Category: #caregivers

Do you have “choice paralysis?”

Too many choices, too many decisions, too much overwhelm, and decision fatigue all contribute to you feeling and being stuck. Do you feel as if you are “just surviving” every day? That stinks, doesn’t it? But, what to do and how to get started moving forward again?

November 30, 2022

Sometimes, the issue is that we do not know what to do first. Not only that, but we stress over what is the most important thing to do first. We are afraid to be wrong and so, we do nothing. I think the acronym F.A.I.L. is appropriate here, it is your First Attempt In Learning. Yes, you are learning what works and what does not work. Failure is an event and never a person.

We like certainty. We want to know that we have made the “right” decision. Our brains do not like uncertainty, it makes them work overtime to feel safe. Our brains get hijacked by our emotions and we cannot think logically. Stop overloading your brain.

Do you feel like you have to “shop around” and keep all your options open before making a decision? Two or three would be ideal, but we have to go to 10 places and keep comparing. How many of us get too obsessed or too anxious? You know who you are and you are nodding your head in agreement.

How much energy are these decisions taking? Is it really worth that much stress, anxiety, or energy-wasting? Have you ever thought about when this choice overload happens? It usually happens when we don’t have enough good information or knowledge in the area of need. Use your good resources. Set your limit to three of those resources. Find a knowledgeable person and have them provide you with your best two or three options for your needs. (That would be a plug for my services, in case you didn’t catch it.)

What does feeling stuck look like?

  • You have been searching for something that interests you and you find it. Then you look at all the steps it takes to do it and talk yourself out of doing it.
  • You keep thinking about what could be better or different all the time. You may even be future-oriented. You get into the “when I get this, I will be happy” or “when this happens, I will be happy.”  The problem is that you are here, right now in the present and this is where your focus for happiness would be best served.
  • You really want something – for yourself – a new relationship, a better job, a new house, to get in better shape, etc. – However, before you start, you lose your motivation. Maybe, you do get started and then you lose your motivation.
  • You have a feeling that something isn’t right in your life, even if you can’t put your finger on it.

Motivation is red hot for a while, but then it burns out and all you have are a bunch of ashes. What now? For one, the realization that motivation is never enough to achieve a goal. It takes commitment to the process. Doing it even though you don’t feel like it is another realization. Be consistent. Continue after a break.

Maybe you feel trapped as a family caregiver. You don’t mind helping, but now you feel like you never get out. It is a difficult adjustment. Be careful, resentments can build up before you know it. You feel like you are missing out. You feel trapped by doing the same tasks over and over.

Consider this, challenges are matters of perspectives and our own attitudes.

Is there some middle ground that you and your care receiver can agree to? Challenge your on “stinking thinking.” It could be your perspective and attitude that are the problems.

Some ideas to help you not feel trapped:

  • Only you can change the things in your life that you are unhappy about.
  • Live a healthier life by moving (walking/running) and eating better.
  • Be consistent, motivation alone is not enough.
  • Accept uncertainty. We can make good decisions, but we cannot choose the outcome.
  • Reconnect with your personal values.
  • What can you do, right now, that will be helpful?
  • Be the hero of your story and not the victim. Stop saying, “I don’t want …”
  • Stop focusing on the things that are causing you to suffer. Focus on whatever fills you up.
  • You may not have good options, so choose the option that you will regret the least.
  • See if you are in the “all or nothing” thinking. It can be a “both/and.”
  • Write down some “I could …” statements.
  • Write down three different things you are grateful for every day.
  • Be proactive rather than reactive. You will have more control and less stress.

Pat

Secrets that folks over 65 try to hide…

If they still have their partner, the partner will try to help and cover for them. When they are tag-teaming it is more difficult to figure out what is going on. It isn’t always intentional, but it can be intentional. To be fair, it may have happened slowly and they are taking care of each other the best way they know how to help. Observe to see if the spouse is finishing tasks for them, finishing sentences for them, or making excuses for some type of behavior.

November 9, 2022

No one likes to admit that they may need help. We are all very independent and quite stubborn. Most of us fear losing our mental faculties more than we fear losing physical capabilities. I understand that. Too often, people feel that they are “getting dementia” or “Alzheimer’s disease,” but that may not be the issue at all. Which is why it is important to go through a diagnostic workup. It could be fixable, such as better nutrition and hydration. It may even be a type of depression.

  1. Falls
  2. Pain
  3. Dizziness
  4. Financial difficulties
  5. Short on money
  6. Buying a lot of “stuff”
  7. Gambling
  8. Drinking more alcohol
  9. Prescription drug misuse or abuse
  10. Illegal medication misuse or abuse
  11. Binging on sweets
  12. Financial abuse – from a family member, a friend, or a caregiver
  13. Elder abuse or Neglect – from family, friends, neighbors, or caregivers
  14. Automobile accidents
  15. Driving Infractions or Getting a Ticket for something
  16. Hiding bruises – either from falls or abuse
  17. Eating a lot of take-out
  18. Changes in the way they dress
  19. Closing the doors to rooms – to keep junk hidden, the messiness, or the dirtiness
  20. Limiting driving to short trips and not far from home
  21. Poor personal hygiene – from not changing clothes to not bathing nor brushing teeth
  22. Unopened mail

A few behaviors that may mean they are trying to hide information:

  1. They discourage visitors. It may get to the point of them not letting anyone inside their home. It starts as, “We will meet you at the restaurant.” “The house is such a mess, let’s do it another time.” They may even say that they know “you are busy with your job.”
  2. Hiding mistakes – driving, spending, buying,
  3. They make a lot of excuses for their forgetfulness or their behaviors
  4. Changes in activity – you are looking for changes in their normal routines
  5. Speaking for their spouse

Why might they do some of these things? “Denial (De Nile) isn’t just a river in Egypt.

  1. Denial – If you don’t acknowledge it or talk about it, then it doesn’t exist and nothing is wrong.
  2. Pride – They can’t admit that they can’t do a lot of things necessary to live on their own. We all are an independent and prideful bunch.
  3. Embarrassment – maybe they become self-conscious or ashamed of what they can no longer do. Especially if it has to do with personal hygiene. Embarrassment rears its ugly head when they have some financial difficulties. They cannot afford food, medication, and getting repairs done to the house. It may or may not be any fault of their own.
  4. Fear – of losing their independence
  5. Depression – chronic health conditions seem to cause a rise in depression. Depression is not always the ‘woe is me” stuff.

Depression is not a normal part of aging. It may mimic dementia.

Signs and Symptoms of Depression in folks 65 years and older:

  1. Memory impairment
  2. Trouble retrieving some words
  3. Takes longer to process information and deliver an answer
  4. Depressed mood
  5. They no longer have pleasure or want to do the things they used to enjoy
  6. Noticeable weight loss or weight gain
  7. Sleeping too much or too little
  8. Feeling fatigued
  9. They experience feelings of worthlessness
  10. Having excessive or inappropriate feelings of guilt
  11. Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
  12. Feel confused
  13. Struggle to pay attention
  14. Be grumpy or irritable
  15. More aches and pains
  16. Move more slowly
  17. Crying spells
  18. Apathy –  lack of interest or concern

We always want to rule out the things that can be ruled out. What if it is a lack of nutrition, dehydration, loneliness, or isolation? Those are fixable and doable. If it is depression some medications can help. Shoot, even running has been shown to help mild to moderate depression. Once we know what it is, it really is much easier to handle.

Pat

What Caregivers Do Need from You

Caregivers need to hear that they are appreciated. They need practical help that almost anyone can help if they are willing to put forth some time and effort. You have said, “If there is anything you need, let me know.” Did you mean it? I am going to tell you what they need and want.

There are really helpful things you can do and say to caregivers or helpers. Last week we talked about what not to do and say. This week we move towards helpful things to do and say.

November 2, 2022

This time we are going to be talking about what you can say and do to help your friend or loved one who is a caregiver. Did you really mean it when you said, “Let me know what I can do to help you?” If you mean what you say and say what you mean then this article is for you. If you do not mean what you say then you can stop reading now. We are going to get into the practical and doable things.

What caregivers and helpers want and need to hear.

  1. Recognition and Understanding – Recognize that what they are doing matters and is helpful. Try putting yourself in their shoes, and be understanding when they are stressed and need to vent. Be understanding that they are exhausted and need a break from both thinking and doing. A short visit to shoot the breeze or watch a movie. Find a distraction when they cannot leave their caree (care receiver).
  2. Time to recharge – Offer to stay or sit with the care receiver for two to four hours so they can go and do whatever they want to do. Are you willing to do this once a week, once every two weeks, or once a month? What day and time? Be specific.
  3. Provide respite care – This could happen a couple of ways. Find a facility that allows for respite care and find a company that provides in-home care so the primary caregiver can get away. Cost is usually the main factor. How many friends, family or church members can donate money to provide this much-needed service? Imagine what a week away would mean to them.
  4. Take them out to eat and to a movie. If you can, pay for the in-home care or find someone to sit with the caree for three or four hours. Most of the time, it really is just being there in case the caree needs something. It is not like you would be asked to do anything medical.
  5. Emotional support – They may need to vent. They may need to talk about what is going on with their caree. They may need to talk about something else.
  6. Feel heard and understood – Acknowledge how hard this may be for them. Understand that they have bad days and feel anger, hate and rage.
  7. Send flowers
  8. Offer to be the communication person – keeps others updated or put info on a website like Caring Bridge
  9. Send a thinking of you text and state – no need to respond
  10. Coordinate the offers of help and support
  11. An email with a joke or two
  12. Remind them they are loved and cared about
  13. Say, “I will be keeping you in my thoughts and prayers, every day and sending you good vibes.”
  14. Share “remember when” stories about your relationship
  15. Share funny stories that you have witnessed
  16. Laughter provides many great benefits – watch a funny video
  17. Say, “I love you.”
  18. Offer to sit with their mom or dad so they can go out with their spouse and kids.
  19. Ask, “How can I be a good sounding board for you?”

What caregivers would like you to do and how to effectively help them.

Yes, it would be great if the caregiver had a list of things to be done and errands to run, but most have not had the time to do one. Maybe you are the one to make the list and place it on the refrigerator so folks can sign-up.

