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.

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Winter Shoes

boots-by-the-fire

On a cloudy, chilly November day in Northern California, when I was in the fifth grade, the school bell rang for recess.  I stood up from my desk, along with my classmates, and headed toward the door as was the routine.  What made this particular day stand out in my memory for over fifty years is something I want to address as it relates to those who are dependent on someone else for care. 

As we made our way to the door the teacher stopped me and pointed out, in front of all the other children, that I was wearing sandals.  My feet, in clean little white socks with the top folded down neatly in white buckled leather sandals were suddenly the focus of all my classmates attention. “Patricia, you need to be wearing Winter shoes,” she said.  “Sandals are not appropriate this time of year.”  It was an order, an instruction, as if it was the homework assignment for the night.  I was ten years old, I didn’t have control over what shoes I could wear.

As is typical of me to this day, when I don’t know how best to react, in order to maintain my dignity, I said nothing and prepared to follow the other children out the door.  However, the feeling of humiliation was deep.  I remember wanting to disappear right on the spot and make it all go away.

I was a shy little girl, considered well behaved. I couldn’t tell my teacher that my family was in a bad financial position just then. That would have embarrassed my mother and father. My father had been in bed for nearly two months healing, after falling on his back from two stories up in the cannery where he worked.  My 27 year old mother (who had a ninth grade education) with four daughters and my dad to take care of, suddenly had to find a full time job and figure out how her family would survive.  She couldn’t afford to buy three of us school shoes that September if we were going to have food on the table.

All that information passed through my mind as I stood in shock.  I never mentioned it to my mother.  There was nothing she could have done.  I understood the need for maintaining dignity in that moment. I, also, understood the lack of AWARENESS and SENSITIVITY my otherwise kind and pleasant teacher was demonstrating. 

As I write this, I can see that many readers may not find my experience all that devastating.  Especially when compared to so much more truly humiliating experiences others have suffered.  That actually may make my point.

We’re all a little different, age, circumstances and other factors influence our individual responses to the actions and insensitivity of others.  The feeling of humiliation is a primary human emotion.  Deepak Chopra, in his excellent book, “REINVENTING THE BODY, RESURRECTING THE SOUL,” states that, “Someone who has been severely humiliated, especially in childhood, will be listless, unresponsive, and withdrawn; the body will feel chronically weak and helpless.”  This will be the extreme, I’m sure.  But, as Caregivers we need to be AWARE and SENSITIVE to the feelings of those whose lives are in our care.  The vulnerable need to feel safe and secure that we’re looking out for their emotional well being along with their physical needs.  We need to protect their privacy both physically and in conversation. We need to be ALERT to changes in mood and behavior and do our best to understand what may have triggered the change instead taking the easy way out and dismissing it.  We need to protect the personal items and belongings of one who cannot protect their own things.

It’s complicated.  Caregiving is a huge, often under appreciated responsibility.  The more we understand the ramifications of other people’s behavior toward the ones in our care, the more COMPASSION we can show our loved ones.  That compassion is LOVE in its purest form. LOVE is everything and comes back to us like a boomerang when we come from the heart.  My COMPASSION for Caregivers is deep and personal.  I wish I had known more when I was caring for my dear friend with Alzheimer’s, my husband and then my dad.  I hope this information helps you be the best Caregiver you can be and makes your life a little lovelier.

Hugs,

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Accept Your Feelings and Newfound Freedoms

Recently I came across an article on the AARP website that was aptly entitled, “Feeling Relief (and Guilt) at Caregiving’s End“. In it, the article discusses the emotions that caregivers go through once their care recipient is no longer with them. Feelings of guilt or of being misunderstood, in truth there are a number of different emotions that a caregiver can feel once this happens, but the emotion that may be the most difficult to adjust to (and even more difficult to accept), is the feeling of relief.

If this sounds like something that you are currently experiencing, then I strongly recommend reading the article by clicking this link. If you would like someone to speak with you may also send me an email at patricia@caregivingcornerstone.com.

Hugs,

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Acting Out

Allow me to help with you

What do you do when the person in your care is becoming unmanageable and maybe hostile? This subject has come up several times lately after I’ve given a speech on Caregiving. It’s a common problem and we need to be prepared for it. I’m talking about the elderly here and not the cases of young people who are under care. Although, the resolution of the situation may be similar.

