Categories
Caregiving Community Planning Ahead Technology

8 Tips to Make Your Care Calendar

Planning and managing a calendar Being a caregiver in the family requires time and effort in managing a lot of responsibilities for the loved one. It can feel like a full-time job, and at times, can be overwhelming. Caregiving centers around relationships and time. Two valuable gifts. When you share the responsibility with your friends and relatives, everything becomes a lot more manageable.

 A caregiver calendar will help you delegate important tasks and coordinate with others.  Organizing time and tasks helps avoid caregiver burnout as well as significantly improve the quality of care your loved one receives.

Read below for a few tips on making a calendar for your circle:

1. Make a list of everything that’s needed

Before you start delegating tasks, it’s important to have a clear understanding of the different things that need to be done to care for your loved one. It can be general tasks like routine bill payments or checkups, as well as very specific ones like a particular type of soap you need to use for sensitive skin. Take note of the length of time these tasks take to make sure that everyone can adequately make room to accomplish them in their schedule. 

2. Assess your helpers’ skills and schedules

Knowing your helpers’ skills and vacant time will help you decide which tasks you can delegate. If someone has a background in finance, then maybe they can help with handling the budget and expenses. If someone has a background in nutrition then maybe he or she can help take care of their diet. When it comes to coordinating schedules, if someone is working on the night shift, then maybe they can visit in the afternoon so you can step out to run errands. Knowing generally what everyone’s skills, hobbies and schedules are will help you create a caregiver calendar that benefits everyone. 

3. Create a schedule that works for everyone

Try mapping out a schedule that takes everyone’s skills, schedules, and interests into account. Create a few variations to know which one works best for all. It’s not just about the one giving care but also the one being cared for. Different conditions will require different kinds of care, from the duration, frequency, to the actual tasks themselves. 

Consult everyone involved and get their opinion. Clearly define the needs of the one being cared for, and the responsibilities of each caregiver. Most importantly, make sure that the one being cared for is on board and comfortable with the plans you’re making.

4. Keep everyone informed

It’s important that everyone generally understands the condition of the person they’re caring for.  This helps build your care circle camaraderie and to be consistent with the person you are taking care of. 

Of course, some information can be sensitive and shouldn’t be shared with the public. However, knowing the situation can actually make others spring into action and help out. Find a balance between what needs to be communicated to your caregiver group and what is better kept to a smaller group. 

5. Create a good working relationship

While we want to count on our family to lend us a helping hand, it’s very important to set boundaries and respect them—that’s why having a caregiver calendar is instrumental in helping everyone stay accountable when it comes to their assigned tasks, while allowing them to tend to other aspects of their lives. 

When it comes to caregiving, always proceed with compassion and patience, for the one you’re taking care of as well as the ones you’re sharing the responsibilities with. Consider their hours of work, whether or not they will have enough energy to do tasks right after their shift, or if they can help in some other way that doesn’t require them to be physically there. Respect their time and needs as well. 

Know what they’re comfortable with in terms of the help they can give. Some might be more willing to share their skills and time rather than help financially. Every kind of help matters. Take the time to let them know they’re appreciated.

6. Learn to prioritize

As you build your care calendar, you’ll notice certain patterns, overlaps, or inconsistencies. This is an opportunity to prioritize the needs of the one you’re taking care of. Identify which tasks are critical and time-bound versus flexible. What are the things you have to do personally and what are the tasks that you can delegate to other caregivers in your family? 

Take the time to teach other caregivers how certain tasks are done so that you can confidently leave those to them in the future. Find ways to lighten your load, so you can provide a consistent quality of care for your loved one. 

7. Simplify tasks

Learning to break down complex tasks can be an easy way to reduce the back-and-forth between caregivers in the family. Simplify tasks into easy steps to help guide them on what needs to be done. For example, if the task is to have a checkup, then it needs to be broken down into simpler tasks like setting up the appointment, getting certain tests done if needed, and the actual doctor’s appointment.  

This will allow other caregivers to chip in and volunteer to do the task if they have more capacity to help during that time. 

