Forgiving Myself

power of forgivenessI was talking with a friend about a falling-out he had years ago with a family member.  I shared with him my thoughts (and a couple of my blogs) about forgiveness and that forgiveness is about him and not about the other person.  During the interaction he said “It sounds like you have an easy time forgiving others” to which I replied “I do forgive others fairly easy, the only person I have a problem forgiving is myself”.  There is was my Light bulb moment!

I have been a national speaker for years, helping countless caregivers create boundaries and let go of guilt.  I’ve shared tips on self-care, positive self-talk and empowered them to treat themselves better and here I am holding on to un-forgiveness against MYSELF!  I quickly realized that the un-forgiveness I held onto from my past mistakes was getting in the way of being able to live a full and healthy life.

We’ve all made mistakes (see Mistakes will be Made) we wish we could take back, however; the reality is, the mistake has already been made, the deed has been done, there is no magic wand that allows us to go back and re-do it to create a different outcome.  We can play the shoulda-coulda-woulda game but it’s really just an exercise in futility because what’s done is done.  However; by not forgiving ourselves we remain in bondage to guilt and self-doubt. 

Here are some points to ponder to practice self-forgiveness:

  • Was I doing the best I knew how at the time and considering the circumstances?
  • Did I mean to hurt someone else by my actions?
  • Are others still holding my mistakes against me? (99.9% of the time the answer is no)
  • Will holding onto un-forgiveness change the outcome? (again you cannot go back and re-live the situation so the answer is “no”)
  • If someone close to me were holding onto their past mistakes what advice would I give them to help them resolve the un-forgiveness? (Then give yourself the same advice)
  • What can I learn from the mistakes that were made that can help me make different choices in the future?

Really evaluate these questions and then recruit a close friend or family member to help you in not only letting go of the mistakes but releasing yourself from the guilt associated with the situation.  Choosing to forgive yourself allows you to move past obstacles in that you would not have otherwise moved past without doing so.

“Love yourself—accept yourself—forgive yourself—and be good to yourself, because without you the rest of us are without a source of many wonderful things.” -Leo F. Buscaglia

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Living Each Day with Purpose

It has been said that the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

I can relate to this concept.  I have found that much of both my business and personal life is spent in a “programmed” state doing the same things day in and day out and, ironically, being “surprised” when I get the same result as usual.  The same could be said when an aging loved one is in need of care.  I often go into auto-pilot, doing what I have always done instead of evaluating each person and situation as a unique opportunity to learn and grow.  I have also perceived the tasks associated with taking a loved one to doctor and other appointments as an imposition instead of an opportunity to spend time with someone I love.

Then there are those days when I deviate from my daily mindless existence and focus on creating a day full of purpose and opportunity.   A day where I am inspired to utilize my creativity and the associated tasks have a common objective; to create something new and different in my day and life.

If truth be told, living my “mindless life” seems much easier, yet unsatisfying.  Being intentional about creating purpose in my day involves resolve and determination, along with the following actions:

Each day I need to

  • GENUINELY evaluate the way in which I usually go about my day and expose habits I have developed that have brought me to this state of being.
  • Allow myself to think BEYOND what I have come to believe is possible (see Break Out of Your Box) and allow myself to imagine achieving the impossible (no matter how impractical it may seem) in my life and coming up with unique ways to achieve my goals.
  • Craft reminders (that I place around my home and office) that trigger me to be deliberate and present throughout my day and with the people I am with, especially those I am caring for (see Your Presence is Requested).

Changing the way that we approach each day can be challenging.  However, with focus and determination, the potential rewards of intentional living outweigh the uncomfortable steps needed to achieve a daily life of purpose and connectedness with those around us.


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Turkey Talk Wednesday with Sue Salach

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Pro-Active Caregiving during the Holidays

Many elderly are able to mask declining health throughout the year because they are able to keep a fairly steady routine. During the holidays, when schedules are more erratic, family caregivers may be able to detect signs of physical and mental decline in their aging loved ones. Knowing what to look for is crucial.

