The Caregiver Cup Podcast

Empowering Caregivers: Unpacking the 3 Essential Gifts

November 07, 2023 Cathy VandenHeuvel Episode 186
The Caregiver Cup Podcast
Empowering Caregivers: Unpacking the 3 Essential Gifts
The Caregiver Cup Podcast
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Did you ever imagine you'd be in this place, as a caregiver? Neither did I. As we celebrate National Family Caregivers Month, let's shine a light on the amazing work of over 50 million family caregivers across the country. Whether you're in the US or anywhere else, you deserve a virtual hug for all the extraordinary care you provide. 🤗

Picture a box arriving at your doorstep, 12x12 inches in size. Listen to the episode to find out what's inside and how these special items can help you on your caregiving journey.

To ease the overwhelming sensations that often accompany our role as caregivers, I share three gifts that you can give yourself - gifts inspired by a touching wedding ceremony in our family. These simple acts of self-care can help shift your focus, allow you to replenish your energy, and give you permission for a well-deserved break. We also delve into the importance of relishing the small moments of joy and intimacy that punctuate our caregiving journey. Together, we can find strength amid the struggles, and joy in the smallest of moments. Join me, and let's make the most of this challenging, yet rewarding journey.

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Speaker 1:

Did you ever think you would be here? Did you ever think you'd be in this situation? A caregiver? You are a caregiver. You are in a caregiving journey in whatever your situation is. My husband and I were talking about this as we drove home from my niece's wedding this weekend, after hearing the bride and groom read their vows and say those beautiful words. When Dennis and I got married 42 years ago, we said the same word, similar kind of thing in sickness and in health, for better or for worse. But really I never imagined this life. What about you? And it doesn't even have to be a husband. It could be looking at your. I was looking at my parents bringing me down the aisle, or my grandparents or my siblings, and now, if you're caring for one of them, you never think about it.

Speaker 1:

Well, this month is National Family Caregiver Month in the United States. It's our time to shine a light on the amazing work of over 50 million family caregivers nationwide. You and I are part of that. During this special month, we all come together to celebrate and support each other, no matter if you're in the United States or living globally. We want to celebrate each other. The caregiver cup community truly recognizes and understands the dedication and the hard work involved in being a caregiver. Let's take a moment to honor and give a hug to a caregiver, a virtual hug, or maybe you would just have to wrap your hands around yourself and give yourself a virtual hug Everyone of us for giving us a hug for our extraordinary care that we provide.

Speaker 1:

Before we begin this podcast today and this episode today, let me give you some updates in my personal life, because I think I gave you a little clip at last in last episode, but I wanted to kind of give you this update. Dennis now had the biopsy and his biopsy showed both of us. Both of his cancers are back. Not Hodgkin's lymphoma or the chronic lymphocytic lymphoma is back and the Hodgkin's lymphoma. I don't even remember what type of Hodgkin's he had. I'll have to go back and do it, but both of them are back.

Speaker 1:

The stem cell transplant was supposed to really put the Hodgkin's lymphoma intact in a way, and I always think that remission is just a fake word. But we were kind of on the impression that it was going to be non-existent anymore and they're back. And so last Friday, before my niece's wedding, we met and with the doctor and got the results from the doctor. Good news is his blood work looks good. He's feeling symptoms again like hot flashes and nausea and body aches, and I truly can smell the the night sweats and it's a specific smell that I smell. That's weird, but I can smell it and more or less the biopsies confirmed that there is definitely, there's definitely, cancers in his lymph nodes and in his blood.

Speaker 1:

So we have to go ahead and start thinking about what is our strategy. So the Green Bay oncologist that we have scheduled a November I'm looking at my calendar, 20th treatment plan to start treatment and but we want to also go ahead and consult with the transplant team or his transplant doctor and, as at the Heimem, recording this on Monday, right before the Tuesday episode, they are now sending them in for what's called a PET scan. They did a CT scan which does his core of his body, but the PET scan goes from head to toe and it's a more accurate reading of where the for Kathy's terms the hotspots are and where there's growth going on, and so that's going to go ahead and help with the treatment plan. I think and I'm just making assumptions based on my six plus years of experience is. I think, if there are a lot of hotspots on the PET scan. They will do more intense chemotherapy and then look at next steps. If it's just in the two areas that we know, which is his pelvic area and his neck area, then they'll probably do a lighter treatment. But overall it has to be done again.

Speaker 1:

We had really hard time, dennis and I did, and I think Dennis really struggled with. It's not been, it's not even been two years, it's only been 18 months. And now he's got the fight again and we always knew there was a possibility of his non-Hodgkins coming back, but we didn't know the Hodgkins would come back this aggressive again. So we're on this fight again. We go through our ups and downs and challenges, but as a caregiver and as a member of this caregiver cup community, I know you can relate to this. It's just an emotional roller coaster and I felt at the last week now of all of the stress and stuff bubbling back up and feeling my body responding to it.

