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Caring for Caregivers after National Family Caregivers Month is Over

The theme of the 2010 national celebration of family caregivers has been “Reach Out for Help.” Now that we have come to the end of this month long event, I would like to add my own personal motto as a caregiver—Never Stop Reaching Out for Help.  I know from my own experience that continuing to reach out again and again can be one of the hardest things a caregiver does.  And yet it is also often one of the most fruitful and productive actions we can take.

As caregivers of caregivers and friends of caregivers, continuing to reach out to the caregivers that we love and want to support may be even more crucial.  A month of recognition can give a caregiver a wonderful lift, but the isolation of caregiving can close in just …

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Coffee with Kari Berit

I had one of my most enjoyable times so far as a blogger on Thursday morning.  I spent an hour in a hotel coffee shop with Kari Berit, a professional consultant  the field of caregiving and eldercare.  Kari hosts a weekly radio interview program for family caregivers.  The show, The Unexpected Caregiver, is broadcast every Thursday from KYMN in Northfield, Minnesota.  She also has written an interesting book by the same name.

We have recently created a couple of blog posts around her radio show. When I emailed her last weekend with a technical question about her website, she responded promptly to my question, and to make a long story short, we arranged to meet face to face when she was here in Denver last week.

Talking with Kari is great fun.  She is a smart, enthusiastic, …

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As caregivers, Thanksgiving sometimes seems like the holiday that shouldn’t.  Yes, we go through the motions, rousing our aging parent for a dinner.   Family members are there, everyone gets through the meal with a great deal of patronizing conversation, trying to make the elder feel better.

As caregiver, you organized the gathering, planned the meal, cooked or paid for the meal, and the elder was the focus while you sat there exhausted.  It is possible you were wondering “how many Thanksgivings to go before she dies?”  Sound familiar, are you thankful?  Maybe the meal was at the assisted living facility or a restaurant and you are thankful you didn’t have to cook.  Caregiving can be a thankless job with seeming little to be thankful for.

There are reasons for thanks.  The elder …

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How to Care for Caregivers in National Family Caregiver Month

The theme of this year’s national celebration of family caregivers is “Reach Out for Help.”  Last week I shared Bill’s reflections on what could have made caregiving easier for him while Dad was still alive.  This week Judi shares how a small piece of information would have been a huge help to her in caring for Mom.

Judi’s Story

The thing that was the most challenging for me when I was my mother’s caregiver was arranging transportation for her.  She was in a wheelchair, and she was totally incapable of helping with transferring herself to and from her chair.  I drove a Jeep at the time which was quite high off the ground.  It was a big struggle to get her in and out of such a tall vehicle.  Willie’s truck of course was …

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What’s It Like To Die In The Hospital? From CBS 60 Minutes

A couple of weeks ago we published an excerpt from the beautiful Rocky Mountain PBS video Living With Dying that takes us inside palliative care and hospice care to see what really happens at the end of life for people who choose to stay at home with comfort care rather than pursue extraordinary measures in the hospital.

We recently ran across the link to today’s video clip on the CARENET news page and were struck by the contrast between this depiction of death in the hospital and that of  RMPBS report on hospice and palliative care patients, families and caregivers.  In this CBS 60 Minutes segment, Steve Kroft takes us into Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and other sites.  He interviews patients, doctors and families about the physical, emotional and financial cost of hospital end of …

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The Visit To An Old Friend

I’m just back from visiting my ill classmate.  I live in Denver; we grew up in a small town in Western Colorado near where he stayed.    Between here and there are the Rocky Mountains, where winter is fully established.  Everyone who has lived and travelled in Colorado for any length of time has had some adventures on the winter roads.

I am grateful for seatbelts and air bags.  I was able to walk away uninjured, get to the next town, rent a car, and think about what I could have done better when encountering the icy patch in the canyon.  I’m OK.   My car isn’t, but it was just an old machine.

My classmate is undergoing some difficult treatment and doing pretty well for being so sick.  His wife is not a desperate …

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What to Give a Caregiver for National Family Caregivers Month

November is National Family Caregivers Month, a yearly celebration of caregivers that goes back to 1994.  This year’s theme, “Reach Out for Help,” reflects one of the biggest lessons that I learned as a caregiver–never stop reaching out for help.  Unfortunately, much of the time we caregivers are so overwhelmed by the job we are doing, that there is no time to think of how to get help or even of what help might be needed.

