Monday, October 28, 2013
One of my wonderful clients is a widow who lives in a retirement community. "Judy" cannot drive, and only has one child. She doesn't want to burden her daughter with all of her needs. Not long ago, I took her to a medical appointment, to Wallgreens to shop, and then to Target to pick up her prescription. She kept apologizing for being such a pain and making me stow her walker after each new stop. I assured her that it was not only what I did, but what I truly love to do! We had such a fun morning together. I got her home and settled back into her apartment so that she had time to rest.
Several weeks later I got another call from Judy. "Do you iron?" she asked me. "I'm too dizzy to iron, and the pile just keeps growing. It's really starting to get to me." "Yes", I answered, "I do iron", and that is exactly what I did for 2 1/2 hours. She kept asking me how I could be so fast. I reminded her that I didn't have to iron while hanging on to a walker, and that I didn't have to wrestle with the ironed shirts while using a walker to go hang them up in the closet. After she initially offered me soup to take the chill off of the blustery day, we spent most of the time visiting while I ironed. I was thinking while we talked that even surrounded by a community, at times we can still be pretty isolated or lonely.
Each of us has our "ironing pile". It's that thing that sends us from "I can manage," to over the top. It can build slowly, or it can snap like a twig . No matter what the trigger, or the resulting emotion, you are not crazy. You are overwhelmed. There are so many ways that I can help, and nothing seems to silly or to minimal. As a hospice volunteer, I was told to leave judgement at the door, and I have never heard wiser words! Why turn down help because your house is too dirty, or the laundry pile is too big? Isn't that exactly what you would like help conquering?! Imagine the possibilities....
I had the most awesome day today! I was with one of my great clients, well actually 2 of my clients, since they are an elderly couple. Their daughters have hired me to look in on "Lila and Bob" two evenings each week. This gives the adult children a nice break and an opportunity to spend time with their own families. My assignment is to look in on the adorable couple, make sure that they have what they need for dinner, and help them with chores, or take them on errands.
This night, the pre-ordered dinner did not arrive, so I navigated the retirement community resources to find out if dinner delivery was late or nonexistent. Lila and Bob can no longer drive, so they love to have me take them on errands. Tonight, after we scoured the refrigerator to put together a dinner, we went to Walmart. Lila has some pretty significant memory loss, so as we strolled the aisles, I calmed her fear (several times) that her husband had forgotten the list and his wallet. We were giggling through the store and trying to keep up with Bob's spry pace. I helped them find everything on their list, and a few treats that weren't. When we got to the check out, a man of about 60 paused near us and asked "Are you their daughter?" I replied "No" and asked why he wanted to know. He said, "You are just so cute together." I thanked him, and as he walked away he said "Thank you for helping them."
I haven't stopped thinking about the Walmart mystery man's comments. I had been going through the store so in awe- that I got to do this work, that it's always an adventure, that it never feels like work, and that I love it so much! To have a stranger tell me that he saw the JOY that we were exuding was mind-blowing to say the least. Truly magical....
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
In Bottom Line Personal magazine, there was a great article entitled "How to Love Life Again After Losing a Spouse" by BeckyAikman.
"Becky Aikman was in her 40s when she lost her husband to cancer. She formed a group with five other widows. Their goal: To learn to live again after the worst thing that ever happened to them. In the process, they found that some of the traditional thinking about loss and recovery wasn't helpful.
Here, advice for rebuilding your life--when you feel ready to do so--in the months or years after the death of your husband or wife...
Don't put off rebuilding because you haven't yet experienced the stages of grief
People who lose a spouse often experience waves of emotion separated by periods of feeling relatively normal. Over time, the waves become less extreme and less frequent until the widow or widower feels ready to reengage with humanity.
Be wary of support groups
If you feel supported by the group then continue, but be wary of focusing on feelings of grief. You may find that you are focusing on sadness. Attending the group in the beginning may feel like a great fit, but listen to yourself and know that it's OK to stop attending once it no longer "fits".
Make decisions based on what you want your life to look like in the future, not maintaining the life you had before
Plans made while a spouse was living may no longer fit your single lifestyle: vacation plans, home or retirement living, and more.
Be proactive about making plans with friends. They may be attentive relatively soon after the loss of a partner. As time goes on, they may be less inclined to call, especially if you have turned down meetings and outings in the past. Now that (ital)you are ready, call to schedule something well in advance of the date that you want to meet.
Construct a new circle of single friends
Get over any guilt about new romantic relationships
Researchers have found that it's people who were very deeply in love with their departed spouses who are most likely to find love again.
New experiences can help to start new routines or highlight areas of interest and give you something to look forward to while building your confidence.
Cook well for yourself
Nurturing yourself through good tasting proper nutrition will go far in helping improve your outlook on life.
Travel with tour groups
Travel is an excellent way to have new and enjoyable experiences...If you travel with a tour group, you'll have people with whom you can share the adventure." Just double check that there are single people in the group so that you are not the only unpaired traveler.
Most importantly, and something that was not mentioned in the article is, be kind and gentle with yourself. Nurture yourself in ways that help you to heal, and be willing to ask for help.
Monday, June 17, 2013
I am sometimes amazed at what I can see when I have a camera strung around my neck. For some reason, I look at things differently. I recently heard someone say the same thing about holding a sketch pad. I think that after some time and some training, holding the camera, sketch pad or whatever your "thing" is, switches the brain over to a mode of observation or creativity. If I find myself grumbling or thinking that I need a break, I should know by now, that I should wear a camera, even if I don't take one picture. It calms me. Look at this beautiful wild columbine flower. It was hidden, but with my photographer's eye, it jumped out at me.
If you are needing to switch gears and see your glass as half full, try holding your version of a camera, or doing that activity that transforms you. Do you feel alive when you sing, when you dance, when you write? Take the time to nurture yourself and you will pass it on 100-fold to those with whom you come in contact all day long. Leave people with a smile on their face wondering what is making you so happy. Pass it on!
Posted by sarah at 4:44 PM
Friday, April 5, 2013
There was a great article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune last Sunday about hospice care.
I agreed with a lot of it, but took issue with a few things:
The volunteer said that he isn't really supposed to be friends with his patients, and he said that he normally doesn't go to the funerals of his clients.
I find that some of my dearest friends were once clients, and going to their funerals is a matter of respect for me. It tells the family that they were meaningful to me, and therefore, worthy of my time by paying honor to them at their memorial. The celebration can also be a time to find out amazing things about clients that I never knew. I love seeing all of the photos of days of health and happiness. It is an irreplaceable way to say my final good bye and I would feel cheated without it!