A Guide to Caring for Aging Family Members

Posts tagged ‘communication’

Caregivers: Change and New Beginnings

Readers and Followers:

I’ve come to a point that I am ready for a reprieve from my involvement with caregiving–at least for a while.  I realize that this issue will one day reappear in my life in one form or another, so I will keep the door open to revisiting What to Do about Mama?  in the future.
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I’ve noticed that a lot of bloggers just sort of disappear from blogging, and I don’t want to do that to you folks who actually read or follow my blog.             

The AgingCare.com article:  New Beginnings Are Possible for Caregivers
(Home » Caregiver Support » Emotional Wellbeing » Articles » New Beginnings Are Possible for Caregivers ) by Carol Bradley Bursak struck me as relevant to my book writing and blogging endeavor.  When I read it, I asked myself the question, “How has caregiving changed me?”  So I’ve decided to address this topic in my “potentially” last blog post (at least for the foreseeable future).

THE QUESTION:

Does caregiving change you—either while you are a caregiver or once your caregiving has ended?  I think caregivers would respond to that question in a variety of ways noting:

similarities and differences
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positives and negatives

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resignations about what is and possibilities of what can be

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Why Not?

CLICK ON THE LINK ABOVE TO READ THE ARTICLE

OR

 SEE THE FOLLOWING SYNOPSIS

OR

 SKIP TO:  “How I Have Changed since Caregiving”

SYNOPSIS:  In “New Beginnings are Possible for Caregivers,”  Carol Bursak states that:

  • The sameness of each day in your life as a caregiver can, at times, seem overwhelming and permanent.
  • New beginnings for caregivers are far easier to suggest than to accomplish, especially since fresh beginnings generally come after significant endings.
  • One route to finding what may be possible is journaling. Journaling can be a tool to examine where you were before caregiving, where you are now, and what you’d like your life to be if you could magically make it so.

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Bursak goes on to say, “There’s something therapeutic about writing out how we feel and then reading the words that have come from our heart as well as our head.”

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Now really…isn’t that what blogging is all about?

She then provides the following “loose guidelines” to structure your journaling:

Book one: vent your feelings and reinvent yourself

  • Section one of book one is for venting.
  • Section two is a place to note your caregiving routines
    and what you’d want to do differently if you could.  Blog4
  • Section three is for digging into your past. Blog7
  • Section four is about the future.
  • Section five is for dreaming.Blog5
  • Section six is for getting real.

Book two:  Brainstorm how to take back your life.

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Book three: Express your gratitude

  • Remember that you’ve grown as a person who understands the needs of others.
  • Include self-forgiveness for being imperfect.

Express Your Gratitude

In all the books:

Face reality
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Note your feelingsBlog10

Be honest with yourselfMulti-Ethnic Group of Diverse People Holding Letters To Form A Honesty

Bursak summarizes her article with the following:  “The reality of ongoing caregiving is that most caregivers won’t have spectacular new beginnings as long as they are in the caregiving mode. However, self-examination and self-forgiveness can lead us toward a renewed outlook on life. This, in turn, may lead us to examine the ways that we can have a richer existence, within the confines of our caregiving obligations. And yes, that does count as a new beginning.”

HOW I HAVE CHANGED SINCE CAREGIVING:

I share the article “New Beginnings are Possible for Caregivers,” because  for me…

Journaling helped:

to maintain my emotional health during caregiving

Blog9to write What to Do about Mama?

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While I was active in a caregiver’s support group, one of the group leaders suggested to me that I keep a journal, a method found to have a positive impact on physical well-being as well as emotional health.

  • Writing about stressful events helps you to both face and deal with the situations that negatively impact your health. It knocks down the walls you have built so that you can gain understanding of yourself and your life circumstances.
  • Writing about the difficult problems and feelings helps you gain understanding of other points of view. It is an effective tool to help you resolve differences with others.
  • Writing about painful emotions helps decrease the power they have over you so you feel more at ease, able to move beyond the past and stay in the present.
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“Scrolling” non-stop stewing

Although I did not follow the detailed journaling format described by Carol Bursak, it was  my dumb luck that most of the elements she indicated were applied—mainly by facing reality, noting feelings, and being honest. It was in this way that I was finally able to put an end to the incessant agonizing and SCROLLING I had been experiencing.