8. Take advantage of available technology

Nowadays, there are many ways to coordinate with caregivers in your family from group chats, to emails, to video calls. Make good use of these tools to efficiently communicate with others certain updates or changes to your care schedule. These also allow you to keep even the family members that are abroad or in another state up to speed, creating solidarity among everyone.

Keep your care calendar organized. Make sure that every caregiver is informed of pending tasks as well as other important updates with CircleOf. Privately share information and coordinate care conveniently and securely with the app so you can take care of your loved one, while also making sure not to forget to take care of yourself. Schedule in time for breaks and a bit of pampering for yourself knowing you have other caregivers to rely on.

References

https://awareseniorcare.com/caregiver-daily-schedule/

https://www.senioradvisor.com/blog/2016/06/using-a-calendar-to-share-caregiving-responsibilities/

https://myhometouch.com/articles/how-to-set-up-a-caregiving-schedule

www.seniorhousingnet.com/advice-and-planning/how-to-create-a-care-calendar-for-family-caregivers

https://dailycaring.com/4-tips-get-family-to-help-with-elderly-parents/

https://www.saundershouse.org/article/3/20/2018/how-coordinate-care-aging-parent-your-siblings

https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/how-share-caregiving-responsibilities-family-membersA family

Categories
Community

LGBTQ+ Caregiving

As a LGBTQ+ caregiver, I found a huge amount of love and community support when I embraced the intersectionality of both identities, one as a caregiver and the other as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Caregiving is a service of love for another person. Expressing your authentic being as LGBTQ+ is love for yourself. Both identities involve love, commitment, and human connection. I believe no person should be alone on their LGBTQ+ caregiving journey.

I was a caregiver for my grandma for 10 years. She had diabetes, was incontinent, and used a wheelchair. Caregiving for her was physically exhausting and mentally challenging. I was in my mid-twenties when I started caregiving for her and I felt socially isolated because none of my peers were taking care of another older adult. Caregiving took time away from my personal interests and goals. Often, I felt lonely and emotionally frustrated. 

I actually didn’t know the term “caregiver” until around 5 years into caregiving. I always thought I was just a granddaughter taking care of my grandma. When I learned the keyword “caregiver,” I was able to tap into a whole new world of resources by searching for caregiver books, workshops, tutorials, events, and support groups. I didn’t feel alone anymore. I found caregiver communities, both online and in-person, that shared similar experiences and they taught me life enriching tips and coping strategies. By self-identifying as a caregiver, I gained new strength, perspective, knowledge, and friendships.

Expressing my gender identity and sexual orientation during my young adulthood was challenging at home because of my family culture. I didn’t have any role models. At that time, I was the only one in my family that identified as LGBTQ+. My grandma was a traditional Chinese matriarch and she gave me endless speeches on marrying a proper man. As a lesbian, I disregarded her suggestions and I committed to my attraction to women. I found my chosen family and friends at LGBTQ+ community events, workshops, and festivals. I was able to connect with folks that experienced similar family interactions and they supported my desire to follow my heart and not cultural traditions. By connecting with the LGBTQ+ community, I felt a sense of social belonging and ownership in my lifestyle.

While I was dating women, I started caregiving for my grandma. It was emotionally difficult to share my dating lifestyle with her because she did not take my relationships with women seriously and dismissed my happiness with them. It was frustrating and heartbreaking to hear my grandma consistently tell me that I need a man to take care of me and that my female relationships won’t last. I kept telling her that what mattered to me was that I’m in a loving relationship with a person who will take care of me, just like how I am taking care of her. This conversation carried on for years. Grandma finally changed her perspective on my relationships when same sex marriage was legalized in California. She recognized my partner at that time and gave us a blessing before she passed away. 

There are similarities in taking on the caregiver role and in expressing your true identity. Both take time, patience, and acceptance. 

It takes time to adjust your life to new responsibilities, to develop patience in providing continuous care, and to accept the uncertain timeline of caregiving. It takes time to explore your individuality as a LGBTQ+ person and to practice patience for the acceptance from your family and friends. Having multiple community support systems in place definitely helped my overall well-being as a LGBTQ+ caregiver.

