Mar 1, 2015

Living Life Our Way

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"Your life is in your hands.  You may live it as you wish." Christian D. Larson

Some people living now do not have the luxury of considering how they want to live their lives.  Some people, by necessity, are focused on survival.  Only when we have our basic needs met can we consider other ways of living.  Most of us are lucky enough to have food, shelter and protection -- so we can focus on how we want to live our lives.  Sometimes my loved one's hallucinations are of being imprisoned or held captive; and that makes so much sense -- because in a very real sense his disease of dementia is holding him captive.  We can consider caregiving as an imprisonment too, or we can consider we are doing it by choice.  Even if we did not choose to do the caregiving, we can choose our attitude toward doing it.  

Feb 28, 2015

The Winter Season

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"Where there is a will, there is a wall.  But, where there is a willingness, there is a way."
Rev. Michael Bernard Beckwith

Sometimes I see caregivers using their will with the care receivers.  This will always end badly.  When my loved one is upset, I speak calmly, reassuringly, address his fears.  He responds and what is needed (getting him to the bathroom, etc.) goes more smoothly.  We cannot force another human to do something.  Whether it is an enchanting child learning to test her independence, or someone who is in the grips of dementia, force brings rebellion.  It may, in some circumstances, work in a small situation; but never in the long run.  People need the freedom to believe they are making their own choice.  Providing the structure within the setting gives the person freedom while also ensuring what needs to be done gets done.  Recently when a staff member was transferring my loved one to the wheelchair, he became frantic and worried about lumps on the seat of his chair.  When I said we we would take care of the lumps on his chair, he became calm. (There were no lumps in his air-cushioned chair -- he just needed reassurance it was being taken care of.)  How can you smooth the way for your loved one?  

Feb 27, 2015

Our Perspective

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"Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth." Muhammad Ali

A clever way to say what life is all about.  In order to pay for our room and board here, we are called to be of service to others.  Caregiving is certainly service to others -- if we choose to look upon it as that.  It is not just service to our loved one, but we are also called to provide service to others -- if only through the modeling of our behavior.  How I treat my loved one is noticed by everyone on staff, and many of them tend to treat him more like I do when they see me being loving, patient and kind.  When we advocate for respectful care for our loved one, we are providing service to those others who have no one to voice for them respectful care.  I know when I call upon the care facility to be more compassionate, that benefits more than my loved one.  As in the photo above, we can see life as bleak without meaning.  Or we can see life as rich, full, vibrant.  Part of that perspective is seeing our caregiving as purposeful, as worthwhile.  Because it is.

Feb 26, 2015


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"Be miserable.  Or motivate yourself.  Whatever has to be done, it is always your choice."
Wayne Dyer

As humans we tend not to see the wide range of our choices.  As Dr. Frankl said, the only thing that cannot be removed from us is our attitude.  Within any circumstance, we choose our attitude.  We know caregivers who seem worn down and cheerless, and we know caregivers - with the same amount of burden -- who are lighthearted and positive.  It is choice.  Do we see our glass half full or half empty?  This caregiving will pass and along with that will pass our opportunity to choose our attitude toward it while being within it.  Today, consciously choose the attitude you want to bring to life.  To caregiving.  To the world.  

Feb 25, 2015

Suffering and Attitude

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"You do not suffer, only the person you imagine yourself to be suffers.  You cannot suffer."
Nisargadatta Mahaja

The Buddhist teach something similar:  that suffering is caused by our attachment to things, outcomes, our own beliefs.  To be free from suffering one needs to develop nonattachment -- to have neither attachment toward nor aversion from things and people and events.  Take caregiving, can we be impersonal with it?  By that I mean can we not take caregiving personally?  That does not mean we do not do it with compassion, but it is a different attitude to consider that caregiving just happens in life -- rather than Life has imposed caregiving upon us.  Could this disease and caregiving have happened to someone other than you?  Of course, but perhaps rather than ask, "why me?", we might want to consider, "who not me?"  After all, if terminal disease and caregiving are a part of life, someone has to do it.  Why not you and me?

Feb 24, 2015

Dark Days

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"It's always darkest before the dawn." Thomas Fuller

While not literally true, this quote reminds us that when life seems most bleak is often just before we have a breakthrough and life begins to improve.  Let's be honest.  As caregivers, we will become discouraged, we will have dark days; but that is the time to look for optimism.  What, when you are feeling down, can you see in your life that is good and positive?  I was feeling down on Valentine's Day -- perhaps because I tend to be sentimental and this day was a visceral reminder to me that romantic roles and days have passed in my relationship with my loved one.  My daughter invited me on a fun excursion which lifted my mood, and then I planned a gentle evening watching a movie I enjoyed.  How can you turn a dark day into one of light?

Feb 23, 2015

Be Yourself

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"Be yourself; everyone else is already taken." Oscar Wilde

It is funny to think that we humans have trouble being ourselves.  Otters and wolves and squirrels and trees do not try to be something they are not, but we humans -- from a very early age -- are encouraged to hide parts of who we are, put on masks and become someone we were never meant to be.  I remember hearing Oprah say once, "Don't try to be Oprah -- I already have that one covered."  While it is appropriate to emulate others and learn from the behavior of those we admire, only you can be you and only I can be I.  Let's support each other in being true to who we are.  What if that's why we are here?:  to become fully who we were meant to be.