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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Choose your Attitude – You are in Control

I love this story.  I’m not sure who wrote it, but I do know it is always inspiring when I get in the way of my own joy.

A 92-year-old, petite, well-poised and proud man, who is fully dressed each morning by eight o’clock, with his hair fashionably combed and shaved perfectly, even though he is legally blind, moved to a nursing home today. His wife of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary.

After  many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, he smiled sweetly when told his room was ready. As he maneuvered his walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of his tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on his window.  “I love it,” he stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy.

“Mr. Jones, you haven’t seen the room; just wait.” “That doesn’t have anything to do with it” he replied. “Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn’t depend on how the furniture is  arranged … it’s how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it. It’s a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful  for the ones that do.  Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open, I’ll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I’ve stored away.. Just for this time in my life. Old age is like a bank account. You withdraw from what you’ve put in. So, my advice to you would be to deposit a lot of happiness in the bank  account of memories! Thank you for your part in filling my Memory Bank. I am still depositing.”

He went on to say:

Remember the five simple rules to be happy:

1. Free your heart from hatred.

2. Free your mind from worries.

3. Live simply.

4. Give more.

5. Expect less.

You have a choice EVERY day – choose happiness, joy and love!

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Stand and fight: Or run for the hills?

We all have situations and circumstances that completely throw us out of whack! Sometimes they come in small doses, sometimes they are grandiose.

Sometimes I want to throw up my hands and say, “I’m outta here! It’s more than I can bear!” Other times, I face them head on.

All of us have had one of those days where we wish we could just move to another country, ALONE! No one to aggravate us, no one to have to care for, no one who needs us around to do this or that…..totally alone. Maybe a desert island, perhaps?  Although it sounds great, it is not always the best or most viable option.

So we have to change perspective.  The good news is we have choices. 

  • We can face the challenges that come my way and see them as opportunities for growth (though they often do not feel that way while  confronted with them).
  • Or, run for the hills.

Most of us, whether we like it or not, because of who we are and because we love the people around us (often in spite of their actions and reactions), will choose to accept that there will be challenges both big and small that show up in life and we will do our best to face them and find solutions for them.

Today, choose to fight the good fight and see the challenges of this day as blessings that will make you stronger and better prepared for the larger challenges you encounter down the road of life.

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There is no “Age Limit” on Family Caregiving

Grandpa and Me

Grandpa and Me

Although caregiving is often viewed as something that occurs as we get into our middle ages (50-65), according to the National Alliance for Caregiving, the distribution of caregiving age is different from what one might expect.  The overall average age of a family caregiver is 49.2 years old. 48% of caregivers are 1849 years old while 34% of caregivers are 65+ years old.  Personally, I started my caregiving journey when I was in my early 30’s caring for my Grandfather.

Trends are changing – Baby boomers have lower rates of marriage and fewer children, they also have children at later ages than previous generations which in turn will lead to family caregiving responsibilities being thrust on adult children at younger ages.  Nonetheless, currently, it is estimated that baby boomers (i.e., those born between 1946 and 1964) will spend as many years caring for an elderly parent as raising a child. For many women, the roles of primary caregiver for children and primary caregiver of aged parents overlap in occurrence and duration, creating a “sandwich” effect.

With this in mind, it is essential for everyone (no matter what age you are) to become proactive about their future care.  No matter how healthy your lifestyle, how good your genetic makeup life can throw you a curve-ball.  The question is not if we are going to have to deal with caregiving situations but when.

Many may think it unrealistic to think they can prepare themselves for issues related to caregiving and that it is something to deal with when it comes.  However, waiting for the emergency is not the most efficient way to manage potential future care.  The more proactive you are in setting up an emergency plan the easier it will be for you and your loved ones to make challenging decisions in the chaos of caregiving.  Not being prepared can have consequences for ourselves and our family members.

So what can you do?

There is a lot you can do to become proactive in planning for the unexpected.  Check out What if? for ideas that can support a proactive approach to future care needs.

Most importantly – DON’T WAIT!  Start creating a plan today or, if you have created a plan in the past (I applaud your proactivity!!), check the plan for any updates that need to be made (i.e.: if the family member designated as your POA got married/divorced and changed their name you will want to make sure that is documented).

For more resources visit:

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Nothing Left Unsaid

Pic via U.S. Air Force @usairforce

My mom recently visited New York and was showing me the pictures of the Ground Zero Memorial. One of my most unsettling thoughts regarding 9/11 was about what was left unsaid. My mind goes to a couple who possibly had a fight that morning, most likely about something trivial.  They both head off to work fighting some imaginary battle with each other and spending their commute planning the rebuttal argument they will have over dinner that will prove them right and their spouse wrong.

Because of the fight, they didn’t kiss their spouse goodbye or tell them that they love them; after all they’d make up later, they always do.  Sadly “later” never came.  I ponder this scenario because on many occasions I am that spouse. Fighting my imaginary battle, proving myself right at any cost to my relationships and personal health.

As none of us knows when our final day on earth will be then maybe we should treat each moment as uniquely special and an opportunity to share with those around us how we feel for them. This isn’t about living life in a chicken little state of falling skies or constant dread, it’s about putting aside our pride and telling people around us how much they mean to us.

Several years ago my best friends’ father died. He had been sick for some time, however; I don’t think anyone is every really prepared for the death of a loved one. As I sat with her after receiving the news, she shared how her dad had on several occasions by phone, in person and most recently in a letter, told her how much he loved her.  As she read his letter aloud I thought about what a blessing is for her to have the memories of her dad sharing over and over how proud he was of her and how much she meant to him.

Though very different scenarios, unexpected loss verses a terminal illness, both brought me to ponder the following questions:

  • Is being right more important than being loving to those around you?
  • Are there some unresolved issues that need to be addressed that you have been putting off?
  • Are their people in your life that you love that you maybe haven’t conveyed to them how much they mean to you?
  • Are their people who you need to forgive, including yourself, in order to live a more full and loving life?

I’m not saying it’s easy to put pride aside, choose our battles and maintain a loving attitude towards those around us.  However; what’s left unsaid can lead to bitterness, broken relationships and missed opportunities for a full and healthy life.

Pic via

For many of us we have unresolved relationship issues over things that, when put in perspective aren’t all that important, as well as people we haven’t expressed our love and appreciate for in a while.  Why not take time today to give them a call or write a letter and leave nothing unsaid.

For more resources visit

Posted in against all odds, aging, boomers, caregiving, dying, encouragement, forgiveness, healthy living, losing a loved one | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments