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Nov 16

In my 8-year career as a television journalist with CNN, I covered a lot of breaking news about other people’s tragedies— the Columbine school shooting, the wars in the Middle East, Kosovo and Afghanistan. Even still, nothing prepared me for my own breaking news: I was six months pregnant with my daughter, Chloe when I learned my adorable, fun loving husband, Will had a rare, incurable cancer. He died six months later.

 

I went from a glamorous TV career to analyzing poop, grieving and laughing, to juggling people's expectations of me ("When will she start dating again?" they whispered) and caring for my daughter, alone. It was sad at times but there were many surprisingly funny and touching moments too.

 

And through it all, I grew up, changed a lot and I learned so much.

 

I want to share with you the real, untold story about my journey from new mom, to caregiver, to widow, to unemployed former CNN anchor, to newlywed, to owning my own business.

 

I want to talk about what works when the news seems unbearable but yet, somehow we find a way to bear it with grace and courage—at least on our good days. On those other days, it sure feels good to cry.

 

Anyone who has endured love and loss will relate to what we’re going to be talking about in my column, “When News Breaks.”

 

I want to hear from you too!


Former CNN anchor, Carol Lin is the mother of one daughter and the co-founder of TulaHealth.  She is a regular ShareWIK.com contributor.  Visit her on the web at CarolLinReporting.com.

More Carol Lin articles, click here.

 

 

 

© ShareWiK Media Group, LLC 2009  

Sep 07

Nanny personality assessments can help parents learn more and choose better

Selecting a caregiver for our children is a difficult task and the risks in making a wrong choice are intimidating. Most articles on this topic advise parents to interview the nannies, check their references and perform a background screening. While each of those screening tools is important, they all have their limitations and do not necessarily provide sufficient information to make the best possible choice.

The purpose of an interview is to obtain enough knowledge about the candidate to determine whether he or she is suitable for the job. Yet, interviews often fail to reveal important facts or problematic personality traits, and their predictive value is limited, even when conducted by several properly trained interviewers.

Reference checks are an important component of the screening process, since past performance is usually a good indicator of future performance. Nevertheless, such references are highly subjective and in some cases past employers may even prefer, for various reasons, to omit certain details which may harm the candidate in his search for a new position.

Background screening is often used to verify facts about the candidate. Such checks may include identity verification, criminal records search, credit checks, past employment and education verification, driving records and more. It is important to bear in mind that accuracy of the various databases searched may be limited for various reasons. More than that, having, for example, a clean criminal record means a person has never been convicted of such activity but does not necessarily indicate that a person has never been involved in criminal activity or has a tendency to do so.

Performing nanny personality assessments can significantly improve the selection process and minimize the risk of a wrong choice. Personality assessments are psychological tests that analyze a person’s character and personal traits. The optimal personality assessment for nannies, au pairs and babysitters should combine both testing for relevant personal traits and risk assessment, with a strong focus on the later. Relevant personal traits may include responsibility, obedience and discipline, self control, emotional stability, coping with pressure, positive attitude and service awareness. Risk assessment should cover issues such as violent behavior, drug abuse, drinking problems, truthful reporting, respect to property and more.

Many businesses (including some 80% of the US Fortune 500 companies and 75% of the UK Times 100 companies) enhance their recruitment process by using pre-employment psychometric tests. Several nanny, au pair and babysitter agencies currently perform personality assessments of various types as part of their screening process, though such assessments typically focus on personal traits rather than on risk assessment.

Nowadays, nanny personality assessments are becoming available online to all parents. Making such tests easily accessible, as well as designing them to be easy to use and understand by non-professionals, allows more and more parents to incorporate personality assessments into their own nanny selection process.

Nanny personality assessments do not replace interviews, reference checking or background screening. Making personality assessments an integral part of any nanny, au pair or babysitter selection process, in addition to the existing selection tools, will allow parents to make the best and most informed hiring decision, ensuring their kids are in good hands.

Written by Yossi Pinkas, TakeCare, www.take-care.me

Sep 07

Nanny personality and risk assessments are psychological tests that help parents assess potential Nannies, Au Pairs or Babysitters. The tests provide a better insight into the caregiver’s personality and traits, as well as an assessment of possible risk factors, and allow parents to select the best possible nanny. Similar tests are used by corporate and government organizations worldwide (including some 80% of the US Fortune 500 companies and 75% of the UK Times 100 companies) as well as by some Nanny, Babysitter and Au Pair agencies and childcare organizations. As a matter of fact, such tests are mandated by the US government for all Au Pair agencies.

Why are such tests needed? Aren’t interviews and checking references sufficient to select a nanny? Most recruitment specialists agree that the validity of interviews is quite low, even when conducted by trained professionals. Parents are typically not trained interviewers; lacking the necessary experience to properly formulate interview questions, read between the lines of what the applicant says, interpret non-verbal signs and body language, etc.

A Nanny Personality and Risk Assessment test can be considered as a very detailed and structured interview that overcomes some of the parents’ face-to-face interview limitations.  The test includes several hundred questions, covering all relevant issues, including questions which parents may feel uncomfortable to ask in a face-to-face interview. Personal traits covered may include responsibility, obedience and discipline, self control, emotional stability, coping with pressure, positive attitude and service awareness. Risk assessment issues should include violent behavior, drug abuse, drinking problems, truthful reporting, respect to property and more. In a similar manner to an ordinary interview, online interactive tests of this sort allow different questions to be asked according to prior responses, as well as provide real-time feedback to the applicant triggered by specific answers that are considered problematic.

Yet, the main benefit of the Nanny Personality and Risk Assessment test is in the accuracy of the information provided. A properly constructed and administered test includes various mechanisms which are aimed at identifying misleading and inaccurate responses; the large number of questions (some repeating themselves in different versions), the way those questions are structured (which may sometimes seem peculiar), the time constraints and some additional mechanisms (which won’t be detailed in this article for obvious reasons).

Using a Nanny Personality and Risk assessment by parents may also create certain challenges. Some parents are concerned that the use of such a test may offend an applicant and create a bad impression. While this may be true and certain applicants may even refuse to take such tests, parents should always keep in mind that such tests are a standard procedure for applicants in many business and government organizations, as well as part of the screening process in a number of Nanny and Au Pair agencies. There is really no good reason why parents recruiting a nanny on their own, will not benefit from the use of such assessments. There is no other position as important and as critical as that of a child caregiver. Parents shouldn’t compromise on the screening process and use all possible means to make the best-informed decision. To minimize objections, parents should explain to the nanny about the test, why they feel it is important, and ask her to put herself in their place, facing a similar decision about her own kids.

