Is It Time To Take Away Driving Privileges?

Back some time ago I did a post on how to get your loved one to stop driving.

As you probably already know, this is the hardest decision to make, and one that is very sensitive.

I want to share with you a recently released book on just this subject.

Dr. David Berstein, MD is board certified in Internal Medicine and Geriatrics. He wants what’s best for his patients, but he also wants to help family members with this difficult decision. His book, Senior Driving Dilemmas can be found here.

Dr. Bernstein has been recognized by AlzAuthors, which is a large resource for all sorts of information on dementia, caregiving, dementia care and much more. You can search their website here.

I hope you will take advantage of the information I’ve provided to help you decide if this is the time to take away the car keys.

Cognitive Testing

Have you recently taken a loved one for a cognitive test?

Why did you decide to have them tested? Did they agree or refuse and put up a fight?

Anyone who has come to the conclusion it’s time for a cognitive test has experienced some different or unusual behavior with their loved one. In the case with my mother, it was her forgetfulness leaving the stove on and leaving the house. There were other things, but this was my major concern.

Everyone experiences different behavior that gives a red flag there’s something not right. At first, you may disregard the forgetfulness as a fluke, we all have a moment we forget things, right? But in the case of a person losing their short-term memory it’s more than a fluke.

It’s time to pay close attention to the behavior of your loved one. Are they becoming short temper? Are they doing strange things like putting something away in a place where it obviously doesn’t belong and then swearing, they didn’t do it? Most likely you are the one who did it. These are just a few examples of what a person with dementia will display with short term memory problems.

As this behavior continues it will eventually lead to more memory loss. How long will it take for this to happen? There’s no telling, everyone is different. The lifestyle they’ve lived plays a large part in how their brain is deteriorating. Were they heavy drinkers in the past or now? Heavy smokers? Have they had an unhealthy diet throughout their life? Lack exercise? Taken medications that cause mental decline? All of these are contributors leading to dementia.

There are people who’ve had relatives that had or have dementia. In the past, there wasn’t a way to tell if you had the gene that causes Alzheimer’s Disease. Now there are tests that can show if it’s in your gene pool. These are usually people who’ve had family members in every generation that had some sort of dementia. You can search here to read more on that.

Starting with cognitive testing is the first step in learning what you are dealing with and how to approach this diagnosis. Your neurologist will guide you and suggest a plan to follow. If you feel you need a second, or even third opinion, then get it. We can never have too many opinions when it comes to a diagnosis for dementia.

Search for resources on caregiving and dementia related information. The Alzheimer’s Association is a good place to start. Their resources are some of the best. Take advantage of educating yourself, either with these resources or talk to someone who has been or is going through the same thing as you.

Just talking to another person about your situation is helpful. Remember, you are not alone! You might feel like you’re alone, but believe me, you are not! Last of all, caregiving takes a lot of patience. This will be a challenging road, but believe it or not, it can also be a rewarding roll caring for the person you love so dearly.

ADVOCACY

If you’re new to the role of caregiving, advocacy is one of the most important items on the list for a caregiver.

When a loved one is incapable of making decisions, or speak at all for themselves, this is where you advocate on their behalf.

Don’t be afraid to speak up. There is no one better to advocate for your loved one than you, their caregiver. You might be thinking you’re intimidated to speak up because a doctor or other healthcare professional might think you lack the intelligence to understand what they want to implement into the healthcare plan they’re presenting. Honestly, the professionals will not think anything of the sort. On the contrary, they welcome your ideas and the fact that you’re taking an invested interest in your loved one’s care plan.

Maybe your personality is passive and timid when it comes to speaking up so you just go with whatever the professionals say, even though it goes against your best judgement. Please! Do not let this get in the way of making the best decision for your loved one, you will regret it as soon as you give in. Is the thought going through your head right now, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going?” Change your thought pattern right now to, “when the going gets tough, get going making tough decisions“.

No one ever says caregiving is easy! It’s one of the hardest jobs you will ever have. It’s energy depleting. It’s not always pleasant. It never says thank you, and it comes with criticism. Sometimes it feels like a no-win situation and you want to just cave and do whatever the professionals “tell” you you need to do. Don’t fall into the trap of self pity thinking you know nothing, you’re not the professional.

