Category: #caregivers

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

Signs of a bad caregiver.

Hired helpers are not the only ones to watch out for… family caregivers or helpers may be a bad caregiver too. They may not only be bad caregivers; they could be dangerous too.

June 1, 2022

If your loved one is not comfortable around the hired caregiver or the family caregiver, it may be that their personalities don’t mesh. Nothing good or bad is going on, just a mis-match. Sometimes, it is much more than that.

The caregiver may be well-meaning, but they do not have the experience or skills necessary to do the job right. This is more common in family members as caregivers and in hiring a private caregiver. Get references and check them out.

For example, you have a loved one that weighs 240 lbs. and the caregiver weighs 150 lbs. If your loved one needs help getting out of bed, bathing, transferring to a chair, and they cannot help themselves, what will happen? Dead weight is very heavy. If the caregiver has not had any training in lifting, transferring or bathing this type of person, what do you think is going to happen? Falls. Back pain and pulled muscles for the caregiver. Injury to your loved one. You can’t just pull someone up by their arm. Not to mention the dignity and respect issues. They are not a toddler and they deserve compassion, dignity and respect.

Look, they may be a bad caregiver. They may be a wonderful person, but they are not a good caregiver. They may be a good caregiver for someone else, but not for your loved one.

You have hired someone to help your loved one and to help out around the house with light housekeeping and cooking. You were specific on what you want/need and it has been agreed to by all parties, right? If not, fix that immediately. Never assume. Clarity cuts down on the aggravation. Create a task list.

Is your loved one out and about in the house or are they in their room “hiding?” Of course, they will need time to get used to their new caregiver, but it should not take a long time. Some folks are not used to have other people in their houses, especially people they do not know. Heck, some of them don’t want people they do know in their houses. Observe to see if it is a familiarity thing or a scared thing.

If your loved one is constantly complaining you have to determine if it is because they are frustrated that they are no longer able to do the things they used to do in their own home or is it more? You may have to ask questions along with observing how they are acting and what they are saying. If they don’t like the way the caregiver cooks, well, that is a complaint and can be fixed. If they are saying things like “they just sit there all day,” “they don’t talk to me or anything,” or “they talk to me like I am stupid,” those things may indicate poor treatment by a caregiver.

You see a bruise on the inside of their bicep area. Increased falls. Burns, cuts, scrapes or welts. Pressure ulcers or bed sores. Broken bones. These are all indicators of abuse and neglect. If the explanation does not make sense, trust your get and get them away from your loved one.

You are a long-distance daughter and you call to talk to your mom. The caregiver always makes some kind of excuse as to why they can’t talk, right now. Is the caregiver always in the room when you call and talk to them or in the same room when you go for a visit? This is a controlling behavior by the caregiver and is not appropriate.

Do they care/love their caregiver too much? Watch out for money being given to the caregiver. Watch out for too much closeness, too fast. It is perfectly fine for them to get along and to care for one another, but it still must be a professional relationship.

Your loved one seems to have declined physically (weaker, more tired) or emotionally (not their normal talkative self). There could be a medical reason. Weight loss or malnutrition are other indicators of inadequate care. It may not be abuse, some caregivers are over their heads with dementia patients, for example.

I would like to make the difference between a bad caregiver and an abusive caregiver. A caregiver can be a bad caregiver and not be abusive towards the care recipient. The caregiver has not been adequately trained for the care recipient. They don’t understand all that goes in to providing care or help to a person with limited mobility, a dementia or a traumatic brain injury. An abusive caregiver does harm to the care recipient or allows harm to impact the care recipient.

If you are suspicious, get the caregiver away from your loved one. At the very least put-up cameras or nanny cams to see what is going on in your absence. If you get a “feeling” or you know that something is not right, trust that instinct. Do not reason it away. You don’t have to know why you know; you just know.

FYI

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF SPECIFIC TYPES OF ABUSE

Physical abuseUnexplained signs of injury such as bruises, welts, or scars, especially if they appear symmetrically on two side of the body Broken bones, sprains, or dislocations Report of drug overdose or apparent failure to take medication regularly (a prescription has more remaining than it should) Broken eyeglasses or frames Signs of being restrained, such as rope marks on wrists Caregiver’s refusal to allow you to see the elder alone
Emotional abuseIn addition to the general signs above, indications of emotional elder abuse include Threatening, belittling, or controlling caregiver behavior that you witness Behavior from the elder that mimics dementia, such as rocking, sucking, or mumbling to oneself
Sexual abuseBruises around breasts or genitals Unexplained venereal disease or genital infections Unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding Torn, stained, or bloody underclothing
Neglect by caregivers or self-neglectUnusual weight loss, malnutrition, dehydration Untreated physical problems, such as bed sores Unsanitary living conditions: dirt, bugs, soiled bedding and clothes Being left dirty or unbathed Unsuitable clothing or covering for the weather Unsafe living conditions (no heat or running water; faulty electrical wiring, other fire hazards) Desertion of the elder at a public place
Financial exploitationSignificant withdrawals from the elder’s accounts Sudden changes in the elder’s financial condition Items or cash missing from the senior’s household Suspicious changes in wills, power of attorney, titles, and policies Addition of names to the senior’s signature card Unpaid bills or lack of medical care, although the elder has enough money to pay for them Financial activity the senior couldn’t have done, such as an ATM withdrawal when the account holder is bedridden Unnecessary services, goods, or subscriptions
Duplicate billings for the same medical service or device Evidence of overmedication or undermedication Evidence of inadequate care when bills are paid in full Problems with the care facility:
– Poorly trained, poorly paid, or insufficient staff
– Crowding
– Inadequate responses to questions about care

Pat

When is overthinking bad?

Calling all perfectionists and overachievers …

If you have a tendency to ruminate, excessively worry, second guess your decisions or even struggle to make decisions, you may be an overthinker. I would even bet that you have some OCD tendencies. The quirky kind, not the disabling kind.

May 18, 2022

My overthinking tendency is rumination. Sometimes, I recognize it and sometimes, I don’t. Yes, I have the quirky OCD tendencies. My paper money has to be in a certain order and turned all the same way. My shoes have to be placed next to each other and in the correct L/R order. Not just kicked off in any old way. I have to eat an even number of cookies. Enough about me. What are your tendencies? Are you able to recognize them? Can you recognize your triggers?

When does overthinking cause problems? When it paralyzes you from taking action? When it keeps you stuck? When you realize that you have spent hours on a problem/issue with nothing to show for it? Have you noticed that your mind will always come up with another “worry question?” There will always be another “what if,” or “if this, then that.”

Our brains go in to analysis mode, which is good. However, it is not good to stay there. At some point we do have to make a decision and move forward. One of the problems with overthinking is that we stay in the analysis mode even to the point of becoming paralyzed. You have heard the phrase, “analysis paralysis.” It most commonly happens when we have too much information or we “feel” that we do not have enough good information to make a decision. We want to make the best decision possible. That is always my main objective and I am sure it is yours too. What we don’t realize is that we keep looking for the answers that we cannot know until we make a decision. The real reason we keep searching, is because we must not fail. We cannot fail, it is too important.

I get it. I want to know all of the possible scenarios and the possible outcomes too. But, that is not the way the world works. Look at it this way, if you are in a competition, whether it is sports, band, game night, or whatever, you can play a perfect, errorless game and still lose. You did your best and you did not make any errors, but you still lost.

Use three trusted resources and allow appropriate time for research, reflection and choosing. I wish that I could tell you it was two hours, but maybe you need more or less time. Realize that your choice will not be perfect, but strive for “good enough, for now.” You can always make adjustments later. Maybe the best thing for you is two hours of research, discovering three possible options and then you take a day or two to think about those options (or you need to meet with others to flesh it out). Then it is time to make a decision.

Your brain(thoughts) will fight you. It will throw up all the “what ifs, buts, worst outcomes.” You can quiet it down. You can still make a decision. You can move forward.

Your thoughts are just that, thoughts. They are not reality. In fact, they may be lies. Learn to challenge your thoughts. Sometimes, you will have to throw the bullshit flag on your thoughts. We all want to control situations, outcomes and consequences. We are not that powerful. The reality is that we can make the best decision possible with the information that we have, at this moment in time. We cannot choose the consequences. We cannot choose the outcome. It sucks. We beat ourselves up too much for things we have absolutely no control over.

Is it possible to stop overthinking?

