Being a caregiver to someone you love can be very grievous and challenging. Whether due to an illness or developmental or physical challenge, it is often very hard on our minds, emotions and also our bodies to be a caregiver. It’s very seldom you have a chance to leave your loved one’s side to take care of household chores or errands. It’s often nearly impossible to hold down an outside job, meet up with friends, go to family gatherings or even just take a bit of time to yourself.
More and more families are electing to care for their loved ones at home rather than send them to a facility. According to Caregiver Action, “More than 65 million people, 29% of the U.S. population, provide care for a chronically ill, disabled, or aged family member or friend during any given year and spend an average of 20 hours per week providing care for their loved one.” Of course, families had no choice in the past before facilities were available, but over the years, many families have drifted apart either emotionally or geographically, which makes it harder to care for their loved ones. Hence, the booming business of care facilities. Don’t get me wrong! There are many wonderful facilities out there where our loved ones receive exceptional care, but unfortunately those facilities are extremely expensive and insurance pays little to no funding for long term care. If you have a family member needing care and do not have the capabilities to care for them yourself, you’d better hope they paid in to a long term care insurance policy (which I highly recommend).
There are some facilities that do take insurance, even state or federal insurance, but often those facilities are overpopulated and under staffed. Most families often choose to care for their loved ones at home rather than put them into such a facility believing they can provide better care for their loved ones than an overwhelmed care facility. I know I did!
One of the main reasons I am writing this, is to help you understand how you need to care for yourself if you’re a caregiver to a family member. You see, I can’t even count how many studies have been done showing the rapid decrease in mental and physical health of a caregiver. The stress alone can attribute to premature aging and take nearly 10 years off your life! (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dec 7, 2004, Vol 101, No. 49.)
So, what can you do to help yourself while helping your loved one? I’m not going to lie to you, it’s simpler said than done, but you need to follow some basic daily routines, weekly actions, and monthly strategies to keep yourself from circling the drain of complete exhaustion.
As my husband’s illness progressed, my time became more and more dedicated to his care. Feeding him became trickier than trying to teach a baby to eat with utensils. Staying on top of medications; keeping the list, timed checkoffs and dates, and updating dosages was becoming a full time job. At one point, I had to give him medications every four hours, around the clock. I was lucky to get in a couple of hours of sleep at a time only once or twice in a 24 hour period. I was cranky from lack of sleep, my blood pressure skyrocketed (making me more cranky) and to top it all off, I was in the midst of menopause. I was feeling the internal combustion ready to devastate my entire neighborhood.
I was more fortunate than some though; I had my sisters and mom who would readily pick up the phone in the middle of the night if I needed to talk, scream or cry; and a friend living close by who would run over in a millisecond to help me out on some of the more pressing, physical responsibilities needing to be handled; plus I had my daughter to run errands for me on occasion. Still, I was feeling as if I just couldn’t breathe much less take on one more thing.
In the midst of all this I managed to have my friend give me at least two or three hours of her time every couple of weeks to stay with my husband while I attended a caregiver’s support group. The group was hosted by a local, private nursing company and facilitated by a registered nurse. One day, I walked into the group and just as I sat down the nurse came up to me and told me I needed to get away for at least a week before I ended up in the hospital with a stroke. I must’ve looked pretty bad for her to have charged right for me within seconds of walking in the door.
At first I became defensive and told her there was no way I was going to leave my husband for that long and it would be impossible for me to find an alternate caregiver. Our insurance did not cover private nursing, so we were not candidates for respite care. She literally ordered me to take at least a week, as far away from home as possible. It took me a few days to secure someone who could come and stay while I drove from California to Minnesota and back to see my best friend whom I hadn’t seen in five years.
Having that down time, with no responsibilities was both horrifying and uplifting. After I returned home, I was able to breathe again, get back on a schedule and function like a normal human. I started making sure I kept up my exercises, paying attention to what I was eating, talking with doctors to change meds so I could get some sleep, making sure I went outside as much as possible and staying hydrated. Within a week my blood pressure stabilized without medication, I wasn’t as cranky and the depression had lifted substantially.
Through it all I was grieving for my husband, myself and the kids and grandkids. Yet, I was so very grateful for that support group and the nurse who took charge to ensure I stayed alive while caring for my husband. After my husband passed away, the nurse asked me to speak at another caregiver group regarding the difference in me after taking that break and staying on top of my own healthcare.
