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Moving On

goodbyeThe time has come to end our work on Inside Aging Parent Care.  Our aging parents are gone these several years.  We have continued, but our focus has shifted to other topics.  For me it has been more difficult each successive week to come up with a fresh, original topic that I want to write about.  So, we will be closing up shop.

I do want to share the two most valuable things I have gained from being a caregiver and writing about caregiving.  This blog has given me the structure and inspiration to write something every week for three years.  I have always wanted to write, but I have actually done so, right here.  I now plan to write about other things that interest me, and even indulge in writing some fiction.

The most valuable thing from caregiving and writing about it is that I have grown as a person, and feel much better about myself from having done these things.

Carol gave her Jungian perspective in Tuesday’s post.  She writes about the alchemical transition in kitchen remodeling and caregiving.  The crux of the alchemical process is transformation.  Transformation of base metal into gold, and transformation of one human psychological state to a higher one.

For me, the transformation was from the Puer Aternus,  or eternal boy to something of a mature man.  I was a typical Puer in my first marriage, much more committed to play and party than accepting responsibility as an adult with obligations.  I also decided I did not want children, one reason being that I did not want the responsibility.  No wonder that marriage failed.

After several years of introspection and reflection, I met and married Carol.  I had decided that if I wanted a relationship, I had to commit to it and do whatever it takes to make it work.  In other words, I decided to grow up.  I was in my 40’s.  I gave up being a Puer.

Marie-Louise von Franz, the late Jungian analyst and writer, wrote the definitive book on the Puer: The Problem of the Puer AeternusI read the book after marrying Carol and began studying Jungian psychology.  Von Franz had me nailed.  The experience of a bad marriage and a fairly nasty divorce forced me to finally give up a self-centered way of living.

Carol and I have a good marriage that requires constant work, something the Puer is not willing to commit to.  The Puer is also incapable of caregiving for the same reason.  Caregiving is an act of commitment to help another person out of love and compassion.  It takes a level of commitment exceeded only by motherhood.  A man who only wants to play at life just can’t do it.

In my case as caregiver, Frank and Audrey were in-laws that were late-comers in my life.   I stepped into caregiving because it was the right thing to do.  I don’t think many people would have blamed me if I had stood back from engaging with them.  I did it because of their need and my commitment to a genuine relationship to all my immediate family.  My relationship became closer with them, especially Frank.  We became real friends, despite our mutual tendencies to be real jerks at times.  Seeing those relationships through to their deaths was a painful time, but also one of the most meaningful times of my life.

I grew as a person because I was a caregiver.  Caregiving also strengthened our marriage.  Carol and I together confronted all the difficult times and decisions caring for an aging and dying parent present.  We became closer and more compassionate to one another as a result of caregiving.

Writing about caregiving has also made a big difference in my life.  Writing about the aging and dying process as it happened, then exploring the practical and emotional aftermath has given me a richer perspective on the task of living we all share.

Now it is time to move on. I have a lot to say about many things, and the weekly deadline of this forum is in the way.  We will keep the website up for a time, and there may be occasional updates, but it is time to say goodbye and God bless.

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The Alchemy of Caregiving

Tulip in The Snow

Rebirth

Carl Jung compares the process of psychological transformation to the magical operations of alchemy.  Change begins with a period of dissolution and chaos—a time that alchemists called the Nigredo.  Pain and confusion are the emotional hallmarks of the psychological Nigredo.  Everything seems to be falling apart both in outer life and within.

Half in fun, I began to note the similarities in Jung’s alchemical stages of transformation to the phases of our recent kitchen remodel.  Ripping out walls and tearing up the floor, accompanied by loud banging  and grinding noises—this is the Nigredo of home improvement.

The Albedo is the second stage of the Great Work.  It is a period of cleansing and purification.  In psychotherapy, the Albedo corresponds to the long process of becoming conscious of dysfunctional life patterns and to the work involved in the healing old wounds.  It is as if we are clearing the decks psychologically to allow deeper and more authentic qualities of the true personality to emerge.

In the kitchen, once the demolition was complete, the framers, electricians, drywall hangers and plasterers rebuilt, enclosed and smoothed walls, floor and ceiling.  This is like the work of the Albedo—the creation of a firm and stable foundation for the next phase of the project.

The final stage of the alchemist’s Great Work is called The Rubedo.  Jung understood the alchemists’ goal of changing base metal to gold to be a metaphor for a profound transformation of the psyche.  Something unplanned and unexpected emerges from the depths of the personality.  Jung called it a new organizing principle.

The corresponding stage in a kitchen remodel is the installation process.  This is the time when all the parts—cabinetry, linoleum, tile, lighting, and appliances—come together to create a new space and a transformed kitchen.  Now, the new organizing principle becomes visible.  I have to find new ways to store my pans and supplies.  I need to organize my work differently and even learn new skills that will enable me to use the advanced technology of our new oven and cooktop.