Ultimately, caregiving is a human taking care of another human. 

Love for another person is love. 

Caregiving is love. 

Love is love.

 

READ MORE BELOW  

1 in 5 LGBTQ+ people provides care to a loved one, compared to 1 in 6 non LGBTQ+ identifying people. For more information on Caregiving in the LGBTQ+ community please read more from our friends at SAGE.  

 

Categories
Community

A Love So Deep

“You’re not going to do it all,” she said. Firmly. I was confused. Of COURSE I was going to do it all. I was her lover, her partner, her forever. We were in this together! This was the most important job of my lifetime! How guilty would I feel if someone else took care of her?!? I should have known better than to believe I could change her mind when she was this sure.

Was this a follow-up to her statement a few weeks ago?

“If it gets to be too much, I’m ok with you putting me in a nursing home.” She laid this edict down at a table in our favorite restaurant, before the food came, with other people at the table.

What?!? I would NEVER DO THAT. I told her this would not be happening. No way.

Looking back, I see with a clearer eye what might have led her in this direction. She had a large community of deep relationships, born out of her family’s physical and emotional distance after she came out as a lesbian. But she had family in her friends. Even her exes loved her with a fierceness that dropped my mouth open. I, on the other hand, was an anxious social phobic, leaving the party as soon as the guests arrived; I had done this at many parties of hers!!

Dumbstruck, I simultaneously realized that she had every right to decide how she wanted to live this last time of her life. At diagnosis they had given her 6 months to a year, but she had already outlived that, so we lived in the land of “dying but we don’t know when”.  As she put it, “everyone’s going to be hit by a truck, but I’m so close I can see the dent in the fender.”

A few months later we were out to dinner with a crowd of her friends. The food was delicious, the conversation lively. And I was awkward, uncomfortable. Too big a crowd. Almost couldn’t eat the delicious Italian feast in front of me. Like a lightning bolt, it hit me, “I am not going to be able to do this unless I drop my shyness. Completely. I can’t be who she needs if I resist all these people.”

I looked around at the (small) crowd. We were going to do this together. We were going to help her die.

The next time we talked about the support we would need, she said, “you are the only one who can be my partner, my love. I need you to accept all the help so that you can be that.” It wasn’t an easy thing to embody; I lived on the premise that I proved my love by how much I could overdo it. How much I did for you equated to love. She was asking me NOT to do. I didn’t know how NOT to do. But we planned a support meeting to talk about how, now that we were committed partners, we still needed the vast community to continue supporting her and us. She let everyone know that they should consider anything they did for any of us a support to her. The list of things this community of nearly 100 did for us included (for YEARS):

  • Dinners several times a week
  • Escorts to so many appointments; so, so many
  • Weekly promises of time with our children, even after we added a baby a few years in
  • Research
  • Financial help
  • Organizing all the help so that we had only one person to ask for everything
  • A list of supports way beyond the length of this article

I had never been comfortable being helped. That is the simple truth. And now I lived in a world in which people were doing things for me and my family, on the daily, that were BIG things. Over time, I noticed the way I deflected the help every time; “are you sure, don’t worry if you can’t, did I really need that thing anyway?” It was exhausting. I wish I could tell you that I quickly addressed this problem, but I did not. I had to get really, really, uncomfortable. But finally, I made a deal with myself and committed to it for an experiment for a year: Just say thank you. Nothing more. And say it sincerely!

That last part took a while to gel. The first few months those two words caused my stomach to flip, and it was a struggle to wrest them from my tight lips. My deep aversion to appearing needy meant I had no experience with a simple thank you! But then, what a surprise, it became more and more pleasurable to say thank you. And I meant it more and more. The biggest surprise was that all those people doing all those things for us got happier and happier! As it turned out, it was an even exchange; the gifts they gave were recompensed with gratitude. No debt owing.

By the time she finally died, years later, I could hardly remember that shy awkward person I had been. Our house was full of people that night who helped wash her body, lay her out in her splendid attire, bid the entire community come to say farewell. I had been changed by her, but also by a community of love formed by the human need for family, since so many of our community had been rejected by the families who brought them into this world.

