Welcome to Caregiver Friday!
Everyone knows that being a caregiver/wellness partner can be overwhelming. I’ve discussed the importance of not trying to reinvent the wheel, leave that to people who are doing big things like curing disease. It’s time to get real and understand that experts are one more form of the treatment plan. You try and solve all the problems even though you’re in contact with professionals who could ease your life. Utilizing the help of the experts can be the equivalent of taking a pill to reduce anxiety or depression and you don’t even have to make the medicine go down.
I’ll give you an example. If the patient you’re caring for is having mobility problems and is seeing a physical and/or occupational therapist then when you see changes or need advice about homecare…ask the experts. If you’re enrolling a loved one with dementia in a day treatment program and want to know how to make the transitions between home and the program easier both on you and the patient…ask the experts. If you’re trying to eat better to feel better and reading the magazines don’t work and you’re working with a nutritionist…ask the experts. Too many times I hear that you, the caregiver, don’t want to both the professional between appointments. It’s no bother and believe it or not it makes everyone’s job easier.
If you let small problems go unattended they become big problems and that doesn’t work to anyone’s advantage. By asking the experts you avail yourself of focused solutions to the problems that are causing you, the caregiver, the most pain. It’s time to begin thinking of the experts as part of the care team. They are your arsenal for physical, emotional, and spiritual relief in the caregiving arena. When you engage with the experts you can minimize set backs between visits and by keeping the experts in the loop the patient gets better care. Like Stephen Covey says in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, always create win-win situations. It’s not just about corporations and business…it’s about the business of life.
Ever play a sport when you were a kid, or for that matter as an adult? I’ve never been one for sports but I do get the gist of being in the game. The idea, that like the lottery, you have to play to win. There are no winners on the sidelines so when fighting a health challenge you have a choice; get in the game or be a spectator.
I’m amazed how many people are comfortable being benched in the game of life. They move along the treatment trail with minimal input, minimal engagement, and not surprisingly receive minimal results. Recently I had a client who has some medical concerns and we agreed that she needed to visit her physician since it had been years since she’d even had physical. Upon meeting with her doctor she explained that she needed him to oversee her care; help keep things rolling and hold her accountable for keeping on track. She’d do her part by taking her medication, go for labs when ordered, and share any difficulties she was having maintaining the regimen.
She recruited her doctor to be her health coach. It’s clearly a role the doctor felt comfortable taking on so it’s a good match. The patient was clear about her needs and her expectations so the communication was clear and directive. According to her, it feels like a true partnership. She’s making great strides in other areas of her life as well because she’s in the game. She and I are working together creating a life strategy that is fulfilling, meaningful, and healthy. Since we meet on a weekly basis we’re able to keep on track while figuring out any self-sabotaging behaviors or resistance to moving forward.
You’ve got to become a player when diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness. If you sit on the bench all you’ll get are splinters and they aren’t pleasant. In fact, they will become one more pain in your ass…literally and figuratively.
Today started the confirmation hearing for Judge Sonia Sotomayor to become the first Latina on the United States Supreme Court. There were lots of questions today about how she would interpret the law and how she would apply the law. Her final answer of the day about how she would make decisions was that she would act with fidelity to the law. I’d never heard of anyone speak about fidelity as it relates to their profession. We only get to hear it when we speak about the sanctity of marriage or sound quality of speakers. This certainly added a new twist.
This got me thinking about those of us facing a chronic or life-threatening illness and wondered if were were practicing fidelity to our health. Do you take the vow of wellness seriously enough to make a pledge that you stand by regarding how you treat your body? It’s not only about your physical being but your emotional and spiritual being as well. Faithfulness or fidelity to your health is a commitment that one should not take lightly and when you become an infidel, especially if repeatedly, you’ll get caught. Your body will rat you out to your doctor by the results of your lab tests. Your spiritual director or therapist will know you’ve been a health infidel when you aren’t standing in your integrity. The body has its own ways of selling you out. Don’t underestimate the power of the body to blow the whistle on you at a moments notice.
Facing a health challenge is like creating a new relationship with your body. It requires a getting acquainted time, a dating time and a commitment phase where you pledge your devotion to getting well. Self-sabotage causes you to become a health infidel and that just feels lousy on multiple levels. Maintain your level of health fidelity and you’ll expeirence better outcomes on your journey to wellness.
I just finished a paper for school. I’ve been thinking a lot about change since my class in May where we talked about the state of the world from an ecological point of view. The truth is that most of us don’t treat the earth any better than we treat our own bodies. Do you know how many people suffer from dehydration annually? Are you aware how many people don’t get enough rest in the same way we don’t allow fields to recover till they are worthless? It’s easy to determine what will get us to change environmentally because we’ll suffer greatly, but what will get you to change how you treat your body?
Will it take feeling confused and disoriented before someone realizes that your dehydrated? Do you have to be hospitalized for exhaustion because you won’t take time to rest, even if it means creating more problems down the road? Think long and hard before you answer these questions because I think the answers will surprise you. All to often it takes being hit by a bolt of lightning, both literally and/or figuratively before change happens. Why are we often so resistant to improving our own health, warding off disease, or promoting wellness?
Have we really become a culture that thrives on trying to overcome obstacles? Even if that’s the case, do you really want to play the odds with your health before you make the necessary changes that promote wellness? Are we becoming more resistant in the same way that insects are becoming resistant to our pesticides? That leaves us having to up the ante of trouble before you make any formidable changes…does that sound reasonable to you?
If you’re unsure about any of this start reading accounts by conservationists like Rachel Carson and see if it speaks to you. See if the problems described personally and environmentally inhibit your own growth physically, emotionally, and spiritually. You’ll be surprised how similar our stories really are when we take the time to listen to others!
Welcome to Caregiver Friday!!!
When we think about caregiving the first picture is role you take beside the patient; holding their hand, arranging for their care, and offering moral and emotional support. The truth is that just because someone receives a diagnosis for a chronic or life-threatening illness doesn’t mean they will need constant care. Often following the diagnosis there is an immediate call for care and then that need may reduce. Where does that leave you as the caregiver/wellness partner?
I guess the first question is how do you feel about being on call? I understand that you may live with the person you’re caring for, but they may not need your care as a caregiver so that role can get benched, hopefully a long time. If things change, it may require that you get called to action as the caregiver, sort of like being in the National Guard and being activated to serve.
How do you feel about being on call? For some it’s a blessing and for others it’s more stressful because you never know when you’ll be activated. Offering constant care may be easier for some because there’s no interruption in your concentration on being a caregiver. Others may really like the idea of being an intermittent caregiver. In fact, many prefer this because it signifies a level of health for the person you’re caring for.
No matter which direction your life takes you, being a caregiver is synonymous with grace. Your life will forever be changed by your caregiving experience.
Ever wonder why part of the activities of the scouts is to be able to find their way in the wilderness? There are many methods that allow us to find our way in unfamiliar territory, some are scientific and others are more nature based or ritual based. Being uncertain of your direction leaves you disoriented and in a downward spiral looking for which way is up.
Following the diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness is as if someone blindfolded you, spun you around fast and then made you try to walk a straight line. It’s hard to become centered when you’ve been sent spinning by the doctor. The amazing thing is that many people are able to find their way no matter how many distractions come their way.
No one is prepared for the disorientation that comes with a health challenge, but there are ways to reorient yourself to your surroundings so you can reach your destination, health and healing. It requires that you take some time to become familiar with your new surroundings. Orient yourself to the physical, emotional and spiritual that you are experiencing. Allow them to be your guiding stars and follow them to reach your destination.
It’s important that you find a system for find your way that is congruent with your beliefs and values. Don’t simply pick up a book and follow the directions. Wayfinding needs to be a natural process or you’ll become even more disoriented. Developing your internal compass is how you will screen all the information that serves to give you clues about where you are in the world.
Having the capacity to find your way will provide comfort as you face your health challenge. Giving yourself every possible tool to orient yourself to your new life will allow you to make better decisions. Becoming a wayfinder means that you are determined to find your way in the midst of the confusion. Finding your way amid the chaos is the goal of the wayfinder. Are you will to embark on that journey?
No matter your age, gender, ethnicity, etc. it’s important to have a tribe. I’m a fiber artist so I love all things fiber. One of the community website is the Men Who Knit (MWK), www.menwhoknit.com, website. Male knitters from around the globe post pictures of their work, ask technical questions and share resources. Little did any of us know that we’d be sharing more than just knitting. A young man known to us as Jason1978 shared in the spring that he was fighting metastatic testicular cancer. His positive attitude was infectious and we all believed he’d be able to fight the illness. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case and Jason died this past weekend.
What amazed me was not only his own positive attitude, but the well wishes and healing energy sent to Jason from the entire MWK community. Once Jason’s partner posted the notice about his death I would visit the post to see who had responded and overwhelmingly the words were gentle, kind and full of love. They offered comfort and support to his partner Jonathan who was with him till the end. The frightening part of all this is that Jason was only 30 and his partner Jonathan a mere 22.
We’re never prepared for people to die much less die at such and early age. It’s amazing that his caregiver/wellness partner is so young and so ready to take his place beside someone he loved. Having a community that continuously check in and wants to know how you’re doing, even when the news isn’t good is powerful. It brings you out of the depths of isolation and fills your soul with a sense of belonging. Knowing that you are in the consciousness of others means you have touched their hearts and tattooed your name and your energy in their soul.
It’s sad that such a young life ended. I commend the Men Who Knit community for being ready to support Jason every step of the way. They even put out a call for knitted squares that were sewn together to make a healing blanket for him. Once all the squares were in and the blanket completed it was shipped to Jason in Vienna. The global community heard the call and responded. Isn’t that the type of community you want for yourself when facing a health challenge? Seek it out and feel the love; it will do you a world of good and will brighten even the darkest days.