What Now? After Your Loved One Has Passed

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Many parts of your caregiving journey will inevitably involve grief. Grief over changes in your loved one, grief over what shifts in routines and responsibilities, and grief over loss. When your caregiving journey has been long, it can be especially challenging to adjust to life after your loved one has passed. Caregivers are often left with the looming question: “what now?” When so much of your time and energy has been spent caring for your loved one, what does life look like now that they’ve passed?

Be gentle with yourself. As with other parts of your caregiving journey, it is crucial to be gentle with yourself during this time. You might be feeling a host emotions – from sadness and fear to frustration and guilt. Everyone experiences loss in different ways, and your emotions will depend greatly on what your relationship with your loved one looked like. Allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling, and try to resist the urge to dampen uncomfortable feelings.

Connect. Spending some time alone to reflect and regroup is important, but spending too much time alone can be detrimental to your well-being. Consider connecting with a grief support group or a counsellor to talk about this transition and to work through your emotions. Both resources can help with big transitions – you do not need to be struggling in a big way to take advantage of these options! If your loved one was connected to a palliative program, such as Every Day Counts, one-on-one counselling may be available to you free of charge. Spending time with family and friends who make you smile and laugh is also important. Reach out to anyone that makes you feel good – even those who you’ve lost touch with! Chances are, they’ll be very happy to hear from you.

Get involved. Is there something you’ve been thinking about doing for years, but have felt you didn’t have the time? Now is a great time to do that thing that lights you up. Maybe it’s as lavish as taking a trip you’ve been dreaming of, or as simple as taking a pottery course or even just picking up a few books from the library and taking the time to read them. Whatever it is, make it a priority to do that thing now.

 

Cassandra Van Dyck

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Mindful Monday no. 67 – Generosity

Today we’re featuring a post from last February by Linsday Kwan. What better day to be reminded of how practising generousity can impact our lives in such wonderful ways?

North Van Caregivers

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“Generosity is another quality which, like patience, letting go, non-judging, and trust, provides a solid foundation for mindfulness practice.”

– Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go There You Are

Caregiving is a generous act in itself. Invite generosity into your mindfulness practice this week to notice how it makes you feel.

When we are generous, we offer freely and without expectations of a return:

We may offer a compliment to help elevate someone`s sense of worth.

We may offer time to connect to someone who is lonely.

We may offer to take someone out to lunch in order to show our love for them.

We may offer understanding when someone is in need of support.

We may offer support by donating or volunteering our favourite causes or organizations.

We may offer our time as caregivers to our loved ones so that their well-being is improved.

What I have found in my…

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How to Get the Bounce Back In Your Step

 

‘Bounce Back is a program of CMHA (Canadian Mental Health Association) and is free of charge. If you get your doctor to refer you to this program, you will receive workbooks and will get 5 telephone sessions with a coach, however this is not the same as counselling. Bounce Back is proven effective at relieving mild to moderate depression (with or without anxiety). The other option you have if you choose not to do the coaching is to watch the free DVD (available at North Shore Community Resources and most Doctor’s offices). The DVD is entitled ‘Living Life To The Full’ and features people who have experienced depression and anxiety. I found, that as I listened to their stories, I realized that I was not alone and that help was available. It is also inspiring to learn that there is hope, if you use the strategies taught in the DVD. Strategies such as problem-solving and assertiveness. But don’t take my word for it, try it for yourself.

You can obtain more information about this helpful program at:

Https://northwestvancouver.cmha.bc.ca

Https://CMHA.bc.ca/programs-sevices/bounce-back

As the French say: ‘Bon courage!’ (Which means have courage).

 

Calm Pond

3 Book Recommendations for Caregivers

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Reading a good book can feel (almost) as good as a warm hug from someone you love. It can make you feel understood and comforted. It can give you ideas for how to tackle life’s challenges and empower you when you’re feeling down. A good book can make you laugh out loud and catch your tears.

For caregivers, reading a good book might be just what you need to help you wind down after a long day, or to fill some time while waiting for your loved one at doctor’s appointments. Not sure what to pick up? Read on for three suggestions.

THE DWINDLING: A DAUGHTER’S CAREGIVING JOURNEY TO THE EDGE OF LIFE, BY JANET DUNNETT | The Dwindling chronicles a ten-year caregiving journey of twin sisters Janet and Judi with their parents, Betty and Fred. This is a read filled with hope, laughter and bravery. PS – Stay tuned for an upcoming interview with Janet Dunnett on the blog!

