Six Ways To Make This The Best Spring Ever

Six Ways To Make This The Best Spring Ever

Introduction

 

Congratulations overwhelmed caregivers! You made it through yet another winter!

 

Days of navigating your loved ones through sleet and snow in order to get them to their doctors’ appointments are slowly fading into memory. Soon flowers will be in bloom; overcoats, boots, and scarves will be tucked into the back of the closet while windbreakers and sweaters are brought up front.

 

For many of us here in the United States, we’ve already unofficially welcomed Spring. That was done on March 11th, when we turned our clocks forward and on March 20th, we officially welcome it.

 

It’s cliché to say that Spring is synonymous with renewal and rebirth but the truth of the matter is, it is. I mean, all we have to do is look out our window to see it. Depending on where you are, the crocuses may be out, blades of grass beginning to peak through the ground.

 

Why even the holidays we celebrate in Springtime are all about renewal. I mean, just look at the symbolism.

 

If one were to look up the meaning of the word “renewal” one will find many definitions. One that comes from Merriam-Webster I just love. It says that renewal is “to become new or as new.”

 

Isn’t that beautiful? After a long, dark, cold winter we can become new again.

 

But the question is, how as overwhelmed caregivers, busy all day long with our kids, our spouses, our house, and our care recipients, are we able to do that?

 

 Ways We Can Make This The Best Spring Ever

 

1. Conduct a thorough Spring Cleaning and no, when say that I don’t mean tearing the house apart and cleaning it to an inch of its life. What I mean is:

 

:: Go through diets, pantries, and refrigerators. Assess what foods are no longer serving us in terms of our health and nutrition and replace them with better food that’ll better support our goals.

 

:: Review exercise regimes. For those already exercising (woot-woot!), keep it up. For those who don’t, I want to be the voice of encouragement. One evening, instead of collapsing in front of the TV, try going for a little walk (providing you can leave your care recipient on his/her own). If your care recipient can’t be left alone, try walking around the house, going up and down the stairs a few times, putting on a CD or something on one of those streaming channels and dance around the living room. Provided there are no medical contra-indications to exercise, exercise provides energy and a rise in endorphins, which lowers stress.

 

2. De-clutter your life. Assess which friends and which habits support the goals of health and relaxation. Keep what works and discard the rest. So, if you have a friend, for example, who loves to dictate how they would take care of your loved one if they were in your place (so obnoxious, isn’t it?) my experience is that the best and healthiest thing to do is simply walk away.

 

3. Create a meaningful daily ritual. Read the Bible. Pray. Sit in meditation or take a few deep breaths with the eyes closed.

 

4. Try something new; something never tried before. A new hobby. Painting. Learning how to knit or crochet. Maybe start a vegetable garden in the backyard.

 

5. About life in the future. A new job. Or a new career. Maybe a dream vacation. To the tropics? A tour to Alaska? A cruise along the Mediterranean? Go ahead, plan it out. For a week? How about two?

 

6. Sit down and assess what attitudes and strategies are still working and what aren’t. Those that are still working, keep. Those that aren’t, how about discovering (or re-discovering) ways that things can flow more easily?

 

Conclusion

 

While each season has it’s own gifts, Spring’s gifts is that of rebirth and renewal. If we can embrace those gifts and learn the lessons they have to offer, then we can reduce our stress and the overwhelm it brings, thereby making this Spring the best ever.

 

 

 

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 at staff@helpyouthru.com. Want more information about how you can make your caregiving journey easier? Join our mailing list.

More Rights Overwhelmed Family Caregivers Have (But May Not Realize)

More Rights Overwhelmed Family Caregivers Have (But May Not Realize)

By Karen Bromberg

 

Introduction

 

Back in January, I wrote a blog post titled “Five Rights Overwhelmed Caregivers Have (But May Not Realize).” In it, I spoke to those feelings we, overwhelmed caregivers, may have but often don’t speak about. I also gave some ideas and support for how we can lower our stress thereby, hopefully, avoiding caregiver burnout.

 

As I’ve said before (and I’ll say it again), we family caregivers have such full plates. We do so much for so many that often there’s no time to do anything for ourselves. As a result, we eat poorly and exercise not at all (who has the time or energy?).

 

We put on weight. Anxiety rises. Stress mounts and along with that comes sleepless nights, the ultimate result being that we put our own health at risk.

 

As we know, stress can be so insidious. If we’ve been stressed for a long period of time (the way most of us family caregivers are), we stop noticing it. We forget what it feels like not to be stressed and we even begin to feel that the tightness in our shoulders is normal.

 

It’s not.

 

Now, before I go any further, I want to say upfront that in no way am I advocating we put our needs ahead of our care recipients’.

 

Our care recipients need us and, of course, we want to be there for them. We want to make sure that they are happy, safe and well cared for. After all, we are caregivers and these are the people we love.

