As Yogi Berra so famously said:
"When You Come To A Fork In The Road, Take It!"
A Kind-of Blog by Rebekah Tanner
On Caregiving, Living and Loving Art, Learning & Resiliency, and Coming Close to Retirement
This is Blog #2; please click for: Blog #1
"I have come to understand and therefore to define "mindfulness" in this way: "Current, compassionate, self-awareness based in and focused upon the biological rhythms that occur not on in the individual and the human community, but in the planetary and universal community of ALL MY RELATIONS." (p. 46 in Five Sesame Seeds
ON MARY POPPINS; AND OTHER THOUGHTS ON CARE GIVING
Syracuse, NY, 02 October 2016: I never imagined myself growing up to be Mary Poppins, but it has turned out that way.... I sit in my living room beside my chosen life-partner and legal spouse and say to myself: "How did I wind up being a nearly 60-year-old woman with a purple hat with silk flowers and beads decorating it, pulling a slightly less purple "Dolly Trolley" with a red umbrella covered with black lace in the large side pocket? Not quite the "Red Hat Society" of the poem of my youth, but close enough. I do not have the very fine lace-up boots they gave Julie Andrews to wear in the film, but I do have just about the coolest purple lensed bi-focal sunglasses in the world!
As for being a Nanny, well... not quite that either, but I am the primary care giver to a once vibrantly engaged minister who has now been on Disability Insurance for over 8 years and struggles to keep her mind focused on tasks to their completion, gets begins to get tired, "sun-down" and generally lose focus about 4:00 pm, and now uses a walker to get around outside the house. She can, however READ! And that she does -- she read 273 books in 2015, and is well on her way to meeting that number again this year. She also reviews just about all of them. Check her out on Good Reads.
Being the care giver for someone you love is tough. You are called upon to be strong and capable at exactly the moments you feel so sad and tired, when your loved one is at their worst and you want to be there, at your worst, with them. But you can't. You have to muster up all you've got to help them get up from an embarrassing (and sometimes painful) fall or other minor disaster. You have to have total faith that "this too, will pass" when their faith in themselves, and maybe also a little bit at least, in their G-d, espcaes them. You have to do the dishes, the laundry, cook the meals, (thank goodness there are no dogs any more, however much they might be missed!), go to work, and still make art (or how else would you survive?), have other relationships, and keep on learning every single day. No wonder Mary Poppins was a bit crazy --
I do want to share a few links and things that we have found very helpful which might not just be at the top of a quick "google search" on caregiving. These are focused on Syracuse, NY, adapt to your location as needed.
#1 -- The value of social media is not to be under estimated! It can provide the cared for with great outlets that they could never manage "live & in person" and help both keep from being lonely or bored and be a place to build new relationships. The reading and writing communities and blogs that my spouse follows and participates in on Facebook and elsewhere have been a true life-saver. Be smart, be safe, create an e-mail address that is different from the one you use for personal business, but use these outlets to connect and gather information and friends.
#2 -- It really is ok to do a certain amount of your shopping online. I have even broken the last barrier and gotten shoes online, something I thought I would never do. The worst that happens? They don't fit or you don't like how they look and you have one more errand to run -- so combine it with something else that you need to do near the post office and return them. But for the most part, by taking time to look and compare before making a purchase, we have been very satisfied with our online purchases.
#3 -- Visit the Rosamond Gifford Zoo, or whatever zoo is near you. I know, I know... "All those poor caged animals!" Get over it. We have gotten to a point in our lust for the unsustainable that species survival for many endangered species now depends on the important and careful breeding programs that is carried on across zoos world-wide. Find a spot that you can sit down with the person you are caring for that is beautiful, out of the rain, and has a view your loved one enjoys. In our case, this was the indoor bird house. Early on in Andrea's illness, she found this place so peaceful and comforting that it caused me to sign up and become a volunteer educator at the zoo from 2010 until 2015 -- why I left? Other things became priorities that needed that 50 hours or so a year, but our long season of being very regular zoo visitors was an important aspect of coming to terms with the changes we were both facing. So, while I do feel that through my years of volunteerism I was able to "repay the debt of gratitude" -- there is no doubt on either mine or my partner's part, that it was, at one time, owed.
#4 -- Make as many friends as you can with the small shop owners in your own neighborhood. Be a regular customer. Most of them will come, in time, to ask "How is your friend doing today?" when you walk up to check-out. Those can be the words that make that day have been worth waking up for. Thank them for thinking of the person you care for. Smile. It will help you in so many ways, I promise. Owner-operators of such shops will come to know your patterns. I have one fellow who can tell when money is low, and he will do stuff like not charge me for one item, or say "That is a gift today" and throw in something special I might look at but decide I can't afford that day... He is not always at the check-out counter. The rest of his staff does not do this. It's not like I expect a price-break, but it is nice when it happens, and those few dollars saved can go to other things that might seem like luxuries, but are thus made possible. And, I can assure you, this NEVER happens in the grocery chains! Yes, maybe I spend a bit more on some items, but as a bus-rider, the time I save and the not paying the bus fair to get to the chain grocery balance that out for me.
#5 -- During the June - October Downtown Farmer's Market season, go there, not to the Regional Market. It is so much less overwhelming. The less overwhelmed I get, the more energy I have to go home and take what I bought, seam it, cook it, can it, and put it up in one-person sized portions in the freezer so when I do have to be out in the world, my spouse does not have to do much in order to get a good meal.
• Bayberry Market: Bayberry Plaza parking lot, Route 57 at Blackberry Road, Clay, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesdays through the end of October; 652-1463.
#6 -- So, winter is coming... gonna be cabin fever! Stop that opportunity for self-pity in its tracks by taking a nice, long walk. Do it indoors at Destiny, Driver's Village, a "big box" store, or Home Depot. Go without any money or credit cards, so you are not tempted to spend money you hadn't budgeted for, or allow yourself one little treat, if you can spare the cash. Either way, the exercise will be good for both you and your loved one, and you will get to see other faces, might even strike up a conversation with someone nice.
#7 -- Four more links I want to share:
Need medical equipment and freaked out because Rothchilds on E. Genesee Street has closed? Lincare has many NY locations, a couple around Syracuse: Look here for more information.
And finally, I just learned about this online sort of social media site yesterday. It allows you, the care giver, to stay in touch with EVERYBODY in just one place -- It has a way to give up dates on your loved one's condition, get feedback, even gather donations -- if that is what you need, or post a wish-list of needed items: Caring Bridge. Now this was one woman's REALLY BRILLIANT (see that light bulb above her head?) idea at a bad time in her family's life -- created by a care giver for care givers. She UNDERSTANDS.
So, Mary P. may have been odd, but she knew what was in that bag of tricks of hers, and how to best use those items. I will proudly, if a bit differently than she did, follow in her ... flight path?!?!
But before I go: Make sure your phone number is on the "Do Not Call" list, and the one to keep credit cards companies from bothering you, too. Hang a little sign on your door that says "NO SOLICITING / NO DOOR-TO-DOR PREACHING, PLEASE," and make sure your Health Care Proxy, Living Will, Durable Power of Attorney, Disposition of Reamains, and Last Will and Testatment are current and that you and the person you are caring for has done this tedious but very important bit of paperwork. I remind everybody to take a few good deep breaths (the real gift comes with that exhale). The person you are caring for is likely someone you care for. Be kind. Give kisses. And -- put your brain into gear before engaging your mouth (at least try...).
This page, like all the others in THE FOXFILES is my work alone and except for the contents of any external links I make here, I alone am responsible for its opinions and content. Comments, corrections and additions many be sent to: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org