Category Archives: Caregiving

10 Tips For A Well Oiled Home

We all know there is more than one way to skin a cat.  Not that we’d want to.  This is true of all things. I don’t care if you are just a caregiver, homeschooler, parent, or even working from home, there are a million ways or more to do just about anything you desire.

So today I want to share a few tips as well as show you an average day in my work at home experience.

#1: Priorities

It’s just a matter of finding what works for you.  What feeds your family and their needs. What makes life manageable. This is going to be different for everyone.  And a part of the process is realizing what you need to thrive.

The first thing you need to do is sit down and determine what those needs are.  Mine are as follows:

  • Freedom– Being able to do what I want to do (within reason). This is a big compent as to why I am pursuing financial independence.
  • Time for myself– Making sure that I take care of myself and my personal needs for space, time, and relaxation.
  • Family Time– Making sure to make connections with my little one and my parents. Family events and activities.
  • Spirituality– Ensuring that our family life is enriched. This includes getting my mother to bible study, exposing Freya to all sorts of religions as well as my own…and discussing questions we have in regards to spirituality.
  • Clearing of Old Projects– Over the years, we all end up with projects we haven’t finished. My big goal this year is to clear those projects off my list before starting any new ones. From sewing to woodworking, I have a number of projects to finish.  Getting those done will make my life easier.
  • Organization– I have been working hard since the end of last year to declutter and make sure that everything has a place. I would say that I’m about 60% of the way there. I would still like to get rid of some more stuff and refine where it is organized.
  • Cleanliness– I don’t expect to have a perfectly clean house. I gave up on that a long time ago, between all my other duties and the little one. However, I cannot tolerate a dirty kitchen and I hate it when coats get dropped on the floor.

#2: Savers

We all try to save time. I won’t try to put an exhaustive list here, but I will list a few things that help me save time and money.

  • Bulk cooking – When I make a meal I make enough to freeze for at least another if not two or three more meals. This way we can eat the same thing for dinner each week and I only have to cook it once or twice a month. I save so much time cooking and its especially great for busy weeks and weekends. It also leaves me time to make more fun treats throughout the week.
  • Life Skills – When I say this, I mean that I have miss Freya help me with everything I believe she can do. It does take a bit of time for a new task, but she loves helping and its teaching her valuable skills. It also gives me more time later as she can help take on those tasks. Currently, she gathers all the things I need for cooking and can grab her own plates, among other tasks.
  • Meal Planning – It takes the guesswork out of what we’re eating and it’s still adjustable. It also saves you on groceries.
  • Making my own cleaning supplies– Saves me both time and money. I can make one batch on laundry concentrate over the course of a day (there’s some waiting involved), with a hands-on time of about 30-60 minutes. For that time I have 5 gallons of concentrate that will last me at least six months if not longer. Other supplies are multi-purpose which allows me to take them from spot to spot and get my cleaning done more quickly.
  • Finding a flow to your schedule that works for you. -Probably the most important thing you can do.

#3 Be gentle with yourself

Some days you just aren’t going to get everything done. Things will go wrong. The important thing to remember is that you haven’t failed, you’ve just had a rough day. There’s no reason to be harsh with yourself. Or put yourself down.

I hear so many women, no people who are harsh to themselves.  We should never call ourselves failures and we should recognize that even we need days to recharge.  So next time a day doesn’t go as planned remember that you’re only human.

#4: Task Master vs Servant De List

It’s great to have a plan and a to-do list, but remember that you cannot be a slave to it. Again things can go wrong.  It is fine to have a plan, but if you don’t get everything done you need to take a look. You may have planned more than you could get done or unforeseen events could have prevented you from reaching your goals.

Again be gentle with yourself.  These things happen and its okay.  Being harsh with yourself is not going to make it any better. And stressing yourself out with more than you can manage in a day will only leave you more frazzled, less focused, and unable to accomplish more.

#5: What you do matters

It’s great to want to do everything but remember your priorities. What use is it to clean or work all day, if you don’t make time to enjoy your family or even yourself.  I often find on busier days that I’ll drop homeschool for the day or cut out something that needed to be done so that I can spend time with my family.

I know its tempting to just keep trucking along, but it will only lead to burn out and an unhealthy lifestyle.  It will leave your children, spouse, and other family members missing something they need as well. Your attention.

#6: Have a Schedule

Even if you work at home have a schedule. Having a schedule gives you and everyone in the house a framework for what should happen over the course of a day. Whether you have little ones or family members with dementia/memory issues, having a framework will help them function within your home.

I’ve also found that having a schedule keeps me grounded and reminds me of my priorities throughout the day.

My Day

The Daily To Do List

Every day I have a to-do list.  Here’s what it looks like. I prioritized the list by what I tend to do first, however, I always remain flexible and move things about as I need to.

  • Breakfast
  • Dinner Prep
  • Chores (3-5 cleaning items aside from daily maintenance)
  • Dishes
  • Homeschool

Then I have a list of things I try to do for myself each day

  • Read
  • Reiki/Meditate
  • Some work on one of my unfinished projects
  • Udemy class

Schedule

  • 9 AM- Wake up, reiki, meditation, organize for the day, get dressed, etc.
  • 10 AM- Breakfast and Dinner prep. Valkyrie Cartoons
  • 11 AM- Cleaning and Chores, Family Showers.  Valkyrie plays time.
  • 1 PM- Homeschool
  • 3 PM- Play with the Valkyrie
  • 4 PM -Udemy Class for me, Tablet time for the Valkyrie
  • 5 PM- Dinner at the table
  • 7 PM Project Time
  • 9 PM The Valkyrie and I do something together (Usually a show and read)
  • 10 PM Finish getting ready for bed and put the Valkyrie to sleep.
  • 11 PM My time to unwind.
  • 12 AM My bedtime (not always great at following this).

#7: Be Flexible

This is what works for us. No one in my house is an early riser, my parents, even less so than I. I get most of my work done in the morning and the Valkyrie helps a bit between playing her own games and depending on her mood.  Once my parents are up things tend to be more unpredictable in terms of what I might get interrupted with.

Some days they wake up early and I have to put off my chores until they are otherwise preoccupied. It can make for an unpredictable day sometimes, but for the most part, we all know what should happen and when.

