Blessing for Caregivers written by Karen Bonnell, Music: Stuart Shelton, from the CD Music Dimensions, available on Amazon.com
To all of the amazing caregivers, family and professional, in hospitals, nursing homes, or elsewhere who have been literally risking their health, their very lives and well-being, this is a tribute and salute to you. May you always be aware of the deep gratitude and admiration so strongly felt by all of us for your dedication, caring hearts and sacrifice to help our nation conquer COVID-19.
Blessing for Caregivers written by Karen Bonnell, Music: Stuart Shelton, from the CD Music Dimensions, available on Amazon.com
"Be excessively gentle with yourself." ~John O'Donohue
This is undeniably, incredibly hard. I was a caregiver for my mother for 17 years, and we weathered multiple hurricanes and hospital stays, pneumonia, falls, and other assorted emergencies, but never a pandemic. During the last months of her life, my mother was in a nursing home and they had an outbreak of flu so bad that they closed to everyone in order to contain it. As irony would have it, I caught the flu there and was then unable to go back to visit my mother for 8 of the longest weeks of my life. So, I do have the very deepest empathy for any family member who is separated from their loved one during this crisis. Unable even to say goodbye. It's heartbreaking, deeply distressing and emotionally devastating. My tears have flowed with those of family members sitting outside the nursing home window with their loved on on the other side.
I cannot really imagine how difficult it is to navigate this crisis, but I would say to anyone caught in this cauldron of fear, pain, helplessness -- keep your focus on what you CAN do -- express your love and be present in any way possible. Use a phone call or video chat or a greeting card or photo held up to a window -- whatever works in your particular circumstance, do your best. And know in your own heart that you are doing the best anyone can in an impossible situation. Try to keep yourself calm and centered by any means -- prayer, deep breathing, meditation, yoga are all valuable helps. Know that others are with you in spirit, praying for your strength and safety. Be at peace. Be excessively gentle with yourself.
Well, fast forward seven years from my last post on this subject. It got sort of lost in the busyness of life, but now the research and support for various types of meditation, such as mindfulness-based stress reduction and kirtan kriya have a much broader base of information to bolster the early claims.
I am creating a link to a Youtube video I found for doing this simple 12-minute (or so) meditation which involves chanting or singing four syllables: SA TA NA MA. First, you sing them aloud for 2 minutes, then you whisper them for 2 minutes, then silently say them for 4 minutes, then whisper again for 2 minutes, then aloud again for 2 minutes. The music and voice will keep you on track so you don't have to time anything. While doing the above, you sit in whatever way is comfortable for you, close your eyes and touch your index finger, middle finger, ring finger and pinky to your thumbs as you sing, whisper or silently repeat the four syllables. The image in the video demonstrates this.
Now, I know this is a little bit "out there" for some of my readers, but, hey--is improving your cognition and strengthening the hippocampus of your brain to help prevent Alzheimer's worth 12 minutes a day of your time? Try it for 6 weeks and see if you notice a difference. I'd love to hear your feedback!
There are only four kinds of people in the world - those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.-- Rosalynn Carter
Wellness is about so much more than just the state of our physical health. The word has been tossed around so much it has almost lost its meaning. I believe the wellness concept is a holistic one: encompassing the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual parts of us. So, in order to bring ourselves into the highest state of balance in all these areas requires some thinking and acting "outside the box".
Caregivers come in all different and unique packages; some are thrust into the caregiver role unwillingly, others embrace it wholeheartedly. We are carers for different conditions, ages, relationships, yet we all share a common bond in being one who cares for another. In that, we can relate to others in this same life journey and by sharing our thoughts and experiences, we can make the path easier for each other.
One thing most caregiving bears in common is that it takes time and energy, in differing amounts, perhaps, but still relevant. One must learn to keep the demands in balance with all other life activities. Obviously, it can get very hard to do that.
