Keeping It Together

focus on what holds you togetherAt the end of the day I spent so much time going over what  I might have done better and trying to figure out how to fix an unfixable problem I lost sight of the truth. Together we were doing our best and that was all anyone could ask of us. 
 
Caregiver, be kind to yourself you are doing something wonderful every day.
 
Caregiver Cover Web

Click here for Exclusive 20% Discount for Blog Followers

Also available on Amazon

Published by Open Books Press – $15.95 Print $2.99 e-book.

NaBloPoMo November 2014

For Caregivers in Buffalo, N.Y.

all entitled to a meltdown

For caregivers in Buffalo, New York and the surrounding area here is a reminder that meltdowns are not only okay, sometimes they are exactly what is needed in order to carry on.

Any change in routine can wreak havoc for our loved ones. I can only imagine what seeing snow piling up for hours on end and having it cover windows and doors, creating a feeling of being trapped. is having on loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. I pray that you have all the medications and all the supplies for everyday living that you need, that there will be no medical emergencies that require you to leave your homes, and that your loved ones remain as calm as possible.

And one more thing; if things become too stressful let it out. As singer, Leslie Gore, once said,

“It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to.”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XsYJyVEUaC4

Caregiver Cover Web

Click here for Exclusive 20% Discount for Blog Followers

Also available on Amazon

Published by Open Books Press – $15.95 Print $2.99 e-book.

NaBloPoMo November 2014

The Face in the Mirror

Caregiver in the mirror

Image Courtesy of the Caregiver Space

Reflections on Caregiving

by Bobbi Carducci

The face in the mirror evolved as you did. When you came to live with us I gazed on eyes full of hope. In my care you would do well. When you needed anything, I would provide it. We would share our stories and laugh or cry when feelings overcame us in the telling. For a time we did well.

Everything changed.

The face in the mirror reflected worry lines etched deep into my forehead. What was I doing wrong? Day by day, month by month, you slipped away. Would you know me today? When your memory left me behind, where did you go? And when, if ever, would you be back?

Time passed.

Eyes rimmed in black stared back at me. No sleep. Constant stress. You needed all I had to give and more. What we were to do, the two of us? We were at cross purposes fighting the same battle. You were determined I would not win. Every night I cried.

You are gone.

The face in the mirror is forever changed. In your living and your passing you left your mark on me. All the fear and loss, hope, love and laughter are reflected in my eyes. Every night I pray for you and hope you do the same for me.

Caregiver Cover Web

Click here for Exclusive 20% Discount for Blog Followers

Also available on Amazon

Published by Open Books Press – $15.95 Print $2.99 e-book.

NaBloPoMo November 2014

Give a Caregiver a Bath

take a bath“November is National Caregivers Month. It is a time to acknowledge the important role that family, friends and neighbors play in caring for sick, elderly and disabled friends and relations.” From the Department of Health – Administration on Aging

It is also a time to support the men and women who are currently caring for a loved one at home. You may have offered to help many times only to be thanked politely for the thought and never taken up on your offer. Some of you may have started to wonder if she really wants help. Maybe she prefers to play the martyr and do it all herself and whine about how hard it is in order to make you feel guilty.

“Why should I keep offering if that’s the way it’s going to be?” you may have asked yourself.

The answer is, “Because she needs help. She wants help. If she doesn’t get help she is going to break under the pressure.” Often she doesn’t know what to ask for.

When my husband and I first announced we were bringing his ill father to live with us, many well meaning people assured us they would be there to help when needed, and they meant it. I remember saying, “We are going to need some time off once in a while so we can go on vacation or out to dinner. It will be great if I can call on you then.”

“Of course,” was the answer, and they meant it.
I didn’t know then that going out to dinner or taking a vacation would not be what I would come to need most. As my father-in-law’s illnesses progressed what I longed for was an hour to take a long hot shower or to soak in tub of water up to my chin until my fingers and toes turned pruney. I’d have done just about anything to stop listening for signs he was in distress or that he somehow knew I wasn’t paying attention and had decided to go down the stairs unattended, risking a fall. Even an uninterrupted ten minutes on the toilet would have been a gift on some days.

I remember one morning in particular. He’d had his breakfast and I had helped him wash and dress. I’d seen to it he had his medications and the TV was tuned to his favorite show. He should have been good for at least thirty minutes. I was about to start a load of laundry when my I felt the sudden urge to pee. I had just settled on the toilet when I heard him calling.
“Bobbi! Bobbi! Come quick, I need you!”

He sounded so frantic I was afraid of what I would discover when I got to him. I jumped up in mid stream, pulled my pants up, and ran up the stairs.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, ignoring the warmth running down my leg.
“The TV’s gone berserk. I can’t get any channels.”

I bit my tongue, fixed the TV, and went to my room for a quick wash up and change of clothes. Clearly it was going to be one of those days.
If anyone had asked what I needed that day the answer would have been quick and easy.

“I need a bath.”

November is National Caregivers Month. The gift of time is precious for those for whom every moment counts. When wondering what you can do to help, consider stopping by a caregiver’s home someday. Maybe she’s wishing for a bath too.

Caregiver Cover Web

Click here for Exclusive 20% Discount for Blog Followers

Also available on Amazon

Published by Open Books Press – $15.95 Print $2.99 e-book.

NaBloPoMo November 2014

A Feeling You Wish You Didn’t Have …

The anger ebbed and flowed. The first time it hit me, right after Rodger returned home from an extensive stay in the hospital, I thought I was losing my mind.

I’d just spent months watching his mental health deteriorate as unbeknownst to me he’d been “cheeking” the medication for his  paranoid schizophrenia and spitting them into the toilet once he got out of my sight. His medication had been adjusted up and then down, brands were changed and consultations scheduled over and over again.

Then it happened. One sunny Sunday afternoon he lost his mind. Accusing me of trying to poison him; he ran down the street, moving at a pace that would normally be impossible for a man nearing 80 years old.

“She’s trying to kill me!” He insisted, shaking with fear whenever I got too close.

He spent eight weeks in the psychiatric ward that time. Discharged on a Friday afternoon he was back in the hospital Sunday evening. He had pneumonia. They had sent him home sick. After a week in ICU he was finally well enough to go into a medical ward. He’d also developed swallowing problems somewhere along the line. He had to have his food pureed and his drinks thickened. He refused to eat slowly and take small bites as the doctor ordered. As soon as his tray arrived he’d grab a spoon and start shoveling the food into his mouth as fast as he could and then he’d choke. So a nurse fed him each morning and I made sure I was there for lunch and supper. Three weeks later he was finally well enough to go home. Once there he seemed determined to start the dance all over again.

“I can take my medicine myself,” he declared almost immediately upon returning home.

The anger reared its ugly head for the first time as I contemplated the downward spiral that would inevitably ensue if he were allowed to have his way.

I tried to pretend it wasn’t there but each time he tried to convince me to give him his pills it grew stronger. I was royally ticked off that he would even try to manipulate me again. I knew he would again lie and insist he was taking his medication when he wasn’t. I was furious that he would subject me and his son to sleepless nights and hours of driving to and from the hospital to assure he received proper care. I resented that he seemed to think he was smarter than me.

There were moments when I had to walk away as soon as he entered the room. I didn’t even want to look at him. I was racked with guilt and questioned my basic humanity. How could I possibly be angry with this sick old man? The guilt was overwhelming at times. I prayed, I vented in the car when I went to the grocery store and cried a lot.

I finally got some relief when I admitted my feelings to my husband.

Mike assured me that it was normal to feel the way I did; that the job I’d taken on was harder than anyone could imagine and what I was feeling was normal. I had nothing to feel guilty about. He took a couple of days off from work and encouraged me to get out of the house.

“Go see a movie. Get a massage. Pamper yourself,” he whispered as I cried on his shoulder, relief mixing with the overwhelming sadness that I finally allowed to engulf me.

I couldn’t concentrate on the movie. I spent the entire time in the theater trying to figure out what was wrong with me. I passed on the massage. I don’t like strangers touching me. But I did go to the gym. An hour of aerobics helped ease the tension from my shoulders and neck. It felt good to sweat and push myself again. The next day I went for a run on the treadmill. It was there that it all came together for me.