My parents, who had found a way to love me for who I really am, also became a part of this community, contributing their part and at the same time witnessing all of us walking her home. My father, the American Baptist minister who later performed my wedding when I remarried, was the one man who helped anoint her body. After her death, my mother said, “I have been a part of loving church communities my whole life, but I have never seen a community as loving as yours.”

And so, yes, being a member of the LGBTQIA community has its losses, its pains, the oppressions that can be crushing. And, also, great challenge can transform, over time, to something we would never have expected; a love so deep it bores into the earth and carries our feet through anything.

Categories
Caregiving Community Planning Ahead

Legacy: Projects to Celebrate and Preserve What’s Most Important

When people think of “legacy” they often focus on money, property or major accomplishments. But legacy, on a deeper level, is the most personal of subjects. It’s all about what matters most to the individual. If you have a friend or family member who is thinking about their legacy, or if you yourself would like to explore the topic, read on for some ideas and inspiration from the Farewelling editors. 

Collecting Video Tributes After a Loss

One great way to honor a loved one’s legacy is to create a beautiful video montage of family and friends telling stories and sharing memories about the person they’re honoring. You can organize this yourself or use one of the new companies making it easier, such as Tribute.com. 

The process: invite your family, friends, colleagues, and anyone else you’d like to make a short recording on their phone or camera. After editing, or using a software tool to put the videos together, you can share the final compilation at a family gathering or by posting it online or sending it to whomever you like. A group video tribute can be a great element at a virtual event or an in-person remembrance.

Creating a Legacy Project

A legacy project is a physical creation that shares your personal message. It can involve life events, biography information, personal accomplishments, wisdom and knowledge, philosophy or faith traditions, hopes, and dreams.

Choose a medium that speaks to your personality and preferences. The goal: share what meant most to you.

Journaling Is An Easy Way to Share Your Legacy.

Document your life story through the written word. Journaling can be a therapeutic way to work through thoughts and emotions and record these things on paper. Or you might prefer a digital journal, which can be as simple as writing your story in a word processor or using an online service such as Storyworth. Either way, here are some tips:

  • Document a list of values that are most important to you.
  • Share significant life accomplishments and why they matter in your experience.
  • What are your wishes and dreams for the future?
  • Do you have any life lessons or advice you would like to share with the family?
  • Write down major life milestones and details about those events.

Scrapbooking: Tell the Story of Your Life Through Photos, and Other Captured Memories

Scrapbooking is a lovely way to display pictures, papers, postcards and other memorabilia from your most treasured memories. If you like working with your hands, it might be enjoyable to pull out the colored paper, stamps, and other crafty items. Or, there are many low-cost digital scrapbooking tools you can use online. 

Which Legacy Project Is Right For You?

Sometimes getting started on a project like this is the hardest part, but don’t let that stop you. Pick a legacy project that speaks to you, then dedicate just an hour or two a week to work on it yourself, or with your loved one. Over time it will start to take shape, and you’ll have a treasure to share with your loved ones that they will cherish for generations to come.

Karen Bussen

Farewelling is the revolutionary online platform transforming how we think about–and plan for–funerals and end of life. Join them on social media @myfarewelling for more.

Categories
Caregiving Community

How To Hire A Nurse For Home Care

Looking for a nurse to help take care of a loved one at home? It can be tough to know where to start. There are many things to consider when hiring a nurse for home care. But if you take the time to find the right person, it can be an immensely rewarding experience for you and your family. With the right nurse, you can rest assured that your loved one is receiving the best possible care.

  1. Decide What Type Of Nurse You Need

The first step is to decide what type of nurse you need. There are many different types of caregiving professionals, each with their specialties. You will want to choose a nurse with the experience and skills required to care for your loved one. For example, if your loved one has dementia, you will want to hire a nurse with expertise in dementia care.

Type Of Nurse You Need

  1. Check references and credentials

Once you have decided on a nurse, it is important to check their references and credentials. Ask the nurse for a list of references and call them to ask about their experience with the nurse. You should also check the nurse’s credentials to ensure they are qualified to do the job. If you are not comfortable checking the nurse’s references or certifications, you can hire a professional service to do it for you.

Check references and credentials

  1. Interview the nurse

After you have checked the references and credentials of the nurse, it is time to interview them. This is your chance to get to know the nurse and ask any questions you may have. Some things you may want to ask about include:

– Their experience in caring for patients with your loved one’s condition

– Their availability to work

– Their fees

You may also want to ask the nurse how they would go about caring for your loved one. This will give you a good idea of their care plan and whether or not it is a good fit for them. After the interview, take some time to think about whether or not you want to hire the nurse. If you decide not to go ahead with it, be sure to let the nurse know and thank them for their time.

Interview the nurse

The Benefits Of Hiring A Nurse For Home Care

Nurses are highly trained professionals who can provide quality care for your loved ones. Here are some of the top benefits of hiring private nursing care at home:

  • Nurses have the training and experience to provide expert care. They can help people recover from an illness or injury and manage chronic health conditions.
  • Nurses can provide companionship and support for your loved one. They can help with activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, and grooming.
  • Nurses can also provide respite care, which gives you a break from caregiving duties. This can be a valuable service if you are feeling overwhelmed or burned out.

Finding A Caregiving Support

At CircleOf, Inc., we understand that caregiving support is critical for families caring for loved ones with chronic illnesses. Unfortunately, not everyone is able to find a qualified caregiver to do the job. This leads them to giving up their personal lives and become full-time unpaid caregivers.

Family and friends who take this role often feel isolated and alone in their journey, but resources are available to help you. The first step in finding support is reaching out to others in a similar situation. Many communities and support groups are available, both in-person and online. These groups can provide caregivers with information, advice, and support.

Another excellent resource for caregivers is the Alzheimer’s Association. The Association provides education, resources, and support to families affected by dementia. They also have a national helpline that caregivers can call for help.

Finally, it is important to take care of yourself as a caregiver. You need to make sure you are getting enough rest, exercise, and socialization. Taking time for yourself will help you stay strong and healthy while caring for a loved one with dementia.

Fortunately, our CircleOf app allows you to do just that! We aim to facilitate unpaid care through features that promote care support and socialization.

CircleOf is an app that helps connect patients, caregivers, and families in managing the stress of caring for loved ones. It’s simple to use and will also open your door to the different communities where you’ll be able to reach out to other people and receive emotional support.

CircleOf is available free of charge on both iOS and Android devices. So, if you’re looking for nursing support, be sure to download the CircleOf app today!

Categories
Alzheimer's Caregiving Community

Books Can Make the Difference on the Alzheimer’s Caregiver’s Journey

Reading often closely follows our personal progression in life. As we mature and our interests and life situations change and develop, so do our reading patterns.

My progression began with nursery rhymes and Golden Books that filled my imagination, then came Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames, who fueled my ambitions, followed by the requisite period of academia preparing me for “real life.” By the time I reached adulthood, my attention turned to the New York Times Bestseller List, and the occasional beach book.

For some, reading will become a way of life as they devour books; for others, a lovely, welcome pastime; for the esoteric, an experience or quest for advanced knowledge, and for a few, a necessity when an unknown arises. If you are a caregiver, no matter where you fall on the spectrum, reading will become your source of knowledge, your advisor, your friend, and your savior in those lost moments.

Having always been a reader it was inevitable I would turn to books upon the diagnosis of my husband’s early-onset Alzheimer’s. Books are what helped me make sense of an almost untenable situation, answered questions when there seemed to be no answers, provided direction in a sea of darkness, and helped me not feel so adrift. For those of you who are not readers or are occasional readers, I can assure you books, podcasts, and blogs will serve you well.

When I was a caregiver, AlzAuthors, the global community of authors writing about dementia from personal experience,  did not exist. But if it did, I can tell you with great certainty that my foray into the genre of caregiving books would begin with my urgent need to understand what I was dealing with. 

