Embracing Role Reversals
With caregiving often comes the issue of role reversal: being parents for our parents, caring for spouses deep in the tasks of caregiving and, at times, becoming patients when our emotional and physical needs require care. We step in for siblings, for friends when their families need assistance. Our children become parents for us as they serve meals and make beds. All this reversal of roles requires a deft and flexible mix of skills and large quantities of patience.
I remember the day that I had to assume the parental role for my mother. It was painful. How could I request a report on medications she took during the day? How would that make her feel? Suggesting bedtimes and reminding that showers needed to be taken did not fit. I felt ungainly, uncomfortable and resentful that the realities of the long chronic journey with my mother now required that I be her parent. And it would not be temporary. This was the new reality.
I could see the pain in her eyes too. Her gaze questioned, "So it's come to this?"
Years later, I detected the same look in my husband's eyes. We were no longer partners, peers, loving best friends. The role had changed, his leukemia disabling much of his body and much of his mind. Again, a new reality.
So the title of this blog is "Embracing Role Reversals." How in the world can any of us "embrace" such an emotionally painful situation?
Here are 3 actions that worked for me:
-TALK ABOUT IT: Acknowledge the new reality of your relationship. Discuss what you need to do differently. ("Mom, I need to remind you about your pills everyday. I know you don't like that but the alternative is worse. If you don't take them, you will feel worse. I love you too much for that to happen.")
-IDENTIFY WHAT NEED NOT CHANGE: Identify the parts of your relationship that will not change. ("Going to the movies once a week is one of the best times we have. I love how we can discuss what we thought the movie meant afterward. Going to the ice cream parlor isn't bad either!")
-BE KIND TO EACH OTHER: Know that both of you are sad about the changes and frustrated too. When you feel sadness or frustration taking over your actions and emotions, take a deep breath, providing a loving comment. ("Darling, we are still having fun together and I love you so much.")
Margery Pabst Steinmetz is an author and facilitator. She founded mycaregivingcoach.com
in 2007. She is ECareDiary's caregiving expert. Upcoming episodes of Margie’s radio show, "Caregivers Speak" airs on scheduled for the following Tuesdays: October 10, November 14, and December 5 at 2PM Eastern. For more caregiver resources, check out mycaregivingcoach.com and ECareDiary.com.
Let's Not Be Lonely Anymore
This past Labor Day, my husband and I attended a college football game. A good friend invited a group of about 30 people, most of whom we had not met. So, as is typical, the guys watched and discussed the game while most of the gals, with some exceptions, chatted about family, food, school while keeping an eye out for the crucial points in the game. Inevitably, the subject of caregiving came up. As the topic of caregiving heated up, some of the guys joined to comment.
Typically, everyone knew someone who is a caregiver, or was a caregiver. Even the younger set is familiar, often intimately with the role of the family caregiver. As I shared my work on these websites, mycaregivingcoach.com and eCareDiary.com, including AFFIRMATIONS, blogs, radio shows, several in the group commented that they did not know about the extent of caregiver resources. This is astounding given we live in the internet age! Several commented that friends or family who are currently caregiving seem to feel as they are each out there, isolated and alone as caregivers. Comments like, "I need to let my mother-in-law know about community resources" or "I'm going to encourage my sister to ask if her museum does respite for caregivers" or "I should Google national resources like AARP and share with my friend who is really struggling."
These examples demonstrate the need to ensure we have no lonely caregivers out there! When I was caregiving, I remember thinking, "this is only happening to me" and feeling isolated from the rest of the world as though I were in a day to day "bubble" that only housed my loved one and me.
Ten years on from that particular caregiving experience, my memories of those lonely feelings persist. Caregiver loneliness is certainly not only due to lack of resources; however it does suggest that each of us communicate with a friend or family member who might need help combatting isolation, with the hope of achieving a higher quality of life. The multitude of resources (spiritual, psychosocial, emotional and physical) are available and growing.
Let's find ways to alleviate caregiver loneliness and isolation. Building personal awareness about the potential for sharing resources and mentoring lonely caregivers is the first step.
Step two is actually to share and mentor in a manner that is not advice oriented (e.g."Here's what you should do"), but rather offered as, "Here was my experience and what I found was helpful." Personal experience, telling your story, sharing resources that worked for you will usually be gratefully accepted.
Margery Pabst Steinmetz is an author of "Enrich Your Caregiving Journey" and "Words of Care." She is the Founder of mycaregivingcoach.com and the caregiving expert for eCareDiary. Listen to her radio show, "Caregivers Speak." on two Tuesdays each month. This month, Margery interviews Liz Kitchens, the lead guest blogger for mycaregivingcoach.com. Liz founded her blog, "BeBraveLoseTheBeige.com"
August Blog: Caregiving: A New Normal?