  1. Never offer to do anything that you do not want to do. The look on your face and being told no is more than the caregiver can handle. They will shut down.
  2. Ask, “When is the best time to come for a visit and how can we help during the visit?”
  3. I am coming over on Saturday from 2 to 5 to stay (with your loved one) so you can take a break. Be specific.
  4. Give a Visa/MasterCard gift card of $50 – $100 and say, “Enjoy.”
  5. Pick up a meal from their favorite restaurant and deliver it.
  6. Make a meal and deliver it – use throw-away containers
  7. Make a few freezer meals and take them over.
  8. Set up a meal train to provide meals anywhere from 3 to 7 days a week (ask about likes/dislikes)
  9. Make phone calls and do research for them – if asked
  10. Donations to help cover lost work and medical expenses
  11. Offer to coordinate medical bills, EOB’s and medical claims. Only if you know how.
  12. Give a gift certificate to a spa/massage
  13. Mow the yard (either the caregiver’s yard or the care receiver’s yard or both)
  14. Do laundry – Pick it up and bring it back
  15. Help clean the house – vacuum, dust, sweep, mop, wash dishes, change the sheets, clean the shower/tub and toilet, wipe down surfaces – nobody expects you to deep clean
  16. Clean the gutter
  17. Take their car in for an oil change
  18. Run the errands – grocery shop, pick up Rx’s
  19. Sit with the care receiver so the caregiver can run errands
  20. Take the care receiver to the doctor’s appointment
  21. Deliver a care basket – good snacks, a book to read(nothing about caregiving allowed), favorite lotion and skin care things, gift cards, blanket, neck pillow, board game, cards, Mani-Pedi gift certificate, etc.
  22. Wash and vacuum the car
  23. Rake leaves
  24. Shovel snow
  25. Clean out the refrigerator
  26. Change the air filter
  27. Shred old documents
  28. Help clean out a closet or room
  29. Clean out the garage
  30. Replace light bulbs
  31. Walk the dog
  32. Clean out the litter box
  33. Take animals to the vet
  34. Take animals to the groomer
  35. Wash the outside windows
  36. Clean the oven

Think about the things that you do at your own home. The caregiver needs those things done either that their own home or the care receiver’s home. Find 2 or 3 things that you don’t mind doing and do them. Do the things that you don’t mind doing. Do not do things that you hate doing. For example, I don’t mind doing laundry, taking the cars in for service or cleaning, or running errands. I hate washing the outside window and cleaning the oven and I won’t do them. Other folks have different likes and dislikes. So, what I hate doing, someone else doesn’t mind doing.

Be specific about what you will do and when you will do it. Ask, if that is okay with them and if not, be flexible. Clear communication is important. Do not assume.

It is not a requirement to help out financially. If you can, that would be great but not a necessity. Your time, efforts, and help will mean more. So there is no misunderstanding, be upfront about what you can and cannot or will and will not do. It is perfectly fine to state that you can’t help with the financial expenses, but you can run errands and pick up things that have either been paid for or they can send you with some form of payment.

Most caregivers don’t assume you will pay for things, but they may simply forget to give you a way to pay. Just remind them that you need a check or card.

Pat

What Caregivers Do NOT Need from Others

You may mean well. You may even mean what you say, but you are hurting them rather than helping them. Will you be open to learning how to better support someone who is helping a loved one? It will require some effort and thinking on your part.

October 26, 2022

I have said some things in the wrong way. I really meant to help, to be supportive and available. What went on in my own mind, did not play out well for someone I was trying to help. I had to realize that I was looking at their situation through my own ways of caregiving and what I would have liked help with.

If you truly want to be a help to your friends or family members that are caregivers, you have to buck up and take the time to learn what they need and want help with. No, that does not mean rapid-fire questions. A lot of the time, they do not know what they need or want because they are in hell and too stressed out to think.

What do you do? How about you learn what they don’t need and don’t need to hear?

  1. Judgement – Don’t second guess them or their choices. You don’t know their family dynamics and you are not in their shoes.
  2. Horror stories – They don’t need or want to hear about all the messed up crap that happens in nursing homes or what happened to “so-and-so.” Just shut up, there is no good that can come from that.
  3. Don’t ask what they need – Granted, this is difficult as you may want to help, but you don’t know what to do. Give them the gift of your time. You know the things that need to be done at your own home. Mowing, cleaning the house, laundry, running errands, grocery shopping, and making dinner.
  4. Don’t make more work for them – Don’t just show up, don’t call and say. “the gang is coming over to visit you.” They will feel the need to clean up and get the place cleaned up.
  5. Don’t ignore them – Maybe they can’t attend functions much anymore, but you can keep including them. Update them and let them know that you are thinking of them.

Now we will move on to, “What NOT to say…”

  1. “If you ever need a break, call me.” – What the hell. They do need a break and they don’t have time to go take a shower, much less call you.
  2. “You have to take care of yourself, too.” – Do you really think that they don’t know that? You are adding more stress and guilt, so unless you are offering to sit with their caree (care receiver) so they can take care of themselves, shut up.
  3. “You look tired.” – They are tired.
  4. “I don’t know how you do it.” – They have no choice.
  5. “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” – That statement is wrong on so many levels.
  6. “You will get your reward in heaven,” – You have just discouraged them more.
  7. Why do you keep going to visit them, they won’t remember it anyway.” – Their loved one still deserves love and care. They may not remember your name or who you are to them, but they sense and know that you are someone that loves them and cares for them.
  8. “You should put them in a home.” – You don’t get to decide what is best for them and their loved ones. Pretty much, anything that has a “should” or “would” in it ….keep it to yourself.
  9. “I could never do what you do.” – You don’t know what you will or won’t do until you are in your own situation. All relationships are different. All families are different.
  10. “I wish there was something I could do to help.” – Bullshit, you would do something if you wanted to. We will get into the things you can do and say next week.
  11. “You should get some help.” – Do you really think that they haven’t thought of that? Maybe, they can’t due to finances. Maybe, they have hired folks that do not show up.
  12. “How are you doing?” in front of the caree (care receiver) – Really? Do you want them to vent right in front of their loved one?
  13. “You need to find some time to relax.” – I am sure they would love to, but when and how?
  14. “Don’t feel guilty about …” – Feeling guilt is a part of caregiving.
  15. “Everything happens for a reason.” – No, it doesn’t. Stuff happens and we have to deal with it.
  16. “I know just how you feel.” – No you don’t. You may have had a caregiver type of experience, but it is not the exact same. Situations are not exactly the same, people are not exactly the same, and needs are not exactly the same.
  17. “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” – Do you think this hardship is making them stronger? That is foolish.
  18. “At least it’s not cancer.” – At least it’s not…statements cause more pain to the caregiver.
  19. “Just think positive thoughts.” – Way to go, you have just increased the feelings of guilt and pressure they put on themselves.
  20. “Your mom (dad) used to be a great person.” – Don’t talk about their loved one in the past tense. It is hard enough to watch a loved one decline, without being reminded of what has already been lost.

Think before you speak. Practice what you will say. Say it out loud. How does it sound? Is it uplifting or helpful? How might it be taken by someone who is stressed out and exhausted?

If you find yourself using any of the following, don’t do it. “I think,” “You should,” “I would,” “You could,”

Shut up. I get it, I want to help and fix things too, but some things are not meant to be fixed by you. That is a hard lesson, but a helpful lesson on being fully present and letting them vent. You just sit there and be the listener.

Next week we will talk about what to say and do to help a caregiver.

Pat

It’s just something you do.

Men often feel unprepared when their role in the family changes. Even if, they played a significant part in child raising (changing diapers, bathing, reading to them, holding them when they cry, etc.), they do not know how to help an adult that needs help with ADLs (activities of daily living).  It is just something that you do. You may have seen your mom or dad help their parents or each other when needed. The word “caregiver” never entered your mind. Maybe, “caregiver” is a negative word these days.

October 19, 2022

Ruck up – “man up” for a difficult situation

I like that phrase. It doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman, the sentiment is “handle it.” You can handle it and you will need help. Everything may be okay for a year or so, but, eventually, you will need help. Learn to delegate. You will still have plenty to do.

I did not identify as a caregiver because I was not doing hands-on care. I was helping out. I was doing what needed to be done. Along with working full-time and dealing with my own home and life with kids.  I was scheduling, and I was seeing to her needs. I ran errands, took her to doctor appointments, cleaned the house, mowed the yard, and did the laundry.

I did not want to be seen as a caregiver. Maybe it was because I did not want to admit to myself the reality of the situation. If I did, then it would be real. I did not want to be seen as a caregiver because it made me feel weak. I wanted to “fix it,” but I couldn’t. I didn’t want to be a caregiver because it meant I had to give up some things that I wanted to do. I didn’t want to give up my life and free time. If I admitted that I was a caregiver, I would have to make changes in my life.

I did not realize that I had choices, opportunities, and helpers willing to help. I could have boundaries and provide good care. I could take care of my own needs and my family’s needs as well as care for my mom and my dad, who was the primary caregiver.

My dad never identified as a caregiver. This was his wife and he was going to keep her at home and do what needed to be done. He learned a lot. He learned how to cook a little, clean the house, do the laundry, pay the bills, make doctor appointments, etc.

He never talked about how he felt. It didn’t matter, he had a job to do and it was going to get done. A few years later, a few mini-strokes later, a personality change and a decline in physical health all began to take their toll. Mama was not rational and daddy did not know what to do or how to handle it. He finally told me that he did not know how much more he could take. Long story short, we got her the help she needed (when daddy stopped fighting us) and things improved immensely.

He stayed in the CCU (critical care unit) area for families from the first visit until the last visit. He got to visit 10 minutes about every 4 hours. I couldn’t get him to leave, even when I was there. He finally agreed to stay with me at my house (which was 20 minutes away versus an hour from where he lived). Mama was there for about a week. She did not make it.

He took early retirement and did what needed to be done for his family. He loved her and had responsibilities as a man and husband. My brother and I saw his example of how you take care of your family. Was he perfect? No. Is that a requirement? No. Did he love her? Yes. Did he do the best he could? Yes. Was he a good caregiver? Yes.

