The Caregiver Cup Podcast

Mastering Challenges: The 5 Essential Steps for Caregivers

March 12, 2024 Cathy VandenHeuvel Episode 204
The Caregiver Cup Podcast
Mastering Challenges: The 5 Essential Steps for Caregivers
The Caregiver Cup Podcast
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When dental discomfort knocked at my door, it brought with it a landslide of challenges and revelations about the caregiver journey I never expected to face. The ache became a stern teacher, imparting lessons on resilience, self-advocacy, and the art of managing crises with a clear head. Through my own narrative of navigating a toothache, I peel back the layers on what it means to show up as your best self amidst adversity. This isn't just a tale of physical pain; it's a beacon for anyone who's ever felt swamped by the weight of caregiving, offering guidance on staying the course when the going gets tough.

The journey of a caregiver is often a solo trek, but this episode brings to light the collective wisdom and strategies to handle the emotional and practical hurdles that come with the role. From dissecting the emotional turmoil to strategically asking the right questions for expedited medical care, the episode delves into the importance of clear communication and the power of a strong support network. Whether you're in the throes of managing acute discomfort or teetering on the brink of feeling overwhelmed, the insights shared here will empower you to take actionable steps toward not just enduring but thriving in the demanding role of a caregiver.

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Speaker 1:

Well, hello my friend and welcome to the Caregiver Cup podcast. It's Kathy here. I hope you enjoy today's episode, and if you find this episode helpful, can I ask that you share this on your social media site maybe it's Instagram or Facebook or, better yet, send it to another caregiver that you think might be might benefit from this. I've been doing this podcast and it's been my way to give back and help other caregivers now for over three years and want to reach out to as many caregivers I can, so I want to thank you in advance for going ahead and promoting this podcast. So let's dive into the episode. Today we're going to talk all about how to show up as your better self when you're in a hard situation, when you're faced with a crisis, when you feel stuck, and this episode is inspired by my personal frustration and pain over the last couple of weeks with dental issues. If you've had dental issues or tooth pain, you I think you can relate to this one. Let me share, and I promise this will make sense and it will relate to our caregiver life and give you a different perspective when it comes to changing the way that you confront and face challenges. It was in late February, so it's just been a few weeks ago. I started experiencing this tooth pain in my left lower molar in the back and I went into the dentist and told him about it. And we had, I had an exam and an x-ray and everything looked fine from the tooth perspective. There was a crown there and underneath it. Underneath it, they didn't see anything in the x-ray, and so the dentist said it's probably minor inflammation or maybe you have a virus of some kind that's inflaming the tooth. And he suggested that we check back in seven to 10 days and the the pain in the pain at that time wasn't really too bad, and so I agreed yep, I didn't want to do anything invasive at that time and let's, I felt assured that there was nothing showing up on x-ray.

Speaker 1:

Well, within a week the pain worsened and by the weekend so it was almost six days or so, and it was Saturday night and the pain was becoming unbearable. Well then, on Sunday it was throbbing so bad and by Monday morning I was calling the dentist back telling him that it was just unbearable and he had referred me over to an endodontist and the weight of getting into the endodontist or waiting just to get a call back from the endodontist was agonizing. I finally got through and I had an emergency appointment, but I couldn't get in until 4pm on Tuesday, and this was Monday morning when I called and I was going to be able to get an emergency root canal. I knew it wasn't going to be a fun procedure, but the pain would be gone away and, just kind of to make a long story short, by by Saturday I was taking Tylenol. By Sunday I had to swish water in my mouth, and cold water made it feel better, and by Monday the water. I was taking drinking water like every five seconds to make the pain go away. And by Tuesday, when I went into the dentist, all I could do is have ice cubes in my mouth. It was so grueling pain. Unfortunately, though, after that tooth canal, I got the root canal, and I felt really good on Tuesday because it was numb. Even Wednesday morning I felt okay, but by Wednesday evening I was in severe pain again, and I had told the dentist, or the orthodontist or the endodontist, saying is it normal to have the pain around the other teeth To? And I said, because the one behind it is feeling even worse than the one with it, and he goes, let's take care of the crown one and I think that will help it go away. Unfortunately it didn't.

