerpt from Confessions of an Imperfect Caregiver ©.  Knowing I am truly imperfect inspired me to become a caregiver advocate and to create this blog.

Dr. Phil, Caregivers need help. Please accept the challenge and use your resources and the Dr. Phil Foundation to create a grant to provided real help for caregivers.

To Contact Dr. Phil and add your voice to mine click on the links below.

http://drphilfoundation.org/   http://www.drphil.com/ @DrPhil

https://www.facebook.com/drphilshow?fref=ts

Help me get help for caregivers. Join the Dr. Phil Challenge. Post you comments here:

 

I Prefer to Take Life One Panic Attack at a Time

panic attackPanic attacks, migraine headaches, clumps of my hair clogging the shower drain. These are all things I experienced as a caregiver.  Stress was sapping my mental and physical reserves as his conditions worsened. I needed help.  People said, “Take care of yourself. Eat right. Exercise. Get enough rest.”

Sure, I thought.  I’ll get right on that.

Are you kidding me?  If I were to be true to my instincts right now this page would be filled with some very strong, unbecoming language describing how useless advice is when it isn’t followed up with the resources to make a difference.

I’ve issued a challenge to Dr. Phil but it is also for family and friends of caregivers everywhere. The people caring for others now will be the ones needing care next. How dire their health issues will be are being greatly influenced by the degree of stress they are experiencing during the weeks, months, and years they are giving so much of themselves. You can make a difference.

If you can give much help, give much. If you can give only a little, give a little. A warm meal, short nap, a visit now and then will be appreciated more than you know. A full night’s rest is a blessing. Time to go to the grocery store and take in the aroma of fresh fruit could be like a vacation for someone who hadn’t been able to do it in months.

Please help!

More Comments for Dr. Phil in response to the Dr. Phil challenge:

Ann  – Comment: I agree. I am a cancer patient and my energy level is very low.

My husband is the caregiver for me and his mom who has dementia. I would love to see some real programs that would help caregivers cope. My husband is a loving caring person but I know at times it seems very overbearing to him.

Tammie Marett – Comment: I take care of my bedridden husband. He has no other family and we live over. 8 hours from mine who couldn’t help much anyway.  I would love to take your advice bit its all the same mumbo jumbo. There is no money for caregivers. My husband is a vet.  They offer me 2 respite days a month of only 6 hours each time.  You offered no solutions just the same tired advice.  This problem is going to get larger as the baby boomer generation ages.

Kristi Simmons – Comment: I am living the Oreo life. My husband and I are caregivers for my mother for the last 5 years.  I also have a 21 year old a 10 year old and a 6 year old.  My husband and I both work 40 hours a week. I have 3 siblings. My oldest brother takes care of my mom’s finances, which creates its own tension sometimes.  My other two siblings do nothing to help and often feel like it’s our responsibility to care for mom since we live with her rent free.  They don’t understand the mental and physical drain this can be.  We’re lucky, my mom is good natured and fairly easy to care for the majority of the time, but it’s hard to be caregiver, mother, teacher and wife 24/7 365.   We’ve been lucky enough to have friends that mom is comfortable enough with to stay with her so we caN take short trips with our kids occasionally.  Unless you’ve done this you have no clue how exhausting it is

Kathleen Tingler – Comment: I agree with your take on offering advice and not an alternative.  I am a full time care taker and have no one that wants to step up and help me find a way to catch a break even for an hour or so a week.

Rhonda Partin-Sharp – Comment: Oh, I agree with this article – gives us caregivers a way to take care of ourselves – when you are going on two hours of sleep a night because that is the ONLY way to get just the priorities done because you are taking care of two elderly parents – don’t tell me to get sufficient sleep.  That’s insane.  We need to stop telling the caregivers what to do better and need to start telling the lazy family members (every caregiver support group will tell you that it usually ends up being one person doing it all with not only no help from the family but judgment and pressure from the family) what they need to to do help.