My brother and I saw as we were growing up that you help your family in whatever way that you can. You jump in and do what is needed. We didn’t think anything about it, we just did it. That is the way a lot of us were raised.

That is great, but nobody really talked about the stress and emotions that you deal with while helping. Times were different when I was growing up only about 50% of the females or moms worked outside of the home. It is much higher than that today. Men are more hands-on with child rearing too. Good thing, too. 45% of caregivers are now men. They need different things than women caregivers. Hell, one thing is that they need to identify as “caregivers.”

Men approach caregiving responsibilities differently from the way women do. Men focus on tasks and practical things that need to be done. Not so much on the nurturing tasks such as bathing, toileting, or dressing them. They can do them, but they need some training. Men are problem solvers and they tend to hire help to do some of the responsibilities that they either cannot do or do not want to do.

How frustrated might you be if you had never changed the sheets or cooked a meal? Yes, you can learn but you can also hire that stuff out.

The strong silent types are those that will have major health issues sooner rather than later. Sadness is a part of all caregiving. Things that are lost deserve to be grieved. You may even hear men say, “What good does talking about it do?” It keeps crap from getting bottled up and further stressing you out. I get it, being stoic is about self-preservation. You can’t deal with the sadness, anger, and anxiety so you push it all down. It will eventually all come up and out.

You are often unprepared and usually overwhelmed when the need hits. Why is identifying as a caregiver a good thing? It opens you up to possibilities of help and care. It also helps your primary care doctor know what to look out for in your own health needs.

Can you be a man and be a caregiver too? I think you can. Some men may feel it makes them look weak. That is not true. A caregiver has to be strong both physically and mentally. It is a very hard job. Strength under control is how I look at it. You have the physical strength when you need it, but you can be kind, nurturing, and loving too. To me, that is a protector. Another good thing about men as caregivers is that they are more vocal advocates for their loved one.

Guys, you may feel that you are failing if you aren’t able to “fix-it.” You are not a failure. Sometimes, things cannot be fixed. You have to be strong enough to let things “be as they are.” That sucks and it hurts. It doesn’t mean that we do not have hope or work toward goals, but we can accept things just as they are, right now. I can accept reality but I never give up.

You will feel alone. You will feel resentment. You will begin the grieving process before they are gone. It is your job to take care of your own physical and emotional needs. If you don’t then you will not be an effective caregiver for very long. Then what?

Place your to-do chores list on the refrigerator and leave a place for names of who will do the chore. People usually ask what you need or what you need to be done. Of course, you can’t think of a thing when they ask…

This way they can check the list on the refrigerator and pick what they can help with. Yes, you can put a time frame or day on the chore that needs to be done. Put everything that someone else could do on your list and see what you get.

Examples

  • Dinner Monday
  • Dinner Tuesday
  • Dinner Thursday
  • Laundry Wednesday (take home and bring back)
  • Clean the bathrooms
  • Mow the yard
  • Clean the gutters
  • Change the sheets Friday
  • Vacuum, Sweep, Mop
  • Sit with her from X to Y on Friday
  • Take her to the beauty parlor on ______ at _____

Getting help is not a sign of weakness, it is a strategy for being successful.

Pat

Burnout stage or Nervous breakdown stage?

What does that really mean? It isn’t used as a medical term or a diagnosis, but we all seem to know what it means. It means a mental health crisis. It means an emotional health crisis. It is also known as a breakdown of your mental health.

It happens when you have intense physical and emotional stress, with difficulty coping and you are not able to function effectively or normally anymore. You feel like you are losing control. The stress that you are under may have you feeling anxiety, fear, worry, stuck, overwhelmed, and/or nervous.  You are at the point where you can no longer function in life.

October 12, 2022

Everyone is different and everyone will have different stressors and reactions to those stressors. This is way past burnout.

A few things to watch out for:

  • You call in sick for a day or two (sometimes, longer).
  • You miss appointments.
  • You avoid or back out of social engagements.
  • You have trouble with healthy eating, exercising regularly, sleep, and your personal hygiene starts slipping.
  • You withdraw from people and don’t want to leave your home.
  • You lose interest in things that used to bring you joy.
  • Panic attacks.
  • PTSD flashbacks

We all have our own “set point” for a breakdown. Losses are a huge part, especially if they are stacked one on top of another. For example, a death, a divorce, losing your house, a terminal illness, being a caregiver, losing your job, family turmoil, severe financial strain, a chronic medical condition (a worsening chronic medical condition), inability to relax, continued loss of sleep, work stress, school stress, etc.

As you can see, a lot of things can pile on. Step away, take a timeout! Get a talk therapy appointment, ASAP. You are no longer able to get out of this situation on your own.   Breathe, just deep breathe for 5 minutes.

You will have to make adjustments and learn better-coping skills. You will have to learn to say, “No.” You will have to take care of yourself physically and mentally before you can help anyone else. Yes, you can recover.

Burnout is more common. My wish for all of us is that we take better care of ourselves BEFORE we get to this stage. The same stressors apply, they may not be as intense or as long, but they could be.

Burnout is usually defined as chronic stress related to poor life and work practices, that produce exhaustion (physically, mentally, and emotionally). You are overloaded and overwhelmed. When a person is overloaded and overwhelmed with negative emotions and feelings rear their ugly heads. We have hostility, anger, and frustrations and we don’t seem to be able to cope or handle these negative emotions.

Extreme burnout will lead to a mental health crisis.

This article from Medical News Today, explains burnout very well.

Some causes of caregiver burnout include:

  • Emotional demands: A caregiver can feel emotionally drained, especially if they are aware that the person they are looking after will not get better despite their efforts. For example, this could happen if a person is caring for someone in palliative care.
  • Conflicting demands: These are the additional demands a person has outside of their caregiving role, such as looking after children, going to a job, and making time for their partner.
  • Ambiguous roles: Often, the role of a caregiver is all-consuming. It is easy for a person to lose sight of who they are outside of their caregiving responsibilities.
  • Workload: Some caregivers may be looking after someone with complex needs. In these instances, it is important a person seeks temporary relief and gets assistance from other carers.
  • Conflicting advice: In some cases, treatment procedures may change as research progresses. While these changes aim to give people the best care, they can cause a significant amount of disruption and stress if a caregiver has an established routine.
  • Privacy: Additional clinical support, such as nurses and other healthcare professionals, may visit a caregiver’s home throughout the week. While this can be helpful, it can also take away their privacy.

All of these factors can contribute to a caregiver feeling overwhelmed, self-critical, and drained. If they do not address these feelings, they may start experiencing serious symptoms of caregiver burnout.

Caregiver burnout symptoms 

Caregiver burnout can manifest in several ways, and some people may notice they are experiencing some symptoms more strongly than others.

Symptoms of caregiver burnout include:

  • disrupted sleep
  • persistent irritability
  • altered eating patterns
  • anxiety
  • increased alcohol consumption
  • high-stress levels
  • lack of joy
  • loneliness
  • loss of hope
  • suicidal thoughts

Additionally, symptoms can indicate what stage of caregiver burnout a person is in.

The three stages of caregiver burnout are:

  1. Frustration: A person starts feeling frustrated and disappointed that the person in their care is not getting better. They cannot accept that the person’s condition will decline regardless of how well they look after them.
  2. Isolation: After a while, a person may begin to feel lonely in their caregiving role. They may also grow tired of hearing negative opinions from family members, especially if these family members do not appreciate or recognize the time and effort caring requires. At this point, the caregiver may withdraw from friends and family.
  3. Despair: Eventually, a person may feel helpless and isolated. They can find it hard to concentrate, struggle to find joy in hobbies or interests, and avoid social interactions. The level of care they provide may also begin to drop as they spend less time on their own well-being.

Read the entire article here:  https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/caregiver-burnout#symptoms

Pay attention to your signs of stress and aggravation. If you need help or think that you may need some help, give me a call and let’s have a conversation. We won’t know if I can help unless we talk to see.

Pat

865-684-8771 (leave a message, if I am unable to answer)

Are you engaged with your loved one or are you just doing chores?

Think about it. Are you really having a conversation or are you just placating them so that you can get crap done? As the care giver or care partner are you even aware that your care receiver has needs that you can easily meet while you are handling tasks? I get it. A lot of us are task-oriented and do not want to be bothered with other things while we are doing our tasks. That would be great if our care receiver was not a human being. Take the time to talk with them.

September 14, 2022

Most of the tasks you will be doing, will not take a lot of brain power or concentration. Some tasks will, and you will need quiet time to concentrate, but not a lot of them. It does not take brain power or concentration to do laundry, wash dishes(place in or take out of dishwasher), cook something, sweep or mop, etc. You can be engaging your care receiver by talking, telling stories, or singing together. Paying bills, comparing EOB’s with medical bills and figuring things out, will take concentration and brain power. You do need quiet time for those types of things. To get that quiet time, engage your loved one before you get started. Take 10-15 minutes to be fully present with them.

Remember, they can sense your attitude and feelings towards them even if they have any type of dementia. If they have a physical disability or injury, and they need a little help, they still like to be engaged in conversation or stay up-to-date with what is going on with you, the community, and the world.

We talk a lot about dementia patients, but let’s focus on care receivers that have a physical disability, such as stroke survivors.

They need help and encouragement.

  • Encourage them to do the exercises they have been given by their physical or occupational therapists. You have to rewire the brain and movement is key.
  • Allow them to do what they can do, even if they struggle. Unless they ask for your help, let them keep working on it. Be helpful, but not overbearing.
  • You may have access to a social worker or counselor, and use them for help and resources. An occupational therapist can help with identifying home modifications that would help.
  • New stroke side effects may arise after going home. Be alert and contact their doctor.
  • Understand that sometimes, the stroke survivor may have a little setback, before they move forward again.
  • Always push past the plateau. There may be a time (3-6 months after a stroke) that “getting better” seems to level off. It may seem that way, but the brain is still healing and working. Keep on, keeping on. Changing exercises or rehab strategies may help, too.
  • There may be emotional changes after a stroke. There may also be outbursts of laughing or crying due to pseudobulbar affect.
  • Report falls to doctor
  • Don’t give up, keep striving for the best. (Independence depends on this.)

