The Caregiver Cup Podcast

Thriving in the Diverse Landscape of Caregiving

September 12, 2023 Cathy VandenHeuvel Episode 178
The Caregiver Cup Podcast
Thriving in the Diverse Landscape of Caregiving
The Caregiver Cup Podcast
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I've always believed that caregiving is more than just a responsibility; it's a calling. An event as simple as my niece's bridal shower reminded me how important it is to embrace our authentic selves and find joy in every moment. This episode is all about that - the personal decision of caregiving, and the transition from corporate life to helping caregivers through my podcast and coaching. 

Our discussion takes a deep dive into the evolution and challenges of caregiving, particularly around raising children amidst the increasing use of technology. We'll also explore the changes that family caregiving has undergone in the past decade, including the growing need to balance our own needs with that of those we care for. And I promise you, the insights will leave you pondering and posed to take action. 

Finally, we delve into the diverse landscape of caregiving and the unique challenges faced by caregivers today. Mental health, the importance of addressing caregivers' emotional wellbeing, and the increasing prevalence of long-distance caregiving are just a few of the topics we touch on. Fear not, we also share strategies and resources to help you manage your caregiving responsibilities effectively. So, gear up for an episode that empowers you to thrive while caring for your loved ones.

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Speaker 1:

Well, hello there and welcome to another episode of the caregiver cup podcast. It's Kathy here. Oh, I want to really first of all thank you for listening and coming back. If you've been an avid listener of my podcast, I so appreciate you. Or if you're brand new, welcome to this week's episode. I want to talk about a little bit about my weekend, and this weekend I had the pleasure of attending my niece's bridal shower. It's been such a long time since I attended any type of bridal shower or baby shower, I think, because the pandemic kind of took a smush on all of those things so it was really nice to go ahead and do that on Saturday. The party was lovely and I attended with my sister and it was really nice to go ahead and meet other people and see, feel the excitement in the air. Well, my sister made a comment Um, and I think she did it out of love, but she made a comment she goes you act just like mom. And she made, she said it just like that. And my mom was this bundle of energy we lost her a year ago and love to play and have fun and and instead of me taking it personally, I said and I turned to her and I said well, connie, thank you. And because they had games which encouraged you to get up, and we had. We had this game called hunt for the rings and those. They had plastic rings around and whoever had the most rings won a prize. And so I went around and collected rings everywhere I could see them and I put them all in front of Connie so that she would win the price, and she made the little comment. And then they had, um, pictures of the bride and groom to be, and we had to go ahead and identify the ages that they were in those pictures. Well, I got two out of 20, because I was terrible at it, but it was still fun to look at the pictures. And then they had, um, they had had a couple more where they had scratch off games to if you scratched off the groom's head on the picture, you won a prize. And then they had bingo while they were opening gifts and they had guests the number of kisses in a jar. But they encouraged you to get up and move around. And so I did and I'm thinking, yeah, I'm going to have fun. Is there a way we we should act, though? I thought about this for a little bit on the way home. Is there a way I should act? Heck, no, we should be who we are. Obviously, you want to be appropriate and you want to be respectful, but I've learned so much about myself in the last years and one of them is to be myself and to find joy. Find joy in the moments and live in the present. And uh, people will comment, it's and it's important for you to just let it go. And that's what I've learned about myself, and I don't know if it's maybe that the 60 age that I'm at, or if it's just because I've been through so much. Years ago, I would have taken it personally and sat down with guilt and shame and rehashed Connie's comment over and over for days. Why would I do that now? As the shower went on, I continued to just have fun and I had conversations with other ladies. One lady came up to me and asked me what do you do? And that's. It's kind of funny how you people start conversations. But in the past I I would have explained that I was working and I was doing that, and. But I went ahead and explained that I am retired from my corporate job of 32 years where I was in adult education and leadership development. And now I'm helping caregivers through the caregiver cup podcast and I'm coaching caregivers and doing digital courses. And I said to her I'm like I feel more alive than I did when I was working my 32 years in corporate America. I feel like I've make making a difference and I'm working a purpose that I feel really good about. And I explained and kind of went on and talked about that kind of stuff and I found out you know what she did for a living and we kind of collaborated. But that opened the door up for her to explain that she lost both of her parents in 2021 after she was caregiving and they, both of her parents, died within four months of each other. And right away I went into caregiving coaching mode and said how are you doing that? Has to be really hard. And she went on to say that she was still recovering from all of the stress and the burnout and all of that for being with her parents and taking care of her parents. And I went on to say I could so relate, because I'm just a year off of caregiving for my mom and I feel the same way. And I went on to say that you know what if I was coaching you right now? I would talk about the importance of how did you take care of yourself and