CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW? : A Person-centered Story, by Kathie Nitz

Actually, not as well as I once did!  A few years ago I suffered sudden hearing loss in one ear.  It has made high frequencies difficult for me to hear in that ear.  Fortunately, I didn’t lose all my hearing, however it has changed my life forever.

I recently found this excellent NPR link that provides audio clips to help others better understand the problem.

One of the most interesting things I’ve personally discovered is that I process everything I’m hearing more slowly.  It’s because I’m always catching up to what’s already been said.  The best way I can describe it is when you’re reading a book and someone begins talking to you at the same time.  Your brain can’t process both well.  Until you decide to focus on one or the other, there are two things going on at once and it’s difficult to concentrate.  When you finally turn your focus to one your attention to the other typically suffers.

Although I am grateful for the high end digital hearing aid I purchased, it is an imperfect solution.  Even while wearing it, I find separating out sounds difficult in certain situations and impacts how I interact with others.  For instance, I now find being in a crowd more challenging so I tend to be more quiet than I used to be in order to better track conversations.

Even though I’m young and resilient, moving through my day takes more focus which sometimes wears me down.  At times, I find myself being a bit impatient with idle chatter since it takes just as much effort for me to listen and process it … then realize it was just a random musing rather than something requiring a response from me.

All this has made me very aware of what it must be like to be a senior with hearing loss.  How many times have you heard adult children and spouses (or maybe yourself?) berating someone for not having or wearing a hearing aid?

Rather than lecturing, rolling your eyes or throwing your hands up in frustration … get curious not furious!  Here are some tips:

• Ask your loved one to explain what their hearing loss is like and how it affects their day-to-day life so you can better understand their unique situation.

• Encourage your loved one to try out a hearing aid yet honor their perspective and be patient with their reluctance if it should arise.

• If they have a hearing aid and don’t wear it because it “doesn’t help,” suggest they have it adjusted.  It took me several visits before the tweaks got it to where the sound was the most natural for me.  Elders may not want to impose and give up before they reach that point.

• Slow down and enunciate.

• Don’t talk from another room.  Wait until you’re close or better yet face to face before you speak.

• Make your words count if possible.  Understand the effort that goes into deciphering every word that’s being said.

• Be grateful that you (hopefully) have good hearing and take good care of your ears!

 

LEARN MORE ABOUT KATHIE

THE PERFECTIONIST DAUGHTER, by Herb Pearce, Enneagram Coach

THE PERFECTIONIST DAUGHTER
by Herb Pearce

Two personality types who can feel particularly challenged in a caregiving relationship are Type One (the Perfectionist) and Type Nine (the Peacemaker.) For the last few years, I have been working with a Type One daughter caring for her Type Nine live-in mother.

Type One, the Perfectionist, feels that there’s a right way to do everything. Type Nine, the Peacemaker, had a tendency to be a bit lazy and to avoid conflict. You can begin to imagine the tension between them.

The mother owned the house and it was a challenge for years for my client to live in the same house as her mother during her aging process. A typical Type One, my client tended to be impatient, critical and at times inflexible with her mother. She found it hard to be a helper, as she always felt the inner pressure to do what was “right.”

I had coached this Perfectionist daughter for years to be more patient, to let her mother know her limits and desires in a respectful tone, and yet also try to relate with some flexibility and tolerance. I coached her to listen more and try to be more allowing with her mother’s memory loss, lack of order, tendency toward uncleanliness, and repetitive nature.

My client learned to walk away at times when she was too frustrated with her mother’s behavior, and always had the goal to have the gentler, caring, non abrupt manner that her Type Nine peacemaker mother needed.

It wasn’t perfect, but my client gradually felt more awareness, some control of her anger, and acceptance of the differences between the two of them. She also felt less guilt when she found herself adopting a harsher tone. I encouraged my client to remember the better times with her mother, to appreciate what was positive, and try to feed that back to her mother.

I was less than ideal, as both of them have felt unloved—they experience and show love in such different ways. My client has been able to see things more in perspective and feel more tolerant. She has been able to do a lot of right things about hiring other caregivers, taking her mother to appointments, taking her to dinner, enrolling her in a day care program, etc. As is her nature, her giving has been more in service than in attitude and emotional closeness.