Speaker 1:

Thursday morning rolled around and I was on the phone again. I was actually waiting like at five o'clock in the morning because I didn't sleep at all the night before trying to wait to get a hold of the dentist to see what I should do. Here's where it got really frustrating, because what I did is I called the dentist and said I just called the endodontist office and the endodontist office has a recording saying that they're out of the office, is closed until Monday and it's Thursday morning. So I called the dentist and said what should I do? And he more or less said he can't do anything. He needs the endodontist to go in and look at that other tooth or look at the root canal to see if there's not, maybe there's an issue with the root canal. And I said well, the endodontist is not in the office. And he said well, maybe we could refer you to another endodontist in the area. Well, they called me back. There's nobody available and in the meantime I'm researching online all of the other endodontists in the area there within 30 miles of me, and I was calling. I had a list of like five I was calling down. Nobody was available or nobody would see me because I already had an endodontist and I was like, so frustrated.

Speaker 1:

I finally got ahold of the endodontist office and the receptionist there and she explained that the two endodontists in the offices were out of town and, with lots of persistency in advocating and a little bit of pressure, the receptionist eventually got a hold of the endodontist that I saw after he got off the airplane and he prescribed me this triple pack of medicine like an anti inflammatory, a pain reliever and an antibiotic, and then she got me an appointment for Monday morning, before his first appointment, so I could go in at 10 to 7am on Monday morning, and so I would do this. I'm recording this on Sunday, on Sunday, and I'm going to be going into the appointment on Monday morning. So and so the at least I have something over the weekend that's keeping the pain tolerance down a little bit, and I have an appointment and I and if another issue came up I was not going to be charged as well she had said so. She helped me both getting the appointment, she helped me with the pain and she said they would not charge me if the other tooth was the actual original issue. So it this whole situation over like a three week span, gave me a different perspective on what I could actually control and what was out of my control, and what I could change and what I couldn't change and, as a caregiver, what things we can change and what things we can influence and what things we can't change as a caregiver. And so I thought, Well, this is a great episode where we can kind of talk about how to handle things in challenging situations. As caregivers, I want you to think about what can you influence when things are challenging, when you have a situation where you're so frustrating and it's so out of control. What can you change and what can you control, Because there is so, so much we can't do. You know, when our loved ones have a chronic diagnosis or when a emergency situation happens, there are a lot of things we can't control, but there are some things that we can. In my situation, I couldn't change the tooth issues. They were there and it just was something that was getting worse and worse and worse. I couldn't change the dentists or the endodontists were out of town, but there were many things I could change, and so I want to explore the five things you can do in challenging situations, which then will lead to what you can change, you can influence and you can control. And I think this is going to help because when we're in challenging situations, sometimes we can't even see what's in front of us that we can change or we can control or we can influence. We only can see the hard, we only can see the challenge, and so there are five of them that I want to go through.

Speaker 1:

When you're in a challenging situation, first of all, whether you Write these all down or just put the nuggets in your head, you have to gather all the facts. When you feel like you've been given the run around or it's you're losing hope of someone helping or caring for you or your loved one, you first have to take a step back and think through all of the factual things what are the facts? And I would even go in my head and say what are the facts now? Because you want to go ahead and do that For me in this second situation that happened with the tooth, the second tooth now causing me issues. It was Thursday morning. My pain was unbearable. It was now at a seven or eight, and I know what a nine or a ten feels like, because I just had that previous root canal and it was becoming unbearable. It was becoming, oh my gosh, just to the point where I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep. It was waking me up. Then another fact the endodontist office was closed until Monday. And another fact is I needed emergency care and pain relief and there were no other endodontists that would see me and treat me. Another fact is I couldn't sleep, I couldn't eat, I couldn't function, so it was just all like a snowball rolling down the hill and becoming this big crater.

