The Caregiver Cup Podcast

Comfort Unveiled: A Journey through the Caregiver's Learning Zone

January 30, 2024 Cathy VandenHeuvel Episode 198
Comfort Unveiled: A Journey through the Caregiver's Learning Zone
The Caregiver Cup Podcast
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The Caregiver Cup Podcast
Comfort Unveiled: A Journey through the Caregiver's Learning Zone
Jan 30, 2024 Episode 198
Cathy VandenHeuvel

When my husband Denis faced his stem cell transplant, I found myself in a debilitating zone of fear.   This podcast peels back the curtain on the raw, transformative journey of caregiving, and I open up about the emotional quest from fear to empowerment. If you've ever found yourself floundering in the depths of the fear zone or cautiously stepping into the growth zone, join me as we uncover the resilience and lessons hidden in these experiences.

Through the lens of my story and our community's shared narratives, we navigate the intricate dance of learning to communicate with healthcare professionals, understanding medical information like a pro, and knowing when to take a step back. Empowerment in caregiving doesn't come easy—it's a patchwork of confidence built on acknowledging our strengths and confronting our limitations. Whether you're facing the challenge of interpreting lab results or learning when to ask for help, this episode is a testament to the growth that comes from every challenge we meet head-on.

As we wrap up, remember that caregiving is a marathon, not a sprint. It's about pacing ourselves, automating the mundane to make room for self-care, and allowing patience to guide us through the ebbs and flows of our roles. I invite you to reflect on your path and the zones you've traversed, knowing that this community stands beside you as a pillar of support and a beacon for learning and growing together.

Send us a Text Message.

Support the Show.

Thank you for listening. If you know of another caregiver who could benefit from this podcast, please copy and share this episode.

Follow me by clicking on the links below:

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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

When my husband Denis faced his stem cell transplant, I found myself in a debilitating zone of fear.   This podcast peels back the curtain on the raw, transformative journey of caregiving, and I open up about the emotional quest from fear to empowerment. If you've ever found yourself floundering in the depths of the fear zone or cautiously stepping into the growth zone, join me as we uncover the resilience and lessons hidden in these experiences.

Through the lens of my story and our community's shared narratives, we navigate the intricate dance of learning to communicate with healthcare professionals, understanding medical information like a pro, and knowing when to take a step back. Empowerment in caregiving doesn't come easy—it's a patchwork of confidence built on acknowledging our strengths and confronting our limitations. Whether you're facing the challenge of interpreting lab results or learning when to ask for help, this episode is a testament to the growth that comes from every challenge we meet head-on.

As we wrap up, remember that caregiving is a marathon, not a sprint. It's about pacing ourselves, automating the mundane to make room for self-care, and allowing patience to guide us through the ebbs and flows of our roles. I invite you to reflect on your path and the zones you've traversed, knowing that this community stands beside you as a pillar of support and a beacon for learning and growing together.

Send us a Text Message.

Support the Show.

Thank you for listening. If you know of another caregiver who could benefit from this podcast, please copy and share this episode.

Follow me by clicking on the links below:

Speaker 1:

Well, hello my friend, and welcome to another episode of the Caregiver Cup podcast. It's Kathy here. This is take number three. My first take was the dog barking. My second take was the garbage truck or the recycling truck making all the noise. So, whatever happens now, I'm just going to move forward. I'm not going to go ahead and stop and move and I'm just going to ignore the outside noise, and I'm hoping you don't hear it as well. But can you believe that we are in the end of January? Hasn't this month flowing by or at least it has for me and we're talking February already, holy cow.

