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The Blooming Caregiver

Many times when we think of caregiving and the brutal battle fought everyday, we don’t think of beautiful words to describe it, like delightful, serene, full of potential, thrilling, and fulfilling.  Most adjectives used to describe the duties and role could spin you into a therapist office contemplating different diagnoses.  However, as I develop in this process, I am noticing more and more how there is a huge impact on myself as a human being, similar to a blossoming flower.

Have you ever watched a flower bloom and its reactions to environmental influences?  I have these beautiful Startgazer Lillies on my deck that I watch respond to the extreme sunlight, the rain, the humidity and the chilly nights.  I watch what makes them bloom and what makes them shrivel up.  The strain of too much sun, or the collision with a heavy downpour of rain can wither a blossom unto death.  As too, the caregiver, with an overabundance of environmental extrinsic stress can diminish the very essence, the intrinsic nature of being human.  If we are not careful, our blossoms will whither, our soil will dry up and our bright colors darken.   So how do we blossom as caregivers?

  1. Stay balanced with enough rain and sun to thrive, not just survive.  How do you ever think about doing this?  Well, I can tell you, being a financially restricted, young, married, working caregiver, this took a determination, a mindset and a love for myself.  It is true, no one is going to do this for you, not a system, not the government and definitely not friends and family.  Many will desert you and disappoint you.  You can look around and see the abyss of services and support.  Therefore, mentally, what is your option? Are you going to whither up and die, or seek the rain and sunshine?  What do you need to bloom during this time of great trial? What is your rain and sunshine? Define it for yourself and find a way to access it!
  2. Turn your trials and tribulations into hope and support for others.  Whether you   believe in God or not, your spiritual being provides a sense of purpose in humanity in that we are here to support and help someone along the way. We are all tied to one another, living on this earth together, sharing some set of meaning and purpose.  You are not traveling this road solo and are interconnected to your fellow man/woman.  As you learn more about caregiving and what has assisted you, share it with others.  If there is not a support group, start it.  If legislatures and the federal government aren’t supportive, tell them what you need, over and over and over again.  If there isn’t enough exposure to the needs and issues that surround caregivers, expose it.  Exposure can come through many different avenues including mulit-media outlets, work policies, non-caregiving and caregiving institutions.  If there is no sunshine, bring the rays and if there is no water, bring the fresh rain!  Blossom caregiver!  Write about it, talk about it, open your mouth and share! One of my favorite leader of all times, Martin Luther King Jr. had such powerful truth-filled quotes that has changed history and man-kind:
    • “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”
    • “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
    • “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort or convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
  1. Make your strengths your personal weapons of war! Did you know a lily (Lilium) could grow just about anywhere? They are the earliest to bloom and the easiest to grow.  They have a multitude of colors, can be fragrant or non-fragrant, and require little care.  Sound familiar?  A caregiver receives little to no care from anyone.  They come in many different races, ages, sexes and socio-economic statuses and exist all over the world.  Disease does not discriminate and wherever there is a human suffering with a debilitating disease, there is a caregiver that embodies some heavy-duty strength.  You have strengths caregiver and are the foundation of the survival of another human being.  Examine your strengths and put them to use for yourself.  We fight and advocate everyday for our loved ones and yet, we ignore ourselves like we have no value.  Take a minutes an inventory the strengths and values you apply to caregiving everyday and begin to apply them to yourself. They are the petals in your bloom, the root in the soil and the nourishment needed to continue to flourish. 

“Strength and growth come only through effort and struggle.”

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Caregiver Resilience

In the two years of caregiving for a loved one with Alzheimers, I truly feel as though our family has uncovered a strength like no other, a rope of resilience, that has kept us humble and determined to survive.  Using your story to bring awareness to a key issue and bring hope to others is the least one can do in the face of hardship.

I woke this morning with the greatest blessing in seeing our story posted on the Option B website.  What a validating feeling it is to know that your suffering can lead to someone else’s victory!

https://optionb.org/stories/surviving-alzheimers-disease-h1vm4ghrx

The Healing Power of Silence

“Silence isn’t empty, but yet full of answers.”  How many times in your day do you hear silence?  Yes, I said “hear silence.”  Everyday we are bombarded by the texts, emails and calls pulsating through our phones.  You turn on the TV to hear the recent reality show drama, the days events full of crime, murder, poverty and hardship.  Our music pumps in our cars on the way to work with the sounds of traffic ringing in our ears.  As caregiver’s we have the additional noise as we wake to the needs of our loved ones and fall asleep to the repetitive sound of an Alzheimer’s thought.

