Archive for November 2012

Holiday Caregiver Stress: Finding the Heart of the Season

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Photo by paulapaulac via Flickr

A lovely Elder I knew, (I’ll call her Mary), was really struggling with the care needs of her husband, who was living with a number of debilitating illnesses.  As the holidays approached, she became more and more anxious about how to manage the many tasks and roles she had already taken on, and wondered how to work Christmas into her “to do” list.

One of Mary’s traditions was to bake a special kind of cookie, one that took several hours and many steps.  That year, she just couldn’t face the chore.

When I asked her what the most meaningful part of this holiday tradition was for her, she didn’t hesitate to answer that it was spending time with her college-age grandsons.

Looking at this activity from the perspective of what was most meaningful, Mary quickly realized that the heart of the event was spending time with those growing young men.

She knew that they enjoyed being with her, too, and confided that her hungry family wolfed down the treats and probably never gave a second thought to the amount of time and preparation she’d invested in baking.

It was easier for this Wise Elder to change how she managed the task once she’d identified what was most important and meaningful.  That year, she chose a much simpler recipe, and enjoyed her special time with the grandsons.  Mary had freed up precious time and energy for the other things she really wanted or needed to do.

What is the heart of this holiday season for you?  If you are feeling overwhelmed, prune away the things that don’t bring you joy.  Consider changing the way you do things so you can enjoy the holidays feeling more at peace and well-rested.

The SIDS Foundation has created a nifty chart that an help you identify what and how to include in your Holiday celebrations, what things you can change, and what things you might choose to let go this year.  Try it out below.

As you work with this information, consider that important question: what is meaningful?

And let me know if you made any changes, and how it’s going for you!

Holiday Stress Assessment for Caregivers

HOLIDAY JOB LIST Would the holidays be the same without it?  Is this something you want to do differently?  Do you do it out of habit, tradition,free choice, or obligation? Is it a one person job, or can it be shared?  Who is responsible for seeing that it gets done?  Do you like doing it?  Decorating the tree.                    Contributing to special funds.                    Baking holiday cookies. Exchanging holiday cookies.                    Making long lists of what needs to be done.                    Going to office or school parties.                    Making homemade holiday gifts.                    Sending holiday cards.                    Buying something special to wear for the holidays.                    Going to cocktail parties.                    Doing your holiday shopping.                    Seeing people you never see any other time of the year.                    Helping or encouraging your children to make some of their gifts.                    Having the house clean … clean!                    Decorating different rooms of your home.                    Providing “quiet-together” time for immediate family.                    Buying gifts for co-workers and teachers.                    Attending special or traditional church services.                    Attending special activities for children.                    Preparing special traditional foods.                   

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Best Practices in Home Care Showcase

One of the things that keeps me working in the aging services field is the camaraderie of my colleagues.  They demonstrate a tremendous commitment to and appreciation for Elders and their care partners, an awareness of the Elders’ stories as sacred treasures to be held by us with care, and an intuition that the health care system in which we all work is terribly broken.

It was my honor to meet with such a group of dedicated peers recently, at the “Best Practices in Home Care Showcase.” The event was hosted by the Steuben County Office for Aging in the Southern Tier of New York, the Steuben Senior Services Fund, and NYCONNECTS.  Attendees included representatives of home health organizations, case managers for senior apartments, advocates for people living with developmental disabilities, the faith community, and wise Elders.

“Grandmother” by magnificentlife via Flickr

They are all seeking better ways to serve Elders and their families, and thirsty to work together in a way that honors the need of everyone involved to grow.

It can be a big challenge to introduce the philosophy of The Eden Alternative to a group, when time is limited and the important work of culture change is the goal.  With the “Eden at Home” initiative, we are helping people recognize how culturally pervasive ageism contributes to the three plagues of loneliness, helplessness, and boredom; introducing a new definition of care as well as the concept of empowered care partner teams (with the Elder at the center of decision-making); and showing how the antidotes to the plagues can be applied in home and community-based settings.

The talk culminated with a showing of a powerful, person-directed “video care plan,” with thanks to Haleigh Jane Thomas and her parents, Dr. Bill and Jude Thomas.

Even with limited time, these concepts speak for themselves.  Knowing there is a philosophy that provides a framework for every member of the team, (Elder, family, and professional alike), to speak a common language and truly make the shift to person-directed care  can invigorate a community.

There is a lot of buzz in Steuben County about the possibility of hosting a Certified Eden at Home Trainer workshop in 2013, and many at the “Best Practices in Home Care Showcase” indicated they would attend.

This three day workshop cultivates culture change agents for participating organizations, while providing the tools needed to offer Care Partner Workshops in our agencies and for the wider community.

Have you participated in an Eden at Home training yet?  With the vast majority of Elders living in their own homes, in retirement communities, or with family members, the implementation of The Eden Alternative principles can accelerate the pace of culture change and transform care for all of us.

There are currently Certified Eden at Home Trainer workshops planned in Las Vegas, NV, and Toledo, OH.  Find out more HERE

Lisa Kendall is an Educator for The Eden Alternative, teaches for the Ithaca College Gerontology Institute, and manages her own counseling and consulting practice in Ithaca, NY.

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