Caregiving is and has always been a "normal" part of life. I didn't really understand this simple truth for a long time. Many of us have often thought of caregiving as an unusual circumstance, a finite period of time, a bump in the road when, in reality, caregiving is a part of the fabric and pattern of life. Caregiving marks the passages of life, for some beginning with parenting and often culminating later in life in the ultimate role reversal, parenting our parents. Throughout our prime years, caring often assumes a mentoring role for children, employees, peers and friends. Our attitude toward caregiving and acceptance that caregiving is a normal experience throughout life can help us savor the moments, find meaning and enrichment and, in the words of Marc Middleton ("Growing Bolder"), make us "nostalgic for the future." Rather than dreading one's own aging, and inevitable illness, considering the future through a lens of continued promise and life-long learning, enhances each day we have and can help us live longer.
So what might be some ways to alter our attitudes toward caregiving, particularly when we care for one who is ill?
-Acknowledge caregiving as a part of normal life. The odds are most of us will be caregivers and most of us will be cared for.
-"Rebrand" for ourselves and others what caregiving is and can be, a time of reflection, learning and memory, enrichment.
-Create a list of positive images about your personal caregiving journey. (For example, cooking dinner with Mom, taking walks with a spouse, or reading to Dad before he falls asleep each night.) Writing down the positive images of a day of caregiving helps us bring the experience into memorable focus.)
-Mentor other caregivers and share successes with friends and family. Spread the word that there is joy and learning in caregiving.
-Encourage your care partner to make decisions on as many issues as possible. All of us have a more positive outlook when we aren't so busy making every decision.
Margery Pabst Steinmetz is the Founder and Creator of mycaregivingcoach.com and is a partner with eCareDiary.com in encouraging caregiver wellness and well-being. Margery hosts "Caregivers Speak" twice monthly on BlogTalkRadio and is a frequent speaker and facilitator on at caregiving events and arts and wellness seminars.
Tune in to "Caregivers Speak" on Tuesday, August 8 at 2PM Eastern when Margery interviews Marc Middleton, CEO of "Growing Bolder", an Emmy Award winning broadcaster who will share more practical tips on creating joy and "nostalgia for the future" as we age and care for others.
Caregiving often seems like a rubber band, moving from taut to pulled open as far as it can go without breaking. The tension of push and pull is always there as caregivers deal with countless decisions that often have no clear answers.
A few weeks ago, I needed some cosmetics and office supplies so I drove to my local Walgreens and, as I was perusing the aisles, saw a big bag of rubber bands. The bag held an assortment of sizes and colors from big fat bands that would be difficult to stretch to small narrow ones that probably had a stretch ratio of a couple feet. The bands caught my attention because one of my colleagues, Dr. John Guarneri, and I were in the midst of creating a seminar about "caregiver tensions." In that moment, the comparison between a rubber band and caregiving tensions caught my imagination. Here was an almost perfect metaphor!
So how is caregiving like a rubber band or more specifically like a bag of different sized, different colored rubber bands? I bought the bag, opened it immediately and started playing with the metaphorical possibilities! The big fat dark purple band seemed much like a day when no options existed in my caregiving world, a day of uncompromising tension that was confined, barely able to stretch. A bright blue band of medium width reminded me of many days when decisions about what options to take provide many tensions for the busy caregiver. Questions like, "Should I do this alone or ask for help?" or "Should I take my care partner to the doctor or is his symptom just temporary?" or "How many family members really need to know about my care partner's new medications?" are typical decision points for caregivers. Each decision point carries tension because answers are usually not clear. Caregivers live with lack of clarity and the tensions created constantly.
As I stretched the narrow band to its widest point, it seemed much like the freedom that some caregiving days afford us; however upon testing just how far I could take the stretch, the band snapped and broke. "Ouch!" I exclaimed, realizing that even the most carefree day can hold pain and relapse.
In a funny sort of way, my imaginings with the bands provided a respite and a confirmation for my daily feelings. Holding a rubber band gave me a tangible reminder of why I often feel confused and tense. I hope many of you find support and respite as you read these words. Sharing the tough daily decisions you make daily with friends and family is a great way to relieve anxiety and perhaps share a smile and laugh with someone experiencing a similar situation.
Margery Pabst Steinmetz is the author of "Enrich Your Caregiving Journey" and "Words of Care." As eCareDiary's caregiving expert, she facilitates and hosts two radio shows, "Caregivers Speak" and "Caregiver and Physician Conversations." Visit her website, www.mycaregivingcoach.com for a variety of caregiver resources.
March 2017 Blog
WHERE CAN I FIND CERTAINTY?
