Wednesday, November 25, 2009

10 Things I've Learned As A Carefree Caregiver

Nap when you can. Your body learns to live with a limited amount of sleep just the way it did when the kids were babies, but it catches up with you affecting your mood, your health and your capabilities.

The Golden Rule is just as important now as when you learned it as a child. I’ll be that Senior needing help someday and I’ll sure be glad when others treat me with reasonable respect the way we should always treat each other.

Be as generous as you can. Any opportunity to give back to those who’ve helped us is a great blessing. What goes around always comes around. Don’t miss your chance to do what you can before it’s too late.

Turn that frown upside down and smile more. It prevents wrinkles and gives those around you a reason to smile back. Your face is a mirror of what’s inside and if your resentment is showing, you shouldn’t be doing what you’re doing.

Practice Patience. So what if it takes an extra thirty minutes, or more, to wait at the table with someone while they finish their meal. Let the others scatter, then read the paper, decide on a new knitting pattern, update your shopping list or just talk about the weather.

Serenity can save your life. Don’t panic, remain calm and don’t sweat the small stuff. A simple soup will do for dinner when you’re running late or are too tired to cook.

Your mood can mess up everybody else’s so settle down and let go of what’s out of your hands. That doesn’t mean you have to bottle up your feelings, just don’t ‘rage’ about something you can’t fix anyway.

No woman is an island and no man is a mind reader, (at least in our household). Ask for help when you need it and you shall receive …

… as long as you’re willing to accept it as it comes. Don’t expect everyone to do things the way you do (there is no need to re-load the dishwasher, your way). Nitpicking is counterproductive, so stop doing it. And the same goes for micromanaging: everyone knows how to boil water without burning it. Really.

Figure out what to do about your frustrations. It may work for a while but in the long run we can’t just ignore the things that drive us crazy. Talk about it, look for solutions and do something to make it better. Sometimes just acknowledging that there is a problem can keep a small annoyance from flowing over and brewing into a family fight.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Do you have back-up?

"If it's not on the calendar, it isn't happening." I came up with this mantra when the kids were growing up and they were pretty good about it. Too bad it doesn't always work.
Like any busy family our life revolves around scheduling extracurricular activities, appointments, meetings, family gatherings and special occasions in between the usual work, school and home happenings. Now that the needs of my two special seniors are ever increasing, the little boxes on my refrigerator sized calendar are barely holding up. I've tried the color coded markers, cute little mini-stickers, hand drawn emoticons and so forth only to end up with a colorful mess of eye-popping scribbles. Last minute changes end up getting covered over with too large sticky notes that tend to fall off just when you need to know what time the window guy is showing up tomorrow, but we manage.
For me, it's about more than just getting Nana or Grampa George to the specialist they were scheduled to see eight months ago. When one has an appointment, the other simply cannot be left alone, nor can they always come along or so my gynaecologist’s receptionist suggested at my most recent checkup. Sure we double up any appointments we can. Matter of fact, our favorite podiatrist, Donna, gives us group appointments and we try to get our seasonal flu shots as a crowd. Even so, we do run into the occasional glitch.
As the luckiest woman on the planet, my husband is not only handsome, smart and romantic; he'll also step in as 'Seniorman' to hold down the fort when I'm not there, sneaking out of his home office to dispense medications on time, serve an easily re-heatable lunch and deal with the occasionally complex changing of an empty toilet paper roll until I get back. It's when both of us have carved in stone appointments that things get rough. Whenever possible, the kids pitch in, skipping school or work to be here when we can't be. And they no longer need the lengthy play-by-play lists I used to leave them to keep everything on schedule at home. (Not that they ever did, that was just me micromanaging, but don't tell them that.)
Worst case scenario, the appointment becomes an 'outing', wrapped around lunch at any place that opens early and serves Nana's favorite French Onion soup, hold the cheese. I've come to learn how many people can comfortably squeeze into a three by four foot examination room without spreading shingles to all other occupants, including the doctor. I've been able to seek out the washrooms in most medical buildings in and around Toronto and feel that my constant requests for the washroom keys have brought back the 'no key necessary' policies in some of these buildings. I've also changed my mantra to "If it's not on the calendar, then it certainly should have been!"

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Becoming a Carefree Caregiver

I knew I was destined be a caregiver the day I first met my husband’s parents who were quite some years older than my own. It became a personal calling that still adds great significance to my life.
I was lucky to have my in-laws help raise their grandchildren, allowing me to go to work without worrying. After Poppa passed away, I gave up my day job when I noticed myself parenting Nana more than I was my own children. She’d ask permission to change the toilet paper when the roll was empty or clean the carpets on her hands and knees with a scrub brush because she couldn’t figure out how to turn on the vacuum cleaner.Though it's not Alzheimer's, she has been diagnosed with dementia, which explained alot. Now we take it moment by moment and don't sweat the small stuff.
Nana’s slide into senility picked up speed just when we realized her younger brother, George, now in stage four of congestive heart failure, was not coping well on his own. Once Grampa George, as the kids always called him, finally agreed to come to our house, ‘for a few days’, I realized that without proper care he wouldn’t be with us much longer. Happily we had room to make him comfortable.
Aside from the fact that Nana and Grampa George have completely opposite schedules, I’ve become aware that I can’t do everything for them by myself. As my children have grown into their own lives, I’ve been more and more reluctant to ask them for help. I’d feel guilty for taking them away from whatever they were doing, for something that was my responsibility, a mission I’d taken on by choice.
I’m getting better at sending out an ‘all hands on deck’ e-mail if I see a scheduling conflict approaching on the calendar. If my husband has an out of town meeting, one of the kids will miss school or take time off work to take over for me. And they truly don’t mind. I’ve also stopped micromanaging everything; well, almost, the kids say. It’s been weeks since I’ve left a sticky note on the range hood with instructions on how to boil water for pasta. And guess what: we’re surviving!