Archive for the ‘Caregiving’ Category

I Needed Help As A Caregiver: A Personal Story

January 28, 2019

One minute Bernie was sitting on a tall stool in a store and the next minute, as she leaned to one side to see what a clerk wanted to show her, her feet became caught on a metal footrest, she lost her balance, and dropped helplessly to the concrete floor. I was seated beside her, saw it all unfold in slow motion, and was unable to catch her or break her fall. It was frightening to watch.

Tests in the emergency room showed no broken or cracked bones, but Bernie was in agony. She cried out in pain each time she moved. For ten days she was wheelchair-bound. For weeks she moved only laboriously with a walker. She needed around-the-clock care.

I stopped going to my office. I started doing all the cooking, the serving of meals, the cleanup afterward. I did the laundry and the household chores. I undertook the nursing responsibilities and the coordination of medical appointments and physical therapy.

I had a little backup support, but not much. And, to be honest, that was okay—I wanted to be the one who was there for Bernie. I know her. I love her. Who else could do this caregiving as well as I?

Then something else happened. Over the course of days and weeks, my energy started to wane. I couldn’t ever seem to feel rested. My spirits drooped. I wondered how long this episode in our lives would continue. I wondered how long I could keep doing all that was required. Would things ever get better? How could I regain my sense of composure and optimism? What about the work waiting for me at my office?

Daily-Inspirations-brandIt was a couple of weeks before I thought of something so obvious that I felt embarrassed I had not considered it. Two years prior I had created a resource for people just like me—family caregivers in need of encouragement and support. Titled “Daily Inspirations for Caregivers,” it arrives each morning via email, 365 times in a row. I signed myself up for a subscription. It felt funny doing so.

It had taken me about a year and a half to create all the short videos, the audios that used my own voice, the one-page writings, and the photo-thoughts built around my camera work. Throughout that time I had visualized providing family caregivers with something to look forward to hearing, seeing, reading, and pondering every single day. I wanted to share with them something that might give them confidence and hope. I wanted to add a spark to their day. I wanted to help them persevere, to find a sense of stability.

You know what? I learned—unexpectedly, unintentionally, gratefully—that “Daily Inspirations for Caregivers” works!

It was such an unusual experience, receiving messages in video format that I had forgotten I had created. My words and my own voice soothed me, lifted me, and gave me courage. When I longed for assurance and insight for doing this caregiving work, there it was, waiting for me, like a gift.

Bernie has healed now and most of my caregiving duties have receded. I have cycled through the entire 365 inspirations. Looking back, there were a handful of videos that especially spoke to me when I was in the midst of my struggles. These are their titles and the links for you to see them:

If you’d like to sample more of these inspirations, I’ll happily send you twenty days worth with my compliments. Just let me know your first name, last name and email address at jmiller@willowgreen.com. Or call our office at 260.490.2222.

I’d like to think they’ll work for you, or for someone you know, as well as they did for me.

When Our Responses Disenfranchise Others

November 13, 2017

It was a tiny incident, really. My wife Bernie and I were walking on the curving sidewalk behind the homes in our addition. A neighbor, let’s call him Matt, noticed us from his porch and asked, “Is this an anniversary? I saw a florist deliver flowers to your house earlier today.”

I looked at Bernie, who paused and then said, “No, not an anniversary. The bouquet was from our three grown children. I had emailed them this morning to give them the news: my retinologist just told me that my eyesight has become so compromised by my macular degeneration that I must now give up driving.”

Matt nodded, solemnly. “Oh,” he said, “but at least it’s not anything life-threatening.”

I know that Matt is a kind man. He would not intentionally do anything hurtful. And yet that’s what happened that afternoon. Bernie spoke her sad, fresh truth to him and he responded in a way that did not address the depth of what she was experiencing. She was in pain and he acted as if the pain wasn’t all that serious.

He made what I call a disenfranchising response.

The Old French word enfranchir means “to make free.” Put the negative prefix dis in front of it and it means “to make unfree.” When we disenfranchise someone, we deprive them, often unintentionally, of something that is rightfully and naturally theirs—in this case, a strong feeling.

Matt probably felt awkward that he was so mistaken about the reason for the flower delivery. He probably didn’t want to compound Bernie’s sadness by talking about it. He may have felt a certain helplessness, not knowing what to say that would make much difference. So he said, in effect, “Actually, this isn’t such a big deal; it isn’t life-threatening.”

We have all made disenfranchising responses through the years, probably more than we realize. Out of our awkwardness or ignorance or unintended insensitivity, we have downplayed another’s legitimate feelings. It happens all the time. When it does, people are not reinforced in their freedom to feel their natural feelings, whether those feelings are understood or not.