After my mother-in-law passed away I thought, “I have all this stuff; what can I do with it?”  So, I wrote a book. The journal account simplified the process. My objective was to use caregiver knowledge and experience to help other caregivers overcome, or at least minimize, common challenges.

HOW I HAVE CHANGED:

  1. I experienced sudden and rapid physical challenges when my mother-in-law’s caregiving needs increased dramatically and family conflict accelerated.  I had bilateral knee replacements four years ago, but continue to work out daily in an attempt to stave off physical decline.
  2. I have healed through the cathartic process of writing a book, blogging, and speaking publically about caregiving.
  3. I have learned to accept that the dynamics of my husband’s relationship with his family have changed, and therefore mine have, too.  I understand that the past relationship was defined through his parents and they are now both gone.  I accept that it is my husband’s right to choose to “NOT” have a relationship, even if I find that choice to be incredibly sad.  I hold no grudges or resentment toward my husband’s family, and refuse to get mired down in feelings of being used or unappreciated.  Life does not come with a manual.  Everyone makes mistakes.
  4. I am preparing to leave my children in a much better place in regard to caregiving.  That does not mean that I am absolving them of responsibility.  I will not become stubborn or resistant to the “changing of the guard” that will come someday.  It’s just that I am preplanning and organizing so that they will not have to make difficult decisions alone or clean up my messes.  Although my husband refuses at this time to sell our home and move into a condominium nearer to our children, I am open to doing so, or even to living in a “mother-in-law house” on their property or having an “electronic tracking system” in our home.  (See the Patriot News article “Staying in Touch” The Patriot-News | Page A13 Thursday, 7 May 2015 by Brandon Baily, the Associated Press, San Francisco @ harrisburgpatriotnews.pa.newsmemory.com/publink.php?shareid=0ffc7eaed
  5. My will is in order.  My house has been decluttered.  Pictures are mounted in books.  I have completed an inventory of my belongings and have insisted that my children indicate their preferences.  I am either indicating who gets what or designating who is responsible for distributing various categories.
  6. I have expressed my desire to “Age in Place” and am in the process of discussing the various options to accomplish this plan.  I have planned ahead to pay for in-home support.  I have made it clear that my children need to share the responsibility for any care that we need.  I have also made it clear that I believe in quality versus quantity of life, and what steps are to be taken concerning life and death decisions.
  7. I have written a book, What to Do about Mama? which is a manual, of sorts, for them to follow.
  8. I realize I cannot control life.  I’m just doing the best I can.
  9. I have been able to inform and assist others with caregiving problems and situations.  I am fulfilled by using my knowledge and experience to help.  Caregiving either impacts or will impact almost everyone.
  10. I understand that What to Do about Mama? is not a “sexy” topic, but believe that being prepared is better than reacting in a crisis mode.  Just ask any caregiver.

Barbara Matthews

Moving In!

In “Me and These Men” May 5, 2014, MKC posts:

Five Tips for Not Losing Your Mind When Your Parent Moves In.

There are PLENTY of ways to lose your mind once your parent has moved in—but prior planning certainly does help.  I address this same topic in my book, “What to Do about Mama?” on pages 72-73 and 77-78.

Providing Care in Your Own Home 

As much as you think you can look dispassionately at the situation and develop realistic expectations, frankly, no one can imagine the scope of what he or she is getting into. How can you know the unknown? 

But certainly, if this is the choice you make, be sure that you and your spouse or partner are as prepared as possible. Your home needs to be made safe and handicap accessible, with equipment such as grab bars and shower chairs. Throw rugs should be removed from walkways. It is best if you can provide one-floor living capability, which can be an extra challenge if there is no bathroom facility on that level.

Discuss how responsibilities will be divided among those living in the home, as well as those providing outside support. Don’t forget to talk about finances. Bringing your loved one into your home will put extra demands on your budget. Make sure you will have opportunities for respite and time for yourself; don’t “lose” yourself in the process of caregiving. 

Most importantly, consider whether your relationship is strong enough to handle the demands of living together. If you have problems historically, they will continue or even get worse. Even if you believe you have gotten along well, be prepared; there may be some surprises you just didn’t foresee. Keep all the household members in mind—are there personality clashes? Then there’s the issue of the “others,” the ones who are not taking on the responsibility of front-line caregiving. Too often, they are the ones who second-guess or criticize you. If you haven’t felt resentment before, you will now, and that emotion can really destroy relationships. Are you prepared to cope with this ongoing stress?  