As a care giver, learn as much as you can about your care receiver’s stroke. What areas of the brain were affected? What do those areas control? What to expect physically, emotionally and mentally.

Some of the symptoms that a stroke survivor may experience:

  • Loss of control of movement &/or feeling in some parts of the body (This usually occurs on the side of the body opposite from the side of the brain affected.)
  • Changes in muscle tone on the affected side of the body
  • Involuntary muscle contractions
  • Difficulty sitting, standing or walking
  • Reduced ability to balance
  • Problems with speaking and/or understanding speech
  • Confusion and/or poor memory
  • Decreased control over bladder, bowel or both
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Reduced control over emotions

The following is from Johns Hopkins Medicine

What are the effects of stroke?

The effects of stroke vary from person to person based on the type, severity, location, and number of strokes. The brain is very complex. Each area of the brain is responsible for a specific function or ability. When an area of the brain is damaged from a stroke, the loss of normal function of part of the body may occur. This may result in a disability.

The brain is divided into 3 main areas:

  • Cerebrum (right and left sides or hemispheres)
  • Cerebellum (top and front of the brain)
  • Brainstem (base of the brain)

Depending on which of these regions of the brain the stroke occurs, the effects may be very different.

What effects can be seen with a stroke in the cerebrum?

The cerebrum is the part of the brain that occupies the top and front portions of the skull. It controls movement and sensation, speech, thinking, reasoning, memory, vision, and emotions. The cerebrum is divided into the right and left sides, or hemispheres.

Depending on the area and side of the cerebrum affected by the stroke, any, or all, of these functions may be impaired:

  • Movement and sensation
  • Speech and language
  • Eating and swallowing
  • Vision
  • Cognitive (thinking, reasoning, judgment, and memory) ability
  • Perception and orientation to surroundings
  • Self-care ability
  • Bowel and bladder control
  • Emotional control
  • Sexual ability

In addition to these general effects, some specific impairments may occur when a particular area of the cerebrum is damaged.

suffered a life-threatening stroke that left half her face paralyzed, a devastating loss for a talented

Effects of a right hemisphere stroke in the cerebrum

The effects of a right hemisphere stroke may include:

  • Left-sided weakness or paralysis and sensory impairment
  • Denial of paralysis or impairment and reduced insight into the problems created by the stroke (this is called “left neglect”)
  • Visual problems, including an inability to see the left visual field of each eye
  • Spatial problems with depth perception or directions, such as up or down and front or back
  • Inability to localize or recognize body parts
  • Inability to understand maps and find objects, such as clothing or toiletry items
  • Memory problems
  • Behavioral changes, such as lack of concern about situations, impulsivity, inappropriateness, and depression

Effects of a left hemisphere stroke in the cerebrum

The effects of a left hemisphere stroke may include:

  • Right-sided weakness or paralysis and sensory impairment
  • Problems with speech and understanding language (aphasia)
  • Visual problems, including the inability to see the right visual field of each eye
  • Impaired ability to do math or to organize, reason, and analyze items
  • Behavioral changes, such as depression, cautiousness, and hesitancy
  • Impaired ability to read, write, and learn new information
  • Memory problems

What effects can be seen with a stroke in the cerebellum?

The cerebellum is located beneath and behind the cerebrum towards the back of the skull. It receives sensory information from the body through the spinal cord. It helps coordinate muscle action and control, fine movement, coordination, and balance.

Although strokes are less common in the cerebellum area, the effects can be severe. Four common effects of strokes in the cerebellum include:

  • Inability to walk and problems with coordination and balance (ataxia)
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting

What effects can be seen with a stroke in the brainstem?

The brainstem is located at the base of the brain right above the spinal cord. Many of the body’s vital “life-support” functions such as heartbeat, blood pressure, and breathing are controlled by the brainstem. It also helps control the main nerves involved with eye movement, hearing, speech, chewing, and swallowing. Some common effects of a stroke in the brainstem include problems with:

  • Breathing and heart functions
  • Body temperature control
  • Balance and coordination
  • Weakness or paralysis
  • Chewing, swallowing and speaking
  • Vision
  • Coma

Unfortunately, death is possible with brainstem strokes.

Over time, it may be harder for the stroke survivor to stay motivated during recovery. The two main contributors to this are apathy and depression. Apathy is a loss of motivation, concern, interest, and emotional response after a stroke. Feeling sad after a major life event that turns your world upside down is normal, depression seems to affect 30-50 percent of stroke survivors. Signs of depression include feelings of hopelessness and sadness that do not go away.

Help stroke survivors to stay motivated.

Set relevant and achievable goals

Address the emotional challenges and get help with medications and talk therapy

Help the stroke survivor understand about their stroke, the changes, the rehab, the plateau, etc.

Have a consistent routine, do it no matter how you feel about it

Find what motivates them

When motivation fails, discipline takes over – just do it

Pat

Why does your own health take a hit when you are a caregiver?

We have seen the studies. We have experienced a decline in our own health all the while ignoring our own health needs. We know that we need to take care of ourselves so that we can take care of our loved ones. We know that caregivers can often wind up in worse physical shape than those they are caring for. Still, we do nothing for ourselves. Why?

September 7, 2022

We are stubborn people. We all  believe that we can handle “this.” We must handle “this.” You may even hear and believe that “God doesn’t give you more than you can bear.” That is not a true statement. Go read it. 1 Cor. 10:13. God will not let you be tempted more than you can bear. He will provide a way of escape. God will give you the grace you need in every situation. His power helps us use the resources that we have and can get to handle whatever is in front of us.

Do we think that we have to suffer or put our own lives on hold to help or care for someone we love? You see, that is more of the “either/or” thinking and not the “both/and.” Get out of the “either/or” thinking mindset. Get into the “both/and” types of thinking. If you have only thought of the “either/or” possibilities, then you can learn to think of a “both/and” possibility. More on this later.

What attitudes and beliefs do you have that stand in your way?

  • Do you think you are being selfish if you put your needs first?
  • Is it frightening to think of your own needs? What is the fear about?
  • Do you have trouble asking for what you need? Do you feel inadequate if you ask for help?
  • Do you feel you have to prove that you are worthy of the care recipient’s affection? Do you do too much as a result?

Really think about the above questions. It may be time to take 30 minutes to think and talk to yourself. Writing it out helps you to get to the real issues/answers.

Here are some ways that your own mind will kick your ass.

  • I am responsible for my parent’s health.
  • If I don’t do it, no one will.
  • If I do it right, I will get the love, attention, and respect I deserve.
  • Our family always takes care of their own.
  • I promised my father I would always take care of my mother.

Your own negative self-talk will get you into trouble. Just because you think it, does not make it true or right. Circumstances may have changed and you can no longer keep your promises. Don’t hold yourself to impossible standards made in the heat of concern/passion.

Our behavior is based on our own thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, and misconceptions. Remember, your feelings can and will lie to you. You may believe something that is simply not true. Half-truths are what make up great lies. You do get to choose what you will or will not do. You do not get to choose what you can and cannot control. That is not the way life works. Yes, it sometimes is awful, frustrating, and maddening. What can you truly control? Your attitude. Your own actions. Your self-talk. Your gratitude. Your own mental and physical fitness. Your eating habits. Your sleep. Your boundaries. What you prioritize?

Things you do not have control over:

  • You can’t control other people (what they do or what they say).
  • You can’t control how other people see you.
  • You can’t control what happens to other people.
  • You can’t control your thoughts or feelings, they just are. You don’t have to act on them, though.
  • You can’t control the outcome.
  • You can’t control other people’s happiness.
  • You can’t control the past.
  • You can’t control the future.
  • You can’t control that change is inevitable.

Stop wasting your energy and time on things you cannot control. Focus on what you can control and actually make a difference.

Will you reduce your personal stress?

The problem isn’t always the problem. The problem is how we perceive the problem. The meanings we attach to the problem.

The following information is from Family Caregiver Alliance

Your level of stress is influenced by many factors, including the following:

  • Whether your caregiving is voluntary. If you feel you had no choice in taking on the responsibilities, the chances are greater that you will experience strain, distress, and resentment.
  • Your relationship with the care recipient. Sometimes people care for another with the hope of healing a relationship. If healing does not occur, you may feel regret and discouragement.
  • Your coping abilities. How you coped with stress in the past predicts how you will cope now. Identify your current coping strengths so that you can build on them.
  • Your caregiving situation. Some caregiving situations are more stressful than others. For example, caring for a person with dementia is often more stressful than caring for someone with a physical limitation.
  • Whether or not support is available.

Steps to Managing Stress

  1. Recognize warning signs early. These might include irritability, sleep problems, and forgetfulness. Know your own warning signs, and act to make changes. Don’t wait until you are overwhelmed.
  2. Identify sources of stress. Ask yourself, “What is causing stress for me?” Sources of stress might be that you have too much to do, family disagreements, feelings of inadequacy, or the inability to say no.
  3. Identify what you can and cannot change. Remember, we can only change ourselves; we cannot change another person. When you try to change things over which you have no control, you will only increase your sense of frustration. Ask yourself, “What do I have some control over? What can I change?” Even a small change can make a big difference. The challenge we face as caregivers is well expressed in the following words modified from the original Serenity Prayer (attributed to American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr):

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
and (the) wisdom to know the difference.

  1. Take action. Taking some action to reduce stress gives us back a sense of control. Stress reducers can be simple activities like walking and other forms of exercise, gardening, meditation, or having coffee with a friend. Identify some stress reducers that work for you.

Pretty good information, huh?

Have you considered the real reasons that you do not take appropriate care of yourself?

  • You haven’t made your health a priority.
  • You don’t feel you have enough time to do all you “need” to do.
  • You feel guilty taking some time away from your loved one.
  • You don’t have the energy.
  • You have reached the burnout stage.
  • You won’t accept things as they are, right now.
  • You won’t put yourself in the mix of things to handle.