All caregivers are given the “survivor” tips by friends, family members, organizations, colleagues and on and on.  They tell you in order to maintain your sanity on a daily basis, you should,  “take care of yourself”, “try yoga”, “see a “therapist”, “join a support group”, and my favorite, “download this tip sheet or newsletter.”  But how often do you hear, “take 10 minutes and be silent?”

After a recent visit to my Psychologist, I left her office very irritated with what she was pushing me to do.  After months and months of explaining and describing the burden I face as a caregiver, daughter, wife, and working professional, she was pushing me to prioritize something in my life.  All I kept thinking was, she wants me to do this, my colleagues want me to do that, my husband wants this and my mother needs that.  I was feeling like a ping pong ball bouncing sporadically between the expectations of others.  Caregivers are told to seek help, support and assistance, but they are rarely told, sit in silence and feed your soul.

After I left my therapists office I had realized what was bothering me; noise, constant direction, opinions, judgements and demands.  I drove around the corner to my local park and sat patiently in silence, waiting it to speak to me. There was no music, no cell phone, no texting, no instant messaging, no Facebook, only the mystical sounds of birds.   For the first time, in a long time, an overwhelming sense of peace came over me.  I could breathe in the freshness of the air and the wisdom of silence.  I heard more in the 10 minutes of silence than I had in months from humans.  What I heard was silence serenading me victorious words of strength, peace and love.

The next time your caregiver world consumes you with noise from others, those support systems, take time out to wrap yourself in the healing sound of silence. Your soul and spirit will thank you. “Silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom.”

For more health benefits of silence: http://omtimes.com/2012/10/the-health-benefits-of-silence-simple-yet-profound/

 

 

Three Crucial Caregiver Survivor Tips

March 29, 2017 marked the one year anniversary of the death of my father.  Last year at this time, I was caring for my mother who had been diagnosed with Alzheimers disease and was feeling exhausted in every way imaginable.  I could barely get my weakened body out of bed to begin another day of caregiving.   I didn’t know that I was about to hit rock bottom emotionally, psychologically and physically.  I remember the day oh so well.  It was a Saturday morning and my day started with dragging my mom out of bed, bathing her, cleaning her dentures and dressing her.  We strolled down to the kitchen so I could make her breakfast with our two dogs by our sides.  My husband was working, as he usually does on the weekends.

As we sat at the kitchen table staring at one another over coffee,  my phone began to ring over and over again.  I did not want to answer it,  as it was yet another task to endure.  Yes, as a fulltime caregiver, even answering your phone calls can be extremely burdensome.  The person behind this call was relentless and persistent in ringing my phone and forced me to answer.  As I pushed the accept button, a voice of a middle-aged man asked for a “Heather Oglesby”.  I sighed and reluctantly confirmed my identity.  The man stated he was a private investigator looking for the family of Paul Oglesby, my father.  He began to share the news that my father had passed away.  As I listened to the details of his death, tears poured down my face like a raging waterfall.  I could not speak or swallow, thinking, “is this really happening?  I had not seen my father or spoken to him in 20 years since he walked out of our lives.  I, now, would be the “designated survivor” of my father’s limited affairs on top of the responsibility of being my mothers full-time caregiver.

That day took me further down a path of despair as I tried to figure out how I was going to handle all the responsibilities that were drastically dumped into my life.  However, what I didn’t know about myself, was the level of resilience that would emerge from the depths of that despair.  The following day, I got up out of bed with a determination, a fervor, that I was going to make it.  We all have an internal drive for more; a deeper desire of human fulfillment.  Being a caregiver will create an environment in which that drive can be diminished, squashed and devalued.  The caregivers primary role is sacrificial, denying every need to meet all the needs of someone else.  However, my life experiences and the receipt of love from others along the way was now going to be the catalyst and life raft I desperately needed.