#8: Relax your parenting

Everyone is terrified that they will not do good enough for their child. We rush everyone to everywhere and over schedule ourselves. We helicopter parent not even letting them play outside by themselves. Our world isn’t so scary that our children can’t play without our constant watchful eyes.

If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, I suggest two books I recently finished.

#9: Find Joy In Everything You Do

If you can find joy in any task you will enjoy doing it. While I know this is far more complicated than easy, it is true. And its something that I often have to work on.

It also calls us to bring balance into our lives. If you hate cleaning, then maybe you don’t need to focus on cleaning quite as much. Maybe it’s okay for you to have a messier house. I gave up on keeping the sink clear at all times because my parents simply are not capable of it and I can’t seem to manage it on my own.  It still bothers me some days, but I’m less stressed by not trying to focus on it all the time.

#10 Find Magic In Everything You Do

In addition to balance, there is magic all around us. Our very breaths are magical. So don’t forget to take a moment to enjoy things. You don’t have to rush about. You can take your time and do it near perfect and find joy in that as well.

Find joy in having your little on help where they can. It’s magical to see them acomplish and learn right before your eyes.

Find magic in how much simpler your life is. When you look at a loaf of bread you find joy and magic in the fact that you don’t have to bake it in a kiln over a fire. Or that you have a mixer when three generations or so ago that would have been a novelty.  You can slow cook things without constantly tending a fire. We have heaters and water at our fingertips.

All of these things should make us feel blessed. They should help us to realize that we have far more time to do things than our forebearers did in the past.

 

 

 

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Limits: What to talk about

Part 4 of our Limits discussion, and the last one….whoo!. I know it been a lot to get through but this final topic should help you pull together your plans for a chat.

If you are just joining us, check out the links for part 1, part 2, and part 3.

Today I’m going to share the things I have included in some of my talks with my parents. I’ve tried to think of every bump in the road we’ve encountered. I’m sure I’ve missed a few, but I’m hoping that I’ve at least caught the most important. Any of you who think of something I’ve missed, please message me below and I’ll get it added here for anyone who may need it. As always I want this to be a place of support with as many viewpoints and ideas as I can manage to get out there.

With that being said, let’s get to it!

Limits: What to talk about?

Personal Space-

This one continues to be a problem in our house. We all live together. You have to figure out what will work. Right now I have “office hours” or hours that are supposed to be my own. With my situation this only kind of works, but part of that is the toddler. Recently, we’ve been talking about me getting my own place and just having a room here for me and the Valkyrie. That way I have a place to stay if I need to stay the night for some reason. Or maybe you just need a room where you can have some time to yourself. Again think about what you want before you go talk to them.

Discuss feelings

Make sure that each thing you talk about is mutually beneficial. In my case, my parents live in the living room. It’s easier for mom to move around that way. However, they want time to talk as a couple. And they want time apart from each other. One of our recent discussions worked out how mom could get away from dad both in and out of the house with her limited mobility. We also had to have this discussion when my mom started receiving counseling in the home. In the end, we set her up in my little one’s room and no one goes back there. Simple enough.

What you will and will not do

I personally draw the line at wiping asses. Just saying. At one point I had a problem with giving a sponge bath. You’ll find over time that with necessity and acclimation your limits to such things will change. Recently, we started giving my mom showers. Even more recently, she decided that she wanted to be able to do as much of it by herself as she could. Since then we’ve started working on that.

On this one, I would also think about smaller things. One of my biggest pet peeves has always been being asked to do something that the person is perfectly capable of doing themselves. It’s one thing if its on occasion or while they are in the middle of something. However, it gets old really quick if someone takes advantage of it. Just an example.

Setting a schedule

I would make a plan for when things will be done. My parents know that I will always make breakfast. I have a list of chores that will get done each week. Mom knows what days I give her a shower and what times I work. We have a bit of trouble sometimes with the difference between my schedule and her sleep schedule, but that is a part of the reason we’ve considered me moving out. To create the boundary that helps her realize when I get to have a life and when I’m helping her.

I know this isn’t possible in all instances. If you have to provide 24-hour care, your boundaries may look a lot different. Or they may be different just depending on the needs of those you are caring for. Your boundaries may be that you get time to yourself while they have respite care. Or when a caregiver is in the house, if you aren’t the aide. Just keep these things in mind as you make your plans and have your discussions.

Maintaining a life

This is important. You have to make sure that those you take care of realize that you need time to yourself. No you cannot run off every night and party, but maybe you have a date night, gaming night, and a night on the weekend. I make it a priority to get out of the house at least two times a week just for me. It doesn’t always happen. And no, this does not include grocery shopping for the family. At least it doesn’t for me. These should be fun moments away to ease your mind.

This also includes other obligations. I run a group. I’m working on building my own businesses online. I have obligations to the little on with homeschool and everything else. I have to balance those things with what I do for my family. Eventually, this may mean me not being the aide. Actually, I kind of hope it leads to me not being the aide.

Extent of Care

Talk about the extent of the care. What will you be doing and when? Who else can help? What agencies can help you fill the gaps?

Who is financially responsible for what when applicable? That one is incredibly important and can get messy very quickly. My personal suggestion is to not blend the finances. It is way easier to keep two books than to blend the finances.

As I said before, these are just some things based on my own personal experience, that you should think about when having these discussions. Based on your own situation and those you are caring for you may have more or less. I would love to hear below if you have anything you had to discuss that went beyond the scope of this post. Something I hadn’t thought of or experiences that might benefit someone else. I will update this post if needed as well. My goal is to help other floundering or fledgling caregivers find their feet and avoid even a few of the mistakes I made along the way.

Blessed Be.

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Building Limits

The last two weeks we looked at the beginnings of building limits and boundaries. We did some exercises to determine where they lie and how to start forming them. However, we haven’t talked too much about why they are important. I was so focused on the realizations I’ve had the past couple of years that I nearly skipped it.

However, I’m glad we did the rest of that work. Honestly, as important as why is, it’s more important to start working on it. Many times we find ourselves already in a bind before we start making these changes. Hopefully, none of you got to that point, but if you do, remember you can always pull yourself back out.

Regardless, today we’re going to talk why and giving some further tips that may help you get everyone else in the house on-board with the changes you may be making in your life and theirs.

