Don’t Forget the Music!

I’m sitting at Starbucks, my home away from home, thinking about what I can write to share with you that would be meaningful, maybe helpful. The song “WE ARE FAMILY” by Sister Sledge is playing. I’m reminded of a scene in one of my all time favorite movies, “BIRDCAGE”, with Robin Williams and Nathan Lane (best John Wayne imitation ever) where all the disparate characters in Mardi Gras style costumes file out of the nightclub in a conga line singing “WE ARE FAMILY”. They are people who would never be friends or even speak to each other if they could avoid it, but suddenly they’re thrown together and through the chaos are somehow able to become friends. The music and the party atmosphere bring people together. Not unlike a gathering of family and friends at a holiday dinner, sometimes!

The music is still playing and I start to picture my own families faces dancing in a conga line. They’re all laughing and singing, really enjoying themselves. The friends and neighbors who always joined us at our holiday dinners join in. I imagine everyone gets out of their chairs, my husband and me, too. He would have been in his transfer chair in the later years, but his grandson Ty would have danced him through the line. What fun, I can see everyone singing the words we all know, “WE ARE FAM-IL-Y.”

Then we all break out into just dancing with each other. All different ages and styles. My daughters are dancing together. My twin granddaughters and their little brother are dancing as a trio. My sister and her husband are joining in. I dance with one of my husbands daughters that I hadn’t really bonded with because we live across the country from each other. I can feel tension melt as we smile, dance and sing together. What an ice breaker! Why didn’t we do this before?

How right it would be to remember, as a caregiver, to make a point of enjoying the gathering yourself. Often, it’s all just work on the holidays for us, with the satisfaction being that everyone else enjoyed themselves. Delegate more of the tasks, people are happy to help. Plan ahead, do something so that you get to enjoy the loved ones in your life now, not years from now when there’s time. Maybe.

As I visualize the many beautiful faces of my family and friends in that conga line, I’m looking back at my life, smiling and loving each one of them. Think I’ll go buy that album. Maybe you’ll join me and have your own conga line this year.

WE ARE FAM-IL-Y!

Hugs,

View Post

You Can Fit Two People into the Bathroom on an Airplane!

  “You gotta laugh at some of the things we go through as Caregivers or you could end up crying much of the time.”

About nine months before my husband passed away in early 2010, we received an invitation to my nieces wedding in Sacramento, CA, my hometown.  She’s my only niece and there hadn’t been too many opportunities for the family to gather in many years. One of my three sisters, who I hadn’t seen in 15 years was coming with her husband from Oregon.  I didn’t have to say anything.  Ed knew that I really wanted to go to the wedding and see all my family.  It was, approximately, a two hour plane trip from San Diego. 

“Book the flight and hotel room, we’re going,” he said.  I was thrilled, but then had second thoughts.  Ed was totally blind by then and about 100 pounds.  He could stand on his own but needed guidance and support when walking or using the bathroom.  This would be a tough trip for him.  “Are you sure you feel up to this?” I asked.  “Absolutely,” was his answer.

You can see where this is going. There was no way we could get through a two hour flight without needing a bathroom.  The flight attendants stored the transfer chair safely, just within my reach where they seated us in the front row of coach. When the time came, I said, “Okay, we can do this.”  We had a special way of his getting out of a seat by putting his hands on my shoulders, me with bent knees lifting him up and walking backward so he walked forward.  Once in, getting the door closed behind me was a bit tricky.  But, it can be done.  So don’t miss out on life because of the bathroom problem.

The wedding and family reunion were wonderful.  I didn’t know until months later that Ed didn’t really know if he could get through it.  But, he knew how much I would want to see my family so he was determined.  He always said, “Love finds a way.”

I’d like to say a couple things about walking with someone who is blind and unable to walk on their own.  Caregivers often learn things the hard way.  When Ed’s eyesight first went totally, it was sudden.  Dry macular degeneration with peripheral vision only for several years.  One case in a hundred, one afternoon blood broke through the macula and started flooding one eyes vision and several days later the second.  Total blindness.  After about a year and a half enough blood had dissipated in one eye that there was a little light coming through.  The retina specialist suggested cataract surgery, which was successful. Now there was enough light showing through that he could see shadows and how many fingers I was holding up.  This doesn’t seem like much but it’s huge.  He could tell up from down and had his balance again.

