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Roamin’ Forums July 29, 2012

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In my last post I made a point about the internet’s value in getting support for caregiving. I find it extraordinary that we can so easily connect with people all over the world who are going through, or have already gone through, similar experiences to us. Additionally, it also gives us access to professionals offering their thoughts and advice freely. For a non-professional caregiver support like this is invaluable, especially now when we are increasingly taking care of loved ones at home.

I had suggested looking at some “forums” as a good resource for support and information, but I realized afterwards that some readers may be unfamiliar with forums, so I thought a little primer may be helpful.

A forum is different from a blog in that it is where people come to discuss one or more topics. It’s a conversation rather than, like a blog, one person’s expression. The top of a conversation starts with a question or comment from anyone and then people respond in what’s called a “thread”. As an example  let’s take a look at one of the forums I suggested: the Family Caregiver Forum. Here’s a screen grab of the home page: (more…)

Don’t Wait to Ask For Help July 20, 2012

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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…)

Just the Right Environment July 9, 2012

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When it comes to going out to eat, whether it be a restaurant or someone’s home, many people find that the environment plays a big role in the enjoyment of the food. I once heard a comment attributed to a friend that when asked what he thought of the restaurants in New York City he said that it was hard to enjoy food when eating in a toilet (sorry New Yorkers, no offense meant). I never found out if he actually said this but it definitely got a laugh out of me and a nod towards the spirit of the statement. So what about the environment when we are caregiving? What about the environment when a person is going through an end-of-life process? (more…)

Hardly What We Expected July 2, 2012

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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…)

June 26, 2012

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I was invited by Beth, author of the Middlescapes blog, to write something for her readers. Beth is taking care of her aging mother and is chronicling her experience through blogging. She’s a wonderful writer and provides an insightful window into the life and experience of a caregiver in the midst of taking care of a loved one at home. I highly recommend subscribing to her blog, it’s a great read. The link to the post I wrote is above the photo. – IJ

middlescapes

Please join me in welcoming IJ Woods, guest blogging this week fromConscious Departures. I think he is amazing and hope you do too.
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We Can’t Reverse Time June 21, 2012

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The story I’ve heard told of Buddha was that as a prince he had been sheltered from seeing the suffering of the world. Then one day, having left the palace for the first time for a ride around town, he discovered old age, sickness and death. Seeing these things overwhelmed him so much with grief and compassion it ignited his journey to find the truth.

A number of years ago K introduced me to a wonderful couple, a husband and wife, whose company I always enjoyed. I’ll call the husband Dave and the wife Elyce. At one point Elyce was diagnosed with cancer and began to go through numerous treatments. We would run into both of them from time to time at various events and check in on how things were going. Elyce and K communicated privately on what seemed a pretty regular basis and most especially during the last year of K’s life. About month ago Elyce also passed away. It was painful for me to hear because I felt very connected to her battle and thought she was overcoming it. But I also couldn’t stop thinking of Dave who spent many years supporting and caring for her.

From where I sat it looked like a long and tough fight although whenever you saw them you’d hardly know it. Their attitude and sense of comfort never gave it away. Now with Elyce gone I couldn’t help wonder if Dave was experiencing the same things as I did. I really wanted to communicate with him, no matter how awkward it might be. (more…)

Avoid the Dreaded Caregiver’s Burnout June 14, 2012

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“Family caregivers suffer from major depression much more frequently than the rest of the population. That’s a fact. When a family caregiver suffers from depression, there are two people at risk – the family caregiver and the family member or friend for whom she or he cares,”  From The Family Caregiver

Over the two years that K was ill, whenever I would speak to her brother-in-law he would invariably say to me,  “…and who takes care of the care givers?”  I could never understand what he was talking about at the time because not only did caregiving come naturally but it also hadn’t reached the point where it felt like it was affecting me.  Yet at one point it started it make a whole lot of sense.

You may have noticed that each day my Twitter tweets show up under “news and Twitter updates “ on this blog-site. The tweets come from sourcing and reading articles that I think you will find as interesting as I do about caregiving and end-of-life issues. What I’ve discovered is that a high percentage of articles coming out each day are about some form of “caregiver burnout”.  It’s a real problem; and growing.

Although I didn’t reach “burnout”, I can certainly see how it can occur.  In my case the caregiving was not that overwhelming early on. In those early days, after the cancer was discovered, K was able to bounce back from treatments. So, for example, although the first round of chemotherapy was very tough  she was functioning well again within a couple of months. Thankfully I work from home and had no problem providing transportation and hanging around the doctor’s office or making sure she was comfortable at home. After some time it seemed she had almost returned to normal except for a non-alarming loss of strength weight. So the caregiving at that time, although mentally strenuous, was not crushing. (more…)

Our Life is About Life June 6, 2012

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While talking to some friends the other night I was reminded about how part of the hospice team consisted of someone to help with the emotional/spiritual side of things. It got me thinking about how K and I had never called upon this person for help, at least not while K was alive. Afterwards I did arrange an appointment for grief counseling which was of big help.

The fact is, that while K was alive neither of us felt like we needed a conversation about spirituality or about anything we were experiencing emotionally. Looking back we were amazingly grounded.  This is one part of our journey I feel very satisfied with. A lot if this “groundedness” had to do with our involvement in the development of our own personal peace and appreciation for life for many years. Our common understanding and experience played a big hand in the way we related to each other and to what was happening. Even during the most difficult times it gave us a base of understanding from which to get over whatever we encountered.

It’s one thing to know that everything will go fine on a physical level, i.e. to have the power of attorney in place, have the assets divided up properly, etc., but it’s another thing having to face leaving the world and head into the unknown. It’s an amazing sensation to have our mortality so exposed and to feel the irreversible power of it. Our perspective changes considerably. What was important yesterday becomes trivial today. (more…)

A Tale of Two Memorials May 28, 2012

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It’s completely coincidental that I’m inspired to write about memorials on Memorial Day. It just so happened that last weekend we had a second memorial for K in Minneapolis. Minneapolis is where K is originally from and it always held a special place in her heart. There are a lot of family and dear friends who still reside there, not to mention there’s also a spot for her in the family’s section of a local cemetery.

The memorial was a wonderful experience. It was thoughtfully and lovingly planned and attended by people who had strong affection for her. K was an amazing individual and I feel incredibly lucky to have known her so intimately. Those who met her were almost always deeply affected by her joy, sharp intelligence and caring nature. When she focused her attention on you it was both genuine and complete. She had a way of connecting that made you feel you mattered.

What I liked so much about the two memorials was that they were put together out of a combination of K’s wishes and our own inspiration. K provided us with enough information to take care of some basics, but she was clear that memorials are for the living. She wanted that whoever attended should have a good experience and that her family and I were able to express our love for her in our own way. (more…)

Listen May 22, 2012

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I have never met a person whose greatest need was anything other than love. Real unconditional love.” 

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross from her book, The Wheel of Life  – A Memoir of Living and Dying.

I recently received a copy of The Wheel of Life, by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, in the mail from an unidentified source. Although I am familiar with her work and have seen her book, On Death and Dying, on every recommended book list that concerns itself with caregiving, I never read it. I suppose that’s due to some contrarian tick that I have. Nonetheless, here was a gift in the mail from someone who obviously thought it would be of help to me so I thought I should give it a shot. Since I had a round trip flight to Minneapolis this weekend the flight seemed like the ideal time to dig into it and see if I really liked it. And indeed I did. I read the entire book. (more…)