Boundaries and Limits: What happens when you don’t have them?

1. It can affect your relationship with the person.

All relationships rely on boundaries and limits. When you act as a caregiver it is very easy for those lines to get blurred. Where do you draw the line between your duties as a daughter/son and your duties as a caregiver or CNA?

As far as my company is concerned, I am a dedicated worker that goes above and beyond. There are things I do as a family member that other workers wouldn’t be able to. Or wouldn’t want to do for liability reasons.

For example, I make up the meds. I try to do it off shift to stay on the up and up, but that doesn’t always happen.

If you lean too far to the family side of that line, you can get yourself in trouble if you’re working for a company. If you veer too far in the other direction, you may not end up meeting all their needs or causing a personal rift between you. I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum. It’s hard to find that balance.

2. It can get very uncomfortable….very quickly

When you don’t set clear boundaries, those you deal with are going to seek out definition in their own ways. They will test regardless, but if you put no limits or rules in place, they will push to see how far they can go. People need to know what you are and are not willing to do for them.

When you don’t set clear boundaries you can end up doing things you probably shouldn’t be doing. I met a caregiving daughter once who bought her mom pot. While I don’t philosophically oppose the idea, it is currently illegal in most states and remains illegal on the federal level. Either way, this daughter was running errands for her mom, got caught and lost her job. Worse, her mom was without a caregiver for a couple of weeks until they could find a company willing to accept her. Worse, the daughter nearly ended up in jail time for petty possession.

It’s not worth it. And if you had asked her before she started caring for her mom…that would have been a hard limit for her. However, the lines got blurred due to lack of clear boundaries and concern for her mom. Concern is all well and good. I won’t condemn that. However, if she had put her foot down she may not have ended up in that predicament.

3. You can harm yourself or your loved ones

I’m just going straight for the personal example with this one. I’ve had back problems since about third grade. I was injured and my back has never quite worked the way its supposed to since. Disk and alignment problem. Yuck. And that’s in addition to the problems I have with my wrists due to my own youthful stupidity.

My mom isn’t a small lady. She currently weighs, as of this writing 233. Getting her in and out of the car and up and down the ramp is a bit difficult. I’ve hurt myself a few times. Now, this isn’t something I can change right now, but it is a part of the reason I’m working towards being able to scale back.

Someday it might not be a minor injury. Someday she could get hurt due to my lack of physical capability. I don’t’ want that. Nor do I want to be unable to work or care for my daughter.

My point

Boundaries protect both you and them. While I”m sure I could come up with more reasons, I think what I’ve already shared is more than ample reason to be concerned about boundaries and limits. These are just a few cautionary tales. Limits are important both mentally and physically. And we need to be looking out for everyone’s best interests, including our own. I know it’s easy to forget about what you need in all this or to just keep going. But think about them. Think about your future. Really think about what is best for everyone involved.

Now let’s get to those tips and tricks

How to build boundaries

We’ve already talked about how to determine limits in part 1 (add link) and we did some exercises in part 2 (add link).

Remember these are very personal questions with no right or wrong answers.

Once you have in mind what may need to change you are going to have to sit down with your family. This may just be the person you are caring for. Or it may include siblings and others who are willing to help.

A Needed Explanation

First, you need to explain why this is happening. Change is exceedingly scary, especially when you cannot care for yourself. If you are just taking over the care, you will need to do this as well. Many loved ones are resistant to giving up their independence. They may not even realize that they need your help. However, if they can no longer cook, clean themselves, or perform activities of daily living (ADL’s), then they need to understand that they need help if they want to remain as independent as possible.

If you’re having this conversation at the very beginning its easier, but I wouldn’t say its always easy. If you’re renegotiating, it will likely be much harder. They may be comfortable and remember change is hard. Your loved ones may not think you are serious depending on how much change you are suggesting. They may think that they can get you to compromise far more than you are willing to do. Either way, just remember that this is scary for them. They rely on you and anything you change affects them.

Compromise

On the note of compromise, yes, you might compromise some. However, you have to remember that you are balancing your life so that you can provide the best care for them. While you don’t want to be rigid in your expectations, you can’t be too flexible. Remember, if you can’t function doing x,y, and z or it hits one of those limits…you have to be ready to put your foot down.

I personally suggest having a list of the limits and boundaries you want to discuss. And keep it a discussion. Don’t let it turn into an argument. If it gets too heated be ready to walk away.

Biting off more than you can chew

And you never know, they may have things they want to talk to you about. Maybe there are some things they can take over. It’s also a tendency of a caregiver to take over things that they don’t necessarily need to take over. They may be too afraid to talk to you about it and this may give them the chance.

And realize, that in some instances, you may not be able to have this discussion. Depending on how incapable or capable they are, there may be a point where you are just making these decisions as if they are children. It hurts both you and them. It makes you feel like shit. I find this to be very true with my father who is diagnosed with Dementia. Sometimes, he just isn’t capable of having a discussion or making those decisions.

What’s Next?

You have to be prepared for that as well. However, hopefully, if you do this from the start or start early enough, you won’t have that problem. You will have already discussed what they want you to do so that you can make the best decision possible for both them and yourself.

That’s it for today. Tomorrow I’m going to post the last section in this series. I’ll share with you the topics I would put in my discussion and why.

Until then remember that you’re doing this because you love them and you love yourself. You do this job because you want to see them get the care they deserve from someone who loves them. Keep your chin up and keep trucking. I know its hard, but with a little bit of support, we can all make this uphill battle.

Blessed Be.

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Determining Limits

Welcome back. Last time we started talking about limits. You can find that post here (add link). But if you’re all caught up let’s continue.

Originally, I wanted to start talking about why they are so important, but as I began to write this post I found myself more concerned with helping you find them. I still intend to do that post, but I’m going to push it off a little bit. I want to talk to the other care providers I know and give you a few more examples from a practical perspective.

So for today, we’re going to work through a few exercises to help you determine your limits and to make sure that you are fitting the things into your day that you really need to be doing. Because sometimes limits mean just doing the things that have to be done and not trying to do everything on the household bucket list.

An example

When I first started doing this I was very young. I’ve been helping with my mom’s care for as long as I can remember and as I’ve gotten older that has just meant more and more responsibilities. Dad worked and mom couldn’t, so anything I was able to do was left to me. That’s just how it was.

