The Road to Resilience

The Road to Resilience

The American Psychological Association describes resilience as an adaptation in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or stress: family/relationship problems, health problems or workplace/money issues.  The Merriam-Webster definition would have us believe that resilience is an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.  Dictionary.com points to an ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy. 

Interestingly, I find my closest resonance with my ongoing health crisis not in the dictionary, or in spiritual writings, but in words from the Harvard Business Review.  Resilience was defined there as the ability to recover from setbacks, adapt well to change and keep going in the face of adversity.  Diane Coutu eloquently explains in her writing “How Resilience Works,” “Resilient people possess three characteristics — a staunch acceptance of reality; a deep belief, often buttressed by strongly held values, that life is meaningful; and an uncanny ability to improvise. You can bounce back from hardship with just one or two of these qualities, but you will only be truly resilient with all three.  Resilient people and companies face reality with staunchness, make meaning of hardship instead of crying out in despair, and improvise solutions from thin air. Others do not.”

Though the study of resilience is fascinating, I’m not sure we will ever truly understand all that true resilience means.  This could be in part because based on the course of our individual journeys, resilience can mean different things to different people.  Many people believe that optimism is the foundational block of resilience, but only to the extent that it shapes your ability to go on….not when your optimism blocks the facts and reality about your current situation. 

I can assure you that there has been nothing buoyant or elastic about my expedition from illness to recovery from Lyme Disease, Babesia, and now Bell’s Palsy.  I looked to see if perhaps pissed off could be a synonym of buoyancy…… but alas…no.  Horror, frightened, exhausted, pain-ridden, memory impairment, air hunger?  No….none of these things are synonymous with “readily adaptable” or “buoyant” or “easy to adjust.” 

However, at no point during this time have I come even close to throwing up my hands and giving up.  If you feel despondent at yet another health setback, does that mean you are not a resilient person?  I think not.  I believe feeling the depth of despondency and hanging on to understand there is a deeper meaning to all of our experiences even when we do not understand every nuance is a definite quality of resilience. 

As someone who was raised in the Christian faith, I’ve had some interesting comments from some well-meaning (?) Christians and also from some from the belief system that we bring on our own illnesses.  Those comments alone could cause a downward spiral of self-doubt and self-punishment.  It is discouraging to do everything right in terms of recovery and still suffer a major setback.  It’s sad to look into the mirror and over the course of less than 24 hours experience a quantum leap from a normal face to one that is completely paralyzed on one side.   But the thought that I brought this on “myself” is ludicrous. I’ve never believed in the theory that we are “blessed” when we do good and “punished” when we are lacking.  I feel there are many people of faith that wield their faith like a light saber or magic wand.  Faith is not being “saved” from adversity.  Faith is how we respond when we are in adversity.

I do believe there is meaning in all of these experiences.  I believe there are lessons to be learned and many lessons that I have already learned from this journey.  I believe that I better understand the depth of my “fierceness” and the breadth of my faith.  I know that there is a grace in relaxing into the flow of the unknown and strength in learning when to say no.  I face clear choices each step of the way.  Here’s just one tiny example.  In November I had the pleasure of hosting a five-day virtual summit for caregivers.  I videotaped interviews with 14 caregiving coaches before the summit.  During that experience, I realized I had fallen head over heals with the interview process.  My intention was so start highlighting video interviews on my website right after the first of the year and began lining up coaches and consultants to interview.  My health put a temporary hold on that idea, and then Bell’s Palsy brought it to a screeching halt.  Now, I could have ranted and lamented the “why me Lord, why me?”  Or, find other things to accomplish in the meantime. 

My Spiritual journey has certainly changed throughout my adult life.  There has been a shedding of some things that no longer serve me and an embracing of new truths.  These truths are literally all around us all the time, but we need to test them to find out if they are absolute truths or only truths for certain situations. I’ve gained in strength and inner clarity throughout this process.  Teachers come to us as they are needed AND as they are desired.  Our interactions with each other can teach us about ourselves and who we truly are, and if we allow it can ultimately guide us to our truth.  I become ever more comfortable with my intuitive process as I navigate this journey.  I’ve learned to slow down, be more intentional and less the perpetual multi-tasker.  Whether these will be permanent lessons for me or not will be shown with time.  What I do know is that it will all unfold, just as it should.