 

That said, we also have to be sure that we are taking care of ourselves as well. So, with that in mind, I want to continue our discussion.

 

So . . .

 

As caregivers, we have the right:

 

  1. to feel exhausted.

 

And, more often than not, that’s exactly how we do feel. Physically. Mentally. Emotionally. Spiritually. Generally speaking, we caregivers are a population of very pooped individuals.

 

Oh, we may get six to eight hours of sleep at night, though honestly most of us don’t. But, even if we do, we might still find ourselves continually spent.

 

That happened to me. I’d sleep but I’d still feel tired when I woke up in the morning. I couldn’t understand it, but instead of being compassionate with myself I ended up judging myself (truly the last thing I needed to be doing).

 

In hindsight, what would’ve served me better would’ve been to view my fatigue as a kind of badge of honor. You know, as a positive instead of a negative.

 

But, with that said,

 
 

WE ALSO HAVE THE RIGHT TO

 

not be exhausted. Look, our responsibilities are our responsibilities. Those we cannot change. What we can change is how we approach them.

 

So, how about, instead of being upset that Mom’s doctor called to rearrange her appointment, we look upon it as having a couple of free hours we didn’t anticipate? What if instead of allowing ourselves to feel grumpy all day, we turn our frowns upside down and look at the world through pink, red or yellow colored glasses instead of black or dark brown?

 

A while ago, I realized that there are very many things I don’t have control over but the one thing I do is how I view the world. View it as an awful place and it becomes that way with the final result being that I end up exhausted.

 

View it as a less than awful place, then I can start making better and healthier choices for myself.

 

 

  1. to feel stressed.

 

Isn’t that the dictionary definition of family caregiver?

 

Having most (if not all) of the decisions on our shoulders, having to navigate family members with potentially very different opinions on what’s best, tending to a care recipient who might not want to do what you’d like, not to mention all the other responsibilities we have as adults, really is there any wonder why we are stressed?

 

But that said,

 

 

WE ALSO HAVE THE RIGHT TO

 

not be stressed, feel settled and steady no matter the circumstance. And no, it’s not going to come from a sprinkling of pixie dust or from drowning in your favorite brand of alcohol.

 

It’s going to come from quieting the mind and calming the body. Two techniques I’ve found to be extremely helpful with this is the yogic practices of deep relaxation and deep breathing. As a yoga instructor for over fifteen years, and practicing them myself for even longer, I’ve seen and felt the amazing effects these two practices can have on dialing back the stress. I highly recommend them. They take just a few minutes and they can make such a difference.

 

For instructions, please go to www.helpyouthru.com/caregiver’scorner. Scroll down to the middle of the page. There you will find short video clips.

 

 

  1. to not listen to hurtful/unhelpful people.

 

Don’t you just love the people who, even though they haven’t “walked a mile in your shoes,” aren’t afraid to tell you how to act, think, feel and behave? That what you are doing for your care recipient is wrong? That somehow they know better?

 

Now tell me, do you believe them? Even a little bit. In the back of your mind? Do you find yourself wondering, “Hmmm . . . perhaps he (or she) is right?” and then feel bad about yourself, thinking that you are not doing all you can for your care recipient?

 

I did. And it made my life SO much harder.

 

Look, people are going to give their opinions. We can’t stop that, much as we might like to but that said,

 

 

WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO

 

walk away and not listen. We also have the right to feel comfortable in our own skin. We can blast the person for their insensitivity but, frankly, I wouldn’t. Instead, I’d take a breath, count to ten and bless the person for trying to mean well, then get busy and do something positive.

 

That way we can keep our peace and really there’s nothing better than that!

 

 

 

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 at staff@helpyouthru.com. Want more information about how you can make your caregiving journey easier? Join our mailing list.

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.

Five Rights Overwhelmed Caregivers Have (But May Not Realize)

Five Rights Overwhelmed Caregivers Have (But May Not Realize)

by Karen Bromberg

 

Introduction

 

When I think back to my days as an overwhelmed caregiver, the one thing that comes to mind was how stoically I went through my days. Oh, I complained. Just ask my friends. I complained about how tired I was and how frustrated I felt. You name it. I’d complain about it.

 

But when all was said and done (and I finally finished my complaining), the one thing I typically said was “ . . . all-in-all, I guess I’m doing as well as can be expected, given the circumstances.”

 

Of course, I wasn’t. Anyone who’s done family caregiving for more than five minutes knows that I wasn’t. But what was I going to do? Tell them that my heart was breaking? Tell them that I was in tears pretty much all the time and when I wasn’t in tears, I was so angry that it took all my self-control not to throw something?

 

How could I say that?

 

First of all, I felt that most people didn’t REALLY care. I mean, they asked but I felt as though they were doing it more out of social obligation than really wanting to know. (As I came to realize, in some cases, I was 100% correct.)

