Overwhelmed Caregiver: A Day In The Life

Overwhelmed Caregiver: A Day In The Life

By Michael Picucci
 
I remember the day we received the diagnosis at NYU hospital. While waiting in the solarium I watched the city lights glimmer against a darkening sky; a colorful sunset was nearly gone peered through the Manhattan skyline. I hadn’t even spoken with the doctor, yet there was a sense of being frozen in time. Charcoal clouds glided over office buildings. The room smelled of disinfectant and institutional food. Girls with red and white striped pinafores over starched white uniforms were carrying fiberglass trays.
 
All of my senses were heightened. It was like looking at the tiniest detail through a microscope. I noticed the girl’s caps and the pointy shape of their white collars. Yet, at the same time, I had completely lost touch with where I was.
 
I could feel my eyes were glazing and I nearly forgot my name.
 
Dr. Wallace, a self-assured specialist invited Sheila’s mom Olga and me into a small office space just off the solarium. We were told that Sheila needed to be admitted immediately.
 
“Sheila has a rare form of cancer in the leg bone,” he started, his expression earnest. “It’s called Ewing sarcoma” He took a pause and looked at each of us before saying, “We’re going to have to amputate Sheila’s leg above the knee. And we have to do the surgery as soon as possible.”
 
He shook my hand and continued to speak with Olga while I walked away. He could probably see that I was holding back an urge to just keel over. I’ve discovered that for most caregivers such a time exists, of feeling crushed. It’s a traumatic inability to face this kind of reckoning.
 
Until Sheila’s passing two years later I was consumed—sometimes consciously, mostly not—by a racy feeling emanating from my stomach then taking over my whole inner condition. She always wanted me, not Olga, to keep her company and to tend to her needs, which where expanding day by day: going through the amputation process, her often-hysterical terrors, being fitted for the prosthetic, phantom pains long after the leg was gone, the chemo, needing to be carried to the bathroom numerous times during the night.
 
Living in Two Realities, The Anguish
 
Simultaneous to all of this I was attending to my new job in advertising, a dream come true. I had to show up and do the best job I could. I would go home at lunchtime to see if I could get her to eat something, as only I was allowed this responsibility. My employer showed extraordinary compassion—the constant having to leave to go with Sheila to a doctor’s appointment or the intermittent crises I needed to attend to immediately.
 
I was living in two incompatible realities. Later I identified this as an often-overlooked suffering of the caregiver. One is the everyday personal existence—self-care, professional responsibilities, social engagement; the other is the intimate world of the sick and fragile loved one, with its ever-changing demands, along with full body/mind consumption.
 
I discovered that I could bounce between the two awkwardly, yet they never felt integrated. These two aspects of my being suffered greatly even at the thought of bringing them together.
 
But I learned how I could resource myself. To learn the techniques on how I did it, and how to resource yourself, please check out Resourcing Ourselves: Three Tangible Shifts.
 
 
Michael Picucci, PhD, SEP is in private practice in NYC and Ulster County, NY. Michael also passionately teaches Focalizing to individuals and groups, mostly with the Focalizing Institute Or you can reach Michael directly at http://www.michaelpicucci.com.
 
 
 

Family Caregivers and Caregiving: Then And Now

Family Caregivers and Caregiving: Then And Now

By Karen Bromberg
Introduction
Take a moment. I’d like you to think back to when you were a child. Hanging out with your friends. Riding your bike. Skating. Going to school. Doing homework. Relaxing at the beach during the summer.
In memory, everything seemed so easy and straightforward.
We knew what we had to do and what we weren’t allowed. We knew what was right and what was wrong was wrong and never the twain shall meet.
Dads went to work. Moms stayed home. Communities were more closely knit. Grandparents (sometimes great-grandparents) lived nearby and when they could no longer take care of themselves, they’d invariably move in with us.
It was hardly unusual for generations to live together. On my block alone, there were three houses that were multi-generational, mine being one.
Back then families “took care of their own.” Grandma and/or grandpa would get their own room, extra places would be set at the dinner table and life would go on as before. We kids may have gotten yelled at by either Mom or Dad, “kids, kids,” they say in a hushed scream, “grandma (and/or grandpa) is trying to rest” but that was about it.
Oh, there may have been a bump or two, a raised voice here or there, but for the most part, things seemed to flow. No muss. No fuss. Grandma (or Grandpa) just seemed to fold into the family.
Assisted Living facilities didn’t exist and nursing homes were places that no self-respecting son or daughter would ever relegate their parent(s) to.
There were no such things as blogs (heck, there wasn’t even an Internet back then, hard to believe!) or articles in magazines sporting titles such as “Five Relaxation Tips For Overwhelmed Caregivers” or “Ten Strategies For Overwhelmed Caregivers.”
From our vantage point as children, family caregiving seemed like the most natural thing in the world and from what we saw from our parents, caregiving was a family matter. Period.
Fast forward to 2018
Things are different . . . sizably different. The biggest difference, of course, is that now we are the adults. The problems we were once sheltered from are now the very things we’re dealing with and the issues we were protected from by our parents are now what we are protecting our children from.
But that’s not the only difference.
What was true and accepted when we were kids isn’t so much anymore. Men aren’t the sole breadwinners and women’s roles have expanded to include professions unheard of in our mother’s day: doctors, lawyers, managers, even astronauts.
According to a 2017 blog from U.S. Department of Labor,