Over the past year, I have taken the steps to actualize the human potential that still resides within me to heal; to move beyond the confines of the caregiver role.   Below are the brief steps I took to fight my way back to a healthier me:

  1. Mental: Address your mind first.  Make a mental determination that you are a priority and you will not allow the caregiving role to take you down.  Following the news of my fathers death, I picked up the phone and made an appointment with a psychologist.  I was on emotional pain overload.  I knew it was time to get the psychological support I needed to work through the impact of my parents recent events.  Seek the support however you can.  There are free community case management programs and counselors that you can tap into through your Local Area Agency on Aging. Google.com is the caregivers best friend and resource.  When one agency shuts the door on you, don’t give up.  Keep seeking.
  2.  Nutrition & Health: The neglect of the caregiver’s health is a common challenge. We are so busy caring for our loved ones that before we know it, its been a year since we have seen a doctor and we forget what a dentist actually does.  If you are fortunate enough to have health insurance and a comprehensive primary care doctor, ask for functional testing for your thyroid, cortisol levels, vitamin deficiencies, adrenals, and autoimmune antibodies.  Stress can do a number on our bodies.  If you cannot afford testing or do not have health insurance, begin to read about natural healing through the foods you consume.  An anti-inflammatory, heart healthy and brain healthy diet (way of eating), can support your immune system while under great stress.  Essential oils are also a great way to supplement your health needs.  More information on doTerra Essential Oils can found on my doTerra business site.
  3. Physical Exercise: Get Moving! It does not matter how you do this.  Just move. Climb stairs, walk outside with your dogs, stretch, buy a yoga DVD.  I was so fed up with my fatigue and ongoing weight gain due to stress, that I literally got up one day, drove to the local Walmart and bought a bike.  That was one year ago and I am now biking 70 miles a week.  Do what works for you.  There are inexpensive ways to take care of your body, but just realize that it takes time.  Persistence is the key and no fad diets or 30 day cleanses are going to solve the effects of stress on a caregiver.  You must change your lifestyle bit by bit over time.  Take the small steps now and huge rewards will come.

Remember that this walk as a caregiver is one of the most unsupported roles in our country today.  It can be an extremely stressful time of your life, with little to no support from friends, family or your community.  Think outside the box and get creative.  Ask for help from unconventional people and places.

In the last 6 months, I have been bringing my mother to my local gym, Lifetime Fitness,     with me so that I could exercise and not worry about how I would find care for her.  I can’t say enough about the staff at this gym.  My mom can’t work out and I can’t leave her alone, so in order for me to take care of myself, I bring her along.  She will sit on a bike and stare into the abyss, but she’s supervised for free by me.  They do not question me or her about membership or deny me access because she is with me.  The kindness of the staff at my gym has saved my life and increased a caregivers quality of life exponentially.

Step outside the typical boxed-in thinking as a caregiver.  Approach businesses and let them know what you are experiencing and ask them for their support.  You might be surprised in their response.  The above steps I choose to make for myself can be seen in the results below, one year later.

A caregiver make-over, organized, funded and supported by a caregiver, myself.

fullsizeoutput_2001 Continue reading “Three Crucial Caregiver Survivor Tips”

Aging Policy Briefing/Meeting in DC 4/13/17

Monday, April 3: On Monday morning, the Aging and Disability Business Institute will host a pre-conference intensive, CBO Opportunities in Health Care Payment and Delivery Systems, aimed at helping CBOs understand and recognize business opportunities within an evolving health care landscape as CMS moves toward alternative payment methods tied to values and outcomes. Monday afternoon, the Aging Policy Briefing formally begins. Attendees will dive into health care and aging policy analysis and updates from the new Administration and Capitol Hill. n4a may host a Capitol Hill Reception on Monday night for APB attendees and their Members of Congress.

Tuesday, April 4: Attendees will convene bright and early to continue the policy briefing before advocates deploy to Capitol Hill Tuesday afternoon for meetings with Representatives and Senators. Please note that advocates will be setting up their own visits.

http://www.n4a.org/Files/2017%20APB%20Agenda%20Draft_Website.pdf

 

 

Put Some Perspective on That

As I come to an end of my second year of caregiving, I have come to realize that all along, I have moved through many different perspectives on my situation.  Perspective is a medieval Latin term, defined as “a particular attitude, view, position, stance or approach.”   It can also be defined as “the relative importance of things; sense of proportion.”  Being a caregiver takes some perspective and there is no correct, exact way to “view” your situation.  It takes experience, time to process and much reflection.

