: Caretakers

The importance of having something to look forward to

Hello everyone:

One way to keep your spirits up during a difficult time is to have something to look forward to. It doesn’t have to be anything as dramatic as a weeks-long trip; it can be as simple as a window shopping trip or a movie with a friend.

What kind of low-budget-high-fun-level activities can you think of? Maybe going to the latest movie with a close friend is your kind of excitement. Perhaps you prefer going to craft stores or going on nature walks or chatting with a friend over a cup of coffee. It doesn’t have to be expensive to know that, at some time in the near future, you are going to have something to do that takes you away from your business-as-usual life.

You don’t even have to be experiencing a difficult time to enjoy this type of thing. Maybe you are so busy working and taking care of others that you have neglected your own mental health. What would you like to do that gets you out of your present rut that would make your eyes light up?

Are you a practical joker or do you just enjoy talking about a what-if-I-were-into-that-type-of-thing? What kind of non-harmful prank would you pull if no one ever found out that you had done it? Sometimes it is fun just to talk about it.

Seriously, what kind of out-of-the-ordinary idea can you come up with?

Best,

Dr. Sheri

 

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Knowing when to slow Mom or Dad down

Hello everyone:

I have a dear friend whose mother is in her 90s…..well into her 90s. We used to take her mother out to eat frequently, but my friend realized recently that going out a lot really tired her mother. While my friend would love to hang out with me, going out and about on  a regular basis, she realized the toll it was playing on her mom. We simply could not keep going about with “business as usual.”

The sad thing is that we really enjoyed getting together……so, an alternative solution was put into place. Instead of our going to lunch or dinner, I go over to her house and visit with the two gals. Her mother is free to sleep or rest in her chair, and my friend and I get to have quality time with one another. It is not necessarily the activity we would chose, but it works and is a lot of fun.

We chat, watch the latest show from the BBC, or could do her most recent puzzle. Care givers have a real burden but there is a way to make their jobs easier, just by being there. How do you deal with the aging of a beloved family member? Do you have any suggestions for care givers, so that the quality of their own lives is enriched by your contribution? I would love to hear from you!

Best,

Dr. Sheri

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News about a new book

Hello everyone:

In today’s blog, I wanted to share some news about an upcoming project: Suddenly Single for Military Couples (I do not have a subtitle yet).  This is the third book in my Suddenly Single series and I hope you can be a part of it.

I am looking for the family members of veterans, or veterans themselves, who would be willing to be interviewed. The idea here is to share with our readers the what-I-know-now-that-I-wish-I’d-known-then approach to either being deployed or coming back from deployment a changed person as the result of being harmed or killed. (Okay, that sounded a bit strange. Obviously, I don’t want to talk with dead people. What I meant is that I would like to talk with the family that the service person left behind.)

It is my goal to have a book that is by (as a result of the interviews I do) and for military people. I will not identify individual service members or their families in this book,  to protect their privacy. If given permission to do so, I will list the families in my acknowledgment section. I am the daughter of a World War 2 Navy veteran, the ex-wife of a U.S. Air Force veteran, the mother of a 100% disabled Army veteran, and the sister-in-law of a Coast Guard veteran.  My heart is with our service people; the royalties from this endeavor will go to benefit charities that support them. [Fisher House is the charity that I am leaning towards, since they provide free housing to military families whose parent/spouse is in the hospital.]

If you know someone who would be willing to chat with me, or if you are a veteran who would like to be a part of this book, please comment in the comment section of this blog. I will be in touch. Thanks ever so much!

Best,

Dr. Sheri

 

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Getting an In-Home Caregiver

Hello everyone:

A friend of mine has an elderly mother living with her family. The woman is a dear but it gets very tiring to always have to be “on duty.” My pal did not want to put her mother in a nursing home, so she found a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) who was interested in working part time.

The gal comes to her house three mornings a week, giving my friend time to do errands, chores, or to relax without having to wonder where her mom is. The CNA takes her mother out for “field trips” to local places where she thinks the elderly woman would like to visit. They go on walks, to parks, and out for lunch. The elder woman comes home happy but exhausted. This helps her sleep better and, as a result, her daughter is able to rest better at night.

Is this an option for you? You might want to look into this since it can be beneficial for all involved and is cheaper than a nursing home! I would love to hear from you, so please use my name or the name of this posting in your comments so that I will know that you are not spam.

Best,

Dr. Sheri

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Writing notes of condolence or support

Hello everyone:

While you might have been the recipient of notes of condolence or comfort, let’s take a few minutes and talk about how to write them. You have the experience of being on the receiving end; now let’s see you start to send some yourself.

First, I suggest that you not use those pre-written cards that cost an arm and a leg at the grocery store.  Why? Because they are impersonal and might not reflect either your thoughts or the other person’s need. Additionally, you may be on a tight budget now that your spouse is gone, so why pay $5 or $6 for something that doesn’t fit the exact situation when you are so much better at expressing yourself than you think?