I wasn’t just mad at him for trying to take control of his meds. I was mad at him for tricking us and causing so much trouble but I was really mad at him for not appreciating all I had done and all I had been through. While I was busy caring for him I’d lost my own mother to non Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She was gone and he was still here. She took all her treatments and she died. He refused to do what he was supposed to do and I got to nurse him back to health. It wasn’t fair. He should be fighting with all he had just as she did. If anyone should still be here it should be…

In that moment I heard a soft voice whisper… “It’s not up to you to decide who lives.” And then I heard a short and very special phrase that rings true no matter how often it’s repeated. “Let go and let God.”

I found myself nodding my head in agreement and moments later I began to feel better. I was able to go home refreshed and take care of Rodger again.

It’s not a cure-all. The anger and resentment still came back sometimes when he was acting out. And I’d even gone so far as to tell God he had better get busy as I’d let go a while ago and he didn’t seem to be doing anything to help at that time. But finally recognized it for what it is.

Rodger was doing the best he could with a mind that was failing in spite of all the love and care and medication he was getting. And I was doing the best I could in spite of all my weaknesses and doubts. And God? He was there running alongside me on the treadmill, reminding me to take care of myself too.

So this is my reminder to you. Take care of yourself as well as you take care of your loved one. Go to a movie, get a massage, pray, get some exercise, sing at the top of your lungs, sob in your best friends arms, whatever it takes – do it.

Related articles

He Was Home For A While

Frail and with growing memory problems, Rodger kept us on our toes as he struggled to navigate through a world that refused to make sense. Routine was vitally important; without it he wound down into confusion so complete all movement came to a halt. He was stuck somewhere in time.

Years after moving into our home, we would come upon him staring into space, mumbling softly about a missed appointment made fifty years ago or reliving a day in the life of a long ago soldier.

Sometimes with pity, always with patience, I would gently bring him back. “Orienting him to time and place,” as the doctor said.

His favorite room was the kitchen. Small and bright with sunshine, it opens onto a view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Hills he called them, telling me about the fabulous peaks he once climbed in the mountain ranges of Italy. For a short time his memory was as sharp and clear as the cold mountain air of days gone by.

Elegant Mountain Ranges, Italy

A charming boyish smile crossed his face as he spoke of his mother making polenta before going to church each day. Of rolling up the rugs and dancing on Saturday night in a kitchen glowing with firelight and youthful dreams.

In the kitchen, with no need of persistent voices orienting him to time and place, he was able to move. He was home again.

Hold on to the precious moments when they come for they are the blessings we receive from those who cannot thank us.

Caregiver Cover Web

Click here for Exclusive 20% Discount for Blog Followers

Also available on Amazon

Published by Open Books Press – $15.95 Print $2.99 e-book.

NaBloPoMo November 2014

Pick Out the Splinters

splinters in your butt

Caregivers, you know who I mean. The people who call to question and criticize what you do and how you do it.  The family members who drop by once or twice a year and spend an hour or so before heading out  to a restaurant for dinner or leaving on a fabulous vacation.  The ones who can’t help you because seeing Mom or Dad like that is too hard for them.

These are the same people who say, “Please let us know what we can do to help,” but are never available when you need someone to take over for a day or two so you can get some much-needed rest.

We have all dealt with the splinters. If we don’t pick them out in time the wound caused by their careless dismissal of us and our loved one festers and makes life even more difficult for us.

I hope when that happens you will remember this funny little cartoon and smile and feel a bit better, even if only for a moment. You are not alone.

 Caregiver Cover Web

Click here for Exclusive 20% Discount for Blog Followers

Also available on Amazon

Published by Open Books Press – $15.95 Print $2.99 e-book.

NaBloPoMo November 2014

A Prayer for the Caregiver

As a caregiver I spent a lot of time praying. I doubted my ability to carry on and castigated myself each time I lost patience or failed to protect my father-in-law from another setback. While I recognized his frailty I forgot about my own. I expected perfection where there could be none. I prayed for guidance and asked God to show me the path he wanted me to take. There were many days when I doubted He heard me. Often I wondered if I was worthy of His help and attention. I cried a lot. But always, when I was at my lowest, help arrived in some form and I knew my prayers were heard. Today I share this prayer for you, the caregiver, so you know you are never alone and you have done well.