At first we walked with him holding onto my shoulders facing my back. It seemed to work fine.  But he kept getting weaker.  One day we walked out the front door and I stepped down the one porch step to the walkway.  He lost balance and pulled me back on top of him as his back hit the wall and he slid down to the ground. I had caught myself so didn’t crush him. Thankfully, I had just that day,  moved very large pots with trees away from that wall.  His back would have hit the pots and been broken. “We got away in a coach!”  Another of Ed’s sayings. 

From then on, I walked backward with him facing me with his hands on my shoulders.  It worked well.  We even got a little fun out of it.  I would sing as we marched (and I do not have a good voice!), “When Johnny comes marching home again, hurrah, hurrah…” Or, “I’m march’in to New Orleans, she used to be my honey, till she stole all my money…”  You gotta laugh, it helps get you through.

Hugs,

View Post

A Handpicked Family!

“The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life.”

– RICHARD BACH author of, “Jonathon Livingston Seagull”

A few years ago, when my blog was new, I received a call from a reader who wanted to discuss her plans for creating a retirement home of her own, one where she could live for the remainder of her life. Since that time, I’ve heard from many women, it’s always been women, who have similar concepts but with interesting variations. People are so creative, it’s wonderful to observe. They’ve been inspired, often, by being a caregiver for someone else and wanting to keep their independence for as long as possible, as well as experience joy and companionship in later years.

That reader, from Virginia I believe, told me her husband was 5 years older then she and the likelihood of her being a widow one day was high. She was thinking about gradually converting her three bedroom house so that it would be suitable to bring in two more people who were of similar age and lifestyle. They would be like family for each other and share expenses to make it easier for all, while enjoying each other’s company. A private bathroom adjacent to each bedroom would be the greatest out of pocket expense to start. She could begin the work now, taking her time making improvements, therefore, keeping costs down by being flexible with completion dates. Once she had her two residents carefully chosen, as need developed, they could hire outside help at a much lower cost than if they were paying for services individually. She wanted to discuss any necessary improvements or pitfalls she might not have foreseen.

This sounded like a great idea on several levels. The one that stands out for me is the friendship that could be developed between the residents. I’m reminded of the 1980’s comedy television series, THE GOLDEN GIRLS. The writers were fabulous at showing the good hearts of very diverse characters. The four women became a family in the truest sense of the word. Fiction, but quite believable.

Loneliness is one of the most difficult aspects of old age. Everyone around you is young. Your friends pass on and there’s no one left who remembers things that are fond memories for you, like the popular music and movies from your generation. They didn’t share the historical events of your life and can’t reminisce about old times. The joy can go out of life prematurely.

This type of arrangement could be complicated. I’m not ignoring the potential problems I’m sure we can all come up with, but coming at it from a most positive angle at the start and preparing long before the need arises seems like a great idea if it appeals to you.

Another reader, a young woman in her 30’s!, told me she and her group of four best friends from high school, all professional women who had been meeting once a year since for girls weekend out, were thinking of buying a property together that they could convert to an upscale retirement home for themselves one day. Some of these girls had had personal caregiving experience with parents and grandparents. They are already a family.

Another, a seventy year old woman, recently widowed, was in transition currently. She and her affluent friends were looking for a property in a location they saw as perfect for their retirement, where they could socialize (for them near a golf course) and be close to shopping, restaurants and movies.

Creative people feel a need and fill it. It doesn’t matter what age or economic bracket you’re in, it is really nice to have friends around. It makes life worth living. I wish you joy in your Creativity!

Hugs,

 

 

 

Feel free to send me an email with some of your creative ideas. If you have questions, I’m happy to answer your emails. Our FAQ section answers a few common questions and my bio will give you information on my professional background in case I can help you in other matters.

View Post