Instead, go to the store and buy a box of blank cards. They can be purchased at many grocery stores and are usually about $7-$8 for 20 blank cards that have a pretty picture on them. They can be used for a variety of reasons, from congratulations, to notes to the ill, to cards of condolence. It is the thoughts that you are expressing that are the important thing; your card will offer strength and comfort.

Your message need not be long- 3 to 5 sentences can express your concern and care for the other person. The good thing about the fact that you are writing, rather than calling or emailing, is that the receiver can reread your card as many times as he or she wants, the person did not need to log in on a computer to read it, and you did not interrupt that person with a phone call.

What do you say? Well, let’s fit it to the situation. [Please note that I am going to write that I am praying for the person because I am a member of the Christian faith. If you are not, then you could write that you are thinking of the person or hoping the individual gets well.]

Here goes: Let’s start with someone who is ill. Perhaps you would like to say something like:

Dear John:

It was quite a shock to hear about your recent surgery for pancreatic cancer. My heart goes out to you, since you are such an active person. I pray that the operation went smoothly and for your strong recovery. You and Mary are in my thoughts and prayers.

Sincerely,

Sue

[Note: You are not trying to show that you had a surgery that was so much worse or that you had an illness that was ten times what he experienced. Nope, this is totally about John and his situation. Keep that in mind as you write.]

——————————————————————–

What if the person just lost his or her spouse due to divorce? Let’s try something like this:

Dear Susie:

It saddened me to hear that you and Mark have gotten divorced. Marriage can be difficult and its end can be devastating. I pray for you and the kids daily. If you would like to talk, I am here for you.

Hugs,

Jane

[Note: This is not the time to tell Susie that her hubby was a creep and that you never liked him. She was in love with him at one time; this is not the right time to tell her she has bad taste in men. Trust me, she knows it!]


What if the person’s spouse just died? Let’s go with:

Dear Al:

Sunday mornings were always special to me because I knew that Alice and I would meet up in the ladies’s room at church. Her radiant smile of greeting always warmed my heart. It was so wonderful to see the two of you together because you were so much in love, even after almost 70 years of marriage. It is those moments that I will miss the most as I think of your lovely bride. You and the kids are in my thoughts and prayers as you go through this next stage of life.

Love,

Matilda

[Note: This is the time to mention what you loved the most about the missing spouse. Share some special memory in a positive light. BTW, Alice had only two teeth in her mouth (and they were crooked) but she still radiated love. ]

I hope this blog gives you some ideas for cards you can write. Handwritten notes express your thoughts so beautifully- you can do this! I would love to hear from you. Perhaps there is a special note you received that really touched your heart. When you write back, please use my name, so that it will be obvious that you aren’t spam. I look forward to hearing from you!

Best,

Dr. Sheri

 

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Caring for the Elderly: When Mom or Dad aren’t Mom or Dad Anymore

Hello everyone:

One of the hardest decisions caregivers have to make is deciding when to take away the car keys. One of my friends had a mother who suffered from dementia. Initially, she still seemed to get around pretty well, but then the day came when she didn’t.

She went to the grocery store one afternoon. The weather was nice; it was the middle of the afternoon, so nothing could go wrong, right? A young woman started to cross the parking lot in front of the older woman, assuming that she would stop. It didn’t happen because the elderly gal pushed the accelerator pedal instead of the brake. The young woman was killed. The older woman finally gave up her keys…….a bit too late for the other gal.

One of my friends from the mall is going through this same situation, except she is the demented one. She knows her memory is bad. She knows that her condition is getting worse, yet she still insists  on coming over to visit with the other mall walkers. About a year ago, her family decided that she could no longer live alone and they took away her car keys. She found them and sneaks out of the house when no one else is home. Some day, she may kill someone with her car.

What are your thoughts on this? How have you handled this type of situation with your loved ones?

Best,

Dr. Sheri

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Ashes, Ashes, we all fall down….or not

Hello everyone:

Rumor has it that more than one person is cremated at a time and that you may not be given your whole relative (or perhaps you might get part of someone else!) when the crematory gives you the ashes. This is not true; it is actually illegal to do this in the United States, unless it is a case of death during childbirth.  Note: You must take the ashes back, so what will you do with them? One of my friends had her hubby’s ashes turned into a bench (along with some concrete and rebar) and she frequently goes out to the riverfront where the bench is and sits on him.

I hope you  discussed this with your mate ahead of time or you may have found yourself holding a box of ashes and having no clue what to do with them. One woman I knew took her mom’s ashes and dumped them down the garbage chute at her condominium but this seems rather disrespectful.

