Understand What it Takes To Care January 10, 2013Posted by ijwoods in Blog+.
Tags: hopice, non-paid caregivers, preparations, training
Well, I’ve taken quite a bit of time off to regroup, enjoy the holiday and make some great connections. But I’m feeling more strongly than ever to get the word out to friends and acquaintances about being ahead of the curve on end-of-life and caregiving issues, so it’s time to get back to writing. It may not be practical for some to get too far ahead of the curve, but many people are surprised how quickly they get blindsided finding themselves as a caregiver or being cared for. Almost everyone I’ve spoken with over the holidays is gravitating towards or in the middle of some kind of family caregiving situation. In my own experience, even with adequate time to get well informed, I still found myself with many seemingly small tasks that were far more worrisome than I anticipated.
One day it reached the point, in K’s cancer evolution, that she needed a hospital bed. We have a nice large king sized bed but she was rolling around in it so much that you wouldn’t know where to find her next. At the end of one day I actually found her pivoted 90 degrees and scrunched against the wall. The hospice nurse recommended we get a hospital bed brought in to make sure she didn’t roll onto the floor and get hurt. Great idea, and something I would never have considered on my own. A hospital bed has bars on both sides, much like a baby crib, with the ability to raise or lower the head or legs. The hospital bed came along with the hospice services, which made it incredibly easy to do.
The bed was brought over and I had it placed in our bedroom. The guys who deliver the bed are fine to set it up but they are not qualified to move anyone onto it. K was not walking around at that time either, so it wasn’t a matter of helping her shuffle over and hop in. They said I needed to call the fire department to have her moved. The fire department!? I just couldn’t imagine having the fire department come roaring into the neighborhood, with a team of big beefy guys stomping into the bedroom to move her. No way I was going to do that, it would have totally freaked her out.
I gave it some thought and decided to move her to the bed myself. I am strong and fit and K was down to a very light 80 pounds. My biggest concern was her neck because she barely had the strength to life her head, if at all. I worried that in her frailness her neck could snap or strain if I did not support it well during the move. I stood there for a while strategizing how to do it with the utmost care. First I made sure the hospital bed was all set with new sheets, special cushions and a pillow. I let the bars down and took a deep breath. This was a small thing but I can’t tell you how risky it felt.
I went over to K. She was conscious and staring at me. I told her what it was I was about to do and why. Not seeing any any alarm or revolt in her eyes signaled she was game. I took a deep breath and decided to go for it. I got under her carefully with my arms, cradled her head on my chest, so that it wouldn’t flop backwards, and gently put her to rest in the hospital bed. Everything was fine and it took less than five seconds. For such a small thing it was an amazing bonding experience. Well, it may seem like a small thing but not when you are in the middle of it and untrained. Looking back I should waited and called our designated hospice nurse for advice. I was very lucky that it worked out okay. I shudder now when I think about it.
A few days later, while caring for her, I needed to lower the bars of the bed so I could maneuver more easily. I pulled the latch to let the bars drop down but a little red flag in my head went off stopping me from letting them drop full force. The bars had some serious heft to them so I lowered them gently all the while watching her face. After easing the bars down I saw K’s face take on a disturbed and agitated look. Clearly something was wrong. Then I noticed – I had lowered the bars onto her right wrist! She had been laying there grasping the bars as if she were holding someone’s hand, but I hadn’t noticed, and so the horizontal support of the bars landed on top of her wrist. After seeing her expression it took a moment to figure out what the problem was and I immediately lifted the bars back up. I was terrified that I may have broken her wrist, but luckily all was well and the scowl went from her face. Thankfully, not only had I lowered the bars slowly but there was tons of soft padding between her hand and the bed. That one moment of being slightly conscious about making abrupt actions may have saved the day. Still, I was totally distraught and emotionally drained about this for days afterwards. K was very lucky to escape the potential harm of my amateurishness.
Back in October the AARP Public Policy Institute and the United Hospital Fund came out with a study entitled Home Alone: Family Caregivers Providing Complex Chronic Care that had some discomforting findings. In the executive summary it says, “Family caregivers have traditionally provided assistance with bathing, dressing, eating, and household tasks such as shopping and managing finances. While these remain critically important to the well-being of care recipients, the role of family caregivers has dramatically expanded to include performing medical/nursing tasks of the kind and complexity once provided only in hospitals.” And the report shows that many non-paid caregivers are frightened and overwhelmed with the level of care they end up having to provide these days without training.
I can see great value for today’s family caregiver to get some basic training. It was something that would have given me more confidence and ability to respond more competently. Caregiving someone can be too complex to simply consider winging it. If anything terrible happens to our loved one due to our own inexperience and lack of training we’ll find ourselves haunted by it for quite some time.
I wish I could say there’s a lot of training support available but actually it’s not that easy to find unless you are ready to spend a lot of money. I’d suggest the first place to look for basic training programs would be with your local hospices. From my limited experience, and from speaking to others, you will find they are aware of many resources, offer quite a bit of services and will go the extra mile to help you. I found that some community colleges offer courses which, although they cost money, look like they are a good value. Also, check in with any universities or medical schools nearby. For instance I found that the U of Nevada School of Medicine held a free workshop for elder caregiver training specifically for the family caregiver. Programs like this may happen frequently, but you need to be proactive in seeking them out.
If anyone reading this has other ideas as to how a family caregiver can get some basic caregiving training without breaking the bank it would be much appreciated. Please weigh in.
How About Leaving Some Surprises? October 13, 2012Posted by ijwoods in Blog+.
