Three Health and Wellness Strategies for a Traveling Caregiver

If you are a caregiver and have been told a million times to carve out time for yourself, get some respite and seek help, send me a virtual fist bump and try not to bang your head on a very hard surface.  For me, just that I can schedule in a daily shower is a victory and fulfills my health and wellness quota for the day.

However, on the serious side, I have a an earnest desire to prevent this horrific disease called “Alzheimers”, and frankly, all other chronic diseases that plague our world.  If I can just push myself outside the comfortable, while in the present, I will reap in the future, by enjoying my aging disease-free, pain-free and medication-free.

Part of my push includes intense planning and preparation, which is a huge added task to a caregiver, who is consumed with their loved ones’ responsibilities.  We plan their doctor appointments, their routine tests, their medication management, their bedtime schedule, their finances, etc.  We, as caregivers, are the last of the long list of planning that usually fades away into the abyss.

Recently, I attended a Caregiving Conference in Chicago, IL.  In order to attend this conference, I had to arrange months ahead of time.  I had to negotiate the caregiver hours, arrange the time I would be gone with my husband, who works, ensure all my moms medications were filled, and doctor appointments kept.  This list goes along with the negotiation of my paid full-time job, as I needed to carve out time to develop the presentation with my partner, edit slides, draft handouts and meet the dates of the conference coordinator.  I had to find the funds to go to the conference, budget the trip around my other financial responsibilities and plan what I could do and not do while in Chicago.  So exactly where did that leave the time to incorporate the Health and Wellness piece into my travel plans?

Below are three simple tips I am trying to make a habit as a traveling caregiver, so I don’t end up eating cheesecake every night from the hotel restaurant.

  1. Pick up some budget-friendly healthful snacks from the grocery store before you leave that fit right into a carry-on bag.  I stuff a clear zip-lock bag full of nuts, jerky, and plantain chips; enough to carry me through the number of days I will be gone from home.  Your hotel may not be in the ideal location with access to a grocery store, so packing what you need for those airplane and late night munchies will help and reduce vending machine temptation.
  2. Pack a pair of sneakers, at least one set gym clothes and download some body-weight only exercises.  Most hotels have small gyms, but you really do not need to leave your room to get your heart rate up.  I always tend to overpack for the gym, as my goal is to go everyday while I am on travel. However, travel lethergy is real, especially when you have left one busy life behind and have a compromised immune system.  Keep it realistic and simple.  One outfit will suffice for a couple of days.
  3. Ask for what you don’t see, but need.  Finding something healthy to eat at the airport or in a restaurant can be the very last fight you want to battle in the arena.  My partner and I walked around the food court in Chicago for 20 minutes examining the menus for the “gluten-free, dairy-free, everything-free” options.  It just did not exist. As my stomach began to yell at me, I passed Dunkin Donuts and saw those chocolate glazed donut holes.  Oh yes, they were inviting me in like a warm cozy sweater on a cold Chicago night.  My stomach wanted them. I was so hungry.  But I walked back around to the Latino restaurant and told them what I needed.  They made it for me, right on the spot, with no hesitation at all. And….it only cost me a few dollars, $5.90 to be exact.  In some airports where the cities are more progressive and eco-friendly, like Chicago, they have installed Farm Friendly Fridges that include healthy options. These also can be found on local colleges and University campuses.  These are a great option when trying to stay on track.  Check the locations of these fridges before you leave to plan for access and cost.

No matter what role you hold, these are some simple and economical ideas to incorporate into your travel planning.  As a caregiver, I am seeking to stay consistent in my healthful routine, in order to live a life of freedom, rather than in chains to doctors, medicine and illness.  I am making these habits apart of my every travel itinerary.  If you have additional ideas, please feel free to send in comments and I will post.

“Those who think they have no time for healthy eating…will sooner or later have to find time for illness.” ~Edward Stanley

 

 

The Caregiver Community: Healing or Hurting You?

I set my alarm this morning for 4:30am. in order to write this blog about the concept of community. I have been pondering my current “tribe”; the people around me providing support, encouragement, laughter and love.  It is my special community that has evolved around me that has sustained me as my mother’s caregiver.

It has been 3 years, 1 month, 2 weeks and 3 days, since I moved my mother in with me.  Yes, I count every day, week, month and now year, as it is one of the hardest transitions in my life.  I look back many times and wonder, how have I done it.  How have I survived the battles with Medicaid, with insufficient services, with negligent doctors, while working fulltime, starting a business, going to school and taking care of my own health?  The answer always comes back to three things, (1) my faith in God, (2)my resilience and (3) the people who surround me, my community.

