HOW THE POSITIVE EFFECTS OF GRATITUDE REDUCE CAREGIVER STRESS DailyCaring, October 2020
This DailyCaring article discusses how gratitude is proven to reduce stress—from the point of view of CAREGIVERS having gratitude saying:
- Practicing gratitude can make you happier, lower stress, protect you from depression, help you sleep better, boost your immune system, and improve your relationships.
- Practicing gratitude doesn’t mean ignoring negative feelings or bad things in general, but recognizing the positive in your life, which is not terrible 100% of the time.
The article points out the benefits of recognizing the positive effects of gratitude:
- It helps you become more optimistic and improves your overall attitude,
- It helps you to respond in an optimistic attitude more naturally.
- It helps you focus on what you do have rather to avoid getting sucked into negativity.
The suggested method of practice gratitude is to keep a journal.
This is all well and good. But I must also suggest that care receivers and the other family members remember to show gratitude to the caregiver. Nobody is perfect in caregiving situations. Everyone gets cranky or critical and makes mistakes. But acknowledging the caregiver for their efforts goes a long way.
My husband and I were frontline caregivers for his mother for seven years. After she began to suffer recurrent falls, hospitalizations, and rehabilitations, she moved into our home. I quit my job and became her fulltime caregiver. This arrangement went well for the first two years, but then the inevitable decline began again, and the caregiving arrangement became increasingly difficult. My attempts to mitigate increasing needs were not well-received.
“Everything is for your convenience!” David and I tried to talk to her about her feelings, but I ended up leaving the room. I was really angry about her remark. I was sinking under the weight of caregiving, trying to find solutions to problems, and was accused of doing things for my own convenience!What to Do about Mama? pp. 21-22
For me, the greatest difficulty was the language used by my mother-in-law and Sandy, describing me as “selfish.” I could understand “obnoxious,” but “selfish” was unfair and demoralizing and totally undermined the progress we had made.What to Do about Mama? p. 28
Once again, our conversation felt strained. I asked Sandy if she needed to clear the air about anything else. Big mistake! She told me that she felt putting Mom in the nursing home for a respite stay was selfish on my part. She proceeded to tell me that, although David and I provided Mom with very good physical care, the emotional care we provided was terrible; in fact, it “sucked.”What to Do about Mama? p. 26
When my health had declined to the point that I needed two knee replacements, arrangements were made for my mother-in-law to move in with her daughter. I felt that I had not lived up to the commitment I had made, which was caused me a lot of anxiety. The Hospice Spiritual Advisor gave me an assignment, which is a great example to illustrate the theme of the DailyCaring article How the Positive Effects of Gratitude Reduce Caregiver Stress.
Blessings of Mom Living in Our Household
• Example set for our children. Our youngest daughter said, “Thank you, Mom, for taking care of my Grandma and being such a good example for me.”
• The grandchildren have had an opportunity to know and love Great Grandma. This was in contrast to Shelley’s comment that they really didn’t see their grandparents much growing up.
• I was able to give my mother-in-law the gift of my children and grandchildren. I am proud of the love, support, and appreciation they show her.
• I had the opportunity to demonstrate to my mother-in-law and siblings-in-law my appreciation for being a part of their family since I was eighteen years old. I was also able to show thanks to my parents-in-law for providing support in our times of need. Most of all, I was able to show gratitude for their assistance and encouragement in helping to provide our children with their college educations. This was to be my gift to my all of my in-laws.What to Do about Mama? p. 35
HOW CAREGIVING CHANGES US: WHAT DIES, WHAT GROWS: Thursday, October 5, 2020
In this article Donna Thompson describes caregiving as a process with no clear beginning and no clear end. She states that caregivers may not even accept that they have taken on the role, but whenever one cares for another, they are indeed a caregiver.
- You may think initially that this will be a temporary state of affair—only until someone else steps up to the plate or when life returns to normal. But then you find yourself still embroiled weeks or months or years later.
