The Word “Fine”

This week’s blog is from guest contributor Marla Brown.

I grew to despise the word…..FINE.  Starting out in the early stages of progressive Alzheimer’s with my Mother, I too, believed she was FINE.  After all, her husband of 44 years had passed and now she was alone.  Still, FINE was not a great word to describe her status, it was an OK word to use.

As the weeks turned into months however, her phone calls to me escalated and I could not see anything positive in the word FINE.  NO now, she was not FINE.  “Oh, your Mother is FINE”, she just misses your father.  She “is still grieving”.  “Leave her alone, she will be OK”.  DUH – if I had indeed left alone, she would never have made it alone being FINE.

The friends/family that used this word frequently did not partake in Mom’s care as closely and frequently as I did.  They did not go to her home 5 out of 7 days a week to check on her/bring her food/help her in her home,  they did not answer her 20 phone calls per night.  Mom did not show up at their backdoor frantic and panicked because she couldn’t get me on the phone.  They didn’t see the declining issues with cognitive impairment and memory (oops maybe they did) – let me reword that – they probably did notice it, but they didn’t have to DEAL with it as I did.  Her eating habits had caused her to lose weight, her once impeccable hygiene was lacking, the front yard had grass over a foot high, her physical appearance was deteriorating, her mood swings were now obvious (well I can speak for myself), and her short term memory had plummeted.

Mom was FINE?  I think not.

Then there are always the family members that want peace and tranquility for all. The Clan needs to stick together.  It sounded a little lopsided to me – but OK I tried.  But I have to refer back to the FINE word.  Now it is not even listed in my words used to describe Mom.

I am stressed, frustrated beyond human endurance and all that is needed is tranquility and for us all to get along?  Meanwhile I continue taking care of Mom, my own family, working full-time 30 miles away and driving to Mom’s house to check on her at least 4 times per week.  I straighten up her home, I wash her clothes, I clean her bathroom—because I love her and it needed to be done.

Then, I had a great idea.  I offered those who verbosely expressed that I needed to “leave Mom alone and get off her back” full care of Mom.  I told them we could drive to the elder attorney’s office and I would gladly switch my DPOA over to them!  Great idea, I thought.  Then, we will see if they still think Mom is FINE.  I can guarantee you, they wouldn’t have. But to my disappointment, none accepted my offer!  But why not I asked?  You are more than happy to take over Mom’s care….full time care.  Judging by biting comments, I assumed they could and would be more competent than I was.

I even had one friend of my parents whose children I grew up – suggest (and she was serious) that I move IN with MOM on a full time basis.  Simply she said, quit your job, pack up and move in with your Mother.  She needs you.  This way I could take care of Mom’s hygiene, nutrition, errands, housework, appointments, and yard.  OK I said….one minor problem.  Are you going to pay my SALARY after I quit my job to move in with MOM?  This in turn helps make our mortgage payment.  Well….if you guessed her answer was no, you would be correct.

I asked her if she had lost her mind. The sad thing is, she was serious.  She had done this with her Mother – but one huge difference, she had never worked outside the home.  We never spoke after that conversation.

Being scrutinized as caregiver was one of the hardest issues I had to deal with.  I received complaints and comments – but when I offered – no one else wanted to take over the responsibility.

You know what?  I will go to my grave knowing I did the best job humanly possible taking care of my Mother.  Loving her, protecting her, standing up for her rights, and treating her with the dignity and respect that she deserved.

I know she is watching me from above, and is very proud of me.

 

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How Did You Sleep Last Night?

Sleep is a seriously undervalued resource in most people’s lives. When my oldest daughter was small, she would resist naptime and dreaded having to go to bed because she thought she might miss something important. Most people recognize cranky behavior in infants and toddlers as a good indicator the child needs sleep. So what about you? While you might not have time each day for an afternoon nap, do you get enough sleep at night? If not, you might find yourself feeling tired, irritable, short-tempered or even depressed! And as a Family Caregiver, you owe it to yourself and those you care for to put your best foot forward each day when you climb out of bed.

Most people need seven to nine hours of sleep each night to be at their best. This sleep time is necessary for you to function at your best as you care for others. A good night’s sleep equips you physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually to fulfill your obligations each day.

Your body uses sleep to store energy in cells that will carry you through the next day. While you sleep your muscles, skin and bones get to rest and rejuvenate. Your digestive system keeps working to flush out what needs to be eliminated and send nutrients to all areas of your body, nourishing and regenerating you physically so you will be ready to go back to work the next day.

Your brain is a little computer in your skull. In order to function at it’s maximum capacity, your brain must process it’s daily input and file information where it needs to go, clearing space for the next day’s activities. This happens while you sleep. By freeing up space during sleep time, you may even find your memory improves over time!

Emotionally you will feel more balanced and not as prone to angry outbursts, feelings of depression and hopelessness, or other negative outlooks when you get enough sleep each night. By feeling more rested, you will be able to set the right tone for your day as well as those your care for.

Spiritually, l find that when I feel rested I also feel more aware of God’s presence in my life. I am more focused in my prayer life and when I study scripture I am more open to His teachings. God can work better through me when I am equipping myself for His work, and part of that process involves getting enough sleep.

So what do you need to do to get more sleep? It’s a good question, and the answer is a little different for everyone. Experiment, and try making little adjustments over a period of time. Keep a sleep journal, and make notes about what helps you settle down and get your Zzzzz’s. Here’s my magic formula for getting a good night’s sleep:

  1. My bedroom is cool at night, about 65 degrees. It’s also dark and relatively quiet.
  2. I have a warm mug of unsweetened almond milk at bedtime, with a dash of maple syrup, cayenne pepper and ginger. It gives me a protein boost that stabilizes my blood sugar through the night. Let me know if you want the recipe!
  3. I don’t watch TV or look at my iPad or iPhone except for a brief check before I turn off the lights.
  4. I avoid caffeine after midday, and usually avoid it entirely.
  5. I go to bed at about the same time each night, and get up at a consistent time each morning.