When I first started this caregiver journey, I reached out to all the typical players, the Alzheimer’s Association, national caregiving organizations, Rosalyn Carter Center, local faith-based support groups, Emory ALZ Research Center and on and on.  I joined online support groups and chat rooms, seeking the hands of strength and searching for answers I so desperately needed.  What I found was the exact opposite.  Their answers are rooted in the ideology that if you just knew how to be a better caregiver, you would have less stress.  All the tips and suggestions diminish you as a person and only define you as a caregiver.  The so-called “support groups” turn into a depressing, hopeless space of desolation and despair.  It is consumed with caregiver complaint after complaint and excuse after excuse of why their lives are now destroyed and nothing can be done about it.  Its the systems fault, its the incurable disease that only leads to death, its the lack of family support or financial resources.

After spending my first year engulfed in a failed caregiver support system, I started to focus on my own health needs, removed myself from all caregiver support groups, and “smoke and mirror” organizations whose whole function is to protect caregivers.  There is a tagline that a lot of “helping” organizations use, “do no harm!”  Well, all of these groups and organizations were harming me, exhausting me and were not pouring life into my situation.

As I began my journey with health and wellness, I joined small group classes at my gym, enrolled in a Health and Wellness Coaching Certification and a Spin Certification.  A natural occurring community emerged and now, 3 years, 1 month, 2 weeks and 3 days later, I am more resilient, healthier and vibrant than I was prior to caregiving.  The people around me have wrapped their arms around me as an individual, not as a caregiver.  They have created a tool of respite for me, a positive outlet and an avenue to a healthier me.  Their impact on my life exceeds the caregiver role and has forever changed who I am for the better.

When I think of “my community”,  a set of characteristics becomes evident and are what I believe are a foundation for the caregiver community.

Creates a space for freedom
Opens doors of opportunity
Magnifies your individuality
Mobilizes your goals and dreams
Understands your uniqueness
Navigates stress in your life
Initiates growth and potential
Tackles challenges collectively 
Yields Grace and Mercy

If your community is not building you up, creating a space for individual freedom, assisting you with setting goals and priorities for your life, now is the time for that re-assessment of who is surrounding you.  Who and what do you need to evict from your neighborhood in order to grow, to heal and to be whole?

“Devote yourself to your community around you, devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.”   – Mitch Albom

 

Spinning my Way to Healing; the Unexpected Gift to a Caregiver

In October 2016, I decided to do something different with my fitness.  I was a year in to riding my bike through neighborhoods and parks and had recently lost 30 pounds.  I thought as a caregiver, I needed to up my game and continue to grow in my health and wellbeing.  So what exactly did I do?  I signed up for my very first spin class.  Yes, a 60 minute heart-pumping, sweat-dripping spin class at my gym.  I mean, how hard could it be?  I was biking through the week and doing strength training, this would be a breeze.  Well, what I didn’t know, was that a random stranger was about to give me a special gift, a gift to sustain me through my walk as a caregiver.

I remember the month so well, because it was Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and our gym was showing support in its classes.  I had reserved a bike in the back of the room, so I could experiment and hide, in case I couldn’t hang.  I quietly sneaked in and scurried to my bike with excitement.  As I adjusted my seat and handles, I jumped on and looked up and this tiny, fit energetic instructor was smiling and starting the class with this introduction, “It is Breast Cancer Awareness month and I have developed a playlist in support of all those who are fighting.  I want you to take this hour and ride for someone, fight for someone or fight for yourself.”  I could feel the moisture forming within my eyes and told myself, “girl, get it together, you cannot bust out crying in this class in front of all these people.”  This instructor did not know what was happening in my life or what I had been through in the last year.  But she was using her voice to send out words of power into the atmosphere.

As the instructor turned on her playlist, the very first song was of course, “Fight Song“.  If you are a caregiver, this song was written especially for you.  I started my ride and these lyrics penetrated my heart:

            “This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song
My power’s turned on
Starting right now I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me”

Needless to say the tears flowed like a river, a release of pain dripped out of my eyes and dropped on my handle bars.  The next 60 minutes of riding included beautiful fight songs with a inspirational instructor encouraging, pushing and lifting up the class. Every word that came out of her mouth was molding the pieces of my heart back together again.  You see, my mom is dying and every day she loses a memory or an ability, and my heart tears apart.  I entered this class broken and shattered but when I left that day, I was filled with hope, strength and a sense of community.

