2/19/2018 0 Comments
Caregiving and the Pantyhose Principle: Asking for Help When You Can't Do It Alone
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...
Love is Our True Destiny
Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone - we find it with another. ~Thomas Merton
I want to share with you a couple funny stories about my Mom in the nursing home. They are proof that love never dies and is our true destiny, as Thomas Merton attests.
I arrived for a visit with Mom to find her sitting in the TV common area holding hands with the gentleman in the seat next to her. As I walked in and gave her a big hug and kiss, I asked how she was. She smiled a very sweet, slightly sly smile and glanced at the man beside her saying, "I'm doing fine. I've got a man!" I cracked up, since she was 91 at the time and because it reminded me so much of the Gershwin lyrics from the song I Got Rhythm: I've got my man, who could ask for anything more? She then expressed concern about whether I had a man of my own (I assured her quickly that I did, lest she suggest something I didn't want to contemplate).
Mom and this very kind man continued to be good friends and companions until death parted them, and it always warmed my heart to see them holding hands and smiling at each other fondly.
The second story happened earlier, soon after Mom arrived at the home and before she met her gentleman friend. I was at work, in a frantically busy office, when my cell phone vibrated, indicating a call from the nursing home. In a bit of a panic, fearing some kind of emergency, I grabbed the phone and rushed out to the parking lot to get a good signal, leaving a lobby full of people waiting, none too pleased about my disappearing act.
The social worker from the nursing home quickly allayed my fears and then told me she had an "incident" to report. Well, that sounded pretty ominous. An incident? She further relayed that while waiting for the dining room to open, my mother had been sitting in a small alcove watching TV when another resident, a man, kissed her. I think I laughed out loud at this point feeling very relieved and repeated, incredulously, "Kissed her? Do you mean a peck on the cheek kind of kiss or were tongues involved?", I questioned. She assured me that it was fairly innocuous, according to her interview of the two people involved and witnesses. She further reported my Mom did not seem distressed at all by the kissing "incident" and indeed could not recall it. Well, I've had kisses that were less than memorable, but I suspected it was Mom's Alzheimer's causing this lack of recall. As I breathed a sigh of relief, I explained to the harried woman that I was not upset by this breach of manners, and actually, if this were the worst "incident" that ever happened that would be excellent. In fact, I continued, "My Mom may have even been the kiss-er instead of the kiss-ee, in this case, given her propensity for flirting." Sometimes you just have to look at the lighter side of life and love.
With all the Valentine's Day hoopla yesterday so fresh in mind, it feels good to know that love can bring us joy at any age and in any circumstance. So get out there and hold hands with someone you love. And make your own kissing incident. Love is our destiny, indeed!
"There are four kinds of people in this world: those who have been caregivers, those who currently are caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers."
No matter which of the above four categories outlined by former First Lady Rosalynn Carter you may fall into, there is little doubt that your life has been affected by Alzheimer's -- either through a family member, friend or spouse. I won't bombard you with statistics, since they are all over the media airwaves, thankfully so! But I want to point out the there are over 65 million family caregivers in the US alone, mostly women, struggling along as the unsung heroes or sheroes, as the case may be, who deal with this disease or others, daily.
I want to let you know that they need your help. Yes, I'm talking to YOU! This is not a disease which will allow cheering from the sidelines. You're going to have to get down and dirty, and maybe take a few hard knocks for the team and almost definitely get out of your comfort zone. If you know anyone who is dealing with Alzheimer's, for heaven's sake, help them out!
Here are some things you can do:
1. Give them a huge hug and a warm, sincere "thank you" for their love and care. Let them know you acknowledge how tough it can be. It will make both of you feel better.
2. Offer practical help: a couple hours of respite care so they can go to a movie or shopping or take a nap. Do their laundry at your house and deliver it clean and folded. Take their children out for an afternoon of fun at the park or zoo to give those "sandwiched" between elder care and child care a break on one end of the caregiving spectrum. Find information about resources available in your local area for support, respite, help and give them to the caregiver with encouragement to help them follow through.