Uncertainty is not a good condition for my wellness. Most people are probably like me, especially when caregiving. Uncertainty can drive a caregiver crazy!! Not knowing, not having all the information to make a clear decision is a common occurrence for most caregivers and is a major contributor to daily stress. When I cared for my late husband who suffered from Leukemia for two years, clear information that discriminated between one course of action and another was key to our daily quality of life, but it was also hard to obtain. When I could drag some certainty out of ambiguity, my husband and I were much happier. Much of the time, questions like, "What did the latest blood test indicate?" "Was there a definite course of treatment?" occupied our daily thoughts. Clarity was illusive.
Now for some good news! Sometimes, medical professionals can provide us with information that helps families, caregivers and patients make more effective decisions. Possibilities for some certainty do exist. Fortunately, there are some aspects of a caregivers role that can be clarified by specific medical information and medical team support.
Over the next few months, I am so excited to host physicians (both blogs and radio shows) who will provide us with ways to discern one condition from another, so we as caregivers have more certainty in our lives and can make more effective decisions.
Dr. Barry Jacobs' most recent post on this website, mycaregivingcoach.com, and The Huffington Post, identifies ways to determine whether a disease is chronic or terminal. Figuring out that thorny question provides families with a certainty for planning the future. Thank you Dr. Barry Jacobs!!
Be sure to also listen to "Caregivers Speak" on Tuesday, May 9 when Dr. Jacobs and his wife Dr. Julia Mayer, who is a clinical psychologist, will return to inspire us with their strategies for self forgiveness.
In April and June, Dr. Rosemary Laird, chief geriatrician at Florida Hospital will help us consider and discern two key issues caregivers often face:
-When do I know if my parent/s can remain independent? ("Caregivers Speak" on Tuesday, April 4)
-How do I distinguish between age related dementia and the onset of Alzheimer's?
("Caregivers Speak" on Tuesday, June 13)
Clearing your mind by answering the questions than can be answered is key for caregiver wellness. Goodness knows there are so many ambiguous issues surrounding family dynamics, ("Should I ask my sister for help?" "How often should Dad's friends visit?" "Are these issues that should not be shard with siblings?"), that it helps to have strategies that create certainty.
February 2017 Blog
Happy Heart Month everyone!! If ever there was a perfect month that symbolizes caregiver wellness, it is February! Personal growth and wellness while caregiving has been and is an abiding theme beginning with my first book, "Enrich Your Caregiving Journey." To view caregiving as a role most of us will assume in our lifetime suggests that we must see our caregiving time as we would any other role, a time to find meaning and development for ourselves and those around us. This website is dedicated to your personal wellness, development and meaning.
During 2017, we are exploring wellness in so many forms with my radio guests and guest bloggers! All radio shows are aired on Tuesdays at 2PM Eastern but can be accessed later via archives on mycaregivingcoach.com and on eCareDiary.com.
We began the year with Dr. Barry Jacobs and Dr. Julia Mayer, both clinical psychologists who have written an uplifting and inspiring book, "AARP Meditations for Caregivers: Practical, Emotional and Spiritual Support For You and Your Family." The show was an appropriate way to begin the year, focusing on positive ways to consider the year ahead. Dr. Jacobs and Dr. Mayer will return to the show in May.
Deborah Shouse was my guest just last week. Her book, "Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together" provided several specific examples of how to create quality days with meaningful moments that have the power for connecting with your care partner.
I invite all of you to check out the archives for both these shows aired on January 10 and February 14. In March, we turn to an amazing person, Jennifer Lucas, Owner of Synergy Center for Wellness, who understands the art and physicality of Pilates as a mind/body tonic and respite for our personal wellness. I've had personal experience and results from the practice of Pilates and look forward to interviewing Jennifer Lucas and sharing it with you.
Certainly peace of mind has a lot to do with caregiver wellness. Finding answers to our most pressing problems provides peace of mind. So in April, I am proud to begin a continuing conversation with Dr. Rosemary Laird, Chair of Gerontology at Florida Hospital who has identified the number one question asked by caregivers. Dr. Laird notes the most pressing issue for caregivers is "How do I know when my loved one can no longer remain independent and at home?"
This question haunts caregivers, keeps us up at night, increases stress and compromises well being and wellness. Dr. Laird, a geriatrician and passionate advocate for caregivers, will provide practical answers and tips for assessing this question of independent living for your loved one in two parts airing on Tuesday, April 4 and then on June 13.
In May, Dr. Barry Jacobs and Dr. Julia Mayer will provide insight and practical tips for practicing gratitude and forgiveness of both yourself and others. I made many mistakes when I did not express gratitude or practice forgiveness. Expressing gratitude and forgiveness for yourself and others is a key to personal wellness, peace and happiness, so I am looking forward to that show on Tuesday, May 9.