Another commonality is that most caregivers are truly "givers" -- they give love, support, kindness, patience (on a good day!), transportation, food, time, and basically whatever is needed by the one for whom they are caring. That's where this website can help! There is an abundance of practical information linked here, but the heart of a caregiver is what I am most interested in exploring and protecting. I found, in my 17 years of caring for my mother, that I almost disappeared in the midst of fulfilling her needs. It was a gradual disappearing act, but nonetheless, pretty dramatic. I want to attempt to share the benefit of some tools that I either learned the hard way, in life's school of hard knocks, or realized after the fact, when I actually had time to ponder such things. I wish that someone had thrown me a lifeline and smacked me over the head with it until I paid attention to the fact that I was drowning.
So, if you are going down for the third time, gasping for air, grab hold of the lifeline this website is throwing, come aboard and start finding your own way to true wellness and balance. The tools are all available here. No drowning necessary!
Please enjoy this excerpt from my book, Sanity Savers: For Caregivers at the End of Their Rope. This is the humorous story of the Pantyhose Principle: asking for help when you truly need it.
Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, there lived a young maid who cut her thumb doing something too stupid to mention here, and had to have microsurgery to reattach the nerve, requiring her right (primary) arm to be in a cast from fingertips up past the elbow for weeks. This was an amazingly annoying daily trial, causing the young maid endless aggravation and helplessness in doing even the basic activities of daily living -- particularly personal grooming. All the things one takes completely for granted, such as brushing teeth, getting dressed, showering and blow-drying hair became monumental challenges, exercises in logistics and planning. Now, picture this young maid trying to put on a pair of pantyhose with her left hand only; never mind why! It seemed necessary at the time. See her rolling around on the bed, breaking into a sweat and uttering some unladylike words with the supreme effort. See her husband rolling on the floor laughing as he watched. Of course, this only fueled the young maid’s fierce determination to do this silly task herself! Imagine her chagrin to have to admit defeat, swallow her pride, what little was left, and humbly ask for help before he lost consciousness from laughing too hard.
Alas, finally, with his help I, er, the young maid was wearing the pantyhose in the right places. 'Twas a very tough, humiliating lesson. Ergo, the wisdom of the Pantyhose Principle emerged.
This is a true story and reflects in a humorous way the challenges one can face as a caregiver, too. The lesson here is to just stop struggling so hard and ask for help. Simple, but NOT easy! Most caregivers start out feeling they must handle everything on their own and may find it difficult to reach out for help, but I hope you will remember the Pantyhose Principle if you are at a decision point. To avoid burnout, and provide better care, (plus keep your sanity safely intact) be attuned to when you are reaching a point of no return and ask for help.
Are you at the end of your caregiving rope? You can tie a knot and hang out there, swing back and forth, or learn how to make a hammock of support for yourself and your care receiver. Sanity Savers is a new e-book to support caregivers with practical tips, gentle self-care and self-nurturing techniques and a healthy dose of humor, to make life less of a struggle and more a loving learning experience. Learn how to live with high-level wellness and practice safe sanity, starting now...
In recently perusing the VA website, I discovered a virtual treasure trove of helpful tips and information of all kinds. You can find the homepage here. I have experience in working through the VA miasma of paperwork (20 years' worth with my mother, a WWII Navy Lieutenant, and now, just beginning with my husband, a Vietnam Vet). These resources are excellent, both in terms of general use and for navigating the VA resources. I have written several blog posts and a webpage to assist veterans and their caregivers in getting to the help available with the least amount of stress, strain and annoyance. These new VA tips are truly a departure from the usual obfuscation. In the past I have found it very frustrating to even locate any VA assistance my mother qualified for, much less learn how to establish it. Please see the Veterans page on this site, by clicking here. The VA information relates to Care for the Caregivers, Care for the Veterans, Tips by Diagnosis, Connect with Others, Tips & Tools, Publications &Resources. I have provide direct links to these pages.
I truly salute those who are caring for our veterans and hope these connections can help you to find the help you and your veteran need, deserve and have available to you. I am very heartened to see that there are ever more options, help for caregivers, assistance of all kinds. If you need additional help in accessing the resources available, I highly recommend contacting the county VA liaison person in your area. They know how to get through the red tape and deliver the information and help immediately (or at least sooner than you can probably figure it our yourself). God bless our veterans and those who are caring for them!