Speaker 1:

But anyway, today's episode, let's talk about comfort and the zones that we are in. When it comes to comfort zone, I was reading a Instagram post that was very impactful and I thought about it for days and this said caregiving takes you outside of your comfort zone, and I kept thinking it does take you outside of your comfort zone, do you agree it does? Just for a visual, this person on their Instagram post had a bullseye, almost. It had a center circle that said comfort and then circles outside of it that said fear zone. The next circle outside of it was learning zone and the outermost circle said growth zone and, like I said, I thought about it for days, and so I thought what a perfect opportunity to talk about how we are faced with challenges as caregivers that push us beyond our usual boundaries and our usual comfort levels. This can be challenging, but potentially it can be also a transformational experience for us. The fear zone, the learning zone and the growth zone are often used to describe different stages or states that you and I may go through when facing new challenges or new situations, or just overall challenging situations. I ask you right now, where do you think you're in right now? Are you in a fear zone, a learning zone or a growth zone? And I'm going to talk about all three of these, but I want you to think about where you're at and just know that we can bounce from one to the other depending on the situation. So let's talk about the fear zone. In the fear zone, you may feel overwhelmed, anxious or apprehensive about challenges you or your loved one is facing.

Speaker 1:

Fear can be a natural response to the unknowns, especially when taking on new responsibilities or caring for others in a capacity that is really unfamiliar to us. One thing that just automatically came to my mind was when Dennis had a stem cell transplant and it's now two years. I'm seeing those Facebook stories come up now. It is two years to this date that he was actually in day three. I'm trying to think of when this air on the 30th, which is day three of getting his chemotherapy, and I think he, by the end of the week on the second, is his first stem cell transplant injection or they injected his stem cell transplants. But I think about that journey and being away from home, living in a different place, not being comfortable with the city that I was in and not knowing what the outcome will be. You have all of these things that this is what we're going to do and this is where we're going to think. But you hear all of the different situation.

Speaker 1:

I'm already an introverted person when it comes to being in crowds and different surroundings, but I became more inward and I grew more inward and introverted and quiet. That's usually what I do when I'm in my fear zone and I recognize it. I was nervous in the kitchen because they had eight kitchens in this facility and everybody could sign up for a kitchen and cook, but I felt nervous because I was using different appliances, different surroundings. There was other people I'm not a good person, other people, I'm not a good cook and all of this stuff. I became nervous finding everything because you have to kind of familiarize yourself. It reminds me of like a kid going their first day of school. You're nervous about it.

Speaker 1:

I am very much a introverted person and it takes me a little bit to warm up to people. But once I warm up I become extroverted. But I was nervous at first. Talking to other people I was not the person that I recognized and my ask to you is how do you respond to this zone of fear? What do you do in this zone of fear? I either become over the talk talkative or, under the carpet, quiet, I don't know. That's kind of my teeter-totter moments. But what are your behaviors, what are your actions and emotion when you're in a fear zone? Pay attention to that. You know it's a first time or a different situation or bad news, whatever it would be, because the behaviors and action can vary across different zones.

Speaker 1:

But in the fear zone people are more tendent or have more of a tendency to use avoidance, so as, like, caregivers in their fear zone may avoid certain tasks or situations due to anxiety or apprehension they may not want to do it, or they became anxious, or for me to, if I become overwhelmed, I shut down too, especially when it's really, really challenging. Another action or behavior associated with the fear when it comes to stress and overwhelm feelings of stress, being overwhelmed or even burnt out may be prevalent in the fear zone. And so you can recognize yourself in the fear zone based on those three things. And caregivers may express uncertainty about their abilities and the challenges they may be facing. They may be avoiding talking about it, or they or they because they're uncertain about their abilities to care, give they don't want to talk about it, whatever it would be. So being able to recognize your fear zone is one important piece, because I remember even going to the clinic and all of these big buildings and going in I was more quiet and reserved and had to just kind of, you know, just absorb it all and I was fearful. I didn't even know if Dennis was going to be going home with me after these six weeks. You know, you didn't know.