what did you do. And so we started talking about that and she said one of the things that she doesn't regret, but she wish she would have been more thoughtful about it, is how she took care of herself and she, just like you and I, she went all in and she went ahead and spent as much time as she could taking care of her parents. And she asked for a little help. And I said if you were my client, I would say that's a choice that you made and if you want to continue to do it that way, we just have to work now with you. And if it was in her caregiving state, we would have to look and find efficiencies and automation and small pockets of time for you to fit in to that caregiver schedule so you could recharge. And she said that's true. She said and I and in this podcast, and I'm going to talk a little bit more about it but she said I never even thought about that. And so what did she do? She immediately downloaded my podcast because she knows people that are in the caregiving mode right now I just had to take a little drink of water here. We both agreed that there is a shared understanding of what we go through as caregivers and I know, if we were talking and having conversation, nobody really understands what caregiving really involves and how taxing it is and how stressful it is and how we speak this language and nobody really understands it. And, as a matter of fact, I've had messages and conversations with a lot of you if you're one of them over this past weekend about it as well. So why am I sharing these stories today and why am I sharing this weekend with you? It's because I feel super passionate about caregiving being a personal decision for your loved one and about caregiving being a personal decision for you, and I am ready to go up on the rooftops and shout it out because it also should be a customizable journey for you. No one person has to do it the same way. This old school way of caregivers and always the woman caregiving and always having to give up everything is a thing of the past and it's almost like we have to transform this. I don't know what it's called this it's not an industry, but this journey, this title you need to do what's best for your loved one, but also best for you, and the best analogy I can give is thinking about parenting. No one parent is the same. Parents raise their children based on their own values, their lifestyle, their personalities and their love. Some parents have nannies, some parents take their children to daycare, some parents have family helping. Some parents choose to stay at home, some parents choose to work. Some parents choose to let their children have cell phones that was another conversation that I had with other tables this weekend because kids are wanting cell phones earlier and earlier. So some parents have let their children have cell phones in elementary school and some parents don't allow it. I think you get what I'm saying. So this same applies for a caregiver and you as a caregiver. The fact is we don't have discussions in advance with our loved ones on how they want to be cared for, or at least there's far and few, or at least I didn't with my mom. She told me things like I don't want to be put into a home if you can avoid it, and she wanted to go ahead and be cared for by her kids. But if I could give anybody caregiver advice, I would tell them to talk with their loved ones about their care, talk to their loved ones about their situation and the whole thing. Or, better yet, if you have an elderly parent right now, that is independent. Start the discussion now, because as caregivers, we have our life, we have our own social situations, we have our own jobs and our own activities. But when we become a caregiver, we're at this intersection and have to make hard decisions about what has to be put on hold and what has to be done from a caregiving perspective. But the question is or can there be a middle ground? And I think there can be, if you customize it and personalize it. So, also, when we do have discussions about taking care of ourselves, do we have that with our loved ones? Because when we become a caregiver, we are caring for our loved one, but we're also caring for ourself. As I was listening to I think it was a podcast from Mel Robbins a week or so ago, she talked about love and she talked about love and how important it is to love yourself and I thought, oh my gosh, that's self love. But when we have caregiving, we love. Love means caring for others and our loved one, but love means caring for ourself and that has to be an equal balance and I know you and I didn't do that or don't do that, and that has to be something that has to shift and change, because we have to take care of ourself so that we can take care of others. And when we talk about caregiving in general, let's talk about that in general. The family caregiver and the whole role of family caregiver in the last decade has changed. Based on research from AARP and the National Alliance of Caregiving, family caregivers are more involved than they've ever have. But it looks a lot different than if we looked back in the 90s or even in the 80s and maybe even in the early 2000s. It looks different now. Care was much more like nursing and doctor appointments and scheduling and doing all of the cooking and the cleaning. It was more of that role. But today the landscape of caregiving has so much evolved, it has evolved and it's gotten bigger. So first, my little disclaimer is I don't want you to stress out when I talk about this, I want you to just think about it right now. Because when we think about the evolution into caregiving now, we increased our reliance on technology because, if you think about it, caregivers have to access tools and research to assist with caregiving tasks. Now we have to check in online. We have to look at medical records online. We have we claims come in online. There are so much technology and we have to monitor devices, even like my husband's lab results came online when it came to that and all of his appointments and even when we had questions, we would use online technology most of the time. From a stem cell transplant perspective, the growing age population