3. Take a walk to end Alzheimer's on Saturday, October 19, when the Alzheimer's Association is sponsoring a national fund-raising event. Click on the Alzheimer's Association link above to sign up. Get your company involved in matching donations raised (if you work for a company so inclined).
4. Help start a Memory Cafe in your community. Here's a "Toolkit" guide for this very worthwhile project and more information about how successful they are and how easy it is to bring better quality of life to those with dementia. There are currently about 80 Memory Cafes around the US, mostly grassroots local efforts, and so very helpful to caregivers and those with dementia. The concept is really taking off in the UK, with excellent support from the government. Here, unfortunately, we have to do it ourselves.
5. Be an advocate for creating dementia-friendly communities, so that caregivers can take their loved ones out to a restaurant, shop, church, or other public event without feeling the terrible stigma that tends to pervade uninformed environments. It isn't that people aren't willing to be dementia-friendly. They simply don't know how. Educate yourself, then educate others. See the excellent resource "Aging, Dementia, and the Faith Community: Continuing the Journey of Friendship" by John T. McFadden, M.Div., Chaplain at Appleton Health Care Center in Appleton, WI)
6. Practice the Mosquito Principle: "If you think you're too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito." So, go ahead and be annoying to the decision-makers who can help to fund the end of Alzheimer's. Bother everyone you can think of and be very persistent in your efforts to help caregivers at the end of their rope, dealing with Alzheimer's. You CAN make a difference. Practice being mosquito-like. It can actually be fun, once you get the buzz, er, whine of it!
7. Introduce folks to this website which has a depth of resources, links, tips, advice and sanity-saving humor to help caregivers maintain their own well-being. There are helpful ideas about using music, meditation, aromatherapy, self-care, inspiring books, personalized playlists on iPods with www.musicandmemory.org, and so much more at www.caregiverwellness.biz.
8. Lastly, practice outrageous acts of kindness and caring for the people you love, and maybe for strangers, too. Use the Pay it Forward concept. Reach out and offer your support in big and small ways. Be vocal, be an activist, be a pain in the patooti, but be involved. If we are not, who will be?
"It is in crisis that seeds of opportunity are planted."
I really believe that a crisis is an opportunity standing on its head to get your attention. I have had this proven to me in countless ways in my life, as, perhaps, have you. Many of those times occurred during my role as caregiver. There seemed to be an abundant number of crises available to test the theory at any moment of any day. I also recognize now, if not always during the actual crisis, that there was very little control I could exert over the particular crisis-of-the-moment, but there was always a choice in how I perceived it. I alone could determine how I "judged" or reacted to some urgent thing grabbing my attention.
So, having said that, did I always choose to view the crisis of the moment as a positive, as a blessing, as an opportunity for growth? Of course not. I have all the same human foibles anyone does -- actually, I may have more than the usual foible complement. But, I also have intelligence to examine, research and learn from what I encounter in life. I have a resilient spirit, which I nurture with good books, happy thoughts, humor, uplifting music, prayer, meditation and yoga on as regular a basis as I can manage. I have wonderful friends, family and community whom I can turn to when the going gets beyond tough into torture. So, I count myself very rich in goodness, even though, to an outside witness, my life might not appear to be so rich.
I want to share two books with you that have made a HUGE difference in helping me to find sanity, contentment, and insight so deep it kinda scares me! The two books are by one author, Alan Cohen, who is an incredibly gifted author, motivational speaker, life coach, and great human being. He has written 23 popular inspirational books (you'll find my four favorites below), been featured on Oprah.com and has a lively talk show called "Get Real" on HayHouseRadio.com. But, here's the thing. I think he transported via mental telepathy or something into my brain and came up with the exact stories & anecdotes, warmth & wit and spiritual nuggets of truth I needed and put them all in these two books. Really! I don't know how he did that! So, I think you should read them and let me know if you feel the same way.
