Category Archives: Self-Care

Tips for Emotionally Managing Caregiving

Are you one of the 65 million Americans providing care for loved ones needing help due to illness, disabilities, or aging? If so, you no doubt experience a vast array of emotions. You’re busy, untrained, and just plain exhausted—and perhaps managing a boatload of grief in the process.

Bang Head Here

Bang Head Here for Stress Relief
Photo Credit Lynn Hasselberger

Dr. Steve Landers offers simple but important tips for managing four common stressors in family caregiving in his article Family Caregiving Isn’t Easy: Emotional Management Tips.

I currently manage care for three people: my 94-year old mother who lives four hours away, my sister who has acute needs requiring me to be with her during hospitalizations (also four hours away), and my husband who has Parkinson’s Disease. The demands and thus the emotions regarding each vary with who they are, what their needs are, and my relationship to them. Personally, I’m great with the medical aspects of their care. I understand and can often diagnose what’s going on even before their physicians do. But I get frustrated when they behave like helpless victims. When they don’t do the things they know to do to take care of themselves. When they complain about things that neither they nor I can change, and let those complaints taint their whole day.

My tip for managing the whiny victim? Become a Pollyanna. When I’m handed a negative – a complaint, a criticism, or an accusation, I come back with a positive. A reason why I believe the sky isn’t falling. A suggestion for making lemonade out of some pretty sour lemons. An action they can take to make things better. I resist doing anything I know they can do for themselves, even while constantly reassessing to make sure they can still do it.

What is your biggest challenge in caregiving, and what do you do about it?

 

 

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Take My Hand Again | Eldercare

Since I have primary responsibility for my 94-year-old mom, I’m always interested in books on caregiving for the elderly. Kregel Publications has recently published a new addition to my stack. Take My Hand Again: A Faith-Based Guide for Helping Aging Parents by Nancy Parker Brummett is a gentle, encouraging book for caregivers. It is ideal for someone who has recently been thrust into this position and is looking for answers, or for an adult child who is looking ahead and realizing that Mom or Dad will need help in the near future.

Brummett uses short vignettes and examples to lighten the overwhelmingness of her information. She offers useful data, websites, and resources, as well as practical information that is grounded in both personal experience and excellent research. She doesn’t assume that all parents are alike, so offers a variety of solutions to the most common issues. The faith-based approach is present, but not off-putting if someone is not a Christian. The one thing that is missing is caring for parents with whom you don’t have a good relationship or parents who didn’t care for you. Throughout the book, she assumes that you had and have a good relationship with your parents and want to be helpful. If that isn’t your story, read the book anyway, and find the rest of what you need elsewhere.

For the rest of this month, Amazon is offering the book for $2.99—a huge savings over their usual price of $12.32.

 

 

Where Do You Want to Be? | Contentment

Are you satisfied with where you are and what you’re doing? So many people aren’t. Single people want to be married. Married people wish they weren’t. If a job isn’t perfect, some people complain, threaten to quit, and sometimes even orchestrate their firing. They believe they will be happy when… And they can’t be happy unless…

One of my favorite songs from one of my favorite bands (The Show Ponies) has a perfect line:

“You’ll never be where you want to be until you want to be where you are.”

Think about it. Instead of always wanting to be somewhere else, doing something else, being someone else, what if you were simply able to be content. Right where you are? To rejoice in being. Just who you are. Every day. What would it take for you?

Would you need to set aside your visions of what your life was supposed to look like? All too often we have our preconceived ideas about the course of our life, and when it doesn’t work out, we blame God. Or ourselves. Or someone else. We strive to accomplish our goals, even if they aren’t God’s goals. In the process, we drown in discontentment. We want to be anywhere other than where we are.

Try it. Just be where you are, and decide that you want to be there. Practice contentment and see what a difference it makes.

National Family Caregivers’ Month

November is National Family Caregivers’ Month, so I want to salute you, my caregiving readers, for the vital service you provide to your loved ones.

Thank You, Family Caregivers Roses

Thank You, Family Caregivers

As I talk with caregivers, I see men and women who are building a legacy by laying down their lives for aging parents, disabled spouses, or others they love. In the process, the caregivers’ hopes and dreams are often put on the back burner. Not only do they watch the decline of someone they love, but they also sacrifice their work, their goals, their finances, and sometimes their marriages. It isn’t easy.

Just how valuable are you? According to several AARP studies, 65.7 million caregivers (29% of the U.S. adult population) are providing care to someone who is ill, disabled or aged. Caregiver services were valued at $450 billion per year in 2009–up from $375 billion in year 2007. At $450 billion in 2011, the value of informal caregiving exceeded the value of paid home care. It was more than Wal-Mart sales ($408 billion), and nearly met total expenditures for the Medicaid program in 2009 ($509 billion). That’s a lot of value, folks! And the value of unpaid family caregivers will likely continue to be the largest source of long-term care services in the U.S. since the aging population 65+ will more than double between the years 2000 and 2030, increasing to 71.5 million from 35.1 million in 2000.

Over 34 percent of caregivers provide more than 75 hours per week caregiving. That doesn’t leave time for much else. Seventy percent of working caregivers made some job change to accommodate their caregiving role. Twelve percent of caregivers reduced work hours or took a less demanding job while nine percent gave up work entirely, compared to three percent who took an early retirement.

So thank you, you priceless family caregivers. Yes, you’re squished, but you are so very important. So please, try to take some time for yourself. Take care of yourself. And pat yourself on the back. Well done!

Photo Credit: Robert Sikora

Adjusting Our Priorities | Self Care

 

Couple at Beach

Take Care of Yourself and Your Relationship
Photo Credit: Mike Baird

My husband has Parkinson’s Disease. He was diagnosed in 2010, and sadly, it has progressed faster than either of us expected. Frailties I had not expected to occur for many years are already beginning to creep into our lives. That means that I need to do more than I want to or often can. Adding this to the responsibilities I have for Mom, I often feel that all I do is care for others. And yes, I confess–I often feel sorry for myself. Sometimes even resent what I’ve given up to be available to others.

That’s why I appreciate reminders like Angela Robb gives in her article, A Caregiver’s Journey. I appreciate her optimism and can-do attitude. She focuses on the things we can do for ourselves as well as what we need to do as a couple. I especially like what she says about readjusting your plans to do what you can do when you can do it. I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately. Thinking that even though we have just a lot of money on much-needed, long-deferred maintenance on our home, we also need to do the traveling we’ve wanted to do while we can still do it. That will require major adjustments in my life and priorities, as well as in our finances. But really, we can’t put it off, can we?

What are you doing to care for yourself? What strategies do you use to serve well? What do you need to stop putting off?