When the care giving role has finished, the individual usually experiences a loss of identity. Here are ten ways of transitioning successfully from being a caregiver to creating a new life.
“Now you can get on with your life” are the words of comfort we hear when our role as caregiver is over. The depression that we sink into, and others cannot fathom, is grief for ourselves. Others will attempt to help us get over the grief for the person lost from our life but will fail to realize that it is the loss of self for which we grieve later. Indeed we don’t realize this for ourselves at the time. Since we have spent a long time putting the needs of another first, we fail to understand how much of self-identification was tied up in those needs.
I was a caregiver for almost 10 years. Grief followed my partner’s death. But my “depression” did not hit till 18 months later. It was a period of transition – from one self to the next. From one identity, one image of self – to a new me. The transition has a big question mark at the beginning. “What am I going to do with the rest of my life?” “Who am I, anyway?” The journey is that of our own transformation.
How do we successfully transition?
1. Recognize that this is the task at hand.
2. Re-evaluate the role that we have played and now lost. This means look at it as if we were writing a job description. We do not need to dwell on criticizing how successfully we performed, but focus on what skills we acquired, what tasks we accomplished, what creativity we showed. Society does not place value on the role we have played. We must not fall into the trap of belittling our own accomplishments. We must familiarize ourselves with whom we have become because of this experience. We have been forever changed.
3. Recognize that over time we searched for recognition in the role we played. To do it well, the caregiver role became us. It was how we identified ourselves. Others related to us through that role. Any socializing we had was a respite from that role. Any emotional support we received was to help us cope with that role. Most of our conversation was about the talk of care giving. Then it is over and all the professionals who shared the challenge have disappeared. We are not supposed to need them any more. But they were the people who validated who we were. All those routines that had become our life – the doctor visits, the care giver support groups, the volunteers – have all gone. Suddenly we are naked. We have no identity and we are alone. The task at hand is to build a new identity.
4. Don’t deny the pain, look at the fears, and accept the feelings for what they are. We are learning how to face change. We are learning how to let go of the past – of whom we were, of what was. We are in a transition where there is no going back. A time when this moment truly is the most important of our life. For it is the only moment that is real. The only moment that counts. How we live it will determine what is ahead of us.
5. Find a mentor who has been there. If no one is available chose someone who is prepared to listen without thinking they must solve problems. Only you can forge the future path. It must come from within you, not the suggestions of others. The gift others can give you now is the ear that witnesses your progress. Their only task is to stop you from dwelling on negative repetition. We used to call this being a “broken record.” Sometimes we used to imitate playing on an imaginary violin to indicate the repetitive telling of a sad story. We do not make changes when we are repeating the same old story over and over again.
6. Slowly open new doors and test how you feel. My breakthrough came when I started reading books on spirituality and healing. I will list a few that have impacted my life and caused me to shift my views, beliefs and attitudes. They moved me from being a victim of my circumstance to being the captain of my ship. This is not a complete list but examples of books that helped me look at the world, life and me in a different way. They helped the change process.
Anatomy of the Spirit / Why People Don’t Heal and How They Can – Caroline Myss
When Things Fall Apart – Pema Chödron
The Four Agreements – Don Miguel Ruiz
My Grandfather’s Blessings – Rachel Naomi Remen MD
Home with God – Neale Donald Walsch
Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor E. Frankel
7. Let go of self restricting beliefs and attitudes about yourself and your future. “Poor me,” “my life is over,” “I shall never be able to…” – they will not serve you well. They are a devise to stifle facing change. If we see our cup as half empty – it will remain so. If we see that same cup as half full then there is room for more. When we believe in “can’t,” then that is what we will experience.
8. Let go of the need to make yesterday a living presence today. Instead use the knowledge gained yesterday to make today more successful. The brain cannot distinguish between what is happening now and what you are remembering from the past. To remember the pain of the past is to bring it back to make it real – a conscious decision. The brain can’t tell the difference. The brain can only bring into awareness one thing at a time. Again, you choose what you focus on.