“Seventy percentof mothers with children under 18 participate in the labor force, with over 75 percent employed full-time.
Mothers are the primary or sole earners for 40 percentof households with children under 18 today, compared with 11 percent in 1960.”

Which mean that almost half the women working outside the home today aren’t do it for personal satisfaction, but for economic survival.
According to the same blog post, 45% of women are marketing and sales managers and 27% are chief executives, indicating again, what we already know, that women in this generation don’t just have jobs, they have careers and are not just working but are in positions of leadership.
That said, in Caregiving In The U.S., a 2015 report by AARP, ”The majority of caregivers are female (60%).” Roughly translated – family caregiving still defaults mostly to women even as women are more and more in the workplace (and in positions of power).
A generation ago, when grandma or grandpa needed someone to go with them to the doctor, for example, it would be no problem. If Mom worked, she’d simply call her boss and tell him that she needed the day off. It’s what my mother did when my grandmother had to go to the doctor. And no, the boss wasn’t happy about it but . . .
So what now?
It’s clear that the rules have changed. What worked for our mothers and grandmothers simply isn’t going to work for us. Not because we’re bad people and not because we’re selfish or uncaring. It’s simply because things have changed.
The problem, as I see it, is that while societal expectations and responsibilities have altered, the way we approach caregiving (the prism by which we view it) really hasn’t.
We remember the way our mothers approached it and try to do it the same way. For many of us, family caregiving is still considered a private matter. Oh, we may discuss, even complain about it, outside the family, but we still look for solutions within the family, turning to siblings or other relatives for help and guidance even though we know we’re likely not going to get it.
So, the question becomes how do we do this thing called caregiving in a way that honors who we are now, in this generation.
The first thing I think we need to do is not blame anyone. Not our sibling that won’t pitch in. Not the uncle who likes to tell us what we’re doing wrong. While they may infuriate us, we have to remember that they are as scared as we are and are doing the best they can even though from our perspective what they are offering is so incredibly not.
The second thing I think we have to focus on is how we’re going to find ways (save, sane and healthy ways) to care for our loved ones while still tending to all the things we have to tend to. It’s going to take creativity, patience, honesty and yes, even a little humor to find the answers that will meet our needs. But I have confidence that we will find them.
For some, it’ll mean that their loved one will stay in their own homes and be monitored by a visiting nurse. Maybe they’ll have a homecare attendant during the day or maybe as a live-in.
For others, assisted living or nursing home might be the best option. And I know that there’s a stigma about this whole idea of adult children placing their elderly parents into such facilities. I know it because I was on the receiving end of it when it was time for my parents to go into assisted living.
People seemed to feel so comfortable saying things. Hurtful things. Things that made me feel guilty. And even if they didn’t say anything, I could feel their disapproval. It wasn’t helpful. To be honest, it only made a difficult situation worse.
So, I’m actually the last person who will ever tell anyone what I think they should do. I do, however, think it’s important to shine a light on options.
Assisted Living
While I wouldn’t say that it’s the norm to have elderly parents or grandparents living in assisted living, I will say it’s far more common and getting more common all the time. According to an article on American Senior Communities’ website, “Currently, around one million Americans live in some type of senior living community, and that number is expected to double by the year 2030.”
Nursing homes
Thanks to the reforms in the 80s, nursing homes have gotten sizably better. That said, not all are good and family caregivers would do well to be vigilant to make sure that their loved ones are being properly cared for.
I was fortunate. The nursing home my parents were in was quite nice. It wasn’t perfect but my parents were well cared for.
While not all nursing homes are as good as the one my parents were in, we have to remember that they have to adhere to certain guidelines or risk penalty. Of course, with the easing of fines (NY Times 12/24/2017) we’re going to have to see how all this shakes out. My advice is for family caregivers to be extra special vigilant. Drop in when the staff is not expecting you. Enlist other family members and friends to visit. Get their opinion of how things are going.
It’s especially important because we are so busy as caregivers, employees, spouses, and parents, that we reach out to others (friends, a clergy person, a counselor, therapist or any other professional working with family caregivers) even before we feel like it’s getting too much. That way we can prevent that overwhelming feeling and avoid the risk of burnout.
It can be so helpful and healing to speak to someone who actually understands what it’s like and who knows what it’s like. And it could end being that they’ll have a simple solution to a problem you’re having but, because you’re in the middle of it, you can’t see.
We also have to allow ourselves the “luxury” of not being perfect and understand that because of the ways society has changed, no matter how much we may want to, we simply can’t be the way we remember our mothers being.
Karen Bromberg is the founder of Help You Thru, LLC, an online resource for family caregivers offering resources, relaxation and relaxation techniques to overwhelmed caregivers. Feel free to contact her, either by email at staff@helpyouthru.com or via phone 929-276-2109. Want to get more information about how you can make your caregiving journey easier, simply fill out the form below and join our mailing list.