That was not an easy task at that time, as there was a myriad of books out there to sort through and decipher, almost as overwhelming as the disease itself. Thank goodness today for the AlzAuthors Bookstore, whose vast collection is sorted out by categories, enabling the reader to quickly hone in on specific needs at specific times.

If I were a new caregiver today, I would head right to the Caregiver Guides Section to peruse the selections in search of information and understanding about Alzheimer’s, followed by checklists and to-do guides to help me through the initial shock and start me on the caregiver path. Under Memoirs I would look for stories to inspire, illuminate, support, and help me not feel so alone.

One of the things I would be thankful for is the now firsthand information on early-onset dementia, something that was missing years ago. The honesty of the authors combined with their various coping methods helps readers feel less judgmental about themselves and their situation.

On a self-indulgent whim, I would purchase books under the Fiction category to go on a much-needed escape. And since I wouldn’t have much time to read (what caregiver has time?), the AlzAuthors blog is a real gift.

When one is dealing with a catastrophic illness, the sense of isolation, be it physical, mental, social, or emotional, can be daunting and overwhelming. It is no wonder some caregivers suffer various degrees of depression or feel isolated as their world shrinks in so many ways. The gift of reading helps to alleviate some of that by sharing other perspectives, and imparting knowledge.

While it is not a replacement for actual friends or family, reading is a wonderful substitute that is always there and available. The vast range of knowledge from clinical, to checklists and facts, to personal, all covering the range from diagnosis till the end, is what allows caregivers to stay on the path and complete their journey intact. Preparation and knowledge are among the top skills any caregiver can possess.

I am grateful to all the authors who accompanied me on my journey, whose dog-eared pages sat faithfully on my nightstand, whose eBooks and audiobooks let me read during those times when I had so little time. To be provided with such comfort, knowledge, direction, and insight was truly an invaluable gift.

About the Author

Susan’s background reflects her versatility. A wife, mother, grandmother, she has also been a schoolteacher, a realtor, a sales professional, a corporate trainer, a counselor, and a consultant and speaker on various aspects of Alzheimer’s and dementia. She holds a master’s degree in counseling and human resource development. She is the author of My Life Rearranged, a contributor to AlzAuthors.com, and a caregiver advocate.

Connect with Susan G.Miller

Website: AlzheimerCaregiverAdvocate.com

Amazon page

AlzAuthors Page

Ambassador and contributor to The Caregiver Connection on Facebook

Categories
Caregiving Community Mental Health

How To Hire the Right Caregiving Professional to Support You

Keeping a life during a life of caregiving can feel like a tall order. How do you cope with the pressure, the stress, the worries, the needs and stay present in your career, your priorities, your relationships? How do you stay your best while getting the best for your caree?

A professional, like a therapist, coach, or consultant, can be a huge help as you navigate the caregiving experience. We offer suggestions to help you choose the professional right for you:

  1. If you want to heal a past pain, then a therapist will be the right choice for you. A therapist can help you cope with the past and its impact on the present while putting strategies together so you are ready for the future. For instance, a therapist can help if you struggle caring for a family member because of a past abusive relationship. In addition, the right therapist can help you heal from PTSD and the impact of the abusive relationship on you. If you work, check with your employer’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to learn if you have free counseling sessions available to you.
  2. If you would like a professional assessment of your caree’s situation, then an Aging Life Care Specialist can help. (Aging Life Care Specialists used to be called geriatric care managers.) Typically a nurse or social worker, an Aging Life Care Specialist can recommend services and programs for your caree, can put plans in place so your caree remains safe at home, and can help manage your caree’s team of home care workers. The Aging Life Care Specialist focuses on your caree’s needs because of their specialization in the aging process. You also can check with your employer’s EAP to see if you have a benefit that offers free consultations with an Aging Life Care Specialist.
  3. If you would like help for yourself, then connect with one of our Certified Caregiving Consultants™, who have expertise in the caregiving experience. A CCC can help you understand your priorities, create coping strategies and manage your stress. CCCs can help you find the right facilities, agencies, resources, products, and services for you and your caree. In addition, CCCs can brainstorm solutions with you and provide an empathetic ear so you can vent without guilt. Our CCCs also have a personal caregiving experience, which means they bring an understanding of the experience into their work. The CCCs focus on you because of their specialization in the caregiving experience.
  4. If you want to focus on achieving your own personal goals during a caregiving experience, you could hire a life coach to help. Life coaches help you start where you are to move forward into achieving personal or career successes. Many life coaches specialize in helping you with specific life goals, like losing weight, changing careers, or writing a book.