Shannon Watstler – Comment: Yes please, caregivers do not always need unsolicited advise, just real quality help ! Many friends & family abandoned, compare their normal every day situations & give excuses “why they can’t help” or “they just want to know how the patient is & then have to go”. It’s a exhausting & never ending job, non-paying & sometimes you truly feel hopeless. If I ever have to go thru this again, I will def do things a little different & ask for more help. many people don’t handle situations of thinking about their own mortality-that’s sad ! How would they like to be in the same situation & hear excuses of why someone can’t help or just abandonment. It’s a lonely journey that no one understands except those that go thru it & are forced to deal with it head on every day even when they’d enjoy a few minutes of time for themselves.

Dawn D. Ames – Comment: This comment was right on.  My husband needs 24/7 care.  Getting out to get my owe scripts and groceries is extremely  difficult.  My children and a few friends try to help, but with his needs, the it is not always possible.  It has been three years.  It would be nice to have a couple of hours for church or to go out with friends in those times when I feel safe enough to leave him. Thanks Bobbi.

To Contact Dr.Phil and add your voice to mine click on the links below.

http://drphilfoundation.org/

http://www.drphil.com/

@DrPhil

https://www.facebook.com/drphilshow?fref=ts

Show Me the Path …

Holy Spirit Welcome

When I am lost and uncertain what to do next I go quiet and pray.

“Show me the path you want me to take.”

I’ll be the first to admit the road is often bumpy and much longer than I had hoped but,

I always end up exactly where I need to be.

Caregivers, I know how hard this is and even this, my favorite prayer, will not change that. However,  I have learned that sometimes a prayer often repeated results in help arriving in the most opportune time from some very surprising sources.  Try it. It can’t hurt and it may help.

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Trust Yourself

When caring takes courage

Trust Yourself

How could I do that when no matter what I did he continued to worsen?

Things accomplished one day were no longer possible the next. Memories came and went within moments. Laughter turned to tears and acceptance to anger so quickly it was impossible to know why.

Who am I describing in that passage? Him or me?

It could be either.  In truth, it’s both.

I came to finally trust myself because I finally realized I was the best person to do this, flawed as I was.  I made it up as I went along and so do you. That’s how this is done when you are juggling the love and the loss. “All at once, all the time.”

 

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Good Morning Caregivers – I May Not Be Perfect

I may not be perfect

If I am able to help you understand anything by way of this blog or my book I hope it is this:

I AM NOT PERFECT AND THAT’S OKAY

We are human.  We become angry sometimes. We feel resentful when others go off on vacation or simply out to dinner and we can’t. We get sick and tired of hearing the same question over and over. We need sleep and get cranky when we don’t get enough. Our heart breaks when the one we are trying so hard to help accuses us of mistreating them or stealing from them. Or worse yet, don’t remember who we are.

Some days we want to give in, give up, and let go so badly we nearly fall apart. And then we feel terrible. We doubt ourselves and become convinced we are bad people.

We are not. We are the caregivers. We are not perfect. We are human. We give all we have and then give some more. Y

You, like me, are not perfect but no one is.  You are a caregiver and because of you the one in your care will have many more good days than he or should would have had otherwise.

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Where Have My Friends Gone?

friend therapy

Being a caregiver for a loved one is lonely. From morning til night, and often well beyond, caregivers are on call even when our loved ones demand we leave them alone. We become the bad guys. The woman or man who insists they bathe when they don’t want to and serve them food when they have no wish to eat. Our parents or our spouses resent being treated like children. Their losses are devastating and they resent being reminded of them. Days go by when they don’t say a word. Some can’t. Others were told long ago not to speak to strangers and that is who we have become.

Knowing we are busy and often unable to leave the house our friends drift away. Not intentionally. It simply happens. They visit a few times only to find us distracted and harried, on constant alert for a call from our loved one or the sound of that horrible thump that signals another fall.  Sometimes we cry and then refuse to follow well intentioned advice to take time for ourselves and get enough rest. We aren’t as much fun as we used to be. I get it.  But still we need you. If only for a few minutes now and then we need you to come by and share a cup of coffee with us. We need a bit of adult conversation. Having a friend say, “Tell me about it,” and then sit back and listen as we speak is a moment of respite we cherish.

Please, even if you only have a few moments, be a friend to a caregiver today. Someone is waiting.


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NaBloPoMo November 2014

 

 

Moment of Respite – A Dog Comes to Visit

Dog give me strengthI didn’t know how he would react but I was ready to try anything to brighten his day and relieve some of the stress we were both feeling. His daily walks were a thing of the past. His diet was severely restricted and either he wasn’t sleeping well or he was sleeping all the time. Mike and I discussed it and decided to contact some people we knew who trained therapy dogs and request a home a visit. We had heard stories of how people in nursing homes and hospitals would smile and begin to share stories about pets they had when the friendly animals came to visit. Nurses and staff members reported that patients were happier and more alert for hours, and in some cases days, after they dogs left. We felt it was worth a try.

I wish I had a picture of that visit. I had let Rodger know he was going to have two visitors, one of them a dog. He was skeptical at first.

“What am I gonna do with a dog? I can’t walk no more. Who will clean up after it?”

“The dog isn’t going to live here. He’s coming for a short visit.”

“Why?”

“For something different. To help pass the time.”

“Do what you want. I hope it doesn’t pee on the floor.”

Rodger rarely smiled but when a beautiful golden retriever slowly entered the room and sat at his feet he couldn’t help himself.

After introducing herself and her dog, who was wearing a vest identifying him as a therapy dog, the volunteer sat quietly and allowed Rodger and Casey to get acquainted.

Shortly after the smile appeared Rodger slowly leaned over and tentatively began to pet Casey.

“Did you have a dog as a pet when you were a boy?” the volunteer asked.

“No. No pets. In the old country dogs are for working. Not like here where pets are spoiled.”

And then he began to talk. He spoke about life on the farm. For a while he went back to a time and place where he was able to walk outside in the sun and work up an appetite for homemade pasta and oven fresh bread. He sat up straighter and the light so rarely seen in his eyes made an appearance. I could feel my neck muscles relax as I watched the transformation. He may not have had a pet growing up, and to him dogs were meant to work, but what he didn’t seem to notice was that this one was working too. Casey was working a little bit of magic for both of us and for that I was grateful.

For more information on the positive impact dogs can have on loved ones with dementia go to:

http://www.alzheimersproject.org/About-Us/News-Photos-and-Calendar/Latest-News/Pets-and-Dementia

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NaBloPoMo November 2014

Caring for an Elder with Dementia: Top 3 Negatives Made Positive

Guest blogger, Derek Hobson, shares how the difficulties that caregivers encounter can help us grow.  Welcome Derek.

Caring for an Elder with Dementia: Top 3 Negatives Made Positive
By: Derek Hobson