BURNOUT: THE COST OF CARING, BY CHRISTINA MASLACH | If you are a caregiver, you are at risk of burnout. Even if you feel that you are coping well, this is a must-read for anyone caring for a loved one. This book is filled with tips, symptoms, and strategies for preventing and recovering from burnout.

CAREGIVING: THE SPIRITUAL JOURNEY OF LOVE, LOSS, AND RENEWAL, BY BETH WITROGEN MCLEOD |This book is helpful for anyone at the beginning of their caregiving journey, to get an overview of what they might expect and to learn tips for how to navigate the health care system and get support. For caregivers who have been on their journey for quite some time, this read can help with filling in the gaps they might be struggling with.

What books have helped you on your caregiving journey? We’d love to hear from you!

 

Cassandra Van Dyck

 

When forgiveness becomes key

Resentful. Disappointed. Angry.  Irritated.
Some of these words might describe how you feel about one or both of your parents. Perhaps Mum and Dad were neglectful of your needs in childhood, or even downright abusive on an emotional or physical level. You might have felt disregarded or diminished by their communication with you.  It may also be that childhood was a largely positive time for you, and during adulthood you encountered major conflict with your parents.  Feeling angry, resentful or disappointed with your Mum and Dad can make the caregiving role even more complicated. The issue of having negative emotions towards parents is one to be brought into the open, as it’s more common for family caregivers than you may realize.
When Dad suddenly needs help in managing his daily routines because of memory loss, you are likely to feel challenged by stepping into this supportive role. That is completely understandable, yet others may expect you to be involved in the care more than you feel comfortable with. Health Professionals, Aunts and Uncles, siblings, and family friends may expect you to help Dad in ways that come at great personal cost to you. I have a few suggestions on navigating this delicate situation, and I invite you to see which ideas resonate with you.

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Suggestions on coping as best you can:

Honour your needs. Limit the number of hours you spend with Mum or Dad, and don’t wear yourself out with too much time in their presence if it drains you.

Appreciate how you’ve grown. Think about how you’ve responded to your parents in the past, and celebrate how you’ve matured in your way of communicating with them. For example, you might be excellent at setting boundaries when they make requests.

Practice forgiveness.  Get support from a close friend or a therapist in working towards self-forgiveness. Be gentle with yourself for the times you got upset or acted in ways you would no longer see as being productive. Practice letting go of criticism towards yourself, and see what kind of difference this makes.

Live in kindness. Even though your parents might never acknowledge that they’ve hurt you, or say sorry about it- you can choose to now see them with a kind heart, which reflects the kind of person you are.

Create a forgiveness mantra.  What words are meaningful to you? I suggest you keep it simple. An example could be “I forgive and let go of hurt, and I welcome love”. Try and say it out loud when you have a private moment, and then say it in your head whenever you need to.
If you’re reading this and a lot of stress or grief is coming up for you, pause for a second and breathe slowly for 5 seconds. A whole clan of caregivers in North America are with you, and we understand that this is not easy or simple.
Please connect with a trusted friend or professional support person as soon as you’re able to.

-Karyn

Blue January and re-discovering gentleness

Just like some people have the Sunday night and Monday morning blues I get January blues. For me they initially manifest as relationship or career issues, such as blaming my husband and/or finding fault in my work performance. Yet they generally reveal a mini existential crisis where I find myself questioning my reason for being. I get weighed down by expectations and ask myself, “I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing”; or “Life is too hard, why am I here?”

It took me several years to pick up this pattern and I now have coping strategies in place to help me along the way. Now I treat January as a gentle month.

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Tools for self-gentleness

  1. One of the most helpful tools I use is to become very aware of the expectations I have of myself. I notice that, like many people I know, I am quite driven and have a lot of goals to guide my busy life. So I choose to make New Year resolutions that will support me to feel more fulfilled rather than adding more potentially stress-producing goals. For example, I might choose the goal to congratulate myself at the end of the day for the things I did well that day, or soak in an inviting bath or allow myself to indulge in whatever makes me feel good.
  2. As well as having these supportive resolutions in place, I also respond gently and with kindness when I am not able to be my best; like I would respond to a friend.  Often when I fall short of my expectations, my initial reaction may be quite harsh, so I use my experiences as a work in progress and allow myself to make mistakes. Then again, I can question whose definition of ‘right’ I am trying to live up to. Best of all, I do this on every Monday throughout the year.