Recently the mother died and my client felt some real grief, as well as relief, and I coached her to soften her guilt about not caring for her mother the way she had wished. The truth is that my client did do a lot for her mother, but didn’t particularly like her mother (her forgetfulness, lack of order and cleanliness, and at times doing things behind my client’s back.) I wish I could have met with her mother to coach both of them together as I felt protective toward both of them but I’ll relieve my own guilt too! I know that my work helped to make a difficult situation better than it would have been.

Note from a Caregiver’s Coach: It is not uncommon for a caregiver to dislike aspects of the person she is caring for. Sometimes it’s only human. It also may not be a problem if she can learn to be more accepting by learning to understand her loved one’s perspective and respect her needs. The best caregivers take their cue from their loved one. The more the person being cared for is in the driver’s seat, making choices about their life and health, the more empowered, healthy, and happy everyone will be.

Learn more about  Herb 

THE QUESTION OF VULNERABILITY IN CAREGIVING, by Holly Whiteside

I wholeheartedly believe in the power of questioning in caregiving.* I recently had a conversation about vulnerability with a respected colleague of mine, a holistic psychotherapist. We began by listing the meanings of it, working with a dictionary definition. The full definition was surprisingly exhaustive, but the more familiar synonyms included:

  • raw
  • tender
  • exposed
  • over-powered
  • emotional
  • weak
  • needy
  • easy to hurt

Certainly not traits that many of us cultivate, especially during caregiving. What good is a needy caregiver, right? Wouldn’t we rather have traits like strength, autonomy**, and having it all together?

Then we looked further. Toward the bottom of the long list of synonyms came the ones that we found to be the most interesting:

  • counting on
  • humbled
  • forgivable
  • mortal
  • open
  • perceptive
  • receptive
  • accessible
  • responsive
  • sensible
  • sensitive
  • sentient

These could easily be a list of survival skills for caregiving.

  • Yes! As a caregiver, I did WANT to know who and what I could count on.
  • I WANTED to feel humbled by my role, to recognize and be comfortable with MY OWN mortality.
  • In my relationships, then and now, I want to be receptive, responsive, and accessible.
  • In my actions I want to be sensible, sensitive, and sentient (or knowing.)

In sum, this says to me that intimacy and interdependence DO make for a spirit-strong** and resilient person, the sort who can move WITH the twists and turns of caregiving and life, healing relationships, caregiving collaboratively***, and inventing new ways of managing life’s intricacies. THAT sort of caregiving  requires a degree of vulnerability.As if that wasn’t enough, other questions then presented themselves:

  • Isn’t vulnerability easier to manage for a person with faith? And,
  • Do we carry our childhood vulnerabilities into adulthood unnecessarily?

I saw the roots of my questionable relationship with vulnerability, and also that I could reframe it as a strength, giving me the ability to move forward with greater ease.
A final question came up as I wrote:

  • Then what is the relationship between vulnerability and healthy boundaries?

For sure I can say No to whomever or whatever I like, and there are times for doing so. But perhaps I’d better be sure that my No isn’t limiting my ability to live life fully, or snuffing out my opportunities to say Yes.
Caregiving is guaranteed to offer a steady supply of vulnerabilities, so might one goal be to allow caregiving to have its way with you****, knowing that vulnerabilities will show up? What do You think? What has been the role of vulnerability in Your life up to now? Could it be a source of strength for you as you move forward in your caregiving?

*For more on Questions for Caregivers, click here

**For more on Autonomy in Caregiving, click here

***For more on Uplifting Spirit During Caregiving, click here

****For more on Acceptance, click here

 

by Holly Whiteside, MindfulCaregiving.net

CAREGIVER SURVIVAL — LEARN RESILIENCY! by Cindy Laverty

There are 67 million family caregivers in the United States alone, and sadly, most are living their lives in crisis and overwhelm. This number is on the rise and the hardcore truth is that as a culture, we aren’t prepared for these numbers. The care of our aging population is falling upon the family, and the sooner we wake up and embrace this, the better off we’ll all be.

The reality is that there are ways to not only survive being a caregiver, but better yet, there are ways to thrive. But you have to know what to do. Sadly, many family caregivers are doing a lot of complaining about their new lot in life instead of figuring out: what to do and what not to do; and making some important changes.

