Today you get to see one of my mistakes……..I made a video for the National Caregiving Conference, but as I’ve done since first grade in St. Aloysious Catholic School, I did not follow directions. So, I’m making another one………..but for a screw-up, it’s not bad. And the #NCC17 #NationalCaregivingConference said, “Hey, ……share it, anyway!” So, I am…because if there’s anything I do too much, it’s share!
P.S. I also think they said under their breath, “next time, read the directions.” But Sister Marie Genevieve said that a billion times and it never worked.
My mom has become obsessed with creating photo albums for her six children from the hundreds of photos in her treasure chest. She must make 6 copies of almost every photo, or at least as the photos progress and a child is added to the history books. I have no idea why this project might be frustrating for her 88-year-old self, do you? Duh, comes to mind.
Every once in awhile, when I’m in the mood for a little frustration myself, I stop over to my mom’s house to call the VA, or fix her iPad, or fight with Verizon. Invariably, we start to look at the pictures together.
Yesterday, she showed me this photo.
My Nana is the one circled in yellow. She is about 35 years old in this picture. Her name wasn’t even Nana yet, as my mom is the cutest little 8-year-old circled in pink. I made my mom go find a photo of herself at around the age of 35.
Then I came home and looked for one of me around the same age.
I would like to posit the following: Rather than continuing to punish women for adopting a youth culture look, perhaps we are actually just trying to enjoy life, look like we are having fun, and present a ‘picture’ to the world of what we actually look like, at the age we are at. Perhaps over the last 50 years, we started rebelling against being portrayed as “Nana” before we were even done having children. Perhaps, just because we have children doesn’t mean we have to wear orthopedic shoes, bras with no support, dresses made from tablecloths, or a hairstyle that would confuse us with Grandma Moses.
Perhaps my mother’s generation actually clandestinely started a revolution where women got to enjoy their youth, even if they had 6 youths of their own running around. Maybe that’s what began way back in the ’50’s and ‘ 60’s when no one was paying attention to the everyday housewife. And maybe that’s what’s still happening today to women in their ’50’s and ’60’s when no one is still paying attention.
My Nana apparently didn’t change her look for 60 years. My mom, on the other hand, created generations of hot tomatoes! Yay, Mary Ann!
Yesterday, I had the privilege of consulting with an attorney and his clients, who are dealing with the death of their elderly father and the need to place their mother in a dementia facility.
I just want to reiterate here how precious each and every true caregiver is. If you are caring for a parent, a spouse, a child, a relative or a friend, you are an unsung hero. You are likely losing time from work, money from Social Security, work, or retirement benefits. You are probably tired, angry, frustrated, exhausted, confused, and sad at least some bit of every day. I saw this in these clients. And I recognized it in myself from days gone by.
You are also filled with joy, comfort, love, and solace that you have the opportunity to provide so deeply for someone you love. Those emotions aren’t always on the surface. But you know they are there. Because these clients were now former caregivers for their Dad and current caregivers for their Mom they were experiencing all of this simultaneously.
All the hard work they were doing was right in front of us. Our conversation was complex and detailed. The wife had a file 5 inches thick with paperwork.
And yet… at some point….we were discussing very difficult decisions and how their Mom was ready to die as well. So I told them my constant conversation with my mother-in-law:
“Marie would say to me often, ‘Just bring the box, I’m ready,’ I related.
“And I would say to her, ‘Marie, I would, but the problem is, you can’t climb in the box, someone has to put you in, and with my bad back, I just can’t do that.’
Marie and I would chuckle and the conversation would change.
Which is just what happened here. One chuckle was enough for all of us to keep moving forward in our quest to help them and their elder with difficult decisions.
To all you caregivers, may today bring you a bit of laughter, a smile from someone or just a full heart, for you are certainly doing that for someone else. And for that, I thank you.
Okay kids….it’s time to laugh, even just a little bit…
How do you know if you are a caregiver?
If you are buying wipes and you don’t have a baby…..
If you have dozens of medications in your house and none of them are yours…..
If you wish some of them were yours…………..
If, when someone says ‘whine’, you break out a long-stemmed glass……..
If you get into your car and your car takes you to a nursing home but that’s not where you were going……….
If you’re so tired that you used Preparation H to brush your teeth before bed….
If you have dishes in the sink, laundry in the hamper, unpaid bills, and you drop everything to take your Mom to the doctor and the hairdresser and lunch and the bank and the pharmacy and the grocery store and the dry cleaners…….
If you have on two different shoes…..
If you just recently started using swear words that never came out of your mouth before….
If you are so well-versed in medical-speak that they ask you to check on a patient in Room 612 ……..
If when you say you’re going to the Vet, you don’t mean a place where animals get medical care….
If you use so many acronyms like HIPPA, AARP, HMO, DME, SNF, OT, PT, ER, that you start spelling your kids’ names instead of saying them….
