Dealing with the “Negative Nancie’s” in our lives

I love the new terms this generation uses for certain things especially things like, “You’re such a Debbie Downer” or “Negative Nancy.” I just laugh every time I hear one of those comments.

What’s not funny is having to live with someone who is just that!

Whether it is a spouse, friend, family member or coworkers, it is always a challenge to remain positive in a negative society. Maybe it’s an elderly parent or loved one who may never have been negative their whole life and now that they are getting older or may even be experiencing some stage of dementia that may be altering their perception of things, it’s still so difficult being on the other side of these folks who continually drain you of your own hope and outlook in life.

Negative people tend to leave others around them drained, tired and lethargic. No matter what you say, they always seem to find a way to counter with a negative opinion. When they face a problem, they soak themselves in the issue rather than deal with it constructively. They adopt a self-victimizing mindset, complaining about whatever happens.

Even when you try to change the topic to something positive, they have a way to turn it into something negative. They are constantly fixated with the doom and gloom of (their) life. The old “somebody’s done me wrong” song. Everything is black; there is no white. In the event there is some element of positivity that enters their spectrum, they are quick to excuse that as a one-off encounter or see the dark side behind that.

To negative people, life just sucks. They remain in a “victim” mentality.

HOW DO WE RESPOND?

Here are a few things you can do when dealing with a negative, aging parent or loved one:

Allow them to express their negativity. The elderly often feel like their opinions and thoughts don’t matter. If you allow them to have their say without any retort, that will likely be the key that allows them to soften a bit.  You may not agree with what they have to say, but realizing that it isn’t a personal attack against you can alleviate a load of stress.

Here are a few more:

  • Practice being patient. Because they can’t do things on their own, they feel inclined to tell you exactly how to do it. Your position is that it will get done, regardless. Their position is that it won’t be done right unless you do it they way–the way they would’ve done it. Sometimes letting it go in one ear and out the other works here, and sometimes it doesn’t. In those instances where you feel ready to explode, it’s best to take a break, step outside for a few minutes and take deep, calming breaths. When you’ve cleared your mind, you can go back in with renewed energy and complete the task.
  • Smile often. It’s hard to smile during a time when you feel your efforts are in vain. Tuning out the negativity and thinking about a funny joke or something humorous your children have done can produce a genuine smile. This often works to stop the criticism and alleviate tension. When your parent sees you smiling, tell them the joke or story you were thinking about and have a good laugh together.
  • Go in with gusto! When you have mentally prepared yourself not to be stressed, you will be able to have more patience to deal with your parent. Go in talking about anything or everything. Talking about other things with you takes their mind off the bitterness and helplessness they feel. Ask what their opinions on different topics are. Ask them questions. Ask them to tell you stories about their life. This makes them feel useful, and gives them a feeling that they have something important to contribute.
  • Sometimes it is necessary to get away for a few days. Ask a close family member or a friend to take over for you for a few days. Take this time to spend with others or by yourself doing what you want to do. Take in a couple of movies and escape into fantasy for a while. Getting away every so often will give you a renewed sense of hope and allow you more patience to deal with your parents for another week or two.

I understand it can really be a drag and drain the life out of you if you allow their negativity to bring you down (believe me, I understand). But we must not allow their responses, words or actions to pull us in to their negative world.

The question is – “How do we continue to maintain our hope and sanity in the midst of negativity?”

Now mostly, I just laugh it off because it has become a habit or learned behavior on their part. I will not give in to that negative pattern and allow it to divert my course, even for a moment! I challenge you to do the same.

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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: CaregiverLife.com

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A New You for the New Year!

“If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.” 2013-Top-10-Web-Sites-for-New-Year-ResolutionThomas Jefferson

As a new year rolls in many will set “resolutions” for the upcoming year.  Some will involve weight loss; career changes, financial planning, and the list could go on and on…

Resolution isn’t the only thing needed to create a new way of living.

You can resolve to change habits and adjust attitude however; if you continue to live your life as you have, you will continue to get what you have gotten. In life, everything is in continuous motion and therefore constantly changing. From day-to-day and sometimes minute to minute things can change. The key is in altering your reaction to change, and be willing to take risks.

Viewing change as something that will always be, instead of something you are fighting against, can lead to opportunities to live into a new way of being both inwardly and outwardly.

Questions to Consider:

  • How have I been reacting to the flow of changes in my life?
  • What is my usual pattern of reaction to change?
  • How does my reaction affect those around me (family, friends, husband, and kids)?
  • How does my reaction to change affect my overall health?
  • What can I do differently that will create a new way of being?

Take time this New Year to address reactions that diminish your capacity to make a difference in your life and the lives of those around you will make for a healthier and more power-filled year and life.

Happy New Year!