In July, I will welcome Marc Middleton, Founder of Growing Older, Growing Bolder fame for the first time to "Caregivers Speak." More information on that show to come.
During our shows, we promise you practical answers, tips, and simple, easy to do practices that add up to more personal wellness for you. Please join me and my guests over the next few months on the identified dates or check out the archives after shows have aired. Wishing you love for yourself and others!
Happy New Year 2017!
I am grateful for all of you who read the blogs and listen to the radio shows on mycaregivingcoach.com. I am also grateful for the partnership of eCareDiary.com and for my friends Susan Baida and John Mills, the Co-Founders of that site. Our collaborative work on caregiver wellness received so much positive feedback in 2016. We are delighted! Along with these inspirational partners, mycaregivngcoach.com will bring you, the busy caregiver, as much practical and useful information as possible for your personal wellness in 2017.
WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT in 2017
Daily affirmations scrolling along the bottom of the home page continue to be a feature many of you find useful and rewarding. We will continue them and want to develop them through your participation. We want to hear from you, so send us an affirmation that works for you.
Send us a statement describing an action you follow on a regular basis that you believe contributes to your wellness/well-being. (Example: I write in a journal each day.)
My blogs will relate to the themes of radio shows as well as other observations I think you may find useful for your caregiving role. Joining me, as in 2016, will be guest bloggers, some of whom are radio guests. For example, our last show of 2016 featured Dr. Diane Robinson whose comments about achieving happiness also were extended to a blog. Examining the notion of happiness in our lives is an example of what caregivers tell us they find useful.
I am also proud and excited to have Liz Kitchens as the "lead guest blogger" of this site. Liz's blog site, "Be Brave, Lose the Beige" has many followers, and her positive and refreshing take on learning from life's experiences fits perfectly into my perspective and the uplifting tone of mycaregivingcoach.com. Look for Liz's blogs this week and throughout 2017. Welcome Liz!!!
Our radio show, "Caregivers Speak" continues to garner comment and acclaim. Much of the honor belongs to all of you who provide collaborative comments and suggestions. Thank you!
Let me share what's in store for the first quarter of 2017. Each of these programs is focused on practical suggestions for caregiver wellness.
On Tuesday, January 10 at 2PM Eastern, Dr. Barry Jacobs and Dr. Julia Mayer, both clinical psychologists and the authors of the recently published, "AARP Meditations for Caregivers: Practical, Emotional and Spiritual Support for You and Your Family." Their topic will be "Finding Gratitude and Positive Meaning In Family Caregiving." For Dr. Jacobs and Mayer, their focus on caregiving is a family affair; they've been married for 26 years and share a singular passion for providing resources for caregivers. Look for a wonderful New Year's blog from them this week.
On Tuesday, February 14 at 2PM Eastern (Valentine's Day), a heartfelt present from Deborah Shouse, author of "Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together." Her topic will be "Exploring Creative Activities in the Land of Dementia." I know you will find Deborah's tips to be very practical for the quality of your daily life.
On Tuesday, March 14 at 2PM Eastern, Jennifer Lucas, Owner of Synergy Center for Wellness will discuss "The Benefits of Pilates on Mind/Body Balance." Jennifer will have special tips for caregivers on using Pilates in the midst of your busy schedules.
Jennifer was a guest blogger back in September, so look for her blog in the archives.
Remember, if you miss any or all the shows, archives will be available for listening at a later time. You're invited to delve into the archives on mycaregivingcoach.com for both blogs and shows from past years.
During January, we will have more announcements of upcoming shows and blogs, many of which are inspired by your communications and suggestions. Dr. John Guarneri, Past President of the Medical Staff at Florida Hospital and current Director and Chairman of Florida Hospital's Healthcare and Spirituality Department, will be back, providing inspirational and insightful comments from the physician's point of view. Dr. Guarneri is the lead physician for our radio shows.
Let us know what best suits your needs and purpose as caregivers And don't forget to send us your favorite affirmation, one that works best for your quality of life.
All the best for 2017!
Margery Pabst Steinmetz is the Founder of mycaregivingcoach.com and eCareDiary's caregiving expert. She is the author of "Enrich Your Caregiving Journey" and "Words the of Care."
December 2016 blog
As we enter December, 2016 and consider all the blessings we have, I need to thank all of you, my readers and listeners. I am so grateful that my work is appreciated, bringing some solace, happiness, and practical tips to your role as caregivers.
This year, our theme of Caregiver Wellness was so well received as we presented topics that focus on your personal respite and wellbeing. Of course, your feedback reports also pointed out the huge benefits for care partners. When the caregiver's wellbeing and quality of life is addressed, care partners and families receive many reciprocal benefits as well. I am also thankful for my partner, eCareDiary.com in this work.