10 Health Problems Caused by Chronic Stress

  1. Weakening of the immune system, which increases vulnerability to colds and other infections
  2. Mental health disorders (e.g., anxiety, panic attacks, depression, mood swings)
  3. Cardiovascular problems (e.g., high blood pressure, elevated heart rate, high cholesterol levels, increased risk of heart attack and stroke)
  4. Metabolic disorders (e.g., metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, diabetes, obesity)
  5. Gastrointestinal issues (e.g., ulcers, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, heartburn, chronic bowel disorders)
  6. Muscle tension and pain (e.g., backaches, neck pain, jaw pain, tension headaches, migraines)
  7. Sleep problems (e.g., insomnia, stress dreams, sleep deprivation)
  8. Chronic fatigue syndrome
  9. Respiratory problems (e.g., shortness of breath, rapid breathing, exacerbation of existing lung diseases like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  10. Worsening of skin conditions (e.g., eczema, psoriasis, acne, rosacea, hives)

Which of these have you noticed in your own life? As you can see, you have to decide if your health is worth taking care of so that you feel better and are able to be the caregiver your loved one needs. Prevention is much easier than fixing a problem after it has happened. You do deserve to be happy and healthy. You do deserve to provide better care and get your life back. My services can help you achieve your goals.

Pat

How many of you think about “thinking about” a problem?

It happens one of two ways. One, you see or hear something that triggers the thought. Two, an incident happens and you know that you will have to deal with it sooner or later. You will hear yourself say, “I need to check on “this thing.” Sometimes, it will be, I am going to have to make a decision on “this thing,” and I need to start thinking about it.

August 3, 2022

We think about thinking about stuff all the time. It isn’t high up on our priority, but we know that we will have to deal with “it” soon. Soon, as in, it’s coming. Oh well, we don’t have a timeline/deadline yet, so I guess I can think about thinking about it later. The “it” may be an oil change. The “it” may be a medical issue. The “it” may be a work project.

We do this pre-contemplation for a lot of things in our lives. How do we prioritize? What can we do to make the prioritization process easier? Surprisingly, we need inspiration. A moment of clarity about new possibilities and options. Do you want to reach your goals? Your inspiration helps in your journey to reach your desired goals.

Which of these words for inspiration helps you to see your capabilities?

Creativity                    Inventiveness                          Ingenuity                                 Imagination

Originality                   Individuality                           Artistry                                    Revelation

Brainwave                   Brainstorm                              The “Aha” moment                 Genius

Insight                         Vision                                      Incentive                                 Motivation

Now, that you have identified some of your capabilities you would be best served to find your top three goals. Hang with me here. You need your top goals to figure out what is important to you and to help guide the direction that you will be going. Laser focus is much better than the shotgun approach. Why? To maximize your energy levels. Remember, you only have so much focused energy per day. The other way that it helps is so you can decide what really does need to be done, what can wait, and what can be discarded (things you don’t need to do or you don’t need to do yourself). What if you could focus on the things that you can control?

You cannot control your feelings or thoughts. But, you can be curious about them and accept them as they are with no judgment of good or bad. You can control how you react and act. Be present, right now. The present situation is what you can work on. You cannot change anything about the past. There will be challenges and obstacles and sometimes, you will need some help.

You can control how much time and effort you put into a problem, relationship, or work issue, but you cannot control the outcome. We all hate that part. Have your “can do attitude” ready for the things you can control.

Back to prioritizing. You know that we chase a few rabbits. Urgency and importance are the key factors in prioritizing. The Eisenhower box is a great tool to use.

Are you able to recognize what needs to be accomplished? Do you comprehend the task? Do you know why you should do it? Feelings and emotions will probably arise about prior experiences or things we have lived before. Prior choices, prior consequences, prior successes, etc.

What systems do you have in place for yourself to help you succeed? Routines, habits, scheduling, flexibility, rearranging ever-changing priorities, allowing for adequate amounts of time, etc.

Patience and persistence will pay off while learning this new skill of prioritizing and planning. You will mess up and you will feel frustrated, but you will progress. Practice kindness to yourself, not beating yourself up. Just get back on track and try again. We are not looking for perfection we are looking for progress. Celebrate your efforts. That is what builds resilience.

What are some barriers to prioritizing?

  • Not making time to prioritize.
  • Not seeing the “big picture.”
  • Getting distracted by time wasters or the little things.
  • Not delegating what can be delegated.
  • Refusing to adapt when you get new or better information.

Learning your core values also helps in prioritizing and making decisions. Find three to 5 core values for yourself and give it a try.

Pat

What is your stress sweet spot?

Why do we need some stress in our lives?

If you went to your vacation happy place and stayed, what would happen? I can imagine your minds going into overdrive with all of the thoughts, smiles, and dreams. Come back to reality and let’s think this through.

July 27, 2022

We all enjoy a break. We all enjoy getting away. Decompression time, rest time, fun time, and alone time are all necessary for us. That one or two weeks at a time for us not to worry or deal with the day-to-day issues is awesome. I know that I think about staying on vacation forever. If I did what could happen? I could lose my job. I couldn’t afford to live year-round at the same spot where I vacation. Well, hell. What would I do in three or four months? Be bored because I didn’t have anything to do? Probably. Everybody else has to work and I don’t have anyone to play with. I am pretty good by myself, but I do want people around sometimes.

If I lived there full-time, it wouldn’t be special anymore. It would eventually, be the same old same old. A bored Pat, is not a good Pat. What about you?

We need some good stress. It motivates us to do something. Use your stress for good. Think about athletes. They have goals, training, and resting. They are pushing their bodies to do more than what is normal. Bigger, better, stronger, and faster are their goals.

Good stress vs bad stress. Yes, there is such a thing. Good stress is usually short-term, excites you and motivates you. You feel excited and your heart rate increases, but there is no fear or threat. Even with acute stress the body needs time to get rid of all the cortisol & other hormones to calm down. If your body does not have some down time to deal with the acute stress, it becomes as bad as bad stress.

Good stress:

  • It feels doable.
  • We know the stress is only temporary.

When good stress  becomes bad:

  1. It feels like all the time and you see no end in sight.
  2. You can’t control it.
  3. It takes up all of your time.
  4. You don’t see the long-term benefit.
  5. It comes into direct conflict with one of your life values or priorities.

 Bad stress or distress wears you out. You do feel fear. You do feel like a threat is near. You may feel confused. You cannot concentrate very well. Some anxiety pops up. Bad stress can be short-term, but it can also be long-term. The long-term or chronic type of stress is the one that leads to negative health consequences.

Bad stress:

  • It no longer feels doable.
  • The stress is not temporary.

Could your stress be harmful?

You make mistakes on things that are routine for you.

You are spending a lot of time & energy on little things.

You feel stuck or paralyzed.

You don’t ask for help and you begin to isolate yourself

You are not eating well.

You are not working out or exercising.

You are not sleeping very well.

.

Is it possible to turn bad stress into something good?

  1. Look for the potential benefits or positives in the situation.
  2. Recognize and use your strengths to their full potential.
  3. Identify the resources that you have at hand.
  4. Collaborate with others.
  5. Learn something new.
  6. Have a positive perspective.
  7. Sometimes, you just have to be positive.

When things feel out of control or awful, do what is best for your own mind and body. When you do these types of things, you allow your brain and mind to destress so that you can handle the issues better.

  1. Good and restful sleep.
  2. Eat for nutritional health.
  3. Do something physical.
  4. Meet with your social support system.
  5. Quiet your inner critic.

Athletes often redirect stress into anticipation, excitement, and motivation, rather than allowing themselves to get into anxiety and fear of the situations. We can do this in our everyday lives, too. The sweet spot is where you are using the stress for good. You will never get rid of all stress nor should you. You can lessen it and you can navigate it!

Pat

How attitude affects problem-solving?

When you are frustrated, upset, or angry, you cannot problem-solve very well.

Guess what part of your brain is hijacking your normally calm, cool and collected self? The friggin’ amygdala is at it again. Fight, flight, freeze or fawn stuff. Those are the only options that we see when our amygdala is activated.

July 20, 2022

We know that the amygdala hijacks our abilities to make good decisions and lowers our ability to problem-solve because we cannot think about our true options. What about our attitudes? I am having a little trouble explaining attitude, so bear with me here. We each have assessments or judgments about “attitude object” We use words to describe what we like or do not like. Examples include, Like, prefer, love, do not like, hate, can’t stand, etc. We make these statements in relation to ourselves. “I like _____.” “I hate ____.” Attitudes are really evaluations that we make based on what is important to us. Our experiences are different and so our attitudes may be different too.

Attitudes are shaped by feelings and emotions. And another tidbit, emotion is sometimes the driving force behind our attitudes and behaviors.

There will be some things that you feel very strongly about. There will also be things that you don’t feel strongly about.

Structure of Attitudes

Attitude’s structure can be described in terms of three components.

  • Affective component: this involves a person’s feelings/emotions about the attitude object. For example: “I am scared of spiders”.
  • Behavioral (or conative) component: the way the attitude we have influences on how we act or behave. For example: “I will avoid spiders and scream if I see one”.
  • Cognitive component: this involves a person’s belief/knowledge about an attitude object. For example: “I believe spiders are dangerous”.

This model is known as the ABC model of attitudes.

A negative attitude towards a problem makes it worse. When you think negatively, it only magnifies and deepens the emotional weight of “said problem.” You not only see the problem as a problem, you see it as an enemy or an attack on you. You can become overwhelmed and paralyzed. You know what comes next, don’t you? The downward spiral. Which makes the attitude and the problem much worse?

I like the Fish! Philosophy and want to share a little with you.

The FISH! Philosophy doesn’t promote “correct” or “approved” attitudes over others. Every situation is unique. But it is important to mindfully Choose Your Attitude. You may not control what happens to you, but you do get to decide how you respond to it.

Making a conscious choice isn’t easy, especially when a situation hijacks your emotions and drives you to react the same way you have hundreds of times before. It takes practice to take control of your response, instead of letting it control you.

Here are four tips to help you take charge and Choose Your Attitude:

1. Be aware of your inner voice
External events may trigger your feelings, but only after they go through an internal filter called your inner voice. Your inner voice starts talking to you as soon as you wake up, issuing opinions about everything you see, hear, touch, smell and feel.

Your inner voice is rarely a neutral observer. It judges each experience through the likes and dislikes you have accumulated over a lifetime. It looks for evidence that you are right and the other person is wrong. It exaggerates how bad the situation is or imagines how it might go off track. Sometimes it puts other people down. Often it puts you down, questioning your talents and capabilities.