Eight Ridiculously Easy Relaxation Tips Overwhelmed Caregivers Can Do To Make 2018 A Less Stressful Year

Eight Ridiculously Easy Relaxation Tips Overwhelmed Caregivers Can Do To Make 2018 A Less Stressful Year

by Karen Bromberg
 
Introduction
 
So, it’s 2018. Can you believe it?
If you’re anything like me, you look upon this time of year with excitement, hope, relief (yes, you actually survived 2017!) and even a little bit of dread, gazing upon your care recipients, remembering with fondness what they were able to do last year (two years ago, three years ago, five and ten years ago) at this time.
You try not to think about it, but can’t help yourself yet the more you think about it, the worse you feel. 
But, there is good news and no, it has nothing to do with turning back the hand of time. It does, however, have to do with making small changes that can reap great benefits.
Needless to say, the exercise that I go over below should not be done while driving or in a public place. To that end, I recommend finding a quiet place in your home to do them.
 
SUGGESTIONS FOR REDUCING STRESS
 

Spend five minutes (more if you can) every morning in meditation. Meditation is great. It allows the mind to be quiet and the body to relax. Feel free to sit up in bed, back resting against the headboard, or in a chair with feet on the floor. You can even lie down (though you may end up falling asleep). The main thing is to have a quiet environment where you feel safe (both physically and mentally), close your eyes then once your eyes are closed, focus on your breath. Repeat an uplifting phrase. No, it doesn’t have to be “OM,” but something that works for you.

 

Spend at least five minutes (more if you can) in meditation before going to bed. As stated above meditation can be done sitting or lying in bed. In my experience, quieting the mind and relaxing the body before sleep allows for a far more restful slumber.

 

Sit for a few minutes every day doing nothing but focusing on the breath. The inhalations. The exhalations. Feeling the cool air going into your nostrils. The warm air releasing from them. You’ll notice that the mind will be less active and your body will feel less stressed.

 

Do a grounding exercise once a day. Sit comfortably, feet on the floor, and slowly look around. That’s all it takes. Look in front of you, behind you, to your left, to your right. Look up and look down. But just don’t look. Really look. See what’s there. The objects in the room. The walls. The floor. The lighting fixtures. The patterns in the linoleum. Examine any pictures that may be in the room. Tell yourself, “I am here. This is 2018 and I am sitting in my home. I am performing this grounding exercise and in this moment everything is okay.” By scanning your environment you take yourself out of your head and the scary future and ground yourself in the immediate present.

 

Eat properly. I know, we’ve heard it a million times. If we don’t fuel the body well, how can we expect it to perform? But think about it. If we don’t feed it well, we force it to work harder. We force it to work harder, it becomes stressed. It becomes stressed, we end up feeling the stress. Now I’m no dietician, but the argument seems to make sense to me. If we feed the body well and fuel it properly then we’re just better able to navigate the world. But, the question is how do we do it when we have NO time? My thoughts . . . Batch kitchen tasks.