I encourage you to return to some of our archived blogs and radio shows focusing on caregiver wellness:
How Creativity Impacts Caregiver Quality of Life (5/10/2016)
Creating Close Connections Combats Loneliness (8/9/2016)
How Creativity Is Making A Difference In Caregivers’ Lives (4/12/2016)
Maintaining & Finding Happiness as a Caregiver (11/15/2016)
In 2017, we will continue the caregiver wellness theme by providing practical examples and tips for achieving your best quality of life. We will continue to provide daily affirmations and guest bloggers as well.
I am delighted to introduce the lead guest blogger for this site, Liz Kitchens, whose blog, bebravelosethebeige.com, provides thoughts for living a colorful and bright life today and in the future. Her optimistic attitude aligns with the content of this website and reinforces the tone of my work which encourages that we look for the best and identify the personal growth we can achieve with any experience, including being a caregiver. Welcome Liz!!
Finally, I would like to thank my assistant, Marcie, who always is there to support, provide ideas, and keep me focused. I am blessed you are in my life.
Happy Holidays everyone.
NCCA's Creative Caregiving Guide: Building Caregiver Wellness
During the past two months, I've hosted two shows on the "Caregivers Speak" radio show. (See archives "Creative Caregiving
At Atlantic Center for the Arts" on September 13 and "A Great Way To Spend Time With Your Care Partner" on October 11. On
both shows, we heard about NCCA's Creative Caregiving Guide, ways to use it for yourself, your care partner and your
community as well as ways to advocate for it and get it started in your community. The CCG tools help caregivers find respite,
combat boredom and build quality days with their families. The focus is your caregiver wellness but there are also reciprocal advantages for your care partner.
I hope you listen to those archives and consider the following tips for using the CCG:
- Begin by visiting the website creativeaging.org where you will find information under "creative caregiving." There you will
find the National Center for Creative Aging training videos describing the easy use of the creative exercises for you and your
care partner. Or you may just want to dive in and try some of the creative suggestions!
- Consider the many benefits of using the CCG from stimulating your thinking about other creative and fun things you can do at
home besides watching the television.
- Observe your caregiving emotions and determine if bringing creativity into your caregiving provides a boost in mood and
- Observe your caregiving partner and consider his/her mood. Does creativity bring joy, fun and great memories to you both?
Even though much of the caregiving role is hectic, moments of tremendous boredom and loneliness occur. My experience is
that using any form of creativity can help to dispel boredom, loneliness and even grief.
My wish is that you and your care partner have more quality days filled with meaning and memory.
Pilates is Palliative for Caregivers!
This summer, Pilates became a part of my fitness routine and my life. Although other fitness regimes like weight lifting, yoga,
aerobics, etc. are beneficial for both body
and mind, I'm discovering that Pilates, at least for me, has a singular positive effect
on brain stimulation. The exercises require close attention and focus on multitasking the body. Thinking about five, six,
sometimes even body parts at once is great training for the right and left hemispheres of the brain. Equally if not more
important is that Pilates also calms and focuses--key behaviors for caregiver wellness.
An example instruction from my superb trainer, Jennifer:
"Raise your left leg, bend your knee to a table top position. Keep your right foot on the bar and move to holding the bar with your right toes. Pull in your core and tilt it up to create a small space in the small of your back. Focus your eyes on the ceiling and exhale as you move your right leg straight out. Inhale as you bring your right leg in to the bar."
Jennifer Lucas, Owner of Synergy Center for Wellness, a Pilates and yoga studio in Avon, CO, notes:
"Thank you so much Margery for sharing your love of Pilates. Pilates can best be described as a practice to strengthen the body and mind through exercises which focus on flexibility, building coordination, utilizing the breath, and working our large muscle groups as well as stabilizing muscles to achieve optimal functional movement. A lot to focus on, and makes Pilates, in my opinion, so therapeutic for the mind (and soul). When I practice and instruct Pilates, my mind is in the moment, on the specific movements, whether they be my client's movements or my own. With my focus on muscle multitasking, I find great freedom in Pilates, a peacefulness and strength from the inside out, both mentally and physically. I feel fortunate to witness this
peacefulness and transformation with my clients."
For caregivers, the benefits Jennifer describes (focusing, being in the moment, peacefulness) of Pilates are numerous. Going to a
studio like Synergy Center for Wellness is ideal, but what options are there for the busy caregiver to practice Pilates?
Jennifer notes that "practicing Pilates may be done from your home as well as in a studio. All you need is a mat and a little
space. If you have the opportunity to meet an instructor, request a program of exercises that you could do at home. Irecommend creating a program at your session with the instructor so that you are familiar with the exercises and how to perform them properly."
Jennifer continues, "Another option is to utilize Pilates resources online. A reputable source is Pilates Anytime (www.pilatesanytime.com). A free, 30-day trial Is available for new users. On Pilates Anytime, students have access to over 2,000 mat and equipment exercises for any experience level, all of which are available for streaming on computers, tablets, smartphones and televisions in high definition. YouTube.com offers online videos as well. One of my personal favorite online
Pilates resources/instructors is Robin Long at The Balanced Life
(www.thebalancedlifeonline.com). Robin provides online workouts and resources for busy women who struggle to find time to exercise but who want to take
care of their bodies and minds."
Thanks to Jennifer for these practical tips for the busy caregiver and for all women. I am looking forward to having Jennifer as a guest on "Caregivers Speak."
Jennifer Lucas, Owner of Synergy Center for Wellness in Avon, CO will be a guest on "Caregivers Speak", a radio show hosted by Margery Pabst Steinmetz. Look for the an announcement of the show in early 2017.
Missy My Magical Cat!!! - July Blog
I hope you listened to Caregivers Speak on Tuesday, July 12 when I interviewed Jim Bailey, his daughter Kathy Heath and Jim's dog Toots, a mixed breed poodle. Dr. John Guarneri, our lead physician on the show introduced me to this amazing family. They are an example of how to move past grief and loss and move toward finding joy and comfort and a higher quality of life. The show's big star was Toots and the meaning Jim finds having her as his companion. In Jim's words, Toots makes him feel wanted and provides a big reason for finding joy in each day as well as dispelling loneliness after the loss of his beloved wife of
This family's story is a lesson in finding just the right palliative option for providing comfort and quality of life. Pets can indeed play a critical role. As a wonderful friend and colleague, Marcie Golgoski, explains from her experience, "Pets are the first line of therapy for me." Proven is the fact that pets decrease blood pressure and stress while providing unconditional love.
So it is with me and my kitty, Missy. Actually I share Missy with my husband, Chuck. We often discuss which one of us she loves the most; it's all in good fun as I think Missy loves us both the most. She always seems to be right there when you need her for comforting or snuggling. In this sense, she is magical and mystical; I would even make the case for a certain spirituality in her golden gray eyes. Both Chuck and I were caregivers for our spouses and like Jim Bailey, we sought the comfort and companionship a pet can bring. We are also fortunate to have found each other. To have another "being" around dissipates loneliness and provides a reason to get up and look forward to every day.
As we discussed on the show with Jim, Kathy, Dr. G. And Toots, we think having a pet has been good for our health and
I invite you to listen to our show, "Caregiver and Physician Conversations" on Tuesday, August 9 when I interview Dr. Elaine Malec, Founder of "Connecting Hearts." Dr. Malec is a practicing psychologist whose work focuses on the importance of having close and meaningful communications--essential interactions that fight loneliness and provide higher quality of life and wellness for all. Please tune in then on either eCareDiary.com or mycaregivingcoach.com.
Margery Pabst Steinmetz is the author of "Enrich Your Caregiving Journey" and "Words of Care." She is eCareDiary' s caregiving expert and the host of "Caregivers Speak!" and "Caregiver and Physician Conversations." Learn more about caregiver wellness at mycaregivingcoach.com and eCareDiary.com.
Back in 2009 when my first book"Enrich Your Caregiving Journey" was published, caregiving as personal enrichment was an odd notion. I remember presenting to audiences who questioned why I chose "enrich." Indeed, a widely held assumption is that the caregiving role is one to be endured and then, with some luck, forgotten as life returns to normal.
I challenge the assumption that caregiving is a bump in the road, interrupting the flow of life. My own caregiving journey was one of great psychological and emotional pain, but with that came an experience of great import, learning and development. Rebirth, I've discovered, can emerge from the fire.
Over the years I've interviewed many caregivers who report their losses but also their gains, discovering insights about themselves and others. I often hear comments like, "During the last few weeks of her life, I learned more about my Mom than the rest of her years combined", and "Our family pulled together for the time ever!" Even negatively tinged commentary such as, "I realized that my older sister was was the only one I could really depend upon" show growth and discovery.
Approximately 60 million people are caregivers in the US today and that number will continue to grow. Since much is written about caregiver stress and loneliness, it is frightening to think that this huge number of the American population would have nothing positive emerging from their caregiving experience other than negative emotions.
The time is ripe for changing attitudes about what caregiving can mean for each of us, particularly for many caregivers caring for a loved one with a chronic disease for many years. To think that caregivers only have years of misery to look forward to is repugnant. We should expect more! The notion that caregivers face only a gloomy future is shortsighted. The glass can be at least half full.