Find your pattern of overthinking. What moments or situations cause you to go in to the overthinking mode? Note – write them down when you find yourself in an overthinking situation

You will find your pattern. Then when you are aware of it, that is when you are able to notice your triggers and will then be able to work on your strategy or plans of action. For example, you will give yourself, two hours of research from trusted resources. You will develop two or three options. You give yourself time to think about the positives and possibilities of the options. (1 to 2 days) Our brains go to the worst-case scenario, so be prepared for that. Understand that the probability of that worst-case scenario will probably NOT happen. Of course, it could, but really how likely is it? Make a decision and implement the steps to move forward. Set a time for evaluation (2 weeks – 2 months). Make updates or changes, if needed. Re-evaluate in 2 weeks to 2 months, etc.

You do not have to believe everything that your thoughts are telling you. What is the evidence in this situation? What are the logical and reasonable possibilities? If a thought is not logical, reasonable or helpful, then tell it so. I know that this sounds crazy, but you do need to talk to yourself out loud or at the very least write down the conversation. Do not have the conversation in your head. It will just keep going around and around.

Talk with a trusted friend. They may be able to see things that you can’t. They may have a different perspective than you and can see other options or possibilities. They can also give you a kick in the butt, when you need it.

Walk, run, work out, do something physical. You need to burn off that cortisol energy. It will help your brain too.

If you find yourself overthinking in most situations, you may need to do some talk therapy. Talk therapy is a great tool, to help you see patterns, and how to make adjustments to move forward. Overthinking causes a great deal of stress and if you do not deal with stress, it can cause anxiety, depression, fatigue, headaches, stomach problems, etc.

How can you tell if you are overthinking?

When you find yourself focusing on the problem, you are probably overthinking.

The goal is to get in to the problem-solving or solution finding mode of thinking.

If you find yourself ruminating about the past or worrying about the future you are probably in the overthinking mode. If you are dwelling on how bad you feel or you are thinking about all the things that you have no control over, you are probably overthinking. Overthinking does nothing to prevent or to solve problems. Irrational fears often lead to overthinking.

You only have so much energy every day anyway, so why not use it for solution finding or problem-solving rather than ruminating or staying stuck on the problem. Practice quicker decision making. Start with dinner choices or dessert choices. Read your options and decide in 3-2-1- choice. This is the biggie, choose where to go for dinner. If you need to, have 3 choices, then pick. You can do this.

Sometimes, you just have to declare it DONE!

Pat

Is it a psychiatric illness or a drug-induced psychosis?

First, what is psychosis? Psychosis is a term used to describe when a person interprets or perceives reality in a different way than those around them. Psychosis may be a symptom of mental illness, but that is not always the case. Nobody knows exactly what causes psychosis.

May 11, 2022

Observations

Suzi visited her mom, Val Thursday after work. Suzi checks in on her about twice a week. Val is 70, active with high cholesterol, high blood pressure. arthritis, and mild depression. Val takes her medication regularly and as directed. Suzi notices that her mom is not quite herself. Val cannot follow the conversation and does not seem to be able to concentrate.

The first thing Suzi thinks is, an UTI. Possible dehydration. They go to the Dr., but the urine test comes back clean. No infection and her electrolytes are all in the normal range. Hmm. Now what? Nobody seems to know what to do next, but wait and see.

It is now a week later and Val is not better and in fact she is a little worse. She cannot remember if she has taken her meds or not. She is unsure of what has happened over the last three days. Suzi is getting more and more concerned. This is not normal and her mom has never been this way before. Suzi wonders if her mom is developing dementia, Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment.

In this particular case, her physician looked at her medications and had a consult with her pharmacist. They determined that most likely it was her blood pressure medication and/or her arthritis medication. Outside chance it could be anti-depressant med, but not likely. They began a withdrawal of HBP medication and started a different one. Val was some better, but not back to normal. It was not her arthritis medication; it was her anti-depressant medication. She was slowly weaned off of that and they did a wait-and-see approach to see if she needed to be on an anti-depressant anymore. Her mind cleared and she was back to her normal self.

While this case was a success, many more are not. No one thinks to check the medications. Why? Well, their thought processes go along these lines – She has been on these meds for three years or more. It came on suddenly, it must be a UTI or dehydration or she does indeed have the beginnings of mild cognitive impairment or a dementia.

Medications are not without risks and problems over time. As we age, our metabolization and kidney function decrease. We cannot clear meds as quickly or as easily as we once did. You know when your loved one is “not right.” You may not know what it is, but you know that something is wrong. Push for answers, never accept it is “just old age,” dementia, or other assumptions. Blood tests and urine tests need to be done. Medications need to be checked. Hydration and nutrition need to be addressed. We want to rule out any fixable problems.

Psychosis can be:

  • Due to stressful life experiences or trauma
  • Part of a neurological condition such as dementia. Alzheimer’s disease, or Parkinson’s disease
  • Triggered due to a brain injury
  • Medication side effects
  • Effects of illicit or illegal drugs such as marijuana or cannabis
  • Effects of alcohol withdrawal
  • Triggered by menopause
  • Triggered during times of severe stress or anxiety

As you can see, it is not black and white. Many things can trigger a psychosis. By the way, marijuana is not the gateway drug to addiction. Trauma is the gateway to addiction. The self-medication, whether it is alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, hydrocodone, heroin, etc., becomes the problem due to another problem. We have to deal with the primary problems first! Yeah, I know, we chased a rabbit there.

We don’t think about medications as causing a psychosis or a psychotic episode, but they sure can. Too often, we assume that it is a mental health issue. Maybe it is, but, we need to find out and rule out other fixable causes.

Understand that some classes of drugs can cause psychosis.

Classes of meds that may cause psychosis:

  • Muscle relaxants
  • Antihistamines
  • Antidepressants
  • Cardiovascular medications
  • Antihypertensive medications
  • Analgesics
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Antiparkinsonian medications
  • Chemotherapy agents
  • Corticosteroids
  • Stimulants

From the list above, you can see that the possibility is real that the psychosis is from a medication and not mental illness. Alcohol abuse or misuse is another inducer of psychosis.

Drug-induced psychosis usually only lasts until the medication/drug has cleared the body. Depending on the drug, the metabolization and clearing may take from 1 day to several weeks (if it is from a stimulant medication).

A healthcare professional needs to be contacted. They can decide where the safest place to “come-off” the medication will be. Drugs can affect different people in different ways. What causes a psychotic episode in one person may not cause a psychotic episode in another person. Genetics plays a part. Life experiences play a part. Pre-disposition to mental illness plays a part. Remember, mental health disorders can cause substance use or misuse on its own. The mental health disorder can be exacerbated or intensified by medication use, abuse or misuse, but it is not caused by the meds.

We should note that schizophrenia is not caused by drug use, abuse or mis-use. It may trigger schizophrenia symptoms in those people susceptible to schizophrenia.

Common signs and symptoms of psychosis includes:

Hallucinations – when you see, hear, feel or taste things that other people don’t

  • Hearing voices or sounds that others don’t
  • Seeing things that others do not see
  • Tasting things when you haven’t had or eaten anything
  • Feeling someone touching you who is not there
  • Smelling things which other people cannot smell

Delusions – unusual beliefs that other people in your “community” do not share, even though they feel real to you

You may worry:

  • That you are being followed by secret agents or members of the public
  • People are out to get you or to kill you (may be strangers or people that you know)
  • That a chip has been implanted in your brain to monitor your thoughts
  • That your food or water is being poisoned
  • That you are a powerful person or God

Cognitive impairments – these relate to mental action (learning, remembering, functioning)

  • Problems concentrating
  • Memory problems
  • Difficulties understanding new information
  • Having a difficult time making decisions

Alcohol, amphetamines, phencyclidine (PCP), cocaine, and hallucinogens are among the most common causes of drug-induced psychosis. Symptoms of drug psychosis include:

  • Paranoia and terror
  • Hallucinations. A person might see, smell, or hear things that aren’t there.
  • Delusions. A person may adopt demonstrably false beliefs, such as that a demon is pursuing them.
  • Dangerous behavior. A person might attempt to fly, harm themselves because a voice told them to do so, or become a danger to others. Some people who experience psychosis become aggressive.
  • Disconnection from other people or from reality. A person may appear catatonic or totally withdrawn.

Drug-related psychosis is distinct from other forms of psychosis in a few ways:

  • It appears while under the influence of or withdrawing from a drug.
  • It comes on suddenly.
  • It is typically more intense than other forms of psychosis.

