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.  

Feb 22, 2015


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"We're ensconced in a world of ineffable mystery." Jan Phillips

I heard recently that, when Stephen Hawkins was interviewed by the actor portraying him in the new film, The Theory of Everything, that Hawkins is reported as saying he is grateful every day for his life.  Imagine!  A man who can move only a muscle on his cheek -- with which he talks via a computer and moves his wheelchair -- saying he is grateful every day of his life for life!  That is a good lesson for me to consider.  It is easy to take life for granted, or - as caregivers - even to take life as a burden to be endured.  What if, instead, we consider life as an ineffable mystery for which to be grateful?  Let's try that attitude out and see how it works for us.

Feb 21, 2015

Life is Fair in Its Unfairness

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"What I have learned is that the Universe never plays favorites." Diane Bishop

Sometimes it can seem that we have more than our share of burdens.  Our loved one has a terminal and debilitating disease, we may have financial constraints caused by paying for services, and our own time and energy is called in many directions.  But, really, the old adage is that if we went to a gathering and all threw our troubles into a pile and could take any trouble from the pile as we went home, we would choose the trouble we came with.  The wisdom under that adage is that we all have troubles and challenges -- it is part of the human experience.  I read recently where Dr. Beckwith called challenges 'evolutionary accelerators'.  What if we look at our roles as caregiver, not so much as a challenge, but as an opportunity to develop some facets of ourselves we might not develop without this challenge?

Feb 20, 2015

Being True To Who We Are

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"To thine own self be true." William Shakespeare

Shakespeare in his wisdom knew that if we are true to ourselves, we are also true to all others.  The trick is being true to ourselves.  Do you know what you want?  Do you honor that?  It is all well and good to provide caregiving to someone in need, as we caregivers do, but we must also remember to be true to ourselves.  I started out to see my loved one 2 days ago and came into ground blizzards, cars in the ditch, and slippery roads.  I decided to turn back.  Instead I went yesterday, when the roads were clear.  This is a small thing, but - really - do we honor what is best for ourselves in the midst of providing care for someone else?

Feb 19, 2015

Eliminate Criticism

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"In order to be whole, suspend your criticism.  For life is not a matter of taste, but of awakening, not a matter of finding things pleasing or disturbing, but of finding things completing, not a matter of liking or disliking, but of opening the geography of one's soul." Mark Nepo

Where is the balance -- between settling for things and being hypercritical?  I know people who have to have things just so:  food, lighting, temperature.  I watch them and realize that I have tended to settle for what is.  Perhaps middle ground is the place to be.  It is not good to settle for what is if we can easily ask and have it be better.  It is also not good to never be pleased with what conditions are.  Today, let us consider not criticizing anything.  If we want something different, let's ask for it, and let us be happy with the outcome -- whatever it is.

Feb 18, 2015

Using Challenges To Become Better People

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"We are often called further into experience than we'd like to go, but it is this extra leap that lands us in the vibrant center of what it means to be alive." Mark Nepo

Have you ever thought, like me, that you would rather have passed on this caregiver experience?  That, if Life had consulted with you prior, you would have said, "No, thanks."  I certainly have thought:  I could have done without this experience!  But, it is in being led deeply into experiences we have not chosen that our true nature is honed and shaped and developed.  I have often noticed that we get to see the true nature of a person if we are with them during a crisis of some kind -- it is the crisis of caregiving that can make us even better people than we were before.  Remember, according to statistics, 1/3 of us will die trying to do the caregiving, 1/3 of us will have our health badly damaged by the caregiving, and 1/3 of us will come out of caregiving better people for having done it.  Which 1/3 do you want to be?