I wanted to share this all with you to help you realize the toll it can take to be a caregiver for a loved one. The sacrifices are immense and overwhelming, but you have to take the time to take care of yourself too. Make sure you have some help so you can have some down time. Eat right as best as you can, stay hydrated, get rest at every opportunity and for your own sanity, please find a caregiver’s support group to help you with all of that!
My prayers and blessing to you always.
It’s been a tough week. My daughter and grandsons have been staying with me since we’ve all come down with colds and allergies due to the change in weather. We believe it’s better to care for each other, rather than try to go it alone.
We’ve found a place of comfort with each other in the midst of our losses. Today was a different day though.
This morning my five year old grandson came into my room. We tickled each other and laughed for a moment. Then he got off the bed and went to stand in front of the shelf.
There, on the top shelf a display of my husband’s life is stored.
Although my grandson was only three years old when his “Bop-Bop” went to Heaven, he remembers him dearly.
He took one of the photos off the shelf, crawled back up on the bed and stared at it intently while silent tears fell down his sweet, flushed cheeks.
My daughter and three year old grandson came into the room. When my daughter saw what was going on, she quietly led the baby from the room to allow his brother some quiet time to grieve.
As I sat next to my grandson with my arm around him, my own tears began to flow in response to his.
My grandson then asked me if I had a movie of Bop-Bop; and I put on Jerry’s memorial video as we snuggled in the chair to remember.
In the two years since Jerry has left us, there have been many times both my grandsons have declared how much they miss him. As a point of reference, the boys have begun waving at the moon to say hello to their Bop-Bop.
Having that point of reference means so very much to them. It gives them something physical to relate to their grandfather. We’ve told them their Bop-Bop lives in Heaven way behind the moon. So the moon became their tie to the spirit of their Bop-Bop.
Even the baby calls out to him and tells of memories he has even though he had just turn a year old when Jerry died.
When you are so very loved by someone, the age does not interfere with the love and memories. You would think that such small children would not have such vivid memories, wouldn’t you? Yet, their memories are strong and faithful.
It’s hard when children grieve. Many people do not really know how to handle a child’s grief, but it’s actually quite simple. Give them a point of reference; something tangible to relate to. Remember with them; cry with them; laugh with them. Help them keep the love alive.
Remembering Bop-Bop is important to my grandchildren just as it is to the rest of us. Telling stories and sharing memories helps them remember the love most of all.
Even if it brings tears, do not hide reality from young ones. It keeps the love alive and the fear at rest. Give them hope, faith and assurance that we’ll all be in Heaven together some day. Let them know that trusting what Jesus has promised; that He has prepared a place for us, assures us of love everlasting.
That’s how we remember Bop-Bop.
You were born to be exceptional, so why do you think you aren’t?
Everything about you is amazing. You were born with a purpose in mind. Have you found that purpose yet?
Have you ever felt that you have nothing to give and therefore are unimportant?
Believe me friends, you are very important! Sometimes, we don’t understand our purpose until we’ve been through the ringer, and why is that? Because, we need to be able to understand how to use our experiences to be the best we can be.
So, if you’re unsure of your purpose at this point in your life, don’t despair! You’re purpose has always been there, it just may be dormant until you have the experience to know how to share it.
Take some time and think about the experiences you’ve had in your life; the good and the bad. How can you use that to propel yourself to the greatness you have inside of you?
I know it really helps you to gain clarity when you write down your experiences and realize what you really have inside of you. Take the lessons you’ve learned in every experience and use those as a guide to your greatness.
God does not make mistakes! I’m happy to share that I was in a devastating accident many years ago that nearly took my leg, but it also saved my life. I was heading down a scary path, but I couldn’t see that at the time. Laying in a hospital bed in traction in my living room gave me time to think about what I was doing and where I was going. That was one painful wake-up call!
I do not wish that kind of painful eye-opener on anyone, but sometimes that’s what it takes to bring you back to where you should be when you stray off your purpose driven path.
When you hear the statement, “Everything happens for a reason”, how does that speak to you? What do you really hear from that statement? What can you take away from that statement and why would it be in your best interest? Think about that for a moment and then write down your take-aways from the painful experience and put it into a reasonable format. What did you learn? How can you apply what you’ve learned? Why do you think you had to go through that experience?