What are some steps that will help all of us view caregiving as a potentially enriching experience?
-Spend time with positive people.
-Take time for yourself to renew and regenerate, if only for an hour or so a day.
-Participate in activities that develop and stimulate you and your loved one.
-Ask, "what am I learning and how am I growing from being a caregiver?"
Over the past few months, content for maximizing your caregiver wellness has been provided by eCareDiary.com and mycaregivingcoach.com. We've provided simple, easy to do and creative activities for use in your home. Your attitude toward the caregiving role is critical and impacts your wellness. Interestingly, how you think about caregiving can affect you long after caregiving is over. Advocating to current caregivers how caregiving helped you provides a healthier environment for everyone.
Margery Pabst Steinmetz is the author of "Enrich Your Caregiving Journey" and "Words of Care." She is eCareDiary' s caregiving expert and the host of "Caregivers Speak!" and "Caregiver and Physician Conversations." Learn more about caregiver wellness at mycaregivingcoach.com and eCareDiary.com.
May for me is a joyful month, full of possibility and new life. I hope as Spring arrives around the country and world, all of us will focus on what brings us joy.
For me personally, the last few months were a challenge because I moved house, rearranging my life in many ways. While I chose to make the move, the process of getting it all done took a toll so that by February, I wondered, "When was the last time I relaxed and had some fun?" By March and April, I was able to steal a few days and moments to focus on me and what brings me joy. Joy always is distilled down to the simple pleasures of life--sitting with that first cup of morning coffee with my husband, taking a walk in the cool morning sunshine, and discovering a book that engages all the senses. My plan is to also retrieve some time for playing the piano.
During the last few months, this website, mycaregivingcoach.com launched and encouraged the notion of creativity and wellness. I hope you are finding your special area of creativity with your care partner whether it be movement, poetry, storytelling, music, painting, cooking, gardening, etc. "What will give us both joy?" Is a central question for all of us. Through joy in doing what we like, we find meaning for our lives.
You may be wondering if you can find a few moments for yourself especially if you are in the middle of a challenging caregiver period. I believe that finding that special place for joy in your life is essential to wellness, physically, emotionally and spiritually, both for you and your care partner.
On May 10, I interview Dr. Adam Golden, a geriatrician conducting research on the benefits of creativity for caregivers and families. His results and research will definitely persuade us to take full advantage of discovering the joy in life.
Margery Pabst Steinmetz is the Founder of mycaregivingcoach.com. Margery is eCareDiary'scaregiving expert and the host of "Caregivers Speak" and "Caregiver and Physician Conversations." She is the author of "Enrich Your Caregiving Journey" and "Words of Care." Follow both sites for caregiver wellness information.
I've been writing for a few months about the benefits of incorporating creativity into every person's life, especially caregivers. Creativity often enhances wellness and feelings of well being.
We've examined community dance halls, how poetry makes connections, and how collaborative cooking with your care partner can all make a difference in the quality of each day. See the "Caregiver Wellness" page on both mycaregivingcoach.com and eCareDiary.com for this archived information.
In April, we introduce the Creative Caregiving Guide from The National Center for Creative Aging. The CCG is a free, online tool containing creative exercises that caregivers use at home with their loved ones. Believe me, it is so user friendly that you can pick it up and use it in your daily life pretty quickly.
On April 12, I interviewed Dr. Greg Finch, Field Services Manager at The National Center for Creative Aging on our "Caregivers Speak" show. You can find the archive of the show on our archive page. Greg provides more detail about the CCG and how to access it; he was joined by Dr. Vanessa Briscoe, Professor at Bethune Cookman University and Tamika Harris from Share The Care. Dr. Briscoe and Ms. Harris describe how they use the CCG in their communities. Their stories are practical and compelling and demonstrate the impact of using creativity (music, storytelling, dance, visual artists etc.) with your care partner.
This is a show every caregiver needs to hear because it provides creative ideas for you to use at home. I remember when I was a caregiver and the hours seemed endless. I often asked, "What can I do that would be interesting and inspiring to fill the hours besides watching television?"
I believe you will find some answers in the Creative Caregiving Guide. By the way, the National Center for Creative Aging will continue to add creative exercises to the Guide, so be sure to check in periodically for what's new. Check out their website at creativeaging.org.
By the way, research suggests that creative time with your loved one does make a difference; in other words, it's not just entertaining and a way to fill the hours. In May, I I interview Dr. Adam Golden who is conducting outcome based research on using creativity at home. Please mark your calendar for Tuesday, May 10 at 2PM Eastern for Dr. Golden's interview on "Caregiver and Physician Conversations" airing on either mycaregivingcoach.com or eCareDiary.com
Happy new beginnings in creativity as we usher in Spring!
