Caregiver dilemma: I’m scared of doing it wrong

Becoming a caregiver for someone you love can be a wonderful, but terrifying experience.  If you approach the experience with a deep love for your family member and the determination to make sure they are safe, loved and fulfilled as a human being should be then you will be wonderful as a caregiver!integrity

My most terrifying moment as a caregiver was the day we brought Dad back home.  He’d arrived via medical transportation and shortly afterwards I was alone with him for the first time.  I stood there scared beyond everything.

I was completely responsible for Dad’s health and well-being.  I had completed the coursework, testing and clinical experience required by my state to do this work.  I even had the little piece of paper to prove it!

But as I stood by Dad’s bedside that fateful afternoon I was nearly paralyzed with fear.  I was scared that I would do something wrong.  I was worried that I would cause him unnecessary harm with my ineptitude.

I took a deep breath.  I exhaled.  I did it a few more times – just to make sure I could.  I decided to start with the basics of caregiving.

I took Dad’s hand, told him that I was going to do my best for him and that I may have a bit of a learning curve.  I let him know that everything was going to be ok.  I spent several minutes talking to him, holding his hand and comforting him.

In comforting Dad I found that I was also comforted.  In telling him everything would be ok I felt that it would be ok.

I began to relax.  The fear that had frozen me dissipated and I was able to begin providing the personal care Dad needed.

There were times I made some mistakes, those mistakes didn’t make his condition worse.  The mistakes were a part of my learning curve and I did learn from them.  I used these lessons to provide even better care for Dad.

In the end I knew I had done everything I could to honor my father.  I had given him the care he needed.  I had ensured that his final days, weeks and months had been spent surrounded by love.  I do not regret forcing myself through my paralyzing fear – I would do it a thousand times over.

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If your days on Earth were numbered, what would you want to do most?

This question is sometimes talked about, but when push comes to shove what would you really like to do as your time comes to an end?

For most of us it would involve an activity we enjoyed, perhaps where we felt the most peaceful within ourselves and with the world.

This Vietnam vet requested to do just that … he wanted to go fishing one last time.   I’m sure it took some inventive thinking and extra effort on the part of this man’s family, friends and caregivers but they made sure it happened for him.

Why?  Why do this?  Simply for this reason: make every moment count.  Take every day you have whether 1 or 100,000 or 1 million and find joy in the living of that day.

Gone Fishin’

Caregiver dilemma: I’m scared of doing it wrong

Becoming a caregiver for someone you love can be a wonderful, but terrifying experience.  If you approach the experience with a deep love for your family member and the determination to make sure they are safe, loved and fulfilled as a human being should be then you will be wonderful as a caregiver!

integrity

My most terrifying moment as a caregiver was the day we brought Dad back home.  He’d arrived via medical transportation and shortly afterwards I was alone with him for the first time.  I stood there scared beyond everything.

I was completely responsible for Dad’s health and well-being.  I had completed the coursework, testing and clinical experience required by my state to do this work.  I even had the little piece of paper to prove it!

But as I stood by Dad’s bedside that fateful afternoon I was nearly paralyzed with fear.  I was scared that I would do something wrong.  I was worried that I would cause him unnecessary harm with my ineptitude.

I took a deep breath.  I exhaled.  I did it a few more times – just to make sure I could.  I decided to start with the basics of caregiving.

I took Dad’s hand, told him that I was going to do my best for him and that I may have a bit of a learning curve.  I let him know that everything was going to be ok.  I spent several minutes talking to him, holding his hand and comforting him.

In comforting Dad I found that I was also comforted.  In telling him everything would be ok I felt that it would be ok.

I began to relax.  The fear that had frozen me dissipated and I was able to begin providing the personal care Dad needed.

There were times I made some mistakes, those mistakes didn’t make his condition worse.  The mistakes were a part of my learning curve and I did learn from them.  I used these lessons to provide even better care for Dad.

In the end I knew I had done everything I could to honor my father.  I had given him the care he needed.  I had ensured that his final days, weeks and months had been spent surrounded by love.  I do not regret forcing myself through my paralyzing fear – I would do it a thousand times over.

If your days on Earth were numbered, what would you want to do most?

This question is sometimes talked about, but when push comes to shove what would you really like to do as your time comes to an end?

For most of us it would involve an activity we enjoyed, perhaps where we felt the most peaceful within ourselves and with the world.

This Vietnam vet requested to do just that … he wanted to go fishing one last time.   I’m sure it took some inventive thinking and extra effort on the part of this man’s family, friends and caregivers but they made sure it happened for him.

Why?  Why do this?  Simply for this reason: make every moment count.  Take every day you have whether 1 or 100,000 or 1 million and find joy in the living of that day.

Gone Fishin’

Grieving … just get over it – NOT!

There are many misconceptions about grieving and dealing with the loss of a loved one.  The biggest is that it is a linear process and you will eventually “get over it”.  Grief is individual, it is on-going and while we may get to a place of peace we never “get over it”.

