Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Dying To Care

My usual intent here at 20 Mini-Vacations is to be up-beat and encouraging. Today I'm going to get serious and give you a sobering fact.

You may be dying to care.

Right now.

Shelly Webb at The Intentional Caregiver says in her June Newsletter "It's been said that almost 50% of caregivers die BEFORE the person for whom they are caring." Fifty percent. Count 'em, that's HALF! In his keynote presentation at the Raleigh Triangle Caregivers Conference Dr. Jamie Huysen confirmed this statistical fact with research to back it up.

Half of the 80 million family caregivers out there (Dr. Jamie's number) will die before their elder.

  • Because we caregivers do not take care of ourselves as well as we should.
  • Because we come up with every excuse we can think of to avoid taking a break.
  • Because we let guilt instead of common sense be our guide.
  • Because we don't think we're important enough to give ourselves even mini-vacations.
  • Because we don't trust anyone else to help, to care our way, to care the correct way.
Any of this resonate?

Dr. Jamie told his audience that caregivers who do not take care of themselves, who do not find time to laugh and play, who are in the caregiving role 24/7, who do not use every supporting resource available--these caregivers can become victims of post-traumatic stress disorder. Yes, PTSD, the disorder by soldiers in war. Or these caregivers develop PTSD's milder, yet still disabling, cousin: Compassion Fatigue.

The good news? Early Death, PTSD, Compassion Fatigue. These are all PREVENTABLE.

All you need to do is to give yourself the same consideration that you give your ailing parent, your spouse, your children, your volunteer group, your pet. Put yourself at the top of your Care List.

Every day, among all the things you do for someone else, do at least one thing for yourself.

Every day. Without fail.

Then, you'll be Living to Care.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

POD: Take A Class

I exhibited at the Triangle Caregivers Conference yesterday in Raleigh, NC, and in addition to the sessions on the business of caregiving and dementia care, there was a whole track of sessions on Self-care--exactly what we talk about here at 20 Mini-Vacations. My table neighbor in the exhibit hall was a gentleman from a wellness center that offers yoga classes, and that led me to this post.

A one-hour session of yoga with an experienced instructor is a great Pause-of-the-Day, and attending twice a week provides even more physical and psychological benefits. If yoga is not for you (I'm a Tai Chi person myself), then choose another physical activity where there is movement, interaction with people other than your elder or care team, and the chance to work off tension.

If you already have an exercise routine in place that works for you, consider one class in some area you'd like to explore--learn a language, woodworking, try out a new computer program, explore history, take up pottery creation. The important part is to remove yourself from the "caring environment"--in which, by the way, you are not personally receiving much care--and place yourself in a stimulating, distracting, and pleasurable environment where you get real relief and satisfaction.

Where do you find classes, even free or low cost? Check out the local university or community college; the city or county recreation and education departments; the newspaper; public bulletin boards at the library, shopping center, or market; ask your friends. Once you are tuned to this low-key search, you'll begin noticing POD class opportunities.

Have you taken your mini-vacation today? If not, right now is a great time.

Blessings on your caring--for YOU!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Power Tools Course

I have been impressed by the number of conferences and classes that exist to help caregivers find resources for their aging elders and care tools for ailing seniors to live more independently. There are fewer opportunities for caregivers to learn to care for themselves.

One of the classes that does focus on the caregiver's needs is "Powerful Tools for Caregivers". This class is a six-week educational program developed by Legacy Health System's Caregiver Services and provides family caregivers with the skills and confidence to better care for themselves while caring for someone with a chronic illness. Class members receive The Caregiver Helpbook as a take-home reference. Legacy Health reports that many class participants have fewer feelings of anger, guilt and depression and increased confidence in coping with the demands of caregiving. After attending you're also more likely to use community services that can help ease your burden. It's all good.

The topics covered during the program are:
  • Taking Care of You;
  • Identifying and Reducing Personal Stress;
  • Communicating Feelings, Needs, and Concerns;
  • Communicating in Challenging Situations;
  • Learning From Our Emotions; and
  • Mastering Caregiving Decisions.
The wonderful news is that many local councils, support groups and organizations are now arranging for this course to be offered around the country. Check with your local AARP chapter, Area Agency on Aging, caregiver support group or on the Internet to find out if there will be a class offered in your area. The course fee is small--usually between $10 and $25 for six weeks--but no one is turned away because of cost.

This is a great opportunity to learn some techniques for coping with stress, become more confident and find better balance in your life. If you learn of a session near you, I encourage you to attend.

Blessings on your caregiving day!