Another challenge is for parents to avoid using the test results as a single decision factor. Parents should keep in mind that Nanny Personality and Risk assessments do not replace interviews or any other component of the existing caregiver screening process. As any other psychological tool, they are not 100% accurate and should be considered a decision supporting tool and not a decision making tool. When hiring a nanny, parents should always interview applicants, check references and use their intuition, which is as important and useful as any scientific tool.

Nanny Personality and Risk Assessments should be used correctly to ensure test results are valid. The applicant must read fluently the language in which the test is administered. Applicants who are not fluent in the test language should not be tested. Tests are also designed for a specific purpose. For example, a test designed to assess applicants for a job should not be used for self-test purposes, such as by someone who wishes to check if he is suitable for a certain position or occupation.

Designed and used correctly, Nanny Personality and Risk assessments are invaluable for parents who are looking for a nanny for their child, and should become a standard component of the screening process of any childcare provider.

Written by Yossi Pinkas, TakeCare, www.take-care.me

Apr 22

The most important role of au pair agencies is ensuring that the au pairs they provide are suitable for the job and trustworthy. This is done by screening au pairs through interviews, reference checks, background screening and personality tests.


Au pair agencies in the USA are required by federal regulations to use personality tests as part of the Au Pair screening process. Personality tests are important because no single screening method is 100% accurate and combining several tools is the only way to increase the overall accuracy of the pre-employment screening.


Here's why:

  • Interviews often fail to reveal important facts or problematic personality traits, and their predictive value is limited, even when conducted by properly trained interviewers. In a recent case involving an adoption scam by a nanny, the mother who has interviewed her, said: “She seemed like a great person, very articulate, very smart, she seemed so caring and so nice… she sounded like a textbook, great nanny to me. Just perfect.” The “successful interview” wasn’t the only failure point in the screening process. The nanny was hired through a national web site that matches parents with local baby sitters and nannies, had experience with infants and young children and reportedly passed a criminal background check with flying colors
  • References are highly subjective. How valuable is the opinion of someone you don’t know? What are his expectations, values, standards? In another recent case, a live-in nanny has been arrested on child pornography charges 5 months after being hired through a well known full-service nanny agency. According to the parents “the agency provided glowing work references.”
  • Background screening is extremely important but full of loopholes. Scope, timeliness and accuracy of various databases searched may be limited. For example, a nanny was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, with her charges, ages 2 and 8, in the car. Several months later, the nanny’s profile was still displayed on another national web site that matches parents with nannies, since her original background screening didn’t show any offense. Furthermore, every criminal has no criminal record until his first offense (or actually, first conviction). Will this first offense harm your kids? 
Personality tests became mandatory for screening au pairs in the USA following cases such as that of Louise Woodward, a young English au pair convicted of the involuntary manslaughter of an eight-month-old baby who died of Shaken Baby Syndrome, and another case of a Swiss au pair who escaped a burning home without making an attempt to save the 3-month old baby she was caring for.

Such tests offer additional and valuable insight into the character and personality traits of the au pair and can highlight issues which are very difficult to identify through an interview, such as problems performing under pressure or a tendency towards violent behavior. The importance of personality tests as an au pair screening tool increases as interviews are less effective once they are conducted over the phone rather than face-to-face, and databases used for background screening in many countries are often not of the same quality as those used in the USA.


Has the mandatory requirement for personality tests made au pair screening better? Not necessarily.


Some Au Pair agencies in the USA seem to be using inappropriate personality tests.  According to Ilona Bray, “Any Au Pair agency can take a fluffy personality test off the Internet that has nothing to do with childcare and give it to the candidates and still be meeting the regulations." (Nannies & Au Pairs, Hiring In-Home Childcare, USA Today, 2010).


At least a few Au Pair agencies seem to compromise the quality of tests, in an effort to comply with federal regulation at a minimum cost. One of the tests used by au pair agencies is the Booraem-Flowers Au Pair Psychometric Test, which is limited to answering whether an au pair is likely to lose emotional control under stress or more likely to make a poor safety judgment when under stress. When asked about a more complete test of personality attributes Dr. Flowers, a co-author of the test, replied: “A test for these positive attributes would be possible to devise, but difficult and expensive to develop”. He had a similar response related to producing a report that could be shown to parents: “The problem is that the cost of assessment would go up considerably if individualized reports were generated.”


Cost is indeed an issue to many parents and raising kids is a significant financial burden. But compromising the safety and well being of our kids by accepting less than optimal screening, just to save a few dollars, can lead to disastrous consequences and cannot be accepted. Furthermore, the use of adequate personality tests can reduce the chances of a re-match and the associated costs.

Not all personality tests are equal and one has to use the right type of test. Risk analysis, which highlights possible risk factors, is an extremely important component of personality tests. For example, TakeCare’s NannyTest covers the following: violent behavior, drug abuse, drinking problems, truthful reporting, respect to property and more. In addition, the test assesses personality traits such as responsibility, obedience and discipline, self control, emotional stability, coping with pressure, positive attitude and service awareness.


To protect our kids, we must ensure the screening process of caregivers is the best possible. Parents must demand that quality personality tests are used as part of the caregivers’ screening process. If proper personality tests aren’t done by the agency, or if the agency is not willing to share the test report, parents can easily perform such tests on their own. Relevant personality tests, such as TakeCare’s NannyTest, are now available online to all parents, are easy to use and highly affordable.

May 31

The most important role of nanny agencies is ensuring that the nannies or babysitters they provide are professional and trustworthy. This is currently done by screening nannies through interviews, reference checks and background screening. Not every agency uses all three screening methods and very few include also personality testing as part of their screening process.


Au pair agencies in the USA are required by federal regulations to use personality tests as part of the Au Pair screening process. If personality tests are important enough to be mandated by the US government for screening Au Pairs, why aren't they used as part of the standard screening process in nanny placement agencies?


Personality tests are used extensively by corporate and government organizations as a pre-employment screening tool. If personality tests are important for corporate roles, why haven't they been embraced as a mainstream screening tool in nanny placement agencies, where employees work one on one, often unsupervised caring for their employer’s most prized possession, their children?


Most parents, placement agencies and caregivers would agree that the more quality screening tools used during the pre-employment process, the better.


There is no doubt that caregiver’s screening, whether done by placement agencies or by parents, isn’t fault proof. We often learn about cases of abuse and maltreatment of kids by their nannies or babysitters and, despite current screening measures, more than 70,000 cases of abuse and neglect of kids by daycare providers have been reported in the USA in 2008.


Why don’t nanny agencies use personality tests?


The majority of nanny agencies have been founded and run by ex-nannies or parents who were frustrated by finding nanny care, not by recruitment professionals. Many placement agencies do not employ at all human resources (HR) professionals who are familiar with and trained on using a range of screening tools. Being a professional in a certain industry, such as the in-home child care industry, doesn’t necessarily qualify one to be a good interviewer or pre-employment screener. This is why screening for corporate jobs involves HR professionals and not only managers or peers. If managers of nanny agencies do not have a professional background in HR and recruitment, they may not be aware of the existence or the value of personality tests as a screening tool.