If date night is now every Friday night in the Emergency Room….
Check with your spouse, your significant other, your friends, your therapist….you just might be one of us!
I know you’re not going to believe this….but the world is full of nice people. People who don’t even look nice.
This was my week:
Monday…attend a Town Hall meeting with our Republican Congressman. Now, he’s been kind of avoiding these meetings since the %$&* hit the fan. And he’s had quite a few run-ins with unhappy people since the last presidential election. Also, I had some trepidation about going to this town hall. First, my husband was going too. I didn’t know if they would make us sit on opposite sides of the aisle, because we are often that way, even in our living room. Second, I have to be honest, there’s so much anger out there, I was a little scared. But let me tell you, this audience and this Congressman were respectful, intelligent and willing to listen to everything. Well, almost everything, the audience did ‘boo’ one time quite loudly when the Congressman said he had to look at a case-by-case basis for drilling in National Parks. But everyone booed….so I found that nice.
Tuesday–My mom and I were to meet with a representative from the American Legion who was going to help get my Dad’s name memorialized in his home town of Beacon, New York. At the last minute, my mom found the documents we were missing and the American Legion guy no longer needed to help. But this guy was going to come from the next town over just to make sure a Veteran, killed in service to his country over 55 years ago, would be solemnly recognized for his service and sacrifice. Nice, right?
Wednesday–I met with my sister and brother-in-law to help them with some legal matters. Of course they were nice, too. They better be! But the notary we went to at AAA was extraordinarily kind. But here’s the thing, at first glance, she seemed kind of cranky. You took one look at her and thought “uh-oh.” She was extremely thorough, made sure everything was correct, and was not rushing us at all. And she was super nice. As we chatted for a bit between documents, and later, she revealed that she has been a long time caregiver for her parents. When they passed away, she continued, as she does today to go to the nursing home to visit her dad’s roommates. They have no other real visitors. She said it helps her have a purpose and in some ways keep close to her dad. I don’t care what you say…that’s just nice. Really nice.
Thursday–I received an email from a total stranger who heard of me through a class I had taken. I don’t know what pleased me more…that she thought I was funny in that class or that she googled me and I seem to have taken the lessons we learned to heart and put them into action. I think I was just happy to hear from a nice person.
Friday–I received my weekly free email newsletter from Dan Blank at WeGrowMedia, Dan is kind and generous with advice and support to artists of all kinds. The best part of Dan’s newsletter today was at the end. He said this:
What can you do this week to support someone else’s dream? and this:
What small action can you take this week to support the work of someone around you? Something that, if the dominoes fall correctly, will have them thanking you more than a decade later for the profound effect you have had on their life?
How’s that for nice? Do it. You can, you really can. There are nice people all around you, and you are one of them, too. I just know it.
So from now on…laugh and assume everyone you meet is nice…they just may prove you right!
I attended an Elder Law Conference recently and as usual, my head is spinning. Lots to tell you, because not one of you is getting younger.
But the big takeaway was a talk by a dementia expert, Teepa Snow, on how we are truly failing those with this disease. It’s not them who’s the problem…it’s us. We are so hellbent on proving we know what’s best for our loved ones, that we have done nothing to understand what it feels like to be them.
I was invited to do a Virtual Reality tour of what it’s like to have dementia. Unfortunately, I couldn’t go that day. But those who did said it was unbelievable. And enlightening. They quickly learned what it’s like to have someone in your face, someone yelling at you for no apparent reason, someone repeating to you when you believe you answered their question. I cannot stress enough how we need to take a good, hard look at what we, the caregivers, the health care workers, the families are doing. Ms. Snow told us there are 110 different kinds of dementia. 110. There can’t be a common answer to treatment for every single form. And locking every body up is not the answer. It is certainly not the quality of life answer for everyone.
I’m not naive. I realize that dementia has a big component of safety issues. Just spending 90 minutes with Ms. Snow, who has hours and hours of material, convinced me that as a public policy we need to re-think the concept of dementia care.
Her website is at teepsnow.com, and it’s called Positive Approach to Brain Change. If you have any family members at all who are suffering from any effects of dementia, please check out her website and her videos. They are remarkable and could be game-changing for your life right now.
And if any of you wonderful readers did not hear by now….I WON the contest to be the Keynote Speaker at the National Caregiver’s Conference. AND GUESS WHO THE SPEAKER IS RIGHT AFTER ME???? TEEPA SNOW! How great is that? I’m so excited to be meeting her once again after my Elder Law conference. Life is full of wonderful treats sometimes, isn’t it?
Since you read this far with no chuckles, I’m going to give you 3 Elder Law Knock Knock Jokes I found on the internet:
Knock Knock……….Who’s There? Little Old Lady………Little Old Lady Who?
I didn’t know you could yodel!
Knock Knock…..Who’s there? To………….To Who?
Knock Knock….Who’s there? Nana………….Nana Who?