After class, I was completely wiped and drove home in silence, thinking of the power behind the words of this instructor.  She could have played some music and honored those surviving or still fighting breast cancer. However, she took it a step further and applied it to all our lives.

Because we are human beings, we carry so much emotion within us, joy, love, pain and sorrow.  You do not know what is going on with that person sitting next to you in a class, at the grocery store, at your school, wherever you may be.  What an impact you can have by giving the gift of a kind word to a stranger.  It could switch the direction in someone’s life forever.  I am now an spinning-addict and get to a class whenever I can, but especially this instructors class. Not only am I working on my physical health through this class, but my emotional health as well.  Its a time just for me, to release the stress and gain the strength I need to continue in this caregiver role.

Sandy Smith Barefield, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving me the gift of healing through your classes.  Your words and songs reached a soul who was searching for peace and respite.  You gave me a gift that I will carry with me not only through my caregiving journey, but throughout my life.

Recently, my instructor played “This is Me.” from “The Greatest Showman”, and the tears began to run softly down my cheeks, with my eyes closed and my feet on my pedals.  I dedicate this song to you, Sandy:

“Another round of bullets hits my skin
Well, fire away ’cause today, I won’t let the shame sink in
We are bursting through the barricades and
Reaching for the sun (we are warriors)
Yeah, that’s what we’ve become”

 

 

Caregiver-You are Your Best Resource

I don’t know about you, but if I hear one more person or organization say to me, “make sure you take care of yourself”, “hang in there, you got this”, “pick yourself up and keep going”, “take time for yourself”, “accept help”, “keep your doctor appointments“, I’m truly going to scream at the top of my lungs!

The reality is that those who are giving out such advice are really saying, “we don’t know what the hell to do to help you” and “you, caregiver, are going to just have to help yourself.”   This is truth in that there are no organizations or people who are going to come by your side and help you through this.  This is a long grueling journey that isn’t  a one time event, like a death, where they send you a condolence card, a meal or some flowers.  This is a long race, that you caregiver, many times, will need to run as a solo marathoner to the finish line.  I am coming to this understanding as I interface with local, state and national level caregiving organizations, whose mission is supposed to be supporting the caregiver.  The truth is that many would like your “traumatic” story to advance their organization in order to create more opportunities for their own funding, strength and sustainability.  What is needed, until change comes in our society around caregiving, is a documented framework for caregivers that considers the reality of this role.

As I continue to find my way in this caregiver role, I want to share them with you:

A. Redefine Your Tribe: We have all been there where we have lost friends and family members due to becoming a caregiver.  We also know that the current dementia or caregiving organizations are not going to fund your caregiving role, giving you ongoing respite, or be there for you when your loved one is in crisis.  We also know the Alzheimer’s Association is not going to come over and help you clean your house, organize your loved ones medical appointments, or send you out for a massage.

However, I have found a new tribe of support and its non-traditional, in a sense.  I have become connected to the members at my gym and specifically my trainer.  It happened unusually and I was not seeking it.  But it developed over time where a community of support developed around me, for me, as a caregiver.  In fact, when my mom was in the hospital recently, they were the only ones to visit her and me.  They brought me food, and stayed for hours to make sure we were ok.  Not one call, text, nor message was received by those I expected.  It was the development of a community by my trainer that has become my support as a caregiver.  I know not everyone can go to a gym due to the demands of caregiving, but is there a private business within your community that have or can become your support?  We have limited the opportunity of support through our expectations of organizations who are “supposed” to be there for us.  Now is the time to really think outside of the box when it comes to caregiver support.

B.  Take Out the Trash: It is truly time to dump the toxic people, dysfunctional organizations and useless things that are just not helping you through the caregiving journey.  Re-access all people, support groups, organizations, that drain you, are one-sided, and detrimental to your health and well-being.  You are barely hanging in there yourself, with caring for your loved one. The last thing you need is to go onto an online support group and see people fighting, threatening their lives or attacking you.  This has been my experience and I now avoid all on-line toxic negative social media groups.  I also took time to assess all the texts and messages coming my way and saw that maybe 3 were inquiries of concern about me.  The rest were an ask of me, a question, a “can you volunteer here”, “be apart of this”, “join this”, etc.  If a relationship is not equal in value, why are you apart of it?  In addition, if you are a caregiver, why are you allowing for an draining relationships at all?  Now is the time to empty out all unnecessary tasks and toxic relationships.  That, my caregiver friend, is a key survival technique.