Margery Pabst Steinmetz is the Founder of mycaregivingcoach.com. Margery is eCareDiary's caregiving expert and the host of "Caregivers Speak" and "Caregiver and Physician Conversations." She is the author of "Enrich Your Caregiving Journey" and "Words of Care." Follow both sites for caregiver wellness information.
Let's celebrate!! We usually think of celebrations as big rather than small, as unusual rather than normal.
Why not go small? Look for small celebrations and victories? For example, flowers from a dear friend arrived today. What a sense of well being to know that friends are out there. Suppose you are in a city with only your loved one getting treatment at a facility far from your home town. Are there little kindnesses popping up from the people, even strangers, around you? A typical caregiver's day will certainly have its share of things that go wrong, but looking for the things that go right and celebrating them often lifts spirits. Furthermore, your positive spirit will help keep you well in the midst of caring for your care partner.
I like to call these small celebrations "deposits" in your caregiving wellness bank account. Attending to your mind, spirit and body bank account just as you do your financial bank account will usually yield a balance in both. Imagine if all of us spent as much time attending to our mind and spirit as we do our personal finances! You could say we shortchange ourselves when we forget to consider our emotional wellness account!! Sorry for the bad pun but it makes the point!!!!
Discovering credits for your wellness bank account, watch for small victories and little ways to celebrate. For example, your care partner is....
Personalize your care partner's surrounding by finding out about the nurses and other medical personnel. Go beyond their names. They will take an interest in you and your care partner if you take an interest in them. Celebrate the small victories along the way with your care partner and medical personnel.
Rehab is a perfect scenario for celebrating small wins as your care partner progresses. Rehabilitation professionals are schooled in the value of small wins so watch and learn from them.
Focus on what can be accomplished, not what is lost through illness. What vegetables can your care partner chop? What household tasks he/she still do? What personal grooming can he/she complete? Compliment your teamwork as you go about daily tasks. Pat yourself on the back! Hug your care partner!
-HAVING SURGERY IN A FEW DAYS
Ambiguity is the toughest situation for caregivers. What might happen? What could go wrong? I suggest diverting attention to other activities, focusing on the fun and enjoyment you have together. During surgery preparation, complimenting and celebrating the completion of dietary and pharmaceutical requirements can alter mood in the stressful days before surgery. Cooking favorite foods is relaxing and positive for body, mind and spirit. Enjoy the meal you made together. Take a picture!
If you are in a different situation than the examples given, consider your situation and plan ways to celebrate small victories. Every situation has its share of negatives and good mood breakers, but lightening the mood and focusing on small wins can help both you and your care partner to emerge with fewer scars and debits from your wellness bank account.
Margery Pabst Steinmetz is the Founder of mycaregivingcoach.com and eCareDiary's caregiving expert. Margery is the host of two radio programs, "Caregivers Speak!" and "Caregiver and Physician Conversations." Margery's books include "Enrich Your Caregiving Journey" and "Words of Care."
Happy New Year to all of you!
To begin 2016, this website is creating a new section dedicated to "Caregiver Wellness.” “Caregiver Wellness” information will enhance the mission of mycaregivingcoach.com as we provide resources and information to feed your social, emotional and spiritual wellness and health from creativity to palliative care to developing advocacy tools for your personal well being and quality of life. We will not focus on diet and exercise because a lot of information is already available on these subjects. We will examine and provide resources for navigating an increasingly complex set of caregiving issues which increase caregiver burden and stress and can easily throw your social, emotional and spiritual life off balance. Making sure your wellness and life balance is on track is our priority.
Our collaborating partner will be eCareDiary.com. We’ve been partners for close to seven years. eCareDiary sponsors two of my radio shows, “Caregivers Speak” and “Caregiver and Physician Conversations”, both very popular with our listeners. As eCareDiary’s caregiving expert, I also collaborate on a range of other resources including blogs, webinars and Expert Question and Answer. As we consider what will most assist you, we believe that “Caregiver Wellness” is key. Look for the “Caregiver Wellness” section on both websites.
What do we mean by “caregiver wellness?” Despite the stresses of caregiving, a “well” caregiver keeps body, mind and spirit in balance and achieves a sense of well being through conscious and purposeful behaviors. While being “well” is not possible 100% of the time, our intention is to highlight resources that will help you, the busy caregiver, achieve “wellness” more often than not!
What can you expect in 2016?
- My monthly blog, “Be Well” will provide everything from thoughts to strategies to tested tools that help you achieve wellness.
- “Wellness” affirmations posted on home pages of both mycaregivingcoach.com and eCareDiary.
Affirmations will be drawn from my book, “Enrich Your Caregiving Journey” as well as from other resources.