Several years ago, when I was managing the care of my friend who had Alzheimer’s Disease, I was still in business as a financial advisor. The administrator of the assisted living facility where my friend lived had become my financial planning client. I had the advantage of spending time with this knowledgeable woman who, for many years, had dealt with hundreds of personalities in various stages of aging and dementia. I asked her one day if our personalities changed much as we aged. We do not all have dementia in old age, I want to make that clear. But, it’s common and effects people in a number of ways. What she told me was not surprising. I’ve taken notice over the years since and her observations seem to bear out as true.

She said that if we were sweet and easy to get along with when we were younger, we would, most likely, be the same in old age. If we were feisty or a contrarian when young, we would probably be difficult as an elderly person, especially if we suffered from dementia. I’ve often asked a person who tells me that their mom has been acting out and maybe even tried to hit someone, if she was always a bit feisty. The answer is inevitably yes, she wasn’t the easiest to get along with when she was young. It’s interesting, I see this more often in women than men. They just don’t want someone telling them what to do and they’re often not polite about it. There is no reasoning with someone who can’t any longer control their emotions. Those who will listen to what someone says they can’t do anymore often feel very badly and might even apologize. But, don’t expect anything to change for long. They can’t help themselves, their brain is not functioning as it used to. We must accept this as part of the malady and have compassion.

This is how it’s going to be for a time. It’s often not a long time, depending on the health of the person involved. As I’ve observed it, these stages progress over months. Before you know it, you’re past this volatile stage and onto the next, which is usually a higher level of physical care being required because health is diminishing. It’s not the same for everyone and I’m speaking in generalities. I’ve personally cared for three different people over a period of sixteen years, as I’ve mentioned previously. And if there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that nothing stays the same for long. As Caregivers, we are constantly moving through and past the stages of decline.

So what do you do? This is just my opinion, everyone should have a plan for this kind of event, but I’m often asked this question so I want to address it. Please have a plan of your own in place.

First, make sure the Caregiver is safe as well as the patient. If the patient is at home with a hired caregiver that has been lashed out at, the agency (if there is one) needs to be notified immediately. They’re prepared for events like this and should have prepared their employees. They will speak with the people who contracted with them and resolve the situation. But, be safe first. If it’s a really bad situation, call 911. If not through an agency the people/family who hired the help or is the Caregiver themselves need to speak to the doctor in charge of primary care. Maybe a change in medication is all that’s needed.

Did I mention: SAFETY FIRST?

It’s time to reevaluate the level of care your loved one needs. We don’t like to hear this. It means change. It, also, often means more cost. It’s absolutely necessary that all involved recognize the progress in the condition of the patient. I had to change the residence of my friend who had Alzheimer’s a few times, eventually to a dementia care unit. If the patient lives in an assisted living facility, the administrators there will be helpful in making recommendations. If they live at home and/or with family, I would talk to the doctor about the level of care to expect next and be ready for with a plan for the next stage. That way you won’t be caught off guard if things change suddenly, as is often the case. Know what your insurance companies will pay for and how you will be reimbursed. I would ask an administrator of an assisted living facility for advice on the local options if you need to move your loved one to professional care, even if the patient doesn’t live at their property. They are most often happy to help the community and make referrals.

I wish you love and compassion.

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The Tipping Point

tipping

After speaking to a group of caregivers some months ago, a very nice young woman, who was the sole caregiver for her mother, asked to speak to me privately. The misery she was feeling literally radiated from her. I can still feel it as I picture her that day. She was on the verge of tears the whole time we spoke. It was heartbreaking to see how she was suffering.

This young woman, obviously, cared a great deal for her mother, who she wanted to be safe and comfortable in her old age. She loved her mother and wanted to do what’s best and right. But, she needed a life of her own. She was alone, unfulfilled professionally and believed herself to be held back and trapped.

This is a tipping point.

A tipping point happens when a caregiver can’t figure out how to fix things anymore. It’s not just a cry for help, it’s the point where something is forced to happen. The caregiver forces it. It’s a shift. You shift into another place, mentally. It’s necessary for survival.

This young woman instinctively knew she had to make a choice. She could continue in her misery and we would see her sometime later more unhappy and possibly ill herself or she could decide to take action. Action would be, making a firm decision to change the situation. That’s the shift. Once she had decided that something big was going to change, she would be somewhat out of her own way to come up with ideas on what to do to free herself up so she could have her own life back. That’s what she told me she wanted, “her own life back.”

It’s amazing how the right situations or people will show up in our lives, just as we need them, if we allow ourselves to be open to solutions. Was it a coincidence that she found herself in our group discussion at just this time? I don’t think so.

I wish you love.

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