Speaker 1:

Next one, remember the next outer circle is the learning zone. The learning zone is where you start to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges you are facing or your loved one is facing. It involves acquiring new skills, new knowledge and adapting to the demands of the caregiver role. This phase may involve overcoming your initial fears and gaining confidence through the learning process. You know, for me, for about a week in the it was called Kathy's house and at the freighter hospital and cancer clinic, I started coming out of my shell. In about a week I became more comfortable with my surroundings, driving into the parking lots and learning how to get access in and out, and I was starting to understand Dennis's process and more.

Speaker 1:

I was getting comfortable with the doctors and talking to people and I got I used to get nervous. There's another example I used to get nervous at doctor's appointments with my parents as well. And if I go back kind of even further back into 2018 and 2019, I was my parents brought me up to go ahead and respect and listen and never challenge or question authority. Yeah, I could go to therapy on that and do lots of therapy, but when I learned how to be a better advocate advocate and educate both myself and telling and asking good questions and preparing my parents to say the reason I'm asking questions is this and the reason I want this is part of my role in getting them to understand that I wasn't being disrespectful, I wasn't going ahead and being difficult. It is truly something that we have to do, and I believe they were cared for better because of the way that I started learning in this uncomfortable zone and learning how to go ahead and drive through and navigate this zone. Now, in this learning zone, your behaviors and actions like I said, in the fear zone, you have those, but in this zone you start looking differently and start feeling differently.

Speaker 1:

Caregivers actively seek information and we seek resources and guidance to understand our role as a caregiver better, and so we're constantly seeking information through questions, through resources, through googling, hopefully listening to this podcast. We do that, and then we're also engaging in learning new skills, whether related to the medical care, communication or emotional support. You know, just understanding, I think, something as simple or as complicated as learning their prescription drugs and why they're getting the prescription drugs and when they're supposed to have them, and educating yourself in that, or being able to communicate to our loved ones when they're being difficult or when they're going ahead and causing us emotional stress, and so we have to learn those skills. Another piece in the learning zone is you start to adapt to the demands of your caregiver role, finding ways to cope with the challenges and improve your overall effectiveness. Now I hope you're thinking about efficiencies and automations and ways to make your role better. Maybe it's asking for help, but I hope you're thinking about as well your overall health and well being and learning that you can't just keep giving and giving and giving. You have to go ahead and stop and take care of yourself.

Speaker 1:

Okay, the third one is the growth zone, and that's the outer circle. And that was the aha moment for me when I read this and I thought about all of my fears, all of the things that I was learning, and then all of the growth that you and I have after we're caregiving for a while. It's just amazing. The growth zone represents a state where you have not only learned from your experiences, but have also grown personally and developed resilience. This phase often involves a sense of accomplishment, an increased self-confidence and a broader perspective of your own capacities and capabilities. I mean, I think about things like I never knew how to go ahead and care for somebody in hospice and doing some of the nursing things in hospice and going through two hospice experiences, I have a better understanding of that, of that time, that end of life care, in the growth zone as well. It implies that caregiving, despite its challenges, can be a transformative journey that contributes to your own personal growth and development. And I know you've heard me talk about this, but we are. We are developing and growing in very different ways. Now. We are a different person, excuse me. I've grown so much because of caregiving. I'm sure you have a list of things that you've developed and you've grown. Two I knew when I had to be at denises daily follow up visits.

Speaker 1:

I knew when I should be there and then I could also Make a decision that I didn't have to be there as well. I grew to the point of Asking. You know he, dennis, had to go in for daily follow up after a stem cell transplant. There is this this first week. That's really crucial, that you know we have to monitor. But then by after he's in the third week he goes in, gets blood work, maybe some ivy fluid, sees the doctor and if he needs any other platelets or any other Iron injections or whatever, he would get those. But I didn't have to sit there for four hours every time Because it was the same thing day after day after day. So I talk to the doctors and nurses and they said, no, you can drop him off. His blood works gonna be on the app, he can call you, tell you what he needs and then when he's ready to go, he can call you. And I was just across the street and I had time for myself. I had time to work on my, my job or my projects and record podcast. I had a little bit of space and I learned that that was extra fuel for me and that growth zone help. Now Did people comment why I wasn't there? Yes, but I had to learn that that's okay if they commented, because I was doing what was best for dennis. I was doing what was best for myself.