Tags: grief, grieving, hope, preparations
As of Thursday the 11th, it’s been 1 full year since K passed away. It’s difficult enough to understand she is gone and not returning, no less comprehend what a year means. So much has transpired in between, yet a year seems just impossible.
Over this period I’ve been observing some interesting things about the grieving process; one of those things is the interplay between memory and feeling. Sometimes a feeling will inspire the memories and sometimes the memories will inspire the feelings. The feeling seems to be the key component though. I can at times actually go back to the same feeling I had as when she was in bed and I was caregiving. Once I get to the feeling, the floodgates of memories open up. Everything from that time becomes accessible.
Quite often this year I’d find myself in search of the feeling. This would play out for me by cleaning house and going through all sorts of items such as clothing, files, books, boxes and whatever else may contain some trace of K’s life. Every now and then I would uncover some surprise; something unexpected. Invariably, whatever I found would bring me back to the feeling where I would whole heartedly indulge in the experience. There, I could spend hours sploshing around in the emotion and the memories.
A few months ago I was cleaning out my office closet and came across several discs. On these discs were about 30 short videos that my then business partner and I and created. The videos were part of a training simulator we developed for sales people. In producing the videos we used K and another friend of ours to play the role of executives in a fictitious company. I had forgotten about this disc and now, almost ten years later, there it was. And what a fantastic surprise! (more…)
“The Conversation Project” Breaks Ground August 28, 2012Posted by ijwoods in Blog+.
Tags: caregiver, caregiver help, communication, EOL Conversation, listening, preparations
Some of you know that the purpose of this blog site is to get people talking with their loved ones about preparations for an end of life situation. After my caregiving experience with someone very dear to me I became keenly aware of the importance of having such a conversation and how much it can help the non-professional caregiver as well as the one being taken care of.
The reality is that almost all of us will enter into a caregiving situation once or multiple times in our life. I recently saw a quote by Rosalyn Carter that says it very well, “There are only four kinds of people in the world – those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers and those who will need caregivers”. Caregiving is not something we will be exempted from unless, I suppose, we are living alone in a remote cave in the jungle.
As our population continues to age, many Boomers are now finding themselves caregiving for their parents. Increasingly, the Boomers will need to be taken care of as well. K was a Boomer, as am I, giving me some insight to what lies ahead for many of us; and with the huge population of boomers, caregiving will become massive. As ominous as that might sound I happen to see something exciting about it. (more…)
Something to Learn From Michael Phelps August 5, 2012Posted by ijwoods in Blog+.
Tags: caregiver, caregiving, preparations, young caregivers
I’ve been tuning in to the Olympics this past week and enjoying it quite a bit. One person who will be in Olympic history books for some time is Michael Phelps, now the considered to be the top Olympian ever. When you think of all the competition there is from all over the world it’s really a super human achievement.
I like this one story of a race he swam in the 2008 Olympics when he ran into some serious trouble. During that competition his goggles filled with water so that he couldn’t see anything. Most of us would think “So what? He’s swimming. Not seeing doesn’t seem that bad.” Think about running a race, on a straight track, back and forth and being blindfolded without warning while your competition can see perfectly well. Not only would it be nearly impossible to stay in your lane but you’d be seriously disoriented and freaked out to boot. That may help to understand the immense challenge. Well, not only did Phelps finish out the race blind, but he took gold!
How did he manage to do this? Preparation. His coach prepared him for such an eventuality knowing that he had to be ready for any surprise. He had Michael do things like swim in the dark or race mentally, imagining his goggles were filled with water. They even calculated the number of strokes he was supposed to take in a lap in case this ever happened. So during that race, once he lost all vision, he mentally played the imaginary “blind” race he had swum many times before, counted his strokes and followed his training to touch the wall perfectly and end the race. Yes, he won the gold and even set a new world record. (more…)
Don’t Wait to Ask For Help July 20, 2012Posted by ijwoods in Blog+.
Tags: caregiver, caregiver help, caregiving, preparations
I’m a bit delinquent with this post. Last weekend I made the really bad decision to heat up a can of Indian food which had some white fuzz on top. I was so hungry I convinced myself that scraping off the fuzz would be fine. It wasn’t. Within a few hours I was slammed with a severe case of food poisoning and suffered through it till early the next morning. Now after several days I am almost fully recovered. The only help I managed to ask for during this ordeal was a cryptic email to a friend saying “check on me Tuesday and make sure I’m still alive”. Of course the person I chose only checks email when the comet Kohoutek rounds the sun, so thankfully I’m still here. (more…)
Hardly What We Expected July 2, 2012Posted by ijwoods in Blog+.
Tags: caregiver, caregiving, preparations
There’s a picture of my parents I keep in my office that I really love; I think of it as a novel in a snapshot. I would guess that mom is around 19 and my father 21. Mom looks beautiful, radiant and very happy. Her quiet internal strength is visible to me even at that young age. She looks very mature compared to my father.
My father looks to me like a young Frank Sinatra. I can’t read what’s going through his mind but if I had to guess he is already working on how he is going to take good care of his future family. His sleeves are rolled up and he’s ready to conquer the world. He’s a fearless character and in the photo looks a bit like the cat that ate the canary. I can recognize his intense energy and entrepreneurial spirit. What’s not appearant is the devotion he has to my mother.
They are a handsome young couple. Life is in front of them and their faces reflect the optimism they feel for the future. My father with his street smarts, inquisitiveness and drive is capable of doing a lot. In this photo I see them enjoying the moment and very confindent about what’s to come. In reality neither of them had any idea what was ahead. (more…)