- During that time, you have experienced uncertainty and self-doubt while your relationships and associations have changed. You, too, have changed—permanently and fundamentally—and there is no going back to who you were when you began the journey. Caregiving is now undeniably a part of you—you have found previously unknown pieces of yourself in the process. Your transformation is an accomplishment.
- You may have had to come to grips with your disappointment in others to whom you felt the closest. You may have been hurt by their reactions to you and your situation. But during this process, you’ve developed your own voice.
The big trip-up occurs when you discover that the realities do not meet your expectations and you begin to feel disappointment and frustration. When you are carrying so much burden on your shoulders as a caregiver (in addition to your other roles—such as spouse, parent, and/or employee), and if you feel unappreciated, overwhelmed, and out of control, these emotions can turn into anger, resentment, and bitterness. These nasty feelings seem to eat away at you, like cancer, from the inside out.What to Do about Mama? p. 176
Through the process of “rising to the occasion,” they discovered newfound capabilities and personal growth. Jane learned a lot about her own emotional strengths. She also chose a new career path—working with mature adults and developing senior programming for fitness facilities. June started and facilitated a caregiver support group and has found it cathartic: “We cry and vent and laugh and love each other.” Caregiving taught Aggie to take life one day at a time—and more about patience than any other experience. Ward says a caregiver has to be very strong—“with 24/7 time to give.” Initially, Annabelle resented having to do caregiving. But ultimately, she was glad she had the experience. She knows now what is important, and that it doesn’t pay to get upset over little things. Annabelle also relates that she has enjoyed watching her mother grow from a dependent 1950s-style housewife into an energetic older woman who stands up for herself and calls the shots of her day. For Keith caregiving became a process of discovery—of what one is capable of doing in a crisis. He has compiled a booklet of information to help others who are undertaking the experience. In addition, when families pull together to support one another, other members experience personal growth—specifically, the caregiver’s children. One caregiver learned by the example her mother had set. Aggie said that her caregiving taught her children many valuable lessons. Deborah in contrast, pointed out that she learned her caregiving orientation from her mother, who would take home-cooked meals to the sick—and had cared for her own mother and her father-in-law as well. Other caregivers express the importance their faith played in their caregiving experience and report even greater spiritual growth. In caring for her son, Betty was inspired by his character and his faith—bringing her closer to God. Suzanne, who believes that things happen for a reason, sometimes feels that the only thing that helps her through the day is her trust in God.What to Do about Mama? pp. 242-243
There are two important questions left for you to determine:
What has died in you?
What has grown?
The Imperfect Caregiver by Bobbi Carducci:
Caregiver You Are Not Alone: Thomas’ Story
“When family members opt out of helping care for someone it’s not unusual for them to say, “It’s too hard to see him or her like that.”
This Common Experience Was Our Experience, Too
My husband’s brother initiated the idea of their mother moving from Florida to live closer to family. He and his wife did not, however, want the responsibility of being her caregiver, so she moved to our town. Later, I became her primary caregiver when she moved into our home. When Mom hit the slippery slope of physical decline, my sister-in-law excused her husband from visiting frequently saying, as above, “It’s too hard for him to see her like that.”
“My mother-in-law’s decline was especially difficult for myWhat to Do about Mama? p. 20
brother-in-law; his wife made a point to express this to me very
specifically. He had no confidence in his ability to be alone with
her. With tears in his eyes, he told me that he saw himself as the
“last bastion of propriety” in his relationship with his mother. I did
understand how difficult it is to watch a loved one’s decline; his
brother, after all, faced it every day. I felt, however, that was not
an acceptable excuse for not assuming responsibility. During that
same conversation, his wife also made this comment: ‘My priority
is my children. I am only a daughter-in-law.’ I was amazed.”
“I cared for my parents until they passed. What do I do to make sure I do NOT put my kids through that?”
What is wrong with dying? I am not so sure that extending life to the point of wringing every last drop of breath out of life is the right thing to do. That is, unless one has unlimited financial resources to buy professional care 24/7. We should not have to put a price on elder care but for most people, the child or children end up bearing the work. Are we sure we want to continue extending life when life is a body and no memory? Or a good mind but nothing but pain for the body? I read these stories about all the caregivers doing their best to care for their parents at the cost of their own lives and it is so sad. Been there, done that. I am NOT talking about assisted suicide. I am saying if an older person has no realistic future of living life on their own, what is wrong with stopping life-extending medications?