When he set out this theory, Jung wanted to give us a map that could guide us through the lifelong task of individuation—the quest to discover who we are within our deepest being.  We can also see the same process at work in smaller ways in ordinary daily life.

Just as with the alchemists’ Great Work, the path of aging parent care inevitably leads to a period of decline into death—the Nigredo of caregiving.  I remember feeling confused and overwhelmed during the final months of Dad’s life.  As death drew nearer, I tried ever harder to keep Dad alive and happy–as if it were up to me! 

Eventually there was no denying that death was upon him, but still the end came too soon.  Although I told Dad that it was okay for him to let go, I wasn’t quite ready for him to leave.  I wonder if any of us can ever be completely ready for such a loss?

Suddenly there was no more caregiving.  What remained were the thousand details that demand attention after a death.  Underneath all the busyness, I remember feeling an emptiness and a sense of dislocation.  Dad was gone.  Caregiving was over.  Sorrow moved in to take its place. 

The dark time might last a year.  It could be longer; or it might not be quite so long.  In the second year after Mom’s and Dad’s deaths, I found myself in a period of letting go and of healing.  This corresponds to the alchemical stage of the Albedo.  Judi, Bill and I, like many former caregivers, had neglected ourselves during those years, and now we had own health problems.  Each of us underwent one or more surgeries.  Bill and I cleaned the oven for the first time in several years.  I took a lot of naps.

We tried to put our affairs in order, making new wills and updating our living wills.  We held family meetings where we used the Five Wishes as a guide to an open discussion of everyone’s end of life preferences and concerns.  We talked to our friends about death—our parents’ and our own.  We continued to blog about caregiving and grieving and recovering from the deaths of our parents.

Looking back I see that caregiving has transformed us all.  Now we are living in the Rubedo stage.  It is a time of emergence into a new life where the question each of us must answer is “who am I now?”  What is the new organizing principle of my life now that caregiving is over? 

It’s a little easier for me to see how caregiving has changed Judi and Bill than it is to see it in myself.  Bill retired from his long career in water treatment to take up the role of a living history enactor for school children, their teachers and parents.  He has become a writer as well–something he has always aspired to.  Judi has committed herself to marriage and to building a new on-line business that she can take with her wherever her husband Willie’s work takes him.

While I may not see the transformation so clearly in myself, I do know that I have learned some things about growing older.  I see myself working to create a comfortable nest for Bill and me to age in place together.  I understand now that some form of caregiving will be a part my life for the rest of my days.  But presently I simply want to “be” for awhile and see what comes up.  

All of this brings me to the point of saying “good-bye” to Inside Aging Parent Care.  Being a blogger has been delightful.  I’ve learned new skills and made terrific on-line friends.  We’ve connected with writers, teachers, musical performers and many others–all courageous caregivers–through this blog.  For awhile it seemed like everyone we met had an aging parent that they were caring for.

I hope we have met some of our original goals for the blog.  I know that your company on this journey has helped me more than I would have ever imagined at the beginning. 

Thank you.

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Aging, Dementia, and Exercise

Some recent research indicates that regular exercise, including both aerobic and resistance work tends to be helpful in preventing Alzheimer’s.

These findings, along with the extensive literature on the benefits of staying fit as we age have induced me to attempt to stay physically active, despite a pronounced couch potato tendency.  Monday a friend and I went hiking in a Fort Collins, CO open space area up near the Wyoming border.  A good hike in the wind, and a good look at the geology stemming from the events that created the Rocky Mountains.

Frank, Judi and Carol’s father, walked for exercise, but I never saw him doing any fast walking.  As he lived in Florida, there were no hills to climb.  Not long before he started seriously declining both physically and mentally, he easily …

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Springtime Blues

Springtime in the Rockies.  Hard to predict. They say that April is the cruelest month of all.  Spring is here, but we have had a series of much-needed moisture in the form of snow.  These snowstorms do, however, interfere with all the school field trips at Four Mile.  We go to work, get everything ready, and the school calls and cancels at the last minute.

This is all part of my job, but it cuts into the income and makes it hard to plan other things.  This week, the same chain of pre-schools cancelled their morning trip after I had arrived at work, then another school from the same chain cancelled after I arrived for the afternoon session.  Frustrating.

Today, the group came and we had fun despite the snow and mud.  They were …

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The Caregivers’ New Kitchen

This morning is a bit like Christmas.  I unpack the first of a dozen or so boxes filled with kitchen items that we have stored around the house for 8 weeks and more because of the remodel.  I am happy as I lift a sturdy white pitcher from the packing box. I have missed this pitcher many times in the past several weeks. We use it whenever there is gravy or a sauce to be served at the table.  The Pyrex measuring cup I have been using lately works fine, but isn’t as pretty.