If you are already in the throws of caregiving and you’re feeling like you’re standing in quick sand, then I want to tell you that it doesn’t have to be this way. There are things you can do that will reap big results. Help is available and you don’t have to do caregiving alone! In fact, you shouldn’t do caregiving alone.  When you said YES to caring for your loved one, you did it from your heart and probably had no idea of the challenges you would meet along the way. There are certain ‘secrets’ you need to learn that will help to set you on a path to Empowerment and a life balance.

Learning the art of resiliency is key, and if you are to thrive in your caregiving role, you need to not only learn, but also practice resiliency. Being resilient does not mean running on adrenaline day in and day out. In fact, it’s just the opposite.

Practicing the steps below will set you on your way to finding more balance in your life as a caregiver.

Put Systems and Procedures in Place – This is the ‘Business of Caregiving’ and you have to have systems in place and procedures to help you implement the systems. Just like operating a business, you have operational systems in place. Caregiving is no different. If you have avoided this step, take some time to systematize whatever you can. (You won’t always be able to stick to the plan, but having systems in place will really help you.) Don’t try to do too much at one time or you’ll become overwhelmed. Just tackle one or two things a week and when you have that mastered, do a couple more. (For more, see Cindy’s archived article ‘The Business of Caregiving.’)

Be Informed – Worry and anxiety happen when we don’t have enough information. Get educated and stay informed. Information is available everywhere. Make sure you are getting yours from a credible source.

Be clear about what you can and cannot do – Getting clear about your personal limitations is key. Too many caregivers fail to think about this and they end up in physical and emotional exhaustion.

Manage the guilt – This is hugeYou cannot manage caregiving well from a place of guilt. Guilt is a driving force for many caregivers. Getting a handle on it is extremely important for your personal well-being.

Manage the daily tasks – You don’t have to do everything in one day or even one week. Scheduling the daily tasks (just like you do at work) will help you slow down.

Stop trying to be Perfect! – In other words, cut yourself some slack!

Get Help! – Help, like information, is everywhere, but you need to find the right help and more importantly you need to ask for it.  Help doesn’t usually show up until you ask.

Take Time Off – Plan your schedule as far in advance as possible and make time for you. This is really not optional.  If you avoid this step, you will end up experiencing caregiver burnout.

Maintain a Sense of Humor – There are funny moments in caregiving and it’s okay to laugh about them.

Don’t Stuff Your Feelings! Your feelings live inside you for a reason and you must honor them. If you don’t honor them, but instead stuff them, they will always find a way to come out, and it won’t always be pretty.

Get Rest, Calm Down and Relax. Sleep if You Can  – Learning ways to calm your mind while resting your body is key. You might try a quiet session of getting comfortable and listening to soulful music. Allow yourself to drift off.

Celebrate Your Accomplishments – This seems rather simple, but sadly, most caregivers spend little or no time celebrating much of anything.

Be Grateful – If you don’t practice gratitude, try getting a journal and writing down everything (no matter how small) that you are grateful for. 

Nurture Your Personal Spirituality – There is more and more evidence that those individuals who have a spiritual practice cope better with life’s challenges.

Bear Witness – Often just listening and lending comfort to your loved one is enough. You don’t have to always entertain.

Focus on Today – This is all we have. Caregivers spend unnecessary time worrying about the future. You can’t control the future, you can only (partially) control today. For today, live in the moment. Embrace the compassionate act of caregiving.

 by Cindy Laverty, Action Coach

WHAT FEEDS YOU?, by Kim Adams, Grief Guide

How well do you care for yourself after being the caregiver for your loved one?  You may be so used to giving that once your loved one dies, you either collapse or seek out others to care for in order to fill the empty void.  I’d like to offer you an additional option, one that may feel a bit awkward at first but will pay off in the long run — that is to put yourself first, and give the same love, care and attention you give to others to YOURSELF. Yes, you have permission to focus on you and what is necessary to refuel and recharge your batteries.

There may be many conflicting thoughts in your head and opinions from others telling you how to navigate this new terrain without your loved one present. Some ideas may be helpful, though most will be based on fear or the other party’s vision of how they would respond.  However, it is important that you find the ways that nurture you.