When considering the use of personality testing for pre-employment screening, cost often becomes an issue. Like any business, a nanny agency owner cares about the bottom line. Every additional screening method translates to an extra-cost, thereby reducing profit. This is especially true for online matching services, which keep costs to a minimum by limiting their screening to very basic background checks.


A quality personality test can cost as low as $15-$30 per applicant, depending on volume.  Does this cost justify a compromise in the quality of screening?


Personality tests are important because no single screening method is 100% accurate and combining several tools is the only way to increase the overall accuracy of the pre-employment screening. Here's why:

  • Interviews often fail to reveal important facts or problematic personality traits, and their predictive value is limited, even when conducted by properly trained interviewers. In a recent case involving an adoption scam by a nanny, the mother who has interviewed her, said: “She seemed like a great person, very articulate, very smart, she seemed so caring and so nice… she sounded like a textbook, great nanny to me. Just perfect.” The “successful interview” wasn’t the only failure point in the screening process. The nanny was hired through a national web site that matches parents with local baby sitters and nannies, had experience with infants and young children and reportedly passed a criminal background check with flying colors.
  • References are highly subjective. How valuable is the opinion of someone you don’t know? What are his expectations, values, standards? Furthermore, recommendation letters are hardly being considered by professional recruiters. A proper reference check should be done through a careful interview of previous employers or acquaintances and not based on a written recommendation only. In another recent case, a live-in nanny has been arrested on child pornography charges 5 months after being hired through a well known full-service nanny agency. According to the parents, “the agency provided glowing work references.”
  • Background screening is extremely important but full of loopholes. Scope, timeliness and accuracy of various databases searched may be limited. For example, a nanny was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, with her charges, ages 2 and 8, in the car. Several months later, the nanny’s profile was still displayed on another national web site that matches parents with nannies, since her original background screening didn’t show any offense. Furthermore, every criminal has no criminal record until his first offense (or actually, first conviction). Will this first offense harm your kids?

 

Personality tests offer additional and valuable insight into the character and personality traits of the nanny, au pair or babysitter and can highlight issues which are very difficult to identify through an interview, such as problems performing under pressure or a tendency towards violent behavior.

Risk assessment, which highlights possible risk factors, is an extremely important component of personality tests. For example, TakeCare’s NannyTest covers the following: violent behavior, drug abuse, drinking problems, truthful reporting, respect to property and more. In addition, the test assesses personality traits such as responsibility, obedience and discipline, self control, emotional stability, coping with pressure, positive attitude and service awareness.


As with any screening tool, personality tests are not 100% accurate and should do not replace interviews, reference checks and background screening. It is also important to understand that not all personality tests are equal and one has to use the right type of test.


To protect our kids, we must ensure the screening process of caregivers is the best possible. Whether are using a nanny, babysitter or Au Pair agency, hiring a nanny on their own or sending their kids to a daycare center, parents must demand that quality personality tests are used as part of the caregivers’ screening process.


When hiring a nanny without using an agency or in cases where personality tests aren’t done by the agency, parents can easily perform such tests on their own. Relevant personality tests, such as TakeCare’s NannyTest, are now available online to all parents, are easy to use and highly affordable.

Jun 27

Sittercity.com, a Chicago based website connecting families with babysitters, nannies and other caregivers has recently raised a $22.6 million to expand its operations.  The site offers an important service, helping parents find potential caregivers.  Sittercity and similar companies (e.g. care.com) are gradually replacing traditional nanny agencies, offering a low cost do-it-yourself solution which becomes more acceptable as the economy remains weak and as parents become used to finding everything they look for on the web.


The problem arises when a company such as Sittercity boasts that “Safety is our top priority”. Is this statement backed by effective measures to ensure our kids’ safety, or is Sittercity just providing parents with a false sense of security?


According to Sittercity’s website, the caregivers they provide are “reviewed”. What does it really mean? Who has reviewed them and how?


Other then providing parents with access to a background screening service, Sittercity.com does not perform any screening of nannies or babysitters. Parents are left to perform by themselves the most crucial parts of the screening, the interviews and the reference checks

.

The interview is the most universally used employee selection method, but all employment specialists agree that both the validity and reliability of interviews is low, even when multiple constructed interviews are conducted by trained and experienced professionals. Most parents lack the necessary training and experience and even though parents may believe they have some fantastic “intuition” which allows them to accurately judge the character of a potential caregiver, this is rarely the case.


The effectiveness of reference checks by parents is again limited, for the same reason. No hiring expert will rely on written reference letters and a proper reference check is conducted by interviewing the referees.


So, if parents need to perform most of the screening process on their own, how can Sittercity claim that safety is their top priority?


A recent case involving Sittercity (“Upper Providence family survives nightmare nanny“) demonstrates the safety issues involved. An Upper Providence mother has found a nanny for her 7-month-old daughter through Sittercity. The nanny had experience with infants and young children and passed a criminal background check with flying colors. The mother, who has interviewed the nanny, said: “She seemed like a great person, very articulate, very smart, she seemed so caring and so nice…She sounded like a textbook, great nanny to me. Just perfect…But she was anything but that.”  The nanny, according to law enforcement authorities, was an adoption scammer — someone who promises babies that don’t exist for emotional or financial gain.


Online matching services such as Sittercity.com and care.com, and classifieds sites such as Craigslist may be an excellent way to find nannies or babysitters. Yet, parents should be aware of the security related issues and shortcomings.


What should parents do when using such services? First of all, they should prepare themselves carefully for the interviews, not only by constructing those in advance using suggested questionnaires which can be easily found over the web, but also by learning about the fundamentals of interviews and how to conduct them properly.


Furthermore, parents should follow the screening process taking place at many corporate and government organizations, and ask the potential nanny or babysitter to take a personality test.  Relevant tests, such as the NannyTest, are available online, easy to use and affordable. Such tests help compensate for the shortcomings of interviews by providing a better insight into the personality traits of an applicant, as well as by highlighting possible risk factors.

Jun 23

It was a simple question.  “When did you move here?”  But the question hung in the air. 


I moved to Atlanta with my parents and sister when I was 10 years old.  We have spent almost our entire lives here.  How, I thought, could my own mother forget that?


Her next question was out of context as well.  “Do you get much rain here?”


“I get as much rain as you do,” I answered.  “And I moved here when you did many years ago.”


Dementia is a clinical diagnosis.  There are many causes of dementia and most types have no known cure.  In my mother’s case, it seems to creep into her life one day at a time.  This loss of brain function affects her memory, cognitive thinking and language.  This is a nonreversible degeneration.  She will not get better.