Think about when your parents were raising you. They advocated for you all through your growing up years, and at times probably into adulthood. They were thinking about your best interests keeping you safe not just at home, but in school, or in outside activities. Now it’s your turn to think of what’s in their best interests. Yes, caregiving is a role reversal; you become the parent.

There were many times during my caregiving years with my mother I had to stand up and advocate for her and not just with her care plan. I had to intercede with nurses and aids to do the right thing for her, otherwise it was like a cookie cutter job where everyone was cared for in the exact same way. Our loved ones are not exactly like the other person receiving care. They all have distinct qualities and needs that should be met. So speak up. Advocate.

When you learn to advocate you’re not only helping your loved one, but you’re helping yourself understand the role of a caregiver and you become much more effective in that role. You learn that being strong will keep you from being taken advantage of. What? Someone might try to take advantage of your situation? YES! Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world. There are a few people in the healthcare world that will test the water and see if you are capable of handling the caregiver role, and if you give in, you will surely be taken advantage of. This is rare, but it does happen.

Think about all the things you want in your loved ones care and act on it by being their advocate.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them…”

Deuteronomy 31:6

When Is Enough, Enough?

A couple of weeks ago, our Governor lifted the mask mandate. Along with that he has allowed businesses to open 100%. I thought that was great news. However, many people who are filled with “fear” have balked against the news from the Governor.

I immediately thought of our loved ones who have been “locked down” and unable to be with family and other loved ones. Now, they are able to have visitors and can actually have human touch again.

Let me be clear about something. I’m not telling people to stop wearing masks if they feel they absolutely need to. But I am troubled by all the fear associated around not wearing masks. Do we want to continue to instill fear into our loved ones who probably didn’t understand in the beginning why they couldn’t have visitors? Now is a time to put that behind us and move forward.

Our main goal is to be back with our loved ones in person, not on the other side of a glass door or window. Human touch is so important even if you don’t have dementia.

Common sense tells us to stay home if we don’t feel well. We knew that before the virus hit, why would it be any different now? Again, if you feel the need to mask up in front of your loved ones, then do it. Just don’t stay away if you have the opportunity to see them in person. We aren’t guaranteed tomorrow, so make the best of today!

Daylight savings time has begun, which is “spring forward”. Let’s do the same thing with our loved ones; spring forward and spend time with them. Catch up on all the things you’ve missed out on this past year. Leave the old behind and begin new; that’s what spring represents. . .a fresh start, newness.

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Emanuel

Photo by fotografierende on Pexels.com

Emmanuel means God with us.

What a poignant meaning for all the caregivers in the world.

Caregiving is one of the toughest jobs a person could ever have. Caregivers experience extreme stress, daily sacrifices, no pay, little to no help, guilt, lack of sleep and the list goes on.

So when I think of the meaning of EmmanuelGod with us, it says that you’re not alone in your journey; Emmauel is walking right alongside. Isn’t it comforting to know God is with you?

The holidays add more stress than usual because of family obligations, holiday get togethers, maybe out-of-town visitors, cooking, cleaning, making sure everyone in the family has what they need to get ready for the holidays. Where does that leave you, the caregiver?

If you’re the kind of person who has always been in charge and in control, now’s the time to delegate as much as you possibly can. Your main objective is to see to it your loved one is not neglected during the holidays. What I mean by that is don’t get so wrapped up in planning the festivities that you forget it’s time to bathe mom or it’s time to give her her medication. You’re probably thinking you would never forget these things, but how many caregivers are taking on so much responsibility that it “slips” their mind? It happens, believe me!

This year is a crazy unusual year with the pandemic and then you add in the holidays…well, that makes it even more complicated and stressful.

If you have a loved one in a memory care facility or nursing home, will your state allow you to visit? Some places have started allowing family to visit their loved ones. I hope this is the case for you wherever you live. Loved ones in facilities are needing your physical touch and you need theirs.

Let’s remember this season is about LOVE. It’s about Emmanuel and giving thanks for God being with us.

Have a very Blessed Christmas!

What’s Next?

I’ve been asking myself that very question. My answer…I have no idea at the moment.

I’ve had writer’s block for months. Any writers out there know what I mean? I feel like I’ve let down my followers; I promise, it has not been intentional.

So what made me sit down and write today? I’ve literally been thinking what is next?

All the healthcare scares going on and so many people not being able to be with loved ones who live in facilities. What’s next for all of these families? I pray this whole pandemic will go away just like the seasonal flu.

None of us has the answer to any of these concerns, but we’ve all been thinking about it.

My main concern is for the people in care facilities, who haven’t been able to be with their loved ones, will decline faster than if they had been allowed to be with their families. And it’s not just the people in the care facilities. The families at home are struggling emotionally from these mandates.

If you have a loved one in a care facility, I would like to hear from you about how you’re able to stay in touch or if you’re able to visit at all. I believe by sharing what you’ve been doing to stay connected with your family members can also be helpful for other people who don’t know how to stay connected to their loved ones. For those people with full blown Alzheimer’s it’s not easy or possible for family members to have phone conversations. So if any of you have suggestions or things you’ve actually done to be near your loved ones, please share.

There has never been a more important time for all of us to come together.

“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:4

Experiencing Loss

 

As caregivers, experiencing loss is one of the most devastating times in our lives.

You may have spent one year or 10 years being a caregiver. The time doesn’t really matter when it comes to losing someone you’ve cared for.

The moment your loved one is in imminent danger of dying you may start trying to think of ways to help them stay just a little longer. Is that right or wrong? I can’t speak for others. I do know in my own situation when my mother was determined “imminent” care status, that meant it was only a matter of time before she would be gone. I did labor over that word, imminent, but I also knew she had suffered much too long and I needed to be the one to let her go.

Letting a loved one go isn’t easy, it’s actually pretty torturous. I began to feel guilt creeping in because I made the decision to “let her go”. Guilt can be unrelenting for caregivers. So many times throughout your caregiving years you’ve probably felt guilty for not visiting enough, not calling more regularly, feeling angry about being the caregiver and then finally having to let go of the one you love.

Now, in our current times, caregivers are experiencing a different kind of loss. We may be asking the proverbial “why?”, but it doesn’t change a thing. The fact caregivers aren’t allowed to visit their loved ones in memory care or other nursing facilities is difficult. Period. The caregiver suffers and their loved ones suffer. It’s another kind of loss.

I passed an assisted living facility the other day and saw a lady who was at the window of someone’s room trying to talk to them. She had her bicycle parked next to the window and it seemed like she was just trying to make a connection with the person she cares about. That was heartbreaking to see.

Loss, whether it’s from death or prohibitive, is still a loss. I don’t have all the answers, I wish I did.

Whatever you do, please try not to feel guilty about the loss. You are an amazing human being! You have been doing the best you know how in providing love and care for your loved ones. There is nothing to feel guilty about.

We have no control over our time on earth. It’s okay to feel sad, even angry, but it’s not okay to feel guilty.

“Weeping may remain for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” Ps 30:5

 

 

Caregiver Anxiety

Since March our lives have been turned upside down and inside out because of the pandemic.

As caregivers, you already have enough angst in your life without adding the stress and anxiety of not being able to be with your loved ones as you normally have in the past.

What are some things you’re doing for yourself to relieve your anxiety? Have you just been sitting and worrying? Or have you been calling the facility you’re loved one is in on a daily basis? Does it feel like you’re becoming annoying to the staff at the facility by calling several times a day to check on your loved one?

I know I would have a very hard time not being able to see my loved one(s). It would create some anxiety for me.

Instead of letting the situation create anxiety, take time to focus on the fact you feel confident your loved one is in a safe facility. The staff will contact you if anything goes wrong or something happens. Right now with all the sanitation guidelines in place for facilities and staff, try and be assured they are doing all they can to keep your loved one safe too.

It’s not always easy to trust everything is being done according to the guidelines, but what good does it do if you are constantly worrying and being anxious.