9. If you experience real difficulty focusing on the now, finding it so much easier to retreat into the past, we must develop rituals to stay present. Going for a walk and consciously focusing on everything we see is a helpful exercise. Quickly we realize how much we are missing when our thoughts are not here. Actively listen to the conversations of others. Don’t concentrate on how you can segue conversation to go back in time with you. In conversations with others, discipline yourself to only talk about new information, not stuff they have heard before. This is a powerful exercise because it forces you to bring newness into your life – what you saw on your walk, the book you have just read, the TV program, the baking you have tried, today’s weather, sports teams etc. Now you are creating new life, not regurgitating the past.
10. Gradually the new you will emerge with new dreams and aspirations. They may have to be adapted to fit the budget or the limits of increased age, but we are no longer letting the budget or our age be the excuse for not doing something.
11. To be a caregiver is a gift. Often a painful one that we were unprepared for, but the new butterfly that emerges from our transitional cocoon could never have seen life if we had not met the challenge.
The person I am today, ten years after my care giving ended, is not the person I would have become without the experience. I am filled with gratitude and know I have become the person I was supposed to be in this life.
By Barbara McDowall of www.AuthenticLives.com
Just back from almost 2 weeks in my favourite part of the country, kind of my spiritual home away from home – Canada’s east coast and PEI in particular. When I spend any time along our Atlantic seaboard (Nova Scotia in particular), I invariably find myself asking “How can I live and work here”? And I feel I am getting closer to having an answer to that question.
Along the way to PEI, I happened to notice one of the ubiquitous roadside signs. This one said PEACE BEGINS AT HOME. It got me thinking about what that meant to me. Personally, I had to ask myself how peaceful was I within myself (my home), so to speak? Based on my level of personal peace, what was the impact of me being peaceful on the world around me? To paraphrase Forrest Gump, “peaceful is as peaceful does.”
With that awareness how can I then make a positive contribution to world peace through intentionally and consciously becoming more peaceful within myself? What would I need to change about me to make that happen?
To change or improve any habit or skill most often requires some kind of unlearning/relearning or training regimen. With that in mind, what regular program or practice will help me shift my focus to peace within. What works best for me is a regular practice of daily meditation of no less than 30 minutes first thing in the morning and 30 minutes at the end of my day. Frequent affirmations such as “I am a peaceful person and I bring peace to the world” are helpful in reminding me who I am and wish to become more of.
Gandhi said it so well many years ago – be the change you wish to see in the world. If I wish to see peace in the world, I must be grounded in peace, to the point that should I meet someone who doesn’t speak my language, it is clear I am grounded in peace because I am that person in the world – they can see it in action.
Peace is not something that can be imposed externally. World peace will become a more probable reality every time one or more of us intentionally and consciously choose to be peace in the world. Thankfully, this energy is an ever-increasing part of our world today. Witness the prominence of Eastern philosophies which support personal awareness, personal responsibility as essential components to creating an aware and responsible world with a commitment to ending judgment and shame.
Buddhism continues to offer me the opportunity to love myself, to love others, and to love my enemies. It offers the compassionate lens to our common “suffering” and our ability to look at ourselves as microcosms of the world. If we can be honest with ourselves, fully loving and approving of ourselves, our innately compassionate hearts become engaged in this life, as we open up to our commonality and our shared wish for a better life for ourselves, for our children and for our beloved planet.
I am grateful for that roadside billboard and for its reminder of one of many truths – as within, so without.
Barbara McDowall is a spiritual teacher, mentor, doula for the dying and celebrant (weddings, baptisms, celebrations of life). Located in Toronto, Canada, she is available for consultation by phone or in person. For more information, and visit http://www.AuthenticLives.com
Written by: Jenn Weesies
Each February everyone puts a lot of effort into demonstrating their feelings towards their loved ones. They make or buy gifts, plan special excursions and recommit their lives to each other. They act in such a way that makes their special someone feel loved, cared for and cherished. Some people though, will argue that this demonstration of affection toward loved ones shouldn’t just occur during February but should happen all year long as well. Caregivers and family members of people experiencing incontinence are constantly striving to provide the best care for their loved ones to demonstrate their affection. However, as many know, caring for their loved one’s unique incontinence situation can be difficult.Incontinence is not uncommon. Urinary incontinence affects more than 200 million people worldwide and nearly 25 million American adults are currently experiencing temporary or chronic urinary incontinence. According to the National Association for Incontinence (NAFC), incontinence characteristically affects more women than men. In fact, one out of four women and one out of eight men experience incontinence.