If you opt to bring your loved one into your home, establish an open line of communication. Talk about and listen to expectations on both sides. It is so difficult to respect everyone’s roles when the parent-child lines become fuzzy. To encourage a positive and cooperative atmosphere in your home:

Designate a personal space for your loved one that is not too isolated from the rest of the household. Fill it with his or her belongings, collectibles, and mementos.

  • Talk about individual routines, and try to accommodate everyone’s needs as closely as possible without compromising your household and family values. Will you have enough time for other family members? If your spouse or children are required to sacrifice what they hold dear, the household climate will become a breeding ground for resentment and conflict. Remember that family support is vital if the living arrangement is to be successful.
  • Emphasize household customs, and solicit support for avoiding unneeded disruptions. Will you be able to maintain important lifestyle concerns such as employment, social life, and vacation plans? Are you prepared to make adjustments?

  • As a family, discuss what you each value and what causes you stress.

  • Set boundaries in the relationship, but make sure to schedule time together.

  • Help the care receiver develop new activities and friendships.

  • Encourage mutual respect based on communicating wants and needs, not giving orders. Stress the importance of being open and honest with each other. This is particularly difficult when your care receiver goes around you to complain to the “others,” which also sets the “others” up to second guess your actions. Direct communication is the key to avoiding misunderstandings. 

Barbara Matthews

 

Characteristics and Abilities of a Good Caregiver

In response to Joy Johnson’s post (See below):  5 required skills for the toughest job in the world / LinkedIn

I was primary caregiver for my mother-in-law. After my responsibility ended, I wrote a book about caregiving: “What to Do about Mama?” by Barbara G. Matthews and Barbara Trainin Blank. As stated in Chapter Ten:

We are addressing here the characteristics and abilities of a good caregiver, under the premise that if you are a caregiver, these are qualities you may well already embody. And, if indeed, you feel you are lacking in some of them, we recommend that you work on developing them. They are attributes that not only facilitate performing your caregiving responsibilities but also can potentially enrich all your relationships.

1. Love, care, and compassion: First of all, and perhaps most importantly, caregivers have the ability to love, to care, and to have compassion. If you lacked these qualities, you probably wouldn’t be in the position of caregiving.

2. Commitment to family: Beyond the ability to love, caregivers have a strong commitment to family—and that family may include not only the nuclear family, but also extended family and in-laws.

3. Problem-solving: It’s important to know how to identify a problem, consider solutions, develop a plan of action, and put that plan into practice with determination and a “can-do” attitude. If they don’t have the knowledge needed, caregivers do not hesitate to research and discover how to solve problems.

4. Application of knowledge and skills: Caregivers often have a good base of knowledge from their professional or volunteer experiences in various caregiving or human services fields. Caregivers use what they know or learn to be better caregivers. They secure needed goods and services and advocate with healthcare professionals and institutions.

5. Strong work ethic: Caregivers wear many hats in executing their caregiving duties. They accomplish this vast array of tasks by being focused, consistent, and willing to carry through with their commitments.

6. Understand how much they can handle. Look beyond the current situation and anticipate how the demands of caregiving will increase as the care receiver becomes more debilitated. Make sure you consider your ability to handle future burdens. Caregivers must know how to set boundaries and request support whenever they find they are unable to deal with a situation or challenge on their own.

7. Effective communication. Caregivers communicate honestly and openly with all who are involved in the caregiving arrangement.

8. Ability to empower and facilitate. Caregivers respect the care receiver’s abilities and encourage independence. They provide the support needed for the care receiver to participate in life activities as fully as possible.

Barbara Matthews

The Memories Project

I’ve been writing some articles on the LinkedIn platform. When I was brainstorming content ideas, it struck me how many common workplace skills are needed when serving as a family caregiver. Of course, there are many more new skills that you will be required to learn on the fly! In my LinkedIn piece, I highlight five skills I found invaluable while serving as a family caregiver and patient advocate.

holding hands

You can check out my piece here:

5 required skills for the toughest job in the world | LinkedIn.