Speaker 1:

Well, in addition to that, I've had A surgery scheduled for about three months now and I have. It's really, really a lot of information here, but I I've had complications from my hysterectomy where I have a vaginal prolapse and a couple of hernias off of my intestines and my bladder, and so I have to have surgery on November 15th. I'm thinking to myself this has got to be the worst possible time now to have all of these things come in a roll, because my surgery is more like a four to eight week recovery time, and so I'm going to be exhausted during that time. But you know what? You just take the cards that you're dealt with and you're going to go ahead and make it through no matter what.

Speaker 1:

With all of this being said, I am still going to show up on this podcast because, to be Selfish, I need this. I need your community. It keeps me grounded. It keeps me looking at the realistic pieces of caregiving and Keeping myself intact as far as the right strategies and filling my cup. So, with my crazy season, this will be a perfect time for me to be transparent with you, share my chaos and my challenges with you, but also share the strategies that I've been talking about in this podcast for three plus years, and so I'm going to be going through that. I also have a few interviews that I'm going to be mixing into it, but you'll probably have podcast episodes that may be a little bit shorter if I'm more fatigued, but you know this, kathy girl I like to talk and so it might be just what I need. I probably will do some Recordings ahead of time, especially the first couple weeks, but I will still be here in your earbuds or in your ear every week, unless there's a complication.

Speaker 1:

So let's dive now into the episode today, because I am really excited about this episode, and what sparked this idea was going to my niece's wedding. My niece's name is autumn and he got married to Nathan and we had I watched this beautiful ceremony where the pastor, they walked down the aisle and then the pastor went ahead and Perform the ceremonies, but part of his Talk and I don't know if pastors call it a sermon or not, because I'm Catholic and I I don't think the pastor was Catholic but part of his talk and his advice to the couple was this creative way where he had a box on stage and he gave the couple a few gifts during the ceremony and the gifts were really wrapped around, advice that he shared with them. It got me thinking about what that would look like for you, and so let me share one of the gifts and then let me share where I'm headed with this episode. So one of the gifts he gave them and it was so funny he pulled out this stick with a white flag on it and he waved the white flag Right away.

Speaker 1:

I was thinking about you and I as caregivers and how many times we have to wave the white flag. We have to go ahead and say we can't do it all. We have to give ourselves grace, we have to ask for help, and so when he talked to Ottoman and Nathan, he talked about waving the white flag and allowing God into their life, allowing them to have those discussions and being open to them, and I'm like, oh my gosh, I have to talk about this on my podcast and my husband's rolling his eyes because he knows any time we're out and about, I'm thinking about how can I share this instance with you? As a matter of fact, dennis and I both had low points this weekend, like they had talked about Time where we wanted to wave our white flag and give up, and it's OK to feel this way. It's OK to say I don't want to do this anymore. It's OK to say I need some time alone, and we had allowed this time.

Speaker 1:

The pastor proceeded on and I had to go ahead and text my brother and saying what other gifts did he give Autumn and Nathan? And he had told me he gave the couple a devotional book and attend to write things down and to pray and give to God. I thought, my gosh, they were just simple gifts that meant so much and would be something they'll remember. So today, guess, what I want to do for you is I want to give you three gifts. As a caregiver, these gifts can help you through the hardest times and, most importantly, keep you focused on things that you can control and the things that you need. So imagine a box coming to your home, all wrapped up beautifully, from Kathy and there's three things in it. The box has to be about 12 inches by 12 inches because of the things that I'm going to put in this box. Ok, you open up the box and the first thing you grab out of the box is a pair of glasses spectacles glasses. Maybe they're fun glasses, maybe they're black frame glasses. Whatever the glasses are, maybe they're goggles, whatever you want them to be.

Speaker 1:

As a caregiver, you have to put on a pair of glasses that keep you focused on what's important right now. You have to see what's important right now you have to go ahead and see the priorities and really let go of the other priorities. You have to have those glasses on so you stay in the present and focus on the road, not all the distractions that are all over the place. Those glasses keep you focused because once you take off the glasses, you're not focused. You have the glasses so you can see the good in your team, see the good in your loved ones, see the good in help that's going to go ahead and help you through your journey. And the most important piece about those glasses are when you look in the mirror you can see yourself. Let's say you look in the mirror in the morning and put your glasses on while you're brushing your teeth, you're looking at yourself. Or in the evening, because in your telling yourself, I'm doing the best I can, I'm here for my loved one, I'm providing the best possible gift. And so, as you have those glasses, look at those glasses as a reminder of what you can do to see clearly and stay focused on what's important right now. And imagine you taking off those glasses and doing things that are not focused. You don't need to do it all right now. So that's my first gift to you as a pair of glasses, and I need that right now more than ever, to go ahead and focus in on it. I can't focus in on all of the negativity, I can't focus in on all of the other things. I have to just stay focused on the present.