Illicit/Illegal Drugs that most commonly cause substance-induced psychosis:

Methamphetamine

Cocaine

Marijuana

LSY

Peyote

Mushrooms

Ketamine (this is a Rx drug, but is used illicitly)

PCP

Ecstasy

This overview is so that you know and understand that medications can cause psychotic episodes. What signs and symptoms to look for? Contact your healthcare provider for withdrawal and monitoring needs.

Pat

Manage your energy, not your time!

Promises of a better life, an easier life, if you will only use the XYZ method of time management. You are convinced that if you knew and could master the trick of managing your time to be more and more productive, your life will be better.

April 27, 20222

How many phrases pull you in to the “That would make my life better and easier?” Probably, quite a few. Why? Because, we are dealing with crap that is standing in our way of our lives being better and easier.

We see the ads, we see the promises, and we even search for solutions. Of course, we are leery, we have either bought or done things before that did not work for us. Still, we search. Why? Because, we want better. Something is out there to help us; it just has to be.

What if we have thought about time all wrong? Maybe, we have only been managing deadlines, this whole time? Use a planner, they say. Planners and date books are great for solid meeting times, appointments or deadlines. There are list makers and there are fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kinds of people. I am a list-maker, but I have learned to leave space for spontaneous goings-on. Changes, reschedules, opportunities, missed out times, it is all good. Time marches on no matter what we do or don’t do. Our energy on the other hand, is finite. It does run out. We do need to rest and recharge.

When doing a physical activity that does not require a lot of focused attention to detail, we get tired. We rest, get cleaned up and we are ready to go again. When doing mental activities that take a lot of focused attention to detail, we have about three hours a day before that energy is zapped. Sorry, but a short rest and shower will not fix this energy depletion. The brain must rest, from processing information. Daydreaming is a nice way to rest the brain. Letting your thoughts wander is great too.

What can you do to rest your brain? 

  1. Go for a walk
  2. Take a nap between 10 minutes up to an hour
  3. Take a shower, leisurely
  4. Play sports
  5. Stretch
  6. Go outside
  7. Journal
  8. Color or Draw
  9. Watch animals play
  10. Listen to music

Find what works for you. If you know that you will be having to process a lot of information, learn when you perform at your best. You may already know that you can only be detail oriented for an hour and a half at a time. Great, you have two of those blocks per day.

Depending on how detail oriented I need to be or how much research that I need to do, I know that I have about three hours a day for that intensity. After that, I will need to do other tasks that do not take as much effort and energy. My best times are usually from 11:30 am – 1:30 pm and from 2 pm – 4:00 pm. If I have reading and research to do, I protect that time frame so that I will be at my best to work on my clients needs.  I check email once in the morning and once in the late afternoon. I scan the news in the morning and late afternoon. I check Twitter and facebook mid-day and late afternoon. I have this routine and I don’t waste any brain energy trying to figure out what I am going to do or not do next. Routines and habits help you conserve brain energy.

We can all go down rabbit holes at any time. We learn to catch ourselves doing that, course correct and go forward. Mindless scrolling, is a rabbit hole. If you are having trouble with that, set a timer for 10 minutes. Do something else. Read. Journal. Chores. Plan for the next day. Walk. Daydream.

Learning to calm yourself benefits your brain too. When you focus on the problem or issue, you get stuck because you cannot think about it in any other way. By taking a break, getting away, playing or being fully present in the moment, you can rest and let your brain work in the background. Who knows, it may come up with a brilliant new way to look at the situation or find even better options.

New perspectives. New ways to think about brain energy. New ways to plan your day. Give them a try for two weeks and see how you are doing. Make adjustments, you may be surprised at how much better you feel and how much easier your tasks become. You get to do your most intense work when it is best for you, your brain and your body.

Pat

Conflicting thoughts and how to decide what is best for you.

Conflicts inside our mind

We all have them, the mixed feeling or conflicting thoughts. What does it do to us? How do they make us feel? They stress us out. They make us tired both emotionally and physically. We stay paralyzed because we don’t want to make a wrong decision. It hurts us worse to make a wrong decision than it does to make a potentially right decision.

April 20, 2022

Internal conflict is the experience of having opposing psychological beliefs, desires, impulses or feelings.

A few examples:

  1. You feel frustrated and angry at the health care system (doctors, hospitals, insurance companies) but, yet, you need them.
  2. You are disappointed in the lack of communication but you are unsure how to fix it.
  3. You are not sure that your loved one has the financial resources that they will need to have the best care possible for them, yet, you are not sure how much, if any, you can contribute.
  4. To be an advocate, you need good, science-based information that works for you and your needs.
  5. The frustration of unmet clinical concerns (diagnoses, treatment plans, home needs).
  6. Our inner child emerges and is ready for battle.
  7. Our compassion and losing the ability to be compassionate.
  8. Our Ego gets bruised and then we act out instead of seeking to find the best solution.
  9. Conflict with yourself – taking care of yourself along with taking care of your loved one.
  10. Unresolved family issues rear their ugly head.
  11. And many more…

What is causing this inner agitation? Ruminating thoughts? Troubling thoughts? Feeling like the thoughts are in control? You experience this out of control feeling and you just keep spinning your wheels. There is an element of fear. In fact, the “fear” of something is always at hand.

When your mind is relieved of the stress, those feelings of conflict and turmoil will disappear. Our minds want to be in a state of calm. We like it when things are copasetic. So, how do we get there?

Your thoughts and not always true. Identify what thoughts are causing the distress. Do you have competing or conflicting thoughts? Get your paper and pen out. Write the competing thoughts down. Under them, write down the good points about each of them. We are looking for win/win ideas. Now you have to change hats to be the mediator. As a mediator you are looking for the best options for RIGHT NOW. There will be give and take. Get rid of the “either – or” mindset, look for a “both – and” mindset.

Have you figured out that the biggest problem is between your WANT and REALITY? Yes, it sucks, but more times than not that is what the conflict is about. Does that mean we give up? Of course not. Making things the best they can be under the parameters that we have is our goal. Rarely, do we have a perfect reality anyway so we know that we can course correct and move forward. We are made for challenges. Take the limits off of your thinking. Let’s try and see.

You are the one in control of your thoughts and your feelings. No one else. That is powerful. That is an “in control of me” empowering feeling. You have to be the one to learn how to handle your strong emotions and feelings. Drill down deep, what are they trying to tell you? Yes, they do have a message. They are ALWAYS trying to keep you safe. They will always raise a ruckus. It is your job to listen, step back and figure out what is real and what is not real. Are you safe, right now? Is this an old trigger? Is this a pattern? I know we just chased a squirrel her.

Back on task.

What does the evidence say to you?

What does the logic say to you?

Reasoning is a powerful tool for the mind. To be able to reason well, we need correct and true information. Three trusted sources is sufficient for you to make a well-reasoned decision. A trusted source is NOT ‘they said and I heard.”

Remember, we buy with emotion and justify with logic. Sometimes, we keep looking for sources to help us justify the way that we want. We keep searching until we find what we WANT it to be.

Be careful about how you are searching for information. Do you want the facts or do you want the biased information that will support what you want? When you know the facts and your options, you will actually feel much better about your decision. You will know that you have done everything possible to get the best information available at the time to help you make a decision. It doesn’t mean that it will be easy. It doesn’t mean that you won’t wonder? It doesn’t mean that you won’t make a mistake. We are human, we will probably always wonder. But those are just thoughts. They are not reality. The reality is that you did the best you could with the best information that you had at the time. Very few decisions are final. Oops, that did not work as well for us, so, you make adjustments and move forward. Progress over perfection.

Write these things down and answer them:

I am concerned about ____________________________________________________

I am afraid that _____________________________________________is going to happen.

Write down all the possible outcomes that you are thinking about.

Make 3 columns – Thoughts that reinforce Negative outcomes, Thoughts that make the situation stay the same, Thoughts that are Growth/Goal oriented realistic outcomes

Try to focus on the thoughts that are growth/goal oriented realistic outcomes. These thoughts are the motivators to help you take action.

Consider what you really want. What are your life values?

We want balance between our head and our hearts. When it is out of balance we have inner conflict. You are having trouble or confusion between accepting and aligning your belief with what is being presented to you. Accept the duality. Sometimes, you need to be still and breathe, just deep breathe. Allow your thoughts to calm down so you can think more rationally. Think about your life values and the principles that you live your life with. Decisions are hard. If you have no good decision, then which decision will you least regret making?

Pat

When to take a rest day.

How caregiving is like working out, rest days are important.