Speaker 1:

Same applies to you as a caregiver. Maybe you're feeling this is a situation. Maybe you're feeling like you can't go on anymore. You feel hopeless, you feel exhausted. No one else is helping you and no one else seems to care. Maybe you're feeling this way. Well, my friend, it's time to grab a paper and pen and list out all of the facts. Why do you feel this way and what are all the facts? Just like a detective gathers all of the evidence, he just goes ahead and gathers all the facts, because there is something powerful when you can go ahead and get it and relate the facts back to your challenge or to the situation or to the person when you're gathering the facts, then you can go ahead and look realistically at the situation. So that's the first one.

Speaker 1:

The second one is one of my hardest ones. It's leave out your emotions, especially when you're we're working through it. Like I said, this is a hard one, especially when you have steak in the situation or you're passionate about the situation, or it's your loved one and you see them in pain and you get so frustrated because you can't take the pain away. Now, I'm not saying to lose your emotion, because your emotions can work to your advantage and you shouldn't sweep them underneath the rug, but you want to use your emotions to your advantage and don't use those in the wrong way. Where you blow up and you're, you just give up. Instead, be aware that you choose when and if your emotions will help or how or harm the outcome.

Speaker 1:

In my situation, yelling in my anger would not have gotten me an appointment sooner. It won't have got me that 650 appointment. Instead, explaining the facts and my symptoms, my issues and my frustrations were the better alternative, Because the receptionist can't perform the, the the procedure. She's the one that can, though, relay the information to the endodontic and endodontist, and that's what she did. She told me he's on the plane right now, but once it gets off of the plane he'll answer his voicemail and I can connect with him and we can figure out other alternatives. Now, explain that I did cry, explaining the facts to the reception. Her name was Anne Marie, telling her that I was frustrated. I was in so much pain I didn't know how I was going to make it through the weekend. So I did express that and I did cry. I didn't apologize for crying either, because it hurts.

Speaker 1:

Think about yourself in your last challenging situation. What emotions did you feel? What emotions did you feel? I want you to embrace the emotions, because the emotions tell you something, but also know that allowing your emotions to control the situation won't help either. It may even escalate the situation, Because if I would have left myself sobbing to the point where I was out of control sobbing, I couldn't have calmed myself, back down and explained the situation. It reminds me of when you call the insurance company.

Speaker 1:

Let's say you get a claim that's denied for you or your loved one and you don't have the money to pay for it, nor can you get the procedure for yourself or your loved one, and so all treatment will stop. You're frustrated, you're angry. You tell the customer service or up. Why do I pay premiums every month when you keep denying my claims? Well, that's going to get you nowhere. What will make a difference is when you explain that your loved one needs this procedure. I don't understand why it's denied. What will help get this paid? Is there anything that I can do? Maybe I need medical records, Maybe it was coded wrong. Maybe there are other things that can do. What is the appeal process? And then you have to go ahead and explain the situation. What are the facts? You're frustrated. What happens when they don't get this treatment? The cost of it you can't afford, and so you have to look at all of that and work on a solution that way, versus just screaming and hollering and hanging up on the insurance company and then saying we can't do this anymore which I've been there and it never works. It never works, Okay. So number three is asking good questions, good quality questions. This is a big one, and this is one that I have learned to master better and better and better as a caregiver. When you gather the facts and leave out the emotions and ask the good questions, that can help you understand and get to the outcome you're winning.

Speaker 1:

In my first tooth situation, when I needed to get to the endodontist on that Monday morning and they couldn't get me in until the appointment was at 4.15 on Tuesday, I started asking questions with the endodontist. I was frustrated but I'm like okay, leave the frustration out, Just ask the questions. Kathy, I asked if there were any earlier appointments. She said no and I said what about if you have cancellations? Can I get on your cancellation list? And she said yeah, I can add you to the cancellation list and I said well, I'm about 20 minutes away, so if somebody cancels, I can get there in 30 minutes max. That resulted in her calling me back at about 2.15 and said we have a three o'clock appointment open. Sure, it wasn't anything sooner but that day, but it gave me a little bit of an up to get the pain out sooner With my second tooth situation, which I'm going in for tomorrow. My questions asked got me medication over the weekend and an appointment before the office opens on Monday morning, like I said, at 10 to 7.