You can use these professionals in any way that works for you. Perhaps you hire an Aging Life Care Specialist every January to assess your caree and review what additional services or programs your caree may need. You may want to take advantage of free sessions with counselors available through your company’s EAP every year. When you exhaust the free sessions, you can hire a CCC or life coach. Maybe you hire a CCC for monthly sessions so you can talk it out with a professional who gets it so that you can hear the right solutions. Perhaps you hire a coach or therapist or CCC for quarterly sessions each year. Whatever will work for you works.

About the Author
Denise M. Brown began supporting family caregivers in 1990 and currently offers leadership and  coach training for both family caregivers and former family caregivers. She began helping her parents after her father’s 2004 bladder cancer diagnosis. Visit www.careyearsacademy.com to learn more.

Categories
Caregiving Community

Not Another Lasagna, Thanks: Asking for the Help You Really Need

When my husband was about to come home from a four-month hospitalization following a difficult stem cell transplant, a friend at my gym asked if there was anything she could do to help. I hesitated for a minute; I didn’t know her all that well, and my first instinct was to either wave her off or point her to the Meal Train sign up another friend had kindly organized. But my freezer was full. What I really needed was less conventional: help with rearranging our guest room to accommodate Brad’s care needs from someone who I knew could deadlift.

“Actually,” I said, “would you have time to come over and help me move some furniture?” She said she’d be glad to, and with her aid I got that furniture moved without throwing out my back. I also learned the importance of asking for the specific, real help that would really give me a boost or a break during a long caregiving journey.

Our individualist, self-reliant culture often leads caregivers like me to demur in the face of vague offers (we’ve all heard “let me know if I can do anything,” right?), or to say yes to whatever is offered—even if it’s a superfluous lasagna. Asking someone to fill a gas tank or pick up laundry detergent on their Costco run instead can feel vulnerable. But overcoming our reluctance and making those requests can both meet our immediate needs and show us who’s got our back, ultimately building the community all caregivers need.

Recently, I had the chance to pay it forward to a caregiving friend, and I was delighted when she asked me to pick up the bakery muffins her sons like best, because I knew I could offer authentic support. Especially in the busy holiday season, asking for what you really need can be a gift not only to yourself but to those who truly want to give to you.

Kate Washington is the author of Already Toast: Caregiving and Burnout In America (Beacon Press, 2021) and a speaker on the systemic challenges facing family caregivers. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, TIME, Eater, Catapult, and many other publications. She holds a Ph.D. in Victorian literature from Stanford University and lives in Sacramento with her husband and two daughters. Connect with her at kawashington.com or on Twitter @washingtonkate

Categories
Caregiving Community

Caregiver Survival During the Holidays

The holidays can be a delightful time of year. They can also be filled with anxiety.

Holidays often add stress, especially if you are a caregiver who is already feeling pulled in too many directions. The pressure of trying to make the perfect holiday can be immense, and quite frankly, who has those “Perfect Publix holiday commercial” holidays? Families coming together are not always the happiest of situations.

Here are five simple tips to make the holidays better for you, your loved one and your family.