C.  Caregiver Safe Space: Often I have felt that my home is a prison as I try and find places to hide or escape the caregiver role.  I have a full time job during the day and another one that picks up right after or continues simultaneously.  It is not until I fall asleep (if you can do that), that I break from anything. I am sure that as soon as you wake up and allow your feet to hit the ground, you are working.  Your home can be seen as a prison cell blocking your freedom to peace and rest.  It is important to really take a look at your whole home situation with your loved one.  How do they sleep, when are they sleeping or quiet? Where is their bedroom, and what are their patterns of behavior?  My mom is right across the hallway from me and is an early riser.  She will listen for the very moment I step out of bed.  She used to be at my doorway as soon as the alarm went off.  So, I created a safe space for myself to give me a place of calm before caregiving.  There is a nook in my bedroom that I have created where I can get up, diffuse my essential oils, read my bible, mediate, drink my coffee and breathe.  It is the first place I go to now after I awake, before I step out my bedroom door to begin caregiving.  By giving yourself this transition, you are prioritizing your own wellbeing, calming your stress hormones and approaching caregiving with a different mindset.  By incorporating this into my life, I have felt less resentful towards my mother and more balanced.  It is my time, whether its 5 minutes or an hour, its mine that can not be stolen by caregiving.

CG Safe Space1

D. Alternative Healthcare:  “Make sure you keep doctor appointments.”  I think this advice frustrates me the most.  If I see an organization or webpage that links to this recommendation, I delete them.  Really, like we don’t want to make our doctor appointments.  Caregivers are at the highest risk for every chronic disease and mental health issue. (I wonder why?)

When I look at the number of doctor appointments I need to take my mother, from primary care, optometrist, orthopedic, pulmonologist, dentist, etc, the appointments alone could range from 6-12 in a month.  Then there’s the state social worker, the state nurse, the state everything because she is on a Medicaid waiver program.  Oh and lets not forget the number of emergency rooms visits, urgent care visits and hospitalizations.  Therefore, my approach is steeped in health and wellness, holistic lifestyle changes to prevent illness.  But, my other solution, when I do fall ill,  is teledoc or telemedicine.  Many insurance companies are including this as an option, as well as state-funded programs, and private businesses.  Many are free from copays and scheduling difficulties and take less than five minutes.  You literally sit in your home and pick up a phone to speak with a doctors.  It takes less than 5 minutes to be diagnosed and prescribed medications, if needed.  I have used teledoc so many times for my own illnesses and it has saved me so much time and travel.  Look for an alternative, cheaper and realistic way to address your health.  It is a priority, but the reality is the time and access as a caregiver.  Get creative and be resourceful!  You deserve it!

I have many more tools and ideas but will continue with future blog posts.  I hope some of these are helpful and please feel free to share yours as we are a resilient caregiver community.

     “As you discover what strength you can draw from your community in this world, look outward and well as inward. Build bridges instead of walls.”

– S. Sotomayor

 

5 Tangible Things You Can Do for a Caregiver

This time of year can be very stressful for caregivers, whether its holiday parties, expectations of gift-giving, family meals, lonliness, preparing for guests or not preparing for guests.  No matter the caregiver scenario, there are three major obstacles that have to be dealt with and that is (1) time, (2) money, and (3) resources.   These three obstacles not only create barriers for a joyous stress-free holiday but also for just plain daily living.

Caregivers are extremely limited on time due to the ongoing tasks of managing a loved ones life, including their behaviors, finances and physical ailments.  Every second of the day is planned, organized or consumed by their loved ones needs.  There is always a financial stressor involved as well, no matter what your household income consists of.  Caring for a sick and/or aging human being in this country has become one of the most expensive burdens to bear.  According to AARP, it was estimated in 2011, that US citizens spent a total on $357 billion on long term care.  However, family caregivers provided $450 billion worth of Unpaid Care.  These numbers are indicative of the cost of aging in America along with the lack of resources and finances available to afford the care needed.

