What Can I Do to Help?

help

If you know a Caregiver and would like to do something for them, please do it. Don’t just think about it. Don’t wait till later when you think you’ll have more time. You’d be surprised at how even a small kindness might be appreciated.

Be realistic, offer to do something that you’re good at and with which you’ll follow through. The Caregiver needs to know that in accepting your offer they can feel safe. Consider the situation as if you were in their place. With what would you need help? By all means ask what you might do, but don’t be surprised if you’re told, “Nothing, thank you though.” Caregivers are not used to getting help and want to make sure things are done properly or they will feel that they’ve failed or were selfish at a cost to the person in their care. It’s their nature. Show them that you sincerely want to help and will do a good job.

You need to make a suggestion. You might say something like, “I could come over on Tuesday for two hours while Joe is resting so you can go do whatever you want to do.” Even if it’s for just one time, that would be great. Several family members could take turns at something like this. Be creative.

Most family members don’t know what it actually takes to be in charge of another’s life. I’m here to tell you; it takes physical energy, decision making, nursing skills, management of doctor appointments and medicines, equipment assembling, cooking and feeding, shopping for food and other necessities (often from the drug store), driving, dressing, cleaning…..need I go on? They’re usually going to want to handle the paperwork, insurance issues and legal work themselves, but there’s that, too. Did I mention MONEY and TIME? In which of these areas could you be of help? Did I mention MONEY and TIME? Maybe you can afford to pay someone to do something for a Caregiver, if you don’t have the time. Every little bit helps.

All this and more needs to be done while the Caregiver is managing their own life and maybe there’s a family involved. Some Caregivers are working full time, have children and are caring for an older parent that used to be helping them. Is the caregiver an older spouse taking care of their husband or wife? Do they need someone to stay with the person in their charge and have someone else go with them to a doctor visit as an advocate to make sure they, themselves, are getting good care? Here’s an opportunity for two friends to team up.

Please notice that on each page of my website there’s a message box. I would love to hear from any of my readers who have a suggestion for something that can be done to help a Caregiver. I post on Facebook and Twitter and so can you. Getting this message out to as many people as possible could help hundreds of thousands of Caregivers. I’ll post many of your ideas in a blog soon, so please tell me what you have done or what you would like to have someone do for you (it will be anonymous, of course). What have others done to help you that you’d like to share? I’ll share how others helped me in that upcoming blog, too.

I wish you love and creativity.

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A Peaceful Transition

peaceful transitionMy father passed away just two months ago. I feel as if he’s still with me. Each evening around 6:30 PM I still pause to think about calling him, as I and my three sisters and aunt did at various times of day for years. It’s nice to still think of him at that hour. Maybe he knows when I’m thinking of him lovingly.

When the fear of death has it’s grip on us, we can’t appreciate the beauty of the transition for the person who is passing. The thought of losing them is so very stressful. Once they’ve passed, we can be tortured from the loss. All of that stress and misery gets in the way of what could be a loving experience. I wanted to help my father transition as peacefully as possible. I was more comfortable with death now than I was when my husband and other loved ones had passed. We had the luxury of time to prepare my dad. My sisters, niece, their spouses and my aunt were wonderful, we each contributed in our own way.

In the three years since my husband passed, I have read dozens of books on subjects that have helped me to come to an understanding of what I believe is the human spirit and the energy of life. I believe that we (our spirit) come into our bodies and this world by choice. When we pass out of the body at death, we transition to a different level of consciousness. It’s only the human body that is born and dies, not the spirit. I see my own and everyone else’s time here on earth as a learning process. An opportunity to evolve and transition into the next place at a higher level than when we came into this life. This is the foundation that has helped me peacefully deal with the loss of my father’s physical presence.

Without going into the individual personalities that were involved, I want to tell you a few of the main things that I think helped my dad transition more peacefully than he might have. It is just our story. Each family has their own.

My dad was a very emotional man, so we knew when he was upset by something. One day a few months before he passed, while driving to a restaurant for lunch, he became sad and tears came into his eyes. I asked him what was the matter, he said, “I don’t want to leave you and I’m dying.” He told each of us how he felt from time to time, and we just talked to him as best we could until he came out of his sadness or got distracted. This time, it occurred to me that I could use an experience he had when he was a baby in Sicily. I had heard the story so many times growing up and suddenly it seemed the perfect thing to help him transition.