Between taking care of mom and dealing with childhood bullies, I didn’t have much of a life. I didn’t have many supports. Which may be a reason I still struggle with those supports. The longer you stay away from social interaction the harder it becomes. I’ve seen it with both myself and my mother. We both started out as very extroverted people. I’ve watched her lose that and become very introverted. And I”ve watched myself fight to land somewhere in the middle.

Back to limits, however, I had few limits for myself at the time. I was too young and I wasn’t cognizant enough to realize that I needed them. I did everything asked of me. It took me a really long time to understand why that was so frustrating. And the reason was that I wasn’t taking care of my needs or fulfilling my desires. It made me angry and more resentful as time went on.  

Teen Rebellion

However, when I hit my teens I hit my rebellious streak. I ended up moving to a new town a year before my parents. I had a year with my grandmother.  No chores. Nothing. I was just allowed to be a preteen.

So when mom moved back in with all of us and wanted me to do even more. Things that she could do for herself. I wasn’t the nicest person, to say the least. I had reached a limit. No longer was I willing to just do everything without question.  No longer was I willing to do things that I knew she could do on her own.

This caused a huge rift between us for a while. When they finally bought their place next door. I didn’t move in with them. Instead, I stayed across the circle with grandma. I still had chores over there. I still had things to do, and at first, they tried to make me do everything. However, after a few family chats, screaming matches, and a lot of frustration, my father realized that what my grandmother was telling him was correct. I needed to be a kid and fulfill those needs and mom needed to do what she could.

At the time that didn’t happen, but I see her trying now and I am very thankful for that. We get along way better then we did back then. The point is that limits shift. You find new ones and abandon old ones like clothing. Our priorities change and that’s okay. The goal here is to find a balance between what you want, what they need, and ensuring that the gap is filled somewhere.

Your Limits

Exercise # 1

For the next week keep track of everything you do and how much time you spend on it. I did this a few years ago and was readily surprised at how much time I was wasting on Facebook and other diversions. There is simply so much you can learn about yourself by what you spend your time on. Use this sheet to chart it and see what you are using your time for and maybe some things you can drop.

Exercise # 2

Last week we made a list of everything that you do. You made it as detailed as you liked or could manage. I want you to have that list nearby.  Pull out a blank schedule you can fiddle with and a pencil.  I want you to go through and write in all the things that life could not go on without.

Base Needs

Set aside time to pay the bills. Set aside time to grocery shop and cook dinner. These things have to be done. No negotiation. They are base needs.  My simple list includes:

  • Cooking
  • Showering Everyone
  • Grocery shopping
  • Paying bills
  • Cleaning
  • Work (easier for me since I work at home)

Social Needs

After base needs. Fill in spots for your social/personal needs. Now, this does not mean schedule something for yourself each night. For me it looks something like this:

  • One night out with mom and the Valkyrie
  • date night
  • time just with the Valkyrie.
  • an hour or two for myself each day.

That’s it.

All the Other Stuff

After that, you can look at other things. I have an income so my businesses, crafts, everything else is secondary. All of that comes after everything else I’ve already gone through.  I make time for it because it is important for me to have a backup plan.  However, people are more important. So make sure you meet your base needs first. Then you’re social.  The social things may only happen every other week, but I make sure we do those things because the interaction is important.

So after I’ve put in my base and social needs I work on the rest. Once or twice a week I have a time set aside to try to get as much of the paperwork done for anything else. For example, I’m trying to get dad services, but as much as I want that, there are other things that need to be done as well. So I use my paperwork time for that.

The rest of my day I have these things on my list in the order that I’d like to get them done. I try to do them daily. It doesn’t always happen:

  • Exercise/Meditate/Pray (It’s kinda all one thing for me)
  • reading (short little books about happiness and such)
  • Write or edit a blog post
  • ABC mouse with Freya
  • Udemy class (currently doing 2 lectures on a web design class and one in Reiki)
  • Crafty (something creative. Right now I’m doing a box a day on my advent calendar!)

On most days I get through the Udemy class but occasionally I don’t. I do my best. Just remember that your todo list isn’t the end of the world. If you don’t get it all done, it’s okay.

Every day, when I’m done for the day, I look at my list. I count how many things were on it. I add in anything that popped up and interfered with my plans. For example, today I needed to package and freeze my meat from the grocery trip the other day so it didn’t go bad. That was one more item on my list, just an unexpected one.

Once I know how many things I planned on doing/came up, I can’t how many things I got done. Most days, I find that out of 10-15 items, I’ve gotten around 70% percent of them done. Sometimes more. Sometimes less. Also look at how complicated the tasks were and realize that you probably got more done in a day than you think unless you wasted a ton of time on Facebook like I used to and sometimes still do.

Exercise # 3

Now you have to determine what your limits are going to be. You’ve looked at your time. You are going to have to look at how much and what you are willing to do. How far can you go before you break yourself? Avoid the last one if you can as I can say that it sucks to not be able to give care because you’re down with an injury.

Burnout is a real concern and it’s really easy to fall into. I’ll save burnout for another post, however. Today, we need to just focus on avoiding that entirely.

When you find something that you think is a limit consider the following:

  • What makes it so uncomfortable or why do you dislike it?
  • Can you completely avoid it or are you going to need someone to do it?
  • Can you compromise on that fact to some degree?
  • Who can you ask for help?
  • What are your resources?

Another example

Bed baths used to be an issue for me. I was very uncomfortable. Why? because I had an issue with wiping her butt. It sounds silly but it is true. I also didn’t really know the proper way to do it…if you can really say there is such a thing aside from pericare.  For a while, I had someone else who could perform that service in the house, another aide. However, when she left, I realized that I could bend and learn to do that. However, I still refuse to wipe her rear. That’s her gig, not mine for as long as she can do it.

We can renegotiate if we get to the point where she can’t.

At the time I knew I could ask the aide for help. I also knew that there were services out there to provide that care if you don’t feel qualified. Remember, you don’t have to provide all the care if your loved ones are eligible for these programs. I only took over the care was because there was no one else to do it and my company offered to hire me to cover the hours. Otherwise, my care would have just been limited to financial and transportation.

This is just another reason why limits are so important.

And if you can’t do it?

