Thank you for checking out our Care-FULL Conversation Resources. The videos are to provide information to help benefit the caregiver and care receiver.
The Gift of Listening
When approaching the end of life, most people desire to reflect on the road traveled. This is referred to as a life review. You may have been honored—or will be honored—to listen to the stories of life as people try to make sense of their lived experience—to understand “the why” of life. Hence, it’s important to know how to connect with your “audience,” how to create a safe space to share, how to elicit stories, and how to listen. And don’t be surprised that by listening to the stories of others you are compelled to reflect on the story of your life. There is much to be discovered by wondering why. And there is much to be learned by telling the stories of our lives. Listen and learn.
Witness to Loss
As we companion those who are aging, ill, or dying, we witness a tremendous amount of loss. No matter how well prepared or well trained we are, witnessing the losses of others affects us in profound ways. Sometimes the experience changes how we see the world, how we understand ourselves, and/or how we choose to believe. We are well served to consider what is to be gained from each experience of loss. Otherwise, we risk becoming either insensitive or overwhelmed as personal or professional companions.
Looking at Legacy
Linear is not a term I associate with the journey of life! Twist and turns. Yes. Ups and downs. Absolutely. Trails of tears. For sure. Jaunts of joy. Amen. It is the bittersweet nature of life that challenges, blesses, and enriches the journey. One of the great gifts of aging is the opportunity to glance back and assess the tracks we left behind. Possessing a perspective honed by time and hard-earned wisdom, we acknowledge and own the “on track” and “off track” times in life. Our adventures serve to guide, to sustain, and to inspire those who follow in our “tracks.” However, if we fail to share our stories with family and friends, some tracks will go undiscovered. So, don’t miss the opportunity to make tracks! Tell your story!
Confronting the Reality of Mortality
Death is a question of ultimate concern for every human being. How we choose to engage the question is dependent on our attitudes and beliefs regarding death and dying. Our attitudes about death inform our behaviors, and our behaviors influence our experiences. By reviewing historical attitudes and approaches to death, we recognize the importance of overcoming our fears related to death in order to live fully present to the moment.
Human beings are inherently relational creatures. Among other things, we attach to people, things, ideas, titles, money, and dreams. Hence, we are consequently at risk of experiencing loss and grief as attachments change or end. Mourning our losses requires courage – courage to feel the pain, courage to address the void, courage to integrate the loss, and courage to re-engage with life. Far too often in our society, the time needed to mourn is not recognized or honored as we rush to return to work and get “back to normal.” We, instead, need to recognize the need to mourn our losses if we are to move through and beyond our grief. Becoming grief savvy will serve you and your loved ones well.
Hospice: Fear Not!
Contrary to popular belief, hospice is not a 4 letter word nor is it something to be feared. Hospice is a philosophy and model of health care designed to serve persons in compassionate, life giving ways. So why does the word cause such angst and trepidation for patients and families? More often than not, our reactions are rooted in a lack of knowledge, fear of death, denial and avoidance. Take the first step in overcoming your fears by learning how hospice and palliative care can serve you and your family.
Bouncing Back from Adversity
As human beings, we will experience the highs and lows of life. Often, the transitions between the peaks and valleys are difficult. It is during the times that try our souls that we realize the importance of resilience, the ability to “bounce back” from adversity. Resilience is not a trait. Rather, it is a process of adaptation that is rooted in realistic optimism—a perspective of life that allows us to discern hope, possibilities, and opportunities in the aftermath of adversity. Life can be shocking to say the very least! Instead of being shattered by the unexpected and the unwanted, we have the ability to choose a response to life. To meet the most daunting challenges of life, we gotta have bounce!
Change IS the Norm
Most of us are not fond of change, invited or not. Change disrupts our daily routines, life expectations, and our sense of certainty. Change reminds us that we are not in control! But change is a given in life: the seasons change, society changes, financial markets change, relationships change, and we change. So instead of resisting change, how can we engage it? Although we cannot control everything that happens in our lives, we always retain the freedom to choose an attitude in response to change. Our choice directly impacts our lived experience and quality of life.
I love critters. Always have. Always will. My family includes cats and dogs, always. I am not alone in my love of critters. According to American Pet Products Association, over 60 percent of all households in the United States have a pet. We love critters! Consequently, over 60 percent of households will be called to care for aging and ill critters. Caring for critters is not unlike caring for humans. In fact, the similarities are fascinating—physically, emotionally, financially, and spiritually. So, repeat after me. Prepare to care! Our critters are worth it.