If you want to choose your attitude, not just react, you must challenge your inner voice. Catch it in the moment, then take a step back. Instead of just accepting what it is telling you, observe it as a neutral onlooker.

Just becoming aware that it is a voice, and what it is saying is one of several possible interpretations, helps you decide how much to believe it—and the best way to respond. 

2. What’s your goal?
To mindfully choose how you respond to what life throws at you, you need a plan. Decide who you want to “be” today. Keep your goal top of mind. Select a few words that describe your intentions, such as “patient”, “open” or “helpful”. Focus on living those qualities.

Moment-to-moment awareness is key. Ask yourself throughout the day, “What is my attitude now? Is it helping me to be as effective as I can be? Is it helping the people who depend on me?”

Think ahead: What people or situations are likely to test your attitude today? What might push your buttons? Rehearse how you will respond. Reaffirm your goal and stay focused on the response that helps you achieve it.

Consider the long-term consequences of your reactions. Say a member of your team makes a bad mistake or you have a disagreement with them. Is the momentary satisfaction of tearing into them worth damaging your relationship? Disagreements and problems come and go, but your relationships are not so easily replaced.

3. Adopt a “growth” attitude
Your attitudes are shaped by how you see others—and by how you see yourself.

People with a “fixed” attitude see their abilities as set and established. They know what they’re good at and view what they’re not good at as talents they don’t have the capacity to improve (“I could never learn that!” or “I wasn’t born with a brain for that!”).

People with a fixed mindset see tasks requiring them to step outside their comfort zones as threats. Confident in what they already excel at, they fear mistakes that might threaten their identity. They only pay attention to feedback and information that confirms their beliefs.

People with a growth mindset believe they can always improve their skills. It doesn’t mean you can do anything, like play in the NBA or be an opera star. It means you never know what more is possible for you and do not limit yourself before you try. It means seeing mistakes as a chance to learn and stretch yourself.

Studies show people with growth attitudes are more engaged and empowered. They handle change more successfully. They’re more flexible and open to seeing new solutions. In workplaces that support a growth attitude, people collaborate more and feel safe to try new approaches.

4. Challenge your assumptions
It’s natural to assume the worst about other people’s motives and capabilities, especially if we don’t agree or connect positively with them. Believing they offer little of value to us, we usually try to avoid them—which doesn’t do much for team collaboration and camaraderie.

If you have a coworker or employee you think has a bad attitude or lack of motivation, move past your assumptions. Reach out. Find out why—not with accusations but with caring questions. You may learn they are dealing with a trying situation at home or work stresses you didn’t know about. Knowing this will help you respond to them more productively.

Treat them with a little kindness and encouragement and you may see a different side of them. Learn their perspective. Find out what they do well and seek their input. People tend to respond to you based on how you treat them. If not, you have chosen an attitude you can be proud of.

Back to problem-solving.

If you don’t see a problem as a disaster, you are more likely to be calm and think about your options. Are you open to looking at the problem as an opportunity? We like opportunities. Our brains like opportunities. Our brains like to brainstorm. Finding any and all possible solutions to our dilemma. Now, not everything thing will be a winner, but the whittling down comes a little later in the process.

Would you like to be a more effective problem-solver? Then invite positivity into your environment. Positive attitudes increase creativity and problem-solving skills. A positive attitude also increases productivity.

  • Some ways to create a positive attitude:
  • Write down three things you are grateful for each day (not the same 3 things, either)
  • Take breaks during your day
  • Tell a few jokes, or watch a funny animal video
  • Think about the ways to have a great morning and do them
  • Don’t spread gossip, don’t listen to gossip
  • Look forward to something outside of work
  • Practice meditation, walk, work-out
  • Have some “you time”- unwind, destress, play
  • Listen to music, watch a funny TV show, read an uplifting or funny book
  • Hang-out with positive people
  • Be open to possibilities
  • Stop the “stinking thinking”
  • Sit with your feelings and acknowledge them
  • Recharge your batteries
  • Stop complaining
  • Assume responsibility, choose your response
  • Laugh

Pat

“A man’s got to know his limitations,” Dirty Harry in Magnum Force

Do you know your limitations or do you just keep on pushing? You know when you keep pushing your limits, the stress piles up or you leave collateral damage in your wake.

July 13, 2022

As a caregiver or helper, you are tasked with many different challenges every day and some will push you past your limits. Most of us know our limitations. However, we do not always heed the warning signs that we are getting close to them. A few folks do not know their limits and get into trouble before they realize, “Oops, I messed up.”

Other words for limitations include – Constraint, Control, Obstruction, Impediment, or Qualification

What if realizing and accepting your limits could benefit you? What if knowing your limits and your boundaries allow you to take care of yourself in body, mind, and spirit? Learning what to give and share as well as knowing what you need from your relationships Boundaries are important too.

Knowing your limits can help you to assess the areas that you can improve on. Knowing your limits also allows you to use your strengths. Another way to look at knowing your limits is to prevent burnout and decrease your stress.

When I think about stress, I always remember the line – “Stress: the confusion created when one’s mind overrides the body’s desire to choke the living shit out of some asshole who desperately needs it.” It always makes me smile.

I get it. We can learn new skills when we hit our limitations. Usually, that is true. It is not always true though. There are times when we have hit our limitations and we need to stop. Accepting our limitations is not the same thing as accepting failure. That is probably the crux of everything anyway, the fear of failure.

No matter how well we manage our time, we only have 24 hours in a day to get things done. We are limited by what we can and cannot control. We do not have endless abilities or endless knowledge about everything. We are good at what we do. We are experts at our jobs. But, that does not translate into expertise at everything. For example, I am good at what I do with research, finding solutions, and preparing plans of action with guidance and support. Now, I have a plumbing problem at home. I am smart and I can figure a lot of things out. I can research info online and handle it. WRONG! I can have all of the information in the world, but if I don’t know how to apply that information, I am stuck, frustrated, and angry. Guess who might bear the brunt of my frustration and anger? Yep, family and friends.

Knowing and being able to do it or handle it are two different things. Find the expert you need. Save yourself a lot of stress, frustration, and anger. Stop beating your head against the wall.

Which of these responses do you recognize in your own life when dealing with frustration?

  • Anger – an angry person often reacts without thinking
  • Giving up – you quit everything and you no longer care about the goal (this is not the same thing as deciding to give up on an unreachable goal)
  • Loss of confidence – you might take a hit to your self-esteem too by giving up
  • Stress – too much stress breaks our bodies down (irritability, anger, anxiety, fatigue, headaches, depression, low back pain, stomach pains, migraines, ulcers, etc.)
  • Depression – continued stress or anxiety that causes brain chemical changes
  • Abuse and misuse – drugs, alcohol, food, shopping
  • Anxiety, Fear, Sadness, Guilt, or Shame are other responses to frustration.

I know that we have chased a few rabbits today. A lot of things are interconnected. I want you to know your limitations. I want you to prevent excess stress and burnout. Continued stress leads to burnout. You will begin to feel empty and numb. You don’t just numb the negative feelings; you numb the good ones too. Your “get up and go” has “got up and went.” You no longer have the motivation you once had. You are tired. Sometimes, you feel hopeless or stuck.

If you have thought or said, “I know that it will never get better,” you could very well be at the burnout stage.

Signs of Caregiver Burnout

  • Feeling anxious
  • Feeling irritable
  • Feeling stressed
  • Feeling resentment
  • You are neglecting your own health
  • You are missing out on important events
  • You are not eating properly
  • You are not exercising
  • Your finances are taking a hit
  • You feel lonely
  • Increased alcohol consumption
  • Overreacting
  • Impatience

Setting limits will actually help you to achieve your goals. Limit your goals to 4 or 5 per year. You cannot do everything. Pick ones that mean the most to you and focus on them. Limit your tasks to 3 per day. Only do the important and necessary things. Place a time limit on your tasks. Focus on the task at hand. Stop adding stuff to your schedule and start crossing off the things that are not a priority.

Pat

Maybe, you aren’t cut out to be a caregiver.

Or at least, you are not cut out to be a hands-on caregiver. Maybe, you are more of the management type who makes sure that things are handled and done. Maybe, you are the visiting regularly and running errands type. Maybe, you are the do everything but the personal hygiene type. Then again, maybe you are not the caregiving type at all.

June 22, 2022

4 Common signs that you are not cut out for caregiving.

  1. You are not patient.
  2. You do not have the time.
  3. You are finding excuses not to do it.
  4. You cannot do the kind of care required.

There may be times that you have to jump in and do the caregiving due to a sudden illness, surgery, or injury. You suck it up and handle it, for a short period of time. Short period of time is the key. Now that the immediate “danger” is over, it is time to reassess the situation and the needs.

What you can do in an emergency, usually cannot be sustained over a long period of time, to me, a long period of time is anything over a month. You get worn down, everything else in your life has been put on hold. You can’t put everything on hold for very long. Relationships, jobs, careers, kids, friends, other commitments require your attention. Our lives are in flux and we do pay more attention to our jobs at times and other times we pay more attention to family and friends. Forget balance, there is no such thing. Just be fair and disciplined with your energy and time. No one likes leftovers all the time.

Every family has its own dynamics and history. Sometimes it is functional and good. Sometimes it is very dysfunctional and bad. There may be estrangement. There may have been verbal abuse, physical abuse or sexual abuse. You get to decide what you will and will not do. You may hear stupid crap from outsiders who have no clue about your experiences, if you distance yourself from your family. You do not answer to them. You do not have to acknowledge what they have said or explain any thing to them.

Yeah, I know, we chased a couple of rabbits. We always get back on track, eventually.

Depending on the needs of your loved one, you may or may not be able to be a good caregiver. What happens if they need to be lifted, transferred or dressed and you have no training in how to do that appropriately? If you don’t do it safely, you can hurt yourself , them or both of you.

Even if you have a good relationship, caregiving may not be right for you. Maybe conflicts have started to rear their ugly head. It would be better for everyone if there was some separation and other solutions found. Sometimes the caregiver’s own physical or emotional health prevents them from being someone else’s caregiver.

The care receiver’s needs have increased and now you find that you cannot provide the care needed. Learn to say, “No.” Have the conversation and look for alternative solutions. You will feel guilt, give your heart time to catch up with your head (what you know). Just as the word “caregiving” means different things to different people. The word, “no” means different things too.

It may mean that I can not do all that I have been doing, but, I can do _____________________. Maybe, “no” means that you are tired physically and mentally. Maybe, “no” means that we need to re-evaluate the situation and change some things.

Caregivers will benefit from learning to set boundaries and also to express their feelings. Ideally, you will learn these things before you are an asshole to everyone else. Use “I” statements. “I” feel, “I” can, “I” cannot, “I” can no longer, etc. Thou shalt not use “You ought to,” “You should,” “You need to,” types of statements. You will be starting a fight. Get rid of the “shoulda, woulda, coulda’s. They are not helpful. They keep you stuck when you need to move forward.

Let’s talk more about guilt. We will all experience it. Not all guilt is bad, so pay attention to what it is trying to tell you. Is it calling to your attention that you wanted to do something, but then you didn’t? You can fix that by changing your own behavior. For example, if you were going to cook two meals and take them over, but didn’t…you can decide what to cook and when to take over with some follow through. Boom! It’s done. IF you are feeling guilty because you cannot change the unchangeable, then hold on a minute. You are not that powerful. You aren’t even responsible for other people’s feelings. Remember, thoughts are just thoughts until you put action to them. Granted, sometimes you need to let the thoughts go. Getting rid of the “shoulds” in your head will certainly help to stop the guilt cycle.

Are you feeling guilty because?

  • You aren’t spending enough time with your mom?
  • You aren’t spending enough time with your spouse and kids?
  • You aren’t taking care of yourself?
  • You aren’t focused at work due to your caregiving to-do lists?
  • You forgot  to do something that your dad needed you to do?
  • You let your mom  stay in her own home too long?
  • You moved your mom into assisted living?
  • You resent the time caregiving takes?
  • You think your life would be easier if they died?

Acknowledge that you feel guilty and then move on. Guilt won’t kill you but it will keep you stuck.

Most of the time, your feelings as a caregiver are completely normal.

  • It is normal to feel frustrated, in general.
  • It is normal to feel frustrated with the time it take your loved one to do anything.
  • It is normal to feel anger at times.
  • It is normal to want all of this to be over.
  • It is normal to hate yourself for feeling certain ways.
  • It is normal to silently scream in your head.
  • It is normal to enjoy aspects of your time together.
  • It is normal to wonder  if your marriage will make it through this.
  • It is normal to hate missing your kids’ games.
  • It is normal for you to be numb and not feel anything, just handle it.
  • It is normal to feel guilty when you take some “me” time.
  • It is normal for you to want to throat punch the next person that tells you that you should take care of yourself.
  • It is normal for you to want to run away.
  • It is normal for you to miss your job.
  • And, a bunch of other things.

Do you have boundaries? Boundaries keep us safe. They are our non-negotiables. Our individual or family values that we use to guide our choices. Find yours. A boundary is something that you must have or something that you cannot tolerate. It is going to get touchy here – sometimes we get our non-negotiables confused with important needs.

Examples of non-negotiables:

  • Your physical, mental and emotional well-being – What will you do to protect them?
    • What won’t you do to protect them?
  • That you speak to yourself in a kind manner.
  • A healthy relationship with yourself – Eating nutritious food, walking, running, working out, reading for pleasure
  • Keeping your word to yourself and others
  • Your core  values – honesty, love, joy, happiness, reliability, respect, openness, trust, accountability, etc.
  • I will be kind to myself, when I make mistakes
  • Having fun
  • Resting/Sleeping

So, what are your governing values? The principles that you live your life by? The things you will and will not tolerate? Find 3 or 4 that are valuable to you and how you want to live your life. They will make it easier for you to answer questions. They will make it easier to say “yes or no.” Another name for non-negotiables for me is deal-breakers.

No one is perfect. We will all mess up, from time to time. What is the pattern? Do the same things keep happening over and over? Are you making allowances for them/it? Why?

Pat

What does your temperament and your traits have to do with caregiving/helping loved ones?

Think about it, some folks can take on caregiving chores and still be happy and others are absolutely miserable. They both have frustrations. They are both exhausted. Both of them are doing the best that they can.

June 15, 2022

Some of you don’t know that you are a caregiver. You think you are helping them out. It could be your mom or dad. It may be your husband, wife or significant other. We are resistant to be caregivers much less be called a caregiver. We really do not want that responsibility, do we?

Maybe that is just me, but I suspect that others out there feel the same way as I do. When my mom needed help, I did not consider myself a caregiver. She just needed help and we helped her. Daddy was the primary caregiver, I tried to support both of them, in ways that I could. With daddy, it was about listening to what he was going through. The frustration, the anger and the not knowing what to do. With mama, it was about listening to her anger, frustration and the irrational thoughts. Mama did not need personal hygiene care, she could take care of that herself, with modifications to the house.

To hear my daddy, say that he did not know how much more he could take, was hard. To hear my mama, say that she was going to divorce my daddy, was hard. To be summoned down to the house (an hour away), many times, was hard. I was working 12 hour shifts at the pharmacy and had three boys at home. Our stress was mental and emotional, not so much physical. It took about four months to get things back to “normal.”

I was dealing with a dad that did not believe in mental health treatment such as talk therapy and that medications might help. I had a mom that had changed both physically and mentally due to MS and mini-strokes. WTF. Now, dammit, this was my area of expertise and my own daddy is not listening to me. I finally convinced them to go to the neurologist and let the neurologist see what could be done. I worked behind the scenes with a message to the neurologist. My mom got the meds she needed and a couple of talk therapy visits. Things went much smoother after that.

It was good to hear from my dad that my mom was back to her usual fun self. It was good to hear my mom laugh again and be the jokester that she was. She cheated at the Rook card game; you know. We always had to make her stand up and turn out her pockets for that damn rook card.

During all of this, I was tired and frustrated. I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t miserable. I didn’t hate every minute of help that I provided my parents. I didn’t hate that I was missing things with my boys. Disappointed, sure, but I was needed elsewhere sometimes. If your family needs help, you help them.

Other folks are angry. Sometimes, they are resentful and miserable for “having” to help. Maybe, the difference is in how you look at it or feel about your loved one? Feeling like you must help instead of wanting to help may be the key, I don’t know. Did you accept your role as a helper or caregiver out of love or obligation? Most of us have had no training and very few skills in this arena. It is on-the-job training or more likely, flying by the seat of your pants. If you are providing personal hygiene care or you are having to physically move or transfer your loved one, you do need training in how to do it appropriately and safely.

Personality Traits of a Happy Caregiver

  • Patience – especially with questions, angry outbursts, length of time to do things
  • Compassion – understanding what the other person is dealing with
  • Empathy – understanding the feelings that others may be feeling or thinking
  • Humor – finding something to laugh about in these difficult situations. We know how serious things are, but we need to laugh. Not at the person, but at the situation or other things.
  • Present – be in the here and now, focusing on what they can do
  • Detail Oriented – good management skills
  • Able to Accept Help – a good caregiver lines up a team to help out
  • Able to Set Boundaries – know your own limits and say “no” when needed
  • Flexible – able to cooperate with others
  • Assertive Advocate – getting the answers needed, making sure their loved one has what they need; being firm but not being an asshole (at first)
  • Creative – some days things will work and other days you have to find something else that works
  • Good Communicator – learn to communicate with your loved one in the way that they can communicate, especially if they are non-verbal now

How many of these skills do you have? Be honest. There will probably be a few that are not in your wheelhouse. That is okay, are you willing to learn? Are there some skills that you know you don’t have and are not good at? That is okay too. It is great to know what you are good at and great to know what you suck at. Use your strengths to your loved one’s advantage. Others will have different strengths to help. We can all improve.

Know this: You are perfect as you are… but you can always be better. We all have the struggle or tension between self-acceptance and self-improvement. We have talked about this before. It is progress over perfection.

Are you smart enough to know when you don’t know? Do you know how to find good and trusted information? Do you know when you are out of your area of expertise and need to hire that expertise?

Self-confidence in your caregiving abilities comes with time and patience with yourself. It comes with learning new ideas and ways to help. You may have to silence your inner critic. Your negative thoughts are not always right. They are only thoughts, so challenge them.

Confidence in your abilities is good. Over-confidence is bad. The goal is appropriate confidence. Focus on the effort. Keep learning new things. Listen to what others have to say.

A reluctant or sad caregiver has feelings of unfairness or irritation. You may even feel resentment. Resentment at the care receiver or resentment at the others who don’t or won’t help. Not everyone is cut out to be a caregiver.

Pat

Can you work with your siblings to provide care for your mom?

I have seen both ends of the spectrum. I have seen the complete breakdown and fights between siblings trying to help their mom. I have also  seen the absolute success of siblings working together to take care of their dad.

Why can one family make it work and another family implode?

June 8, 2022

You know people that can put the “fun” in dysfunction. It can be amusing when the stakes are low. What happens when the stakes are high and everyone needs to do their part? It’s not so funny then. It is downright hard and very stressful.

Family dynamics, sibling relationships, parent-child relationships, rivalries, blended families, issues from the past, issues from the present, etc. Relationships can be complicated. Relationships can be messy. There may not be a relationship anymore.

First, you need to decide if you want to help your mom or dad. No judgement here, I have heard the stories of how you were treated as a child by your mom. I have heard the stories of what you endured as a child and how you worked hard to get out of that situation. No one is required to help or provide assistance to their mom or dad. It was usually one or two of the kids that had to endure the hell. The other children were spared. This is also where you and your siblings will disagree about what happened in the past. We can only speak about our own experiences and perceptions.

The first time that I heard of people being mistreated or abused when they were kids, it was hard for me to imagine. I had no reference point for that. My brother and I knew that we were loved and wanted. We got spanked, but we were never abused. You don’t know what someone else has been through. It is always hidden and it is never talked about. Why was it so hard for me to imagine? Because, I could not imagine my mama or daddy doing to me what other parents did to their kids. After hearing about others being slapped, locked in their room or being starved, you start to realize that not everyone grew up like you did.

