A Caregivers List For Santa

Dear Santa,

I know it’s Christmas Eve and it’s late to be sending a Christmas wish list.  And, I know I’m a little — strike that…way — too old to even be writing. But, if you haven’t loaded up your sleigh with mounds of gifts for the 65.7 million family caregivers (that’s a WHOPPING 29% of the U.S. population*) can you work your magic.  The list is short.

  • To hear the simple words Thank You for all you do!
  • A copy of the #1 New York Times best seller, “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant” from Roz Chast.  To laugh, cry and know you are not alone is a gift.
  • I know this is a big one, but you can work on it throughout the year, government policies to help family caregivers financially and emotionally.

P.S. Since you and Mrs. Claus are getting a little older, you have a vested interest in taking care of the caregivers.  I guess that means the elves in your case.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

 

 

*Source: Family Caregiver Alliance

I Confess…I Can’t Do It All.

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It finally happened.  I knew it would some day.   I just didn’t know when.  After five years as my dad’s PFC (primary family caregiver), and fifteen years as the unknowing understudy to my superhuman mother, I had the Mother Of All Meltdowns, which I shall lovingly call MOAM because the word meltdown is unflattering for anyone older than two.

My MOAM included the usual suspects: deep seeded rage, self-pity and worst of all envy.  Envy for all the real or what I perceived to be real — therefore making it real in my crazy mind — free time my sisters have to frolic through life, watching movies, meeting friends, reading books, taking vacations, living lives centered around their needs and wants!  Yes, I know this sounds juvenile, petty, and darn right horrible.  And, I’m not delusional.  I know they aren’t living these idealized lives.  They are busy like every other person on this planet.  And, to be honest, I almost didn’t write about my MOAM since 99.99% of the time I find helping my dad to be the most rewarding part of my life.  I know that my father’s stable health and happiness, at 93 years of age, is a direct result of my actions, combined with his good fortune in the genetic lottery, and his optimistic outlook on life.

At first I attributed my MOAM to going back to work full-time and getting the stomach flu while my husband — who NEVER travels — was out-of-town for almost two weeks.  But, in reality my MOAM was slowly brewing for the past year and I ignored all the warning signs…exhaustion, sleepless nights wondering how to juggle everything for everybody, resentment toward my siblings for not helping, though I never asked for help.

Then one day, I let it rip!!!  And the unsuspecting victim was my sweet sister who, like they say in crime movies, happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.  With the innocent words, “Hi…how are you?” I unleashed my MOAM.  “How am I?  You really want to know, how I am?  I’m done!  I’m exhausted!  I can’t do it anymore.  I’ve had it.  I do it ALL!  It’s your turn!”  There were a few more declarations made during my MOAM but you get the point.  I give my sister credit, she switched on her calm maternal voice, the kind preschool teachers use to reason with toddlers before timeout is issued.  Then the words, I so wanted to hear came over the phone, “How can I help you?”  That’s all I wanted to hear, how could someone help me.

It’s been a few months since my MOAM forced me to ask for help and admit I couldn’t do it all.  I’m happy to report that things have greatly improved.  My sister visits once a month to take care of my weekend tasks and spend time with my dad.  Knowing I have a free weekend is like knowing you have a vacation in the horizon…something to look forward to when things are crazy.  My husband takes my dad for his monthly haircut (it’s their guy thing) and continues to help in countless other ways.  After five years in assisted living, my dad finally used their car service to go to the dentist on his own.  Delegating has freed up my time and also gives my dad an opportunity to spend time with other people, which is good for both of us.  Plus, my dad has more independence, which is a good thing and something I should take advantage of as long as I can.

I see this post as a public service announcement.  If you are the primary family caregiver ask for help before you burnout and have a meltdown.  If you are lucky enough to have a sibling who is the primary family caregiver, volunteer to help before the shit hits the fans and your kind and capable sibling meltdown and you are left to mop of the mess.

Feels Good to Be Back!

One of my favorite trees where I can sit and just be in the moment.

A favorite spot to sit and be in the moment.

I’m back!  I know…it’s been a long time since my last post.  Here’s what’s been happening.

First off, the question you are probably wondering about most…how’s my dad?  Well, I’m happy to report that he’s doing just fine.  Let me restate that.  In my opinion, he’s doing amazingly well!  He has aches and pains of old age, but he doesn’t let them slow him down or get him down.  Friends, staff members and fellow residents from his assisted living community have come and gone for various reasons over the past few months.  Instead of lamenting over what was, he seems thankful for what is.

For me, the past several months have been a whirlwind of job interviews, which all seemed to occur at once, and the reality that my time off was coming to a sudden end.  I am officially back at work and thankful to be so.  And, I am thankful for having had a mid-career break.

Are there things I wish I had done while I was off work?  Absolutely, I have a list a mile long which includes everything from visiting Yosemite, baking my way through Dominique Ansel’s “The Secret Recipes” cookbook and finding an exercise program that I enjoy.  Strike the “I enjoy” part and just say find an exercise program.  But, instead of feeling sorry for what I didn’t get done while I was off work, I am going to take a cue from my dad and be thankful for what is.

Glad to be back.

Why Now Is The Best Time To Grow Old: Advanced Style

advanced style quad dogwoof documentary

Can one man change our perception of what old age looks like?  If that man is Ari Seth Cohen, the answer is a spirited YES.

He is the creative genius behind the successful Advanced Style franchise, which includes a blog, book and documentary film.  For those not familiar with Advanced Style, Mr. Cohen photographs older women (and a few men) on the streets of New York who have a wildly creative and highly personalized sense of style.  These older adults elevate the daily act of getting dressed to an art form.

I highly recommend watching the documentary film.  It adds a depth to the lives of these women as they celebrate their love of fashion, their newfound fame, and the realities of aging.  Advanced Style is #6 on my list of what will be 100 Reasons Why Now is the Best Time to Grow Old.  Mr. Cohen is changing the world’s perception of what old age can look like.

Photo Credit: Advanced Style

 

Holiday Memories of The Red Kettle

The Red Kettle

My mother never spoke of her life during WWII, which included being sent to an internment camp as a teenager along with her family, except during the holidays.  Each time we passed a red kettle from The Salvation Army my mother would deposit whatever extra money she had in her purse and tell me, “They helped my family get settled after the war.”  That was the extent of the conversation and I honestly didn’t need to hear anymore.  I could tell how grateful she was decades later.

Now that the holidays are here, and she is gone, I travel toward the sound of The Salvation Army bell-ringer in search of a red kettle to help others and carry on her tradition.

PS: Today is Giving Tuesday which encourages people to give back during the holidays.  To whatever charity you like, in whatever way you can, give back to others.

 

Photo Credit: The Salvation Army website

Why Now Is The Best Time To Grow Old: Innovation in Housing

The Artist-in-Residence program at Judson Manor retirement community in Cleveland Ohio is #5 on what will be my list of “100 Reasons Why Now is The Best Time to Grow Old.”  It’s a brilliant idea!  Three college students from the Cleveland Institute of Music live rent-free at Judson Manor and in exchange the students provide concerts for the residents.  But, as you’ll see in this 2-minute video, the residents and students gain much more from their multi-generational living situation.  Talk about a win-win situation.