Delegate and Plan for Yourself!

The holidays are upon us.  The craziness is in the air!  I’m starting to plan my strategy for grocery shopping till the end of the year, for heaven’s sake.  I live a mile from The Grove and Farmer’s Market, one of the most popular tourist sites in Los Angeles, CA.  It’s IMPOSSIBLE to get around this city during the holidays. If you’re a busy person like me, one thing you can do is give away some of the tasks you need to get done.  This brings to mind one of my husbands favorite adages, DELEGATE!

If you’re a Caregiver, it’s twice as important!  During this holiday season, if you’re taking care of a loved one and entertaining, you’ve got to DELEGATE.  I remember all too well the reasons for doing everything my way (your way).  You want it done right!  You don’t want to impose on others. You need control for efficiency, can’t count on others. You want your guests to just enjoy themselves.  You have a new set of china and this Is a good time to use it, but you’ll do all the dishes yourself so none will get broken.  Do you really look forward to being so exhausted that you have to take aspirin to be able to fall asleep after the big meal?

Caregivers have a tendency to take care of everyone except themselves. People love to know what they can bring to a party that would be most appreciated. Tell them. Allow them to place things on the table, to set up chairs, and give a grandson the task of whipping the cream for pie or let the teenager, who’s bored because her friends aren’t there, be responsible for keeping the gravy stirred and warm.  They have to learn sometime.

What if you plan to take really good care of yourself this holiday season?  Sit down with pen and paper and write down things that would make you happy.  Is there a way to make them happen?  Visualize yourself enjoying whatever comes to mind.  Then allow the ideas of how to make it happen come into your head. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to participate and help you make that thing become a reality.  Just thinking about yourself for a change can bring ideas to mind that will make your life easier.

If you need to be modest with spending money, as is often the case, maybe you could buy some bath bubbles and have some candles ready to light and enjoy while you bathe before bed after everyone is gone and put to sleep.  Have a special book ready to read until you dose off for the night.  If someone asks what you would like as a gift, maybe a contribution toward a Day Spa would appeal to you.

The idea is to delegate tasks and plan ahead to spoil yourself a little. It will make your life more pleasant and everyone around you happier.  You might even find you like it so much you make it a way of life.  Always remember that your life is as important as anyone else’s.  It’s really not all that important to look perfect in everyone else’s eyes, that’s not going to happen anyway.  And thinking you’re in control is a figment of your imagination!  I promise you, it feels great to not even want to control things anymore. Trade looking perfect for feeling good.  Get your enthusiasm for life back.  Be creative!

On the eve of the holidays, I want to say thank you to my wonderful family and friends who have supported my efforts for the last year to make The Caregiving Cornerstone a reality.  I’m grateful, also, to all who read my blog and to those who contact me with questions or comments.  Please keep the dialog going. We have a lot of Caregivers to reach and help. Thank you, and Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Until soon,  I wish you love and a very peaceful holiday season!

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First Holidays Without Our Loved Ones

pumpkin

I’m realizing that my dad’s passing last May may be the reason I’m not looking forward to the holidays this year. It just occurred to me today as I started to write about missing our loved ones on holidays, especially the first without them.

Again, first holidays without someone I love. This time it’s my dad. He didn’t always join me for Thanksgiving and Christmas, we lived 500 miles apart until the last two years. With four daughters, a granddaughter near by and a loving sister, he always had nice holidays with one of us and our families. When he was with Ed and me, we’d have family and our friends over as usual. He always loved the cast of characters. He shared in the story telling and the laughs. Pop loved to laugh.

He would be with us for about a week. I picture him sitting at the end of the sofa with a dish of nuts on the side table. He’d eat every one, while reading his current book, then ask where the candy dish was. I mention that because it’s one of the things I miss. I don’t need to keep cleaning up around where he sat and don’t have to hide the candy to keep him from getting sick. I really didn’t mind, of course, he was my dad and a loving character himself.

I’ve told my daughters that I’ve been thinking for years that one Thanksgiving I wanted to volunteer to help serve dinner to needy families. Well, this is the year I’ve decided to do it. They’ll be fine without grandma this year. I can stop by on my way home for pumpkin pie and coffee. I just want to have my mind somewhere else for the day.

There are many nice websites you can go to for ideas on how to get through the holidays after losing a loved one. They share good advice and have great recommendations. Personally, I just like to keep the holiday very low key that first year.