Often, we become very angry at going through a tough, painful or traumatic experience. We then become very guarded and tend to push people away or adopt an attitude of fear, resentment and defensiveness, which will not serve happy relationships with your significant other, family, friends or even your job.
A young lady I interviewed told me that she’d rather be angry about her losses than feel the depression. The anger is how she keeps her grief in check (so she says). She’s consistently using anger to mask her depression over tragic experiences and refuses to allow herself to feel and get through the depression, which would then allow her to release the anger. Consequently, her anger is very apparent in her everyday life. She has terrible road rage, very little if any compassion for other people’s mistakes, and has a hard time connecting with many of her friends, family and especially her children. I’m so very sad for her because she’s missing out on some amazing life experiences because of it. Additionally, because she refuses to get past her anger, her children are growing up thinking it’s okay to always be angry.
Has your anger overtaken you? How can you get past it? There’s a very simple trick to help you overcome your anger; it’s called forgiveness. “What! How can I possibly forgive this or that, him or her, or even God for what happened to me?” Yes, I can hear you saying it.
It’s actually quite a feat to forgive someone who’s hurt you, especially when you believe that God had something to do with it. Let me tell you friend; God does not harm or set out to hurt you. Yet, mankind is a completely different story.
When people feel hurt, they tend to lash out and hurt others. Forgiving is your saving grace for yourself; it’s what gives you peace in your heart. Whether there is ever an apology or not, do your best to forgive the hurts so you may move on to your purpose in life.
If you have trouble forgiving, then you should ask for help. In Matthew, chapter 7, verses 7-8 it says
“7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”
But, beware! Further in the bible you’ll find a warning in James, chapter 4, verses 2-3 where it says
“2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
I firmly believe that asking God to help you forgive, even if it’s for your own self-preservation, is something that He will gladly give you because it also helps those around you.
Remember, hate begets hate, but love begets love. When you’re living in love and peace, others who want to live in love and peace will surround you. Your relationships will flourish and you’ll enjoy a peace you’ve never dreamed possible.
And that, my friends is where you’ll find your exceptional purpose! So remember, use your experiences as your teacher, find the “Miracle in the Muck” and propel yourself to the greatness you were born to have!
My love and blessings to you dear friends.
As Valentine’s Day comes upon us, I’d like to remind everyone that we do not all have a “someone” to celebrate it with. As in my case, there are many widows and widowers out there who’ve lost their loves and are not ready to bring someone new into their lives.
Now, that does not necessarily mean we need to spend Valentine’s Day alone or without a small token from someone we love. I’m very fortunate to have amazing family and friends who make sure that I know I’m loved all year ‘round. Yet, Valentine’s Day seems to be the special day when you give a token of your love to someone special.
I’d just like to remind everyone to take a moment and remember someone who’s lost their love, whether to death, separation or divorce. Give that person a card, make heart shaped cookies, a box of chocolate, or any other little token of your love and affection for that person.
If you cannot give a little token, at least spend some time with that person. Go out for coffee, see a movie, make him/her a meal, or best of all; just be present.
My late husband and I were not really big on Valentine’s Day, but we would always get each other our favorite treat. For him it was a bag of turtles (caramel, nut candies) and for me it was chocolate covered strawberries.
This will be my second Valentine’s Day without my husband. This day makes me think of all the little things he used to do for me to make me smile or laugh. I think of those things as happy memories of someone I had the privilege to love, even if only for a short time. Yet, I consider him forever mine.
Although I believe you should show the ones you love that you love them all year long, Valentine’s Day seems to turn some of the biggest grumps into romantic fools. Be a fool and tell those you love, just how much you love them always!
When I was a small child I didn’t mind being alone. I would play in my room all by myself and I was okay with that. I liked playing with my sisters, but somehow being alone was comforting to me. I often enjoyed solitude, but also enjoyed being with my family; especially family gatherings. I guess you could say I enjoyed the peace of being alone the most.
After some disturbing family events I found by my teen years that I was very angry and would often cause arguments, fights and just be downright disagreeable. I know some of that was merely teenage angst, but it was more than that.
As time went on, I would do my best to walk away from confrontation, but still found myself in the middle of it most of the time. I often said or did the exact opposite of whatever I was expected just to be obstinate for no particular reason.