Now, with the perspective of hindsight, the three of us have been able to distill some of our thoughts about what might have been most helpful to us when we were actively caring for our aging parents.  It looks like our greatest needs were for two things—support and information.

Bill’s Story

A high school classmate of mine is …

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The Unexpected Caregiver The Promise of Care with Carey Lindeman

For those of us who have chosen to age in place in the homes we live in now, in-home health care will eventually become a consideration.  Even with our membership in the Washington Park Cares Village, Bill and I may someday need more help than can be provided by volunteer neighbors.

This is why I was interested to hear a recent interview by Kari Barit on The Unexpected Caregiver, broadcast by KYMN in Northfield Minnesota every Thursday.  She talked with  Carey Lindeman who owns a local in-home health care agency that sounds like one I might like to hire. You can hear the original broadcast at  The Unexpected Caregiver The Promise of Care with Carey Lindeman.

Carey’s new ideas about in-home care include assigning a dedicated caregiver to each client to provide for continuity …

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Social Networking For Caregivers and Elders

Caregiving has many burdens.  We often are caring for an elder with whom we have a past.  There is a connection, but there was a family dynamic in the past that damaged the relationship.  There may be money or housing problems.  Caregiving by definition means there are health problems.

For caregivers one of the biggest issues can be loneliness and isolation.  The elder’s condition may mean almost constant attendance with almost no respite for the caregiver.  There are agencies who may help, but the demands on the caregiver’s time are enormous.  There is help, but the demands never go away

Carol’s father Frank was in Florida for many years and we were long distance caregivers.  That meant visiting as often as we could and aiding him in managing his affairs with the help of a geriatric …

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Grieving the Death of an Aging Parent Part IV

The French literary giant Roland Barthes has been my counselor through these first few months after the loss of my father last July. Through the journal he kept after the death of his mother at age 84, first excerpted in the New Yorker in September and now published under the title Mourning Diary, he has validated my own experiences in the wake of my father’s death.

An entry in early March reminds me of one of my dad’s overriding concerns as he was approaching death–that we would be all right.  All winter Barthes has dressed somberly.  But now he recalls that his mother preferred to see him wearing color, and he puts on a colorful plaid scarf.  Reading this, I remember my dad asking me on the day before he died how he could …

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Rocky Mountain PBS Living With Dying

Recently Bill, Steve and I were able to sit down together to watch this wonderful inside look at the realities of palliative care and hospice.  I had recorded it months ago on my DVR, but we had not had a moment to view it.

Interviews with patients, caregivers, volunteers and professionals show us the heart of this service.  You can view a selected excerpt here on our blog or to see it in its entirety click one of the the links that will take you to the Channel 6 website.

Living With Dying

Watch the full episode. See more RMPBS Specials.

Contrast these patients experience with those facing a hospital death

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Aging in Place…It Takes a Village

It has been several months since I first learned that there is a retirement “village” in Denver inspired by the Beacon Hill Village model–a community organization dedicated to assisting elders to expand support systems in order to be able to live at home throughout their lives.  Since Bill and I are two of the 90% of people over 65 who plan to age in place in our home, we have been looking forward to having the opportunity to find out more about Washington Park Cares.

A few days ago we were fortunate enough to be able to spend a couple of hours with Pera Beth and Bill Eichelberger, co-founders of the two year old Washington Park Cares.  We learned that Wash Park Cares is one of the first 13 villages to be established after …

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Veteran’s Day 2010

In memory of Frank Leavenworth 1918-2010, U.S. Army 1944-1945, and all the veterans who have served.

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, 1918, Germany signed the armistice ending The Great War.  Armistice Day became a national holiday in 1919.  In 1954 Armistice Day became Veteran’s Day when Dwight Eisenhower, the general who was elected President after leading the western allies’ defeat of Germany in the next World War signed the bill renaming the holiday.

For many people, Veteran’s Day is just another day off, somewhat inconvenient because it is always on the eleventh, not on a Monday.  For disabled veterans who served their country and bear the scars of that service, it is more than a day off.  The same is true for the caregivers or …

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