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.”

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/

 

 

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.

First blog post

Well my friends, this is my very first blog post.  I am both excited and nervous at the same time to share my story with you.  Representing the caregiver community is a big undertaking and not to be taken lightly.  With all that we endure and all that we experience, my words and thoughts must lend itself to respect and true understanding.  I have read  an over-abundance of caregiver tips, resources, and  fact sheets over the last 20 months that have either angered me or made me bust out laughing hysterically. The lack of the caregiver experience is evident in these resources.   I love my friends and family, but if they send me one more fact, statistic or caregiver tip that was written by either an academic institution or some funded research institution, I might lose my cool.   If they are interested in facts, they can ask me, I am the statistic. 🙂

My desire to blog on this experience  is to convey the REAL caregiver journey.  This journey is every day, 24 hours a day, 12 months a year.  There is no break, no respite, unless you create it.   The journey I am describing lacks community support, drains your finances, physically beats you down and emotionally empties you from the core of your being.  While I believe in a positive and healthy approach to caregiving, I know the raw experience and refuse to sugar coat the realities of this walk.

My caregiver journey really began when I was a child.  As the first born into the typical dysfunctional family, my role quickly developed into caretaker, mediator, counselor and protector.  As I moved into adulthood, my role became provider, especially for my mother, who lacked a higher education, was low income her entire adult life and could not make sound decisions for her life.  I always say that I did not want this job, but sometimes life dictates circumstances beyond our control.  I could have walked away from this situation very early on in life and may not be where I am today.  However, God developed my character and filled my heart with compassion, empathy and a desire to serve others.  I will never say I had a choice to take care of my family, to me, that is what love is.

Now at 44 years of age, I developed a new love, a love for myself.  Did I have this prior to picking my mom up at the homeless shelter and becoming a fulltime caregiver of someone with Alzheimer’s?  Probably, but I did not consciously take action in my life to self-preserve.  I really should be thanking my mother.  The last 20 months has saved my life. This time has given me new profound meaning and purpose and has provided a self-awareness that I do not think I could have gained, if I had not stumbled down this path.

I am hoping to adequately describe this journey, as it can be horrific, heart-wrenching and devastating to the family’s undertaking the prime responsibility of caring for a loved one.  At the same time, I want to describe the kindness I experienced along the way.  In the face of continous closed doors, denials, appeals,lack of empathy and just plain lack of services, my family crossed paths with angels.  These angels assisted us along the way and to this day, may never know the depths of their impact on our lives.

In future blogs, I will also be discussing the health and wellness aspects of caregivers.  This was and is one of the biggest challenges I have encountered.  You become invisible as a caregiver and before you know it, you have not been to a doctor in two years, you don’t remember what a dentist does and your workout clothes have become your pajama’s.  This is a very scary situation for caregivers and  I will be sharing my on-going successes and challenges with you.

Thank you for reading or skimming my very first blog post.  I hope you will come back and visit me and I hope that I will make the caregiver community proud in being the voice to the largest ignored vulnerable population in the world.  Feel free to leave comments or email me.  I want to hear about your journey.  Lets build this community together!

First blog post

Well my friends, this is my very first blog post.  I am both excited and nervous at the same time to share my story with you.  Representing the caregiver community is a big undertaking and not to be taken lightly.  With all that we endure and all that we experience, my words and thoughts must lend itself to respect and true understanding.  I have read  an over-abundance of caregiver tips, resources, and  fact sheets over the last 20 months that have either angered me or made me bust out laughing hysterically. The lack of the caregiver experience is evident in these resources.   I love my friends and family, but if they send me one more fact, statistic or caregiver tip that was written by either an academic institution or some funded research institution, I might lose my cool.   If they are interested in facts, they can ask me, I am the statistic. 🙂

My desire to blog on this experience  is to convey the REAL caregiver journey.  This journey is every day, 24 hours a day, 12 months a year.  There is no break, no respite, unless you create it.   The journey I am describing lacks community support, drains your finances, physically beats you down and emotionally empties you from the core of your being.  While I believe in a positive and healthy approach to caregiving, I know the raw experience and refuse to sugar coat the realities of this walk.

My caregiver journey really began when I was a child.  As the first born into the typical dysfunctional family, my role quickly developed into caretaker, mediator, counselor and protector.  As I moved into adulthood, my role became provider, especially for my mother, who lacked a higher education, was low income her entire adult life and could not make sound decisions for her life.  I always say that I did not want this job, but sometimes life dictates circumstances beyond our control.  I could have walked away from this situation very early on in life and may not be where I am today.  However, God developed my character and filled my heart with compassion, empathy and a desire to serve others.  I will never say I had a choice to take care of my family, to me, that is what love is.

Now at 44 years of age, I developed a new love, a love for myself.  Did I have this prior to picking my mom up at the homeless shelter and becoming a fulltime caregiver of someone with Alzheimer’s?  Probably, but I did not consciously take action in my life to self-preserve.  I really should be thanking my mother.  The last 20 months has saved my life. This time has given me new profound meaning and purpose and has provided a self-awareness that I do not think I could have gained, if I had not stumbled down this path.

I am hoping to adequately describe this journey, as it can be horrific, heart-wrenching and devastating to the family’s undertaking the prime responsibility of caring for a loved one.  At the same time, I want to describe the kindness I experienced along the way.  In the face of continous closed doors, denials, appeals,lack of empathy and just plain lack of services, my family crossed paths with angels.  These angels assisted us along the way and to this day, may never know the depths of their impact on our lives.

In future blogs, I will also be discussing the health and wellness aspects of caregivers.  This was and is one of the biggest challenges I have encountered.  You become invisible as a caregiver and before you know it, you have not been to a doctor in two years, you don’t remember what a dentist does and your workout clothes have become your pajama’s.  This is a very scary situation for caregivers and  I will be sharing my on-going successes and challenges with you.

Thank you for reading or skimming my very first blog post.  I hope you will come back and visit me and I hope that I will make the caregiver community proud in being the voice to the largest ignored vulnerable population in the world.  Feel free to leave comments or email me.  I want to hear about your journey.  Lets build this community together!