After my husband passed nearly four years ago, my daughter that lived near me and Ed’s grandson who was so close to us both, had Thanksgiving and Christmas together at my house. Just the three of us. Out of respect, we kept Ed’s chair at the end of the table, where he always sat, empty. We knew no one could take his place. It was nice to cook together and just be silent about what we were each feeling regarding our loss.

If you’ve lost a loved one this year, I think you should do whatever you feel like doing. If being with a big family will distract you from your thoughts, that’s wonderful. If you feel like being alone and just being a little sad for a while, than do it. We each grieve in our own way.

It does get easier, I know it seems impossible right now, but it does. The first year after someone passes and you experience the birthdays, anniversaries and holidays without them is always the hardest. I’ve lost five family members since 2005 and a couple of friends. I promise, it does get easier.

But, this year, I’ll keep it low key and meet some new people. I love hearing people’s stories and I bet there will be some interesting ones at the Salvation Army. I better bring a note pad.

Until soon, I wish you love and happy memories.

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Leap First and Trust After

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A phrase has stuck with me for the last few days- “Sometimes we have to take a leap of faith and trust after.” Learning to trust our basic instincts, I believe, has been conditioned out of many of us. I struggle everyday to pay attention to the thoughts and ideas that pop into my head, and act on many of them. This is new for me, and maybe for many caregivers. We’re often the cautious one in the family. We listen to our head and not our hearts so much. We’re so busy with what we think is the most important of things to get done, that we leave filling the “vase of our soul” till last. And, surprise, it’s often left empty, again. Maybe tomorrow you’ll get to it. Metaphorically, our flowers whither and, eventually, die. Our health suffers and depression often sets in. If, instead, we listen to our heart (our essence, really) as well as our head, it will tell us what we need to fulfill ourselves and how to best take care of the people we love.

If you look at your caregiving as a gift to another person, it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice. You know that while you are giving you are building a better self. This is not selfish or self centered. “It’s better to give than to receive.” We all know this phrase and we know it feels good to give. But, what if “it’s better” means better for your health, for your happiness, for accomplishing the mission that’s yours only in this life? “It’s better” because it brings joy to you and gives the person in your charge, the one who’s in this dance with you, what they need to fulfill their destiny. There’s growth for you both here, really great growth. If you can go about your caregiving with creativity and grace, then, I would say, you’ll come away from it with peace. Without regret.

So…what does a leap of faith look like? It’s like:  “Build it and they will come.”  “Pay it forward.”  You start by stepping away from yourself as you go about your day. Quietly and mentally observe yourself, as if you were watching a movie. Would you admire that person? Would you want to be like that person if you were in their shoes? Can you see where there might be room for improvement? How could the main character go through their days with more grace and creativity? What would help them improve their situation?

Then you take the Leap First. Start with what will help you feel better personally. Start by spoiling yourself a little. Be creative, think about where the opportunity lies for you to steal a few minutes for yourself. It might be when your loved one is napping. Or, you might plan to take half the time you usually take for a certain task so you can squeeze in a half hour of reading or watching a program you’ve recorded. You might take 15 minutes to prepare a special snack for yourself, one that you’ve specifically planned for while doing your usual shopping. Exercise. Wherever your mind takes you when you ask yourself, “what would I do for myself if I had the time?” MAKE that happen like you make everything else that you think is important happen. And on a regular basis.

Give this a little time, maybe a couple of weeks. Then start observing yourself again. Notice how it’s easier to do your tasks. Are you a little more patient? Are you handling the unexpected with less stress? If so, you can Trust After. You’ve built the foundation and the payoff is that life is better for you and everyone around you. And that’s lovely.

There’s a wonderful movie that I highly recommend: ENCHANTED APRIL. I watched it on Netflix recently. It has caused me to notice “lovely” when I see it and want more of it in my life.

Until soon,  I wish you love and lovely.