Some items like the large white pasta bowls I uncover next have not been missed.  In fact, I had forgotten these bowls entirely until I saw them again this morning.  If I haven’t even thought …

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Retired, Working Part Time, and Sore

As I have mentioned before, spring at Four Mile Historic Park  is our busiest time.  The weather is warming up, Spring Break is over, the students are restless, and it’s time for field trips.  We are also having lots of weekend birthday parties and scout field trips.

I am working four or five days per week, either four or seven hours per day.  It is all a bit much.  When I get home, there is still the aftermath of a construction project to deal with.  We have about ten boxes full of kitchen stuff to put away in the new cabinets.

This adds up to a lot of toting and bearing for a seventy year-old man.  In addition, I haven’t been very busy over the winter and am a bit soft.  I walk regularly, …

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Remodel and Retirement Yet Again

The good news is that the remodel is almost complete.  There are some remaining details; some missing trim pieces, transition strips on the floor, and minor

Almost Finished

paint and adjustment details.  We are moving back into our new kitchen, which also involves lots of decisions, such as where to put those tall cereal boxes.  That’s no problem for me-put them on a high shelf, but Carol is not as tall, and wants to be able to reach them.

I am installing a new light fixture in the dining room/eating space.  As usual, it is turning into much more of a project than I had anticipated.  Another bout of profanity and frustration, however, and I will no longer hit my head on the hanging ceiling lamp.

We continue to be happy about the …

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A Caregiver’s Next Step

Recently Carol, Bill and I have been talking about the direction we should be taking with the blog… what will be our next steps? Ever since our parents died we have been trying to continue on and let people see what life is like post-caregiving.  For me, it has been increasingly difficult to know what to write about.  Lately, it has been a lot about where I am trying to take my life.

After mom died, I felt honored to receive the understanding that she would like to be laid to rest with her father.  I like to think she is back in his arms now.  I went through the healing process and it actually took me a couple of years to really grieve and let go. I met with my siblings in …

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The Caregiver’s Journal-Counting Down the Days to a New Kitchen

The “burner” doesn’t get hot–only the pan

Presently Bill and I are counting the time until the end of our kitchen remodeling project in days rather than weeks.  The schedule says that work will be finished on Thursday.  My daughter says, “Don’t count on it.”  Still, they have been very close to being on schedule for the entire project, although there was some weekend work done by plasterers, electricians and tile setters in order to keep up the pace.

I like it best when the workers are 100% committed to our project.  Sometimes they divide their energies among two or more jobs, leaving all of us high and dry for hours and even days.  We noticed this more in the week that our contractor was out of town.  But even then, we could …

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Aging in Place – Part 2

Last week we took a look at some tips for aging in place from the National Institute on Aging.   Next we will look at the resources available to help with aging in place.

 Where can I look for help? Here are some resources to start with:

 People you know.  Family, friends, and neighbors are the biggest source of help for many older people. Talk with those close to you about the best way to get what you need. If you are physically able, think about trading services with a friend or neighbor. One could do the grocery shopping, and the other could cook dinner, for example.

 Community and local government resources. Learn about the services found in your community. Healthcare providers and social workers may have suggestions. The local Area Agency on Aging,  …

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Remodeling and Retirement, Part Three

Kitchen Tile Countertop

The remodel is going well.  The tile setter is almost finished.  He has a few small details to take care of, including cutting the sink and stovetop holes.  He has them all scribed and ready to cut out, but wants the epoxy grout to completely set up to keep the countertop intact when cutting the holes.

We are fortunate to enjoy the work of true craftsmen on this job.  Electricians, tile setter, floor mechanic, and the contractor are all people who take pride in their work.  It’s interesting to work with those guys, because they all tend to be prima donnas in some way.

The main characteristic is, like all tradesmen, they tend to disparage the previous workmen and how they did things.  They like to complain how some unknown person …

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How Do You Make Dinner when the Fridge is in the Living Room and the Microwave’s Downstairs?

Tiny Basement Kitchenette

The kitchen area looks like photos of London during the Blitz.  But still, you gotta eat. It took me a couple of weeks to begin to come to grips with the idea of cooking at home without an actual kitchen.

It’s really not practical to eat every meal out for 6 weeks.  And that includes calling out for delivery.  You get pretty tired of cold food, although I think this will be the week of cereal suppers with maybe a foray to the neighborhood hamburger joint.  Since I have joined Bill in the gluten free camp this month, we’ll take our own buns to the restaurant.

That’s one of the problems with eating out—dietary restrictions on gluten and dairy products can make restaurant eating both challenging and somewhat disappointing.  I …

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Aging in Place – Tips from the National Institute on Aging

You may share the often heard wish, “I want to stay in my own home!” The good news is that with the right help you might be able to do just that. As part of the Federal Government’s National Institutes of Health, the National Institute on Aging (NIA) funds and conducts research related to aging, including how older people can remain independent.