Physical changes including balance issues, decreased strength as well as lack of attention to personal hygiene and appearance can be a sign that there is a potential problem.

  • When you pick them up or dropping them off take note of their home: is it unusually disorganized or unclean?
  • Are they having trouble getting in and out of the car or chairs at a relative’s home?
  • Are they unsteady when having to go up or down stairs?
  • Are they dressing in more casual clothes than they would have in past years, wearing items that are easier to put on such as sweat-clothes or seasonally inappropriate clothing?
  • Do their clothes have stains on them or an odor as if worn numerous times and not washed?
  • Is their hair unkempt, especially women who would usually have their hair done for special occasions?
  • Is there a change in their physical odor due to lack of attention to their personal hygiene?

Mental changes including lack of usual interpersonal skills or inappropriate responses to questions, as well as uncharacteristic silence can be a sign that something has changed.

  • When driving them to or from a holiday gathering were they ready when you arrived?
  • Did they seem agitated or distracted?
  • Are they struggling to keep up with conversation or staying quiet when they would normally share their opinion or insight?
  • Are they able to appropriately answer direct questions?
  • Are they unable to make simple decisions or asking others to make decisions for them?
  • Do they become easily agitated over seemingly small issues or challenges?
  • Are they able to appropriately name or identify family and friends?

Other pro-active observations:

  • Look in the refrigerator to make sure they have a sufficient amount of groceries as well as look for potentially expired items.
  • Check prescription bottles to see if they have been refilled, note if they were all filled at the same or multiple pharmacies.

You’ve identified some areas of change – now what?

Take action!

  • Talk to your family member about scheduling an appointment with their physician and tell them you want to go along. If you are met with resistance be firm but loving in your desire to accompany them.
  • In preparation for the appointment, make a list of all medications taken by your loved one and research the potential side effects, as well as consult with a pharmacist about possible interactions.
  • Sit down ahead of time with your loved one and create a written list of questions for the doctor and bring the list with to the appointment.
  • Make sure all of your questions are answered during the appointment.

Be an advocate for your aging loved ones by being pro-actively aware of changes and assisting them in finding resources that can assist them in maintaining an optimal level of independence.

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This Job Sucks (and other Important Caregiving Information)

Help sign - this job sucksWhile making visiting with a friend who just lost his sister, he shared how difficult it was for him especially as she had chosen him (above her parents, children and other siblings) to be her Power of Attorney (POA). His sister had been in end stage cancer and he had to make some very difficult decisions about her care at the end. Having spoken with her at length about what she did and did not want done to prolong her life he followed her wishes and made decisions accordingly, which meant not approving a procedure that would have been very painful and would have done little to change the outcome.

Those who have never had to make potentially life/death decisions cannot imagine the strength it takes to make these types of choices, even if it is following the directions of your loved one to the letter.

As I have shared in my speaking and blogging, choosing a POA (and making sure it is the right person for the job) is imperative. (See FYI about POA). However, being named as the “chosen one” has its burdens as well.

Here are just a few:

  • You may question why you were picked
  • Others may question why you were picked, thinking they would have been a better choice.
  • Knowing the right time/situation to step in to help someone in making difficult health-care decisions.
  • Having the strength to make difficult decisions IN SPITE OF your emotions and/or the emotions of other family members.
  • Having the courage to make difficult decisions IN SPITE OF the criticism of those around you.

Sounds daunting but have heart there is hope.

Here are some steps that you can encourage the person who has deemed you the “chosen one” to take once they have made their decision

  • Have a very direct and serious conversation about what they want/don’t want in certain situations. Use the “what if” blog as a starting point.
  • Ask them to write down in DETAIL what they would or would not want if certain situations were to arise (helpful tool – 5 wishes)
  • Ask them to share their decision to choose you with other family members (nothing worse than someone else thinking they are in charge only to realize they were not the “chosen one”), as well as share that their wishes are written down in detail and you are to follow their instructions.
  • Make sure that everyone in the family understands that this was their decision and that this is not about “favorites”, it is about who THEY FEEL is able to manage the care in the fashion requested by the assignee.

Important point!!