April 13, 2022

Why is it okay to take a rest day or two from working out but, it is not okay to take a rest day from care giving or helping your loved one? Think about that. We have the research and the information about listening to our bodies. That rest days are just as important as workout days. That if you cannot mentally concentrate on a lifting day, you are better off skipping that workout. If you push through your chances of injury are greatly increased. Then what? You got it… you will have to take four to six weeks off to heal.

Helping out a loved one is the same kind of thing. Sometimes it is mentally exhausting and sometimes it is physically exhausting. You know that you need a break, but will you take a break? Will you push through? For how long? At what cost to you and your own health?

These are things that all of us need to think about. The problem is that we don’t think about these things. We just jump in and do. That is great, if it is for a short time. The problems arise after we have been helping for a longer period of time. Three to six months is what I consider a longer period of time. At about 18 to 24 months burnout has begun, if you have not gotten help or taken time outs.  

I get it. It is hard when you are in the big middle of things to think about what would be best for all involved. You get in to survival mode and you just do. Some of us don’t want to think about what would be best for us and for out loved one. Thinking is hard and it takes a lot of energy when you are learning new things or doing new things. Remember, you only have about three hours of focused energy per day to use. When are your good hours? When are you able to concentrate and work on detailed projects the best? The rest of the day, you can do the things that do not take as much mental energy or focus.

Developing habits are good for us. They decrease the expenditure of mental energy. Basically, when we have habits, we do them and we do not have to waste any mental energy or focus to think about the “who, what, when, where, why” things. We just do. We have already learned. Some folks call it discipline and others call it a routine.

As with most of us, the most aggravating thing is trying to figure out where to go for dinner. How much time and energy is wasted on this simple act? We ask each other, “Where would you like to go?” The reply is usually, “I don’t care, where do you want to go?” Yes, you know what is coming next. “How about the Roadhouse, you ask?” Wait for it …. The reply is … “I don’t want to go there.” Here comes the hard part … do you say this or just think it? “Obviously, you do care. So, where do you want to go?” The back and forth continues, until finally a place is chosen. How do you feel after this discussion? Tired? A little miffed? Wondering why it is a chore to pick a place to eat? Sometimes, you can give them three options and they still do not like any of them. But, they don’t have any options to give you. Why is that? Sorry about that, I digressed.

How does the rest of your evening go? If both of you can let it go, the evening will probably be okay. If one or both of you do not let it go, then chances are you will not be having pleasant conversation the rest of the evening.

I wonder how much better and easier it would be if one of us said, from the beginning, “I would like to go to the Roadhouse, do you want to go?” The other person can say yes or offer another suggestion. Then the suggestion could be taken or not and they can go or stay at home. Shoot, one person gets to pick this time and next time the other person gets to pick.

We are trying to get a consensus, but sometimes that is not possible. The same thing happens when you are a helper or care giver. You may or may not get a consensus. A “good enough” decision has to be made. NOT perfect. Progress, not perfection is what we are after.

If you do not have habits or routine, try this for two weeks and see how you do and how you feel. Plan your breakfast every day. It does not matter if you eat at home or go and pick something up. Figure out what it will be the night before. Pick out your clothes and shoes the night before. Stick to this routine for two weeks.

Hopefully, you will find that having a routine frees your mental energy for other things. What day or days do you clean the house? Do laundry? Change the sheets? Workout? Run or walk? Schedule them like an appointment, until they become a habit. When they become a habit, the less focused mental energy you will use and will have that energy to do other things. Learning to manage your energy is much more efficient than managing time.

Which of these fits you today?

8 SIGNS YOU NEED A REST DAY

1. YOUR RESTING HEARTRATE IS ELEVATED

2. YOU FEEL TIRED

3. YOU’RE MOODY

4. YOU FEEL SICK

5. YOU’RE ALWAYS SORE

6. YOU’VE HAD A FEW BAD WORKOUTS IN A ROW

7. NOTICE YOU’RE NOT GETTING ANY STRONGER

8. YOU FEEL THAT YOU NEED A REST DAY

From Tough Mudder https://toughmudder.com/blog/no-excuses/signs-need-a-rest-day/

14 Signs you need a rest day from being a helper or care giver

  1. Feeling “trapped” or hopeless
  2. Losing patience or compassion for your loved one
  3. Overreacting to small accidents
  4. Resenting or neglecting your loved one
  5. Withdrawing from your personal hobbies and friendships
  6. Oversleeping or not sleeping enough
  7. Overeating, not eating enough, or eating a lot of high-sugar foods
  8. Having health problems
  9. Abusing drugs or alcohol
  10. Having thoughts of suicide
  11. Making mistakes
  12. You are irritable
  13. Signs and symptoms of depression
  14. You feel exhausted most of the time

I can’t say it any better than Daily Caring has said it in their article.

6 WAYS TO MAKE IT EASIER FOR CAREGIVERS TO TAKE A BREAK

1. Accept that you’ll feel guilty
Guilt is a normal part of caregiving simply because you care – it’s never going to disappear. 

Don’t let this stop you from getting the caregiving help you need.

Taking regular breaks is the best way to maintain your overall health and your ability to provide care.

Besides, how good would you feel if you never took any breaks and your health declined to the point where you could no longer care for your older adult? 

It doesn’t do them any good if you’re not physically or mentally well enough to be their caregiver.

2. Don’t ask your older adult for permission
This isn’t a decision that your older adult gets to make. 

Many older adults refuse outside help because they’re uncomfortable with the idea. 

And someone with dementia doesn’t have the cognitive ability to make a rational decision.

When seniors refuse, they’re not thinking of your needs and are often not considering their own true needs either. 

That’s why you need to make the decision, regardless of how they feel about it.

All that matters is that they’re safe and well cared for when you’re not there.

3. Start before you really need it (if possible)
It may take some time to find the right person to help and for them to learn the caregiving routines. 

That’s why it’s helpful to find help before you really need it.

When you’re putting together a team of family, friends, and volunteers, it can be less stressful if you have some time to get the team in place and work out the details.

To make the transition easier, you could have someone come and shadow you until they learn the ropes and can be left alone with your older adult. 

Or, you could have someone come for a short time in the beginning and gradually increase their time as everyone adjusts to the new situation.

4. Combine paid services with help from friends, family, and volunteers
Hiring caregiving help can be expensive. But even if the cost is high, maintaining or improving your health is worth it.

Being open to different sources of help also lowers the cost of taking regular breaks. 

Ask family or friends for help and seek out local volunteer programs that offer companionship services.

Then supplement those hours with paid help as needed.

5. Check in to know that your older adult is well-cared-for
You might be afraid or nervous to leave your older adult with a stranger or a family member with limited experience. 

To give you greater peace of mind, use simple, discreet ways to keep an eye on them and make sure they’re treating your older adult well.

You could sometimes come back early as a surprise check-in to see what’s been happening. 

Or while you’re out, call occasionally to hear how things are going. 

Another good move is to ask the caregiver to take notes so you’ll know what happened while you were out.

6. Be creative when introducing the hired caregiver
Nobody wants to be told that they’re getting a babysitter. 

If your older adult is very resistant to outside help, be sensitive and creative when introducing them to the household. 

A careful approach is especially important to prevent seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia from reacting with fear or anxiety.

For example, you could introduce the person as your helper around the house and have them help you with meal prep, light housekeeping, and simple care tasks. 

After a few of these visits, it will seem normal that they’re around and it will be easier for you to leave to “run errands.”

You could also position it as doing that person a favor. Perhaps you could say that this person is in need of extra income, so you’re helping them out with a few hours of work here and there.

If family or friends are helping, you could say that they wanted to visit and spend some time catching up. When they become regular visitors, you can start popping out to “run errands.”

By DailyCaring Editorial Team

Pat

Are there any positive benefits to being a family helper or care giver?

Sandwich generation

February 2, 2022

So often we talk about the stressors and negative consequences of helping a loved one. But, what about the positive things that can happen? There actually are some benefits.

Care giving is full of ups and downs. Every day may be different. Different is not always a bad thing. You may even have more pleasant days than bad days. I know, some of you are thinking that pleasant days are not what you experience. I get it, not everything is going to be pleasant.

Think back to a rough day. One where it took you three hours to get them dressed and fed. Maybe, it was a day that they did not recognize you and they balked at every turn. It gets emotionally draining. We tend to remember all the problems and struggles that we deal with. Why? I am sure our amygdala has something to do with it. LOL. Look, we remember it because it messed with our plans. We hit a resistance or barrier of some kind. Did we shift our focus or try another way or even try again later? Nope. We pushed through and made it happen. What was left in our wake? Wasted time. Hurt feelings. Frustration. We just reinforced all of the negative feelings. We forgot to focus on the small victories. They can still get dressed and they can still eat. They can still get out. Your unmet expectations are what really caused the “problems.”

