Tag Archives: caregiving

‘What They Had’ will resonate with dementia caregivers

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I saw an excellent movie recently that I wanted to share with others who are or have been dementia caregivers. The movie is called, “What They Had,” and it has a great cast, starring Blythe Danner, Hilary Swank, Robert Forster and Michael Shannon. The film has a fairly simple plot: matriarch Ruth’s dementia is getting progressively worse, and the family is drawn together to figure out the next steps.

Those of us who have been dementia caregivers know what’s coming next, to a certain extent. The family’s internal dynamics are stretched to their breaking points as they each approach the “solution” to caring for the woman they love who is losing her mind and memories of them.

What is remarkable about the film is how realistically it depicts the challenges of a family grappling with Alzheimer’s. First-time director Elizabeth Chomko, whose grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, captures the raw and complex emotions perfectly. The movie is uncomfortable to watch in a good way, in that the plot, dialogue and acting is so realistic that you feel like you are eavesdropping into a family’s nightmare.

Watch the trailer:

I related quite a bit to the character of Nick, who is the son and brother. He’s the hands-on sibling, because he lives near the parents in Chicago, while Swank’s character Bridget is the sister who moved away to California. Nick has understandably built up some resentment and even though he comes across as pessimistic and critical, he cares deeply and understands the mother’s condition in a more realistic way than the rest of the family. I related so much to Nick’s frustration with the rest of the family who were overly optimistic or avoiding the tough decisions, as I dealt with that with my mother when making medical decisions for my father.

Bridget’s response to being thrown into a family crisis prompts her to question everything about her life, including her marriage. Danner plays the character of Ruth with heartbreaking tenderness, though there are moments of humor as well. And Forster, Ruth’s husband and primary caregiver, demonstrates a loving resilience underneath his gruff, practical exterior.

Both Danner and Swank have experienced real-life caregiving, which I think brought an extra layer of realism to their portrayals.

The film is available on video-on-demand services. (I watched it on Vudu.) It does contain a fair amount of profanity, but it seemed to be a natural fit for the characters’ personalities. If you’ve seen the movie, I’d love to know what you thought about it.

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A reunion with kindness

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I had a chance encounter this past week with a woman who was a true angel to my family several years ago. Sandra went out of her way to care for my mother and myself as my father was dying. She even put her life (and car) at risk, driving through a snowstorm.

Sandra played a role in what was one of the worst moments of my life, but also a moment that helped inspire this blog, The Memories Project.

Over the years, I’ve thought about Sandra and her multiple acts of kindness. Such people seem to appear when you need them the most.

And so it happened that our paths crossed again. You can read about the encounter via my post on Medium or via the Twitter thread below. (Click through to read entire thread on Twitter.)

As I’ve said before, I’m a skeptic, but I’m also not a fool. There can only be so many coincidences. I keep my eyes and heart open for these moments, and try to learn from them. I hope you will do the same in your lives, and also remember that small acts of kindness can have a tremendous impact on a person’s life.

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4 Disturbing Dementia Behaviors and How You Can Go From Frustration to Connection — The Imperfect Caregiver

This blog post by Bobbi Carducci is a good reminder on how dementia caregivers must learn a new way to connect and communicate with their loved one, as verbal skills begin to decline. She offers good tips on how you can manage some of the most difficult dementia behaviors.

Often the behavior of someone with dementia is so changeable and unpredictable it’s almost impossible to figure out what is going on, leaving the caregiver confused and frustrated. Why is your spouse confused with you and so alert when someone comes to visit? Why does your mother, who is usually calm and agreeable, suddenly become […]

via 4 Disturbing Dementia Behaviors and How You Can Go From Frustration to Connection — The Imperfect Caregiver

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January 31, 2019 · 9:19 pm

#WeKnowYouCare recognizes male caregivers

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In a week in which a razor ad triggered an online discussion about “toxic masculinity,” a new campaign is highlighting an often overlooked group of caregivers: men.

Caring Across Generations launched the “We Know You Care” campaign, to raise awareness of the loving devotion of male caregivers, along with the unique struggles they face. I’ve met many wonderful male caregivers through my years of caring for my parents. From professional caregivers to devoted husbands and fathers, men have proven that they are tough enough and compassionate enough to handle the role of caregiver, in spite of lingering stereotypes that assume only females can provide care.