At around three years old my dad had encephalitis, a disease that causes inflammation of the brain and, I understand, can be fatal. He was unconscious for a least a month. The way he told the story was that he saw himself from up above his bed, looking down at himself, his mother and the doctor. His mother was crying, hysterically, because the doctor was telling her that her son, my dad, was going to die. That’s all he told us. He never talked about any details like we might hear from so many others who have had out-of-body experiences. He had been a baby and that’s all he knew.

It flashed into my mind that he might feel more comfortable about passing if he could relate that experience to the transition of dying now. I reminded him of the incident and asked him to remember that he was going to die at that time. There had been no pain and no stress in his body. But, he was a baby and didn’t want to leave his mother. He was a little boy then and if he lived he could have a good life in his young body. So he decided to stay and his spirit came back into his earthly body and became healthy again. I told him that when he did decide to let go now, when he was ready, it would be similar, he would know that he was leaving this earth, but he would decide not to come back. He was 90 years old with Parkinson’s Disease and his life was not a pleasure anymore. Of course, I told him I would miss him very much, but I would know that he wasn’t suffering anymore and that he was with me in spirit. Tough to say even now. But, like my husband, he needed to be told it was OK to decide to let go.

Not long after, he started to decline rapidly. The more he declined, the less emotional he seemed. One of my sisters and I were with him during the seventy-two hours he was “actively dying.” My niece was with us often. Another sister and her husband came from far away to say goodbye, and another who couldn’t physically make the trip, spoke to my dad on the phone several times even after he was not conscious anymore. We didn’t involve my aunt at this point, it would have been too hard on her. That was a difficult phone call to make after he passed.

The seventy-two hours was so long and unexpected. During that time my sister, who was a nursing assistant, and the caregiver at the house where my dad lived took care of him physically. Together we maintained communication with him as much as possible. I believe he was aware of everything going on and we respected that he would know everything being said and done for him. We talked to him as we would have if he were conscious, in a way. I believe we helped him let go as peacefully as possible. He certainly knew he was loved.

Everyone’s situation is different, but, I believe that sharing our stories can help others when the time comes that they need to draw on their knowledge and strength. I hope this story helps others who will spontaneously come up with their own ideas to help their loved ones pass.

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“You’ve got to let him go.”

let-go-balloon

My purpose in discussing the subjects most people don’t talk about is to bring them into the light. In past times and still in many cultures traditions are passed down through families that guide people through all phases of life, including the dying process. Not in my family and maybe not in yours.

One of the best things that happened toward the end of my husband’s life was that my lovely friend, Cathy, called me. I’ve known her for thirty years. We’re in touch about once a year now, and it’s often because she has a feeling something is up. I swear, she has an ear to the earth like animals that know when an earthquake is about to happen. She asked how I was, and I said, “not so good.” I told her how ill my husband had been. She said, “I know, that’s why I’m calling. You’ve got to let him go.” I asked her what she meant and she said he was holding onto life because he didn’t want to leave me. He was suffering more because I was not telling him I would be OK when he goes. I needed to release him from his need to be there for me.

Now I felt guilty! He was so thin and weak. She was right, I was torturing him without knowing it. I felt awful. It had been five years of gradual diminishing health. I had wondered how it was possible to hang on so long. My mother had done the same thing five years earlier when she was dying of cancer. She didn’t want to leave the people who had needed her all her life. If only I had known then, I could have helped her pass more easily.

So, how do you let someone go? Someone you love that you don’t want to lose? For Cathy it seemed simple, “Just tell him you’ll be OK.” Not so simple for me. What if he thought I didn’t care enough anymore, or that I didn’t want to go on taking care of him any longer? That would be awful.

I decided to talk to him about each of his significant relationships. He had six children, a brother, grandchildren and me about whom he might have unresolved feelings. We sat on the sofa as we often did, holding hands, and I brought the subject up by telling him I was wondering if there was anything that needed to be talked about that he hadn’t mentioned but would like to get into the open. We went through the family one by one. He was comfortable with each, he said. I asked, as delicately as I could, how it was that he was surviving, with hardly any nourishment, no strength anymore and so much discomfort. He said, “I don’t want to leave you.” My heart sank. Cathy was right.

We talked a while longer. I hope I told him all the things he needed to hear. I’ll never know. I did my best to make sure he knew how much he was loved and appreciated. That I would miss him terribly, of course. But, that I would be OK. It would be hard, but I was a survivor, he knew that. We didn’t talk about it again. That was a few weeks before he passed. I’ll never know how much the conversation had to do with his finally letting go. I’m glad I had the opportunity to hear what was going on in his mind so near his death.

