The Right Caregiving Tools

The popular television series Home Improvement, followed Tim in his popular television show, Tool Time. The show demonstrated the problems and difficulties of tackling a dilemma with the wrong tools. The work was harder, possibly unsuccessful, potentially dangerous, and at risk of causing peripheral damage..

Caregiving can be much the same scenario. Too many caregivers are thrust into a caregiving role, unprepared, ill equipped and with little to no knowledge of the resources available, or even what to ask for.  The results are multifold; finances are strained, emotions become raw, relationships suffer, and the health of the caregiver and those needing care may be compromised.

The right tools can be found for most situations. Hospital beds can be ordered for large size people, walkers come in a variety of configurations, wheelchairs come in various sizes, homes can be adapted for physical limitations, medicine can be packaged to accommodate an individual’s needs, adaptive equipment is available for hearing or visual impairment, and equipment is accessible to aid with a wide range of activities of daily living.  Care provisions are available in a variety of options from home care assistance to supervised living with varied levels of care.

It is difficult to find information on the internet if you don’t know what to type in the search engine of your favorite web browser. Finding the resources and knowing what to ask for maybe the most difficult part of developing a caregiving plan. Starting with your physician, social worker, home health agency, home care provider, senior center or church are all good places to begin your journey. Discover the resources and determine which are best to meet your particular needs. Don’t guess at what you think you need, instead describe the situation of the person needing assistance as well as the family caregivers. A good plan of care does not come out in a preprinted format.  No two caregiving situations looks the same, no good plans of care are alike. Find the right tools and the right resources to deal with your individual situation, and massage the plan as needed.

My dad was a firm believer in the right tool for the right problem long before Home Improvement was even thought of, probably even before there was television.  He had a huge tool collection which I acquired after his death.  It is the most complete tool collection in the whole neighborhood.  Despite being so well equipped,  I find myself occasionally hammering in a nail with the head of  pliers, complaining when it takes too long and the wall ends up with unnecessary marks while my dad’s words “right tool” echo in my head.  Taking a few extra moments to grab the right tool makes the job easier, the frustration less, minimizes the damage, and the results are more satisfying. Whether you’re hammering a nail or struggling with caregiving duties remember to grab the right tool.

Sandwiched Between Those You Love

 American families provide 89 percent of in-home care which is estimated to be equal to $250 billion per year in the health care system.  Many of these people are sandwiched between the needs of multiple generations, while managing their day to day responsibilities. July was Sandwich Generation Month recognizing caregivers that provide care to those they love that are both older and younger. 

The Sandwich Generation is described very neatly by several authors as a variety of different kinds of sandwiches depending on the characteristics of the care provided. For example, a basic bologna sandwich describes those caregivers that provide care for aging parents as well as their own  children. A triple-decker sandwich identifies those that are caring for children, parents and grandparents or parents, children and grandchildren.

As a Sandwich Generationer, I relate the experience to one of my favorite foods; the Oreo sandwich cookie.  Those that are in this group can relate to the visual picture of how this beloved dessert can relate to life as a caregiver in the Sandwich Generation.  The neatly presented Oreo cookie; perfectly placed outside layers cushioned by a creamy center is suddenly twisted apart in opposite directions with the center scraped out by sharp, pointy teeth.  Or alternatively it may be suddenly dunked in a huge glass of milk, unable to come up for air, until it has been rendered very soggy. This is the life of caregiving.  A perfectly planned day is diverted by unplanned caregiving needs, redirection to plan B or even C, then the reapplication of lipstick to the smile on your face, or the straightening of the tie around your neck as you come up for air and complete the rest of the day.  All of this is part of the normal daily life of caregivers in the Sandwich Generation.  Someone needs your time, attention, physical presence or intervention in-between the demands of your job, dropping the kids at gymnastics, and getting the grocery shopping done. Caregiving is truly a labor of love.

Avoid some of the problems generated as a result of caregiving multitasking by: creating a plan of care, thinking proactively, practicing prevention, accepting help, holding family meetings, making time for your self, and utilizing your resources.

The Oreo cookie continues to be one of my favorite foods, despite the fact it is a symbol of my life and not good for my waist line. It just tastes good and allows me to take a moment for myself.  Grab an Oreo, share your Sandwich Generation story with others at, and celebrate life and those you love.

A Life Threatening Diagnosis – How to Cope

When someone receives the words from their doctor that they have a life threatening or life altering diagnosis it can send their life and the lives of their loved ones into a tail spin.  It doesn’t make a difference if the diagnosis is cancer, a neuromuscular disorder, Alzheimer’s Disease, heart disease, seizure disorder or one of the multitudes of diagnoses that exist, the effects are the same.  Waiting for everything; the doctor’s appointments, surgery, diagnostic tests, and the results can seem like an eternity.  The emotions of waiting are two-fold: desperation for answers combined with simultaneous fear about what they will be. 

Surviving the days can be difficult. Faith, family, friends, focusing on the positive, and trust in the health care providers you have chosen are the most helpful. Nutrition, sleep, communication and maintaining some personal time are essential. Life and all of its responsibilities continues during these difficult times. Other family members must be cared for, work continues to demand time, other commitments must be met, caregiving roles continue, all activities of daily living still require time and attention, holidays occur and the unexpected continues to be ruthless;  roofs leak, clothes dryers break, and others get sick.

Utilize resources from the church, family, friends, social groups, home care providers, community, and ask for and accept help whenever possible. Speak to health care providers about medication to assist with sleep if necessary. Wandering thoughts will take you on wild journeys, filling the space that is waiting to be occupied with facts and answers, so focus your attention on tasks or events as much as possible and stay as positive as you can be. Realize that everything that is seen and heard are not messages predicting the future, they are just part of everyday noise. Individuals should grasp on to who and what supports them and don’t let go.

When a final diagnosis is received, a plan of care decided, and treatments, if any begin, it is time to establish a new normal.  This will not happen as suddenly as the old normal disappeared. It is important to make sure the disease or diagnosis does not manage any one’s life, instead it must be managed. It must be absorbed as part of the new normal lifestyle.

My daughter recently received a life altering diagnosis. The journey from diagnosis to results and treatment plan lasted three weeks, but seemed like a lifetime.  It would have been a different journey without faith, family, friends and our trusted health care providers. Work did not stop, holidays occurred, corporate office made demands, caregiving continued, insurance created problems and even the refrigerator broke.  The disease is being managed and a new normal is being established. As with many other things in life, we have moved on to Plan B, are managing it well, not letting it manage us and are thankful for every new day.

 Page 3 of 7 « 1  2  3  4  5 » ...  Last »