As Caring Across Generations’ co-director Ai-jen Poo points out, approximately 40 percent of caregivers are male.

Meet Ivan, who shares his caregiving experience. I appreciate his honesty, and his ability to be vulnerable when admitting the ares of caregiving that are a struggle for him. I certainly could relate. My struggles inspired my book, The Reluctant Caregiver.

The movement was prompted by the film, On the Basis of Sex, which looks at a case involving a male caregiver named Charles Moritz that a young Ruth Bader Ginsburg argued and won, long before she was appointed as a Supreme Court Justice.

While women have long assumed the caregiving role, and been expected to, we are moving into a period in which more people, both men and women, will need to serve as caregivers. Our population is rapidly aging and there are not enough caregivers in the workforce to meet the demand. It’s time to break down traditional stereotypes and equip everyone, regardless of gender, with the tools and support they need to be the best caregivers they can be.

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Make 2019 a year for caregiver intentions

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For caregivers, a new year doesn’t always feel like a new beginning. The grueling 24/7 responsibilities of caring for a loved one can temper the enthusiasm for a new year.  Caregiving can be isolating, especially during the winter months, and its easy to feel like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. New year, same old blah.

If you are caring for someone nearing the end of their life, it also can be difficult to embrace the optimism that a new year is supposed to bring.

While I can’t guarantee that your caregiver journey will be better in 2019 (I wish I could!) there is one thing you do have power over, and that is your mindset. I know the last thing I wanted to hear when I was a caregiver was well-meaning advice about taking charge of my attitude. When I talk about mindset, it’s not about finding the silver lining in everything or making lemonade out of lemons or whatever tired cliche you want to choose.

This is where setting intentions come in, versus the typical new year resolutions. Instead of making a hyper-specific goal, such as losing 20 pounds, you could set an intention for eating healthier food in 2019. This could include things like cooking healthy recipes at home, going to a farmer’s market, or tending to a garden at home.  By setting this intention and taking action on it, you may discover that you lose a few pounds along the way. If not, that doesn’t mean you failed. Eating more nutritious food has benefits beyond what you find on a scale.

You don’t need to attach numbers or due dates; intentions don’t expire but are often lifelong aspirations worth the time and effort invested.

For those caring for a loved one with dementia, consider an intention centered around collecting memories, which could include filling out the family tree and creating scrapbooks.  Self-care is another important intention that all of us should focus on in the new year. It’s one of those annoying buzzwords, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that caregivers have to find a way to recharge.

Those embarking upon the end-of-life phase as a caregiver may find that an intention centered around what a good death means to your loved one and family is useful during this challenging time.

Whether you call them intentions or resolutions, I hope that 2019 treats you and your loved ones well.

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When You Should Say “No” in Caregiving — The Purple Jacket

Caregivers, try practicing the art of saying “no” during the increased demands of the holiday season. Not only is it acceptable to say no, it is healthy and necessary so that you don’t get burned out. Saying “no” can be the beginning of an equally important conversation: “I need help with caregiving.”

We welcome back guest writer, Kayla Matthews to The Purple Jacket! Caregiving for an elderly relative is a role that falls on different family members and professional caregivers depending on the family and expectations. And many families often fail to discuss how much responsibility a caregiver should take on and for how long. When the […]

via When You Should Say “No” in Caregiving — The Purple Jacket

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December 18, 2018 · 6:21 pm

Everyone has a caregiving story

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Keynote speaker Walt Mossberg shared his insights on the future of technology.

I’m at Digital Book World in Nashville this week so this post will be brief.

I’m always amazed at just how universal the experience caregiving is, and how everyone has a story to tell about that experience. It’s so interesting to attend a conference and come into contact with so many people from all walks of life, and when they find out I write about caregiving, they are typically eager to share their own stories.

As Rosalynn Carter to eloquently said, “There are only four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.”

Just wanted to share this observation for caregivers out there who may be isolated and are feeling alone. You are most definitely not alone. There is a large, passionate, imperfect but striving to do their best tribe of family caregivers out there.

Don’t be afraid to share your caregiving story.

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