**Just because someone asks you to be his or her power-of-attorney does not mean you have to say “yes”.

You must be willing and able to follow their wishes IN SPITE OF your own thoughts, feelings or emotional connection and have thick skin and an unwavering spirit to face the potential hostile response/criticism that may come from other family members. If you do not think you can do that, you should be honest with them and graciously decline and share the reasons.

For more support/resources visit:

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One Word Can Change Your Life – Cancer

“It’s Cancer”, my sister and I tried to compose ourselves and comprehend the significance of what we had just heard the doctor say.

Did he just say that our mom has cancer?

Having worked in hospice for many years, I knew that once the word “cancer” was spoken most of what was said after was lost in translation so I focused on being present to what the doctor was saying next.  The doctor continued, “I feel from what I’ve seen that it’s stage 1 breast cancer, which means we caught it early and I am confident your mom will live a long, healthy life.”

The doctor outlined the next steps and answered all of our questions as well as shared statistics on breast cancer.  From his tone and demeanor I could feel his commitment to curing this disease as well as to my mother sitting before him.  The doctor and his staff were amazing and during the 3 hours it took to run tests, take a biopsy and speak with us, it felt as if my mom was the only patient they had that day.

Sadly, from my years of health care experience, this doctor seems rare.  I have encountered more doctors than I’d like to admit who share a cancer diagnosis with a patient and then abruptly walk out of the room.  Our hospice team had numerous in-services for doctors titled “Breaking Bad News”, however; it was usually the staff who came, many times sharing their frustration at how their doctor does a quick “exit stage left” after dropping the C-bomb on a patient.

I wanted to share some advice for when the doctor shares life changing news:

  • Ask questions.
    • If the doctor is using terminology you don’t understand ask him what it means.
    • If another staff member comes in to answer questions politely request that you would like the doctor answer your questions.
    • Get an after-hours number to call to ask questions you may come up with after you leave the doctor’s office.  Make sure the phone number connects you with your doctor not an on-call doctor who does not know your family member.
  • If you feel comfortable with the treatment option set out by the doctor then move forward, however; if you don’t it is OK to say “no”.
    • Unless it’s a time sensitive situation you don’t have to immediately move forward with the treatment option outlined by the doctor.
    • Do your research.
      • Websites like WebMD have a lot of information that can assist in understanding both diagnosis and treatment options.
      • Call around to disease specific treatment centers and ask questions about their program.
  • Get a second opinion.
    • There is nothing wrong with seeking a second (or even third) opinion when given a serious diagnosis.

Focus on gathering information on available options so that you can assist your loved one in making an educated decision about their care.

For more caregiving support visit

Cancer-Caregiver-Team-low-res****A portion of my book sale proceeds go to support breast cancer research.

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Celebrate Triumphs – No Matter How Large or Small!

Breast-Cancer-Word-Cloud-T-ShirtsAnyone who has had a loved one with cancer understands how stressful the ongoing 3-6 month marks are waiting to hear if the blood work and bone-scans were clear. When those we love have had ongoing health issues and it seems like every time we turn around there is another doctor appointment, medical test or treatment plan it can be hard to find reasons to celebrate. Which means most of life is waiting for the next shoe to drop.

However by doing that we end up focusing on a future negative that may (or may not) happen and miss out on celebrating the small victories such as a bone-scan coming back the same (meaning it showed no change or growth in the cancer which is a GOOD THING). Unfortunately we can miss out on celebrating these small victories because we focus on the “next appointment” 3-6 months ahead.

Sometimes it’s easier to focus on a foreseeable future when those results may say something different in order to not set ourselves up just to be let down when the next set of results come in.

Truth is that day may come but it’s NOT TODAY!!!

Today I am encouraging you to:

  • Be present in the idea that today things are good.
  • Today the cancer hasn’t changed, grown or spread HURRAH!!!
  • In this moment the blood work is showing normal ranges YIPPEE!!!

Stop wasting emotional energy being nervous about an unknown future because you end up robbing yourself and those you love of moments of peace, celebration and appreciation of another day of life, love and family.

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