 

I also felt that I wouldn’t be understood and by extension, be judged. And of course, there was the guilt. There was always the guilt.

 

My years of being a caregiver to my parents are over now and what I’ve come to realize (even more now than before) is that caregiving is not for the faint of heart. It’s hard, requiring us to have grit and fortitude, wisdom and an internal strength that those who have never done caregiving can’t understand.

 

On a daily basis it requires us to look at our positive and negative qualities, our wants and desires then take them all and push them to the side in the service of another/others.

 

That said, I’ve also come to realize that caregivers also have certain rights.

 

We have the right to:

 

  1. not want to be a caregiver.

But, of course, you do it. You care-give every day and really, you wouldn’t have it any other way. But let’s be honest, no one ever asked for it. I mean, it’s not like you woke up one day all bright eyed and bushy tailed, excited at the prospect, rubbing your hands together, saying to yourself, “oh boy, I think today I’ll be a caregiver.” No, it’s more like you were chugging along in your life, then one day – BOOM — the you-know-what hits the fan and there you are – a caregiver. Perhaps, your caregiving situation came up slowly. Perhaps you saw it coming. Even so, it probably still caught you by surprise because, really, no matter how much a person prepares, somehow caregiving ALWAYS manages to catch one off-guard.

 

  1. to be angry.

Of course, you do! There you were: being a parent, being a spouse, an employee, a daughter (or son) then all of a sudden you became a caregiver. No preparation. No instruction booklet. And now, here you are on the front-line: dealing with the medical community, dealing with the insurance company, dealing with Medicare or Medicaid. All while the person you love so much is sick or injured. You feel the pressure, having it all in your lap. Having to deal with it day in and day out. Oh, sometimes a relative or friend will step up to help you out, but for the most part, it’s all on YOU. And you get angry. Not at the person you’re caring for necessarily but at the situation itself.

 

  1. to feel resentful.

You look at others: going out to the movies, going out to dinner, going away on vacation, and see them laughing and having a good time the way you used to. Enjoying life. You feel the knot in your gut as you remember doing all the things you used to do and long to do them again. Then there are the times when you find yourself on a bus or in a grocery store or at the newspaper stand and happen to overhear folks either behind you or ahead of you online complaining about their co-workers or their boss, whining about how tough their life is. You feel the grip in your belly. You want to tell them, “Tough . . . you think your life is tough? Try not sleeping for a week because you mother keeps you up at night. Try worrying about how you are going to keep it all together because your boss is getting down on you for all the time you’ve had to take off caring for your Dad. Try figuring out how you are going to do retirement because five years ago you had to quit your job to take care of your dying wife, now that she’s gone no one wants to hire you. Try that out for size then come back and tell me how tough your life is.” Except you don’t. You bite your tongue and move on.

 

Conclusion

 

As caregivers, we so often have to navigate situations and feelings similar to the ones above. We do it so often that we can think that’s all there is. Oh, we remember better times and we may even look forward to having them again sometime in the distant future, but we assume that in the present slogging through our days is all there is.

 

Now, to be clear, not everybody is going to go through all of these at the same time – at least I hope not – but if you do, if you find that your appetite or sleep pattern is being affected by the stress caused by your caregiving responsibilities, if you find you’re dragging through the day, if you find no pleasure in the things that you used to like doing please, please, please, I beg you, seek out professional help and support.

 

Remember, while you have the right to feel all your feelings, you don’t want them getting in the way of your day-to-day life. Remember, too, that even though you are busy caregiving, you have the right to feel joy and excitement, love and a sense of wellbeing.

 

You also have the right to

 

:: ask others for help.

Now, I know this takes courage. Picking up the phone. Making that call. Asking. It sounds easy but in fact, it can be one of the hardest yet bravest things you can do. Being vulnerable. But you might be surprised. People want to help. They just may not know how. Let’s face it, not everybody is equipped to do everything. Your sister might not be comfortable cooking dinner for Mom but she might be perfectly willing, even happy, to take her to her doctor’s appointment. Your brother might not want to change Dad’s Depends but is thrilled to be able to spend one-on-one time with him while feeding him. Ideally, the best thing is to have something akin to “a committee” of people to call on; different people for different tasks. Of course, if this is not possible (because most of the time it isn’t), finding those two or three people who are willing to pitch in, then asking when you need it, can make such a big difference.

 

Not just that, you also have the right to

 

:: receive.

By nature caregivers give. It’s just who we are. It’s what we do. And it’s how we’re comfortable going through life. But giving and giving all the time can lead to our “our cups” being empty which makes it that much harder to give. If it becomes hard to give, we risk burnout. We become burnt-out, we risk becoming less effective caregivers. I know, for those of us wired to give, it takes practice to be able to receive, but it is SOOOO worth it! As the old TV commercial used to say, “Try it, you’ll like it.”

 

Any comments? I’d love to hear it.

 

 

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.