Speaker 1:

Okay, you wanna know what the second gift is? It's an hourglass. You know those ones that stand up, that are shaped and you have the sand coming down. You might even refer to it as a sand clock or a sand glass, and so when you tip it over, the sand goes through the little hole and fills up at the bottom. Well, this hourglass is 15 minutes of sand. When you tip it over, it gives you 15 minutes. I want you to use this hourglass and tip it over at least three times a day Throughout your day.

Speaker 1:

You need to take these 15 minute breaks for your health and your wellbeing. You need to take the breaths, you need to get away with no phones, no interruptions time for yourself. If you remember, back, I interviewed Debbie Wise and she was a caregiver for her husband who recently passed away. But she was writing a book and she told her husband I'm gonna use my lunchtime and she used like 30 minutes, unless the house is burning down or you. It's an emergency. There's no interruptions. And by placing that hourglass down, allowing yourself 15 minutes and thinking about what do you need to do, or what do you need to do to recharge, maybe it's a short walk, maybe you need a 15 minute nap, maybe you need to do some meaningful practices like meditation or listening to music or yoga, or you need time to eat a healthy meal meal on the patio deck or on your favorite chair. Don't forget the importance of what hydration and nutrition can do to you. And so, when you take that 15 minutes, maybe you have a good book and that 15 minutes takes you away, or maybe you use that time to journal or set some goals or call a friend. But think about that hourglass and flipping it over three times a day. That box must have been heavy with glasses and an hourglass. Well, the third gift is not as heavy. It's a pad of paper. And if you flip the pad over and see the cover of the pad, their yellow permission slips.

Speaker 1:

Kathy, why in the heck do we have permission slips? Well, you can't do it all, my friend. You need time to take a break from your loved one from your life, from the chaos, to give your body time to go ahead and catch up. You need to have, and you need to write, three permission slips for yourself each week. And what would you write those permission slips for?

Speaker 1:

Well, maybe you need a permission slip to ask for help. That is so very necessary. Maybe you give yourself permission to say I can't go to the appointment today, or I need a break and I'm going to call a friend, or I'm going to call my family and ask them to bring mom to her doctor's appointment today. Or you're asking for help is hard but so very necessary. But maybe you write the permission slips so that you can go ahead and really have a half a day to yourself and you want to just go for a long walk, you want to go ahead and do something that you enjoy. Maybe you meet up with a friend for lunch. Maybe you go ahead and get that spa or that massage that you've been always wanting. Maybe you just want to sit on a park bench, away from all of the noise and all of the things, and just let yourself go. Or maybe it's you know what. I need a permission slip to get a good night's sleep and you have somebody come in and sit overnight with your loved one because you haven't had a good night's sleep in over a week. Yeah, don't forget about the fact that you have resources everywhere.

Speaker 1:

If you think outside of the box children, grandchildren, neighbors, friends, agencies it might be efficiencies or automations, but think about writing that permission slip. What would you like to do? You have to give yourself permission without guilt, without worry, and really go ahead and get some time away. Why do you think people have PTO time or vacation time? I know as caregivers we don't get a day off, but once in a while we need a day off.

Speaker 1:

Last week, like I said, was extremely hard for me and I could feel my nerves and my digestive system and my body respond to the added stress and I felt myself getting sick. Well, on Saturday I took naps. You want to know how many naps? I took Three. I took three naps, yes, three, because I could not function. My mind was a mess, my body was a mess and my whole self was deflated and it was just deflating like a balloon.

Speaker 1:

So I granted myself permission and wrote those invisible permission slips to do something and then take a nap. To do something and then take a rest. It's okay to go ahead and not be on all the time. So I hope, now that you have this imaginary gift box from me, you use these and maybe even add to the box. Okay, if you are going to use these, I want to know. But if you have something else you want to add to the box, please, please, please, drop me an Instagram at KathyLynneVan or email me at Kathy at KathyLvancom, because setting healthy boundaries and healthy practices are how you get through the challenges in the most positive and healthy way and, most importantly, how you embrace the small moments of joy as a caregiver.

Speaker 1:

It was a horrible day for me Sunday. It was horrible. I cried, I could not function. Even after I took all those naps on Saturday, my husband was in this down mood, but the golden nuggets out of that day was the healthy conversations that we had, and so we embrace the small moments of joy and closeness and love that we had, even if cancer sucks, even if it's horrible. So that's what I have for you today. So until next week, my friend, take care and always remember we are in this together. You are not alone. Unfortunately, I'm still in my caregiving journey, but fortunately I have you in this community as a caregiver community. We have to find empowerment and we have to fill our cup first so we can be the best caregiver we can be. So until next week, my friend again, as always, take care, love you. God bless you.

Challenges of Being a Caregiver
Gifts for Caregivers
Embracing Small Moments in Caregiving