If you recall this piece, it’s because it’s a rewrite of one of my earliest posts.  I’m “reSHARING.”  I’ll  do this occasionally for a short while.  It allows me to concentrate on the final work for my first book, “Caregiving, A Love Story, ” which will be available just after the first of the year.  Hopefully, it gives some a chance to catch up on posts they might have missed and it’s a reminder for treasured loyal readers.  Thank you to all who are so supportive.  I love hearing from each of you so please keep the messages coming.  Love, Patricia

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Bringing Family Together

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Aging and decline in the lives of our parents has a way of testing family member’s strength and commitment to each other. Until our parents need us to turn the tables and help them, siblings and only children generally go about their lives giving little thought to what lies ahead for the ones who raised them. When one spouse can take care of another, it’s easier on their children for a while at least. Once parents start needing help the complications begin. Who’s going to be the decision maker, who will take them to doctor appointments, where will the parents live? Did the parents have all their directives in place or will the children be needing to make decisions with or for them? The many “Extended” families may have different dynamics, but I think the commonality is in the desired result. Harmony, would be the ideal.

I’ve observed that the care of parents falls often on the son/daughter who lives closest to them, which seems logical. But, the one who lives closest may not be the best to have primary responsibility. Maybe they have a full time job and can do only certain things that fit their schedule or skills. If another family member, who lives further away, is good at organizing and has a better head for paperwork and working with insurance companies, etc., those things can be done from a distance. Having too many heads involved creates chaos. Some family members need to have little involvement and sometimes that’s best. Each family is unique. Harmony occurs on it’s own, when families truly want to do what’s best for each other, when they are thoughtful of the others involved, especially the parents.

Asking how the parents are doing and giving opinions and advice without offering honest help is not contributing. It can create resentment and disharmony. Contribution is following through on what the main Caregiver tells you they really need. It’s finding a way to distribute the responsibilities so everyone has a nice life. The only child has an advantage in a way, there’s no one to second guess them. And that’s a huge problem in many families. Of course, there’s no help either, which I have a feeling they would say is more important. There are so many ways to get help and, if harmony is the ideal, there’s no reason everything should be done by one person. If there’s only one person to help with parents, resources are the key to making everyone’s life easier. Make planning and reaching out to others a part of your strategy. I was amazed at how many people in my neighborhood volunteered to sit with my husband for an hour or so, so I could go to my own doctor appointments, etc. There are people today in most cities who will run errands, grocery shop, clean house, do laundry or pick up prescriptions, etc., for a nominal fee. Places of worship have volunteers who are waiting to find a way to help others. They often offer their services at assisted living facilities, you may find contact information there or online, of course. Senior centers have this kind of information, also.

Relieving the chores and allowing the main Caregiver to oversee the personal things that would make their parents lives more pleasurable would make everyones lives better. That’s a much bigger job than most would know and requires a lot of patience and time. Especially, if dementia is in the picture. They could focus on enjoying their parents with visits or taking them out for lunch and keeping their lives full for as long as they can. Now that would be harmony.

Recently, an older couple told me they were planning to sit down with their four children and discuss what might be coming, while they are still in good health. How wonderful, I’m always amazed and impressed when people have raised their families in such a way that this kind of dialog is possible. For most families I’ve observed, including my own, such dialog never occurs, we just had to “wing-it.” Another family, who were not first marriages for either parent, took it upon themselves to figure out how they would like things to be for themselves ideally and took that information to each of the children. At least, if there is a desired plan in place, there is a guideline and possibility for harmony. I stress harmony because a peaceful existence for all would make life so much easier for the parents in their last years of life and for those on whom the “burden falls.” Yes, I said “burden.” Let’s face it. It’s hard enough to take care of our own lives, add a few children, grandchildren and now our parents. It can be a loving burden, but we must call it what it is. The person the responsibility falls on needs to be recognized and helped as much as possible. Not with tons of recommendations and, least of all criticism. I mean real help.

Opening our minds and our hearts, setting aside our ego’s, goes a long way toward finding harmony. It’s tough to humble ourselves and just give without judgement. But, I’ve seen it done, by loving, thoughtful, caring families. If you want to help the designated Caregiver, find out what they need. Ask what they’re doing on a daily basis for the parent. You’re going to find that it’s a huge project and takes hours out of each day of their lives. Be sincere and ask, “Would it help if I did this, or that?” “Can I pay for someone to come in and do this or that?” The Caregiver may not talk about it easily. They might feel guilty for not wanting to do all they are doing. You need to offer what you think might be of help and is in your power.

One last thing. If you are the main Caregiver, you need to help yourself. Accept what others might offer, don’t be too proud. It only hurts you. If others want to help and you aren’t letting them, it’s a little selfish. It’s as important to receive as to give. Harmony means that everyone is giving and receiving.

Until soon, I wish you Love and Harmony.

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Thank you, Patricia

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