While we are focusing on a dementia or Alzheimer’s related issue today, it could be any chronic health condition that causes a decline in our loved one. A physical decline and/or a mental decline happens in a lot of other diagnoses.

I wish that I could tell you there are predictable patterns. It all depends on what area(s) of the brain are affected. Their brain is failing. You may experience a problem with the bathing issues and someone else may be dealing with the 500 questions a day issue (the same 500 questions). Maybe, they are still quite mobile and wander off, repeatedly. You must realize that all of these behaviors are UNCONTROLLABLE for folks with dementia. Alzheimer’s is the most common dementia. Analyze your own response to the frustration. See what you can modify or change to make the process go more smoothly. If you find yourself getting more and more frustrated, it is past time for you to take a break.

Next time, focus on what they can do. See what they can do for themselves, even if it takes longer. What would you consider a success, taking their limitations or bad days in to account? Go in with a smile and a warm fuzzy feeling in your attitude. They will pick up on that. Spend a few minutes talking with them. Touching them gently on the arm or shoulder. Use the phrase, “we are going to _____________ now.” One thing at a time. One arm at a time. Speak to them and tell them what “we” are doing in a calm, loving voice. Take a break, if they need to. You will still complete the tasks much easier and faster if they are helping and not fighting you. How ever long you think it should take … multiply that by 4. That is your timetable.

It will be in the small things that you will see what you have accomplished. Their calmness and trust will be so amazing. Even if they are no longer verbal, they sense emotions and do it quite well. They may look at you and not know your name or maybe not even who you are. But, they know that you are someone that cares about them, that loves them because they sense it.

You have a purpose. To help someone that you love have the best quality of life possible for them.  It feels good to have a purpose. It feels good to help someone that you love. They have helped you and now you get to help them.

You being there is important. None of us want to be alone. Your time, effort and attention provides comfort to them. I hope that brings you comfort and joy.

You find yourself talking with them. For the first time, in a long time, you are having a real conversation. Telling and listening to stories.

You will be changed by this experience. Maybe you figure out what you want and what you do not want when you reach their age. Maybe you see the things that you need to take care of now, so your kids won’t have to struggle to find the information needed.

You probably will never receive an award for being a helper or care giver to your loved one. You may never even be appreciated. You may never be acknowledged for what you do or what you have sacrificed.  Did you really do it for the accolades? Probably not, but some people do.

What if you haven’t been close and they need you now? Could this be a time of mending fences? Could this be a time of moving forward? What about resolving old hurts or negative feelings?

Care giving can teach you a big lesson about control. As in, you are not in control and you cannot control the outcomes. That, sucks! It is a lesson that we all need to learn. We can do our best. We can make plans. We can implement the plans. But, we have no control over the outcome.

Your own kids are watching you. They are watching how you act towards your mom, dad, spouse or partner. They are listening to what you say. They are observing what you do and how you handle problems or stressful situations. You are modeling for them what to do and how to act. Your attitude towards your loved one may very well become their attitude towards you when you need their help.

Even with all of the positives of helping a loved one … we all need to take breaks to rest and recharge.

Pat

p.s. Share this blog with your friends.

Almost half of caregivers will not ask for help. Why?

January 26, 2022

At first, it did not take too much time or effort to help them. Your mom needed a little help with running errands and doctor appointments. Your dad needed some help with cleaning the gutters or getting the oil changed. Your wife needed help getting to her hair and nails appointment. Your husband needed help with mowing the lawn and going to the barber. Nothing major and it didn’t take too much time or effort to help them.

As the months fly by, more and more is required of you. More of your time. More of your effort. More of you moving your schedule around. At about the 18 months mark, you are getting a little tired. You are beginning to feel more and more frustrated. You have had to miss work. You have missed your kids school functions. You have missed your kids’ ballgames. You look up and realize that you have not seen your best friend in months. You have not been out to eat in a long time.

Your body is aching. You are tired. You realize that you have not been doing your favorite activities that keep you in shape or keep your stress level down. Walking, running, swimming, weight lifting, yoga, playing cards, gardening, reading, etc. You try to think back to when that all stopped. Maybe you remember, maybe you don’t because it was a slow process.

When was the last time I saw __________________? When was the last time that I had any fun? When was the last time that I spent a weekend with my husband, partner or family? When was the last time that I spent time with my wife or partner to reconnect? Hell, when was the last time that I had time to myself to do what I wanted to do?

About the 18 months to 2-year mark, you usually need help. Sometimes, things are going well and you just need a break. Sometimes, things are not going well at all and you don’t know what to do to make things better. This is usually the time that I am called in and we troubleshoot, create plans of action and get the support system up and running.

Everyone needs a support system. It would be best to gather all of those folks at the beginning. Why? Because, eventually you are going to need them, their talents and their help. Don’t wait until there is a crisis to figure out who is good at what. Don’t wait until there is a crisis to find out who is willing to provide hands-on help and who is willing to provide other services such as running errands, doing the laundry, cooking meals, mowing the lawn, cleaning the house, etc.

If you ask people to do what is uncomfortable for them to do, they will do one of two things. One, they will decline to help. Two, they will do it, but they will resent it and will find ways to never have to do it again. Not everyone can or should provide the hands-on care. Maybe they are comfortable with hands-on care up to a point. Find out what that stopping point is! Mine is the toileting and bathing habits. I am not too good at sitting with them for long periods of time either, I preferred to get out and about with mama and she preferred that too. I used to beat myself up for not being able to do the toileting and bathing things. I certainly loved and cared for my mama. I wanted her to have her needs met and have the best possible care. I had to realize my strengths and my weaknesses. I had to understand that it was not about me, it was about what she needed and who could best provide those things.

I can do any of the medical stuff but, I cannot do the toileting or the bathing stuff. Isn’t that strange? Looking back, I had medical know-how and training, but I never had training for daily care. Maybe, that would have made a difference. In my case, I don’t think so. I do believe care givers need to be trained in helping with the activities of daily living. You can hurt your loved one or yourself if you do things incorrectly. Care giving is hard work. It is physically demanding. It is emotionally draining. It is mentally taxing.

We sure do it though, don’t we? Even if you provide hired help or see to your loved one’s care, you are a care giver. Even if you are hours away or states away and you see that their needs are met, you are a care giver. We see ourselves as helpers and not as care givers, but we are care givers. Why is that important? Because, being a care giver has health consequences for us. Being a helper or a care giver impacts our entire family.

Asking for help is necessary for good care. It is good for the care receiver and it is good for the care giver. Why do you need to ask for help? Because at the beginning, folks did ask you how they could help you. You didn’t really need the help then. They would keep asking for about a year and then they would stop asking. Why? It wasn’t because they no longer wanted to help. It was because, every time they asked, you said no. So, they stopped asking. They figured, if you needed help, you would let them know. You needed help, but you did not let them know. You are so busy. You are stressed. Take a breather. Be open to the possibility that others are willing to help. You make that call and state what you need. Yes, state what you need. Be specific. If they can, they will. If they can’t, they won’t. Call the next person and state what you need. For example, I need mom to be taken to the hair dresser on Thursday at noon, to the grocery store after that and stay with her until 4:00. Not, can you help me with mom on Thursday?

By stating what you need, you have given them the opportunity to see what needs to be done and if they can make it happen. Maybe, they can do all of it, maybe they can do the hair dresser and grocery store. It is much easier to decide if you know what will be expected of you and the time frame. It is always the unknown or ambiguous that will cause us to hesitate and probably say no. Another example is that you need someone to sit with your mom for 6 hours on Saturday. Don’t ask if they can sit/stay with her for 6 hours. They will freak out. They don’t know what to do with her for 6 hours. Give them some activities to do. Lunch out, if possible. Watch a movie, play cards or a board game.

Use “I” statements. I need a break to take care of my stuff. I want you to _______. Try your best not to use “You” statements. That is a fight or hurt feelings just waiting to happen. The word “you” gets everybody’s back up and on the defense.

Maybe you do need them to sit with a loved one who is unable to do much of anything anymore. You still need to tell them how to be helpful. Give her 2 oz. of water to drink every hour or so. Tell them that she will need to be prompted to drink. Tell them when and what to feed her. Tell them what medications they need to take and when.  Let them know her schedule, TV shows, nap time, etc. Let them know that they need to check on her every hour and that they can watch TV, watch a movie or do their work. Maybe, they need to hold her hand or just be in the same room with her.