Becoming a family caregiver wasn’t easy and there were times where I downright loathed all the responsibilities. But when my grandmother passed away and my duties were lifted, there was this… elation that occurred. I don’t want it to sound like I was thankful that she passed, because certainly the first few weeks were dreadful, but I didn’t want to feel guilty for feeling relieved that she had found peace. Part of what made me feel less guilty was the fact that I had contributed in such a big way, but more than that, I felt less guilt because caring for my grandmother made me capable of handling so much more.
At the time, of course, many of the tasks were unbearable (which I’ll get to in the list), but once they were completed for the final time, I saw how my grandmother had helped me grow. Things that I hated doing, made me more prepared for future situations. It’s almost like – no, it absolutely is like yin and yang. Two supposedly opposite sensations, turned out to be complementary. By struggling to take care of my grandmother, I found the positives in every negative task. Admittedly, that not make a ton of sense without context, so here are my top 3 negatives made positive.
1. Sleeping in Front of the Door
My grandmother had dementia and even though we wheeled her around the house, she was not confined to the wheelchair. While it wasn’t often, a few times she would sometimes stumble out of bed and walk around the house in the night. It could’ve been much worse, I mean, I’ve heard of stories of seniors leaving the house at night and wandering around the neighborhood. While this never happened to my family, my grandfather would not hear of it; his precaution was to rotate who would sleep in front of the door to make sure she didn’t wander off.
This wasn’t simply uncomfortable, it was unnecessary! I made multiple suggestions for how we could seal the door, set up a blockade, or rig a bell, but my mother reminded me it wasn’t simply making my grandmother comfortable, but my grandfather as well. So, I begrudgingly slept in front of her door on more than a few occasions.
At the time, I never would’ve thought this would evolve into a positive thing, but it has. I don’t know how many people have researched power-napping. The idea being that if you nap for 15 minutes, you’ll feel as refreshed as if you slept for two hours (or 8 hours in some cases). Well, I could NEVER power-nap. I never knew how long to set my alarm for because I needed some time to fall asleep, but then, if I set my alarm for 20 minutes, I would be thinking of how limited my time is, I’d be counting it down rather than focusing on getting to sleep; it was dreadful!
Now though? After sleeping in front of my grandmother’s door, I can sleep practically anywhere. It may sound silly, but it’s a great thing. If I had a long night and have a big presentation in the morning, I nap for 15 minutes in my car, get up and do it. If I’m exhausted after the gym, but it’s still early in the evening, then I’ll nap for 15 minutes, and head out. I can sleep in my car, on a plane, the stairs – I haven’t tried it, but I’m sure I could. I am definitely better for it.
2. Communication
Eventually, my grandmother’s dementia became so bad that she couldn’t form sentences anymore. However, when it hadn’t progressed that far, she would talk to me, tell me stories, and ask me questions… and then repeat those questions and those stories. The repetitiveness made me so frustrated – especially when I thought about what I’d rather be doing.
Now, this negative didn’t happen overnight, but after several months, I realized what a unique blessing this could be. I’d often been told that I wasn’t a good listener… well, actually, if I’m being honest, I was told, “you don’t respect people when they talk to you,” which seemed harsh at the time. However, as time went on, I realized what that meant; the very thing, I said above, that I grew frustrated when I thought about what I’d rather be doing.
When I stopped thinking of where I’d rather be or who I’d rather be with, I started listening and was given the gift of communication. When my grandmother repeated questions to me, I didn’t always answer with clarity or with specifics. I would answer robotically or with generic answers. Later though, I started actively listening and really empathized with my grandmother. There was a stark difference between when I would just answer monotonously and when I actually started responding.
Since then, I’ve noticed in my personal life that I butt heads with people less often and when I do it’s resolved with concise communication.
3. The Stuff You Don’t Want To Do
I never used to talk about this stuff openly, but it’s something I’m sure many family caregivers experience. The stuff you don’t want to do… specifically dressing, bathing and any sort of clean-up that needs to happen.
My grandfather was a saint and tried to take all this on by himself, but even he needed a break and of course, that meant I was runner-up.
I’m not going to lie to you and say that I enjoyed any of this stuff… looking back, I’m actually surprised I managed at all. But without going into the details, I have since learned that I can handle just about anything. If it’s gross, sticky, smelly – doesn’t matter!
I’m still a young guy (relatively), but when my friends asked me to look after their kid for a day, I changed diapers with the best of them. I’m sure there are people who are pretty squeamish, but with no previous experience with babies, I could change diapers and clean spills without any uneasiness. Pretty much anything others don’t want to do, I do without a second thought.
Again, these aren’t things I relished at the time, but they’ve had a positive impact on my everyday life. Being a caregiver is not easy by any stretch of the imagination and it’s why I’m thankful that today I can work with a handful of people who actively lessen the load of family caregivers, but the rewards are manifold and actionable.

Derek Hobson, BA, is the editor for ConciergeCareAdvisors.com, a senior care referral agency. He developed a passion for elder care when he became the primary caregiver for his grandmother. Since then, he has sought to inspire fellow caregivers as “there is no success without hardship.”

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Good Morning Caregivers – For Your Inner Peace

 

inner peace

But if it does, if someone is driving you crazy with advice on how to do this and telling you things you already know and have heard so often you want to scream. If a family member is more concerned about where the money for care is going than how much you are giving up to be there for the one who needs you. If your loved one is failing fast and your heart is broken, know that I understand and I am here for you.

Sometimes there is no peace for us. Only the next moment and worry about what it will bring. For those minutes, hours, days, years, I send you my prayers every night.

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