I just watched a very inspiring TED talk by author and neuroscientist Lisa Genova, and wanted to share her insights with you. She wrote the book, Still Alice, which became an award winning film starring Julianne Moore. In her TED talk, Ms. Genova explains in easily understandable terms what happens to the brain affected by Alzheimer's, and more importantly, what you can do to prevent it, despite your genetics and other risk factors. It's excellent information, provided with clarity and a touch of humor and offers hope. I give it my highest recommendation. You can watch it below or click the link. TED Talk: What you can do to prevent Alzheimer's by Lisa Genova
Hello all you fabulous caregivers! I've not written in a while, distracted by so many other things they are too numerous to mention. But, I have something truly wonderful and helpful to share with you. I discovered a new app for computer, smartphone and tablet that is soooooooo helpful in reducing stress and creating a calm, relaxed soothing inner peace. It's called, simply, CALM. You can download a free version (on Google play or the Apple App store) and have immediate access to guidance in quieting your thoughts, breathing deeply to still your emotions, and improving your quality of sleep -- and life! There is a more expanded version available for $4.99 a month/year subscription. You can also go to the website and use it on your desktop computer. Check it out at Calm.com. https://calm.com
I highly recommend this excellent tool for sanity and survival as a caregiver. It ranks 5 stars on the sanity saver scale :) Please share it with all your family and friends!
Because so many caregivers are also dealing with issues of depression, and about two thirds of caregivers are women, when this book came to my attention I felt a deep desire to share it with everyone who might find it of benefit. Even though it is focused specifically toward women, I believe men can find wisdom and answers here as well.
The book is titled, "A Mind of Your Own" by Kelly Brogan, MD. If you would like more information, please visit her page at Amazon, here: amzn.to/2eyamrT
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Hello all you fabulous caregivers! I have been taking a bit of a break from writing the blog for a variety of reasons. But, I didn't even post this year on World Alzheimer's Day (September 21st), for the first time since I created the blog 5 years ago. Why, you ask? Because I just couldn't make myself put forth the staggeringly scary statistics about how often someone is diagnosed or about the impacts to a caregiver's life when AD is diagnosed -- again. It felt so overwhelmingly negative that I simply couldn't do it.
Now, don't get me wrong. There's a lot of positive research happening, some of which I've been writing about since 2012, but it is now receiving mainstream media attention. For example, both music and meditation have been getting lots of attention, with the Veterans Administration now offering mindfulness meditation to veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. There are more documentaries, more information flowing, more assistance to caregivers -- all that is truly a wonderful change. But, I felt like a voice crying in the wilderness when I wrote about the one thing that daughters caring for AD parents consider perhaps the most distressing of all when they see their loved one deteriorate before their eyes: will I also have this disease? It's a natural and unavoidable question when we see first hand the ravages of the disease.
Until now, the widely promoted information is that Alzheimer's has no cure, and there's nothing much we can even do to slow it down. Grim, right? However, I know there are things we can do to prevent it (check out the rest of this website for that info) and finally, here is some validation that it can also be reversed. Yes, I said reversed.
I discovered a series that is airing online right now, for free. It's called Awakening from Alzheimer's and offers video interviews with a dozen experts in various medical and research fields on all kinds of topics related to prevention and reversal of AD through often simple things that most of us can easily do to improve our health, cognition, and well being. In fact, this series has a huge arsenal of tools and some starling new information to empower us to do exactly that. The subtitle, "Where Alzheimer's meets hope" expresses it perfectly. Hope. We all need hope. This information will serve both you and your loved one with AD. Nothing to lose, as it's free, and everything to gain. Check it out. The series is on Day 4 now, so jump on getting registered.
I wish I'd had even a small bit of this information during my time as caregiver. But, I'm sure happy to have discovered it now. Even though it's too late to help my mother, I believe it can help millions. Please share it. Hope and empowerment are precious.
Karen is a compassionate, enthusiastic student of life, who cared for her mother for 17 years. She brings her insights, compassion, experience and desire to share knowledge and healing to this ongoing conversation with others on the caregiving path. If you are caring for a parent, spouse, friend or other loved one this site offers sanity-saving tips, open-hearted self-care ideas, and an open forum for discussion, connection and sharing resources for the journey.