Compassionate Caregiving Conversations

Lessons from a Caregiver, my book on elder care, came into being because of the unending stream of queries that has come my way from care givers, family members, elders and even health care professionals. It used to be culinary advise. Now it has expanded. When a friend asked, “Why don’t you write a book that shares what you’ve been learning?” I started getting excited about the possibility of helping others caring for elders, ill or injured patients.

The process of writing and publishing a book is an exquisite mixture of excitement and excruciating torment. Once I decided to write an ElderCaring book to share thoughts and happy victories, finding ways to bring joy into the lives of elders, I could hardly wait to see it in print. It was months of sorting out thoughts, organizing words to say just exactly what I meant. It was edit, edit, rewrite, then hit that wall of not finding the words that go next. Dream. Some of my best insights appear from my dreams. I awake in the night with an answer to a question or situation that had been plaguing my waking hours.

Learning is a continuing path. Very soon after Lessons was sent to print, I  experienced a profound on-the-job lesson. As thrilled as I was by the learning, I was crushed with disappointment knowing that it was too late to include it in my book. It is now two years later and I have an avenue to share that lesson. It’s one tiny little thing that will only help in one narrow situation and yet it looms large.

Many of us experience a stage in caring for a frail elder when safety becomes  precarious. The elder can’t hold it in his or her memory or won’t listen, regarding safety and the risk of falling. Too often an elder will try to get up or walk without waiting for help. Too often a serious injury occurs from a fall. As a caregiver one cannot watch every moment. There are still loads of laundry and dishes and other duties to manage. This is it, the lesson: reverse Whoopie cushions! Actually called pressure cushions, there exists a kind of chair cushion that can be placed on a seat. The elder sits just like always. The cushion has a attached battery operated device that makes a huge and horrible warning sound if the elder lifts off the cushion. The reaction is immediate. Startled, the elder sits down again before a fall can occur.

Maybe it’s not important or impressive, but to me, it was a big WOW moment. At that moment it was the solution I was seeking. That’s what I think caring for folks is all about. It’s a stack of those little things that add up to a complete or growing picture that help someone’s life and reduce stress for everyone involved. Whew! There is a list of little learnings that just keeps growing. That’s the kind of stuff I look forward to writing.

I think I am going to like blogging. It seems a much more spontaneous sharing than I ever thought writing would be. It will be interesting to have feedback that allows my ideas to grow and evolve. Listening is a big part of learning, gaining insights from others’ perceptions and experiences allows expansion.

There is much that is new in my life right now. I’m leaving my little nest for the first time in years. I look forward to a National Hospice Association and University of Utah sponsored event titled, “Spirituality and the End of Life” that I will attend. I’m going home to visit (much too briefly) and care for my mom, who fell on the ice. She’s just home from rehab after surgery for a broken femur. She’s doing great! It’s almost her 94th birthday. I can hardly wait to see her.

There will be much to share when I return.

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