Speaker 1:

Dennis and I both grew to ask good questions as well. So think about to your loved one in this growth zone. When to ask things that we needed to ask, I think about needing to I. I became a master at looking at blood work because dennises disease is all about hematology and the lucosites and the lymphocytes and all of the different types of blood work is platelets and stuff, and so I could look at the blood work and have questions on the blood work and see trends I'm sure the doctor as well but ask what that might be a cause for. I could question, and Dennis and I both could question to say, do we really need that lab work when it was drawn last week or what is the reason you need to draw it again for? And so asking questions, reviewing notes and comments on the doctor's notes and questioning those if it wasn't mentioned. You become better at looking at things and asking good questions. I want you to think about your growth, behaviors and actions when you are growing.

Speaker 1:

We talked a little bit about gaining confidence in the in the learning zone, but in the growth zone, caregivers in the growth zone zone often display increase confidence in their abilities to handle Caregiving responsibilities. They think about yourself. What have you mastered as a caregiver now? What have you have? Have a better understanding of Whether it be your strengths, whether it be your weaknesses. I still have confidence in saying that I am not a good nurse. I am just not a good nurse when it comes to giving injections, going ahead and changing bandages, because I will gain and throw up. I have a confidence in that and I'm confident enough to say I am not good at this.

Speaker 1:

When Dennis had embolisms in his lungs. He had to give him shots in the belly every day and the nurse says Kathy, should we train you for that so you can give those to Dennis? And Dennis looked at her and said Kathy can't give me the shots. She's the one who passed out when her dog got a vaccine. I'm like, he knows me too well and I get queasy and lightheaded. I cannot do it and that's okay.

Speaker 1:

Another growth behavior habit would be you demonstrate resilience in the in the face of challenges and you're bouncing back from setbacks faster with a positive mindset. I think about all of the challenges that you face and how you are gaining more resilience when Dennis gets bad news. He's now on his what in 2017. Is this number seven or six, whatever he's on? Many years of cancer diagnosis is now. The bad news isn't as devastating as it used to be, and the sky doesn't all fall completely down. We talk about okay, what faces, what challenges are we facing? What is our next stop? And I can to look at it as more of a challenge or what team do we need? You may experience personal development and a deeper understanding of yourself. You know your stress levels. You know your emotional triggers that you know your strengths and your capacity for empathy, or you know when you're on a breaking point, and these are personal developments that you have understood and gained. You also have a sense of empowerment when you are in the growth zone and it may emerge where you feel more in control and capable in your caregiving role or in your caregiving team and knowing how to reach out to others when you are in a caregiving situation.

Speaker 1:

I want you to think about the tools in your toolkit that you've developed. It's an imaginary toolkit, but you have gained so many skillsets, so many practices, so many habits and resources that you know this. It has helped you think about it. All of the administrative work that you figured out, whether it be insurance claims to administering of medications, to scheduling appointments. Rose, if you're listening, I still always bring up the the point that you have mastered the scheduling appointments on certain days of the week To try to keep some sort of routine in your schedule, if at all possible.

Speaker 1:

You may have mastered the nursing skills or the bathing. You may have maneuvered through all of the hours at a medical facility to efficiencies and automations that you figured out. Simple things like I figured out my mom's pill distribution after she was hospitalized and now she has the pill box where she punched out her pills. No longer did we have to go ahead and fill those plastic pill boxes and not having her remember if she took them or not, and so there was no confusion that way and I could see what she's taken and what she hasn't taken, and it's automatically filled by the pharmacy. So I didn't have to do that, and that has helped from a team and an automation perspective. Maybe you figured out how to to post a family calendar so people could fill in the slots that they could help with and you could highlight the dates that you need help with and if you're in the growth zone, maybe you're a you've mastered asking for help and and and really understanding what your needs are, as well as what your loved ones needs are.

Speaker 1:

The idea is that, while caregiving may be initially uncomfortable and challenging, it has the potential to lead you to personal development and positive change, and you didn't even ask for it. Stepping outside of your comfort zone can be an opportunity to learn and grow, and it can foster resilience and adaptability in the face of difficult situations, whether you want it or not and it really does we just have to step up. It's important to note that your behaviors and these behaviors are not strictly confined to one zone, and caregivers may move, and we may move from back and forth, from a comfort zone in one area to a fear zone in another area, depending on the circumstances, because I used to be comfortable going, going into doctor's offices with my mom and dad and even with Dennis before stem cell transplant, but now I'm going into a transplant team and meeting with a transplant team which is totally outside of my understanding, let alone the comfort zone, and so you go back and forth. The process of caregiving is dynamic, it's massive, and you may revisit the fear and or the learning zone when faced with new challenges, even after experiencing a tremendous growth. And recognizing what zone you're in can help you understand and navigate your emotional, your emotions and response Throughout your caregiving journey.

Speaker 1:

Now, on Monday or yesterday, I posted a quote from Jillian Michaels and I posted it on my Instagram account and on my Facebook page, and if you didn't see it, I want to post it. I want to talk. I mean, I want to share it with you here. She talks about.

Speaker 1:

Transformation is not five minutes from now, it's a present activity. In this moment you can make a different choice, and it's the small changes and successes that build up over time to help cultivate a healthy self image and a healthy self esteem. And what I'm trying to get at here is we're going through this transformational journey whether we asked for it or not, and it doesn't happen overnight. As a matter of fact, we could fall flat on our face in the fear zone and have to go back in, and we've learned from it, and now we're back into the situation again, with with fear, but also a learning zone mindset, and we have a choice to go ahead and, you know, get down on ourselves. Or we have a choice to go ahead and saying I'm going to cultivate a healthy, healthy mindset, a healthy self image, a healthy self esteem, a healthy confidence, whatever it would be. So being open to the zones and welcoming transformation in the context of caregiving involves in adopting a mindset that embraces challenges, encourages your personal growth and recognizing the potential for positive change.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and this week I'm rolling out or actually next Monday I'm rolling out the Empowerful Caregiver School. Again, it's a six-week transformational journey and it's all about taking the journey of transformation and learning who you are, why you respond and why you're in the situation that you're in, why you think or behave the way you do, and we spend a solid week and a half on really discovering ourselves and identifying where we're at, and zones are one of them. It's important to acknowledge who you are and what you're feeling. It's okay to feel fear, it's okay to feel uncertainty. We're gonna feel stress, and so you can then take steps towards managing and overcoming them and eventually becoming an Empowerful Caregiver. In this course, you'll add to your already started toolkit, this imaginary toolkit. You're gonna keep adding to it and set realistic expectations for yourself and the care that you're providing. You're gonna pick things and saying I want to improve on my advocacy or I want to improve on taking time for myself.

Speaker 1:

It's important that you are patient with yourself and understand that there's a learning curve depending on your situation, depending on your, your emotional state that you're in. For me it was. It was my introvert self in a strange place, and I had to be patient with adapting to that. So if you're looking for more joy in your caregiving, or more time so that you can go ahead and show up as your, your best self, or less stress and more and and more quality time you can find ways to improve that and be your better self. The Empowerful Caregiver School is a resource for you that I want to offer to you, and so you can go out to KathyLVancom forward session powerful, or you can click on the notes. In the bottom of the notes you're going to see the link and you can check out my sales page and see if it's something for you.