When It Hurts to Care: Compassion Fatigue
As professional or personal caregivers, we witness the suffering of others – physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering. To witness the pain and suffering of others is to be forever changed. Compassionate people bear the suffering of others and often times compromise their own health and well being when they assume too much of the burden. We must always be aware of where we end and the other person begins – the importance of boundaries. We can companion others in life, but we cannot assume the responsibility for another’s life. To do so puts us at risk of experiencing compassion fatigue, a risk for all who care.
The Relevance of Ritual
Is ritual relevant in the 21st century? Is ritual really worth the bother? In order to answer these questions, we need a basic understanding of the Whys and Hows of conducting ritual—particularly end-of-life ritual. The purpose of ritual is timeless—the integration of the mind, body, and spirit during times that defy explication. Through the process of composing, conducting, and experiencing meaningful rites, we gradually integrate loss into the fabric of our being. By so doing, we confront the reality of our mortality and gain an enhanced appreciation of LIFE! So yes, ritual IS relevant. Ritual IS worth the bother.
The Blessings of Boundaries
When caring for another person, it is important to establish and to maintain mutually beneficial boundaries. Boundaries define the nature of relationships, personal responsibilities, and expectations for both the caregiver and care receiver. By initially delineating the limits of caregiving, we know what is ours to own and what is not. Boundaries are an essential aspect of self care—a blessing indeed!
Attitude is Everything!
As the journey of life unfolds, we experience the bittersweet nature of the adventure. The path twists and turns presenting unexpected potholes, detours, and vistas. No one is guaranteed “smooth sailing.” However, our ability to successfully navigate the rough waters posed by life depends on our attitude. Viktor Frankl taught an entire generation that we cannot control everything that happens in life. However, we always have the freedom to choose an attitude in response to life. And that choice ultimately determines our experience of life. Do you choose to be a victim of life and succumb to the perceived inequities? Or, will you courageously accept the reality of your situation and seek life-giving possibilities? Consider your answer carefully. Your life depends on it!
Called to Care
Having served as a personal and professional caregiver, I understand the journey of caregiving from the inside out. I know that companioning others through the ups and downs of aging and illness is challenging….to say the least. However, I also believe that caring for another is a sacred journey if we are able to balance the blessings with the burdens. From my own experience, sometimes the gifts of caregiving are not recognized until many years after the fact.
Self Care is NOT Optional
When caring for others, we must not forget to care for ourselves. In order to care well, we must be well. Many caregivers feel guilty about taking a little time off to rest, relax, and renew. However, self care is mandatory to maintain physical, emotional, and spiritual well being. Self care is not a luxury; it is a necessity.
Resistance to Assistance
Description: Jane Barton discusses the major challenge in the caregiving journey is overcoming the tendency of most people to resist the assistance of others. It is so hard to ask for and to receive help from family members, friends, and professional caregivers. We feel vulnerable, out of control, and helpless. However, resistance to assistance can actually be hazardous to our health if we refuse to seek the help required to live safely.
Prepare to Care
Description: Jane Barton will address the benefits of being proactive instead of reactive in the caregiving journey. It is not IF we will need care or be called to care, it is WHEN. So instead of living on caffeine and adrenaline during times of crisis, consider who, what, when, where, why, and how of caregiving based on your frame of reference (family situation, geographic location, available community resources, financial assets, etc.). We are not clairvoyant…..but we can develop a basic approach to care that will serve to guide us WHEN the need arises.
Planning for LIFE
Description: We’ll chat about the process of Advance Care Planning from a different perspective. Consider the question, “How do you choose to LIVE until your not?” And specific to the LGBT community, have you legally designated and documented the person or persons who will be responsible for your care? I won’t go into the various legal forms included in Advance Directives. Rather, I am going to stress the importance that if our wishes are to become our reality at the end of life, we need to have the conversations and document our wishes. This is the greatest gift we can offer those whom we love.
The Last One Standing
Description: Who will care for me when I am the last one standing? What if I outlive my family of origin, my life partner, my children, and my closest friends? How will I plan for that possibility? What resources are available? And, is this a motivation to invest myself in relationships throughout life? As relational beings, we need companions throughout the journey of life.
Who Will Care for Me?
Description: A concern noted on the report was a lack of family support throughout the caregiving journey. Often, individuals within the LGBT community are estranged from their family of origin. So, family is defined differently…..trusted friends and colleagues. Hence, we have to be more intentional about creating family and confirming that there is a commitment to care for each other.
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