One of our Forgive and Forget members, Collette, shared with me a few of her no-nonsense, no-guilt practices to take care of herself first while caring for her father with Parkinson’s. They are a practice. A Practice. Not a new routine that gets done once and for all. The word, “Practice,” takes the pressure off. If we fail, so what, we try again.
Collette’s #1 practice seems to be able to flawlessly demonstrate the in-flight phrase, “Place the oxygen mask over your head and mouth first before assisting others.” She inherently knows that if you don’t take care of yourself first, you can’t take care of anyone else.
I was a little late to the party in understanding the importance of this practice myself, but I got it – eventually. I had to. Within the first three years of taking care of Mom, I came face-to-face with my own possible demise. Out of necessity, I did learn this one key behavior: I learned to put the “oxygen mask on first before assisting Mom.” If I hadn’t learned this, I would probably be a statistic today. Last time I checked, a caregiver’s risk of a heart attack, stroke or suicide remains at 67%!
In deference to your available time as a caregiver, I have split this blog into four parts. Each one will cover a few combined and unique ideas that are helping Collette and I stay grounded, focused and balanced as we navigate through our own lives as caregivers.
Reach Out and Delegate: After Collette’s father was diagnosed with the horrible form of dementia, Parkinson’s Disease, she reached out to a few trusted friends and delegated the help she knew she needed right away. She inherently realized she couldn’t do it all. Collette found a day-care for her father twice a week. She also hired in-home care for the times when friends were unavailable.
I, on the other hand, thought I could handle it all, evidenced by the cape and crown I donned daily. Not only was I afraid to ask for help, my pickins’ for helpers were slim to none. I also had the “Disease to Please,” I was a control enthusiast and perfectionist.
The truth is, in caregiving, if we don’t reach out in some form or another, there is a high risk we won’t make it as evidenced by the above noted statistic regarding caregivers.
Limit your social media and news time to 15 minutes or none at all: All of mainstream news today is designated “Breaking News.” It is fast and comes at us every 15 seconds. News is a business. News is sensationalized, geared to grab and go. It can part your hair. As for Social Media, it has the potential to numb your nerve endings and turn your mind into soup.
I asked myself the following three questions, and I suggest you do the same and then adjust your time and influences accordingly:
*What did I just gain from listening, watching or engaging? Answer: Not much.
*Did what I just hear/see prepare me for something important. Answer: No.
*Was what I just watched/listened to necessary or make a positive difference to my life? Answer: No.
Because ignorance is not bliss, I still do obtain news; I just limit it to bullet-highlights and one or two stories from a source I trust. Thankfully PBS and a few news programs, i.e., Sunday Morning and 60 Minutes, remain informative and impartial.
Social Media can be, no doubt, a wonderful way to stay in touch with those we love and care about. However, all I’m suggesting is to take a look at how much time you spend on just these two media, and how much influence they play in your life. Are they a negative or a positive for you? They may be okay. I’m just saying, it’s worth taking a look.
Lastly, the ads sprinkled into everything we engage in by watching and/or listening to, are also geared to grab and go. Their purpose is to make us believe that without their product, we will not be happy, unique or fulfilled. Trust me, we are enough!
Most of the time, silence is better than background noise or ear candy.
While Driving: This is a biggie and will be continued in Part II. Collette and I found we both drive in silence most of the time. We consciously turn off our minds and turn on our attention to driving: turn left, change lanes, brake, sit quietly and breathe at a stop-light, accelerate. This is a tough practice because we are always thinking. Always.
When Collette and I became aware of what we were thinking, i.e. all the “to-do’s and have-to’s” yelling at us, we learned to literally close down our minds and bring our attention back to driving. There is a big difference between our minds and attention. Attention is presence and focused. Minds are chatter.
Did you know that “thought,” particularly the looping kind, has been scientifically studied, monitored and proven to be 97% ineffective? 97% ineffective!
There are times, however, when Collette and I drive and listen to a book, a seminar, or our favorite music list. Our attention remains on driving, but we find we are also able to be present listening to a book, seminar, or music because our minds are quiet. We are simply focusing on two things. I am merely cautioning you regarding your background noise. “Audible” App, and the iPod Cast App are two sources Collette and I have found to be good choices for books and seminars.
If you have children in the car with you, there are two ways to go that are beneficial. This will be the subject of Part II of Practicing Balance and Sanity.
What Is True For Me: All of these practices are True For Me, as are Part II, III and IV. My practices and changes didn’t happen overnight. I started small, but at least I started.
My advice: Just start.
Meet you at Part II…