As I have embarked on this role of caregiver, I have noticed that many of my friends or coworkers are at a loss on how to support me.  They’ve listened to my stories, the drama faced with Medicare and Medicaid, and endured the description of long lists of tasks that consume my day.  Many Caregiving organizations put the onus of caring for the caregiver on the caregiver.  So while I am caring for my mom, their tips include statements like,  “make sure you take care of yourself”, “seek the help and support you need.”  How noble and supportive to point out that we need to take care of ourselves (which we do, but it takes a village).

Therefore, I, along with some of my caregiver comrades decided to come up with a short tangible list of how you can support caregivers:

1.  Meals: Make a meal or arrange for a meal to be delivered to the house.  Meal-time is one of the most stressing events in our house.  After working all day, managing my mom’s appointments, walking the dogs and touching base with my husband, making a meal is the last thing I truly want to do.  If our loved one’s have dementia, food is one of the hardest things to figure out.  People suffering with dementia lose their taste buds, their desire for eating, or over-eat certain food groups, like sweets.   Find out what your caregiver friend or family member can eat and arrange for that meal to be delivered to the house.

2.  Respite/Time: Time is invaluable to a caregiver.  Offer your time, whether through yourself or through someone you know, or a caregiver agency.   Offer to spend an hour, or two or even a night, depending on the situation, in order to give that caregiver a break.  Respite is expensive. Hiring a caregiver can be $20-$25 an hour.  Remember, money is the biggest barrier to caregivers seeking respite.  If you have hotel points, offer those points for a night away.  Whatever you have and you can spare, donate to the caregiver.  Visit your caregiver friend’s house several times to get to know their loved one.  Learn the routines, the schedules, and the person so you are prepared to take on a couple hours of caregiving.  If you arrange for another caregiver to support your friend, plan an outing like movies and dinner.  But you be the proactive partner in this one and not add any additional tasks to the caregiver.

Offer to come and clean or organize their home, while the caregiver is attending to other responsibilities.  I’ve noticed how quickly my house can become disorganized with my mom having Alzheimers.  I call it the “Where’s Waldo Phenomenon.”   My mom will put food under her bathroom sink, socks in the freezer, dog food with the human food and so on.  It is a daily search, find and reorganize.  With all my moms personal affairs, I have over 15 folders of documentation to keep straight, from medical records to Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security records.  Her records are more organized than mine.  Assisting your caregiver friend in organizing their lives will alleviate time spent in a search hunt later.

3.  Find the Resources: What can I say about resources, besides the lack of them.  However, they are there, if you put on your “inspector gadget” hat.  I cannot count the hours, days and months it has taken our family to find the resources we need to manage caregiving.  If you know google.com, assist the caregiver in finding free resources, grant funds for respite, or actual organizations who can help.  Filter those resources as well. Make a call to an organization and find out what they offer.  I called over 30 local and national organizations in my first month of caregiving and only one could offer me support.  Don’t send the caregiver links to research or tips on caregiving.  We are caregivers and live this everyday. The latest funded Alzheimers research is not going to help me survive day-in and day-out of caregiving.  (Tip: if you find a resource that offers grant funds, offer to fill out the application or contact the organization with the caregivers situation.  Wherever you can take a step away from us, please do.)

4.  Communicate: I cannot count on my hand how many people, friends or family members who disappeared when I took in my mother.  When I couldn’t go out or my every answer was “I can’t”, my world became so much smaller and any support I thought I had vanished.  Send a text or make a call at least weekly to let the caregiver know that you are thinking of them, love them and how much they are appreciated.  Send cards, emails of encouragment and let that caregiver know you are there, especially on special occasions, like birthdays. Cards and flowers are even more appreciated by caregivers.  Be present, be kind and be human.

5. Pay a Bill/Give Money: I don’t know how to emphasize this enough. You will be consumed by financial hardship beyond your control when you become a caregiver.  Its just the nature of the beast.  You can save your entire life, take out long-term care, plan as much as you like, but caring for a sick, disabled or elderly loved one is beyond expensive.  Instead of participating in an Alzheimers Association walk, give that money you would have raised to the caregiver.  Instead of searching for organizations to donate to, write a check to a caregiver.  Call a utility company and pay a caregiver’s bill that month. Give a gas card or grocery store gift card. If you own a business, offer free or reduced cost services, like car maintenance or house repairs.  I have an amazing health coach who has volunteered her time with me along with a fitness instructor who created a work-out group around my schedule, that fits my budget.  These are professionals apart of a larger organization that have become apart of my caregiving community.  Remember, many caregivers have had to quit their jobs, retire early or pull from their pensions to care for a loved one.  Their present and their future is in jeopardy.   Whatever you have to offer is a blessing, especially to relieve the financial burden.