A Prayer for the Caregiver

By Bruce McIntyre

Unknown and often unnoticed, you are a hero nonetheless.

For your love, sacrificial, is God at his best.

You walk by faith in the darkness of the great unknown,

And your courage, even in weakness, gives life to your beloved.

You hold shaking hands and provide ultimate care.

Your presence, the knowing, that you are simply there.

You rise to face the giant of disease and despair,

It is your finest hour, though you may be unaware.

You are resilient, amazing, and beauty unexcelled.

You are the caregiver and you have done well.

Prayer shared courtesy of A Place for Mom

The following is an excerpt from Confessions of an Imperfect Caregiver:

There were only two cars in the church parking lot when I pulled in, but considering it was a weekday afternoon, that wasn’t surprising. After dipping my fingers into the holy water font and making the sign of the cross, I slipped into a pew near the front of the church. For several moments I simply sat there, taking in the lingering aroma of incense, candle wax, and furniture polish. …

“Our Father, who art in Heaven,… ” I prayed, the words taking on a new importance as tears of frustration and guilt streamed down my face. “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done …”

All right, God, if it is Your will that I take care of my father-in-law, I’m happy to do it. But You have to help me. I’m new at this, and I’m afraid I’m not doing it very well. He’s a sick old man, and he’s not trying to be difficult. I know that. So why do I feel so angry?

“… And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.… but deliver us from evil … ” I sobbed, my heart breaking for both of us. Why couldn’t I be stronger?

“Help me to be more patient and understanding. Guide me to make the right decisions when it comes to his care. Help me find the right words to soothe him when he’s confused and frightened. Please take the anger away. It frightens me. It weakens me, and I need to be strong to do this. I don’t want to let Mike down, and I can’t let Rodger down. He has nowhere else to go. Please, hold me in your love and light and show me the path you want me to take. Amen.”

My prayer complete, I struggled to stop crying, but the harder I tried the harder the tears flowed. Just as I began to fear they’d never end, exhaustion and embarrassment forced me to gain control of myself. Get a grip, I scolded myself. You’ve had a good cry, and it’s time to go home.

I’d left my purse in the car and had nothing to mop up the watery mess I’d made of myself, leaving me with no choice other than to wipe my nose on my sleeve. I didn’t notice the near-silent approach of the only other person in the church until a tiny elderly woman, dressed all in black, touched my shoulder and handed me a bunch of tissues.

“God bless you,” she whispered as she turned and walked away.

Yes, God bless me. I sure do need it.

Caregiver Cover Web

Also available on Amazon

Published by Open Books Press – $15.95 Print $2.99 e-book.

Click here for Exclusive 20% Discount for Blog Followers

NaBloPoMo November 2014

NaBloPoMo – A Blog a Day in November

November is a big month for writers. It’s time for NaBloPoMo and NaNoWriMo – National Blog Posting Month where bloggers set a goal to write a post a day in November. For me that’s a big challenge. I try to post once a month but sometimes the days get away from me and it just doesn’t happen. I’m eager to see how this project works out and what effect it will have on my time management going forward.

NaBloPoMo was inspired by NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month wherein writers are challenged to write a novel in the month of November.  This annual contest has resulted in many published novels and inspired thousands of writers to complete their work in progress even if they didn’t finish by the end of the month. I wish all the novel writers and bloggers starting this challenge good luck and good writing.

Here I go.

panic attack

The first time I had a panic attack I thought I was dying. I woke from a restless sleep with my heart racing and a heavy feeling in my chest. Then my fingers began to tingle and before long that sensation moved up my hand and into my arm.  At first confused and then terrified by what was happening I woke my husband. Call 911, something is very wrong! As I waited for the ambulance to arrive my heart raced faster and faster and each time the speed increased I became more frightened. Cold sweat poured out of me. I’m having a heart attack!

This can’t be happening. I have too much to do. I can’t do this to my family. How could my husband cope with the loss and care for his father? I was not ready to leave my grown children or my grandchildren.  I prayed for the ambulance to arrive in time while Mike paced.

“Your heart is fine, the EMT said after examining me thoroughly. What’s going on in your life that’s causing you so much stress? 

Caregivers know the answer to that.  Constant vigilance. Sleepless nights for days and weeks on end. Second guessing by family members who aren’t there every day like you are.  Loved ones who not only resist but openly fight your efforts to care for them. It all piles up and you take it all in. Swallow it down and start another day. Eventually something has to give and your body sends out an urgent signal. I’m in trouble here. And you are. Left untreated the same stress that leads to panic attacks can result in a heart attack. The good news is there is treatment. The key is to understand what is happening and why.

After that terrible scare I read all I could about what had happened to me. I quickly learned to recognize the onset of a panic attack. When I sensed one coming on I’d go to a quiet room, lie down and take slow deep breaths to calm myself. Over time it became easier and the attacks lessened in intensity and duration. Now they occur rarely and dissipate in minutes. I’m lucky. I can control my panic attacks without medication. For some the attacks are so severe and frequent medical intervention is needed. If that’s the case with you, don’t hesitate to consult your doctor and get treatment. You will feel so much better if you do.

****************************

Is it a heart attack or a panic attack? (from HelpGuide.org)

Most of the symptoms of a panic attack are physical, and many times these symptoms are so severe that people think they’re having a heart attack. In fact, many people suffering from panic attacks make repeated trips to the doctor or the emergency room in an attempt to get treatment for what they believe is a life-threatening medical problem. While it’s important to rule out possible medical causes of symptoms such as chest pain, heart palpitations, or difficulty breathing, it’s often panic that is overlooked as a potential cause—not the other way around.

A panic attack is a sudden surge of overwhelming anxiety and fear. Your heart pounds and you can’t breathe. You may even feel like you’re dying or going crazy. Left untreated, panic attacks can lead to panic disorder and other problems. They may even cause you to withdraw from normal activities. But panic attacks can be cured and the sooner you seek help, the better. With treatment, you can reduce or eliminate the symptoms of panic and regain control of your life.

For more information about panic attacks and how to treat them go to http://www.helpguide.org/articles/anxiety/panic-attacks-and-panic-disorders.htm

To read more about Bobbi and her experience as a caregiver purchase a copy of her book, Confessions of an Imperfect Caregiver. Blog followers receive a discount when ordering directly.

.Click here for Exclusive 20% Discount for Blog Followers

Caregiver Cover Web

Also available on Amazon

Published by Open Books Press – $15.95 Print $2.99 e-book

NaBloPoMo November 2014

There Really Are Angels Among Us

caregiving angels

When I first saw this picture I was reminded of a day when angels made their presence known to me. There had been an ice storm and Rodger was in the hospital again. Unable to get there so see him for a few days I was worried about him and how he would react upon seeing me. Although he often said he didn’t mind being in the hospital, he always resented it and acted out when he got home. I was becoming overwhelmed and prayed often asking God to send help. I prayed again as I drove the winding road over the mountain into West Virginia to the VA hospital.

The following is an excerpt from chapter 25 of  my book Confessions of an Imperfect Caregiver, the true story of my time as an imperfect caregiver.

“What did you say?” I asked, not sure I heard right.

“I asked if you need help. I understand that you’ve been caring for your father in your home for a long time and that his needs are extensive. Are you able to leave him to go to the store or go out to dinner with your husband? When was the last time you took an afternoon for yourself?”

“Um …” I stuttered. “Wow. Yes, I need help. Who are you again?” I wanted to ask him to turn around so I could check for wings, but I was afraid to appear cheeky to God.

“Here’s my card. My name is Rob Angelis, and I’m a social worker. I’d like to arrange some help for you…I can offer you in-home assistance if you’re willing to accept it.”

“Oh, I’m willing to accept it.Please tell me more about the program and when we can start.”

Yes, there are angels among us. Many are family caregivers. In the United States alone there are between 65 and 90 million family caregivers and the numbers grow every day.  Please do what you can to be supportive. The gift of time is precious to caregivers. A moment of respite is a godsend.  Be an angel and reach out to a caregiver.  Someone near you is praying for help.

Previous Older Entries Next Newer Entries