For more resources visit: CaregiverLife.com

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Holiday love for the caregiver in your life – Guest Post

Family caregivers are the hardest working people you’ll ever know. They’ve given up their freedom and free time to tend to the needs of their husband, wife, mother, sister, child or even a stranger due to an illness, disability or injury. They are under constant stress, often working full-time jobs and losing sleep to help someone in need.

Caregivers are prone to depression and stress-related illnesses, and they often neglect their own healthcare needs in order to care for someone else. They often feel overwhelmed, lonely, worried and tired. Self-care is important to the well-being of caregivers, but they often don’t know how or where to get it. The holidays are a great time to show the caregiver in your life that you care about him or her, and you understand their plight.

First, if you suspect that your caregiver friend is suffering from mental health issues related to caregiving, work with him or her and encourage them to get the help they need. Encourage him or her to see a doctor who may prescribe some anti-anxiety medication or stress-relief activities.  If they need to see a therapist, offer to sit with their charge while they go to appointments. Mental wellness is important so that he or she can continue to provide quality care for others, as well as live their own life of fulfillment.

Here are some gift ideas for the caregiver in your life:

  1. Time — Spend time with him or her. Often, they are isolated and just need someone to talk to and vent. Take him or her out for coffee and be a good friend. If they insist they can’t leave their person, bring over some lattes or a bottle of wine and visit.
  2. A day off — Respite is an important part of care. Giving the caregiver a break can make a world of difference. Offer to take over care for a day or two while he or she goes to do something fun, such as shopping, seeing a movie or going out-of-town.
  3. Clean the house — Offer to clean their house for them. You can do it yourself or pay for a cleaning service. Or, if they don’t live with the person they care for, offer to clean that person’s house so that the caregiver doesn’t have to worry about those chores.
  4. Give food — Whether you cook for them or you pay for the food, any day you don’t have to spend time in the kitchen is a break. Cook a nice casserole that can be frozen and then popped in the oven, or pay for dinner delivery. There are lots of delivery services that pick up takeout from restaurants and deliver them, and most of them offer gift certificates.
  5. Transportation — Driving someone around town to doctors’ appointments and therapy sessions can get expensive, especially when gas prices go up. Give him or her a gift card for gas for the car, or for a ride-sharing service. Helping him or her get around town will remove a bit of the burden of movement.
  6. A night out — A gift certificate for dinner and a movie for him or her and a friend can give a nice night of respite. But don’t just give the gift; offer to take over duties while the caregiver has his or her evening out. They can’t use the gift if they’re stuck at home because nobody is willing to help.
  7. Pampering — Give a massage, manicure, pedicure, spa visit or whatever you think he or she might enjoy. You can give a gift card (make sure to include a tip), or do it yourself, with that bottle of wine you brought over.

Remembering the hard work your caregiver is doing is essential to helping him or her through this time. They will feel better and thus give better care and have better health — thanks to your considerate gift.

Guest Blogger Beverly Nelson: Beverly Nelson is the creator of Stand Up For Caregivers, which aims to help protect and advocate for the health and well being of adult caregivers.  For more information visit standupforcaregiver.org

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It’s My Privilege

Me & Aunt Josie helping me during a book signing

I was recently watching the show The Middle.  In the show Frankie has to take care of her mother after a hospital stay.  What ensues is a lot of humor and chaos (much like real life caregiving).  After much frustration with her mother and lots of wearisome tears, her mother says “I’m so sorry you have to take care of me”, to which Frankie replies “it’s my privilege”.   She then shares how when she was a new mother, her mother would always show up to help her manage her small children and when she would apologize for all of the chaos her mother would simply respond “It’s my privilege”.

And so, goes the circle of life….

So many times, as I’ve supported family members in need of care, I have forgotten that it is a privilege to take care of others and that those I have cared for have been people who have always shown up for me.  I remember my Aunt Josie apologizing for having to rely on me so much, to which I would reply “if the roles were reversed, you would do it for me”.  Which I know she would have and had in the past.  About 10 years ago, I had a surgery which left me laid up at home for several weeks, my mom and aunt came over and made meals, tidied up my house and made sure I was taken care of during my recovery.

What the care recipients in my life failed to understand is that how they have shown up for me and those around them, is how I learned to show up for them and others in my life…by example. So, what are some takeaways?

  • Showing up to support and care for others is a choice
  • Taking care of those you love is a privilege
  • The way you show up for others is setting an example for those around you

Thank you for being the kind of person who shows up for others (even when it’s really hard).

 

 

 

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Shifting Priorities

Being a family caregiver is a 24/7 job.  It’s probably one of the most difficult and thankless jobs one can do.  The stress level is off the charts, the pay is non-existent and trying to make time for you is next to impossible.