 Tell them what to expect. Sure, you know, but they do not know. They want to help and they want to do it right. It would also be helpful to give them a phone number of someone else to call, if they have questions. NOT your number, someone else’s number. You are taking a break.

Look, the more you have prepared them, the more likely it will be a success for all involved. The more successful it is, the more likely it is that they will help you again. Win-win-win. You win. Your loved one wins. The helper has helped you and feels good about that because they care about you.

The helper will not do it exactly like you do it and that is okay. There are always more ways to do things. Don’t be a micro-manager. You trust them to stay with your loved one so trust them to handle the tasks.

Why is it so hard to ask for help?

  • You are having difficulty trusting someone else to do the job “right.”
  • You won’t let go of the need to control things
  • Guilt over leaving the person in someone else’s care
  • Worry over the quality of care if you are not there from day to day overseeing everything
  • You may be too overwhelmed to ask for help
  • You think that you are being selfish if you put your needs first
  • I promised my father that I would always take care of my mother
  • I am responsible for my parent’s health
  • If I do it right, I will get the love, attention and respect that I deserve
  • You feel inadequate if you ask for help
  • My loved one refuses to let anyone else help & guilt trips me
  • My siblings are jockeying for power

Change your mindset

Realize that asking for help is smart. It is not selfish. If you burnout, who will be there to help care for your loved one? Give yourself permission to enjoy your own life. Realize the importance of taking care of your own health (physically, emotionally and mentally.) Understand that a break is essential and not a luxury. While this is easier said than done, turn off your care giving mind. A few hours of reconnecting with others, a dinner out, a long hot bath and sleeping in your own bed, can do wonders.

Asking for help is necessary for both you and the care receiver. See, it is not all about you.

Some tools/tips to help you ask for help:

  • Have a list of people to call
  • Have a list of needs/projects to be handled
  • Consider the person’s strengths when asking
  • Ask different people, do not use the same person each time
  • Pick the best time to ask for help
  • Be prepared for refusals
  • Understand their hesitancy
  • Don’t take it personally, when someone you have asked cannot help, this time
  • Be assertive, but don’t be an ass

Our emotions exist for a reason. They let us know when something is out of whack or off kilter. Learn from them. Don’t push them down, don’t ignore them, learn from them. Even if you push them down, they will come out in other ways. If you are providing care for a loved one you will experience many different emotions. Emotions are not wrong or bad, they just are. Be curious about them, ask why you are having this emotion or feeling? No judging! Maybe some of your emotions are telling you that you need to make a change in your care giving situation. You have probably begun the grieving process. You are experiencing an increase in stress. That it is time for you to ask for help. It is time to be assertive.

  • Who are the 5 people you will contact?
  • What will be on your list of chores/projects?
  • What days and times will you need a break?

Write it down. When will you complete these lists? Write it down. When will you start making these calls to get people on board? Write it down.

What gets written down, gets done.

Pat

How many times this past week have you felt enervated?

January 12, 2022

Have you ever had a cold that really kicked your butt? One that has left you so tired that your eyelids are heavy and you just want to sleep? But, you can’t lie down because you can’t breathe. Friggin’ congestion! You want something to drink but nothing tastes good.

You try to do your work and get on with your day, but you have about two hours and that is it. No more energy to think and work. No more energy to walk around. As my youngest used to say, “pillow, blankey, go night night.” What a great idea, but you can’t, too much to do. Besides, if you try to lie down, you can’t breathe. Friggin’ congestion.

In trying to do this blog, I could not find anything interesting to write. I am tired and I have no more mental energy and no real physical energy. “Pillow, blankey, go night night.” Nope, I have to finish my work. Besides, I can’t lie down … I can’t breathe. Friggin” congestion.

I was going to do mental energy versus physical energy and when they are spent what happens. Maybe, another day.

I found this word, “Enervated.” I was curious and had to find out more about it. I know what innervated means, but what does enervated mean? According to Thesaurus.com it means exhausted or worn out. That’s me, I am exhausted and worn out from this cold.

So, how many times this past week have you felt enervated?

What is zapping your energy? It doesn’t always have to be an illness that makes you feel enervated. It could be feeling like you have too much to do. It could be that you haven’t been sleeping well and you are physically tired. When we figure out what zaps our energy we can decide to do something about it or let it ride and always feel enervated. A cold will last 7 – 14 days and then it will be over. Not everything is self-limiting, but we really do have the power to set boundaries, conserve our energy and feel better.

Don’t manage your time, manage your energy for a better day. Think of the things that zap your energy as either energy zappers or energy vampires. Make a check-off sheet and see what are your true energy zappers or energy vampires.

Get a sheet of paper and across the top, label Energy zapper, Physical, Mental, Emotional

Draw lines from the top of the paper down to the bottom. Now, when something zaps you, write down what it is or who it is and then mark the appropriate box on Physical, Mental, Emotional box.

After about four days, you will have a pretty good idea of who and/or what is zapping your energy. Then you get to decide what to do to conserve your energy. Do you need help? Do you need to take a break? Do you need to be a better manager of your energy? No judgments allowed. You are on a fact-finding mission.

I look forward to hearing what your energy zappers are. If you find a person to be one of your energy zappers, please give them a code name or a false name.

The only person that you can change is you. You can change how you react or deal with a situation. You cannot change another person. The only person that will set boundaries for your own good, is you. When you are sick with a cold, you will have to take care of yourself ‘cause no one else will. Maybe, you will need to take a couple of days off from work AND from other responsibilities to let your body rest and heal.

Now, my mental ability is spent and I am not sure that the previous paragraph even makes sense. It did to me, at the time. I would go lie down, but, I can’t ‘cause I can’t breathe. Friggin’ congestion.

Pat

Wednesday Wonderings …Rules for “Vivi the Ventor” and “Lindsay the Listener”

December 1, 2021

Right off the bat …

To all of our partners, spouses and friends and families:

  1. Yes, we love you, we want the best for you and we want to help, if possible.
  2. No, we do not know when you are just venting.
  3. No, we do not know when you want suggestions or solutions nor when you don’t.

If you are anything like me, you get in to so much trouble by assuming others are asking for your help, ideas or solutions when really they are just venting and want to be heard. I am not opposed to listening and letting someone be heard, I need to know that is what you want. Have you ever noticed that the same people that want you to “just listen,” are also the same people that get pissed when you don’t offer solutions or help them when they are ranting and raving? It truly is a no-win situation. You get into trouble when you just listen and then you get in to trouble when you offer solutions or suggestions.

Let’s have an agreement for the “Ventor” and the “Ventee” aka the Listener. What will this agreement do? It will get everyone on the same page at the same time. It will improve your communication. Since communifriggin’cation is the key to everything, it might just stop the needless fighting, anger or hurt feelings.

I would suggest that you work on the agreement as soon as possible. Once the talking/venting begins it is too late. Each of you have unique ways that you deal with things. Your friends, partner, spouse, families do not deal with things the same way as you. If you only do one thing …make it clear that you just want to be heard, understood and supported OR you want ideas, help and possible solutions. Come up with two words that you can say and the other person understands. For example, you can say “rant” then the other person will know that you want to vent. If you say “help,” then they know to listen and then help you come up with possible solutions.

What happens if Vivi starts talking and Lindsay has no clue about what to do? Then Lindsay has to listen, understand, and empathize. No Fixing! No offering suggestions! I know that to just listen, understand and empathize is very hard to do. I always want to fix it or find a solution. I am a work in progress, but I am getting better and better at not offering unsolicited advice.

Rule #1 – The person being talked TO is “Lindsay the Listener” and the person doing the talking is “Vivi the Ventor.” Be quiet and listen for understanding, and NOT to reply.

Rule #2 – “Lindsay the Listener” will have to be on their toes ‘cause when “Vivi the Ventor” starts talking, they just start talking. You have no warning and are hardly ever told by Vivi that they “just want to vent.”  As the current “Listener”, you must become the one that takes those two seconds to breathe and think before responding in any way, shape or form. Lest you become the one getting yelled at! If you have not been told if this is a venting session or a brainstorming session, then you must ask nicely.

Rule #3 – “Vivi the Ventor” has a responsibility to tell “Lindsay the Listener” what is going on and what is expected of them. No assuming allowed.

Rule #4 – “Vivi the Ventor” gets to feel however they feel.

Rule #5 – “Vivi the Ventor” and “Lindsay the Listener” both must agree to be respectful towards each other.

Rule #6 – Vivi may need to vent or discuss but Lindsay either cannot handle it at the moment or has something else that needs to be dealt with. Set a time to talk later.

Rule # 7 – Do not interrupt. You may ask for clarification when they are finished with their thoughts. Repeat back to them what you have heard to make sure you understand.

Rule # 8 – Be fully present. Do Not look at your phone or the TV.

Some people are natural born problem solvers and others need some time to figure out what course of action to take. What are the known challenges that are preventing you from moving forward? What are some barriers that arise once you begin moving forward? Identifying challenges and barriers are easy for some people and not so easy for others. We all have different perspectives and life experiences. Different is not bad or wrong, it is just different.

Are you able to listen for understanding or are you waiting for your turn to respond? Are you willing to be uncomfortable when they express their feelings/concerns? It is much easier to rush to problem solving than it is to deal with feelings and emotions that are being caused by the problem. Everyone gets to have their own feelings and everyone deserves to have their feelings validated. You may not agree with their feelings or emotions and that is fine, but they get to have them and feel them. Maybe all the other person needs to hear is “that sucks” or “I am sorry that you are having to deal with that.” Maybe, they just want to know that you have their back no matter what.

Learn what empathetic listening means. Empathy is about listening to the emotions and feelings that the other person is describing. Maybe you could ask, “How do you feel about this?” They probably want to feel supported by you. Understand where they are coming from and what they are feeling about what has happened.

Venting can have a dark side. If you find yourself venting about the same things over and over again then it is time to move on to problem solving. Are you venting for more than 3 minutes? If so, you are probably replaying the same thing over and over again while getting madder and madder. You are letting it become entrenched in your thoughts. That is not doing you any good and it may keep you ruminating about the issues. Ruminating keeps you stuck. If you cannot change anything about the problem then you must change how you view or deal with the problem. Start processing your possible solutions out-loud. Yes, get the thoughts out of your head. What if the same types of situations keep happening? Other than pissing you off, what else is behind it? Be open to the possibility that there is a lesson that you need to learn. Do you need to let it be, just as it is (also known as letting it go)? Let it be. What a novel idea. Be curious. No judgement (it is what it is). Just observe. You really can let your thoughts wonder and not attach any meaning to them. Just go, “huh, wonder what that is about?” and keep on keeping on. Not everything is meant to be figured out. I get it, I drive myself crazy too trying to figure out the meaning behind something. Most of the time, there is no meaning, there is no problem, it is just a thing. Don’t misunderstand, there are problems/issues that do need to be thought about, figured out and a plan of action developed …but, not everything.

If any of these apply to you then stop venting.

  1. You have no intention of changing anything about the situation or the way you react to it
  2. The person you are venting to is dealing with harder or more complicated situations
  3. If you have absolutely nothing positive to say about anything, start working on finding gratitude for 3 things in your life every day.
  4. You deny any personal responsibility for what is happening or how you are reacting

Everyone needs to vent every now and then. It is cathartic and helpful. It can help you to clear your mind so you can begin working on solutions to improve the situation. When we find ourselves venting we probably to need to get those strong emotions off of our chest and deal with that conflict in a healthy manner.  Venting is not complaining. When you find yourself complaining, watch out? Complainers tend to focus on their own dissatisfaction, pain or uneasiness. Complainers only see it from their own point of view. Complainers see themselves as always right and others are wrong. Complainers become energy vampires that zap the listener.

Expressing your feelings is healthy. Complaining focuses on judging someone or something which does not help the complainer nor the listener. Which type of person do you want to be? Will you let others vent to you or is it always a one-way street? Some people take on a false sense of responsibility to fix things or help whenever others dump things on them. It is fine to be a helper, but not to the expense of your own peace of mind. Be wise. You cannot fix everyone or everything. Remember, you cannot make another person happy. Happiness is an inside job for each of us to handle on our own.

Pat

How can I tell people what I need? (Hint, you cannot be subtle nor can you use telepathy.)

November 17, 2021

It would be so much easier if other people just knew what you needed and wanted and did it! No one can read your mind. No one can really understand what you are going through. Even if they have helped take care of a loved one of their own, their needs may have been completely different from your needs.

Communi-friggin’-cation! It is the key to everything. That is my own word for communication. Did you know that other folks communicate totally different from you, well, maybe it is the understanding that is different? You know what you need, inside of your head, but how do you communicate that need so that others will understand?

Are you one that thinks …
Well, if they knew me…they would know what I need?

I have told them how tired I am and I need a break.

Well, if they could help me, I guess they would.

I talk about how hard it is, all the time. It has taken over my whole life.

No, I’m good, I can just handle it all.

Hey, I need you to be here on Saturday the 8th from 9 am until 6pm.

I need you to do the laundry, change the sheet and provide dinner on Sunday.

How many different styles of communication are there? Four major ones. Body language is another style, but that is for another day. We are talking about being verbal and asking for what you need or want. Wants are okay to ask for too.

Passive

Passive communicators go with the flow and are sometimes seen as wallflowers. No muss, no fuss. Sometimes they may be unaware of their thoughts or feelings, but more than likely they ignore their own feelings, wants and even their thoughts. They may seem to be easygoing, but underneath anxiety rules. They fear disapproval.

Passive communicators bottle things up. They hardly ever fight and usually cede everything. They stuff and they stuff their feelings and wants. You can stuff things for so long, but they will eventually bubble to the surface. Resentment, here I come!

Aggressive

Aggressive communicators dominate the conversations and state their opinions often overriding others’ opinions. They use direct eye contact, leaning forward, staring at you and moving towards you sometimes.  They are very poor listeners and use a harsh tone, even if they don’t mean to be using a harsh tone.

Aggressive communicators are not quiet and yes, they are the ones that yell. They almost never back down. Your feelings will not be considered. Think more of a “win” type personality and not the “win-win” type.

Passive-Aggressive

A passive-aggressive communicator will confuse the hell out of you. Why? Because they cannot get all of their thoughts, and meanings outside of their heads in a cohesive manner or in a way that makes sense to others. They may be easily frustrated. They can become quite irritable and resentful. They will use sarcasm, talk to another person instead of the person that they need to be talking to. They will criticize others. I don’t get this one, but I have seen it happen. They show oppositional behavior. They will be the one that states, “I will help.” They will help and they will Complain the Whole Time. These folks are angry and their words do not match their body language. Gritting their teeth, making their hands into a fist all the while either being indifferent or smiling.

Passive-aggressive communicators are angry and they know that they are angry, but will deny that they are angry or that anything is wrong. Sarcastic barbs coming your way or maybe you will get the silent treatment.

They silently seethe and the other person has no idea what in the world is wrong.

Assertive

An assertive communicator is confident. They are open to discussions and clarifying whatever may be unclear or confusing without being an ass. They are usually calm and will state what they want or need without imposing their requests on others. This type will look for a consensus, if possible. They usually listen and seem to care about others. You may have healthy and loud discussions but it does not feel like you are having an argument. They will share their thoughts, opinions and how they feel about something. They are open to you doing the same. Not only are they able to listen, they are able to hear.

What communication style to you have? What communication style do others in your life have? Can you see how things get all messed up when everyone is talking and no one is listening or hearing?

We have all heard it before, seek to understand first. Understand where the other person is coming from, try to put yourself in their shoes. You may not be able to fully, but try as best you can. We all have our own peculiar ways. We are different people with different experiences and we look at things differently. It isn’t wrong, it is just different. Search for common ground. What can you agree on? What is best for the care receiver? What is best for all involved as care givers? Each of us have strengths and each of us have things we don’t do very well.

Let your empathy and compassion for others help you in moving towards being an assertive communicator. A good sense of humor helps too.

What strengths help you become a better caregiver?

  1. Resilience – The ability to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions; I can negotiate for what I need and navigate systems.
  2. Patience – The capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.
  3. Flexibility – Ready and able to change so as to adapt to different circumstances; accept what is happening in the moment.
  4. Compassion – The ability to translate empathic feelings into action (desire to alleviate suffering).
  5. Optimism – Expect a favorable or positive outcome.
  6. Confidence – Sure of one’s self and one’s abilities.
  7. Organization – Methodical and efficient in arrangement or function.
  8. Ability to Laugh – To easily see and appreciate the humor in the situation.

Use these to rate yourself on the above strengths:

1 – Always

2 – Sometimes

3 – Hardly ever or Never

Be honest and help yourself to know what you are good at and what you are not so good at… Hopefully, you will find that others have different strengths than you and will be a good helper.