  1. Simplify: When it comes to decorations, choose a few items that are most significant, have meaning for you and your loved ones. You might ask a friend to help decorate.
  2. Keep Meals Simple: Purchase all or part of meals at a local grocery store or restaurant — either fully cooked or ready for you to cook at home. If you prefer home cooked, share the cooking with other family members.
  3. Reduce the number of holiday activities: Limit your time away from home to match the comfort level of your loved one. Choose which events to attend based on which would be the simplest, least exhausting and most enjoyable for the person you care for — and for you.
  4. Visiting Family: You may need to prepare family members in advance for any changes or decline in your loved one’s physical or mental status. This will save many unnecessary “well meaning” discussions on the care you are providing. (Siblings and other family members tend to swoop in and have definite opinions when they may not have been involved.)
  5. Focus On the Meaning: When spending time with your loved ones, focus on celebrating the meaning of the holiday you observe. This is what really matters, and what you will remember in the future.

Do you exchange gifts? Let’s face it, most of us don’t really need more stuff. As a matter of fact, I hear so many of you saying the stuff just adds more stress!

This year, try something different. Create your own “Wish List” of gifts that you need. Here are some ideas that have come to my mind after listening to the needs of caregivers.

Coupon for Respite: How about creating a coupon booklet offering to stay with your loved one so you can get away? Offers to provide care, transportation, run errands, buy groceries, etc. can be added. If your family can’t do this, suggest they purchase a few hours of care from a home care agency or assisted living facility. Many assisted living facilities offer short term respite care.

House Cleaning Service: A gift certificate for a house cleaning service is a great gift.

Coupon for a Spa Day: A little pampering can go a long way to ease caregiver stress. A massage is one of the best things you can do for yourself.

Go ahead, ask for these special gifts from your friends and loved ones! You will be glad you did.

I hope all of you will think about how to best care for yourselves during this frantic season. The ideas above should help with that.

 

Categories
Caregiving Community

Gratitude Cards for Caregivers

Have you ever cruised the greeting card aisle at a store in search for the perfect card that says exactly what you want to say or how you feel? Sometimes you get lucky and find a card right away. Other times, you read through a handful of cards and, after a while, you just settle for a decent one. Fortunately, to save you search time, the greeting card aisle has different card sections based on occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, celebrations, baby showers, and weddings.

Now, have you ever tried to find a greeting card to express gratitude for a family caregiver? What words or emotions come to mind? How are you related to this caregiver? What is the occasion? What is the caregiving context? 

The obvious go-to gratitude cards are in the Thank You section, which provides general heartfelt messages but not necessarily about caregiving. Birthday cards can work since you can both celebrate a caregiver’s birthday and thank them for being a caregiver at the same time. Relationship cards can also work since you can express appreciation for both the relationship, such as spousal or daughter to mother, and for the caregiving dynamic. Other possible cards can be found in the Sympathy section, depending on the nature of the caregiving situation, and the Just Because section. All these cards are options but not caregiver-specific.

For me, it was slim-pickings when I searched for caregiver-themed greeting cards at multiple card aisles and stationery stores. I felt like I had to edit the cards with my personal caregiver comments. If I was having a hard time finding gratitude cards for caregivers, how many other people were having the same difficulty? At the very least, card stores should add caregivers to the relationship section. Caregiving for another person is a unique relationship, isn’t it?

After several card shopping trips and editing sessions, I decided to start my own caregiver-themed greeting card line. There are 53 million family caregivers in the U.S. and I think that is a significant amount of people that should be appreciated and recognized for their caregiving role. With my personal caregiving journey and the compassionate hearts of family caregivers in mind, I created Caregiver Cards. It is an uplifting card collection packed with messages of positivity, love, adoration, fun, and humanity for caregivers. With each card, I hope to deliver a well-deserved bright light to the caregiver who reads it. With the card collection, I hope to offer you a variety of gratitude expressions to choose from. With Caregiver Cards, I hope to create a new section in the greeting card aisle and to save you card shopping time, especially during the busy holiday season.

Jenn Chan is the CEO & Founder of Senior Shower® Project, a startup with a mission to celebrate family caregivers of older adults with a party. She sells caregiver greeting cards, creates senior shower party kits, curates caregiver gift boxes, and hosts virtual caregiver dance parties. Inspired by caregiving for her grandma, Jenn dedicates her career to elevate the family caregiver role with fun, love, and positivity. She believes caregiving is a lifestyle and becoming a senior caregiver is a life milestone worth celebrating.