Do you have any suggestions for what to do with the cremated remains of your dearly beloved? I would love to hear some practical, or even funny, ideas that you have come up with for handling this delicate situation. (Please note that, with your permission, I would like to use some of the ideas in my next book, Suddenly Single for Married Couples: A Practical Guide to Hoping for the Best but Preparing for the Worst.

Best,

Dr. Sheri

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Things that go “bump” in the night and other terrifying events

Hello everyone:

Do you ever remember being irrationally terrified as a child? Oh, you didn’t think it was irrational at the time, but it was pretty scary just the same. Maybe you were visiting some distant relative and your parents made you sleep in a dark and unfamiliar bedroom. Perhaps you thought that there was a monster in your closet and that it was coming to get you. Maybe your siblings chased you with cats or perhaps a clueless park ranger held out a huge snake and forced you to touch it, saying you couldn’t have lunch or that you couldn’t go home that day until you did.

These are all things that happened to folks I know. Pretty frightening, to a kid. Do you remember how it felt to be little and afraid? Well, there may be someone in your life right now who is facing his or her own terrors.  To you and to me, the fears may seem pretty foolish. To your elderly relative, not so much.

Older folks’ minds sometimes play tricks on them. They think that there is someone hiding under their bed. Or maybe they think that there is a mountain lion outside their bedroom window, waiting to devour them. Or that the soap that they shower with will cause their skin to disintegrate. Or……just about a million other things. These fears are very real to them, just like that dark bedroom was to you when you were little.

It isn’t easy to deal with these fears. You may comfort your mom or dad and then have to do it all over again, five minutes later. The thing we need to keep in mind is that these fears are just as real as that monster in your closet was when you were young.  Just as a cat was so fearful to us so many years ago or that the snake was so gigantic, they face their fears on a daily and moment-by-moment basis. We need to offer our parents reassurance and support, no matter how silly or ridiculous their stories sound to our adult minds.

How do you deal with helping your family member overcome fear? Is there something special you do to allay their concerns? I would love to hear from you.

Best,

Dr. Sheri

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Everybody needs a “dirt” in his or her life

Hello everyone:

Yes, I am advocating for dirt today! Actually, this is someone nicknamed “Dirt”- no actual dirt is involved.

A friend of mine lost her hubby many years ago. She had a big house and no idea of how to maintain it. Through a friend of her daughter’s, she became acquainted with a handyman whose name her daughter misunderstood. She thought her mother called him “Dirt,” so the name stuck to this day.

He does everything around her house, which is a real blessing to her. He puts up the Christmas tree each year (and takes it down). He decorates her yard beyond belief- and that’s just at Christmastime. He does any and all repairs (small or large), tells her when something needs to be done (or will need to be done in the future), and coordinates the ongoing maintenance of her home.

This man is priceless! If a gal cannot do home maintenance herself, she needs to hire a “Dirt” for herself. I understand that some women do not have the financial wherewithal to hire someone full time, but getting a trustworthy handyman to come in and take a look at what you need to have done around your home can save you money in the long run. It’s better to have your own “Dirt” tell you that something needs fixing before it breaks down (and things usually do this at the most inconvenient time possible!).

It has been worth every penny she has ever paid him, from the peace of mind of knowing that the house is in god hands, to having the work done in a timely manner. Dirt, as you see, can be a very good thing indeed!

Best,

Dr. Sheri

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Moving on when others move out

Hello everyone:

Today’s blog is about knowing when to move Mom or Dad. I hope you find it helpful!

According to a pastor I spoke with, most of the time at his church, he sees Baby Boomers caring for aging parents. They have to make decisions regarding their parents’ health and financial matters. They go to their parents’ home every week to take care of medical and care needs. This adds an incredible strain to their marriages, as well as taking a great deal of their time. He found that caregivers in situations like this frequently lose contact with their own spiritual, emotional, and physical needs. They believe that no one can care for their parents the way that they can, so they devote a great deal of time and energy to the task. Sometimes they talk about moving their parents, but this leaves the parent with no network of people who care, no church, and increases the financial strain on the family. If the parents move, they don’t know anyone in their new location, especially if they have become shut-ins. The pastors go to see Mrs. Jones, for example, but she doesn’t know anyone else in that area.

The pastor had a superb solution: he and his wife moved his widowed mother to a new home close to theirs before her need arose. She had watched her friends die or move away and was becoming increasingly alone in the neighborhood and church where she had lived and worshiped for the past 40 years. She was running out of people that she knew, so her son and his wife moved her while she was still active and could make new friends. People build community around you. She moved a lot earlier than she needed to but now she is making new friends and building a new life at her new church. If this is not a possibility, find a balance or it will consume your family.

What suggestions do you have for knowing when you need to help your parents move? What was the biggest challenge to you as a son or daughter to help make that move go smoothly? I would love to hear from you!

Best,

Dr. Sheri

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