If you don’t know or remember what those ways are then this is a great opportunity to explore what it is that really feeds your soul. Get out a piece of paper and make a list of what you enjoy doing. What gives you pleasure? What makes you feel relaxed? What have you enjoyed in the past?  What brings a smile to your face? These things may be something you do alone or with others. Just be sure that the activities fill YOU up!

Some examples to get you thinking might include: cooking, reading, walks in nature, time at the beach, spending time with grandchildren, journal writing, visiting art shows, listening to music, exercise, going to museums, playing sports, taking a walk with a friend, sleeping in, or shopping. Each one of us is different so different things will recharge us. Don’t compare yourself to others; figure out what things brings you joy and then go do them!

The pain we feel when a loved one dies is very real and the accompanying grief can be overwhelming. Healing begins by allowing yourself the gift to focus on being a caregiver to yourself.  Remember, you have nothing to give if you are running on empty.  Take time each day for you because YOU matter!

by Kim Adams  www.yourgriefandlosscoach.com

GENTLE TRANSITIONING, by Kathie Nitz, Relationship Coach

Have you ever been marinating in a really mellow day and then you encounter someone who is super charged?  Maybe they just finished up at the gym, came home from work or are excited to tell you some news?

Although I’m typically an upbeat, enthusiastic person, when I’m not “in that space” these situations can be jarring to me.  I’m spinning at one speed and the other person is spinning at another, which can unexpectedly knock me off kilter! Well, I’ve vowed to keep that in mind whenever I visit my mom.

When she first moved near me, I would (with the best of intentions) fly into her apartment and jump right into her space. Later, my coaches training made me more aware of how I was impacting her environment, and so I began setting my intention to slow down before I entered her space.  Even so, it still took me a while to fully grasp how to effectively recalibrate myself when I’m with her.

We’ve all seen it… (or maybe you’ve done it when visiting someone in an assisted living or skilled nursing community?) a person flies into the parking lot on two wheels, scurries into the lobby, signs in, checks the time, seeks out their loved one, plucks them out of their room, all the while chatting a blue streak.  I’ve come to realize from my own personal experiences that this scenario can be equally if not more jarring for them to receive our energy. Holly Whiteside, FCE’s MindfulCaregiving Guide, gave a great example as I presented this topic to her.  She likened it to transitioning a wintering plant too quickly from the house back out into the garden in spring.  Perfect imagery!  Transition it gently.

By the way, the same is true when leaving your loved one.  A quick kiss and “I’ve got to go” can leave them feeling abandoned. I prepare my mom for our impending separation in ways like this “It’s almost time for lunch.  We’ll go up in a few minutes because your girlfriends will be there waiting for you.”  Repeated a few times as we make our way to the dining room, she happily settles in for her meal in part because I’ve painted a picture that has reassured her before she entered it.

Compare this to a time when my husband, who has a very sweet and funny relationship with my mom, did/said the following (much to my dismay!):  he stood in front of my mom, put his hands on either arm of her wheelchair, leaned in close to her face and said with a grin, “I’ve got bad news for you!  We’re leaving!”  Of course he was kidding, but she couldn’t give it context and only heard the dreaded words “we’re leaving.”  Well, you can imagine how quickly she spiraled down into “You’re just leaving me here like a lump!?” and on it went for a while until I was eventually able to reassure her.

It actually provided a perfect opportunity for me to see how well I’ve set my mom up for success by using gentle transitioning … and also to enlighten my husband on its value and the power of every word and action, especially with someone who has dementia! lol

So, please be mindful of your energy as you transition into and out of your visits with your loved one.  It can make all the difference in the world for everyone!

by Kathie Nitz,  KathieNitz.com

“NORMAL” – A CAREGIVER’S OBSTACLE? by Holly Whiteside, Mindfulcaregiving Guide

She and her mother had always (or never) been friends. Her family mostly (or rarely) got along with each other. Her love life wasn’t what she had hoped it would be (or was really quite all right.) Her marriage (or singledom) suited her (or didn’t.)

Then her mother became older. She slowed down and everyone said “That’s normal.” But then the daughter noticed that her mother seemed emotionally down and everyone said, “That’s not normal! Better give her meds. Give her time. She will be back to normal in no time.”