What skills do you find most helpful as you carry out your caregiving duties? What new skills were the most difficult to learn in order to be a successful caregiver?

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Writing the book – Writing the blog

So, why did I write a book about caregiving?

  • First of all, I worked for the Area Agency on Aging for over four years; it was my job to visit seniors in their homes in order to administer comprehensive assessments to determine their needs and eligibility for services. I saw firsthand the challenges for seniors and their caregivers.

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  • Secondly, I was a caregiver for seven years. During the time I worked at Aging, my mother-in-law moved from Florida to our city in Pennsylvania. She resided in a supportive independent-living retirement facility. After living there for two years, she began to have falls, which required a cycle of emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and extensive rehabilitation. The “solution” to the problem was for me to quit my job so that my mother-in-law could move into our home with me as her full-time caregiver.

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  • Thirdly, I became active in a caregiver’s support group run by a local hospice. One of the group leaders suggested to me that I keep a journal. I also had a lot of e-mailed letters that my husband and I wrote to his siblings when we were trying to deal with the escalating needs of our caregiving situation. In addition, I was interviewed for a magazine article about support groups. After that process I thought, “I have all this stuff; what can I do with it?” I spoke to the author of the article, who was involved in her own challenging caregiving situation, and asked if she would be interested in co-authoring a book.

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  • And mostly, I wanted to make a positive out of something that had turned negative.

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 How long did it take to write the book and get it published?

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  • 6 months gathering information from questionnaire
  • 6 months writing
  • Submission and waiting
  • Accepted and waiting
  • Editing and waiting
  • Proofing and waiting
  • Published November 25, 2013

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  • More waiting
  • Setting up social media
  • Writing on social media
  • And waiting
  • Book events

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  • And waiting

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What am I waiting for?

  • Comments
  • Responses
  • Feedback
  • Communication in general

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ISN’T THAT WHAT BOOKS AND BLOGS ARE ALL ABOUT?

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My blogging formula:

  1. Visit other caregiving sites
  2. Make comments about blog contents
  3. Discuss the information on my site
  4. Cross reference excerpts from  “What to Do about Mama?

Thank you to the 20 of you who are following my blog (as of today). Since “everyone is a potential caregiver” I hope the information is useful to you.

stepheusebihttp://stepheusebi.com
Bryce Gormanhttp://brycegormanmusic.com
projectlighttolifehttp://projectlighttolife.wordpress.com
Jarosław PlayWithLifEhttp://www.playwithlife.org
Cristian Mihaihttp://cristianmihai.net
Raluca Stoicahttp://astairwaytofashion.com
bribruceproductionshttp://bribruceproductions.wordpress.com
Lexa S.http://modeljourney.wordpress.com
adoptingjameshttp://adoptingjames.wordpress.com
movemeeasyhttp://www.movemeeasy.ca
Butchhttp://momanddadcare.wordpress.com
Dog Tales: A Hospice Dog Bloghttp://unityhospicedogblog.wordpress.com
ColombianCutieshttp://colombiancuties.wordpress.com
Debbie Williams-Macleanhttp://agingparentsfamilyhotline.wordpress.com
gianfrancograndehttp://attentiallupo2012.wordpress.com
Jordan Latourhttp://justlats.com
Dimitris Melicerteshttp://dmelicertes.wordpress.com
urbanwallarthttp://urbanwallart.wordpress.com
professorchallenger23http://lotsofmarblesinajar.wordpress.com
mr688475http://marissariback.com

 

For those whose caregiving sites I follow:   Aging Parents: Making the Transition from Child to Caretaker; An Only Child’s Journey into Parent Care; Help! Aging Parents; Cape Cod Caregiver; Dog Tales; Mom & Dad Care; The Selfish Caregiver; I hope that my comments and sharing bring more activity to your sites.

Maybe at some time you will be moved to comment on mine.  I would enjoy and appreciate your perspectives and suggestions.

Since caregiving is such a universal concern, I wonder, “What is holding everyone back?”

  • Maybe caregiving is a topic non-caregivers avoid thinking about because “they don’t need it yet.”
  • Maybe current caregivers are just too busy.
  • Maybe the topic of caregiving is too gut-wrenching for former caregivers.

So in the meantime I wait

  • For comments
  • For something to happen
  • For the time I can move on in my life

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Barbara Matthews

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