Enhancing the quality of care you are providing your loved ones experiencing incontinence means improving the quality of control with the right products and right fit at the best price. Here are three ways that can help you demonstrate your affection towards your loved ones experiencing incontinence by ramping up the quality of your care.
1. Buy hospital grade incontinence care products to keep your loved one comfortable. Hospital grade incontinence care products are far superior to the products that you can buy at a local superstore. These products are better quality and can increase your assurance in managing your loved one’s incontinence. They provide the highest level of protection, superior odor protection, the best fit, and the latest technology to quickly draw wetness caused by urinary incontinence away from your loved one’s body. With hospital grade products you can be sure that your loved one will remain dry and comfortable all day long.
2. Buy from a knowledgeable home health care center or medical equipment supply company. Highly regarded home health care centers and medical equipment supply companies focus on ongoing personalized management for your loved one’s unique urinary incontinence situation. They can provide personal support over the phone, online and in the store to find the best incontinence care products for your loved one. Briefs, protective underwear, pads and liners are available in gender specific fits and an array of sizes and protection levels. Home health care centers and medical equipment supply companies can offer insight to customize incontinence care products for your loved one. They can also recommend products that are easy to get on and to change, improving the ease of care. Their knowledge can enhance quality of life for individuals dealing with incontinence and can help caregivers and families provide more supportive care.
3. Enroll in a home delivery program to save money and time. Experienced home health care centers and medical equipment supply companies can connect you with money and time saving options that other stores cannot. The best offer discreet home delivery programs that can supply caregivers and family members with the convenience of on-time supplies at their doorstep with a range of cost effective savings plans. These programs allow you to order the highest quality products in bulk. After all, buying and ordering incontinence care products should not have to take precious time away from spending moments with your loved ones.
Demonstrate your feelings towards your loved one experiencing incontinence all year long through providing them the best care and incontinence care products possible. Seek the help from a knowledgeable home health care center or medical equipment supply company. They have resources and support staff dedicated to making your job easier and your loved ones happy and comfortable.
About the Author Binson’s Home Health Care Centers began in Center Line, Mich. and has grown to the home health care center it is today. Currently, there are centers in Michigan and Florida. For more information about incontinence products and programs call Binson’s at 888-246-7667 or visit: http://www.binsons.com/
article from Content Crooner
The caregiver role is complex and differs for everyone depending on the needs of the care-receiver.Many times, in the beginning, there may only be a few needs, such as providing transportation or helping with shopping or cooking.
Over time, needs increase, requiring additional services, until the care-receiver is fully dependent on the caregiver.Here are some tips to help you get started:
1. Every caregiver should know as much as possible about the care-receiver.You should know their characteristics and personality style. For example, you should know their likes, dislikes, family members, ailments, etc.
You should know if the care-receiver is outgoing or reserved, task-oriented or people-oriented. Once you get to know them better you will be able to understand their needs and behavior patterns.
2. Every caregiver should know and understand his/her responsibilities, duties, and tasks.As a caregiver, you have a responsibility to be sensitive to the needs of the care-receiver, and to find a way to satisfy their needs.
This may require you to enlist the help of others. The duties of the caregiver usually change and increase over a period of time. Set up and follow a care plan.
Recording essential daily information will assist everyone on the Care Team. It also allows another caregiver to take your place fairly easily.
3. Stay updated on the health condition of the care-receiver.
As the health of the elder deteriorates and more needs start to surface, it is important for the caregiver to find out how to cope with them.
Keep a log of his/her daily activities (medicine taken, food intake, sleep habits, temperament, etc.) so that you will always have a snapshot view of their current health.This information will help the doctor get a more complete picture of the condition of the care-receiver.
4. Assist as little as possible in tasks the senior can usually handle himself/herself. Just as it is not easy being a caregiver, it is not always easy being a care-receiver.