That may mean that you need to ask a sibling or other family members for help. In my case, I don’t have that luxury. My sister has her own health problems and lives on the other side of the country.

It may mean that you need to seek outside help. And depending on what has changed your limitations, it could even mean walking away at some point. Or realizing that it’s time to put them in assisted living, a group home, or even a nursing home depending on the situation.

You have to respect your limits both physical and mental.

No matter what your reasons, you have to realize that in the end, it doesn’t do any good to push yourself past safety or mental limits. If you end up taking yourself out of the equation to do so. If you hurt yourself pushing past those limits, then who will take care of them? And don’t forget your mental limits. If you push yourself past your mental limits, what will happen to you?. Or worse, your children if you have them.

It’s Not Easy

And I am not saying that any of this is easy by any means. I’ve walked away from my parents and grandma at points where the gaps were covered. Even though I needed to do that at the time to go to college, I will never that was an easy choice. I made a lot of phone calls home and spent a lot of nights hoping that they were really okay. The worst was when my grandmother’s health started to decline. I was in England. It had been bad enough being three hours away much less three thousand miles with a six-hour time difference.

When I was finishing school and my grandmother really fell apart. It was hard to keep my promise to her. She wanted me to finish finals instead of coming home to take care of her. The woman who basically raised me because my dad was working and mom was sick. I said goodbye to her over the phone because she told me that my education was more important. That was hard. It hurt. And a lot of times these decisions for good or bad do hurt.

No matter what you learn from this, realize that you’re not alone. There are resources out there for you. I hope you consider this to be one of them. There are people out there who can help. You just have to find your resources and be willing to use them. Be willing to learn from them. Most of all, be willing to recognize your limits because if you don’t, you only hurt yourself and those you love.

Stay tuned. Next week we will actually cover what can go wrong when you don’t have limits or don’t set stern enough limits.

 

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Limits: The First Step

We all have limits and boundaries. Some of them are hard to set while many others are hard limits. But limits are exceedingly important when you are a caregiver. Not setting boundaries or recognizing limits early on can make your job a lot harder. It can become nearly impossible to backstep into a more comfortable position. Worse, you can become a doormat to those you love, leading to resentment and anger. I’ve done this. I’ve made these mistakes.

Trust me, I don’t want to see anyone else make them. It sucks to be quite honest.

Occasionally, I find myself looking back on things in the past. Well, a lot. I also think about my current situation.  I do this often, so I thought I would take a moment out of your day to explain the importance of limits and how to work through them together as a family.

Right Now

Currently, I find myself wanting to take a step back. Letting someone else take some of the hours. Currently, I run 40-45 of the aid hours and that doesn’t include the things that I have to do outside of my job like paperwork for their services, among other things. I would like to have more time to work on my own business ventures. Mainly so that I have a backup plan.

Right now, if something happened to either of them, my daughter and I would have limited options and little to no income. We would be dead in the water. And it’s important to make sure that you have these kinds of plans. In the future, I would like to do a post on how to do that if you’re in a tight spot. But first I have to figure it out myself.

For now, we’re just going to focus on how to determine your limits and how that affects the boundaries of your caregiving duties.

My limits

If you had asked me a few months ago or even a year ago. My limits would have been drastically different. However, over time, the longer you do this, the more some of those boundaries become flexible. In some cases, this is a good thing. In others, not so much. For example, It is fine that I got over my aversion to giving my mother a bed bath. It’s not so great that I’ve started giving in to her cravings (all of which go against her dietary recommendations).

If I let that go too far it could have really bad consequences for her. Remember, if you are entirely in charge of another adult, sometimes you’re going to feel like a jerk telling them no. Just saying. It is a problem I face on a regular basis. But sometimes it has to be done.

.Recently, I’ve learned that my limits have changed. While I am fine with providing more care, my privacy and personal needs have changed. I don’t want someone walking into my bedroom at all hours of the night wreaking havoc on my sleep schedule. I can’t handle being the only one doing everything when others are capable. To me, these are reasonable requests. With my family, however, as much as I love them, that may mean moving out and just being over here during the day.

I’m also realizing that I don’t have a support network. Or at least a very strong one….something I recommend to everyone out there. I will admit, I’m not always the best at following even my own advice, but like everyone else, I’m working on it.

In my case, I’m realizing that I have to do more to take care of myself and that may mean dropping other things.  The problem is knowing which things to drop.  Everything always seems so important. But really, unless you make a life-threatening decision, life will go on no matter what you decide.

What You NEED!

Realize what you need to be okay. Whatever that means. Realize that is okay. You may meet somewhere in the middle. You may do something you don’t like. But it is not okay to constantly hate your life or to feel trapped all the time. It is not okay to keep pushing yourself until you break.

There is no shame in realizing you are at or nearing your limit. Also, there is no shame in needing to step back or even walk away. Especially if you are starting to feel like you are mentally or physically incapable of continuing. Realize that this job takes a lot out of you. Trust me, I should know. I’ve been doing some variant of this nearly my entire life.  It’s not easy.

I love my parents. The decision to change my role is not one I take lightly. Or even one that I’ve finalized. However, it is okay to realize that you are unqualified or in over your head. All of us have those moments and I would be concerned if you never even have a thought about it. Being a caregiver is one of the hardest things you may ever do.

That doesn’t mean that you walk away never to return. It doesn’t mean that you don’t care. You can still play a role in the caregiving. It just means change. And you should realize by now that life is full of changes. Good and bad. Hard and painful.

If you realize that staying is more emotionally or even potentially physically harmful to the person you’re caring for, then it may be time for you to move on. Don’t think it can’t happen to you. Anyone can be pushed so far past their limits that they might do things they otherwise wouldn’t. Realize that its okay to ask for help and its okay to take a step back. Even if it’s not easy.

What You Do Now

The first thing you need to take a look at is what you’re already doing. Make a list. Include everything. Maybe ponder it for a few days or even weeks. Make sure you have absolutely everything that you are responsible for. I’ll leave it up to you as to how detailed you get.

To keep it simple, I’ll try to keep my personal example below short. However, I’ve done this list. And after two weeks detailing everything and sub detailing because I’m anal like that….my list is around 3 pages. It includes specifics for each room and paperwork that I should be doing as well as what I consider my duties to my daughter.

People

  • Toddler: homeschool (ABC mouse, incorporating counting into our day, talking about letters, etc), play, socialize, fun, keeping a routine, bedtimes, figuring out parenting issues, etc.
  • Boyfriend: quality time, date night, extracurriculars
  • Mom: get her out of the house, diet, exercise, doctors, medications,
  • Dad: get him to eat, get him to help out.

Rooms

  • Bathroom: Everything in both should get cleaned at least once a week
  • Bedroom: gets picked up at least once a week
  • Kids rooms: gets picked up at least once a week, toys get put away
  • Living room: Toys and pickup
  • Office: File, organize, pickup
  • Garage: keep organized
  • Dining room: keep table clear

Chores

  • Sweeping weekly
  • Dusting weekly (mold and dust allergies)
  • Moping weekly
  • Vacuuming weekly
  • Cleaning the kitchen daily (stove, counters, dishes, and the appliances once a month)
  • Laundry
  • Putting away laundry (a dreaded task of mine)
  • Making sure everyone gets showers (including the adults)
  • Paperwork for work
  • Phone calls to various doctors
  • (This is a particularly long list)

My endeavors

  • Blogging
  • Occasional Craft (to decompress)
  • 2 websites
  • Getting new wholesalers
  • Working on my curriculum (hasn’t been happening recently)

As I said this is the short version of the list. Depending on how detail oriented you may find that your list is shorter. And that’s okay too.

Realizing Your Limits Takes Time

We all have limits. Sometimes we can see them and other times we run into ones we didn’t even know we had. I am a stubborn girl. It is hard for me to admit when I’m wrong or when I find a new limit. I want to think that I can push through anything, but sometimes I have to realize that even I can only do so much.

And you are going to find those things too. Some of them may surprise you, even shock you. Others may hurt or make you feel bad. Like you aren’t doing enough. However, if you are taking care of someone you love, full or part-time, you are doing something.  You care.

How much you may be able to do, may vary from your situation to mine. And that is okay. Accept what you can do and find solutions to the rest as you go. You may struggle to do a thing you hate, but if you hate them don’t just keep doing them. Find ways to respect your own limits. It’s hard, but it’s one more thing to help you prevent burnout and resentment.

In the next post, we’re going to take our list and put it to use. We’ll take a closer look at the importance of limits and how to determine yours for yourself.

 

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Explaining Death To A Toddler

The other day I had an interesting, but heartbreaking opportunity. At 5:30 A.M. our little Valkyrie’s Nana in OH called me. It was unusual.  She usually waits for us to call or calls in the evening, but today was different. Nana was calling me to tell me that the little one’s great grandma was in the hospital, likely brain dead.

She didn’t want the little one to come up with her daddy.  She wouldn’t be allowed in ICU and she would have been bored out of her mind. It created a bit of a conundrum for our weekend plans, but we worked that out. Anything to support my extended family.

However, I had to explain to Freya that she wouldn’t be seeing Great Grandma anymore.  It wasn’t something that was easy to explain.

Warning, this post does discuss our family views of spirituality.  I’m the live and let live gal.  My opinion is that we all have a right to our opinion and that religion comes down to being the best person you can be and contributing to humanity in the best way that you are capable of.  None of my personal beliefs are intended to offend. I’m merely sharing my personal experience in this instance as well as how I tackled this particular situation.

The Hard Truth

The truth is that we all face death at some point in our lives.  It hurts and it makes us cry, but its a part of life. A fact. We will lose people. And how we handle it determines how we move on. In turn, I believe that how we discuss death with our children matters. It teaches them, shows by example, how we deal with.

Avoiding the conversation only leads to avoidance in the child.  Keeping them away from the truth only models lying. It doesn’t prompt them to come to you when they have questions. From the kids I grew up with, I learned that the parents who weren’t open to their children, often had children who didn’t come to them or who kept secrets.

Whether you agree with this assessment or not isn’t a big deal.  We all deal with death and have feelings about how death should be dealt with.  This is just my opinion and how I handled telling my child about the passing of her Great Grandmother.

What to say

Tell them what you believe. You don’t have to get technical.  You don’t have to tell them everything, but do your best not to hide. If they ask my personal opinion is that it’s better to give some sort of truthful answer. I remember watching so many so many of my friend’s parents tell them half-truths or not answer the questions.  Often they found the information even if their parents avoided it.

My parents, on the other hand, told me everything. It was tough. There were moments where it was scary, but I never felt lied to.  And better yet, I always knew that I could get the truth from my parents.  I didn’t feel the need to go behind their back or ask my friends for the information because I knew they would give it to me or help me find it.

What I said

Now I doubt my 3-year-old understood everything I told her, but I told her what I believe. I kept it simple and I left it open for her to decide. As we are a mixed religion household I do my best to not influence her in any direction.

I explained that we all have a soul.  The soul is our essence. It’s the part of us that can walk between the worlds, go to heaven/Summerland, or be reincarnated. I told her that the soul is like the magic spark that makes us ourselves. She really liked the bit about magic because most of her favorite shows are about monsters, magic, or education.

Then I told her about Heaven, Summerland, etc. I explained that some people believe we go to one happy or bad place forever. And that other people, like m, mommy believe that people go somewhere to rest before they go on to the next life.  When she asked who was right, I told her the truth. We don’t know for sure. That was probably the most confusing and question filled part of the discussion.

She had a few questions. I answered them.  Mostly she wanted to know if Greatgrandma was going to be alright and if everyone else was sad. She told me that she was worried about daddy and nana and pawpaw. And then she was done.

Conclusion

Whether you agree or not with my thoughts on telling kids as much of the truth as possible, just don’t lie to them. They are way smarter than we give them credit for.  And they tend to know when we’re lying even if they don’t tell us.  Think back to your childhood remember those moments that you knew your parents were lying to you.  Even I had a few of them.

The more honest we are with our children the better our working relationship, our connection with them.  And that is massively important.

More important than any discomfort over a discussion about death or any other topic.

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Stress and Caregivers: The Nitty Gritty Truth

If you are a caregiver, particularly to a family member you are going to be stressed.  There is little you can do to stop this stress aside from trying to look on the bright side.  However, there will be days where even that is a daunting task.  

On any given day there is entirely too much for me to do and not enough time for me to do them.  I have to cook the meals, clean all the rooms, do all the laundry, and the rest of the household chores. Then there are the finances. There will be paperwork for insurance, pensions, loans, etc.  In my case, there is also a small child and everything that goes along with that. I could go on and on.

stress

When there are too many pieces or parts to track it is easy to feel overwhelmed

My point is that it is hard.  There are days that I feel like a complete failure. There are days where things go wrong and I break down and cry.  I often feel overwhelmed or like there is no end in sight.  I’ve had days where what I felt made me feel like a horrible daughter or even mother.  

Even worse, some days, I fear what the end looks like. In my case, I don’t know if I will have a place for myself and my Valkyrie to go.  I don’t know if I will have figured out a backup plan. I’m always working on it, but that doesn’t mean I’ll find a viable option before the proverbial shit hits the fan.  

Feelings are Okay

The first thing I have to tell you is that all of these feelings are okay.  

You have a right to feel them. Acting on them may be an entirely different thing. However, it is okay to feel them. 

Don’t get me wrong. You wouldn’t be doing this if you didn’t love them. But it is okay to feel this way. It is okay to cry.  You may not feel like it, but it is. I’m almost 30. I’ve been helping to take care of my mother for nearly my entire life. I had a short break from 2006-2014, but I’ve basically been doing this my entire life.  

There are days I hate what I do.  There are days I wish that I could walk away. I have had moments where I feel useless. You just have to accept that these moments will happen an move on.  

And even if you aren’t a caregiver in the sense I’m talking about, this can apply to you.  You may be a single mom taking care of four kids. Or maybe a single dad. You may even be happily married, but have 12 kids.   Regardless, it is always okay to feel the way you do.  Feelings aren’t logical.  They don’t have to match what we know to be true or our obligations, perceived or otherwise. 

What to do?

This is much harder.  The good news…there are plenty of options. The bad news…it may take you some time to figure out what works for you.  The worse news….you may find something, have it work for a while, and then be straight back to the drawing board. But don’t fear. Here are a few of the various coping mechanisms I’ve cycled through over the years:

  1. Counseling– You would be surprised how much it can help to just have someone to talk to.  If you can’t afford a counselor, this could even work with a friend.  It just depends on you and your preference. 
  2. Journaling– I used to love writing down everything I felt. The best part was that I could go back later and evaluate it and determine if I really felt that way deep down or if it was just a passing fancy.  Sometimes I felt something in the moment that wasn’t something I felt all the time. Sometimes that feeling was getting to the root of the issue and others it was just a part of the momentary panic.  But writing allows you to go back and take the time to figure that out. 
  3. Creative outlets– This is my current cycle. In the last few months, I have painted minis for tabletop, sewn more dresses than I have room for in my closet, and thrown myself into coming up with new and creative ways to homeschool Freya.  In some ways, this site is even an outlet.  It gives me a place where I can share and write and maybe even help someone.
  4. Yoga, Meditation, and exercise– I put these all together for a reason.  It’s just about what helps you get out of your own head. For some people that is solitary and sedentary and for others its about motion. I’m a little bit of both, so I use these interchangeably depending on what phase I’m in that day.  
  5. Reading– Sometimes I read fun stuff. Recently if I read for stress, its been self-help.  I’m going to list a few of them in the resources at the bottom of the page.  Sometimes you just have to work on you to get through the rough patches.  Maybe there is a reaction or coping mechanism you can learn to help you.
  6. GET OUT– this is a big one.  Maybe the biggest. You have to get out of the house and interact with other people. Every once in a while when I get really low I pull together some money and I take myself to the mall. Maybe I buy a new dress. Maybe I get my nails or eyebrows done. It may just be going out to get some guilty pleasure (I prefer lily’s nearly sugar-free chocolate or sushi if I’m ditching the diet).  Or find something you can go and do at least once a week. I have a gaming session with some of my high school friends nearly every week.  I drive an hour and a half to get out of the house and do something else.  

Remember Who You Are

Just remember its easy to get lost in what you do. It’s easy to forget to get out and enjoy life.  I can’t say I have it entirely together. I just told you that there are days I cry and break down.  There are days I don’t want to do anything (and I only do the bare minimum).  No matter how upbeat you are there are going to be those days.  It’s a fact. It doesn’t make you weak. That just means that you are human like the rest of us. 

It means that you have needs too.  It may mean that you aren’t meeting those.  And there may be times that you can’t meet all of your needs. I am an extrovert. I want to get out there all the time. If I could I would have something going at least two or three days a week.  Eventually, I would need a week or two away to recoup, but I love being around people. I love doing fun things. However, I know I can’t do that. So I take what I can.  For example, this weekend I’m going to a retreat with my friends. Next weekend we have a sitter so we can go to a social event together.  

We may only make it out together once a month aside from our gaming, but we get away from everything. 

And realize that there may be more than you can keep up with.  This does happen sometimes. You may end up in a situation where you are perpetually putting out fires. That is okay too.  Don’t give up. Keep working on solutions. You may find a way to at least dull the burn, even if you can’t put out all the fires at once.  

 

Just remember that for as horrible as your situation may be or you may precieve it, It can always be worse and you can always find ways to make it better. 

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Caring for your Parents: Part 2

This is a continuation of my first post on things you may need to do when you start caring for your parents and essentially take over the household.  As hard as being a caregiver is, there are so many things that I would never have even thought of doing in the beginning. I wish had known some of these when I was sorting everything thing out in the beginning. 

Last time we talked about the things you should probably try to get done first. Today we are going to talk about the next step.  Things that you may not have needed to do right away. And some of them are things that will come up as you go along or fix themselves as you become more comfortable in your ability to take care of your parents.  

If you would like to read the first post you can find it here

Power of Attorney

The first thing I wish I had done was obtained a Power of Attorney for both of my parents.  There will be some groups such as insurance companies or banks that will require this for you to be listed on the account with no personal liability. Or they may require it for their own legal purposes.  Either way, it is also nice to have this just in case. If you have it and something goes horrifically wrong you have a way to take care of things that you might otherwise be stuck on.

