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

 

Being Heart Healthy

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When I think of the month of February two things come to mind: Valentine’s Day and Heart Healthy Awareness month.

I would like to focus on the heart. Let me explain.

Caregiving requires many traits when you’re the one responsible for a loved one, no matter what the diagnosis might be. Among the many hats a caregiver wears, the most important part of that caring comes from the heart.

You’ve probably seen firsthand the nurse or CNA that loves what they do and how they interact with residents or patients. They have a heart for their profession; it’s a true calling for them. It’s the same for caregivers. You might be thinking right now that you didn’t volunteer for the caregiving role you have, it just happened. Well, you might be right, but I believe the right people are placed in that position because they have what it takes to be a caregiver. . .HEART.

I’ve met many caregivers over the years and I can honestly say I’ve never met one single person who was bitter or angered because they were the primary caregiver. True, they may have been caught off guard or felt dismayed that they were the chosen one, but in all honesty, they know deep down they have what it takes to persevere and get things done for the benefit of their loved one(s). Why? Because they have the heart for this role.

Does having the heart to be a caregiver make it easy? Not at all. In fact, it probably  makes it harder.

When you’re in the role of a caregiver you have so many decisions to make and many of those decisions are downright difficult. For example: Do you move your loved one out of their home into an assisted living? Or do they need a memory care facility? Do they need skill nursing care? Will doctors change when their living arrangements change? Are more medications needed or do they need to eliminate medications? Is it time for palliative care? Hospice? Decisions can be heartbreaking.

As you can see, these are only a snippet of items needing decisions by the caregiver if your loved one is not capable of making their own decisions. Hopefully, you’ve taken care of the legalities by having a Power of Attorney for healthcare and financial decisions. If not, this needs to be done now.

Something I discovered while being a caregiver is how much of a heart I have for the elderly. They don’t have to be sick or have some terminal illness. I just have a heart for them. I found there are many people who don’t have families so no one ever visits them. Those are the ones I became attached to. Those are the ones whose eyes would light up just because I would take the time to acknowlege them and give them a few minutes of attention. They are the ones who made my heart overflow with joy.

Be heart healthy all year long.

The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart.  Helen Keller

A New Year, A New Decade

We are not only in a new year, but a new decade! I don’t usually think about these things until it’s actually happening. Wow! A new decade!

What does that mean for caregivers? It could be you lost a loved one at the end of last year, or it could be someone near and dear has just been diagnosed with a form of dementia or another type of illness.

For each example it is a new start for the caregiver. If you’ve lost a loved one, you’re starting over in life learning how to live without that person; moving forward to rebuild your own life. For the person just becoming a caregiver, you, too, are going to have to learn how to live a different kind of life. Your journey is just beginning and there is no time frame to speak of.

Every person’s experience is unique. However, there can be a common thread in both situations. Focus on the “now” and the good that can and will come through your experiences.

If you’ve lost someone recently, give yourself permission to grieve for as long as you need. Remember, there is no time limit for grieving. Allow yourself to feel and work through those feelings the best way you can or know how. Let other people do things for you if they offer. You will eventually see and find the good during this time. This is not an instant accomplishment, but one that occurs over a period of time. Just don’t limit your time, move through it day by day.

If you find yourself suddenly becoming a caregiver, don’t panic. Our first thoughts are always fight flight flee! Yes, it’s a terrifying thought becoming a caregiver. What does a caregiver do? How will I be able to work full time and be a caregiver? Is anyone else willing to step up and help out? Is there anybody else in my shoes? Will family and friends understand? Will I be alienated from family and friends?

All the above questions are normal for someone starting out as a caregiver. It is undoubtedly the most frightening job because of all the unknowns. So what can you do?