Speaker 1:

By embracing a mindset of continuous learning and gaining more knowledge, you will find what I call the Empowerful Caregiver. That's in season three. They're in this state of mind that they want to go ahead and continuously grow and improve their situation. They want to show up as their better self. They want to provide the best possible quality care. They don't want to live in this hopeless, overwhelmed, giving up everything state, and the three stands for a caregiving self that learns to put themselves first so they can show up as their best self. But I know some of us don't have time right now or we're in this chaotic time. What we talk about in Empowerful Caregiver School is then just tweaking out little bits of time for yourself or looking at your current situation and saying what are opportunities where you can improve your situation? Is there anything you can automate.

Speaker 1:

I was talking to my husband about this last night and I said to him when I was with my mom, I was going there every Sunday and doing her budget and her bills every Sunday. My dad had this extravagant little book where he was like anal about everything. He wrote paper checks out, he recorded everything. He didn't do any automation and so my mom would get the paper bills in. We would sit, go through the bill. I'd have to write the check out. We were recorded in the check, we were recorded in the book and we would do that and we would spend an hour every Saturday, which would be four hours a month. And I finally said to my mom I'm like we're going to automate this stuff and I'm only going to do your bills one time a month. And she looked at me like she was devastated. And so we eventually we couldn't do it like cold turkey and do it like that we eventually I took one one day and I automated things. It took me an hour automated everything and the bank paid for it or the utility companies automate it, whatever it was. And then I would, I recorded those so my mom could see. And then I said to my mom. We don't have to keep recording them because we can go ahead and look at the information online to see that they were paid for and so eventually she trusted me. I worked through the efficiencies and within about a month, I was only doing the bills for less than an hour a month.

Speaker 1:

And to think about that, those are some of the things that we can look at for you if you're in the Empowerful Caregiver School. What can we automate? What can we make more efficient for you? How can you ask for help? What are free resources? What are paid resources? What are your family members, grandchildren, whatever it would be so that you can get back some time so that you can take care of another caregiving's responsibility or, better yet, yourself.

Speaker 1:

So today let's close out here, and I would just have just a few words of wisdom for you here as I close. Today, I want you to embrace the zones that you're in and celebrate the recognition of where you are at and how you are building resilience and learning to navigate your challenges. My hope is that, as you are in this crazy journey we call caregiving that stretching your comfort zone, that you remember that the most important piece is you. You are the most important piece that is driving your caregiving and as you're learning, as you're in your fear zone, you have to grant yourself grace in being uncomfortable. You have to be. Grant yourself grace. Yeah, it's uncomfortable, don't beat yourself up. You have to recognize why you are uncomfortable, why I hid in. Hid in the room versus walking around Kathy's house.

Speaker 1:

The first couple of days I was an introvert. I was nervous, I was uncertain, but eventually I knew I was going to go ahead and break out. Allow yourself to navigate it wherever you're at in your comfort zone. Allow yourself to navigate it. Allow yourself to go ahead and make mistakes as you learn and then celebrate the wins, what you are learning about that thing or yourself. Each step of learning is growth. Each growth is sticking your neck out and being the better you. You are going to be an unpowerful caregiver when you stick your neck out and be that unpowerful caregiver that we talk about in the unpowerful caregiver school.

Speaker 1:

So go ahead, my friend. Recognize the zones that you're in and recognize what you're learning, what you're doing and what growth you're gaining in this journey called caregiving, because you are amazing and just know that you are not alone. This is this community here, that we talk about it each and every week, and I hope that this is one piece that you can put in your imaginary toolkit and pull it out when you feel uncomfortable, when something has changed and recognized. Oh yep, I'm in the fear zone, or my loved ones in the fear zone now too, because we're in uncharted territories. But you know what? Eventually we're going to be in learn. Eventually we're going to be in growth, and we're going to figure this out. So enjoy the rest of your week, my friend, and by all means, tell me what zone you're in. Drop me an email at Kathy, at KathyLVancom, or I'm on Instagram at KathyLVan. So until we talk again next week. Bye for now.

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