To identify and acknowledge your personal caregiver strengths, set aside a few minutes for personal reflection. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What gives me energy?
  • What am I good at? What do I do best? What do I do well?
  • What am I naturally good at? What comes naturally to me?
  • What are my best character traits?
  • What things do I look forward to doing?
  • When faced with challenges or adversity, what strengths do I bring to these challenges?
  • What do I handle well?

When you ask for things, be specific. Have a list at the ready. You may need things done at your house instead of at the care receiver’s house. Be as flexible as you can. You must agree to a day and time or it will not get done. Never a “whenever” or a “sometime next week.” Pick a day and time, negotiate for another day and time, if necessary. Keep a running list of things that need to be handled. Heck, place it on the refrigerator for folks to sign-up.

Headings for the list include: What action or Task, Where (care receiver’s house or care giver’s house), What day, Alternate day, Who will handle this

You will have to be direct. Not an ass, but state what your Mom/Dad and/or you need their help. Are you willing to step-up, pitch-in and help? If they say yes, then pull out the ready-made list and get to work. If it is a task that takes time and they do not have time, then by all means suggest a less time-consuming task or request a specific amount of money (be fair and reasonable) to hire out the task. If that doesn’t work then ask them what they can contribute and shut your mouth until they begin figuring out things, Yes, it will be uncomfortable, but just be still and quiet. Be open to brainstorming sessions. Try to make your “ask” into statements. For example, instead of saying, “Can you do some things for me?” state that “I need XYZ from the store today.” “I need you to provide dinner on Friday.”

What if you ask and get told “no” to your direct request? You may even get brushed off or told off, where do you go from there? You still need back-up and help. It is going to suck, but you will move forward as if you are an only child. You may need to hire outside help, ideally with the care receiver’s money.

I have seen a family of 4 siblings work it out to care for their aging parents at separate times.  They all stepped up and did whatever was needed. They were all professionals and very busy with their careers, but they made their parents the priority. They communicated, worked together, had a list and each of them used their strengths to the fullest. Their parents we never alone.

I have also seen a family with 3 siblings leave it all to one sister. No help, no money, just bitching and “trying” to run things. It was horrible. That one sister realized she would have to handle her mom on her own. She did and her mom was well cared for. It did take some of the sisters’ own money, to help with outside care, but they managed and she had a good experience with her mom for the time her mom had left. She also told me that she had no regrets and that her conscious was clear. She is civil to her siblings, but not really much of a relationship with them now. Of course, it wasn’t much of a relationship before either. 

Maybe you will have to say your piece to those that will not contribute in order to let go of your anger or resentment at them. Do let go of your anger, you don’t have the time or energy for it.

There may come a time when you have to say “No” to caregiving.

You may find that you must set limits on caregiving responsibilities. You are exhausted, overwhelmed and your own health is suffering. It most often happens to those that do not take care of themselves during the care giving process. You do count. You do matter. Add your needs in to the mix.

What does saying “no” mean to you? Could it mean that you leave the loved one to fend for himself?

 Maybe it means that you are tired, isolated and depressed and you have to stop, possibly “no” means that you need to take a breather and you realize that some things will have to change if you are going to proceed and help as a care giver. Boundaries is not a dirty word. Emotional limits are reached quickly when either a crisis happens or you have taken no breaks.

Practice your “I” statements to work on your boundaries.

  • “I can no longer drive you to all of your medical appointments due to my work schedule and my limited time off. I know this will be a change for you. I suggest we look into other transportation options such as the Busy Bee Medical Transport Service.”
  • “Mother, I am unable to continue with the responsibility of cleaning the house weekly. I want to spend my time with you on other matters. I know it’s hard to let newcomers help, but I think it is time to hire a homemaker service you would be comfortable with.”
  • “Dad, I can no longer assist you down the outside stairs. I am worried about your safety and mine. I believe we need to build a ramp for easier access to your home. I have found a carpenter who has reasonable rates for construction.”

In each of the above statements, there is a presentation of what the speaker cannot continue to do, an acknowledgement that the change will have a consequence for the elder and a suggested solution. No attempt is made to make the elder feel guilty about the effort the caregiver is expending or the caregiver’s stress level. It is understood the elder knows the caregiver is working hard.

Setting the boundary is the caregiver’s responsibility. Deborah Colgan, MA, M.Ed., NCC

You can state what you need. You can be direct. You can set boundaries.

Pat

Wednesday Wonderings … Oopsie! That did not work, now what?

November 10, 2021

You worked and you thought and you worked some more. By golly, you have a plan. It is a good plan. You are so proud (and relieved).  Now, it is time to work the plan. I mean you are so excited and you just know that this is the right plan and the “right way” to do this thing. Granted, it was all in your head of how it would all play out, but still, it worked.

Then reality set in. A few fits and starts at the beginning, but you were still on your way. And then, out of nowhere whoa, the brakes get slammed on … hard. What the hell? Why all this resistance? Why is this not working? Why the melt downs? All of these things are running through your mind. You are replaying what happened. You are confused. This should have worked. I saw it work in my mind. We Are Trying This Again!

You do and the brakes get slammed on again. Hmmm, are you ready to look at what did not work? Are you ready to ask others why this did not work or are you still the Lone Ranger?  Are you ready to accept that it might not have been a good plan? If you aren’t, then look up the definition of insanity, you know, the one that states that you keep doing the same things over and over again, in the same way and you expect different results, 

This scenario plays over and over again in all of our lives. At work, at home and with loved ones that we are helping. Think back to your own experiences at work when you had the most brilliant idea for a way to handle an issue. I mean it was win-win for everyone. You had everything in place and began implementing the plan. It was okay and there were a few folks that balked, but you were determined to push on. Soon, the plan was not working as you had envisioned and the situation became more unstable and somehow it was not a win-win for everyone. Dang it! What happened? Maybe, you did not have buy-in from the start from the others that were going to be impacted by the plan. Maybe, the plan was not fleshed out enough for consistent implementation? Maybe, you had one or two people that did not like the plan because they were not consulted on something that would impact them? What do you do? Do you scrap the plan and start over? Do you look at what worked well and make adjustments on what did not work well? Do you bulldoze over others objections? Do you seek input from others who will be impacted with the plan?

What a pickle! Can you see how these things happen in caregiving or helping others? I can. I have a plan and I think it is the greatest plan to help all involved. But, I did not even talk to all involved to see what they thought about the plan. I only thought about what I thought would work the best. My own perspectives, my own wants and my own…everything. I did not realize that at the time, I just thought that I knew best. I did not know best. How can I make a plan for others and not include their wants, needs or ideas?

I felt that if I was handling things, then I get to decide everything. That did not work at all. You talk about stress, strife, fighting, anger, even a lack of trust. I only thought that I knew best. I didn’t know jack. I had to realize that we needed to work together to make a plan that would work for all of us. All Of Us! Not just the care receiver, but the care giver, too. It was not easy to realize that I did not have all of the answers. I had the knowledge and I had the contacts, but I did not have my mom or dad’s perspective. Don’t make the same mistakes that I made. It was much easier than I had anticipated. It was so much easier once I knew what they needed and wanted help with. It was so much easier to work around my schedule when I shared my schedule with them. I am all about less stress and more effective ways of doing things. I am a life long learner and I like learn new things. One of the new things that I learned is that it is okay to be a recovering perfectionist. I learned that progress beats perfection every time. So much less stress too. Perfection keeps us stuck. We don’t have time to feel or be stuck.

What if you could provide better care AND get your life back? Sometimes, you can do it on your own and sometimes you will need my services.

When making a plan involve all the people that will be affected by the plan. (There may come a time in a dementia patient that they can no longer participate, but while they can, let them participate.)

  1. List the issue
  2. List who may be impacted by this issue
  3. Does this issue need to be done/handled at a certain time?
  4. Who can best handle this issue?
  5. If this does not work, what can be tried next?
  6. Brainstorm – write everything down (pare down later)
  7. Reevaluate and update, if needed
  8. Be flexible
  9. Come to a consensus or an agreement
  10. Implement the plan

The above tips will help to keep you on track. If you are a person that goes to worst case scenarios then you must act as if the worst has happened and make a plan for what you will do, you have to move past the worst-case scenario into what you will do next.

Remember, you only have so much brain energy to use on difficult situations every day. It is about two and a half hours. If it is important enough to make a plan then it is important enough to be at your best when your make the plan. Sleep, eat, and hydrate.

One thing that I want you to realize is that there will be important and urgent things and there will be not important and not urgent things. Don’t let yourself waste your time, efforts and energy on the things that are not important and nor urgent.

Handle only three things at a time, that is all you will be able to handle well anyway.

Pat