Posting this AFTER midnight, so isn’t technically Wednesday, but we JUST got back from an AWEsome trip up to NYC for a Radical Age Movement reception & meeting.
Delighted to showcase Michelle Seitzer, a brilliant fun engaging coach consultant connector thoroughly versed in all things elder care!
Coming Back From Loss: Elder Care Tips & Tools
I don’t have grandparents anymore.
This summer, my last living grandparent—my maternal grandmother—passed away after suffering a second stroke (and had likely suffered several mini ones before it), the damage from which her brain could not recover, though her body, at nearly 92, probably could have. She was just that resilient.
I had just returned from a surreal two-week adventure in Norway, my grandmother’s homeland, where I met family members I’d never met before but with whom I instantly bonded, saw the most amazing natural sights, connected with the land and my heritage, was filled to overflowing with the kind of memories I hope will last a lifetime. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the right words, or enough of them, to describe the depth of emotion I experienced on that trip. Some of what I experienced probably can’t be put into words. It was life-changing. But we got the call about her stroke while we were there, and we wrestled with cutting the trip short, unsure of how much time she had on this earth. I was especially concerned about not getting a chance to say goodbye, since both grandparents who preceded her in death had left this earth unexpectedly. I didn’t get to say goodbye to them. I wanted to say goodbye to Grandma.
I got a chance. Several chances over two painfully long weeks, during which she fluctuated between extreme alertness and deep, seemingly peaceful sleep, but not able to communicate in words. Every time I left her bedside, I thought it was the last goodbye. I never wanted to leave her bedside because of it. But I also wanted her to feel she could let go when she was ready; I didn’t want to interfere with that. It was an indescribably sacred, scary, and soul-stretching time. I’m still processing those two weeks.
With my daughter back to school and my teacher spouse back to school as well, I have the solitude I need to sort through all these hard feelings and experiences—and to make a fresh start in my work. Fall always feels more like New Year’s for me. I thrive in this season. And I look forward to sharing many new projects in the coming weeks. Stay tuned, and thank you for following my caregiving work so far!
Here are this month’s tips and tools, with extras:
- TIP 1: RECOGNIZE THE CAREGIVING ICEBERG. For many caregivers, there’s a lot more going on under the surface—in our heads and in our hearts—which makes answering “surface” questions especially difficult. Sometimes we don’t want to answer truthfully because we’ll fall apart. Sometimes we’re OK with falling apart, but just not at the moment. Sometimes the person asking the question doesn’t really want to hear the iceberg answer. Wherever you’re at, and whatever side you’re on (the question giver/receiver), remember the potential iceberg below. And do your best to address it graciously.
- TOOL 2: Kalendar Kards: In a future blog post on my site, I’ll write more about this helpful reality orientation tool for dementia caregivers. In the meantime, explore their website to see if this system could be helpful for a loved one with cognitive impairment.
- TOOL 3: Caregiver Smile Summit: Imagine being able to listen to 52 caregiving experts (I’m one of them!) share on a range of topics without buying a plane ticket, booking a hotel, or setting up respite care. And you can watch the sessions over and over. That’s what the $79 all-access option of the Caregiver Smile Summit offers. Register here.
- TOOL 4: 2nd Annual National Caregiving Conference: I attended this fantastic in-person conference in Chicago last year and was thrilled to have served on two panels during it. While I won’t be able to attend this year, I strongly encourage current and former caregivers to consider participating. There are virtual attendance options too, if travel proves difficult. Learn more here.
“Caregiving isn’t a cakewalk: it is tough and it is grimy.” Read my latest Voices post, which tells the story of Rachel Hiles, who cares for her grandmother.