Nanna You’re Business
I’m pretty sure you could use those jokes somewhere today!
I know we are all trying to get a bit of Zen in our lives, and I’m all for it. I just recently returned to the practice of yoga. About four years ago my neck decided it didn’t want to turn left or right. I don’t know why but I had to stop yoga. My therapist thinks I’ve been holding onto a lot of bad karma, and she’s my physical therapist. I’m not saying another therapist couldn’t help, but the return to yoga certainly has. Perhaps because I take classes where all the teachers are over 80 years old.
Yesterday, I went to class, really yearning for some ‘centering.’ I had a conference call in the afternoon and some intense conversations ahead of me, so I thought a nice gentle yoga class would put my mind and body in the right place.
When I entered the soft-lit, quiet studio, the teacher was talking to another student about her upcoming family vacation at a sizable house she rented in the Poconos.
“I just don’t know how I’m going to handle it,” whined the yoga teacher, “I mean they are coming from Oregon and from Sweden and I have to do everything.”
“Well,” her friend replied, trying to console her, “you could just ask them to help.”
“I can’t do that. They’re coming from so far. So I’ve bought all the groceries and our car is full to the brim. My husband is asking how two 80-year-olds are going to get all this stuff into the house! And I’m telling him we can’t say, “Hi, Welcome to Pennsylvania and go get your own food out of the car!”
I’m thinking during this interchange, well this isn’t very namaste, now is it? This yoga teacher needs some yoga.
So she gathers her wits about her and we begin class, about 15 minutes in she instructs us to do the butterfly pose. She then relates this comforting tale. “You know there’s a beautiful abundance of butterflies this year!” she exclaims. “My cat just loves them! But then she eats them, so I tell her no, no, that’s not good.”
Now, I’m wishing I went to kickboxing.
She decides to water a plant half-way through the class. “All the rest of these plants are plastic, but this one is real and no one waters it!” I think I heard the plant crying, “Just let me die already.”
We ultimately get to ‘final relaxation.’ This is a critical part of every yoga class. Truthfully, every person who takes yoga, only comes for final relaxation. It’s like your glass of wine after going to the dentist. What? That’s not a thing? I’m pretty sure it is a thing.
We are authentically relaxing for three or four minutes. I’m feeling very serene, centered, able to take on my day when HER PHONE RINGS. Yep. The yoga teacher didn’t turn her phone off.
Okay, I thought, as I squeezed my eyelids trying to maintain tanquility, she’ll just turn it right off.
Nope. She picks up the phone and says, “Hello? Hello? Can you hear me? Can you hear me now? You have to call this number.” And she proceeds to give the person a phone number.
WELL, NOW I’M NOT RELAXED.
She returns to the class with, “I’m soooooo sorry but my husband’s car broke down.”
And then she says, and I’m not kidding, “Some days, you just have to laugh……”
So many of you have already voted for me to be the guest Keynote Speaker at the National Caregivers’ Conference in Chicago in November. But in case you are not a Facebook Friend or I don’t have your email. I’m posting the link here in hopes that you will mosey over to this website, scroll to the bottom on the left where the names of all the finalists are and click on my name and then click the vote button! You can certainly look at my video, but it’s not necessary. Just need your vote. Thanks for your support, I will do my best to make you proud of me, my blessed readers! Tomorrow, I promise you another hilarious story!
I was having dinner with a friend last night who lives far away from me. She was telling me about her parents and caregiving. I was flattered that this very busy, corporate woman had obviously taken the time to read several of my blog posts because she was very familiar with my ups and downs as a caregiver, attorney, and speaker.
The joy of this is that she was willing to share with me her hilarious story of taking her parents to a seminar on joint replacement since her mom was about to have knee replacement surgery.
As the nurse practitioner was speeding through extensive PowerPoint slides, my friend was furiously writing down notes to be able to deal with possible side effects, rehabilitation, medication and the personality changes that we all deal with when our elders have surgery…like, “I hate you because I don’t want to go to therapy and this hurts, and I haven’t gone to the bathroom for days on this pain medication.”
Meanwhile, her parents are chit-chatting with other future replacement recipients and asking their daughter to grab a brownie or two from the nice snack table that the hospital has put out to lure people to this presentation.
My take-away from this:
Just because you’re caregiving at home, don’t think lots of other people aren’t doing it from work, from afar, or from their mobile phones.
Caregivers love laughing at each other’s stories. We even know it’s funny while it’s happening, even though we may not be laughing until days, months or weeks later.
You never know who might benefit from your caregiving plight. My Nana was right: Misery loves Company. I feel certain Nana didn’t make that up. It sounds like something Shakespeare probably said. My five siblings and I must’ve made Nana pretty miserable ’cause we sure heard that a lot.
As I suspected, Brownies solve everything.
Thanks to my friend for sharing. I love hearing all your hilarious tales. Never be afraid to be It helps. I promise.