The act of modifying my normal demands of life until I feel like I have firm footing once again is an act of self-love that helps me glide into the year more gently. By the time February comes along I usually have touched into a deeper connection with life that flows through me. This plan works for me. You might like to create a plan with whatever tools work for you, remembering that we are human and we will have times that we don’t stick with our plan. When that happens we have a choice; will we choose to default to being hard on ourselves, or will we choose a lighter response of acceptance and forgiveness?
I find myself tuning back in with the larger picture, and letting go of my petty or not-so big struggles.

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-Linda Jane Jervis
Volunteer Caregiver Coach with NSCR’s Caregiver Support Program. Thank you Linda, for bringing your insight and positive energy to the time you spend with our caregivers.

Navigating Vancouver’s Housing Crisis With Your Loved One: Some Resources

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If you live in Vancouver or anywhere in the lower mainland, it will be no secret to you that we are experiencing a housing crisis. If you have not managed to find a way to own a home or condo, you could be struggling in the rental market. Rents are rising and housing is becoming increasingly challenging to find.

All of this adds to the stress that caregivers can feel when trying to find a home for their loved one. It used to be far more common for loved ones to live with their younger family members when they could no longer live on their own. Although this of course comes with challenges of its own, the growing concern is that this option is no longer available to huge numbers of families in the lower mainland because they do not have room in their small homes to house their loved ones. If you’re left with no other option but to find your loved one a home to live in that is not your own, you must face the housing and rental crisis all over again! To say that securing safe and comfortable housing for your loved one can be challenging is a gross understatement. 

Although there are common concerns such as cost of housing and availability/location, everyone’s situation differs based on what resources they have access to. You might be lucky enough to have room in your home for your loved one, and the capacity to care for them. Maybe if you don’t, you have a family member who does. Your loved one may have set aside some money earlier in their life to prepare for a time when they would need support with housing, which will help you greatly. They might be open to different housing options – such as independent living or moving further from the city. As you can see, there are many possibilities!

It’s common to feel overwhelmed by the current situation and (lack of) options. However, there are resources to access and it is possible to find solutions. Arguably, the most important tool you need is the knowledge of resources and the ability to navigate and access them. Don’t give up hope!

If you are struggling to find housing in Vancouver or the lower mainland for your loved one, here are some resources and suggestions.

Seniors One Stop | NSCR’s Seniors One Stop Information program can provide help for seniors looking for housing. Staff and volunteers can assist with identifying options, such as subsidized housing and financial benefits.

SAFER | “The Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters (SAFER) program helps make rents affordable for BC seniors with low to moderate incomes. SAFER provides monthly cash payments to subsidize rents for eligible BC residents who are age 60 or over and who pay rent for their homes.” Try out the online calculator for an estimate of how much your loved one could receive. If you believe they are eligible, you can fill out an application online.

BC Housing | BC Housing has a breadth of resources for people struggling to find housing. Their website is structured to allow users to describe their current situation and then lists resources according to their needs.

The Cooperative Housing Association of BC | Wait lists for Vancouver co-operative housing are currently long, but it might not hurt to put your loved one’s name on a list to keep the option of low-cost housing open.

Assisted Living | The above options are helpful for loved ones who can still live independently, but what do you do if you need somewhere for your loved one to live where they can access support with every day tasks, such as hygiene and grocery shopping? Assisted Living facilities can be costly, but there are options if finances are tight.

There are so many facets to this conversation. What concerns you the most? What has helped? We’d love to hear from you, learn from you, and answer your questions.

 

Cassandra Van Dyck

 

Be Kind to Your Body

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What’s your relationship like with your body?

Our bodies do so much for us, don’t they? They carry us from place to place and help us to care for our loved ones. Most everyone would agree that a having a healthy body deeply impacts our quality of life.

When your body is not feeling great – when you’re sick or achy or injured or weak – it’s hard to feel  your best and be there for the people you love in the ways you’d like to be.

Like everything in life, some things are beyond your control, but many are not, and you always have the possibility of deciding how you respond to adversity.

Generally speaking, our bodies respond well when we treat them kindly.

How are you treating your body? Here are some things to think about.