If you’re able to have a phone call with your loved one and you come across as worried and anxious, they will be able to pick up on that through the tone of your voice, and even by the conversation you’re having with them. So think about how and what you’re saying in your call with them.

The most important thing for you, the caregiver, is to get outside and get some fresh air. Take a hike, a walk or maybe a bike ride. Watch a funny movie or your favorite comedian. Laughter creates endorphines. Whatever your favorite passtime is, just do it!

I’ve said many times, if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to care for the ones you love. You have to find an outlet that reduces your anxiety and stress.

One of the most anxiety driven forces is watching the news. Stop watching, or at least reduce the amount of time you watch, because there’s so much negativity being broadcasted. All this does is create more anxiety. So please, be selective with what you watch, the social media you engage and the people you surround yourself with.

If you find yourself becoming anxious due to a conversation you’re having with someone, excuse yourself. Walk away and take a moment to regain your composure. Don’t let outside sources add to your already anxiousness. Breathe deeply and slowly. . .it works! By-the-way, this is not being rude.

A favorite verse of mine. . .

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Eph. 4:6-7

 

 

The Joy Of Spring

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I don’t know about you, but I am so joyful that spring has arrived…at least it has in Texas!

Some might say there’s nothing joyful about spring this year because of the pandemic.  This can be especially true for caregivers.

While the pandemic is first and foremost in many minds right now, let’s step aside for just a moment and find the joy we still have in the midst of all this.

  • Spring rains
  • Spring flowers
  • Birds singing
  • Walks in the sunshine
  • Technology
  • Friends
  • Family
  • Faith

Caregivers, this is really a hard time for you if you’re not able to visit your loved one(s) in person. But thankfully technology allows us the privilege to have face-to-face calls when available. It doesn’t take the place of physical touch, but it does give you and your loved one(s) a chance to connect. This brings to mind a scripture verse from Hebrews 10:25:

“Let us not give up  meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

You might even take your loved one(s) on a virtual tour of your garden and let them enjoy all the beautiful plants, flowers and trees, or maybe your vegetable garden. I guarantee it will put a smile on their faces.

Take a break from discussing the virus and focus instead on all the beauty that surrounds you in your own environment.

If your loved one is still able to communicate, ask them their opinion about your gardening and if there’s anything that brings up a special memory for them. Maybe they can’t give you a memory, but you might be remembering something that stands out  when they had a garden. Talk about all the good things from those times. Everyone loves to reminisce and it’s a great way to engage in conversation.

Continue to reassure them you are still there and available for their needs even if you have to go through another source. Always validate their feelings if they’re worried or afraid.

Caregiving is not for the faint of heart. Being strong in uncertain times can be difficult, but you were purposefully chosen to be the caregiver therefore, call on your inner strength whenever you have the need.

No one knows for certain how long this “distancing” is going to last, so try and make the best of what you CAN do right now.

“Be joyful always”…1Thessalonians 5:16

 

 

Caregivers and COVID-19

For all you Caregivers out there I know this is a very challenging time. This new virus that is sweeping the nation and the world is puzzling and dangerous.

What can caregivers do during a pandemic? How can they fulfill their role as a caregiver?

If you have a loved one at home, you would certainly take all the precautions the CDC has put into place. If your loved one is in a senior facility, assisted living or nursing home, the best way is to talk by phone, video chat or face time if the facility can accommodate your loved one with one of these technologies.

I have no idea what the rules in your area are about visiting seniors in facilities, but where I live, it’s advised not to visit. This is hard for so many, especially your loved one.

It’s time to get a little creative and do the best you can to stay in touch and let them know you’re still there for them and anything they need will still be provided, only it will have to be done differently.

You might have your children or grandchildren make cards or draw pictures and deliver to the facility. Seniors love getting homemade items from family and friends. This also gives the kids something to do while they are not in school right now.

Let’s spread the love to our seniors and reinforce how much we still love them and care about them even if we can’t visit them in person.

We will make it through this pandemic. People are uniting and helping one another out of compassion and love. How are you helping in your community?

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

1Cor 13:13