 
                                 :: Cut up all the veggies you’ll need for the week at the same time.
                                 :: Marinate all the meats you’ll be cooking for the week at the same time.
                                 :: Cook several meals at once. This is especially easy when you prepare stews or soups.
 

It’s well known that exercise relieves stress. If going to a gym is not possible then do it at home. Look on the Internet, on YouTube, find something that will be fun. Put on some music and dance around your living room. You can even buy a piece of equipment and if space is an issue, no worries, there are really small ones. I have a mini elliptical which stores away in my closet. If you don’t have time, then exercise for five minutes, ten minutes, anything is better than nothing but make sure to check with your physician first, before starting any exercise program or before ramping up whatever exercise you are currently doing. Seriously. It’s important.

 

Laugh everyday day. Do it even if you don’t feel like it, even if there seems to be nothing to laugh about. Get on the phone and talk to a “funny” friend. Stream a funny movie or TV show. Laughter increases serotonin (the “feel-good” chemical) in the brain, which, in turn, relaxes the body.

 

Finally, allow the people in your life to help you. It’s hard, I know. Letting others do for you when you are far more comfortable doing for others. But think about it, wouldn’t it be relaxing to have someone take care of you once in a while?

 
Conclusion
The key here is to start small –  one thing at a time – and build slowly. Be gentle with yourself and remember only you know whether something is working for you or not. If it’s not, then forget it and move on.
I want to wish you the happiest of new years!
 
 
 
Karen Bromberg is the founder of Help You Thru, LLC, an online resource for family caregivers offering resources, relaxation and relaxation techniques to overwhelmed caregivers. Feel free to contact her, either by email at staff@helpyouthru.com or via phone 929-276-2109.

My Number One, Best Relaxation Tip For Overwhelmed Caregivers

My Number One, Best Relaxation Tip For Overwhelmed Caregivers

by Karen Bromberg
 
Introduction
 
I want to share a little story.
This happened many years ago. My husband and I were at this concert. No, not a Bruce Springsteen concert. Not a Madonna concert. Not even a James Taylor concert (though we did see James Taylor with Carole King at Madison Square Garden several years later).
This concert was with Paul Winter, a renowned saxophonist, with more than 40 albums, and his band, The Paul Winter Consort. It was his annual “Winter Solstice Concert” that takes place at St. John the Divine on New York’s Upper West Side.
It’s an amazing concert in an amazing space. St. John the Divine is big and cavernous, it’s “the largest cathedral in the world, making it a global landmark.” If you’ve never been, I highly recommend a visit, but I digress.
It was during the concert, specifically as Paul Winter was introducing one of his signature pieces, that this occurred. He said something that’s always stayed with me. He was talking about the significance of light in the celebration of the winter holidays (religious history and significance aside) and about how, during the darkest time of the year, we use the light from candles and bulbs, which “are kin to the fiery rites of old, which celebrated the miracle of earth’s renewal.”
Blew my mind.
But what does it have to do with caregivers? And overwhelmed caregivers at that?
Wait. Keep reading. I think you’re gonna like this.
 
Darkness vs Light
 
Every year, right around this time, I remember what Paul Winter said during that concert, and yes, no doubt, it’s likely because with the sun rising around 7:15 am and setting around 4:30 pm, where I am, I’m a little light deprived.
But I have to say, it’s actually much more.
If you are anything like me, there’s a hopelessness and fear inherent in darkness. We walk down streets a little faster. Maybe look over our shoulders more often without even realizing it. We hunker down and hibernate. True, it’s partly because of the cold but if we think about it, it’s also partly because of the darkness. 
Yet every time I look at Christmas lights or at the flame at the tip of Chanukkah and Kwanzaa candles, I feel better. My spirits are lifted and I feel more hopeful and joyful. Perhaps it’s because, as Paul Winter says, they symbolize renewal and the return of the sun.
It’s this interplay between the darkness and the light, the duality of them, that was just so evident for me this year with the passing of my parents. Each time I fell into a crying jag a friend or family member invariably would remind me of my memories, and (in my father’s case, being that he passed after my mother), how “they are now together.”
Without realizing it, my family and friends were reminding me of the light.
It’s so easy for us to fall into the darkness in our lives. With so much to do day-in and day-out – we put our heads down, we stick blinders on and we focus on the task at hand, the one goal being to get to the end of the day – that we forget to occasionally let in the light. But what if we did? What if we take the glasses with the dark lenses in them off and replace them with a pair that lets in the light? What would that be like?
Maybe instead of seeing only despair, we could also see the joy? Maybe instead of only seeing the sadness that’s around us, we could also appreciate the happiness? Maybe instead of feeling hopeless at things we obviously can’t control, we can also see some possibilities? 
Imagine how different our days, weeks and months might be if we could do that? Even a teeny tiny bit. 
So okay, you’ve guessed it, my number one best relaxation tip for overwhelmed caregivers is (drum roll, please), to focus on the light. 
I want to take this opportunity to wish all of you the very best this holiday season but most of all, I want to take this opportunity to wish you love and light.
 