 

{I have been asked by several people to please speak to the specifics of how I am approaching my healing journey.  As intentional as I am becoming generally in my life, I am intentional in my healing process.  I’ll be posting later this week to start to address some of the steps I am taking to repair the damage of the Lyme, Babesia and of the Bell’s Palsy.}

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please follow and like us:
What Will You Tell Your Children?

What Will You Tell Your Children?

memorialday2

Memorial Day has become homogenized like most holidays in the US.  We love our three-day weekends, we love a chance to get together with friends and family, and we love to decorate.  Somewhere in the mix of it all, we lose sight of what the significance of the holiday was meant to be.

Living in more of a neighborhood setting than I ever have, I’m much more aware of what is going on in the surrounding houses.  Driving up our street, I see groups of cars around driveways, we watch pools being opened and hear the parties going on in backyards up and down the street.  It’s great.  I love the celebration of people coming together. 

I do hold a very dear hope that at some point in these backyard parties, people are taking a few moments to honor those that have served our country.  You don’t need to be of any particular political party or even agree with the policies that have sent our troops into battle.  Where ever our personal politics fall, we can’t deny the sacrifice and the service of our armed forces.  Many have given their health, their future and their lives in support of policies they may not even have agreed with. But, they loved their country and the ideals that our country was founded on enough to pay the ultimate sacrifice.

How many of us know the story of our parents and our parents’ parents?  How many of us understand what they may have witnessed and experienced while serving their country?  We lose our foundation when we lose sight of our personal heritage and history.  Military service can frequently be swept under the rug because of differences in political beliefs.  The mood of a country can vastly impact how troops are treated when they return home.  Baby boomers think immediately of the Vietnam war and how terribly and disrespectfully troops were treated upon their return home.  It’s shameful.  No matter what we think of our government, our parents tenure in the military is a huge part of a family’s history.  If we feel shame about our government, we are less likely to engage and ask questions about what service men and women have experienced.  It greatly minimizes their incredible sacrifice.  Tell a family member that you appreciate their service and their sacrifice.

That concept can be applied at large to family history.  How many of us are capturing our parents’ stories now, while we still can?  How many rich experiences are being lost because no one is taking the time to record them?  This is one of those projects that can seem so vast that we get overwhelmed and just never start.  This Memorial Day weekend provides the perfect setting to sit down with the older generation and capture a story or two.  Do you know how your grandparents met, or how many brothers or sisters they have/had, or where they were born? Take a little while this weekend to sit down with someone from the older generation and write or record a story or two.  Just ask a simple question.  Chances are you will come away with a great bunch of stories.  Your children will be glad you did.

Please follow and like us:
When Caregiving Becomes a Death Vigil

When Caregiving Becomes a Death Vigil

When Caregiving-1You’ve journeyed through caring for a loved one for years, months or weeks but the time creeps ever closer and you no longer can ignore the one fact that you have been fighting, the one fact you’ve been denying….the person you are caring for is going to die.

You’ve just turned a page that you never wanted to turn.  What now?

Tuesday, May 10 at 3 PM EST, I am offering a free webinar that introduces us to what to expect as you prepare to hold a death vigil.

Some of the answers to your questions may just surprise you!

Follow the link below to register for this live event.  If you can’t make the call in person, a replay will be available to listen to at a later time.  Stay with us to the end as there will be a special offer for you.  See you then!

Webinar: An Introduction to Death Vigils

Please follow and like us:
10 Signs that you may soon become a caregiver

10 Signs that you may soon become a caregiver

emergency

 

 

Are you an expectant caregiver?

Are you wondering what that term even means?

An Expectant Caregiver* most often is the child or grandchild of someone who is undergoing progressive need of guidance, physical care or is suffering increased medical emergencies.

* The term “Expectant Caregiver,” comes from Denise Brown, The Caregiving Years, Six Stages to a Meaningful Journey.

