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The Caregiver's Cairn: It's Time

JB2

Greetings one and all...

Welcome back to The Caregiver’s Cairn - a sustaining and empowering guide for caregivers and care receivers. I hope you and yours have enjoyed a lovely month since my last posting. I invite you to pour a cup of coffee or hot tea, curl up in a cozy chair, and take a deep breath. Today, I want to chat about a kind of care that is near and dear to my heart—critter care. Perhaps you are like me and thus consider your pets as family members. If so, you will resonate with the story I have to share.

Earlier this week, I bumped into a dear friend as I was cruising the aisles at my local grocery store. I hadn’t seen her in far too long. So we took advantage of the happenstance encounter to catch up on life. I was dismayed to hear that her dog was not doing well. At fifteen years of age, her dog is showing signs of imminent bodily systems failure. Additionally, going up and down the stairs is proving to be quite difficult as well. As I listened, I heard the angst and sorrow in her voice. It’s so hard to witness the physical decline of our beloved furry family.

After reflecting on the current state of affairs, she asked me the question for which I had no simple answer. “How do you know when it’s time to say goodbye?” Her question triggered memories of when my family had to consider the same question. Over the past four years, we have said goodbye to three beloved pets, one dog and two cats. Each time, the decision was heart breaking. And each time, I felt as if we were given a sign when it was time to say goodbye—a sign that gave us the needed assurance that we were doing the right thing.

Several years ago, our fifteen-year-old cat was struggling. Test results indicated that Whisper’s liver functions were marginal with little chance for improvement. But we needed more than test results before making the decision to say goodbye. We needed and wanted a sign from Whisper! So we requested everyday, “Whisper, let us know when you’re done. Let us know when it’s time.”

In typical fashion, Whisper ultimately signaled us in a simple, yet dramatic, way. The morning after a particularly difficult night, Whisper boldly cruised through the kitchen on her way to the study. This caught our attention, because Whisper never went into the kitchen. As we struggled to understand what was going on, we recognized the sign. Whisper had chosen to fall asleep under our chiming clock. It was time! Although saddened by the realization, we were thankful that Whisper found a way to let us know her final wishes. Furthermore, Whisper highlighted the fact that time is so very precious. We need to make the most of every moment—it’s time! Another essential lesson of life learned from my furry family. I am blessed indeed!

Thanks so much for stopping by today. I invite you to share your perspective on the caregiving journey. Make suggestions. Pose questions. Provide resources. Share your story. Coming together and sharing, we will improve the process for one and all. I look forward to continuing the conversation next month. Til then, blessings to you and yours...Jane W. Barton

Do you have a question for Jane? Please email us at coaarp@aarp.org and we will be in touch soon!

Jane W. Barton, MTS, MASM, CSA is a passionate speaker, writer, and listener. Jane is the founder of Cardinal, LLC, a consulting firm that provides educational programs to assist people in confronting the daunting challenges posed by aging,  serious illness and disability. Jane is well-versed in the areas of grief and bereavement, caregiving, hospice and palliative care, change and transition, and spirituality and health. She presents innovative, transformational programs to community members, healthcare providers, pastoral caregivers, clergy, funeral service providers, and national audiences to improve the experience of people and families challenged by serious, advanced, or terminal illnesses. Previously, Jane served as Director of Education for a hospice and palliative care educational institution. She has also served as a hospice chaplain and bereavement facilitator in hospice and palliative care. Jane is a certified Spiritual Director as well as a Certified Senior Advisor. In a former life, she worked as a financial services representative and an exploration petroleum geologist and manager.  
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