I am very grateful to Cathy for being the wonderful friend that she is to me and so many others. I hope my story resonates with Caregivers who are in a similar position. My husband’s passing was the third of five I witnessed over a span of eight years and with each time I learned a little more about how to ease the process for my loved one and myself. In my next blog, Thursday, I will talk about the dying process again. This time I had more knowledge and a better feeling myself about dying.

Until Thursday next, I wish you love.

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Responsibility and Dying

responsibility

Caregivers are constantly making decisions that effect another persons life; everything from what clothes they should wear, what they should eat, what medicines to give them at what time, when to call doctors and what financial and legal issues need attention, to name a few. They are often dealing with the emotional and mental health of their loved one as well as the physical. In my earliest posts I wrote about “Sundowning,” “Schizophrenia” and other trials by fire that I and many Caregivers march through along with the person for whom we’re caring. Caregivers take on tremendous responsibility including, often, helping a loved one, emotionally, through the process of dying.

If you’re like me, the care of another just fell to you. In my case, three times. Over the years I never really stopped to think about why I was in charge of different people’s lives, I just was. I didn’t think about the huge responsibility either. I imagine most of my readers who are Caregivers don’t stop to think much about their situation, they don’t even have time for that. They just do what needs to be done to the best of their ability on a daily basis. Their hands and minds are busy.

I did discover that there were some very important issues to deal with that I was not clear on in those early days and looking back, today I would do some things quite differently. Those are the things I would like to share with my readers in the days ahead. I want to talk about letting a loved one go when their time is near. About how to deal with the process of dying. There was no one who told me what I needed to know so I could be prepared to do my best for my loved one as well as for myself. The process of dying does not need to be frightening for either party. It can be a beautiful experience if you are prepared.

I’m going to tell stories of my own experiences and growth in hope that you will be more prepared than I when your time comes to deal with death. I wish I could be sitting around a campfire with you and we could share what we have learned. Until then, I’ll pretend that the campfire is glowing as I write and maybe you’ll send me your stories. There’s so much for us to learn from each other. See you online Monday next.

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Bold and Stretch

Impossible-unattainable-

When does change happen? If you keep to your routine, life will remain pretty much the same. If you’re taking care of a chronically ill person, things may look different from year to year, but, daily, things don’t seem to change much. That’s where it’s hard for many caregivers. The routine can get you down. You can experience a glass half empty view of your life. It can create a downhill spiral into depression and we don’t want to go there. It’s extremely important to shake things up whenever you’re feeling down, from routine or anything else.

I am a self-proclaimed basket case when forced into routine. It’s been like that as long as I can remember. The thought of routine causes a negative physical reaction in my body. It took half my life to recognize the malady, but once aware, I started consciously devising ways to change things so routine wouldn’t feel like routine, if that makes any sense. I’m revealing this so you know that my suggestions come from a place of vast experience. I had to find solutions because the alternative was unthinkable.

If you’re feeling like things are monotonous, I suggest that you step out of your comfort zone. If you’re bold and stretch yourself a bit, you will cause a shift in momentum that will move you forward in your life. When you’re moving forward, you don’t feel depressed. You’ll feel invigorated. You become more loving and creative. Love and creativity are everything.

There’s always something that’s the prominent issue of the moment; something that’s on your mind more than other things. Think of at least three issues that have been popping into your consciousness lately. Write each on a piece of paper and study them with the intention of deciding which one you might do something about first. It can be a practical or emotional issue. Maybe you’ve postponed talking to someone about solving a problem. It can be something that you’ve been thinking of creating or been dreaming about.

It’s best if you choose something pleasant if you’re really down. You’ll know which issue to start with by how your body feels when ideas come to you. Think, how will I feel if I get that done? How will it feel to be doing something I enjoy? It’s your body telling you when you’re down, so let your body tell you how to feel up. So pick one, and without giving yourself time to back out, move physically to start action; make a phone call, decide what you need for the project by making a list, walk outside and think about your strategy or my favorite, take a shower and let the ideas come into your head as you create your new project. Then act, always act. The action, first with baby steps, will distract your conscious mind long enough to get it started in the right direction. Now, follow through to complete the task. Follow through!

Now don’t you feel better just knowing you have a solution? You’ll never have to worry about getting down for too long when you have a strategy for keeping your glass half full.

I wish you love and creativity.

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