For some of these kids, they did not admit it to themselves until they were in their 30’s or 40’s and it is not easy for them to talk about. I get why some folks cannot or will not help to take care of their parents either from a distance or hands-on care. Your own safety and mental health needs are absolutely of paramount importance.

The other things that we need to look at are the siblings that do not want to help because they don’t want to help. They have no real reason other than it will affect their own lives. Tough toenails, sometimes you have to do things that you don’t really want to do. It is called being an adult. Don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying that you have to do the hands-on care, but you do need to be involved in seeing to their care. See, right there, I used my own feelings and my own background with my own family to make a generalized statement about caring for a loved one. I apologize to you for that. I don’t know your experiences and I respect your decisions.

 For this article, I am assuming that you have siblings and you do want to help your mom or dad. You do love them and you do care, you may not know where to start or what to do first. Safety is of paramount importance. Are they safe? Are they in a safe environment? Do they have nutritious food and are they eating? What about drinking their water every day? Taking their meds appropriately? Showering/Bathing and keeping up with their personal hygiene? Are they putting on clean clothes or are they wearing the same thing every day? What are their limitations? Are they physical limitations, mental limitations or a combination of both?

It seems as though there is always a primary caregiver and then supporting caregivers. All of you may be hands-on helpers or a combination of hands-on and have in-home help. Being a caregiver or helper is hard. It is demanding, frustrating and tiring. Not everyone is good at being a hands-on caregiver. But, they can be great at other things.

Communi-friggin-cation is the key. You have to talk to each other. You have to work out a schedule. You have to figure out what your strengths are and what you are willing to do and what you are not comfortable doing. Maybe, you are good at doing most everything but personal hygiene tasks. Maybe personal hygiene tasks are okay with you, but you hate cooking and doing the laundry. Maybe your mom or dad needs help getting up out of bed or a chair. Do you know how to help them safely? You probably need training in how to lift and transfer them safely.

What happens when one sibling see things differently than another sibling with regards to where the parent is exactly “at” in their disease progression? De-Nile (denial) ain’t just a river in Egypt. When you cannot agree, it is time for a frank discussion with a social worker, their physician or me. Why would I say to meet with someone rather than tell you to roughshod over your sibling? Remember, your parent may tell one sibling one thing and something different to another. It is usually not malicious. They are trying to keep up appearances that they are okay.

A neutral third party can be objective, so that you and your siblings have a better understanding of where your loved one is, right now and also, what is to come. It is hard. We call it the practice of medicine, because there are no absolutes. We make the best decisions that we can with the information that we have right now. As the status or information changes we will make adjustments.

Some of you are thinking, but my sister is a looney tune. Others are thinking, my brother is the baby of the family and is no help at all. Other complaints include –  My sister is a know-it-all and a martyr. My brother lives out of state and thinks everything is fine. All my sister/brother wants is for them to die and get their money. My sister and I don’t get along. You may even hear, “I can’t bear to see mom/dad like that.” There is some kind of hurt or conflict in the sibling relationships.

If you love your mom or dad and want the best for them, then do what is best for them. Keep that your main goal and focus. You have compartmentalized before; you can do it again. You will get distracted and you will harp on your sibling(s). When you start griping and yelling about what “they are doing or not doing,” maybe it is time to refocus on the goal.

Have the roundtable discussion. Keep the main thing the main thing. Decide who will do what and by when. Calendar it. Place the calendar on Google Docs so everyone knows what is happening. Include your triggers for when it is time to bring in paid help. Of course, you need to figure out how and who is going to pay for it. Ideally, it will be from your loved one’s money or a long-term care insurance policy, but that is not always an option. Can the siblings pitch in money to help? Some can and some cannot. Be upfront about what you can and cannot contribute financially and time wise. You can make a plan when you know who and what you have to work with. You are looking for progress, not perfection.

Clues That You Are Acting out of Emotional Needs or Fighting Old Battles

  • Your level of emotion is out of proportion to the specific thing being discussed right now. For example: getting into a heated argument about which of you should go to the doctor with Dad next week.
  • You or your siblings criticize the way you think another person is being, for example: selfish, bossy, uncaring, irresponsible, or worse.
  • You feel that none of your siblings understands what Mom needs the way you do and you are the only one who can do certain things.
  • You or your siblings generalize a discussion, saying, for example, “You always do this!”
  • You or your siblings criticize the way one another feels, for example, “You don’t care anything about Mom.”

Here, I stole this from Family Caregiver Alliance.

Tips for Winning More Support from Your Siblings

  1. Try to accept your siblings—and your parents—as they really are, not who you wish they were. Families are complicated and never perfect. There are no “shoulds” about how people feel. They are not bad people or bad children if they don’t feel the same as you do. If you can accept this, you are likelier to get more support from them, or, at least, less conflict.
     
  2. Do not over-simplify. It’s easy to assume that you are completely right and your siblings are all wrong—or lazy, irresponsible, uncaring, etc. Each person has a different relationship with your parent, and each person’s outlook is bound to be different.
     
  3. Ask yourself what you really want from your siblings. Before you can ask for what you want, you need to figure this out, and that’s not always as simple as it seems. First of all, ask yourself whether you really, deep down, want help. Many caregivers say they do but actually discourage help. So, think hard. Do you want them to do certain tasks regularly? Do you want them to give you time off once in a while? Or do you feel you have everything under control but you’d like them to contribute money for services or respite?
     
  4. Or—and this is a big one for many caregivers—do you really not want them to do anything but you’d like more emotional support? Many caregivers feel lonely, isolated, and unappreciated. If you’d like your siblings to check in on you more, ask them to call once a week. And tell them it would really help if they would say “thanks” or tell you you’re doing a good job. They are more likely to do this if you don’t criticize them for what they are not doing.
    • Ask for help clearly and effectively.
    • Asking is the first step. You might ask for help by saying: “Can you stay with Mom every Thursday? I have to get the shopping done for the week and it gives me some time to myself.” Don’t fall into the common trap of thinking, “I shouldn’t have to ask.” Your siblings may assume that you have everything covered so they don’t recognize the added responsibilities and “burden.” They are involved with their own lives and struggles and not so attuned to yours that they can read your mind. Also, if you’re not exactly sure what you want from them, you may be giving them mixed messages.
    • Ask directly and be specific. Many caregivers hint or complain or send magazine articles about the hardships of eldercare. But these strategies do not work well.
    • Ask for what’s realistic. People get more when they don’t ask for the impossible. So, consider the relationship your sibling has with Mom or Dad and ask for what that person can really give. If your sister can’t spend ten minutes with Mom without screaming at her, don’t ask her to spend time; ask for something that’s easier for her, like doing paperwork or bringing groceries.
       
  5. Watch how you ask for help—and steer clear of the cycle of guilt and anger.
    • Avoid making your siblings feel guilty. Yes, really. Guilt makes people uncomfortable and defensive. They might get angry, minimize or criticize what you are doing, or avoid you. That is likely to make you angry, and then you will try harder to make them feel guilty. They will attack back or withdraw even more. And round and round you go.
    • Sometimes your siblings will criticize you because they are genuinely concerned about your parents. Try to listen to these concerns without judgment and consider whether it is useful feedback. At the same time, be bold by asking for appreciation for all that you are doing—and remember to say thanks back when someone is helpful.
    • Be careful of your tone and language when you request something. It’s not always easy to hear the way we sound to others. You might think you are asking for help in a nice way, but if you’re angry, that’s the tone your siblings will hear. And they’re likely to react in unhelpful ways.
       
  6. Get help from a professional outside the family. Families have long, complicated histories, and during this very emotional passage, it is often hard to communicate with each other without overreacting, misinterpreting, or fighting old battles. Even the healthiest families can sometimes use the help of an objective professional. People like family therapists, social workers, geriatric care managers, physicians, or clergy can help siblings establish what is real about a parent’s health and needs in order to help distribute responsibilities more equitably. In family meetings, they can help you stay focused on the topic at hand and help you avoid bringing up old arguments.
     
  7. Steer clear of power struggles over your parent’s assignment of legal powers. Whether or not you have been given your parents legal powers over finances or health, you need to remember that it is your parent who has made these decisions. If you have your Mom’s or Dad’s power of attorney, be sure to keep detailed records and send your siblings statements about how you have spent Mom’s money. This may seem like a lot of extra work, but record keeping is required by law, and being open will reduce distrust or distortion—and lawsuits. If a sibling has been given legal power, try to accept your parent’s decision and don’t take it as a personal attack on you. Do your best to work with the sibling who has the authority by presenting expenses and bills in black and white. If the sibling who has the purse strings doesn’t cooperate, then bring in a professional to explain your parent’s needs and to mediate. If you are concerned about manipulation, a changed will, or undue influence, contact your local Adult Protective Services.
     
  8. Don’t let inheritance disputes tear your family apart. If you feel wronged by the way your parents have divided their money and property, it’s natural to be upset, especially when you are grieving. You may feel that you deserve more because you have cared for your parents. If that’s what you feel, you need to discuss this with your parents while they are alive and can make these decisions. If you suspect foul play by another sibling, then this is the time to consult an attorney or Adult Protective Services.

Yet, research shows that most parents feel a need to leave their estates equally as a sign of their equal love for all their children. When they divide things unequally, it’s often because they are worried that a particular child will be in greater need. Whatever their reasons, remember that it was your parents, not your siblings, who decided this. Think hard before you take your anger or disappointment out on your siblings. They are what remains of your original family, and for most people, this relationship becomes more important after parents die.

The above 8 steps are from Family Caregiver Alliance

Will you agree to operate as a team for the best quality of life possible for your mom/dad? Teams set clear goals and responsibilities for team members. Everyone has a skillset, use the best person for the job. Set weekly calls with an agenda that has 3 things on it. Never more than 3. Focus on the here and now. NEVER start a statement with “you.” Use, “I feel, about a situation. Your bothers and sisters may have different ideas about the care needed. That is good. Talk about it and see if better options arise.

Be fair about the division of responsibilities. When you get off track, go back and focus on your goals for your mom or dad. You did write them down, didn’t you?

Shameless plug – I help families figure out where they are, what they will need in the future, develop an action plan to move forward and guide them.

Pat