Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Care Partner Wednesday--All in the Family



Families can be the best aspect of our lives, or the worst, or somewhere in between.

The reality is that if families aren't functioning well, or one member isn't, becoming a care partner will make this more difficult. Rather than fighting, dysfunctional families will often stay away from each other, having as little contact as possible in order to cope. That works until mother needs more care and has appointed all the siblings as joint powers of attorney.

Resentment can build quickly. How do you find a way to work together? It's not always possible, but here are a few suggestions.

What is your goal? If you want to bring the family together in harmony as you discuss your mother's issues, that's a great goal, but it may not be reasonable. If there hasn't been harmony to this point, being care partners together probably won't bring it. Try looking at small, reachable goals. Getting the right supports for mom to live independently.  Talking honestly about next steps.

Find your best method of communication. Technology makes communication possible, even if people live on the other side of the country. However, difficulties with communication are seldom related to physical space, but emotional. Think about the family member who frustrates you. How do they communicate best? Is face-to-face possible and desirable? Would a phone call work better? Maybe an email, where you have the time to think about what you want to say? Could you Skype as a family? Try to be flexible and find the method that makes the "difficult" person most comfortable.

Be clear. Express what is needed in the clearest, most non-confrontational way possible. Try not to be directive. "You need to..." Rather use phrases like, "The doctor said this was needed, how would you like to go forward?"

Leave your high horse at home. There may be words spoken that anger you or attitudes that make you want to retort in kind. There might be times when you have to seal your mouth with duct tape. Do it. This isn't about you or the other person, but about your elder. The other issues can be dealt with at a later time. (Or not. Sometimes you need to just, as the song says, "Let it go.")

Be realistic If all your best methods don't work, do what you have to do and go on alone. You have tried your best, and you are not responsible for the other person's actions.

Being a care partner when the family isn't working together, or is fighting against everything you are trying to do, is incredibly challenging. In the end, you are responsible for your reactions and no one else's. Concentrate on your relationship with you elder, and do your best.

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Thursday, 22 June 2017

Care Partner Wednesday--A New Look at Deterioration



As words go, it's not one of my favourites.

Deterioration. "The process of becoming progressively worse." 1
Eww. Sounds like mouldy bread.

The reality of life is, deterioration happens to all of us adults. I used to be able to walk farther and run up a set of stairs. At one point in my life, I worked three jobs. My knees didn't hurt and I thrived on less sleep. I would come home from work and clean the house, bake and write until midnight. None of those things happens anymore.

Have I deteriorated? Or changed?

Probably some of both. What's changed is not only my body but what is important to me. I don't need or desire to work three jobs anymore. It would be great to have knees that don't hurt, but I've learned to live with it. It takes longer to clean the house, but it gets cleaned. I only bake occasionally, but that's enough. For the most part, I write on the weekends, when I am fresh. I've accommodated myself to the changes in my body, which corresponds to the changes in how I choose to spend my time.

I ask again: have I deteriorated or changed? If deterioration is becoming progressively worse, what is "worse?" I remember the days of three jobs, and I remember happy family times when my children were young. I also remember exhaustion, constant money worries and overwhelming fear of the future. The truth is, each stage of life, with its plusses and minuses, has its good times and bad, and today is better in some ways and worse in others.

Why the philosophical diatribe? Because people don't look at me with crestfallen faces and say, "She's deteriorated." But we use the D word with our elders all the time.

What would happen if we threw out the D word, and accepted people for who they are today? All the changes that affect us--physical, emotional, social, spiritual (and any other "al" that you can think of) become a part of who we are--today. I may have a life-long interest in tennis, and now I watch matches on television. Or perhaps tennis no longer excites me, but visits from my grandchildren make my eyes glow. I am always in the process of becoming. Growing. Adapting. And even at my most impaired, I am me. Look in my eyes, and find me.

I'm not in the process of becoming progressively worse. I am becoming the me I am today.

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1.https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/deterioration

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Care Partner Wednesday--The Family had a Party


I saw laughter. I saw whirlwinds of activity. I saw smiles and happy tears. I saw hugs and milling crowds and eating--lots of eating. I saw all these at work today.

But I didn't see helplessness.

"An Elder-centred community creates opportunity to give as well as receive care. This is the antidote to helplessness." Eden Alternative Principle 4

Today, we had a baby shower for two of our care partners who are expecting new arrivals in August. New babies aren't common among our staff, so imagine out excitement when we discovered these two were due within three days of each other. Two neighbourhoods came together to host the shower and everyone else joined in the fun. It was family. Here are some of the scenes in the room.

  • A care partner sent her regrets, because she was spending the day with her mother, who was having a birthday. She was encouraged to bring her. She arrived with her mother and three other ladies she had taken to lunch to celebrate the birthday. All were welcomed.
  • A resident who had a special connection to one of the care partners, had gifts for both. Other residents made homemade wrapping paper to wrap her gifts in.
  • Several residents came just to enjoy the party and the food. And that was fine.
  • Family of residents joined the fun, and brought gifts for their family members to give.
Can you see it? A large room, with food-laden tables covered in pink tablecloths. Care partners, family members, residents in wheelchairs and residents with walkers, talking and laughing and having fun. Everyone oo-ing and ah-ing over tiny shoes and fluffy dresses. 

Those who give care, receiving care. Those who receive care, giving it.

A beautiful day in the neighbourhood.

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Wednesday, 7 June 2017

The Small Miracle of Listening to Birds



Have you ever listened to your mind? Mine was a tornado of wildly whirling thoughts as I stood waiting for the train this morning. Here's a tiny peek inside my brain:

The renovations are starting today on my basement. Have we removed everything? Will they go smoothly? Will they be done by the time I go away?
Going away--what do I need to do before I leave? I booked a doctor's appointment for me and a vet appointment for Teddy? What else?
Teddy--how will he travel? Have to talk to the vet about his vomiting. Do I need to drug him for the trip? 
Drugs--need to renew my prescription. So much to do. What about work?
Work--I need to complete my section of my performance appraisal as soon as I finish in the dining room. Then I have to get two staff p.a.'s done before Friday. Not much free time on Thursday, though. Need to get lots done today...

That slice of my thoughts probably took a minute or two. Add to that an ongoing situation that was stressing me out, money worries and chronic physical pain--my mind was tumbling with worries and "to do's."

Breaking through my manic revery, I heard birds calling to each other. Blinking as if waking from a nightmare, I felt the warming sun on my head, and saw a gorgeous blue sky after multiple days of rain. The birds, in a world of their own, called back and forth in the fields on each side of the tracks. I concentrated on their music, forcing the sludge of my thoughts back where they belonged.

I listened. Took deep breaths. Listened more.

There was peace there, if I chose to reach for it. Birds are busy creatures, yet they sing.
I can sing.

As I embraced the peace, it was interrupted
by an announcement. "The 6:56 train will be 10 minutes late, due to mechanical problems." Oh no. I'll be late and I have so much to do.

Dragging my mind back, I chose to listen again.

Lord, help me to listen each day to the song of the birds, rather than the cacophony of my mind.

"The seed cast in the weeds represents the ones who hear the kingdom news, but are overwhelmed with worries about the things they have to do and all the things they want to get. The stress strangles what they heard, and nothing comes of it." Mark 4:19 The Message

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