 
Karen Bromberg is the founder of Help You Thru, LLC, an online resource for family caregivers offering resources, relaxation and relaxation techniques to overwhelmed caregivers. Feel free to contact her, either by email at staff@helpyouthru.com or via phone 929-276-2109.

Gift Ideas For Overwhelmed Caregivers (And Those Who Care About Them)

Gift Ideas For Overwhelmed Caregivers (And Those Who Care About Them)

By Karen Bromberg
 
Introduction
So, the turkey is gone. The leftovers are a memory. With Thanksgiving now in the past (even the bruises from Black Friday have faded), we can now turn our attention to: Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, and the gifts we’re getting ready to give and receive.
If you are like me, getting the exact right gift for the people on you list can be quite the challenge. There are so many things to consider. Are they going to like what we got? Is it the right color? The right size? Do they still want that pasta maker they spoke about back in June or are they now, suddenly, into gourmet ice cream making? And what about little Johnny? Is he ready for his first two-wheel bicycle? Or would he like a computer game instead?
Typically, if we’re on the giving side of the equation, our goal is to get gifts that the people in our lives will enjoy. If we’re on the receiving end, while we appreciate everything, we especially appreciate those gifts that show that thought went into the gift’s selection.
Since we family caregivers often don’t know what he need or want (about anything if it pertains to our needs), it becomes that much more difficult for others to get a sense of what kind(s) of gifts will make us happy.
In previous blog posts, Caregiver Stress and Caregiver Burnout to name two, I talk about the importance of dialing back the stress and I give tips for how overwhelmed caregivers can do go about doing that.
In today’s blog post, I want to talk about how we can incorporate some of those tips into potential gifts.
 
An Overwhelmed Caregiver’s Wish-list
Imagine this, your friend approaches you. “I need your help,” she may say. “I’ve thought about it and thought about it but I still have no idea what you’d like this Christmas. I know it’s terrible of me to ask but I REALLY want to get you something you’ll love. I know this year has been so hard for you and I’d like to get you something that’ll make you smile, but I honestly have no idea what that would be. Can you at least give me a clue?”
Now, granted, most of us probably won’t have a conversation like the one I’ve sketched out above but wouldn’t it be great if we had a list at the ready, you know, just in case someone did?
And even if no one did, even if you get that kitchen item you have no idea how to use, a list at the ready could serve to solidify at least in your own mind what you’d like to get so you can give it to yourself.
That’s why I created the list below. I wanted to give you an example of what I’m talking about. Granted it’s a generic list. The main point is to give ideas and provide a jumping off point.
I encourage you to make the list your own. Take a few moments, jot down the things you like and don’t be afraid to be creative. Let you mind wander, maybe even go a little wild. Think about what would make you happy.
With all that you do day in and day out, if anyone deserves it, you do!
 
Gift Ideas

Gift certificates to the movies. I love this idea. Movies are so great. Sit in dark. Escape for a couple of hours. Can it get any better than that? Movies offer us a break, taking us to far away places and introducing us to new and interesting characters. But what if your caregiving situation doesn’t permit you to leave your house? If that’s the case, how about asking a friend, neighbor or relative to stay with your caregiving recipient? Could that be a possibility? Let the person know that you need to take a break. Assure him/her that it will only be for a couple of hours. Of course, you’re going to want to make sure that your care recipient is on board and your going to want to make sure that the person you are leaving your care recipient with is responsible and knows the ins and outs of how to care for your loved one (remember-safety first). If all that is “a go,” then by all means — Enjoy and have some popcorn for me!