I remember watching that gradual decline in my father, aging and living with Parkinson’s disease and Lewy Body dementia.  Protein deposits built up in certain areas of his brain.  He shuffled when he walked and his face became void of expression.  “How can a person with this mind,” he would ask, “be expected to live in this body?”


For years my mother was his caregiver.  For years she was capable, with no apparent functional decline.  Then, slowly over the years, she began to have difficulty finding the right word to use.  She had difficulty determining how to pay her bills and her diabetes medication was too complex for her to handle.


My mother lives with vascular dementia caused by brain damage from blocked blood vessels and small strokes.  It is difficult for her to make choices now.  She wants to wear the same sweater every day and often chooses to wear winter clothes on the hottest summer day.


Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, but there are many causes and medical conditions that lead to loss of brain function.  As it progresses, dementia decreases the quality of life and interferes with activities of daily living.  Severe dementia can cause a person to stop moving and be wheelchair bound.


I forget a word or a name even now.  Phang misplaces his glasses and his keys.  We accept these lapses with humor and exchange caring words of support.  That humor eases the tension as my mother’s lapses become commonplace.


Anger and frustration add to my mother’s suffering.  She is obsessed with her missing socks.  She stores dozens of tissue boxes in her closet, hoping not to run short of supply.  Even with these difficulties, she has not lost who she is.  “You need to put on some lipstick,” she reminds me.  


“You look pale without it.”


I take Mom out for lunch.  She chooses selections in her comfort zone.  “I’ll have chicken tenders and fries,” she says.  All I want to know is that she is having a good day. 


Susanne Katz is a divorce coach with Mt Vernon Counseling (www.mtvcounseling.com), coauthor of A Woman's Guide to Managing a Mid-Life Divorce, an arts and living columnist for Atlanta Jewish News.com.  She is also a regular on ShareWIK.com.

More Susanne Katz here

 ©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

 

 

 

 

With our aging population, there are many of us who are grieving the slow dying of our elderly parents.  More and more of my fellow Baby Boomers are becoming part-time caregivers when our parents become less and less able to care for themselves. For some adults, this can be extreme, for others it is less so. It becomes routine for us to consider our parents’ needs before making plans. We make certain that they have food in the house and clean clothing.  We manage their finances and make sure prescriptions are filled and taken appropriately.  Juggling everything can be pretty complicated, but we do it because we love our parents and appreciate how they cared for us when we were children. 


It is okay feel relief. When parents die after a long illness, many adult children feel relief. Grief is the expected emotion; relief often comes as a surprise. I have seen this time and time again in our bereavement center. Unfortunately, the bereaved feel ashamed or embarrassed to admit that their primary emotion is relief. This could lead to feeling guilty and conflicted.


It is okay to feel relief. In truth, caregivers experience grief over the months and years that their loved one was declining. If the parent had dementia, they may notice in retrospect that mom or dad had been slowly disappearing for years. These caregivers have been grieving over the continuum of the illness.


It’s okay to feel relief.  There are many other reasons to feel relief. In addition to feeling relief that the disease process and pain symptoms that went along with it are gone, one could feel relief from the caregiving responsibilities. For those who experienced abusive or domineering relationships, it may be feelings relief and independence.


Grief is a roller coaster of emotions. Feelings can include deep sadness, anger, regret, guilt and yes, relief. Please don’t beat yourself up for experiencing feelings. They are neither right nor wrong, nor good nor bad. 

They are YOUR feelings. Many people find a group setting or working with a grief counselor helpful in exploring and learning from these natural grief reactions. Remember, you do not have to grieve alone.

You may also find this article helpful.


http://www.eldercarelink.com/Other-Resources/Grief-and-Relief-Mix-of-Emotions-After-a-Death-Can-Foster-Guilt.htm


 

Diane Snyder Cowan is the mother of two grown daughters and a national leader in using music in grief therapy, as well as the director of Elisabeth Severance Prentiss Bereavement Center of Hospice of the Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio.   She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist. To learn more about Diane, visit her blog

  

Read other Diane Snyder Cowan columns here

 

©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

 

 

Oct 06

My ex-husband said it was like watching an assassination attempt. We were walking by the river and I started to fall. He said it looked like I had been shot in the back. It took a good 20 feet to go down. I wavered from side to side trying to catch myself before I actually hit the dirt. And then, there I was, on the ground.


It was about seven years ago and I was trying a new prescription drug for anxiety. If you are a caregiver, you understand how stress can result in anxiety before you know it. I had been falling for no apparent reason for weeks. It suddenly occurred to me that it could be the new drug. As I tried yet another drug, my next challenge was the need to continually increase the amount for it to remain effective.  The very drug that I was taking for anxiety began to actually increase my anxiety.  


What next? I had to make a decision.  I decided, no more. However, it was easier said than done.


I felt as if I were getting off heroin. It took a solid year to start feeling normal again. And what an excruciating year it was. This was accompanied by a weight gain of 50 pounds. Thereafter, I became insulin resistant. As you can see, a caregiver under prolonged stress, can find themselves in a downward spiral quickly without the right tools and support. It also may be very difficult to recover from when there is no relief in sight and you find yourself dealing with this daunting challenge alone. 


According to the Family Care Alliance, several studies show that caregivers use more prescription and psychotropic drugs than do noncaregivers.


My point in all of this is to say, although there may be a place for prescription drugs, if at all possible………. learn to meditate instead.


Food is no different. Food can also be a drug of sorts. Over eating is the same as  medicating.  Whether it’s food, prescription drugs or even alcohol, it’s easier to grab something outside of ourselves in order to avoid the emotional pain we feel than to go inside to look for answers. Caregiving is not a spectator sport. You need to find your strongest inner self to do it………….and do it for a very long time.


How do we view the challenges we face?  The British philosopher James Allen said that circumstances don’t make you, they reveal who you are.


Is it conditions that make us happy? Or is it something else?


“You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you.” -- Sri Ram

                                   

Author Lee Lambert, CEO of Lee Lambert Cares, empowers family caregivers to know what to do and when to do it, so that they can experience the simple joy of living life normally while caring for a loved one.   www.leelambertcares.com

 

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC


Nov 01

As a caregiver, you have to take charge of someone else’s life. This is not an infant without a bank account. This is someone for whom you will have to collect financial information, put legal directives in place, determine the physical location and needs of where they will live, move them from wherever they are now and manage their day-to-day emotional, physical and spiritual needs. By the way, this job usually does not come with a salary and it is rarely part time. 

People are living significantly longer, diseases are more complicated to manage and current financial affairs require much more attention than in previous generations. All of this makes the logistics of caregiving a daunting responsibility. 


Since everyone is doing it for the first time, it is essential to prepare for this as far in advance as possible and know exactly what to expect. In caregiving, loving someone is not shown through just emotion, it’s demonstrated through knowing what to do and how to do it.


Assessing your strengths and weaknesses is essential determining whether or not you are comfortable taking on the responsibility of caring for a loved one. If you don’t assess your strengths and weaknesses honestly, you could be heading for disaster.  This affects not only you, but your entire family.  It is unfortunately not a decision which is easily reversed. You must be honest about your capacity to do what is needed and be ready to do it for a very long time.


Is your marriage strong enough? Do you have the financial ability? Can you emotionally handle what lies ahead?



The New York State Office of Aging states that 50 percent of family caregivers will be caring for a loved one for at least five years; 30 percent five to nine years; 14 percent 10 to 19 years and five percent 25 years.


Questions to Ask Yourself:


  • Do you have a sufficient support system?
  • Does your job allow the flexibility to respond to repetitious crises?
  • Do you feel comfortable assisting your loved one with daily care? (Bathing, dressing, administering medications, incontinence needs)
  • Are you physically capable of lifting on a daily basis?
  • Are you emotionally capable of handling the stress and grief over an extended period of time?
  • Can you manage your loved one's behavior based on your relationship?
  • Do you have a strong marriage with good communication? Don't underestimate the toll it will take.
  • Do you have the finances, time and skills that would allow you to handle this endeavor?
  • How will an infirmed loved one affect your family and household?
  • Do you have enough/appropriate space in your home?
  • Can you administer suppositories, clean up vomit or change an adult brief, due to incontinence, without a problem?

These questions may seem basic. They may feel embarrassing to think about or discuss. However, you must face the reality of what it is going to take and what that commitment will mean to you and your family.  


For me, there was only one decision………I would do whatever I had to. Daddy and I just took it one day at a time, for the next 15 years. 


I got much more than I gave.


Author Lee Lambert, CEO of Lee Lambert Cares, empowers family caregivers to know what to do and when to do it, so that they can experience the simple joy of living life normally while caring for a loved one. Visit her at www.leelambertcares.com


Read more columns by Lee Lambert here


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC




 





Nov 14

About the time his mother died of Alzheimer’s disease, my stepdad did a stunning and surprising thing. Though Jim was in his 60s and had always loved to participate in sports and dancing, it was interesting that he got up one morning at about 4 a.m. and drove far away to run in a 5K race. And then it was interesting that he did it again the next week. And the next. Mother kept us updated.

Part of the draw of his running the races could have been the “free” stuff – bananas, muffins and other loot he’d take back to my mom. I think he loved more, though, the fact that just a few weeks after he started running in races, he was winning in his age group.


By the age of 65, Jim was ranked one of the top senior runners in Georgia, and he had the medals, trophies, mugs, plaques, and pictures to prove it. The back bedroom of their house glittered like a trophy store.




He was a quiet man. He loved to dance with my mom until she was stricken with Guillian Barre Syndrome – a post-viral infection that attacks nerves and leaves its victims with varying degrees of paralysis. Mother's losses included walking well and the ability to find balance. The horrific pain from neuropathy and the loss of feeling in her feet ended the active couple's days of dancing ‘til they dropped.


So, after his mother died, Jim started running. It was as though he was running to outrun something. And he was.


This past June, Jim died of Alzheimer’s disease. After his death, Mother and I went through some of his papers. The man was meticulous. Every penny he spent was tracked. Every prescription he bought was logged. Every visit to the doctor at the Veteran’s Administration was noted. And there was the note we knew was in there somewhere: He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 1998.  It was his greatest secret for many years, and his greatest motivator for almost two decades.


I would have to check this, but I believe it was either the same day of his diagnosis, or shortly thereafter, that he went to Emory University to donate his body to science. I can imagine him getting the feared diagnosis – though I know that because of his mother's death, he knew it was coming – and then resolutely driving up Clairmont Road from the VA to Emory to make life easier on all of us when he could no longer outrun his nemesis.


So from the mid 1980s, all through the 1990s (in 1996 he carried the Olympic Torch through my hometown of Carrollton, GA) and until about 2009 – three years short of his death – he kept going. He kept going in a lot of ways. Ways now, after hearing Dr. Daniel Amen of the famed Amen Clinic speak at an Alzheimer’s Association* luncheon recently, I learned are ways all of us can help ourselves in the battle against Alzheimer’s Disease.




You see, Dr. Amen doesn’t claim he can cure Alzheimer’s disease. But he does say that following his advice can help prevent a lot of the conditions that help cause Alzheimer’s (diabetes, obesity, depression, heart disease). And even though Dr. Amen’s best-selling Use Your Brain to Change Your Age book came out in 2012, it is as though my stepdad lived what Dr. Amen was going to write about. As quirky as Jim could be sometimes, he had done, to an exacting degree, almost everything Dr. Amen recommended.


And I have no doubt that Jim’s excellent care of himself meant a relatively easier go of it all for my mother, his primary caregiver for almost 12 of the 14 years he lived after the Alzheimer’s diagnosis.


In trying to outrun Alzheimer’s with every cell of his body, for as long as he possibly could (about two months before he went into a nursing home), Jim:

 

  • Exercised daily – for years it was running; when he couldn’t run anymore, he walked. And walked. And walked.
  • Kept his weight low – at 85, he seemed to have the body of someone at least 20 years younger. He was always at least 10 pounds below the normal weight for someone his height.
  • Avoided sugar – “I don’t eat sweets,” he would repeat when anyone offered. As the years went by, he would repeat that phase three or four times with each offering.
  • Kept a purpose – For as long as he could, Jim drove the Soup Kitchen van for his church, picking up homeless people and others who needed a ride to have a hot, free meal.
  • Maintained a rich spiritual life – Jim was an elder in his beloved Carrollton Presbyterian Church, and was there almost every time the doors were opened.
  • Kept learning – Jim probably wore out his library card. He checked out new books on history, health, politics – anything and everything – for as long as he could. I think he kept trying to read even when he couldn’t. That must have been a huge loss for him, when the letters just didn’t connect and mean anything anymore.
  • Didn’t drink alcohol – Looking back, I think he quit drinking about the time he was diagnosed. I guess he knew he didn’t have any brain cells to spare, and would certainly not knowingly kill any of the precious ones he had left.
  • Tried to stay positive – About four years before he died, his quirkiness increased and started turning into agitation. Medication helped some. But before that, for at least eight years after the diagnosis, it seemed he tried to keep smiling, keep looking for a funny story to hear or tell, keep looking for a way to compliment my mom for her cooking, or shine a light on one of his step grandchildren for anything positive.
  • Did his best to care for himself and his family – When Jim died, the fact that he’d donated his body to Emory meant there was no funeral home to call, no choices to be made. I simply called the ambulance service to pick up his body and that was all that needed to be done.