These tips from the NIA introduce you to the kinds of help that you might want to consider so you can continue to live on your own. There are suggestions for free or low-cost help and ways to identify benefits that might be available to you. You can share this information with others in your family, and you can use it to begin talking about your needs, now and in the future.

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Remodel and Retirement Again

The kitchen remodel is going well.  The new linoleum floor is in and the cabinets are installed. Tomorrow (Friday, March 22, 2013) the tile setter begins work.  We are going against the granite countertop trend and having tile countertops installed, thinking that is somewhat more in tune with our goal of staying in the spirit of our 1937 Tudor/Bungalow/Art Deco original decorating scheme.  We will have a Subway Tile backsplash with some colorful accents.

Our contractor, Ed Guhman of Colorado Craftsmen, Inc., is a treasure.  He is skilled, competent, and fun to work with.  In short, a treasure.  Chris, who works with Ed, is a man of many skills who also has excellent taste in music.  Good workmanship and good times.

Next week, however, Ed will be in southeastern Utah riding his mountain bike …

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Week Three of the Caregivers’ Kitchen Remodel

Because of the time change, I wake up this morning just as brilliant orange light is streaking across the eastern horizon.  An amber glow slants in over the granite countertops of the condo in the sky’s modern kitchen.  I turn off the microwave night light over the stove.  A new day is beginning.

There is color, too, in the space where our new kitchen at home will soon be. We have chosen a couple of shades of a greenish blue for the newly hung walls.  One of these colors also goes down the stairwell replacing the bland white that has greeted us there for the past ten years.

There is color on the floor. The demo guys exposed the subflooring for the first time in 75 years by removing four or five layers of …

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Planning For Profit

Well, my first full week of mentor-ship is coming to a close.  This week I worked on my profit clarity.  These were exercises to help get me get clear on where the money will come from in my business.  This was kind of hard to do since I haven’t made any money in my business yet!

Anyway, I did the best that I could to fine tune my idea for the perfect business for me and I tried to understand what my potential clients want and would pay me for.  This is called the Profit Clarity Sweet Spot.  That’s where my gifts and talents intersect with my market’s needs and desires.  There was a lot of free flow of thoughts and ideas going around in my head this week.  But I think I am …

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Remodeling and Retirement

The drywall work is finished.  The door from the kitchen to the master bedroom is no more, to be replaced by a spice cabinet in the kitchen.  The work went well, the only glitch being some spilled water running down into the globe of the basement laundry room light fixture.  Fortunately the water had someplace to go and the ceiling was not harmed.

Paint work has started, choosing paint colors and coordinating with the contractor being our part.  It took several trips to the paint store to get sample colors and applying them to decide on the colors.  With different colors on several walls it got a bit confusing.  I hope all is well.

The contractor is doing the painting, and the bedroom wall where the door was is his first attempt at a …

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A Caregiver’s Kitchen Remodel: Drama and Survival

Last week was Week Two.

The first thing that happened is the electrician’s right hand man came down with one of the horrible infections that has been plaguing us here in Denver since the holidays.  Maybe it was that nasty bronchial infection that Bill and I both had.  I finally followed Bill’s example and went to the doctor, got the antibiotics and am now free of coughing and wheezing.

With his right hand man down for the count, our dedicated electrician worked all weekend to keep the project on schedule.  What?  All weekend?  Wasn’t that the time that I planned to return home to see clients and sleep in my own bed for a few days?

So the drama begins.

The electrical inspection was on our schedule for last Monday.  However, when our electrician …

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Starting a Business – A Week of Preparation

While Carol and Bill have been in the midst of demolition, I have been doing the opposite.  I have been building a business.  My coaching starts officially on Monday but during this past week, I have been laying the foundation.  That is, I have been working through a process to gain clarity.

I have a general idea of the type of business I want to own but I haven’t worked out all of the details.  So this week I have been working on exercises to get clear on my “why” and “what”.  I have been investigating my motivation and my options.

Napoleon Hill wrote “First comes thought, then organization of that thought into plans, then transformation of those plans into reality.  The beginning, as you will observe, is in your imagination.”

This is the …

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March Madness in the Kitchen

The heart was torn out of our house.  The old kitchen is gone, the walls and floor are bare, some drywall is there, but it is empty space.  When the drywall is finished early next week some paint will go on, then it is cabinet installation.  We will have a kitchen, but it is still weeks away.  Carol has decamped, but I am here to watch things.  We see one another daily and send lots of messages via all the means we have of communicating across the city.

We are two weeks into the project, and the dirty part is almost over.  Next will be paint fumes, hanging cabinets, flooring and tile, then final touches.  Sounds like fun, eh?

Here I am going to discuss my personal experience with growing up different and not …

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