 

But what if your loved one isn’t on board with the idea of you being out of the house? What then? What if he/she doesn’t feel safe? Well, then how about asking that same friend, neighbor or relative to come over. You could go into your room and stream a movie, or rest or read or do anything else that will allow you to recharge. The beauty of this idea is that you can get what makes sense for you and if your loved one needs to be reassured that you are around, all you have to do is stick your head out so that he/she one can see you. It’s a win-win for both you and the person you are caring for.

 

Now if that doesn’t work at all, if your loved one doesn’t want you out of his/her sight and doesn’t feel safe with anyone but you, no problem. Forget the whole movie idea and instead how about a gift of month of dinners? A month of dinners, you may ask. Yes, a month of dinner. That way you can eat healthy and have it not take a lot of time. There are online services that will deliver “dinner kits,” packages that have all the ingredients already cut up. You might need to add meat or chicken. A few minutes in a pan over the flame and Voila! Dinner is ready.

 

If your caregiving recipient happens to live in a facility (such as an assisted living residence or nursing home), meaning that you are not responsible for his/her care 24/7, then how about permitting yourself a total day of pampering? Calling a friend, going out for brunch then on to a mani/pedi, followed by a massage or facial. Do you like going to the theater? If so, then how about following all that up with a play? Do you prefer music? Then what about a concert? Make it a day that not only recharges your body but your soul as well.

 

Or, if you prefer, how about grabbing your spouse or friend and going away for the weekend? Find someplace that will clear your mind and relax your body. Of course, you’ll have your cell phone with you – as caregivers, its part of our wardrobe. Of course you’ll check to make sure that wherever you go you’ll have cell service, it’s what we do as caregivers. If you prefer though,and  if it makes sense in your caregiving life, how about asking a relative to check in with the facility for you. You can make arrangements with that relative to get in touch should there is a problem, or if it makes YOU feel better, you can make arrangements to check in with him/her once a day while you are gone.

 

But what if you’re too pooped to do any of that? How about a home spa treatment instead? There are so many options that we can choose from. Simply Google home spa treatments then create your own perfect package.

 

Last, but hardly least, there are books. To my mind, there’s nothing quite like curling up with a good book to make one feel transported. And with so many choices – the good old book-book, the eBook, and the audible book – it’s just so easy.

 
Conclusion 
As I said earlier in this piece, these are all just generic suggestions. You have to tailor them so that they make sense for your caregiving situation and for the person/people you are caring for. As I always say, each caregiving situation is different and while I can propose some ideas, I can’t know what will work for you in your specific situation. Remember, when it comes to your caregiving journey and the people you care for . . . YOU are the expert!
While the holiday season can bring such joy, it can also bring confusion and uncertainly when it comes to the giving and receiving of presents. Having a list can help not only those buying gifts for you, it can solidify in your own mind what you would like.
Don’t forget. Be creative. Ask yourself, “What would I like? Who knows, maybe by just writing it down you’ll be able to call it into being.
 
 
 
Karen Bromberg is the founder of Help You Thru, LLC, an online resource for family caregivers offering resources, relaxation and relaxation techniques to overwhelmed caregivers. Feel free to contact her, either by email at staff@helpyouthru.com or via phone 929-276-2109.

On The Fifth Anniversary of Hurricane Sandy: Tips Every Family Caregiver Should Know

On The Fifth Anniversary of Hurricane Sandy: Tips Every Family Caregiver Should Know

by Karen Bromberg
 
Anniversaries matter. It doesn’t matter it it’s a wedding anniversary, the anniversary of a first job, or the anniversary of moving into a dream home.
 
It’s a way for us to mark a passage of time; a way for us to measure our progress. Said another way, it’s a yardstick by which we can measure how far we’ve come. I mean, how many times have we thought to ourselves, “Wow, last Christmas I was doing such-and-such. How things have changed!” or “Hmmm, when Amy and I moved in here, little Jennifer was only three years old. Now look at her, an adult, ready to go to college.”
 
In a few short days, we’ll be marking the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Sandy. For those who went through it (as my husband and I did), I’m sure you’ll never forget it. The flooding of neighborhoods. The power going out. The shortage of gas.
 
When Hurricane Sandy pummeled the New York Metropolitan area on October 29, 2012, I suddenly became a family caregiver – as many of you may already know, my parents house was one of the many that was flooded.
 