Knowing how easily this happens, I have put together a series of questions we can ask to help us determine if our responses are disenfranchising to a person who’s in a fragile or sad or painful situation.

Does my response invite comparison? In the freshness of the moment, one’s feelings are one’s feelings and no one else’s. To suggest quickly a comparison to a more dire situation, or a more unfortunate one, suggests that what the other feels is less important somehow, less valid.

Does my response refer only to the facts? Learning the particulars of a person’s situation can give that person the opportunity to tell their story, which can be helpful. Yet if the emphasis is only on the matters of who, what, when, where, and how, as a newspaper might report, then the significant issue of what’s going on inside, what this experience really means, is left unaddressed.

Does my response minimize feelings? The other person deserves to have their innermost self acknowledged and supported. Whatever they’re feeling, they deserve validation. They may have conflicting or unusual or inexplicable feelings—that’s okay. Feelings should be given their full due, not downplayed.

Does my response turn the attention back to me?   If the interchange concentrates on my story, my experiences, my advice, it leaves the other person feeling unattended. We may even subtly be encouraging the other person to give care to us.

Does my response change the subject? If the interchange is led in an entirely different direction, away from the person before us, they’re likely to feel left out in the cold. This may feel like a slap in the face.

Does my response rule out shared silence? Sometimes there are no words to say, at least not immediately. Sometimes our expression can say it all, or our tears, or our touch, or our embrace. When we are heart to heart or soul to soul, silence speaks eloquently.

Does my response try to delve too deeply? It’s best when we respond honestly and give the other person the opportunity to say whatever they wish in return. They may reveal a lot, or very little, or nothing. Yet to expect them to share personal details just for our own satisfaction or our own need to know is being less than sensitive to whatever is happening within them.

So how do I make an enfranchising response, a response that affirms this other person? I first listen carefully, using my eyes and heart and soul as well as my ears. I give the other person their time, not pushing them or rushing them. I do my best to understand what is going on within them, asking myself, “What’s it like to be inside their body, their mind, their heart right now?” Then I respond in a way that is most natural, sharing an honest feeling, validating their honest thoughts and/or feelings, and giving them the opportunity to say more, if they wish, while also being ready to take their cue if they have said all they wish. Then I remember them after this time together, carrying them inside.

In a sense being with others is simple to do, but that doesn’t mean that it’s always easy to do. But it is doable. And it can make a great deal of difference in people’s lives.

Newest caregiver resource is reduced 60% in price

November 13, 2017

The idea behind “Daily Inspirations for Caregivers” is simple: we help family caregivers start every day well with beautifully-crafted messages that arrive by personalized email for one full year. It is a loving way to help yourself or a caregiver you know benefit from the empathy, encouragement, and support provided.

Each morning brings one of four kinds of inspirations:

  • •  A one- to two-minute video incorporating nature photography, original music, and Jim Miller’s voice.
  • •  A two- to three-minute audio by Jim offering a single positive caregiving message, often calling upon the wisdom of experienced family caregivers, many of them well-known.
  • •  A one-page writing by Jim about one aspect of caregiving that offers advice, encouragement, and support.
  • •  A photo-thought that incorporates one of Jim’s photographs with a memorable, affirming quotation.

Family caregivers report feeling better informed, more confident in their role, and hopeful about the way ahead. Recent feedback has included:

“Thank you for the words, the unpacking of those words, and the extraordinary photography to help illuminate the message. It is a tender and gentle gift to the heart.”
Janie C.
“Without fail I look forward each day to what I will be receiving from you, and I am never disappointed. You have an incredible ability to share the wisdom of yourself and others in a way that is always fresh, relevant, and impactful.”
 Paul J.
“I think I have not come upon anyone who has written from the heart so thoroughly, quietly, and humbly. All the good and ill of your life you have kneaded together into the perfect life-giving loaf of Love.”
Dai-En B.

If you’re a professional in a healthcare practice or a health-related organization, you can provide “Daily Inspirations for Caregivers” as a way of encouraging and empowering family caregivers of the ill, the injured, or the incapacitated. As you enable the more positive spirits of caregivers and consequently their care receivers, you promote healing and health all the way around, including with your own staff members.

Better yet, if your organization purchases subscriptions for individual caregivers, the cost is reduced even more, depending upon the quantity you order. The cost can be as low as $5.00 each.

Contact Cat or Jim at 260.490.2222 to learn more or email us at orders@willowgreen.com.