As a final note, a caregiver is a caregiver, whether their loved one is in the home or placed in a nursing facility.  The responsibilities may be different, but the emotional, physical and financial drain is the same.  Whether you become an advocate for them, chip-in on a bill, plan an outing or visit their loved one in a nursing home, your act of kindness and support will impact a caregiver immensely.

A big shout out to my fellow caregiver, Susan Ellis for contributing ideas to this blog and a big thank you to Anissa Amason and Sheena Lance-Nold from Lifetime Fitness Johns Creek for inspiring me to write this.  Your generosity and sense of community is beautiful!

                    “The greatness of community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members, a heart of grace and a soul generated by love.”

-Coretta Scott King

 

 

The Caregiver Rollercoaster

This past month has been a truly busy and life-altering time with my mom getting ill.  The doctor appointments, prescriptions, grocery store runs, late night wake-ups and coordination of all her services, had me spiraling like the “SooperDooperLooper.”  Yes, for those of you who know what this is (an old-school rollercoaster at Hershey Park), you can confirm the feeling of winding through the tracks at warp speed, flipping upside down with little warning and dropping down hills at a rate that makes your stomach wish you didn’t have that Hershey candy bar.

What I’ve come to know, by experience only, is that caregiving is cyclical and mimics a rollercoaster.  There are days that are expected, like the climb up the rickety tracks, but then before you can even prepare for it, the doors of chaos are opened with sudden flips and nauseating turns.  When the caregiver goes through that door, typically, no one goes with her/him.  Everyone around the caregiver maintain the same expectations with little to no understanding of the mental strength that is required.

With this last episode with my mom, there were times I felt that a huge black hole had opened up and was trying to swallow me.  With all the responsibilities of trying to work, maintain a marriage, pay bills, make sure there is food in the refrigerator,  taking care of myself seemed unrealistic.  There were times I did not know whether to laugh out loud hysterically or just curl up like a baby and cry…in public.

There are some theories around the stages of caregiving that can be found here: http://bridgessc.org/caregiving/stages-of-caregiving/.  However, I would argue that there is no preparing for a caregiver rollercoaster.  There are many stages and we move from stage to stage with no set time limits.  We can plan and plan for an aging or special needs loved one, but because our systems are fragile and our society has become so individualized, the lack of support tears our plans apart and caregivers are left to strategize a new plan instantly, on the spot.   It wasn’t until I recently met with my Nutrition Coach at Lifetime Fitness that I was able to sharpen my vision, stand straight up and bring myself back to a sense of levelness.  She walked me through my primary values, my challenges and my blessings, allowing me to regain the stability I needed at that moment.

Here are my lessons after this last rollercoaster ride:

  1. Acceptance: I am a caregiver and this is not going to be easy.  A lot of individuals cannot and will not relate to my situation, leaving this to a solo ride.  In moments of sanity, take deep breaths and recover, as we do in physical training and remember the blessings.
  2. Strengths: I have them and I certainly pulled on them.  I had forgotten them momentarily, but they did not leave me and in fact, resurfaced with some supports. Caregivers have strengths that cannot be compared to any other. Whether you are caring for your loved one with Alzheimer’s, or for a child with Down Syndrome, you have a specialized skill set and are a fortress of strength that cannot be imitated or duplicated. You can only obtain this through experience!
  3. Supports: My support during this ride was not a typical person in my life that I lean on. That support, in a moment of time, was my coach.  I went to her for a nutritional session and walked away with my feet balanced and my vision crisp.  I will never underestimate the opportunity for support.  It is there all around me and I appreciate it in all forms.
  4. Special: I am not alone in this journey and know many amazing caregivers who bring so much love and care to this journey.  When I examine the world and the selfish acts of others, caregivers are special.  They go against the grain and become exactly what the world needs, awakened human beings, sacrificing their lives one for another.

What has your rollercoaster been like?  What were your strengths that pulled you through and the unexpected supports that arose out of your ride?

“Life is like a roller coaster with is ups and downs. What matters is whether you are keeping your eyes open or closed during the ride and who is next to you.”

– Ana Ortega

 

How to be Wonder Woman in the Face of Adversity

Last night my family and I celebrated my mothers 67th. birthday.   In keeping with the theme of resilience and strength, we took her to see “Wonder Woman.”