I hope this information helps you to improve your sleep as well as your days. I also hope you will share with us what works for you. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of Family Caregivers everywhere, one day at a time. Join the conversation below and share your heart!

Here’s a link to find more tips on how to get a good night’s sleep:

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/sleep/getting-better-sleep.htm

https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-tools-tips/healthy-sleep-tips

Caring for the Caregiver is Hard Work!

Do this: take a deep breath, inhaling for a count of 8. Hold that breath for a count of 4, then exhale slowly and see how far you can count. Really push all the air out! At the end of the exhale, inhale deeply again. Repeat this pattern at least 3 times. How do you feel?

When you’re a Family Caregiver, it’s easy to forget about your own needs. In the crush of daily life, when everyone and everything is demanding of your time and attention, things like sleep, food, exercise and prayer or meditation, or even taking a deep breath can quickly get crowded out. A Caregiver who is sleep-deprived, nutrition-starved, stressed out, and socially and spiritually disconnected cannot properly care for another person because their entire being is depleted and exhausted!

Whether the ones you care for are very young or very old, disabled physically or mentally, suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease or a related dementia, or another chronic disease or illness, one thing is certain. You must take care of yourself in order to be able to give those you care for the best possible care. Over the next several weeks we will be sharing tips and strategies for improving your own health and wellbeing. To start with, take this survey.

  1.    How’s your sleep? Do you get fewer than 7 hours nightly on the average?
  2.    Do you eat fast food more than 2 times weekly?
  3.    Do you exercise fewer than 30 minutes at least 3 times weekly?
  4.    Do you find yourself missing church activities or opportunities to spend time with friends like you once did?
  5.    Do you frequently feel tired, overwhelmed, and discouraged?

If you answered yes to any of the questions above, then you could definitely benefit from spending some time on improving your health and wellness! If you answered yes to ALL of the questions, DON’T BE DISCOURAGED!! You are not alone, and a healthier you could be within reach just by making just a couple of small changes in your lifestyle. We would encourage you to choose just one of the questions above and begin there. Next week we’ll be talking about Sleep and the Healthy Caregiver, so that might be a great place to begin.

For now, start with this one small thing: just breathe deeply. Try to practice deep breathing throughout your day, and see if you don’t see a change in your attitude and outlook on life. It will make you a better Caregiver, and a better person!

Are You a Caregiver?

Many Caregivers find themselves needing to become more involved in providing care for aging parents or other family members as they get older. This brings a special set of challenges.

Caregivers come in all shapes and sizes. They range in age from very young to ancient! They come from all walks of life, and they are known for their kindness, generosity, and their caring heart.

The heart of the Caregiver feeds their passion for caring for others. It is this unique characteristic, this overpowering drive, that pushes a Caregiver out of their comfort zone from a very early age. They hold doors open as children or have special relationships with grandparents and elderly neighbors. As they grow older, they nurture friendships and develop close bonds with those around them. At work they are known as good listeners, and colleagues who are always willing to pitch in and lend a helping hand when needed. Others know that a Caregiver can be counted on to be a great team player. If married, they might care for spouses, parents or grandparents, in-laws, neighbors, and their own children. There is no retirement age for caregiving. Caregivers are loving, nurturing individuals who enrich our lives and influence our society in innumerable ways.

Many Caregivers find themselves needing to become more involved in providing care for aging parents or other family members as they get older. This brings a special set of challenges. Caring for a parent or relative might need to be long-distance if the Caregiver lives in another city. A family member might be resistant to receiving care, or might be embarrassed or uncomfortable with a son, daughter, or grandchild providing the needed care. The family Caregiver might not even be properly trained to provide the services needed, or might not be able to take time off from work to meet the care needs of local family members. These and many other challenges can be overcome, but only if they are recognized and appropriately addressed.

My brother is a family Caregiver, and I would never have guessed this when we were children, mostly because I was too self-absorbed! He had close friendships growing up, and became a compassionate and caring man as a friend, father, and business owner. His community knows that they can count on him when they need help with any number of things. His friends know that he won’t let them down. And he cares for our mother, now in her late nineties, every day. He coordinates care through the local Home Instead office to cover several hours each day. The professional CAREGiverSM assists my mom with bathing, dressing, errands, housework and meals. She then leaves in the afternoon, and my mom is alone for a few hours. Every evening my brother comes by and visits for a while, just to check in and make sure the day has gone well. My mom presents a number of challenges for my brother, but he overcomes them as they arise, and my mom still lives in her home where she has been for over 50 years. I travel 400 miles every month to spend a few days to a week, and give my brother a break. I appreciate my brother for his caring heart. The care he gives our mother, provided both personally and professionally, gives her independence, and it gives me peace of mind when I live so far away.

So, are you a Caregiver? If you answered yes to this question, then we salute you for the important role you play in your family, your community, and your world. Thank you for making a difference in the lives of so many people around you! You should feel proud of every smile, every “thank you”, every sigh of relief or appreciative gesture you generate as you move through your day, helping others as you go. Your acts of service honor God even as they help those you care for.

If you believe that you are NOT a Caregiver, then think of the Caregivers who have helped you along the way. Take a little time today and in the days ahead to reflect on people in your life who are Caregivers. Share your appreciation for the ways their care has helped you. Say thank you. In those two simple words, you will be caring for a Caregiver, and in that one small act you will share the care!