Not being a burden on our children is a major concern of the baby boomer generation, as I expressed on the first page of “What to Do about Mama?”
I am a baby boomer—part of the ‘sandwich generation’ that is taking care of our elderly parents while still providing support for our children. As I write this, I am feeling that the time has come. Baby boomers are on the precipice—getting ready to fall off and land firmly on the backs of our children’s generation. And they are so young! They are, after all, our children! (p.1)What to Do about Mama? p. 2
And again on the last page:
In the light of my caregiving experience, and with the hope that my children will not have to face avoidable stress, I pledge that: 1) I will not leave my children the burden of my messes; 2) If my children become my caregivers I will not to be stubborn and dead set in my ways; 3) I will relinquish control (at least some of it) to them; and 4) When, in my old age, if I do the things I’ve said I won’t—they may, as I’ve told them, ‘Just show me the book!What to Do about Mama? p. 303
The issue of extending life is also addressed in the book.
I acknowledge that broaching the topic of death and dying with parents and family members is very difficult and even painful. We may have living wills that specify that ‘no extraordinary measures’ be taken, but how do we and our family members interpret that directive in the midst of a highly emotional crisis situation? The issue is confusing and complicated to say the least—one that presents huge challenges for the elderly and their caretakers.What to Do about Mama? p. 228
I would respectfully suggest, however, that it would behoove us all to have this difficult discussion well before the time of need arises so that decisions for treatment are based on our loved one’s expressed wishes.”
The issue of sustaining life with medications presented a major decision making point in the caregiving situation that motivated me to write “What to Do about Mama? See “A Major Decision” pp. 30-32.
My mother-in-law questioned the Hospice nurse about discontinuing her arrhythmia drug citing contra-indications with circulation. She was looking for a “fixable reason” for her poor circulation, which was causing increasingly numerous ulcers to form on her legs and feet. We knew, of course, that advanced COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) caused by a fifty-year smoking habit, is not fixable, and agreed that it was time to have a family discussion about Mom’s medications. My husband consulted his siblings to assess their opinions about Mom discontinuing her heart drugs. The children were all in agreement that their mother had had a good life, and that they would rather see her go quickly and gently like their father than watch her slowly disintegrate. He then had a very difficult discussion with his mother, and she agreed that it was in her best interest to stop her heart drugs.
Caregiving is timeless and the related topics of conversation are timeless, too. I thought I’d revisit some of my blogs from 2014-15. They are, after all, they still relevant today. Stay tuned!
The Advocate for Mom & Dad September 29, 2020 article “Tips To Help Your Elder De-Clutter, Downsize and Move On” addresses the task of downsizing, and has a number of helpful suggestions to help seniors through the process.
I must confess that I am a hopeless organizer. I guess the process gives me a sense of control, so I have been organizing for just about as long as I can remember. I even recall an incident in 1st grade when I was reprimanded for cleaning out my desk during a classroom lesson.
I have gone through the process of decluttering my home several times over the years: twice when moving, a third time when my caregiving years ended, and a fourth when we again sold a home, one that we built and loved, to move into a condo near my youngest daughter. That was three years ago. We don’t have enough room in our condo to collect any more “things” and I expect this to be the last time we will downsize.
So, during the summer of 2019, when my brother and sister-in-law (SIL) faced unexpected medical circumstances requiring a quick move to a CCRC (Continuing Care Retirement Community), I raised my hand and said, “I’m your gal. I may not be a ‘professional’ organizer, but I sure as heck could be!”
SIL was now faced with having to deal with a multitude of responsibilities, many of which my brother would have handled previously. Since I had so recently been through the process of downsizing, remodeling, and reorganizing a smaller home, I figured I could tap my skills and be a real asset to the program-at-hand. And as a matter of fact, I ran into the same challenges and adopted the same solutions as recommended in this article. BUT . . .