now has changed and, if you think about it, our, our loved ones are living longer and the demands for family caregivers for older adults and chronic health congestions are increasing, are increasing. If we looked at people walking out in the world today, I and this is not a stat, I'm just using, I'm just using my knowledge here 90% of the people out there will be a caregiver someday, I think, maybe even more than that. Caregiver, family caregivers are balancing work and caregiving because we have to from a financial perspective or we want to sustain our career and so, struggling to balance caregiving responsibilities with our careers, some have to reduce work hours and take leaves of absence to provide care, and that is hard as well. Now there's also an increased awareness and advocacy responsibilities. Caregivers today have to become more vocal about the needs and the challenges. There's been pushback for policies and program that support caregivers, such as paid leave and respite care services. I think we continually have to go ahead and push for it. The diversity in caregivers are changing because diverse backgrounds and age groups are part of this. This includes millennials, who are increasingly taking care of caregiving roles, lgbtq communities and caregivers who may face unique challenges. I like to think about, too, that and it's not even in this, this data that I collected there are sandwich generation caregivers, meaning moms that are caring for their, their young children, and they're caring for their elderly parent at the same time. That didn't happen decades ago. There's also mental health impacts. Caregivers often experience high levels of stress and mental health problems, depression, whatever it would be. The importance of addressing caregivers emotional well-being has gained recognition. Finally, long distance caregiving is increasing and becoming more common, so caregivers may need to coordinate care from a distance because of jobs or whatever it would be, and there is an increased and growing recognition on collaboration with healthcare professionals to ensure better patient outcomes, and that falls into the advocacy, but it also falls into really thinking about the healthcare, your doctors and nurses and whatever as partners, and then end of life care. This has shifted towards more discussion and planning, like I talked about in the beginning, including advanced care directives. I filled one out with both of my parents, with my husband. Hospice care now is taking on a different look and a feel. More people are doing hospice care from the loved ones home more than ever, so that's increasing. When I read this and when I'm reading this, I feel more, even more passionate about what I do, helping you and I as caregivers and empowering you and I to find more efficient ways to care for our loved ones, more efficient ways to manage everything and really protecting our own well-being, because we need to have adaptable strategies. So how do we get to that point of adaptable strategies? I call this Mrs Kathy's line if thinking outside the box and being open to adapting to different things, experimenting on things, because it's essential to maintain our own health, and so I think about how you have to adapt to the technology and learn the technology. Technology can help you stay organized, communicate with health professionals, save time, monitor your loved ones health remotely. So you have to adapt to it and you have to leverage technology now more than ever, and most of everything is online and most everything could be on your mobile phone, and so that is nice to have. You need to create a support network, and a strong support network of family and friends and community resources, and you don't hesitate to ask for help when needed, which is a hard shift for us, but you could reach out to your doctor's office, local communities, online communities. We, as individuals, need to have our resources, but we also have to find resources for our loved ones as well, and so that's why caregiving communities are so important. We need to go ahead and I almost want to say pick it and demand flexible work hours and if you're juggling a job in caregiving, you need to look at what can you do and have discussions with your employer, like remote work. I can't tell you how how working at home has saved me adjusting my hours, relying on paid family leave it whether it's state or federal leave. You need to go ahead and check that out. You also need to look at breaks for yourself and look at what respite care can can do for yourself. Is there any adult programs or trusted family or friends or professional caregivers that can take a load off of you and get your loved ones some care and you get a break for your own burnout and well being. And I mean simple things like we have a senior center in our city and there are so many that were in my mom's apartment building that went and played cards for an afternoon, one day a week, and you could see that the caregivers or the family members taking their loved ones over to go play cards and then they got that break. We talked about advanced care planning, but having those open discussion and creating advanced directives. If you have a good health care team, they're going to keep asking you about that and so they can help you with that too. And don't forget to say can somebody help? Don't forget to ask for that. The worst thing they could say is no, and then they could just give you instructions. You need to think about delegating task or finding other people to help with grocery shopping, meal preparation, transportation and taking some of those light, lighter things off of your plate so that you have more time to get other things done. And another piece that is part of this strategy is self care rituals, developing self care rituals. In my free series, training series, which is still going on, for just a short, a short period of time, I go through my four essential practices, which are really self care practices, but thinking about your morning routine, your evening routine, what you can do, simple things like maybe daily meditation or journaling or spending time in