When I became a family caregiver, I had questions. LOTS OF QUESTIONS. About everything. Medicare. Medicaid. Assisted Living. You name it. I had questions about it. A smart, educated woman in her 50s, it was amazing how much I didn’t know. If someone were to ask me to describe myself, I’d have to say that I was a real “babe-in-the-woods” and totally over my head.
 
And not just about the big things, like how I was going to getting my parents onto Medicaid and into Assisted Living, but the “little” things as well. I worried about whether I should redirect their mail to my home or whether it was better just to have it halted it at their post office; about whether my parents had enough clothes at my cousin’s house – where they were staying while my husband and I searched for an assisted living facility – or whether we had to bring more the next time we went up to see them.
 
You know, the “little” things.
 
I learned so much during those first few days and weeks. There were the things I assumed I’d have to learn about, having never done them before – applying for Medicaid, dealing with FEMA – and the stuff I thought I knew but really didn’t. Now that was really a shocker!
 
Prior to Hurricane Sandy, my parent were still living independently on their own. My mother took care of my father and that was the way it was. I’d ask her how their doctor’s appointments went and she’d tell me . . . a little. I knew when they got their flu shots and when the doctor drew blood but other than that, my mother kept things pretty close to the vest. The one thing about my mother was that she was fiercely independent. So was my father. Which totally had it’s upside, but it also had a downside.
 
Imagine sitting with a social worker from an Assisted Living facility after the tour, being asked questions whose answers you know you should know, given that you are their daughter, but don’t.
 
As family caregivers, we need:
 

to be active participants in urging our care recipient(s) to name a power-of-attorney and health care proxy.
to discuss with our care recipients if he/she wants to fill out a living will, and
make sure that all important paperwork – the power of attorney, the healthcare proxy, the will and the living will – are all kept in a place that’s easily accessible because in an emergency there’s just no time to waste.

 
We also need to:
 

keep copies of everything that has to do with our care recipient(s). Never know when we might need the information.
take good notes.
not be afraid to ask questions.

 
The person(s) named as the power or attorney and healthcare proxy should have a firm handle on, and be well versed with, the care recipient’s financial, legal and medical status. Among the things they should know include but is not limited to (as is appropriate, given the tasks involved):
 

the care recipient’s medical condition(s).
the medication(s) the care recipient takes, including time(s) of day and dosages.
the names, addresses and phone numbers of any and all medical professionals the care recipient goes to.
the location of the care recipient’s important papers: including any burial plots the care recipient has.
if the care recipient has any bonds or CD’s and if he/she does, the date(s) the bonds or CD’s are expected to come due.
if the care recipient has any stocks and if so, the name, address and phone number of the stockbroker(s) the care recipient uses.
the care recipient’s bank account(s), including amount(s) in each account and the address(es)of each bank.
the names of all beneficiaries.
if the care recipient has a pension or mortgage.

 
Quite the list!
 
In addition to that, we also need to make sure that we are taking care of ourselves, as well. Very simply, if we run ourselves into the ground, if we end up getting sick, who will be there to care for our care recipients, our loved ones.
 
We need to make sure that we:

eat properly: employing a healthy variety of low fat meats, fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains.
rest properly: trying (as best as we can) to get a full night’s sleep. Studies have shown that over time those who fail to get the proper amount of rest can put themselves at risk for a variety of health conditions.
de-stress: even a few minutes of deep breathing, meditation and stretching can make a world of difference to both the body and the mind.

 
Anniversaries marking both happy, and less than happy, events can be very powerful reminders stirring up a myriad of emotions. For those who were impacted, please make sure to take care of yourself. Do something fun. Be with those you love.
I know that I will.
 
 
*some of the above was taken from my upcoming eBook “The Unsuspecting Caregiver: My Experiences In The Wake of Hurricane Sandy And The Lessons That I’ve Learned From Them” due out October 29, 2017. If you’d like to learn more, please contact me or go onto Amazon.com beginning October 29th.
 
Karen Bromberg is the founder of Helpyouthru.com. She is a certified yoga instructor and a certified caregiving consultant, helping overwhelmed family caregivers brainstorm ideas to help make their family caregiving experiences more rewarding and less stressful. If you’d like to get in touch with her, if you have any questions or comments about this post, please feel free to email at her staff@helpyouthru.com.
Check her out on Facebook. Feel free to join her FREE Facebook group, “The Caregiving Community,” a place by and for present and former family caregivers. Simply click the green “Join” button on the top of the page. Be the first to find out information pertaining to Help You Thru. Join the mailing list.