Did you ever notice that “How To Do _____ (fill in the chore) in _____ (fill in the number) steps makes it sound as if success is easy-peasy if you just follow the plan? NOT! I mean, sure—the tips are helpful—but in general, there are unavoidable undermining circumstances.
In my mind, I visualized the tasks at hand:
- Downsize belongings currently in a 3,000 square foot home to fit into a 900 square foot apartment (a 70% reduction).
- Help identify furnishings to keep and choose furnishings to purchase to make the new environs “cozy and comfortable” as well as functional.
I even “fantasized” sending the couple on getaway only to return to an HGTV-style reveal. I mean—I knew this was impossible, but it was fun to think about!
As recommended in the article, the first step is to begin whittling down by sorting and discarding. Cool! That was my first step, too. Professional organizers ask their clients to sort items into five piles: keep, sell, trash, donate, and unsure. Obviously, I couldn’t make these decisions independently; this is how the process played out:
- I tackled one area at a time
- I enlisted my brother’s help
- He insisted that all decisions be finalized by SIL
- I sorted items into three piles: keep, distribute (family, donations), trash
- When SIL came home from work she surveyed the piles returning 75% of the “distribute” pile to “keep”
- I reorganized everything neatly back into the cupboards and closets
- I returned home with the plan to come back in order to help them move into their new apartment in the CCRC
After six weeks, what had I accomplished? Belongings were downsized about 25% and I had made everything neater so that DOWNSIZING ROUND 2 would be easier for my niece to accomplish.
Clearly, I had underestimated how much emotional value SIL assigned to her belongings. Just about the only way she could part with an item was if she could pass the “heirloom” down to her children. But as noted in the article, seniors often find their children don’t want the stuff. Fortunately, my dear niece was exceptionally sensitive to her mother’s needs and managed to assimilate many “heirlooms” into her home, albeit much of it in storage.
I would like to get rid of most of my “stuff,” so my kids don’t need to deal with it, but that hasn’t happened, yet. I’m hoping to move to a smaller housing unit before that point so that I can make things easier for them. Although, I am relying on my children to do what is right. They already told us they are not putting up with any “stuff,” and will get us set up in a “home” situation where we will be safe.What to Do about Mama? Patricia’s Update p. 295
I went home shortly before the Thanksgiving holiday with the intention of returning to help with the eventual move, which was not to occur until the CCRC had undergone remodeling. Can you guess what happened then? COVID-19 applied the brakes. Stay at home orders resulted in affording much more time for my brother and SIL to get the job done, and the move has now taken place. It certainly hasn’t been the best time to move into a CCRC, with all the lifestyles restrictions, but hey, you do what you’ve got to do.
My biggest regret is that I spent those six weeks on a mission to accomplish what could not be accomplished, once again squandering an opportunity to just relax and enjoy my brother’s company.
How to Get Help
- National Association of Professional Organizers
- National Association of Senior and Specialty Move Managers.
Dauphin County Pennsylvania
October 19 last day to register to vote in PA
October 27 last day to request mail in ballot
November 3 – election day
Early Voting by mail ballot: www.votespa.com
Question: What if a person applies for a mail in ballot changes their mind and now wants to vote in person?
Answer: According to Jerry Feaser, director for voter registration for Dauphin County, once your mailed ballot is issued, it cannot be cancelled. After receiving balloting materials in the mail you may:
- Follow all instructions carefully to both vote and return the ballot to the Voter’s Registration Office.
- Go to the polls and be prepared to cast a provisional ballot; or
- Use the “Best and Cleanest” approach: Go to the polls. Take the unvoted ballot and return envelope (the one with the declaration printed on the back). Surrender both parts to the Judge of Election. Sign the “Elector’s Declaration to Surrender Their Mail Ballot” form. Complete a regular voting ballot. Place in scanner.
How can you help?
Volunteers are needed for City of Harrisburg Voter Registration event Saturday October 3rd, 10 AM to 2 PM.
Further questions and information and to volunteer:
Contact Voter’s Registration at 717-780-6360.