The gradual loss of independence and control over just about everything is difficult to accept. Remember, seniors have the right to their dignity and pride.
5. Caregivers should express warmth and concern towards the welfare of the care-receiver.
If the care-receiver has a poor self image or feelings of inferiority, the caregiver may have to provide reassurance while ignoring negative behavior.
A caregiver must have patience (and stamina) for change in moods.
6. Be a good listener. Many times seniors may simply want you to listen.They want to share their stories. Caregivers must be careful to avoid put downs and choosing sides.
Pay attention and be able to connect the dots between past, present, and future. Listen intuitively or use your sixth sense to hear underlying messages.
7. Smile a lot. Be a good friend and companion. Be as positive as possible.
8. When friends and family neglect to call or visit, do not hesitate to remind them.
9. Ask for help. Advocate for what you need. Sharing the care of a loved-one benefits everyone.
10. Maintain your self-composure and avoid stress. Elder abuse can occur as a result of caregiver stress.
It is imperative that you are aware of and deal with stress.
Author Resource:- Rebecca Colmer is an elder Care Advocate, Author, Speaker, Publisher, and Caregiver. You can find more caregiving tools and resources at her website:
The way people think, the way they behave, the goals that they have and how they go about achieving them are the products of attitudes, values and beliefs learned as children. Many are a reaction to situations experienced in the past. Unless an individual consciously sees a need to change them they become part of their persona.
In aging, the ability to maintain that persona with its power, independence, control etc., becomes more difficult. It is then that new behaviors may develop that are not understood by the younger people around. For example it is common to see in long term care facilities a behavior called hoarding. This is seen in the collecting of food, toilet rolls or pencils etc. and hiding them. Tracing the individual’s history may show that when young they lived through the depression era of the 1920’s and 1930s; they had lived in war torn areas where homes and possessions were lost. They may have spent years starving and searching for food, clothes and shelter to feel secure. Today any feeling of insecurity may bring back that fear and the old behavior becomes part of today’s drama.
During the Second World War those in concentration camps were stripped and shaved and gassed to death in shower rooms. They were victims of medical experiments, forced labour and lived amid disease and starvation. Holocaust survivors relive those memories and behave accordingly when today’s situation triggers the past.
Traditionally healthcare providers – doctors, nurses, social workers, rehabilitation professionals, personal support workers and attendant care providers – all those who work with the elderly, are younger than those for whom they care. They may have no knowledge of their past. It may come as a complete shock to the professional when the elderly person has a catastrophic reaction to being examined naked, being wheeled into a shower room, being talked to in a loud voice or being woken up suddenly. All triggers to bring past traumas to the surface.
Perhaps the situations mentioned are more obvious as we are increasing more aware of post traumatic stress syndrome in modern soldiers returning from wars zones. TV and movie dramas have included many stories of vets having flashbacks. However there is another group whose trauma is less documented and the implications of the impact of their childhood experiences less researched.
Numbered amongst today’s elderly are those who were disabled pre/post natal or in childhood. In the past most died young. But today there are many seniors who experienced hospital and institutional care from the 1930s -1950s with conditions such as Cerebral Palsy, Spina Bifida, Polio and Bovine Tuberculosis. Now as they succumb to other diseases of aging or deterioration of preexisting conditions they are having severe reactions to hospital treatment or placement in long term care facilities. Many deny that they are losing independence, many refuse to accept help from technical aids. Many resist intervention with anger. Many show what seems to be irrational fear when needing assistance. Is something from the past being triggered?
A look at the values, attitudes and beliefs common in Europe and North America in the era when these individuals were growing up gives us the key to today’s problem.
1 A work ethic prevailed that said salvation comes from working hard and that rewards from life came from working.
2. Conformity. You had to fit in and not be conspicuous by being different.
3. You should not show your vulnerability. This meant you had to hide your weakness, win at all costs.
In this environment then, the disabled and those unable to work were to bring shame, pity and humiliation to the family. When possible those with physical, mental and intellectual disabilities were hidden away in institutions or rehabilitated to “pass” as normal. Some of those who couldn’t “pass” and couldn’t work did find employment in freak shows at fairs. In Ontario Canada the best freak show of the 1930s was viewing the Dionne Quintuplets where 6,000 people would travel great distances each day to see them. President Roosevelt was always seen standing or seated hiding the fact that he wore leg braces to stand and used a wheelchair. It was felt that the American people would not feel safe in the hands of a cripple.
Little value was placed on the lives and worth of a person with a disability. Their professional caregivers were also underpaid and under appreciated. There is evidence of systemic abuse. In hind sight we call it abuse. In those days physical, emotional, verbal and sexual abuse was common in environments of low self esteem and when the belief system saw the vulnerable person as not whole. This has also been seen in residential Aboriginal schools and so on.
Many adults, because of childhood disabilities or being considered different, were brought up to believe that they were without value, god’s punishment, the work of the devil, a mistake, a burden, the cause of all the family problems and had brought shame to the family. They weren’t even considered human, but freaks. Many live with that burden today and live out the victim role, continuing to accept abuse.
Many, however, accepted the challenge facing them and despite their limitations excelled and are accomplished citizens. Many despite severe limitations chose to experience the joy of being alive and have given much joy to those who care for them. Some, like many minorities who are oppressed, have struggled to a position of power from where they have become the oppressor.
Others have from an early age denied or repressed the memories of abuse but slowly as they age and become less independent the suppressed fears and emotions resurface. When being told they need help with bathing, they can’t walk safely and must use a wheelchair or they can no longer live independently and must go into a long term care facility – all the past suppressed feelings emerge.
The professional must understand where their client is coming from. They must validate the origin of the fear. They must bend over backwards to offer choices and options so that the client can feel they are making their own decisions. Wholeness can be attained when there is empowerment. The professional should avoid harsh words or language that is perceived as threatening – after all this will only reinforce that the past is alive and well today. Respect was something rarely shown a person with a disability in the past. It would be worth showing now if trust is expected and you need risk taking from them.
Rather than reacting defensively when confronted by unexpected responses to your statements, ask yourself what does the behavior you are witnessing mean? Do you know if it was triggered by some past memory? Are the assumptions you are making – making matters worse? Spend time learning the truth now. Both your futures depend on it.
When assuming the role of caregiver for a loved one with a chronic progressive disease we know we are in for a long journey. It would be helpful if we had all the answers and information we needed, right from the start – but it doesn’t work that way. So what, in hindsight, did I learn about staying whole? I learned that I needed to constantly nourish my body-mind-spirit, my total self.
The body only works properly when it receives healthy nutrients, purposeful exercise, rest and relaxation. This has to be part of the contract. Time outor good food, sports or walks, sleep, spa days, massage and yoga are not luxuries. They are a defense against breakdown or “on the job injuries.” They are no different that wearing a hardhat or steel toed shoes on a construction site. Those around us will not understand the comparison. That is why our assertiveness on this issue is imperative. But we have been indoctrinated with the belief that our needs are worth less than the person for whom we care – after all, we are healthy. The bottom line is that to succeed at this task we must take care of our body.
The mind must be clear on its goal and the value of its task. We must understand that the impossible cannot be expected of us. Positive attitudes towards disability and care giving must be adopted. We have choices. We must distance ourselves from beliefs – our own and those of others – that belittle our worth, see disability as a punishment and our efforts as a waste of time and life. We must surround ourselves with the energy of those who validate the journey. We must reaffirm at the end of each day we truly have done the best we could have done.
The Spirit lives and grows when we accept change as a normal part of life. We learn from the past, we do not dwell there. We honour the present and we do not waste one moment of it. We must not live in isolation; we must share the journey, this honourable, worthwhile journey with others. We prepare for the future without fear or resignation, but secure in the knowledge that we are not alone. The spirit is nourished when we respond with our instinct or gut reactions not the chatter of a critical mind. The spirit is awakened when we find joy even in the small things we do as care givers. The spirit is liberated when we cease to play the victim role and become the grandest version of whom we are supposed to be.
My care giving sojourn has ended. I am blessed with the knowledge that I am a better human being because of it and I can now share those gifts with the universe. Being a care giver is not a waste of time. It can be a time well spent for growing into our wholeness. But you are right – no one said it would be easy!