Tag Archives: new year

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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A new year, sparked by old memories

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Many people use the new year to try and wipe the old slate clean, and create a new version of themselves that’s thinner or stronger or smarter. There’s nothing wrong with working out more, eating more broccoli and fewer doughnuts and resisting  vices. But what I’ve found in my 40-plus years is that the goals are less important than the journey we take each year on our life’s path.

Caregivers, former and present, understand that life can turn south at a moment’s notice, no matter what the calendar reads, and temporarily disrupt goals, dreams and projects. A “new normal” emerges, and it may not look like what one hoped for at the beginning of a new year. After my father died at the end of 2011, I thought there was a new beginning for my mom and myself, one in which every moment wasn’t spent worrying about my father’s well-being. But just six months later, Mom fell ill and wow, was I ever in for a change. I have no idea what my 2012 resolutions were, but they sure didn’t involve being a caregiver!

So I don’t make resolutions anymore, but I do have goals, which I’m all too aware are subject to change. I’m nearing the completion of my collection of caregiving essays, and I will be working on a prototype for my Respite Care Share concept, which will be presented at the Aging in America Conference in March. These things will keep me occupied for the year, and I’m sure other opportunities will come along the way. New opportunities, but tied to memories of my parents, their lives, the illnesses they battled, and their deaths. While the sharp turn in my life path in 2012 made no sense to me at the time, it got me to this place, where in 2017, I can hopefully give back a bit to the caregiving community.

There is much trepidation about 2017, even though for many, there is a great relief 2016 is coming to a close. Caregivers are survivors, a hardy bunch who push through and find a way to make it another day. Maybe 2017 is the year others will learn the value of caregivers in our society.

I wish you and your family a happy and healthy new year.

 

 

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Lifting spirits as new year approaches

I know this has been a tough year for many of you who read my blog. We’ve had personal losses near and dear to our hearts. Thanks to all of those who read my posts and sent encouraging words, it is much appreciated. I hope for all of us a happier 2016.

After working a crazy month of overnight shifts, I ended up with a nice chunk of time off. If I’d known ahead of time, I could’ve planned a trip to Europe, but it being last minute, I considered closer-to-home options.

Then I realized I never made it to New Orleans.

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Many years ago, back in college, we drove through there, lost some money at the casino, and drove on. But ever since I found the letter in my dad’s belongings from The Roosevelt Hotel, proving that he worked there, I have wanted to visit the city and stay at the hotel. I decided to take the train, to give myself extra time to read and write.

Dad Roosevelt Hotel letter

I had an enjoyable trip and The Roosevelt is certainly a hotel to visit, especially at Christmas. I also got to do something in honor of my mom, which was to visit the butterfly garden at the Audubon Insectarium. It was beautiful, and to be surrounded by so many live butterflies was breathtaking. Mom would have loved it so much, and I have to believe that if reincarnation exists, she’s there, making the young and old alike smile.

I’m not big on resolutions, but while in New Orleans I had my oracle read (I also stopped in a church to light candles for my parents so I covered my spiritual bases.) Anyways, I don’t necessarily believe or disbelieve in oracle readings, it’s all just information to consider. The woman told me that I’ve been making little changes to my routine, and that I should continue to do that in the new year, as chance encounters may lead to greater insights.

And the truth is, I have been changing my routine. Ever since Mom died, I wanted to avoid getting into a rut. I wanted to try and appreciate each and every day more, and expose myself to new experiences. Not all of these were particularly exciting endeavors (working the graveyard shift) but certainly it offered a new way of looking how I organize my life what my priorities are.

So I will prod myself to keep experiencing the world in new ways, even if it’s just taking a different route home. There is much to gain even in the most mundane of activities.

If you have goals for the new year, I would love to hear about them.

 

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Hopes for a new year

It’s that time of year where we analyze the current year ending, and create new goals for the next year.

I’ve never been big on making resolutions but the start of a new year does give us all a good opportunity to introduce new goals. Of course, as caregivers there are many things beyond our control, so those fall into the hoping and wishing category.

2014 has not been a bad year for me. I finally was able to reestablish full-time employment and I’m very happy with my job. The ability to work remotely from wherever I want is a huge burden off of me, in case I do need to leave my home city for an extended period to take care of Mom again.

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I had a story published in “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living with Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias.” That was an exciting accomplishment.

I was able to begin chipping away the debt I accrued while taking care of Mom. While I haven’t reduced my debt to nearly the point I want to, I know it can’t happen overnight, and am thankful that my job allows me to pay off significant chunks each month. Slowly but surely on this goal is the only way I will succeed. (Or winning the lottery, haha.)

Mom’s health has been a bit of a roller coaster ride this year, especially the last half of the year. Today she is supposed to finally meet with the surgeon, but there is a snowstorm in her area and I don’t know if she will make the appointment. The delays in securing a diagnosis is frustrating. I can only hope that we figure out what is wrong and get her the treatment she needs soon. I’ve helped stabilize her financial situation by picking up most of her bills to pay myself, but I hope she can continue to live independently so we can avoid another financial crisis.

I’m taking a writing class in January, a weekend workshop kind of thing. I’m finally starting to pull together a plan for a book idea. We’ll see what comes of it, but it is definitely a goal of mine this year to continue writing, and that includes blogging!

Thanks to all of you who read my posts and take the time to comment, it is greatly appreciated. I hope 2015 is good to you and your family.

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2013 in review: So much gratitude

I want to kick off 2014 with a show of gratitude for my fellow bloggers who are family caregivers. It is a tough road to travel but all of you sharing your personal joys and struggles have made me more enlightened.

I know 2013 was a rough year for many of you. Jackie, who writes the “Quilt of Missing Memories” blog just lost her husband, who had early-onset Alzheimer’s. I know how difficult it is to lose a loved one so close to the holidays. She writes so beautifully and heartfelt about her family’s journey with this terrible disease. Her perspective challenges me to have a more positive outlook even in the face of adversity.

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Kay who writes the Dealing with Dementia blog is a caregiver for both of her parents who suffer from dementia. She lost her father suddenly this year. She has had to grapple with her own grief while trying to support her mother who is struggling with her declining mental state in the assisted living facility. Kay offers great insight into dementia and caregiving and stays on tops of trends and studies that can aid us as dementia caregivers.

Terry, who writes so faithfully on her “terry1954” blog provides loving home care for her brother Al, who suffers from Multiple System Atrophy. Al’s health declined in 2013, and it appears his time in this world may be drawing to a close. Through it all, Terry has been the loyal and loving sister, who doesn’t shy away from discussing how difficult being a family caregiver is, both physically and emotionally. She has developed a loyal and supportive blog readership that is so well-deserved. I admire her strength and courage.

I virtually cheered Jack from Across the Land 2013 who ran across the country in 2013 to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s. He dealt quite well with extreme weather and other obstacles with his plucky, positive attitude.

I look forward to following the new blog project from Sally who writes the “Hot Dogs and Marmalade” blog. The new blog is called, “One Month at a Time” and will feature a new theme each month.

I follow so many wonderful bloggers that I simply cannot list them all here.I just wanted to mention a few who particularly inspired me or moved me over the last year. Thank you for sharing your personal journeys online. We can learn so much from those we may never meet in person.

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What the new year will bring

With a new year comes feelings of anticipation and trepidation for many of us. Especially as caregivers, sometimes the future can seem bleak, without a light at the end of the tunnel. While I’m all about planning ahead, sometimes we must live in the moment.

After all, none of us are guaranteed more than the very breath we are taking right now.

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I am torn between trying to embrace each moment and each day with also trying to prepare for my future as Mom’s caregiver. I also want to continue the project I’ve started to honor my father, and all of those who have battled Alzheimer’s. These obligations must be balanced with my need to earn an income again as well.

It’s a tricky balance. The road map for caregivers is littered with unknown situations and destinations. The line between a loved one being able to live independently to needing assisted living can be murky.

A year is nothing more than a new set of numbers on the calendar. There’s nothing magical about a new year, but it is as good a time as any to refocus our minds and efforts on the important things in our lives.

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