Speaker 1:

I had a laundry list of questions that went through my head. I said could I be seen by another endodontist Is could you do a referral? And that wasn't an option. What if I can't make it until next month, next week, which I was calling on Thursday morning? Is there any one else that could help me if I couldn't make it through the weekend? Is there anything that I can do at home to lower my pain? I just listed out my questions and asked questions which resulted in getting medications, getting a Monday morning appointment. You know this is my go-to when I'm frustrated and overwhelmed. Instead of leaning on emotions, I'm saying what questions can I ask which are a little bit more respectful. But it also digs out more and more information. When I don't like where something is headed, I resort to asking questions to understand. I ask questions to get the listener to hear me and see my challenges.

Speaker 1:

Here's another example when Dennis, my husband Dennis, had issues with his immune therapy treatments two treatments ago, he was experiencing the side effects of his immune therapy, which resulted in him not being able. His muscles and his bones ached so bad he couldn't even get off of the chair with his wrists because his wrists were so inflamed he couldn't walk without extreme pain, and so when we got an appointment, asking the right questions about the side effects helped us understand why we needed to continue with treatment, why he was having the side effects, and so what we did is what can we do for the side effects? And we explained that the side effects were debilitating and all of these kind of things. Why is he experiencing the side effects? And so showing that there are urgencies in that, and then even getting to the point to say what if he stopped the treatment because he can't tolerate the pain? And it just makes, by asking these questions, it makes the person listening really understand that oh my gosh, they're asking these questions. What must be pretty intense. And so we got a partner together and so it's kind of your extra I hate to use the word ammunition, but extra information that you can bring to the plate and extra fuel that you need. Okay, so number four of five here, Number four is probably the most important piece of all five of these and that is your goal. What is your goal in this challenging situation? What do you want the outcome to be For me, going back to my dental issues, I needed emergency treatment both times.

Speaker 1:

My tooth issues needed to be fixed as soon as possible. My secondary goal was to stop the pain If I can't get in right away, how do I stop the pain and function? Because I was to the point where I was rocking and crying because the pain was so extremely bad it was nine out of 10 or 10 out of 10. And I needed to get that pain down. And when you identify that you're staying focused on what you want and need and how important it is, I had to keep reminding myself focus on what I need and what my goal is, Even if I didn't sleep, couldn't eat and had to suck on ice cubes, even though my sobbing and negative thoughts that no one cared because I would be crying, saying nobody cares about me, Nobody cares about me. And instead of just being this emotional wreck and trying to find the solution and talking to people that way, I needed to be focused on the goal. I needed emergency treatment and I needed pain relief.

Speaker 1:

Sometimes you have to ask yourself in those situations and snap yourself out of it what is my goal? Let's go back to the situation where we talked about. Maybe you're feeling exhausted and you can't go on anymore and you can't do this anymore and you feel stuck. I want you to think about what is your goal. You have to go and dig down to say what do you want, what do you need? What is the goal? Because when you say I feel exhausted, well, what is the goal? Do you want to sleep? Do you need better sleep? What is the goal? Do you need help? What is the goal? Are you lonely? Why are you feeling stuck? And so if it's a good night's sleep, then maybe you have to figure out how do I get a day off? Or is there somewhere that I can get a good night's sleep? Is it getting help? Well then, if it's getting help, so how do I get to that outcome? Set a realistic goal and then you work towards that goal and you start asking yourself good questions and leaving the emotion out and really trying to figure out it. Okay, number five in the last one is ask for help. You don't ignore this one. Even when it feels impossible, you have to ask for help.

Speaker 1:

Even in my dental situation, I reached out and I started looking for help. I have connections with dentists and dental hygienists either through my family, friends, social media. I was respectful and reached out and asked for advice. I didn't really demand anything from them. Dennis, my husband, graduated with Karen, who's my dental hygienist that works in my dental office. I knew that Wednesday night, when I was just in severe pain the first time around, I asked Karen, do you have any suggestions or can you talk to the dentist and let him know I'm calling in the morning to talk to him? And so she paved the way for me and that was. You know I'm like thank you. And then I have a family in law that is an actual dentist and I reached out to her to say, hey, I'm waiting to get an emergency root canal done. Do you have any homeopathic or suggestions on how to manage my pain until I get in? And so she told me how. She said I don't know your medical history, but here's a suggestion. You know 100 milligrams of Tylenol. And then she suggested rotating it with Advil. And then she was like, don't do any more than this. And then she gave me some suggestions on icing and stuff like that, and I was just so thankful. And she even advised me on you know what questions to ask at the endodontist and all this kind of stuff.