Someone has been taken from your world, someone important to you, and you will feel the loss your whole life.  I don’t say this to depress anyone because things can and will get better.  The pain of loss will diminish, but even years later you will find yourself wishing you could have one more conversation or tell them one more time how much you love them.

I recently found an alternative way of looking at the grieving process and like it quite a bit.  Here’s the diagram:

stages of grief

First of all it indicates more of the emotions and layers of feelings than the traditional “five-stages of grief” line would have us dwell on.  I also like the shape they chose to illustrate.  The shape reminds me a bit of a skateboarding half pipe.  When you look at it and think of a skateboarder riding a half pipe you can imagine the skateboarder reaching one level and going back the other direction to another.  They would be in a constant flux between all of the points of the half pipe.

The other thing to take in account with the skateboarder on a half pipe is the importance of remembering to keep moving.  Whether back or forward a skateboarder is happiest when they’re moving, they don’t want to stop in the bottom of the half pipe.  They pass through the bottom on their way but they want to keep moving.

So, the next time someone tells you that you need to “get over” your grief, just tell them you’re riding your skateboard on your half pipe and no one can dictate to you how your ride should go.

Pretending it isn’t there doesn’t make it go away!

Have you noticed a loved one having difficulty remembering recent events?  More misplaced items? Seeing things (or people) that aren’t there? Asking the same question multiple times? Forgetting appointments? Getting lost in a familiar area? Behaving in a manner unlike themselves?

These are red flags for dementia.  You need to make sure your loved one gets to a doctor sooner rather than later.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking that your loved one is too young to have dementia!  My dad was only in his mid 50’s when he was diagnosed.

Getting to a doctor and speaking honestly with them about these concerns is imperative.  There are some conditions that may cause dementia symptoms that can be reversed when caught in time.  If the symptoms of dementia aren’t reversible then there are other reasons to get a diagnosis as soon as possible.  First of all it gives your loved one a chance to make sure their affairs are in order and all their care wishes are known.  Secondly, you have a chance to become informed about their condition and what is needed to care for them as the disease progresses.

Finding out that your loved one has dementia after they’ve lost their ability to think rationally can present you with a miriad of additional problems.  They may not have been paying their bills.  They may have fallen victim to one of the many money-swindling scammers that prey on the elderly.  They may be suffering from malnutrition.  They may be suffering from dehydration. They may not have been taking their medications correctly.  They may have thrown out important documents.  They may have started hoarding, turning their home into a dangerous place to be.  They may not be able to legally indicate their wishes for any part of their future.  If there is nothing in place for a power of attorney or advanced directive you may have to petition the courts for guardianship – a potentially complicated and expensive process.

Then, depending on family dynamics, you have to deal with other family members in denial.  Family members who will try to take advantage of the loved one.  I’ve seen more than one family literally at each other’s throats trying to get all they can from a failing parent or grandparent.  These family dynamics can make something like getting court appointed guardianship even more difficult.  Sometimes a judge will look at the family and appoint a 3rd party guardian.

I’m saying all of this because I figure if you’re reading my blog you; 1) really care about people and your family, 2) want to know the truth of the matter and 3) may be in a situation where this is important to know.  Taking a proactive, involved role in helping your loved one is the best way to go.  Don’t stick your head in the sand and pretend there’s nothing going on, because it will be 1000x worse in the end.

You may find yourself embroiled in legal battles with family members.

You may have to make decisions about end of life care.  Do you know if your loved one will wants to have feeding tubes?  CPR?  Placed on life support?  Antibiotics?  These difficult decisions could be yours to make without any input from your loved one, along with the heartache of never being certain that you’ve done what they really wanted.

If I could have one wish for the millions of families in this country having to face a diagnosis of dementia it would be that the diagnosis is made early and they take that time to get everything in place for when their loved one is no longer able to make rational decisions.

Fire danger season –

At this time of many fires spreading across much of the US, I thought I would send out an extra message to those of you who care for seniors.  Even if you aren’t in direct line of one of the fires the smoke can travel for miles causing air quality to drop.

When wildfire smoke becomes thick in the atmosphere there are several groups of people who are affected by the contaminated air.  One of these groups of people are seniors.

As we age our lung capacity diminishes and for many seniors the wildfire smog puts them is serious danger for respiratory problems, including pneumonia.

As best as possible keep your senior indoors when smoke is heavily in the air.

If you find that your home isn’t sealed well against drafts try some simple and cheap ways to temporarily seal up the areas allowing smokey air into your home.

The usual areas for air leaking from outside to inside are around doors and windows.

A damp bath towel along the base of any door leading outside will help stop and filter airflow.  A damp sheet tacked around a window sill will filter airflow around the window casing.

If there is no avoiding a trip outdoors for your senior, encourage them to wear a mask while out of doors.  The best style of mask for this is referred to as a N95 – other types of masks will not filter out the fine particulates found in forest fire smoke.

If your senior starts showing any signs of respiratory distress, do not hesitate to contact their doctor and get them into seek medical help.