Let’s start with a few definitions:
A caregiver  is someone who delivers ongoing support to someone else with a significant injury or illness. We are primarily addressing the challenges of the caregiver who is not compensated for their caregiving efforts.  Many times caregivers continue to hold down a job, raise their family, and continue with the responsibilities of a full life outside of their caregiving responsibilities.  It can be the care of a parent, spouse, partner, child, close friend or sibling.
A caree* is the person that you are caring for, or potentially caring for.

*the term caree courtesy of Denise Brown of caregiving.com

 

Sometimes circumstances cause us to leap into the role of caregiver due to an unexpected injury or emergency medical situation. But, other times we may ease into this role….it sort of sneaks up on you, and  suddenly you realize that you have crossed over an invisible line that officially put you into the position of becoming a caregiver.

 


 

Knowledge is power and the time to plan is before there is a crisis.


 

Ten ways to know if you are an expectant caregiver:

 

 1)    The person in question is making increased trips to the doctor, hospital, or emergency room for the same condition or complaint.  This can indicate a significant shift in the overall health of an aging parent or grandparent.  A diagnosis may be in their near future that alters their ability to care for themselves.

 

2)    You are seeing in increasing number of forgetful spells or an intensity of loss of memory. We all forget where our keys are, we all forget to pay a bill now and then. Stress increases memory loss for everyone, no matter age, physical or mental condition. However, when you can see an increase in their forgetfulness, or you come into their house to find the kitchen stove on with no one cooking or paying attention, or you find evidence that everyday tasks are not being completed, it is time to pay closer attention. Keep in mind that partners will almost always cover for one another. Direct questions will probably not yield any direct results. You may have to become a super sleuth.

 

3)   The condition of the potential caree’s personal space. If this person has always been neat and clean and suddenly their home or room is unkempt and disorganized, it is probably because of an underlying cause. Lawns may start to get longer, gardens not weeded, pruning not done.  These tasks can simply become too difficult to manage.

 

4)   Look in the refrigerator. If you open up the fridge and find a living organism of green fuzzies and outdated food stuff, the time is overdue for at the very least, mild intervention.

 

5)   A marked change in their interests. Someone who has played bridge twice a week for 15 years, or never misses Sunday morning church service but suddenly seems uninterested, has something deeper going on. It may be depression or it may be a medical condition or lack of energy. Whatever the cause, a sudden change of pattern or interest is a critical indicator to look for.

 

6)   A noticeable change in weight, either up or down. We all know that a sudden loss of weight can indicate any number of medical problems, but weight gain can be something to watch out for as well. Someone may be depressed and eating “comfort” or junk food to excess. Or, they may not have the energy to cook properly so they begin to rely on overly processed foods because they require little effort.

 

7)   Expression of concern by neighbor(s). Sometimes when there is a change in behavior, the neighbors may be the first ones to notice. They may see that the person in question can no longer do what they’ve done in the past, or have taken to wandering the neighborhood, or are having increased difficulty navigating vehicles in and out of the garage.  If a neighbor makes the effort to communicate concern, it is definitely time to listen.

 

8)    An increase to the number of calls to you at work without specific cause. Early onset Alzheimer’s can be very frustrating to the person experiencing the symptoms. The symptoms  can also be confusing. Are you getting calls from your Dad every day at work, or multiple calls a day for no reason? Is a parent or spouse repeatedly calling because they are bored and don’t know what to do with themselves? Are they exaggerating medical issues to get your attention?

 

 9)    Does one or both of your parents need increasing intervention with their medications? It can begin with organizing their meds for the week.  Some Saturday when you arrive to organize their medication you realize they haven’t taken any, or perhaps they took them more than necessary because they aren’t paying attention to the days on the med box. Moving on to an alarmed pill disbursement box may help, but these are clear indicators the there is a decline in mental function.

 

10)    This may be the most important of all. Your intuition. If your inner voice is telling you that a health situation is on the decline, listen to that voice. We may begin to get intuitive messages long before you definitively see any of the other indicators.

 

Use this time to begin to prepare. Begin now and develop the foundation of your caregiving plan. Arrange a conversation with other family members to understand who will help and how.  Don’t leave these major decisions until there is a crisis.

 

 

Consider a complementary 30  minute session to determine your needs.  We offer a number of support programs for all stages of the caregiving journey.