nature and I talk about in my free training series to go ahead and take 15 minutes that's all it takes is 15 minutes. So go to kathyelvancom and you will see the box on the top of my website that you can still get this four part free training series and that may spark some ideas for you. Another thing is financial planning, and it's costing more and more and more for your loved ones care now and that can be a huge burden on you from a caregiving perspective. So one of the very first things that I did with my mom and my dad was talk to the financial advisor at the hospital and seeing if they had resources and taking advantages of grants and nonprofits and talking to the insurance companies and all of that kind of stuff so that you don't have that big burden on you. Other things are educational resources and taking advantage of those. Check with your local organization. Sometimes they have free resources available to you. You can attend workshops or webinars, or I am a resource for you as well. I have the caregiver podcast, I have some resources on my website, I have the free training series and I have some paid resources as well. And then the last one is the one that is the, I want to say, funnest and I know funnest is not a word, but the one that will help you the most, but it also is the hardest. It is thinking creatively about how to address caregiving challenges what might be some home solutions, assisted devices, alternative therapies, ease of caregiving responsibilities and start exploring that. And then you also have to think about setting clear boundaries for yourself and advocating for yourself and thinking about where your loved one will be going, because your loved one may get worse and you may have to go ahead and look at and plan for future. Will they need more assistance or care in the home? Will they need to go to an assistant living facility or a nursing home facility? So planning ahead and starting to do your research and discussions might be a help for you. Now, if you are saying this is great information, kathy, but there is no way I can shift and change right now, or you might be saying how do I do this now that I'm thick and deep into caregiving? Well, my friend, if I had to give you a short answer, it would be take one thing and start today, one step at a time, and just start and start picking one thing at a time to reduce. But if you are anything like me, you want to figure it all out and come up with a plan and then start working the steps, and that's why I created the Empowerful Caregiver School, which starts already on Monday, september 18th, which I'm super excited for, and this program will work you through an entire plan that's personalized and strategic and encourage you to take one step at a time. My mission, by creating the Empowerful Caregiver School, is to empower as many caregivers as I can to live a life filled with joy, energy and purpose, despite all the challenges. It is a six weeks transformation course yes, six weeks, but caregiving isn't this short, easy fix. Caregiving is very complicated, very challenging, and what I do is I break them down into small little lessons that are sent to you in your email box daily, and then you have an interactive workbook that you work through. So I don't want you to be working on this, because I know your time is limited, so you can watch this video, which is about 15 to 20 minutes long, do a quick workbook exercise and be on your way, and you can fit this in maybe 30 minutes at your lunchtime or while your loved one's taking a nap or while you're sitting in a waiting room. And you also have access to a supportive community. We're having a private Facebook group and each week I will go live on Zoom where we can go ahead and come together and talk about the lessons, even if you didn't get them done. We're going to talk about the lessons, we're going to give you some additional tips and training and motivation and I give you a little bit of group coaching if you have a question or you want to talk through your situation. This program is designed to equip you with personalized tools and a new perspective on caregiving, and this program is yours for a lifetime. You can come back to it, you can pick your lessons. You have it all on a membership portal so you can come back and rewatch and re-listen to anything. Well, I'm here to help you and I hope that my weekly podcast, which are Free, help you. I have the four-part free training series, which is free. That can help you. But if you want more, I want you to check out the Empowerful Caregiver School by going to kathylvancom forward slash empowerful. It's Kathy with a C and it'll be in the bottom of the show notes here. Just know the doors close at midnight on Saturday, september 16th, so that we can prepare for Monday and the start of the program on Monday. This program won't be back again until January of 2024. And so this is the last time it's offered this year. So don't miss your exclusive access and get into it right now, because you deserve a path of empowerment. You deserve to be more resilient and joyful and have energy and moments of joy a mixed challenges. You need to be that woman that gets up and looks for all of the things at the baby shower or at the bridal shower no, she's not having a baby yet, I hope and have conversations with people and feel good about it, and you deserve a customizable personal approach that makes you feel good about caregiving but also makes you feel good about your life right now, and it is a challenging life, and so that's why I'm here to help you. So I want to go ahead and just say thank you again for listening. I know I have a lot of offers on the plate this week, but I hope you take advantage of those and I hope you find just little bits and pieces that can make your day a little bit better because, my friend, you deserve it. And, most importantly, don't forget to fill your cup, because you need to do that so that you can be the best you can be. We'll talk to you again next week. Bye for now.

The Personal Decision of Caregiving
The Evolution and Challenges of Caregiving
The Changing Landscape of Caregiving
Empowering Women to Care and Thrive