There were times in my life where this behavior served my purpose, whatever that happened to be; or so I thought then. I remember being so out of control at one point with my anger that I was actually ordered to anger management classes. After being thrown out of anger management at least three times, I found someone to help me through my anger. The first three facilitators insisted I was just an angry person with no reasoning. Yes, I was angry, but I had plenty of reason and one reason grew upon the other as my life went on.
The last facilitator actually validated my anger. She told me I had every right to be angry at what had happened, but that I needed to learn to use that anger in a more productive manner. She also told me that anger is often a catalyst to achievement of a purpose. I really didn’t understand what that meant at the time, but I was to learn in a most profound way.
Another person was also instrumental in helping my anger and that was my step-dad, whom I did not have a good relationship with. Although we didn’t see eye-to-eye on most issues, something he said to me came back at me many years later. I was extremely angry at something (I really don’t remember what now) and he asked me why I would let someone else have such overpowering control of my emotions like that. He told me that I was the only one who could willingly control my emotions and should not give someone else that power.
It took me a few years to truly understand what both of those people meant. In my own experience and my studies of psychological articles on anger, I found the control I needed to set aside my intense anger that had grown since the untimely death of my younger sister when I was seven years old.
I’m not saying that I never get angry anymore, that would be completely false. Yes, I get angry, but now I do all I can to turn that anger into productive accomplishments. For example, I have experienced many deaths in my life of close family and friends. Therefore, I committed many years of my life as a funeral service professional to do all I could to help other families through a very difficult time because I understood their pain. I’ve also facilitated grief support groups for the same reasons.
Recently, after the death of my husband in the summer of 2015, I decided that I wanted to help people in their happy moments. My husband suffered miserably for years and in respect, everyone else in the family suffered along with him. The anger of what was happening overwhelmed the entire family and for a while, we all were at each other’s throats. It took quite a bit of time for me to turn my anger into a positive catalyst to improve the life events of others, but I am now in the process of doing just that.
All the wisdom of those two people earlier on in my life came catapulting into focus and I truly understood that I could have peace in my anger. Releasing that anger has not only improved my relationships with others, including my family, it has improved my mental and physical health.
I truly hope that you, my readers, can turn your angry moments into a positive channel of peace and abundance of mental and physical means.
To your wellbeing!
Most people think of a loss as losing a loved one in death. Yet, grieving can come from many types of losses or changes. Aside from grieving a death, you could grieve the loss of a marriage, a job, even a change in the weather.
Grieving takes on many forms and you may experience one, a few or even all of those forms either one at a time or all at once. Just be aware that grief can manifest at any time for many reasons and allowing yourself time to grieve will help you heal.
There are many differing opinions on the stages of grief. Some believe there are only five, others believe there are seven stages. I follow along with the seven stages merely because of the many facets of grief I have experienced.
The seven stages of grief according to www.socialworktech.com are: “1. Shock and Denial, 2. Pain and Guilt, 3. Anger and Bargaining, 4. Depression, Reflection and Loneliness, 5. The Upward Turn, 6. Acceptance and Hope, and 7. Reconstruction and Working Through.”
If you are grieving the loss of a loved one, I highly suggest that you read through these stages to better help you understand that what you are experiencing are normal reactions to the loss.
In my own grief, I have realized that people often say, “It will get better in time”. That is just not true. It never gets better, you just learn in time to adjust your life to the loss and move in a different direction. There will still be times even after 10, 20, or 30 years or more when you will be overcome with that loss as though it were the day it happened.
I’m not just spouting quotes here. I was in the funeral profession for more than 20 years. I also have lost very dear family members, friends and worst of all my son and my husband. By all rights, I should be completely catatonic from the losses I have endured. Yet, I count myself blessed to have ever had those loving people in my life at all. I also believe that my faith in Jesus has pulled me through with hope that my loved ones are in Paradise and at rest from the trials and tribulations of this world.
Regardless of your religious beliefs, my firm opinion is that without faith, you have no hope; and without hope your grief will surely overrun you. Throughout my time in the funeral profession, I felt the most sorry for people who did not have any belief in a higher power. They were the ones most lost in their grief with the feeling of no escape. That my friends is the saddest grief of all.
Remember your loved ones in all that you do and don’t be afraid to speak their names aloud. All who touch your life, touch your heart and stay there, living with you forever.