We become caregivers for several reasons: need, duty, personality type, but mostly because we love the person who needs care and we want to support them through whatever it is that they are going through.  It’s this final reason that keeps us showing up, even on the most difficult days.

Caring for another person can and will take its toll on us emotionally and physically if we do not FIRST take care of ourselves.  Self-care is the biggest conundrum we face as caregivers as the majority of our time and energy is focused on the needs of othersIn truth, if we do not take the time to take care of ourselves first we become less effective at caring for others which can create more problems than we already face as we try to manage the needs of others.

I (again) realized this the several years ago, after a long holiday weekend, I found myself up most of the night very sick (I won’t go into details let’s just say it wasn’t pretty).  The next morning I had a long list of things I needed to do to help my aunt who is recovering from surgery, however; I realized when I tried to get up after only a few hours of sleep I was so exhausted that I couldn’t get my body nor my brain to function sufficiently enough to take care of the things that needed to get done, so I climbed back into bed and slept for another few hours.

Though I lost a good portion of my morning I was able to get everything done that NEEDED to be done, pushed a few things to the next day’s list and took an afternoon nap for good measure.  To many of you this may seem like a day wasted, let me assure you, it wasn’t.  By taking the steps necessary to make self-care a priority that day, I was 10x’s more productive the next day.

Sometimes all it take is a few extra hours of sleep, other times it might be prioritizing the to-do list by what NEEDS to get done and either delegating the other items or pushing them to a less jam-packed day.

Bottom line self-care needs to become a PRIORITY in the life of anyone who is caring for an elderly or chronically ill loved one.  Not taking care for yourself when sick, or wearing yourself down trying to get it all done isn’t good for you or those who are depending on you.

For more support/resources visit: CaregiverLife.com

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Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits – Support for our Aging Veterans

A few years back with some local Veterans

For many elderly veterans the rising cost of assisted living or home health care can be staggering, causing their life savings to be diminished paying for health care as they age. There are VA benefits that can help you get the care you need without using up your retirement savings.

Geriatric Patient Aligned Care Team (GeriPACT)

The VA launched GeriPACT program to provide healthcare for Veterans with more than one chronic disease and with declining mental and physical capabilities. GeriPACT integrates traditional healthcare services with community-based services. The goal is to provide Veterans with these challenges with as much independence and quality of life as possible.  GeriPACT teams include primary care providers and multi-disciplinary teams who have expertise with the special healthcare needs of these Veterans.

How does this program support veterans?

  • Helps integrate and coordinate health care services provided by VA with community-based services.
  • Strives to optimize independence and quality of life.
  • Includes healthcare team members who possess expertise and advanced training to assess and address the illnesses and issues of vulnerable and elderly Veterans.
  • Serves Veterans who require a level of care that is not generally available to them through a regular patient aligned care team (PACT) – for example, they might have complex care needs or require care management.

VA benefits provide for a range of long-term services including residential care, adult day health care, geriatric evaluation, as well as respite care.  Nursing home benefits may be provided if specific qualifications are met. The following long-term care services are available to all enrolled Veterans.

Respite Care

Provides supportive care to veterans on a short-term basis giving the caregiver a planned period of relief from the physical and emotional demands associated with providing care. Respite care can be provided in the home or other non-institutional settings

Home Care

Skilled home care is provided by VA and contract agencies to veterans that are homebound with chronic diseases and includes nursing, physical/occupational therapy and social services.

Hospice/Palliative Care

This program offers services to veterans in the late stages of the chronic disease process.  Services also include respite care as well as bereavement counseling to family members.  There are no co-pays for hospice care provided in any setting.

Eligibility Requirements

Pension benefits are needs-based and your “countable” family income must fall below the yearly limit set by law. Veterans must have at least 90 days of active duty, including one day during a wartime period. If the active duty occurred after September 7, 1980, you must have served at least 24 months or the full period that you were called up (with some exceptions). You must also be:

  • Age 65 or older with limited or no income, OR
  • Totally and permanently disabled, OR
  • A patient in a nursing home receiving skilled nursing care, OR
  • Receiving Social Security Disability Insurance, OR
  • Receiving Supplemental Security Income

The Veteran must have met the service requirements above for surviving spouses and children applying for the Survivors Pension.

Caregiver Programs and Services:

VA has long supported family caregivers as vital partners in providing care worthy of the sacrifices of America’s Veterans and Service members. Each VA medical center has a Caregiver Support Program coordinated by a Caregiver Support Coordinator (CSC). The CSC coordinates caregiver activities and serves as a resource expert for Veterans, their families, and VA providers.

My father-in-law Ed Cutler served in the Navy at Pearl Harbor after the attacks.

The social work department at your nearest VA medical facility can provide specific information about services or other assistance available through VA and your local community.  Visit http://www.va.gov/ for more information.

Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website

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