My journey with caregiving begun prior to picking my mom up at a homeless shelter in a traumatic state of dementia.  It began as I was birthed into this world.  My parents, over time, placed me in a caregiving role.  I took care of my sister, looked after my mom and as soon as I could work, I used my money to buy the family Christmas presents every year

Growing up in a low-income family and with parents who lacked the skills needed to advance through life can narrow your world-view.  When there are major deficits in a family, whether it be social, emotional, physical or financial, a response is generated in a child.  That response is usually driven by survival needs.  How the child chooses to survive will impact their future. Have you ever seen the family where one child is always the one to take care of the siblings or the parents?  In all my caregiver groups, a common issue always emerges; one sibling is solely caring for the parent or relative.  They are overwhelmed, angry and isolated because they have taken on the role that others refused, or because they are the only child.  This experience in my childhood shaped my old perspective and is why I am fulfilling the role that was handed to me 44 years ago.  I am continuing the road that was paved for me.

But, wait, wait, I found a way to jump onto the alternate highway. For the first time in my life, I have found value in myself, the meaning and purpose sitting in my soul.  I have found me in a traumatic situation.  I want to share ways in which I regained a piece of myself through the caregiving role, my new perspective.  My first approach, visualize your life now and what you want from the future!

Write the Vision Down and Make it Plain: (Habakkuk 2:2)  Whether you believe in God or not, you have a purpose for your life.  Caregiving is not your only purpose. What? What did you say?  Yes, caregiving can consume someone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  But it is not your only role and definitely not the only calling on your life.  It is apart of who you are and can define your daily tasks.  New Years 2017 included a vision for my life.  I made a firm decision to develop a fresh new perspective.  I refused to let the inadequate healthcare systems, the lack of treatment and support for Alzheimer’s and the apathy towards families caring for loved ones take me down.  I was coming out swinging for my life.  How did I swing?  I developed an online vision board.  Every area of my life that was suffering was now a target for me to improve upon.  I wanted better health, an improved relationship with my husband, decreased debt and strengthen my spiritual walk.  Write what you want. Take tiny realistic steps.  By creating this vision board, I have outlined the desires for my life and its like I have a blueprint for me, not just for my mom.  You can use any online vision board.  I use this site: http://www.dreamitalive.com.

I will elaborate on each element of my vision board with steps I am taking to actualize it.  I have already complete two of my visions for the year, (1) One vacation a year with my husband and (2) workouts at the gym at least 4 times a week.  It feels amazing to just complete something for me.  I encourage caregivers to take time and think about you.  Take on a new perspective.  Caregiving is brutal and one of the most challenging roles to take on, but don’t let the role take you down.  You are valuable and you deserve to thrive in this life!

Continue reading “Put Some Perspective on That”

True Beauty

Everyday we are indoctrinated with messages of doom and gloom by social media.  The picture predominantly is bleak and hopeless.  There are many times I feel like packing up my family, including my husband, my mother suffering with Alzheimer’s and two fur-child’s to move to a sunny, beachy, yet simpler life.  I fantasize about sitting on a quiet beach, selling fresh coconuts, breathing in the salt air and watching the sun dance across the turquoise waters.  Truly my family and I could be content with the bare necessities as long as we had each other, and some sunscreen. 🙂

Recently I read on Facebook that our new President was going to be turning Medicaid over to the States.  Immediately, my mind escaped into terror of living in a “red” State and what would happen to Medicaid if the State had complete control over it.  You see, Medicaid has been a life-saver for my mother and our family.  We fought for ten months, to obtain a Medicaid waiver to support community based funding for the elderly.  It was the only way I could keep my mother at home and not ending up in a nursing home.  At 64 years of age, she deserved just a little more time of freedom.  This Medicaid waiver program pays for my mom to attend a full time day care five days a week, daily transportation to and from home and in-home caregiving when my husband and I are working.  This program and access to this program has saved our lives.

As my mind began making up plan B, plan C, all the way to plan Z, something came over me.  I mentally stopped the message.  I looked up and out and noticed the beauty around me.  I saw blue skies, fluffy clouds, smiling faces passing by.  I felt this sense of peace when I stopped the “message.”  Surviving is not thriving. Reacting to a message of despair and then acting on that despair will keep us bound by something that “might happen”, “could happen”, and then we miss the present beauty all around us.

The beauty I see today can determine how I live my life tomorrow.  The perception of the reality is determined by the world you choose to live in. Be apart of the beauty that cannot be bought, cannot be touched, but felt deep within your soul. Change the message. Be the messenger of beauty that this world so needs.