Do Mom and Dad need help?

These four short videos contain important information for adult children of aging parents!  Tools and tips to helping your loved one to age in place.

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How can you do a job like that? I could NEVER do something like that!

love best medicine

When I began my journey as a caregiver I had people asking me how I could do such a thing, that they would never be able to do that.  They wanted to know how I could stand to see to the most personal needs of my father and then grandfather.  They couldn’t understand how I could find the compassion and patience to spend 30 to 45 minutes feeding my dad four or five times a day.

The simple answer is they’re family and that’s what family does.  The deeper explanation is, they did it for me.  From the time I was born my family has been there caring for me.  THEY changed my diapers.  THEY fed me.  THEY dressed me.  THEY bathed me.  I spit up and threw up on THEM.  I bled on THEM.  When I cried THEY comforted me.  THEY taught me, loved me and encouraged me.  How can I not reciprocate when THEIR time of need comes?

To that people will often concede the point but now that I have lost both Dad and Grandpa they ask why I continue to do this for strangers.

The honest truth is two-fold.  First of all, once I meet the people I am charged with providing care for they are no longer strangers.  They become surrogate family members.  I care for who they are as a person.  I try to learn about who they are, what makes them happy and how to encourage them.   They often have as much of a positive influence on my life as I hopefully have on theirs.

Second, I think of all the people outside of my family who had an impact on who I am today … teachers, neighbors, family friends, camp counselors, clergy, and random strangers providing random acts of kindness.  Most of these people are no longer in my life, but each of the people I care for were the teachers, neighbors, family friend, camp counselor, clergy or random stranger providing random acts of kindness for someone else.  So in my mind, in some odd concept of karma or whatever way you’d put it, I am returning the favor to a stranger in hopes that someone else is doing the same for those non-family members who had a positive influence on my life.

I have another reason for doing what I do.  I have seven wonderful nephews and four awesome nieces.   I believe the best way to show the future generation how to be compassionate, active, caring adults is by example.  I hope that by demonstrating to them how we should care for our family and strangers that I will have done my part to make the future just that much brighter.

So, to answer the question “How can I do something like what I do?”

I do it joyfully with hope, compassion and love.

Christmas Traditions

good memory

When I saw this meme I was taken back to my childhood and my memories of Christmas.  We had wonderful traditions that centered around time spent with family.   Sure, as kids we got presents from grandparents, aunts, uncles, our parents and Santa, but if you ask me about the presents I couldn’t really give you specifics.  I can tell you about the time spent making memories with my whole extended family.

Our Christmas would start by going to a midnight church service on Christmas Eve.  After church we would migrate to our dad’s parent’s house for a potato pancake breakfast.  There we would play with our cousins, rough house with Grandpa and perhaps watch Christmas specials on VHS.  There would be lots of laughter and fun.

Around 3 AM we would stagger home with our parents telling us that we were not allowed to get them up before 7 AM.  (They, of course, still had to play Santa.)

Seven AM on the dot would have us sending the youngest in to wake Mom and Dad.  We would have our own Christmas at home with us four kids and Mom and Dad.  Eventually Mom and Dad would go to have a nap and we would spend a blissful morning and early afternoon playing together.

About mid afternoon we would head over to Mom’s parent’s house for an early dinner.  Once again there was lots of laughter and fun.  We would play with our cousins.  Aunts and uncles would often join in with the insanity.  There were presents, but mostly I remember the boisterous antics of the time spent together as a family.

I used to look forward to Christmas for those times.  I still look forward to it because it offers a chance for me to make this time special for the next generation the way it was for me.

I have since lost all of my grandparents, sometimes I wish we could have just one more Christmas together.  Since we cannot, I take solace in the good memories they left and work to follow in their example.

Why I pretend that I’ve never heard that story before

I work with seniors, most of them have some level of dementia.  I care for their most personal needs.  I help them eat.  I help them with bathing and toileting.  I wipe their hands and faces.  I dress them and change their Depends.  I put bibs on them.

For all of this, they tell me their stories – often and repeatedly.  Every time I react as if I was hearing their story for the first time.

Why do I do that?  Because it is what they have left of their dignity.  It makes them feel important.  It lets them remember with pride their younger life while they have to live with the humiliation of needing assistance with the most basic of daily activities.

It is important to them to have their stories heard, acknowledged by another human being.

They need to know their stories hold value.

They also have a disease that means they cannot remember telling me their stories.

So, each time they tell me their story it is, to them, the first time.  This means that if I’m dismissive to their story because I’ve already heard it, to them I’m being dismissive to their pride, their humanity, their value as a person.

So, I listen to their stories with the same rapt attention each time.  I rejoice in their achievements and successes.  I laugh at their humorous anecdotes.  I sympathize with them over their losses.

As I bathe them, I laugh at cute stories of their children.

As I clean them up after using the toilet, I smile as they tell me about their school day hi-jinks.

As I get them  dressed, I cheer for their personal and professional successes.

I acknowledge their value as everything is being stripped away from them by a horrible disease, this is why I listen to the same stories over and over again responding as if it was the first telling.  I am giving them something back.

Dignity.  Honor.  Pride.  Humanity.

 

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.