Wonder Woman is a leader in the fight of justice.  She searches for peace, uses her lasso of truth as a weapon and deflects evil through the use of those unbreakable bracelets!  She defends and unites humanity and resists the intended destruction of evil.  I truly believe that each caregiver is a “Wonder Woman.”

Many times we face adversity in our lives, whether its due to our own choices, a failed system, dysfunctional family units or to a random crisis in our lives.  The reason for the adversity is important, but not as imperative as your reaction to it.  There is a turning point that can be made, a conscious decision to change the course and outcome of the event.

However, as an individual, you must wrap yourself in the “lasso of truth” and be honest with who you are and where you would like to go.  Your trauma and crisis does not define you and it is up to you to resist the negative impact In your life!  But how does one tap into “Wonder Woman Powers?” Below are a of couple steps below to begin to explore your own personal potential.

  1. Who are you?  List out all the characteristics of yourself, including strengths and weaknesses. Be honest and wear that lasso of truth.  List them out into two separate columns.  Both strengths and weaknesses are important as they can be leveraged to calibolt you into your dreams.
  2. What do you want? What would make you whole or complete?  Write a list of all your desires in every area of your life, including, (a) career, (b) health and wellness, (c) love and romance, (d) travel and adventure, (e) wealth and prosperity, (f) family and community, and (g) hobbies and creativity.
  3. Where are your gaps?  Now that you have your desires written, rate yourself in that area from 1-10.  #1 being the lowest satisfaction rating and #10 being the highest satisfaction rating.  What do you notice about your ratings in the different areas of your life? Is it a surprise or does it resonate with you? What are the reasons for the lower ratings?
  4. What area of your life are you ready to tackle?  Looking at your ratings and assessing your own strengths and challenges, select an area of focus.  This could be your health, career or finances. You must choose.  Remember, nothing is impossible. Impossibility resides in your mind and you must evict it before you can even think about the steps to put in place and develop that action plan.
  5. Why do you have a box?   We all live in a box, a box that society, family and even ourselves have built around us.  Once in awhile, we will peer through a window, a small opening in that stuffy place and wonder what it must be like to breath, to truly live.  It is us standing in the way of ourselves.  One must get out of the way of stale thinking, remove the blinders of tunnel vision and open the heart to the potential that lies within you.  We must destroy the box all together.  Wonder Woman’s personal “amazon trainer” pushed her for more. She never allowed her to get comfortable or let her guard down.  To be victorious, she had to give more-fight harder!
  6. What are your resources? Friends, family, and even a computer can be some amazing resources to educate and expand your mind.  If your friends and family live within your box or put that box around you, then they are not a resource. My favorite resource is my computer. I’ve googled my way to learn about different areas of improving my life, from taking coaching courses to finding the most reasonable ways to vacation.  Assess your resources and they must be different but supportive, accessible but uncomfortable!

I will follow up on with this blog piece on the personal steps my family and I have taken to change the course and direction of our lives and break down those boxes that surrounded us.   Know that “Wonder Woman” lives within you and there are no limits to your super-powers except you!  Love yourself enough to invest in you!

“If you do what you’ve always done, you will get what you have always gotten!”

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Caregiver Blessings

Being a caregiver is one of the most grueling jobs on earth. I was cleaning out my voicemails from last week and realized that I had a total of 32 calls in one week in relation to my mother and her care. Whether it be case managers, pharmacies, doctors offices, advocacy groups, adult day care, Medicaid officers, Medicare and social security, it’s about her wellbeing.

Taking care of a sick, disabled or elderly loved one is truly brutal in this country. They don’t make it easy and this is not for the faint in heart. But I count my blessings everyday and here they are:

1. God: my faith and trust lies in Him!

2. Husband: could never do this alone without Gilbert Blackwell! ❤️

3. Home: we are not homeless, and can call ourselves homeowners

4. Food: we can chow down (in a healthy way) ☺️

5. Vehicles: how would I survive without a vehicle in GA…no mass transit here…😜

6. Employment: not my favorite job, but it’s a job with income

7. Healthcare: yes, it’s expensive as hell, but I have it (including access to an awesome gym)

8. Education/growth/opportunity: have it and it’s available and we are able to access it

9. Supportive friends and family: need I say more? (Including my fur-babies)

10. I opened my eyes today and have another chance at life!

What are your top ten blessings that sustain you?

They are there..just look around you!