CareGiver Guide

You can't care for another until you care for yourself…first!

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You can’t care for another until take care of yourself…first!

“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13.

As CareGivers, we indeed lay down our lives for a loved one or friend, the CaredFor. Whether we do so out of choice or obligation or guilt, we lay aside  major concerns of our own lives –  family, career, retirement, security – in order to care for another.

CareGivers then also lay aside another major concern: caring for themselves. Using some form of  a logic that defies common sense, the CareGiver believes that taking care of the CaredFor is a ‘prime directive’ to be accomplished at all costs. Slowly this translates into it’s OK not to care for myself as long as I am using my energy to care for the CaredFor.

What CareGivers fail to recognize is that you can’t give what you don’t have. If you are not well, how can you care well for another?

A recent study on teaching math showed that math teachers who were uncomfortable with math transferred that feeling to their students. Those students developed an aversion to math.

Similarly, if a CareGiver is uncomfortable with their role in taking care of another, it will transfer to the person they are caring for.

What I have learned in taking care of my mother and as a hospice volunteer is that I need to empty myself of any expectations before interacting as a care giver. Part of caring for myself is to become aware of my unexamined beliefs I hold about caring for another.

Am I aware that my attitudes affect how I do the tasks of care taking?

Am I aware that I expect my actions to produce an immediate result in the healing of the CaredFor? Is it any wonder then that I feel disappointed when I don’t see any immediate changes?

Am I aware that being present to the CaredFor, without expectations,  without an agenda, is the best gift I can give?

I have been told that listening to someone in way which allows that person to know they have been heard is the greatest gift one person can give to another.

CareGivers, it is selfish not to care for yourself first! When you don’t care for yourself first, eventually the care giving becomes about you as you attempt to give what you don’t have. When you are cared for, you can freely give. You can move attention away from yourself to focus on the CaredFor.

Peace & Joy

Richard

 

“Miracles happen in the space of forgiveness.”

In a workshop I attended over 25 years, I heard the words, “Miracles happen in the space of forgiveness.” This morning I shared that thought with a friend.  Based on what he had shared with me about his childhood and how his life was going now,  it seemed to me that there was something incomplete in his relationship with his father. I suggested he should have a conversation with his father during which he consider forgiving his father for what had happened.

My friend called me this afternoon after having  that conversation.  He told me he had some good news. After struggling for several weeks to resolve a problem, suddenly a piece of the solution showed up. From his point of view, it was a miracle.

As CareGivers, we see ourselves in a continuous struggle to provide the best care for the person we are caring for, the CaredFor.  At times, we feel as though we are losing that struggle. We become overwhelmed doing the day-to-day tasks of care giving. Often this leads to our becoming angry at having to be a care giver, angry at the disease that is wrecking the health of the CaredFor, and maybe becoming angry with the CaredFor.

At this point it would be wise to enter the ‘space of forgiveness.’ Who are we to forgive?

First, ourselves. Then, others. Forgiveness starts with ourselves.

What are we to forgive? Whatever in us that is causing to become angry. The anger starts to surface because we may be expecting more of ourselves than is realistic.  The anger starts to surface because we want to blame someone or something for the pain and suffering we are experiencing . The anger starts to surface because we feel the whole situation is unfair.

At this point –in the now — we can stop to look at our anger. We can forgive ourselves for not living up to our unrealistic expectations. We can forgive ourselves for wanting to strike out and blame someone. We can forgive ourselves for wanting it to be fair.

In other words, we are moving from wanting the world to be the way it is not and moving toward accepting what is going on now just the way it is. We are moving into the ‘space of forgiveness.’

It is here where we become open to miracles happening in our lives.

 

Shifting the paradigm of the CareGiver

It is time to shift the paradigm of the CareGiver from being about one who fixes problems to one who is a compassionate presence and a listener. A paradigm is a set of habits and beliefs which our parents, teachers, culture have instilled in us. Many of those beliefs remain unexamined in our unconsciousness.

Today, the focus of care giving and CareGivers is on fixing problems: death, disease, and the dying. That’s the paradigm of care giving we see in our institutions and in our homes

Death is not a problem to fix — death is part of life.

Disease is not a problem to fix — disease  is something to prevent.

The dying person is not a problem to fix — the dying person is someone to cherish while still alive.

Developing an attitude of compassion, literally a capacity to  suffering with another, is essential to being a CareGiver. Compassion opens a space in the heart of the CareGiver to hold the suffering of the person being cared for.

The person with the disease, the CaredFor, needs to know that there is someone there for her or him.  Twice during the time I spent as my mother’s CareGiver, she told me with tears running down her checks, “Richard, I don’t know what I would have done if you weren’t here.” While she was appreciate of what I did for her, the problems “I fixed” for her,  she never commented on what I did. She did comment on my being there for her.

Compassion is what gives the CareGiver the capacity to be there for another. Compassion allows the CareGiver to listen to the concerns, the needs, the fears of the CaredFor from the point of view of the CaredFor.

 

Dare to Be Different

Dare to be different!

Dare to follow your heart.

Whether your life seems to be

coming together

Or, falling apart.

 

You are here to learn

to love

God, others, and you,

to increase in grace and wisdom.

This is your guide for all that you do.

 

Each present moment is a gift,

not something you’re owed

nor something you’ve earned.

 

Your response is to be grateful,

to become conscious and aware.

Then, you may discover

all the beauty hidden there.

 

Richard Anastasi,

March 7, 2004

New York City

The Successful CareGiver

What does it mean to be a successful CareGiver?

From the time we are young children to the time we are grow up, we are taught to measure our success by external standards. How many months did it take before you learned to walk? How many A’s did you bring home on your report card? Did your team win its division title? Did you get promoted to the top position in your department or company? How big is your paycheck, your bank account, your portfolio? How many square feet is your house? Did you graduate from a top rated school?

What do all these ‘measures of success’ have in common? They are all based on what you do in comparison to an externally defined standard.

We rarely measure our success by the way we are being as we are doing whatever we are doing.

As we fought our way up the corporate ladder, did we spend so much time at work that we had little time to be in love with our spouse or to show our children how much we love them? Did we work so hard in competing for a trophy in our favorite sport that we could not lift the trophy because of an injury we got competing?

As a CareGiver we may hold the belief that we are successful if the person we are caring for ‘gets better.’ Or if that person, the CaredFor, has a so-called incurable disease, we are successful if we kept the CaredFor from ‘suffering.’ As CareGivers , we may hold onto to many measures of success, most of which are about what we do for the CaredFor.

I contend that measuring the success of being a CareGiver is absurd. Success or failure in CareGiving only makes sense if you believe ‘death is a problem to fix.’ If you keep the person from dying, you are successful. If not, you’re not. We all die. There’s nothing we can do to prevent us from dying.

If you were to measure the success of being a CareGiver, look at how the CareGiver is being. My mother taught me the essence of being a CareGiver as I was caring for her as she succumbed to an incurable liver disease. She told at two different times,  with tears streaming down her face, “Richard, I don’t know what I would have done if you weren’t here.”

The essence of CareGiver is being a compassionate presence.

If I were to define  what it is to be a successful CareGiver, I would say it is someone who can be present to and for the CaredFor without having an agenda (wanting a cure, wanting it to be over, not wanting it to be other than the way it is). A successful CareGiver listens to what the CaredFor says and does not say.

The essence of CareGiving is to be found in being, not doing.

Grief Is Not An EmotionB

 

Grief is not an emotion
That you feel now and again.

Grief is not something to get over
Like an illness or a sprain.

Grief is a process
With a beginning, middle,  and

Sometimes, even an end.

Richard  Anastasi
A New York City Apartment
April 24, 2004

Steps to Reduce the Stress Level of Being a CareGiver.

Care giving is a stressful activity. If you want to reduce the stress level of being a CareGiver, consider these steps.

If you are a new CareGiver or your loved ones are still in good health,

do the first two steps immediately, as in RIGHT NOW!

Do these two steps now. You’ll save a lot of stress later!

Step 1. Have a conversation about death.

Step 2. Prepare the legal papers, especially “The Advanced Directive”

If you are already actively involved in CareGiving or know it’s coming soon, get to work on Steps 3 through 7.

Step 3. Develop a Care Plan.

Step 4. Learn about Palliative Care and Hospice.

Step 5. Learn about the power of music in caring and healing.

Step 6. Develop a support system for you, the CareGiver.

As I say often, “You can’t care for another unless you care for yourself…first!”

Step 7. Learn to become a compassionate listener.

 

These work.

 

CareGiver Site Overview

Dear CareGivers,
I will strive to be a guide for you in this process called care giving. I say strive, because I know that what I know is only my wisdom. I will actively listen to you to uncover what you want and need.
My credential for being your guide is my experience caring for my mother as she died of an incurable liver disease. I was fortunate to be able to return home to live with her starting in May of 2003 until she died on March 14, 2004.  During that time, I learned as much as I could about how to care for my mother. What I learned is how much I didn’t know.
Since that time, I have continued to think about the time I spent with my mother. I realized she taught me valuable lessons about care giving, though she was unaware that she was teaching me anything.  I have also read a lot about care giving, spoken to dozens of people about their experience as care givers, and attended seminars to learn more about care giving.
I am gathering this knowledge into a book. The purpose of the book is to reduce the stress level of care givers. The one thing I know for certain is care giving is stressful. In the book and through this blog,  I intend to define a different way of being a CareGiver, a way which leads to joy rather than burnout.
The book will also include a section about an issue which I have seen little written: what happens to you when your life as a care giver ceases, either because the person you cared for heals or dies. If there is a death, you have to deal with that grief. That’s been dealt with extensively. But there are two other losses over which you will grieve about which you may remain unconscious. One, you may morn the life you might have lived had you not become a care giver. Two, you may experience a loss of meaning about the life you used to live. The things which you used to strive for may no longer hold the same enticement. Additionally, you may miss the intensity of being involved so intimately in the life of another, of feeling needed.
Unlike many books about care giving, my focus is on you, the care giver, not on the person you are caring for. Until the book comes out,  I offer a few guidelines which may serve you now.
1. How you are being with the person you are caring for is more important than what you do. Never underestimate the value of your just being there.
2. There are many things to do — there is no one, correct path — only the path that works for you and the person for whom you are caring.
3. Build a support team: family, friends, specialists in the field. Don’t make the mistake that I did of trying to do it on your own, even when you know you can. Involve others.
4. This journey you are starting is a privilege. Honor it — and yourself. Along the way, know you will have times when you are sure you cannot take another step. Also, know that you can. The journey will be one of great growth for you and at some some point, you will find joy in it.
5. Take care of yourself at all times. Find ways to make at least part of the journey fun for you and the person for whom you are caring. Yes, there are ways to make it fun. Create a way to get away from the caring, even if it just a ‘happy hour’ with people who will not remind you of your caring role. Go someplace where people don’t know you, if you have to.
Peace & Joy
Richard J Anastasi

Creating “We”

Today, as Americans, we celebrate the adoption of that great document, The Declaration of Independence, by the Continental Congress. It marks the birth of the United States of America as a nation. It took another 13 years before our nation firmly established itself through the writing of another great document, The Constitution of the United States.

It begins with the immortal words: We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Since the founding of our nation, Americans have continued to wrestle with what it means to be ‘’We the People of the United States.” How do we form “a more perfect union” and, “establish justice?”

You may wonder why a blog dedicated to ‘reducing the stress level of CareGivers’ is looking back at the birth of our nation?

It is has to do with ‘creating we.’  It took more than one person, one group, one colony, one state to create our nation. So, too, with Care Giving. It takes more than one person, one doctor, one support organization to form a Care Giving team. Care Giving is not an “I” process, it is a “We” process.

The most essential bond to create is the bond between the CareGiver and the CaredFor. Compassion is what enables the bond to endure. Compassion is the essential energy of Care Giving.

Disease tends to isolate the person with the disease from family and community.

No one wants to be around a person with a disease. There is the practical concern of not wanting to get whatever the diseased person has. Even if the disease is not one that can be caught by contact or exposure, disease brings up in us a basic fear – that if we have that disease, we could die. It is human to want to avoid anything that reminds us of death. Logically we know we can die at any moment, but emotionally we believe it won’t happen now.

It’s not fun to be around a sick person. So we avoid doing so.

The sick person, too, often doesn’t want others to be around others. There is the thought of being a burden to the family. There is the practical consideration that it takes energy to engage with another. A sick person may not have the energy it takes to engage with another.

Nonetheless, the CareGiver has to work to overcome the isolation associated with disease. The CareGiver must reach out to the CaredFor to offer the assurance that they are in it together. They are a ‘we.’

So, too, the CareGiver, has to reach out to others to form a team, to form a ‘we.’ Isolation is a dangerous tendency for the CareGiver.  Though the CareGiver may successfully create the bond of ‘we’ with the CaredFor, the CareGiver has to form a ‘we’ bond with the larger community of a Care Giving team.

Music Matters

Music Matters

By Richard J Anastasi

                                                                                                                        July 2, 2014

                                                                                                             at Chocolate Secrets

Music matters,

For music is touch at a distance.

Music can embrace you,

            lift you up when you are down,

            keep you company when no one’s around.

Music tells stories,

            with or without words,

            expresses our worries or joys,

Music can even make sense out of the absurd.

Music transmits the frequencies of life,

            frequencies that heal

                                                      that relieve pain,

                                            frequencies that can keep you sane.

The highest frequency of all is Love,

            As the poet wrote:

“If music be the food of love,

            play on.”

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