Speaker 1:

Now, also think about, you know, the people around you, Dennis, my husband went to the pharmacist and got me the medication that I needed. He pulled extra weight at home. He got me soft foods to eat so that I, you know, at least could have yogurt and stuff like that. Help could look like many different things, and so let me just quickly break them down. Physical help Can you get someone to cover for you when you take care of a challenge? Can you go ahead and, you know, get things covered, or have somebody help you with some of the task? A lot of questions. What can I take off your plate, Dennis said during this time, Because you're not going to be able to function.

Speaker 1:

You want to also think about expertise and experience. Think about who you know or who's on your social media, who you can connect with, like I did with the dental hygienist, the dentist. You know people that have experienced this before. Maybe they have some suggestions Asking if anybody has experience in this, like if you're in a caregiver situation, come over to the online community for the caregiver cup and ask a question Emotionally what do you need from a help? Do you need to talk through this with somebody? Well, guess what? I tapped into my sister and my best friend from a listening perspective, you know, and my sister works at a. She's a pharmacy tech, and so I told her the drugs that I had and she's like, yeah, just make sure you're, you know, eating with this one and doing this with this one and not driving with this one. My husband was there when, while I vented and cried and broke down and, you know, let it all out.

Speaker 1:

You also think about from a caregiving perspective. Is there a coach or an accountability partner that you could go ahead and go to? And it's funny because I go back to my accountability group and it's like reminding them you have every right to feel this way. You know, just hearing those words or it will, this soon will pass. You know, just, you just have to make it through this. And so just getting that support maybe it's a professional support.

Speaker 1:

If you're in a caregiving situation, maybe you have to go back to the doctor and talk to the doctor about the insurance claim getting denied or talk to a social worker about any, any services that could go ahead and support. Or maybe you have to go back to your therapist because of the situation where you feel stuck and overwhelmed and you can't identify a goal. Think about those helps or anything extra helps that would would be there. Maybe your, your situation requires that you bring in somebody else, like a nurse, a CNA, home nurse at your home, or asking another family member to go ahead and and cover a shift so that you can go ahead and catch up with your sleep, whatever it would be. So those are my five. You know five. I'll go through them real quickly again.

Speaker 1:

Number one is gather all of the facts. Two is leave out your emotions. Three is asking the good quality questions. Four is is what is your goal or what's the outcome that you want to get out of this challenge? And five is asking for help. So, as I close today, there you have it and and I think this is such a good piece for us as as caregivers, to to have in challenging situation, Maybe you save this podcast episode and saying you know, next time in a in a challenge, challenging situation, or have an issue that I feel like I can't get over, you bring back up this episode because life's going to throw you curveballs and sometimes we're going to feel stuck, we're going to feel frustrated, we're going to feel overwhelmed and sometimes it's going to be at the most unexpected time.

Speaker 1:

But remember, you don't have to buy into that mindset, Shifting our perspective and taking proactive steps like learning. These five steps, even in the most challenging situation, can make a world of a difference. So gather the facts, leave room for emotions without letting them take the wheel, ask the right questions and see clear goals, and never hesitate to ask for help. By embracing these steps, you're not you're not saying goodbye to stress, but you're learning to navigate it with more resilience and empowerment. So, my friend, thank you for joining the caregiver cup podcast episode. If you like what I hear too, let me know. Let me know what you're thinking about it and remember, share it with fellow caregivers. Let's support each other on this journey. So until next time, my friend, remember I care about what we do as caregivers. It's important to go ahead and fill your cup first, but, most importantly, take this resource and put it in your toolkit and use it when you can, and I will talk to you again next week, my friend. Bye for now.

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