She worked hard to keep her mother smiling and to keep the rest of life running as normally as possible—going to work, doing the laundry, to bed by 11:00—but then she would lie in bed and  (wisely) wonder, “What’s really happening?” She had been working so hard to nail life down to some state of normalcy that she had lost her connection to life and her mother as they really were.

The problem is that aging is natural change, and though it  can be useful to identify changes, measuring success using the benchmark of normal, (as though it’s a static state of being), adds a damaging undercurrent of stress. Trying to hold aging still at some predetermined state of normal means resisting life’s natural progression. We are who we are—some blend of our genes, our upbringing, our spark of unique individuality, the choices we have made. Our families are most likely dysfunctional in some way, since the state of functionality in families is, at best, supremely rare. Throughout our lives we change, we grow, we learn, hopefully incrementally becoming more complete, and at any point in that continuum we are who we are. We can only do what we can do. We might as well enjoy the life we have as much as possible. Acceptance of change makes enjoyment more accessible, especially for the caregiver. Acceptance is healing.

When her mother died, the daughter was stricken (or elated.) She couldn’t quite function as normal. People said, “You’re grieving. That’s normal.” But when a month had passed, two months, people began to say, “It’s time to bounce back. Maybe she needs meds. She needs to get back to her normal life.”

Luckily she asked herself the real question, “What IS normalcy anyway? What’s lost by spending so much energy trying to pretend that life is normal? What if I met it on its own terms, asking instead, “How could I move with life?” She let go of the idea of normal as a benchmark and began telling the truth.  She looked forward, not back. She listened to her heart more than to the opinions of others. Caregiving had taught her how to be her own best self, right now. The next thing she knew, she was inventing a very different life and way of living that suited her better than anything she had previously known.

by Holly Whiteside, MindfulCaregiving.net

THE DEMENTIA CONFESSIONAL, by Lori La Bey of Alzheimer’s Speaks

I have found it interesting to notice how I have dealt with my Mother’s Dementia over the past thirty years, the phases I have gone through.  I thought maybe, just maybe, it might help you on your own Dementia journey.  

The questions I have found myself asking are:

  •  Is this situation normal?
  •  Are my thoughts and feelings normal?
  •  Heck, let’s cut to the chase, am I normal?

And here are a few of my reactions to life with memory loss.

  • Out and out denial.  Not happening in my family!
  • Need for control

– Recognizing there is a problem and thinking I can fix it.

– Knowing there is a problem and I can make it better.

– Realizing I can’t fix Mom but I sure as heck can fix everyone else.

– Control… not working… time to readjust my game plan once AGAIN!

  • Coming to Acceptance

– Trying hard to let go of control, but slipping up routinely and feeling horrible that I’m not a better person.

– Working harder, feeling more comfortable with being spontaneous and looking for joy filled moments.

– Finding some peace in letting go of blaming myself, others and God.

  • Peacefulness is around the corner

– Learning to adjust to “just being.”  Going with the flow of Dementia.

– Applying this new perspective and skill set into all areas of my life. This was HUGE and life changing on many levels.

  • Appreciation

– Finding out how amazing, loving, peaceful and calm my life has become.

– Being filled with gratitude, thankful for what I still have with my mother on this path of dementia.

  • Confessional

– Finding refuge in the silence with mom now in her end stages.

– Vulnerability appears to take over as I let go even more; feeling comfortable enough to expose my true inner thoughts and feelings to my mother who cannot respond as I so deeply want her to.

– Grief and guilt for the person I so longed to be to my mother.

– Unworthiness and strong feelings that I have failed Mom in many ways.

– Submitting fully to my higher powers and my mother, asking forgiveness.

– Releasing of my sins, appreciating I have done the best I could do during this long journey.

– Achieving once again another new level of unconditional love that I did not know existed prior to Dementia.

 by Lori La Bey, Alzheimer’s Expert  Alzheimer’s Speaks

FREEZE FRAMING – What Is It And How Does It Affect Us?, By Lori La Bey of Alzheimer’s Speaks

From the doorway I wasn’t even sure I had the right room.  This small, frail, pale man was not the man I remembered. I had “freeze framed” Alan. Freeze Framing is a term I use when I speak to Care Partners. It occurs when we take a snapshot of someone’s life and choose to remember them in a certain way, usually how they “used to be.” Typically, it is a picture in our mind when we feel the person was active and vital. Often, it is in great contrast to what is actually before us.