 

Please follow and like us:
Serving the needs of Caregivers

Serving the needs of Caregivers

caregiver image

As a busy professional, I approached the changes in my parents’ health and natural aging process with a cautious eye and perhaps overly positive mindset. When it became obvious that my Father’s mental decline was accelerating (he had not yet received any formal neurological diagnosis), I ramped up my approach and became more assertive, engaging the assistance of my brother who lives far enough away that he visits infrequently.  Together we visited some Senior Living Facilities and approached my parents with our concerns and what we viewed as appropriate options.  We were fortunate to have our parents settled into an independent cottage on a campus that offered a complete continuum of care before my Father’s medical needs became more than my Mother could manage in addition to his then diagnosed Vascular Dementia and Alzheimer’s.  

Everything began to change around me except for the demands of career.  Multi-tasking took on a whole new meaning during the next few years.  I made several changes in jobs to be more accessible “just in case”.  I had traveled a great deal initially, and it became increasingly stressful to be out-of-pocket when emergencies happened.  I will say that no matter what I was doing during that time period, it just never felt like enough.  Once Dad’s condition required him to enter a Memory Impaired Unit, my Mother continued to spend the greater part of every day by his side.  I wanted to be there for him, but I also wanted to be there for my Mom.  I watched her begin to fade away as time passed.  There were several medical emergencies for her during this time, and there were moments when I wasn’t sure if she would leave us before Dad.  During the last two weeks of my Father’s time here, Mom experienced a cardiac event and landed in an ICU about 45 minutes away from Dad.  Being the only child in the area, I never knew whose bed I should be beside!  No matter where I was, I felt I may just be in the wrong place.  Even now, almost three years later, my heart rate accelerates just writing about it.  To say this was an overwhelmingly stressful period, is an understatement.  Fortunately, most caregiving is not this dramatic.  However, there are pockets of dramatic events that can knock us off our center and it can take a long time to regain our footing when we are already depleted from the ongoing stresses of caregiving.

In my end of life consulting business, my focus has been on supporting the dying.  One of the components of being of service is to be able to empty yourself out and be a conduit for whatever is needed for the person you are serving.  I’ve found that this exercise goes beyond active engagement with a particular person and in doing so, have come realize that there is another whole segment of society that is in need of support and service.  

The role of caregiver is one that can be the most difficult work you will ever encounter.  For many of us, it is brand new territory not unlike taking on the role of parenting.  We fuddled our way through those early days with our babies and many times felt like we were doing everything wrong.  Most of the time we begin the role of caregiver to a spouse or parent slowly and in stages, but there are times when there is a health or accidental emergency that can turn our world on its ear in an instant.  

Wouldn’t a handbook be grand, or a roadmap to guide us through the forest of adjustment?  With more and more requests coming my way for information about caring for our loved ones, I decided it was time to share some of the knowledge I’ve accumulated along the way.  

As I once again fill the role of caregiver now that we have brought my Mother to live with us, I’m learning and re-learning some valuable lessons that I’d love to share.  And, I’m sure there will be some humbling moments that you may glean some humor or encouragement from as well.  

In upcoming posts, I will begin to share ideas when you are still in the “about to be a caregiver” stage.  You may be seeing significant changes in one or both of your parents that are pointing the way to changes that may need to be enacted soon.  This is the time to begin to prepare.  Actually, the SOONER you begin the better.  In retrospect, we began the process with my parents almost exactly a year too late.  Thank God we started when we did!  

If I had a wish for you, it would be to give yourself the gift of taking the time to gather facts well before you need them.  Go to the office supply store and buy a 2″ notebook and a couple of sets of page dividers and get organized at the start.  Spend some quality time with your parents and take objective stock of what you see.  Begin to ask them questions and get to know some facets of their lives that you probably have been avoiding.  If you do things slowly, just a bit at a time your Mom and Dad won’t feel like you are descending on them and trying to shake their lives up.  Be loving, be gentle, be respectful, but by all means, be present.  Of this I know for sure, getting started early will serve you all well.  

In my next posts we will start to look at ways to prepare as an expectant caregiver.  I’ll give you some guidelines of who you want to speak with and what information you want to start saving.

Please follow and like us: