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The Cheerful Caregiver

Taking care of YOU while taking care of a loved one


Monday December 26, 2011 (Updated: Wednesday September 10, 2014)

Caregiver, have confidence!

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Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy. "“ Norman Vincent Peale

I have a confession to make: I frequently feel inadequate. Acutely inadequate. As a wife, as a nurse, as a writer, as a woman, as a caregiver. Often, these feelings overwhelm me to the point I find it difficult to start or continue a project. After all, why begin something if you believe you won't do it well? Or won't even finish it?

Take this past Thanksgiving. I invited my siblings to come from out of state, and they graciously accepted. I planned a menu and some activities, but as the date approached, doubt crept in. I felt I wouldn't be able to pull off a large dinner for nine in my small kitchen. I believed my siblings wouldn't be interested in the activities I'd planned, and that they'd be bored and regret they

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Monday December 19, 2011 (Updated: Wednesday September 10, 2014)

Ho! Ho! Whoa!

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"Recharging is absolutely crucial for introverts." -- Carl King

Recently, a Facebook friend posted a link that changed my life. Maybe it will change yours, too.

The link went to a blog post titled "10 Myths about Introverts" by writer and artist Carl King. Now, I've always known I was an introvert. Heaven knows I've been forced through the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory over half-a-dozen times during my two decades in office management. But King's essay pointed out several things I didn't know about introverts (and, hence, didn't realize about myself), namely that introverts are a rare breed, making up just 25% percent of the population, and more importantly, that it's OK to be an introvert. I honestly didn't realize that.

If you're also one of the 25%, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. The pressure exerted on introverts to "become" extroverted is enormous and begins in

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Monday December 12, 2011 (Updated: Wednesday September 10, 2014)

It's about presence, not presents

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"When I look back, I recall countless hours spent perusing catalogs and stores trying to find the right gift for my mother. I also recall, as the disease progressed, watching her happily unwrapping her gifts but not understanding they were for her or what they were. What she did understand were the moments we spent together on the couch, holding hands, talking and giggling. She understood when my dad put on music and danced with her. And even if she didn't understand a joke, she understood the laughter and love that filled her home. She understood, probably better than I, that it wasn't about the stuff ~ it was about the people." "“ Patti Kerr, author

Recently, my friend Trevania Henderson of CaringWise posted this epigram on the CaringWise Facebook wall. It's a powerful reminder of the divergence that can occur between what we, as caregivers, value versus what our carees value as they

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Monday December 05, 2011 (Updated: Wednesday September 10, 2014)

Embrace Imperfectionism

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My mom moved to New Mexico one year ago last month. Since then, I have cleaned her home exactly twice.

Boy, do I feel like a poor excuse for a daughter!

Today, three housecleaning services are coming by Mom's place to offer quotes on monthly cleaning. Mom likes the idea of hiring "a maid" and isn't the least disappointed that her own daughter isn't taking care of the housework. So why do I feel like such a loser?

When Mom and Dad lived in the family home in Colorado, I had no issues regarding cleaning their house. I regularly traveled from Albuquerque to visit them and clean for them. It was too much for Mom, keeping track of all of Dad's doctor appointments and his medication regimen, doing the grocery shopping and cooking, and trying to take care of herself, too. So, I'd drive the five hours "“ at first, a couple of times a year; as things deteriorated with Dad, more frequently; fin

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Tuesday November 29, 2011 (Updated: Wednesday September 10, 2014)

5 Great Gifts for Caregivers

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Image by voxtheory used under the creative commons attribution no derivs license.

Caregivers deserve to receive great gifts "“ not only at the holidays, but all year long: Trinkets that say "thank you," "great job," and "you are loved." That last one is especially important. Family caregivers so freely give their love away that you need to share your love with them in order to replenish their well.

That said, it's true that the holiday season tends to be the time when most gift-giving takes place. And while many types of gifts, such as luxurious bath salts, will warm any caregiver's heart, I've rounded up five things I believe will make a real impact on a caregiver's quality of life.

  1. Totally Together: Shortcuts to an Organized Life by Stephanie O'Dea. This weekly planner goes beyond being a mere calendar. In the first 44 pages, O'Dea shares her "clean less, play more" strategy for maintaining a clean, organized home. The weekly planner pages allow enough room to jo

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Monday November 28, 2011 (Updated: Wednesday September 10, 2014)

Daily Routines: Write Them Down!

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I think routines represent a crucial element for family caregiver success. Routines ground us. And by "us," I mean both caregivers and the loved ones they care for. However, it's easy to stray from routines. Flexibility is one thing; abandoning routines is another.

One way to avoid abandoning routines is to write them down. You may laugh (I say this frequently), but I write down my routines. I have a morning routine, an after-work routine, an evening routine, and other routines based on activity or schedule. By writing them down, I avoid the burden of carrying them around in my brain. I don't know about you, but my brain is overtaxed as it is. My brain doesn't need one additional thing taking up space. Pen and paper work much better for tracking routines, in my opinion.

My routines reside in a 3-ring binder. I type them up, print them out, and then place them inside plastic page protec

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Monday November 21, 2011 (Updated: Wednesday September 10, 2014)

Find the Real Riches in Your Life

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"Happiness is making the most of what you have, and riches is making the most of what you've got." ~Penelope Keeling, The Shell Seekers

As the caregiver of an elderly person, I think about money frequently: hers, mine. Caregiving can be an expensive experience, depending on the financial means of the person being cared for. Luckily for me, my mom has enough cash to, I believe, live out her life in a fairly comfortable manner. Other caregivers aren't so lucky. For them, money issues cause huge stress not only for themselves but within the caregiving relationship. So, today I ask: Does money buy happiness when it comes to caregiving?

I've always loved the books of Rosamunde Pilcher. Her novels tell the stories of ordinary people working through the problems life throws at all of us: family relationships gone sour; unexpected deaths of loved ones; unrequited romance. In short, I relate to

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Monday November 14, 2011 (Updated: Wednesday September 10, 2014)

Save Money on Food

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We all gotta eat, right? And many caregivers feed not only themselves and their children, but also their parents. If your parents can't afford to contribute to the food budget, it can wreak financial havoc on your checking account. These tips will help you eat affordably and reduce the caregiving stress related to budget issues.

  1. Plan menus and cook at home.
    Yes, I know it takes time, but I've found over nearly 30 years of menu planning that our household eats only 20-25 different meals 90 percent of the time. I'll bet the same is true for your family. So, get some index cards and jot down your favorite meal combinations (not recipes, but meals "“ such as: Turkey sandwiches and tomato soup; pot roast with mashed potatoes; grilled chicken with green salad; etc.). Try to create 20 or 30 dinner menus first, then branch out to lunches. Put the cards in a file box, and simply deal yourself a

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Monday November 07, 2011 (Updated: Wednesday September 10, 2014)

Are We Broke Yet?

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In 2010, my friend Elizabeth Shean caused a bit of a sensation when she dared to discuss the hard costs involved in caring for an elderly parent. Shean took her father into her home and was unprepared for the real dollars-and-cents impact it would have on her and her husband's finances. But elder care can be an expensive proposition, and saying so doesn't mean we love our parent any less. It's simply a fact.

Taking care of a loved one with dementia or physical incapacity can be expensive. Let's dare to speak out loud about this and admit the stress caused by seeing our finances drained even as our stamina and emotions also take a beating.

And once we've felt the relief of our admission and released the guilt involved, let's look at ways to reduce the stress money issues cause so that we don't grow resentful of our loved ones or burn out financially.

Even though I don't have to pay any

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Monday October 31, 2011 (Updated: Wednesday September 10, 2014)

Attaining 'Repose and Calm'

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"If you can attain repose and calm, believe that you have seized happiness." "“ Jeanne Julie Eleonore de Lespinasse

I'm typing this during a tranquil Albuquerque morning. It's not yet 8:00 a.m., sun filters through screens into my porch, mourning doves coo and croak in the plum tree outside. Cool air and black coffee induce a peaceful calm within me.

It won't stay this way. Within the hour, my mom will call to let me know she's up and ready to go. Monday is "Mom day" in my world; when she came to live nearby, I committed to spending every Monday with her, since I'm off work that day. And Mom likes to wring every moment out of our day together, from going out to lunch to window shopping for things we don't need. To me, it's a bit exhausting, but I try to remind myself of Dad's mantra: If you agree to do something, do it cheerfully.

Frequently, though, cheer eludes me; the heat and bust

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About The Cheerful Caregiver

As a family caregiver myself, I know how easy it is to let your own needs slide to the bottom of the priority list. My mission is to help you (and me!) push our own needs back up to the top -- without feeling guilty for doing so. And in the process, we'll all become much more cheerful caregivers. In these blog posts, you'll find inspiration, exasperation, practical wisdom, humor, and stuff to make your caregiving life easier. Won't you join me? I'm Elizabeth Hanes, caregiver to my mom, Registered Nurse, and award-winning journalist. Let's make this journey together!

Read more posts like this almost every day at The Cheerful Caregiver.