In my mind, I had “freeze framed” Alan as an active man, quiet in nature, and short in stature, yet an icon in his community. Everyone knew him. I remembered this farmer and resort owner with a deep golden tan, piercing blue eyes, and a gentle smile that melted my heart every time I saw him. I remembered this man and his wife Marv sharing stories of their travels. I remembered all of the pictures and mementos they shared with me. I remembered both Al and Marv in their peak — retired, full of zest, yet loving and compassionate.

As I walked closer, I saw a fragile man hooked up to oxygen, lying in bed curled up like a baby. He was pale in color with eyes closed, and he seemed to be peaceful. What had happened to my strong resourceful friend? It was at that point I realized Alan had been like a grandfather to me. A grandpa I never had. Forty years of stories and hugs, love and laughter.

I pulled a chair next to his bed and told him who I was.  Then I leaned in for a hug and kiss. Alan’s eyes slowly opened and I saw those gorgeous baby blues as he looked into my eyes. He puckered up for our kiss just like old times. I sat down and held his hand and we talked for over an hour.

I was amazed and humbled by how this fragile man came to life in my presence. What a gift it was for me to spend time with him. I told Alan all the things I remembered.  As I talked, he lay in bed beaming with pride. He told me, “I always thought you were pretty special too.” My heart melted once again with the love I hold for this man.

Please know that caring for someone is not so much about your comfort but theirs. Try to live in the moment, recognizing and appreciating the past for what it was.  Try hard to recognize when you are trying to make someone be that which they no longer can be.  When we do this, we are making things about us and our comfort level, not theirs. Try it for yourself and then write me back and tell me what your experience was like.

WHY THEY WON’T LISTEN, by Kathie Nitz, Relationship Coach

Many caregivers have a similar complaint … “I don’t know why my (parents, mom, dad, wife, husband, etc.) won’t listen to me!”  The answer is very simple.  Convincing doesn’t work!

How many of you have had this happen?  You put a lot of energy into telling someone what they should do.  You leave the discussion feeling satisfied and confident that things will shift.  The next time the topic comes up you discover they’re still wrestling with the same issue.

It’s because it was your idea not theirs so it only provided temporary relief instead of a long term solution.  They most likely never truly bought into your solution in the first place.

This is especially true in the caregiver/care recipient relationship.  Because the care recipient may feel pushed, judged or not heard, they’ll often agree with you just to be able to move beyond the topic.  When the issue resurfaces the caregiver often feels frustrated and not respected.

This cycle can keep playing out no matter what the topic.  There’s a simple solution that can break the pattern.  Ask more questions and find a place of agreement where you can deepen the conversation instead of just talking at each other.

I’ll share a personal example to help illustrate.  Whenever I visited my mom at her assisted living community, I’d check her pill holder and consistently found a problem.  It was impossible for me to know if/when she was taking her meds!  Monday and Tuesday were full, Weds. was empty, Thursday was full, Friday and Saturday were empty and Sunday was full.

When I suggested to my mom that we have the staff start dispensing her meds, my mom resisted.  Each time I would express my concern, she would insist she had taken them and we’d reach a stalemate.

Everything changed when I learned about alignment coaching during my coaches training.  This tool finally shifted the conversation by putting the issue out in front of both of us and allowing us to work as a team to come up with a solution.

This is how it went:  “Mom, I understand you believe you’re taking your medications.  You always do such a great job and you’re doing your best.  May I show you something?  Do you see how there is a randomness to which days have pills in them and which don’t? [Yes.]  Can you understand how that would be confusing to me? [Yes.]  Then let’s work together to figure out a solution.”  At this point, I sat next to her and put the pill holder in front of us.

Sitting side by side, together we looked toward the problem (represented by the pill holder) and had a conversation about solutions.  Being able to see it through neutral eyes allowed us to stay in the discussion and find a solution together.  My mom agreed to try out having someone come in and dispense her meds and we never looked back.

The next time you’re butting heads with someone (especially a loved one you’re caring for) try putting the issue out in front of you and looking at it with fresh eyes.  You may be surprised how quickly you’ll find a solution … together!