It isn’t that hard to do either. In most states, you can get a form online from your state website or other legal websites. Sometimes you can find them for free and other times you may pay a minimal fee.  I bought an entire package of end life planning documents that covered just about everything for the state of Indiana. It cost me about $40.  I’ll have to see if I can track down the site again as it had paperwork for just about every state.  

In most cases, once you have the paperwork you just have to fill it out (except for the signatures) and have it notarized. We were able to do this for free at my parent’s bank.  The only other things I would recommend is possibly filing it with a lawyer if you have one.  Otherwise, keep the papers in a safe place or on you.  You never know when you may need them. They’ve come in handy several times. 

In addition to a power of attorney, you may also consider getting the durable medical. You’ll want to talk about all of this with your parents.  A normal power of attorney is generally just for financial matters. For my parents, I also have a durable medical power of attorney on both of them. Of course, if you have any questions or feel uncomfortable doing this on your own, contact a lawyer.  The law is constantly changing and it’s important to make sure that you cover all your bases. 

Finding Additional Help

It takes a lot of time to provide full-time care and sometimes you just need a break.  On top of that, it can become impossible to hold down a job depending on the level of care your parents require. I had a job outside of the home at one point, but between the little one and my parents, I was missing a lot of work to ensure that everything was taken care of. I simply didn’t have time to commute an hour (the closest decent job I could find), work, and manage everything that had to be done at home. It was just too much. 

When we lost one our aides I came to the decision that I would become my mother’s aide. I only work part time, but that’s all I need at this point. However, it also gives me a break. I have hours where I can run out with the little one or run errands. I can even make time to go out and do something for myself if I can find a sitter.  And I get to spend all day with those I love (it can be both a blessing and a curse).  

The great thing is that your insurance may cover this. There are also local. community programs that sometimes offer waiver programs. I know that mom’s coverage is a bit of both.  And if you are interested in a career (if you don’t already have one) getting your CNA is a great option. It takes about 3-4  weeks and  I’ve seen classes for as low as $520. 

Get Rid of the Clutter

This is a good time to talk to your parents about going through everything in the house. It isn’t a time to be brutal (unless they are packrats and moving somewhere smaller), but it’s a good time to help them get rid of things they no longer use. Warning, for most people this is going to be hard. You accumulate a lot of stuff over the course of a lifetime, unless. you’re a minimalist.

Just think of it this way. Less in the way for you to have to clean up both now and later.

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Being Your Parents Caregiver

If you’ve read my About Me page, you know that I work at home as a caregiver for my parents. When I started out I had no clue what I was doing.  I was in over my head.  I was lucky to have a few friends and family members to turn to, but there was still a huge learning curve.  So I wanted to share what I’ve learned in my journey.

Now, I know this is not an easy topic.  Nor should it be.  It’s hard when you have to play parent to your parents.  They are bound to resist and it is going to feel strange. It gets even worse if it actually starts to feel like they are children in your care. I can’t even begin to describe how strange it feels.

While I know my situation isn’t as bad as it could be, it is frustrating to feel like I have three small children instead of one some days.  There are times when my mom feels like a little kid vying for my dad’s attention.  There are other days where I imagine their actions are not too dissimilar from what I will face when the little one is a teenager. Some days are better and of course, some days are worse.

From memory problems to physical problems, the entire process is very draining. It is entirely too easy to become overwhelmed or burned out.  We love our parents, but there’s a lot to do when you manage two houses. Well in my case: two budgets, a house, a small child, and my many hats and side projects.

What Can You Do?

Whether you are already here or fear it, there are steps you can take to make your own journey easier.  Here are just a few steps you can take to ensure a smooth transition.

Get Organized

The very first thing I should have done was to find out where all of the important documents in the house were. If you don’t know or they don’t remember, start looking now.  It is stressful to realize that your mom needs her license, SS card, birth certificate, or insurance cards…only to discover that your father has lost all of them in the ether of your house.  It isn’t fun to replace any of them and you will need them at some point in all likelihood.  I would also suggest buying a safe or finding a safe place to put them and putting your own documents in it as well. I eventually want a fireproof safe for ours.

The first thing I did was create a schedule and get all of the appointments on the calendar. The schedule let me break up what had to be done week to week into more manageable chunks.  Each day of the work week I clean a room, do some major weekly task like meds, someone’s laundry (we go through a lot), etc.  Some days my room cleaning is simple and I let it slide and others I deep clean.  It just depends on how bad it is and how OCD I am that day.  While you want to make sure you keep things tidy, you also have to realize that you have limited time and there is always going to be far more to do than you have time for.

While we are talking about time and dates, getting a calendar for your parents may help.  You can post their appointments so they have an idea what is going on and when they are going to be leaving the house. It also helps you remember, especially if they have a lot of doctors.

Finances

At some point, while you’re organizing you’re going to realize that bills are going to be something else you may be taking over.  The first thing to do is to look at everything they are paying for.  Make sure they aren’t overpaying for anything or that there aren’t any unnecessary expenses that could be bogging them down.  I just recently found out that mom is still on our car insurance, making it more expensive, even though she no longer drives. She doesn’t even have a license.

Once you have everything gathered, have your parents add you to the account. You will not catch everyone on the first go around. Two years, and I still find instances where mom and dad have to add me to their accounts.  But the more you get earlier on the less frustrating it will be.  Companies will not talk to you if you are not either added to the account, have POA (which we’ll talk about a bit later) or your parents give them permanent permission (if offered) to talk to you. Don’t let this happen to you. Trust me, its a nightmare.  We went through problems with this right after dad had his stroke.  I promise you will save yourself a lot of frustration doing this.

You may also find that your parents aren’t in great shape. If this is the case and you aren’t sure how to fix it, I recommend the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace course.  It’s around 90 dollars and some places offer scholarships. We took ours through United Way, but I’m unsure how many of them offer that as a program.  I don’t agree with everything it has to say, but it did help us get back on track and that was a Godsend. I’m hoping to use it one day to teach my daughter better life skills than I was given in school.

As you can see, there is already a lot involved in being a caregiver to your parents.  I know its a lot to take in, but this isn’t the end of it.  I am still finding things that I missed as I go along. In the next post, I’ll cover more things you can do to help both yourself and your parents.  From Power of Attorney to ways to keep your sanity amidst the chaos.

Until then, power on, have faith that you too can get through this, and….as always…

Blessed Be.

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