That 14 years earlier, Jim had arranged to have his body donated was a tremendous blessing, because the same day he passed away from aspiration pneumonia, we discovered Mother was almost dead from anemia.


While it was stunning that they’d almost died on the same day, in a moment of clarity I realized how grateful I was to Jim for doing all he had done to care for himself, even his remains. Had we needed to visit a funeral home and make arrangements, Mother probably have summoned the adrenaline in her tiny body to muscle through all of that, and would have died herself.


Alzheimer’s disease sucks the life out of people, families, relationships. I always say, however, that nothing is wasted in God’s economy, especially when people strive to do God’s will.

 

Jim was not a saint; he had his faults. But he sure didn’t waste his Alzheimer’s experience. In trying to outrun it, he made his inevitable decline a little easier on everyone. The final leg of his race was a big blessing to a lot of people: the people he served at the soup kitchen, the members of his church, the many people he inspired to get fit no matter their age, his friends in Kiwanis, and most of all, his family.


                                                                                 


Notes: *The help we received from the Alzheimer’s Association -- information, advice, referrals to services -- took some of the fear and mystery out of the disease, and also helped us find ways to make life a little easier, and for that my Mother and I are deeply grateful. 

5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease. Every 68 seconds someone in the U.S. is diagnosed. The Alzheimer's Association, Georgia Chapter, serves more than 200,000 Georgians living with Alzheimer’s disease and their families. Their mission is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research and promotion of brain health, and to enhance care and support for all individuals, their families and caregivers. Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death with no cure or treatment to slow its progression. To find out more, visit www.alz.org

As this article was posting, I learned of a 62-year-old Georgian, Jack Fussell, whose father died of Alzheimer's disease, and who has plans to run across the U.S. to raise awareness for the role fitness plays in helping to prevent conditions that help lead to Alzheimer's disease, and to help people realize how devastating Alzheimer's disease is for victims, families, and caregivers.  I believe my stepdad will be running right along side him in spirit, every step of the way. For more information visit http://acrosstheland2013.com/, or contact Andrea Mickelson at amickelson@alz.org or 404-728-6046. In addition to financial assistance, Fussell is in need of supplies, equipment, and state coordinators.

 

 Carey Sipp's first book, The TurnAround Mom – How an Abuse and Addiction Survivor Stopped the Toxic Cycle for Her Family, and How You Can, Too, guides fellow “children of chaos” to create the kind of sane and loving home life that helps prevent next-generation addiction and abuse. Follow her on Twitter @TurnAroundMom.


Read more columns by Carey Sipp here. 

  

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 


Nov 12

The inadequacies of disaster preparedness continue to be front page news with the latest catastrophe still at hand, Storm Sandy. However, when it comes to another one of life’s great challenges, caring for an elderly parent, we are also struggling with how to be fully prepared.

 

And why is that?


The inevitability that one day we must all face losing a father or a mother, whom we love so dearly, to a chronic illness is somehow not motivation enough. It’s almost as if we believe that it won’t happen to us, but to someone else. That’s the oldest denial in the book! 


What we do have to remember is that the quality of life for our loved one will one day depend entirely upon us and the amount of preparation we have made in advance. Not only does their quality of life depend on it, but also yours and that of your entire family. 


While most everyone is engaged in how to avoid this whole issue until absolutely necessary, there is a secret that I will share with you. I can tell you this with certainty having been through it with my own father. This falls under the category of “If I Only Knew.” As much as we resist planning for that day, there is an equal amount of peace of mind that accompanies knowing that you are ready. 


One of the reasons finding meaningful support is so challenging is because most information is focused on the patient care and not on the caregiver. There are two main components, logistical and emotional management. We are still in our infancy in the evaluation of how to identify and embrace the complicated decisions that have to be made around caring for a loved one. If the logistics are thought through in advance, the family caregiver has a much greater chance of managing the emotional stress that happens over the years and years of caring for a chronically ill loved one.


While interviewing the president of United Way of Georgia, I witnessed a passionate response about how he was not feeling adequately prepared for the surprises caregiving presented. In fact, he elaborated by saying that “until caregiving becomes part of our social responsibility, our personal response will remain inadequate.” There was great emotion in his voice as he reflected on having watched his own father struggle with Alzheimer’s Disease. 


A recent event, Storm Sandy, brought into focus some alarming gaps in our disaster preparedness not only for the general population, but for our elderly loved ones. A story was shared with me by a friend whose in-laws were in the storm. She reiterated that the elderly are particularly vulnerable and many times may make poor decisions because they do not want to be a bother...even in an emergency situation. 


Although communication had broken down entirely during the first few days after the storm, my friend’s in-laws suffered a panic attack, a fall and a visit to the Red Cross shelter, and luckily it all turned out reasonably well. Independent living, is just that -- independent with no assistance. My friend is a human services expert specializing in the area of elderly services. She too felt, in following this event and how it affected her in-laws, that she must rethink her approach to her own remote caregiving situation. 


I bring these two examples to the forefront for several reasons. When speaking to the president of United Way, I referred to caregiving preparation as disaster preparedness for a catastrophic event that strikes your family. It is more important than a will or even saving for college. 


He, of course, deals with disasters on a much larger scale, but as I spoke, I saw the light go on. All of the sudden, he realized the importance of the comparison and how equally devastating the two can be if no preparation is in place prior to a crisis. Both of these highly successful professionals in the field of human services -- my friend and the president were still not personally prepared for the unexpected requirements that caregiving brings to a family. 

So what chance does the ordinary person have if the professionals are still trying to figure it out? 


Well, the truth is that being a professional doesn’t really count as much as we thought. No matter what, each of us is doing this for the first time and we are all compromised by its emotional impact. Whether you are rich or poor, black or white, living in Alabama or Washington D.C., the process of caring for someone with a chronic disease is equally overwhelming and potentially devastating. 


How do we find peace of mind? By being prepared.


Where does stress come from?  Being unprepared.


What is your plan?


Because November is the official Month of the Caregiver, I encourage you to raise your awareness and your state of preparedness now, before you get the surprise phone call. It was an honor and a privilege to care for my father. Showing the people we love that we care, with not only words, but also with education and planning shows our own children truly what love really is. 


Remember… love is in the details.


Author Lee Lambert, CEO of Lee Lambert Cares, empowers family caregivers to know what to do and when to do it, so that they can experience the simple joy of living life normally while caring for a loved one. Visit her at www.leelambertcares.com


Read more columns by Lee Lambert here


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Dec 05


December is a good time of year to prepare to take inventory. On Jan. 1, it becomes a brand new opportunity to start with a clean slate. Re-evaluating what you want out of life, especially with the many limitations during caregiving, becomes an ongoing internal process. Meditation is one very effective method to use to find the answers.


About 15 years ago, I was in Sedona learning Korean Yoga. There I was, on top of a mountain, in the desert at sunset… legs crossed, little fourth fingers touching my thumbs and resting on each knee.


When you’re looking for stress relievers and rethinking what life is all about, Sedona is the definite hot spot... literally.


I was completely alone, sitting there with my eyes closed, listening.  I was sure I had meditated before. I had just never gotten an answer. That didn’t stop me from referring to meditation as if I was an old hand. 


I was an impostor! But that day, as I sat quietly, I was sure it was finally going to happen. Suddenly, I heard a soft voice say, “open your eyes.” I, of course, said no, I’m meditating. Then a few seconds later I heard “OPEN YOUR EYES” really loud in my head. So, against my better judgment, I did so.


There was a tarantella about six inches from my knee. I jumped up, running down the path, leaping over a snake and waving to the jack rabbits as I barely made it out alive.


Little did I know that at the precise moment of sunset, all the creatures of the desert, who have been hiding from the heat all day, come rushing out to find food and water.


Although I am counting this as my first official meditation, I would not recommend the desert at sunset.


Everyone has to learn what works for them when learning how to meditate, but it can be an invaluable tool. Finding your own answers is important as a caregiver. Even though I like to say, “You are not alone,” you are alone. In fact, you may spend most of your time alone if you are the primary caregiver. The amount of support you receive from friends and family is unfortunately and avoidably small. If you are the primary caregiver, you are 100 percent responsible. It is daunting. The stress this can create, over the course of years, can impact your health, emotional well-being and even your ability to care for the loved one you are trying to help. 


Learning how to meditate can become a life-saving practice, helping you to relieve stress while teaching you to become self-sufficient in these challenging times. A big part of stress is feeling alone and overwhelmed. You have to find a way not to just survive, but to thrive during this time of caregiving. Meditation can help you to call on the inner knowing that we all have, to guide you through. 


As you become more and more comfortable, it will feel not only more natural, but necessary that you are the one answering your own questions. No one can understand you and your situation like you can and the personal decisions you face day to day. 


I found that it became strange to ask someone else what I should do. No one else had my answers. I just had to exercise the tools, go inside and find them. It was a huge challenge to learn how to sit still … and listen. I had been president of a manufacturing company with 80 employees prior to caring for my father. 


Up until then, control seemed to work much better. Letting go when you are trying to control everything is a tricky accomplishment. It is one, however, that can create a life changing shift. Once you are working from the inside out instead of from the outside in… life becomes manageable, peaceful and much more joyful. This was a precious gift I received while taking care of my father. The shift in orientation transformed my life of control and subsequently, what my future held.


When you control, you’re telling yourself that things don’t happen unless you force them to happen.

 

The power of true peace and possibility does not lie in outward force; it lies inwardly, in surrender.


Author Lee Lambert, CEO of Lee Lambert Cares, empowers family caregivers to know what to do and when to do it, so that they can experience the simple joy of living life normally while caring for a loved one. Visit her at www.leelambertcares.com


Read more columns by Lee Lambert here

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC



Jan 15


It was a simple question.  “When did you move here?”  But the question hung in the air. 

I moved to Atlanta with my parents and sister when I was 10 years old.  We have spent almost our entire lives here.  How, I thought, could my own mother forget that?


Her next question was out of context as well.  “Do you get much rain here?”


“I get as much rain as you do,” I answered.  “And I moved here when you did many years ago.”


Dementia is a clinical diagnosis.  There are many causes of dementia and most types have no known cure.  In my mother’s case, it seems to creep into her life one day at a time.  This loss of brain function affects her memory, cognitive thinking and language.  This is a nonreversible degeneration.  She will not get better.


I remember watching that gradual decline in my father, aging and living with Parkinson’s disease and Lewy Body dementia.  Protein deposits built up in certain areas of his brain.  He shuffled when he walked and his face became void of expression.  “How can a person with this mind,” he would ask, “be expected to live in this body?”


For years my mother was his caregiver.  For years she was capable, with no apparent functional decline.  Then, slowly over the years, she began to have difficulty finding the right word to use.  She had difficulty determining how to pay her bills and her diabetes medication was too complex for her to handle.


My mother lives with vascular dementia caused by brain damage from blocked blood vessels and small strokes.  It is difficult for her to make choices now.  She wants to wear the same sweater every day and often chooses to wear winter clothes on the hottest summer day.


Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, but there are many causes and medical conditions that lead to loss of brain function.  As it progresses, dementia decreases the quality of life and interferes with activities of daily living.  Severe dementia can cause a person to stop moving and be wheelchair bound.


I forget a word or a name even now.  Phang misplaces his glasses and his keys.  We accept these lapses with humor and exchange caring words of support.  That humor eases the tension as my mother’s lapses become commonplace.


Anger and frustration add to my mother’s suffering.  She is obsessed with her missing socks. She stores dozens of tissue boxes in her closet, hoping not to run short of supply. Even with these difficulties, she has not lost who she is. “You need to put on some lipstick,” she reminds me.  


“You look pale without it.”


I take Mom out for lunch.  She chooses selections in her comfort zone.  “I’ll have chicken tenders and fries,” she says.  All I want to know is that she is having a good day. 




Susanne Katz is a GODR registered mediator and partner in Atlanta Elder Decisions, LLC. She is co-author of the book A Women's Guide to Managing a Mid-Life Divorce and writes about divorce and caregiving in her Second Life columns on ShareWIK.com.  She co-mediates elder issues with Atlanta Elder Decisions and divorce mediation with Mt. Vernon Counseling in Atlanta. A former museum director and curator, Susanne's arts and living columns have appeared in many Atlanta publications. Follow her on Twitter @SusanneGKatz.  


Read more columns by Susanne Katz here.


©2013 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC.


Jan 29


My daughter lives in a neighborhood that has experienced a recent surge in crime.  She has become more aware of her surroundings and regularly uses the “buddy” system.  Every time I speak to her by phone, I remind her to stay vigilant especially late at night or when she is by herself.  Her safety depends on her vigilance.


A common definition of vigilance is “the action or state of keeping careful watch for possible danger or difficulties.”  When you are a patient or a family member of a patient, you can be an extra set of eyes and ears during your hospital stay or visit to prevent possible danger, difficulties or harm. 


You become a witness to your care; you observe how well your care team performs; you assess your personal care experience.  You also gauge your pain levels; your continued symptoms and your improvement or setbacks. We are most effective at being vigilant when we use all our senses while anticipating where and when we should pay the most attention to our situation. The following are a list of incidences that require heightened attention or vigilance to ensure inherent risks are properly managed.

  1. Administration of Medication – make sure your caregiver matches the medication label with your patient identification every time; no matter how familiar you have become with your caregiver.  If you are getting a medication for the first time, please ensure you know why. Don’t assume anyone remembers your medication allergies; remind them each time!
  2. Transitions in Care – each time a handoff or handover occurs between healthcare providers, settings or shift changes, ineffective information exchange can result in errors in your current or future plan of care.
  3. Alerts – make sure your caregivers respond to call signals in a timely manner.  The responsive of your caregiver is important to your safety. Slow responses could mean your caregiver has too many patients which is known as ‘nurse to patient’ ratio.
  4. Hand Hygiene – each time a person, provider or family member, enters your patient room or treatment area, ensure they wash their hands to prevent avoidable hospital-acquired infections. If you didn’t see them wash their hands, it’s alright to ask them.
  5. Discharge – before accepting your discharge instructions, look for clear instructions in lay terms that you and your family can understand. Make sure you know how to tell if you are not healing properly and who you can call to get questions answered no matter the hour.

You and your family members have a responsibility to actively scan and monitor the actions of those who are caring for you; especially during these critical events. Don’t make assumptions about what is known or not known about your care plan. Stay actively engaged, stay alert, and stay vigilant; your safety depends on it! 


Steve Powell is an experienced facilitator, practitioner, communicator and proven leader with over 25 years of experience in human factors education and teamwork training. For more information, click here. Follow Steve on Twitter @S_SPowell


Read more columns by Steve Powell here.


©2013 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC


Jan 27

A fall can be the beginning of a downward spiral that can result in premature death. It is an unexpected event, but one that often can be averted by being proactive.  


Since falls are always a surprise, we often look back and see what we could have done to prevent it. Many times, it was not only obvious, but easy. It is imperative to anticipate, as your loved one ages, that unless there is intervention, a fall is likely to happen at some point. Making sure that optimal safety measures are in place ahead of time, may save a life. Perhaps even more importantly, it may save the quality of your loved one’s life. 


Possible Causes for a Fall

  • Mobility problems
  • Medical problems (dizziness, medications, urinary track infection, infections)
  • Safety hazards
  • Confusion
  • Brain blood flow (transient ischemic attack)
  • Cardiac problems

Top Three Things to Know About Falls at Home

  • Increase your awareness for any change in behavior or function.
  • Do a thorough inspection of your loved one’s home to ensure optimal safety measures.
  • If you have a concern, get a medical evaluation to determine a beginning point of reference and then monitor for change.

Falls can happen anywhere, while still at home or even in a professional facility. As your loved one’s caregiver and advocate, you cannot rely on anyone to be as diligent and mindful as you, even in the best of facilities. My father was taking therapy to increase his strength so he could walk again after surgery. The process was painful and sometimes discouraging. Keeping him motivated to continue was a scary challenge. At any point if he had given up, he would have never walked again. I could not let that happen. 


One day, he was left alone too long after lunch at the nursing home. He had been waiting for at least two hours for someone to take him back to his room. We had been diligently building his confidence to encourage him to walk again. So that is, in fact, what he did. He took eleven steps before he fell, breaking his hip. No one could have imagined he could have gotten up from his wheelchair unassisted. But it was, in fact, us who had convinced him that he could do it!


It would have been so easy to put a restraint on his chair to prevent such a tragic event. He never walked again. In fact, the pain he experienced was devastating. I still remember his scream as the nurses tried to turn him over in his hospital bed. I ran to him and fell across his thin body, sobbing. He immediately tried to console ME… imagine that. But that’s love.


A fall can be the beginning of the end. My father’s quality of life was never the same. Although he tried to stay positive, he ultimately gave in to his inevitable decline. He died a few months later.

Had this fall not occurred, he could have lived several more years in significantly better health and continued to engage with his surrounding community at the nursing home. I am telling you this now, so that your father or mother does not have to experience what mine did. I am sharing what I know. Each of us must share what we know with each other in an effort to shorten the learning curve of caregiving. Even though we are all doing this for the first time, we don’t have to keep making the same mistakes!


It is our duty to speak for our precious loved ones who can no longer speak for themselves, and do it effectively.




Author Lee Lambert, CEO of Lee Lambert Cares, empowers family caregivers to know what to do and when to do it, so that they can experience the simple joy of living life normally while caring for a loved one. Visit her at www.leelambertcares.com


Read more columns by Lee Lambert here



©2013 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC




Feb 13

What is it that defines who we are? Is it our circumstances or is it something else? How we respond is what tells our life story.


As caregivers, if we are not grappling with these kinds of questions, we may be hiding out singing la la la, la la la.  In the movie “The Hours,” Virginia Wolf’s character states, “You cannot find peace by avoiding life.” 


Caregiving brings to the forefront many of the major questions we face over the period of a lifetime, but within a more compressed time frame. The time frame is the key. When you experience more important decisions within a shorter period of time, you see the relativity of their impact more clearly. It gives you a unique opportunity to see how our thoughts and actions determine outcome and a chance to make important changes, which may significantly alter our direction in life.


So, what am I talking about? For me, during my years of caregiving, it meant redefining everything. It’s hard to do that when you are so busy with life; you can’t stop to question where it’s taking you. Unfortunately, we almost never make change a priority until we are forced by external circumstances. 


Caregiving gave me the chance to be still… for a very long time. And it took a very long time to get my attention. Owning a manufacturing company with 80 families depending on me made stress a way of life. Nothing was going to make me stop and take the long hard look I should have taken a long time ago. That is, nothing until my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. 


Of course, I had to practically crash and burn before taking the steps needed to not only survive, but to see life from an entirely new perspective. I can’t say what this means for another person, but for me, it was an awakening that started an avalanche. There was no turning back. 


So is caregiving a gift… or a burden? Ready or not, the process offers us a choice, a reason to re-think who we are and what we are doing in life. If you resist this question, you may find yourself in an awkward position of not knowing how you quite got there. Remember, you first get the feather, then the hammer and then if you still are not paying attention… the Mack truck. They say ignorance is bliss, but awareness without action can make life increasingly uncomfortable. The pressure mounts to now do something about what you know.


Because no one can do this for you, it becomes a clear point at which you must assume a different level of responsibility for your life. Caregiving gives us the gift of seeing life’s meaning transform and us along with it, if we are lucky. 


There is a prayer that talks about healing “the seen and the unseen disease.” While your loved one is fighting to stay alive, you may find yourself fighting to live… in a whole new way. 


Author Lee Lambert, CEO of Lee Lambert Cares, empowers family caregivers to know what to do and when to do it, so that they can experience the simple joy of living life normally while caring for a loved one. Visit her at www.leelambertcares.com


Read more columns by Lee Lambert here


©2013 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC



©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC. All rights reserved. ShareWIK does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. For more information, please read our Additional Information, Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

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