First, give yourself time to digest the fact that your loved one has been diagnosed with some form of dementia or another type of illness. Talk to each other and discuss any fears you might have. Being transparent with one another is crucial. Never lie to each other and keep secrets. This is going to be a different kind of relationship that will be dealing with ups and downs like an emotional roller coaster. Learn together and let your loved one know you are with them every step of the way; you love them unconditionally. You will find good in your journey, and even blessings if you enter into this role being open to help and support, not just from family, but from experts in the field, friends and church.

Whatever you do, do not make this about you!

Being a caregiver is hard, I’m not going to lie. But this journey isn’t about you and your woes. This is about the person with the disease. Put yourself in their place and think about what they just heard in their diagnosis. What is going through their mind? How can you help them understand that they don’t have to go this journey by themselves because they have YOU! You, in turn, will not be alone as a caregiver because you will have others helping you to understand how to be a caregiver. This is where the experts come in like the Alzheimer’s Association and many other organizations available to help caregivers. These experts are the “good” and the “blessings” you will find and need.

For the past four years when the New Year comes around, instead of a resolution I pray for a word for the year. This year the Lord sent me two words: Surrender and Freedom.

My prayer is for you to have a divinely appointed “word(s)” for 2020 and see how you’re guided throughout the year.

 

May 2020 bring you Light and Love

Caregivers and Holidays

Caregiving and holidays can be a stressful and sad time of year.

Caregiving is exhausting and planning for the holidays is stressful and exhausting. The two together can be overwhelming. So what’s a caregiver supposed to do?

If you are a caregiver ask your family or close friends to lend a hand in helping you out. For instance, if you still want to put up holiday decorations but you’re completely depleted of energy, ask your adult children, grandchildren or other siblings to do the decorating. Nothing has to be elaborate, just a little holiday cheer to help your mood and maybe your loved one’s mood, if they’re still at home

Take some time for yourself and go with friends or family to see the Christmas lights. The neighborhoods are all aglow right now; seeing all the beautiful lights and decorations can boost your spirits even if it’s only for an hour. It’s also a great stress reliever if you’ve been with your loved one all day, whether at home or being with them at a memory care facility.

Another reason caregivers might dread the holidays is because it can be sad for them. They may have just lost a loved one or they have no joy because their loved one has progressed in their dementia to the point they don’t recognize them anymore. Nothing is more distressing than not having your loved one know who you are, or they think you’re someone else. You may have known this day was coming and tried to prepare yourself, but when it actually happens, it still stuns you. Honestly, we’re never prepared for behavior changes that come with dementia. It’s hard. It’s sad.

Surround yourself with happy upbeat people. Laugh, really laugh and get those endorphins flowing. Nothing makes you feel better than good hearty laugh and being surrounded by those you love. If you’re able to, share a meal with those closest to you and celebrate the blessings you’ve had throughout 2019. If you feel like there’s been no blessings I recommend you have some quiet time and start thinking about each day you’ve been able to spend with your loved one, no matter how far they are in their journey. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at all the blessings that come to mind.

Merry Christmas!

Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do.  Ephesians 9:7

 

AlzAuthors 3rd Annual Caregiver Appreciation Month

I mentioned in  an earlier post at the beginning of the month that November is National Caregiver Month.

Take a moment to peruse through the many books available at AlzAuthors 3rd Annual Caregiver Appreciation Month with special pricing starting today, November 21-25.

This is a great way to help yourself, your family or friends navigate through their journey as a caregiver. This is a gift of LOVE.

November Caregiver Appreciation Month

 

November is Caregiver Appreciation month.

Starting November 21-25, there will be special pricing on Amazon for my book, To Helen With Love, A Memoir of  A Daughter’s Caregiving Journey. Paperback will be on sale for $10.99 and Kindle $.99. 

With the holidays quickly approaching, this would make the perfect gift for someone you know serving in a caregiving role.

AlzAuthors.com is another great resource to peruse books and information on dementia, Alzheimer’s, caregiving and much more.

Let’s all show the LOVE to the thousands of caregivers doing their best to help those diagnosed with all forms of dementia.