Eat Well | Nobody’s perfect, and one of my favourite sayings is, “Everything in moderation. Including moderation.” This is an invitation to look at your overall diet and ask yourself how you’re doing. Are you eating enough fruits and vegetables? Protein? Fibre? Are you drinking enough water? Too much sugar? Our bodies send us strong signals when we are not eating properly. You may have irregular bowel movements or feel sluggish. You might also notice that your energy levels throughout the day are imbalanced. Focus on putting foods in your body that nourish you and slow down meal times when you can. Tuning in to how what you’re eating is making you feel can make a big difference.

Get Moving | Are you getting enough exercise? You don’t have to hit the gym every day to reap the benefits of exercise. Park further away from your destination or walk to the next bus stop if you have time. Get coffee to go and wander through a park instead of sitting down. Exercise keeps your muscles working properly and does wonders for your mental state. Do yoga in your chair! 

Get Your ZZZs | You’ve heard it before but we’ll say it again! Getting adequate sleep is one of the best and easiest (or hardest) ways to be kind to your body. Need some tips? Take a look at these posts. 

Speak Kindly | Sometimes I marvel at all the amazing things our bodies can and have done. If you’re unhappy with the way you look or you’re frustrated with your body’s limitations due to injury or illness, it can be easy to say not-so-kind things to yourself. Take some time to practice gratitude, and think or write about all the things your body does and has done for you. It might change the way you look at yourself in the mirror.

 

Cassandra Van Dyck

The ‘Guest House’ by Rumi

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‘The ‘Guest House’ by 13th century Persian poet Rumi

This being human is a guest house

Every morning a new arrival

A joy, a depression, a meanness

Some momentary awareness

Comes as an unexpected visitor

 

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they’re scared of sorrows

Who violently sweep your house

Empty of its furniture

Still treat each guest honorably

He may be cleaning you out

For some new delight!

 

The dark thought, the shame, the malice

Meet them at the door laughing

And invite them in

Be grateful for whoever comes

Because each has been sent

As a guide from beyond

 

So ‘Welcome and entertain them all!’ The kaleidoscope of feelings that passes through us every day; the ever-changing weather of emotions: sunshine, rain, windstorms, and even tsunamis.

Watch for upcoming post ‘The People On the Bus’ mindfulness exercise, as follow-up to this poem.

Calm Pond

 

Blue Monday: How to Prevent Isolation

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I was driving to work this morning, sniffling and scrambling for a tissue to dry my running nose, when I heard the radio announcer say that today is “Blue Monday,” supposedly the saddest day of the year. Oh dear.

Dr. Cliff Arnall coined the term and marked the third Monday of January Blue Monday based on the following “scientific” formula: [W+(D-d)]xTQ/MxNA – where W is weather, D is debt, d monthly salary, T time since Christmas, Q time since failure of attempt to give something up, M low motivational level and NA the need to take action.

Whether you buy in to the formula or not, it is hard to dispute that a lot of people feel down at this time of year. The reasons for low mood are different for everyone, but a common thread is isolation.

When people think about isolation, they often think of it physically. If you are a caregiver and rarely have time to yourself, you might not be aware that you are suffering from isolation. It is very common for people to feel isolated even when they are around people every day. Caregivers give so much to the people they care for, and while there is so much benefit to doing so for caregivers and their care partners, it can also be an isolating pursuit.

The antithesis to isolation is connection. Not sure how to change your situation? Read on and follow these three steps to de-isolate and get connected.

STEP ONE: TAKE INVENTORY | How are you doing? Take some time to write in a journal, to go for a walk by yourself, or to just sit with your thoughts. Really take the time to think about how you’re feeling. When was the last time you laughed with a friend? When was the last time you cried with someone else and felt that you were supported? When was the last time you felt that you were really understood and heard?

STEP TWO: FIND YOUR RESOURCES| If you have a person or people in your life that lift you up, reach out to them, even if you haven’t in awhile. Pick up the phone or send them an email, and let them know that you’d love to set a time to get together. Consider meeting with a local network group to connect with other caregivers. You might find that talking with other people who are experiencing similar emotions and situations to be incredibly comforting.

STEP THREE: MAKE A PLAN | Are you worried about taking time away from your loved one? This fear can leave a lot of caregivers feeling stuck. If you have never sought respite, it can feel overwhelming and scary. Taking a break is essential for your well-being. If you are concerned or unsure of how to take seek respite for your care partner, read this post.