His book, Enough Already: the Power of Radical Contentment, captured me right from the start with the subtitle - radical contentment - what an excellent concept! Perhaps this is what we all need to practice to counterbalance all the radical bad stuff in our world. His chapter titles are also priceless and funny: "Going Nowhere Faster, Desperation Repels, Where Few Have Gone Before, The Secret to Winning the Lottery". Are you intrigued yet? The book has the following blurb on the back cover: "In a world where fear, crisis, and insufficiency dominate the media and many personal lives, the notion of claiming contentment may seem fantastic or even heretical. Yet finding sufficiency right where you stand may be the answer to a world obsessed with lack. In his warm, down-to-earth, and believable style, Alan Cohen offers fresh, unique, and uplifting angles on coming to peace with what is before you." Hmmm. That's it in a nutshell - coming to peace with what is before you. Isn't that the magic key to a happier life? So, would you rather be happy or be sucked into seriousness? Would you rather see the opportunity or the crisis? Is finding a state of peace and contentment your goal or do you live in a world where struggle and lack are the only thing you can imagine?
If you answered "yes!" to the first part of the questions above, then this book is the radical, realistic, resounding roadmap to getting there. Find the opportunity in your crises and learn how to be "radically content". You won't be disappointed with this book, I promise!
The second of his titles which appealed greatly, is A Daily Dose of Sanity: A Five-Minute Soul Recharge for Every Day of the Year. Well, the title says it all. Who couldn't use a soul recharge that takes five minutes and leaves you feeling inspired, uplifted, lighter and a little bit more sane? I find the daily "doses" of humor, lively insights, anecdotes and quotes a perfect way to give me a needed boost, morning, noon or night. I refer to it often, and even find myself reading ahead (or behind) the actual day simply because I am intrigued by a title on the page. It's so wonderful to hear Alan's "take" on life through his lens of experience with guiding so many people to more empowering choices. How refreshing it is when something can open your heart and bring you clarity, insight, and a smile all at the same time? And in five minutes! Did I tell you this man is a miracle worker?
A Lesson on Stress
A young lady confidently walked around the room while leading and explaining stress management to an audience with a raised glass of water. Everyone knew she was going to ask the ultimate question, 'half empty or half full?'... She fooled them all .... "How heavy is this glass of water?" she inquired with a smile.
Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. To 20 oz.
She replied , "The absolute weight doesn't matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, that's not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my right arm.
If I hold it for a day, you'll have to call an ambulance. In each case it's the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes." She continued, "and that's the way it is with stress. If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, as the burden becomes increasingly heavy, we won't be able to carry on."
"As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again. When we're refreshed, we can carry on with the burden - holding stress longer and better each time practiced.
So, as early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down. Don't carry them through the evening and into the night... Pick them up tomorrow. For caregivers, this lesson is especially important. You need to put down the "glass of water" and rest.
1 * Accept the fact that some days you're the pigeon, and some days you're the statue!
2 * Always keep your words soft and sweet, just in case you have to eat them.
3 * Always read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.
4 * Drive carefully... It's not only cars that can be recalled by their Maker.
5 * If you can't be kind, at least have the decency to be vague.
6 * If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.
7 * It may be that your sole purpose in life is simply to serve as a warning to others.
8 * Never buy a car you can't push.
9 * Never put both feet in your mouth at the same time, because then you won't have a leg to stand on.
10 * Nobody cares if you can't dance well. Just get up and dance.
11 * Since it's the early worm that gets eaten by the bird, sleep late.
12 * The second mouse gets the cheese.
13 * When everything's coming your way, you're in the wrong lane.
14 * Birthdays are good for you. The more you have, the longer you live.
16 * Some mistakes are too much fun to make only once.
17 * We could learn a lot from crayons. Some are sharp, some are pretty and some are dull. Some have weird names and all are different colors, but they all have to live in the same box.
18 * A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.
19 * Have an awesome day and know that someone has thought about you today.
AND MOST IMPORTANTLY
20 *Save the earth..... It's the only planet with chocolate!* I THINK !!!!
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.
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