How to Talk to Your Loved One About Unsafe Driving

Of the many uncomfortable conversations you will likely have with your loved one over the course of your caregiving journey, talking to them about giving up their driver’s license may be one of the hardest. It might seem like a trivial thing, but being able to legally drive is a symbol of so much more than just before able to get places quickly. It signifies independence and control, and feeling that you are losing those things can be incredibly challenging.

You want your husband or mother to feel that they still have their autonomy, but perhaps you’ve noticed things that have made you feel that it’s time to let them know that you’re concerned with their ability to drive safely. Here are some things you may have become aware of:

  • Frequent close calls (i.e., almost crashing), dents and scrapes on the car or on fences, mailboxes, garage doors, and curbs.
  • Increased citations, traffic tickets or “warnings” by traffic or law enforcement officers.
  • Trouble with the fundamentals of driving such as making sudden lane changes, drifting into other lanes, and braking or accelerating suddenly without reason. Other examples include failing to use the turn signal, or keeping the signal on without changing lanes.
  • Eyesight problems like not seeing traffic lights and street signs, or having to drive closer and closer to them to see them clearly.
  • Hearing problems such as not hearing emergency sirens or horns honking.
  • Problems with memory including missing exits that used to be second nature or getting lost frequently. While everyone has occasional lapses, if there’s an increasing pattern, it’s time to get evaluated by a doctor.
  • Problems with reflexes and range of motion such as not reacting quickly enough if there’s a need to brake suddenly or quickly look back, confusing the gas and brake pedals, getting flustered while driving, or being quick to anger when behind the wheel.

So, how do you talk to your loved one about your concerns? Here are some tips:

Be respectful. Driving is often an integral part of independence. At the same time, don’t be intimidated or back down if you have a true concern.

Give specific examples. Instead of generalizations like “You can’t drive safely anymore,” outline specific concerns that you’ve noticed. For example: “You have a harder time turning your head than you used to,” or “You braked suddenly at stop signs three times the last time we drove.”

Find strength in numbers. If more than one family member or close friend has noticed, it’s less likely to be taken as nagging. A loved one may also listen to a more impartial party, such as a doctor or driving specialist.

Help find alternatives. The person may be so used to driving that they have never considered alternatives. You can offer concrete help, such as researching transportation options or offering rides when possible.

Understand the difficulty of the transition. Your loved one may experience a profound sense of loss having given up the keys, and not being able to drive can lead to isolation and depression. Try to help with the transition as much as possible. If it is safe, try slowly transitioning the senior out of driving to give them time to adjust. For example, your loved one may begin the transition by no longer driving at night or on the freeways, or by using a shuttle service to specific appointments, such as the doctor’s.

Have you had a conversation with your loved one about unsafe driving? We’d love to hear what’s worked for you!

Resources: HelpGuide

Cassandra Van Dyck

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How to be a Long-Distance Caregiver (& Move a Family Member)

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How does one provide care for a loved one who lives long-distance, in this case 3,500 km away?  That question came to a head for me a few weeks ago, when my mother, who has been becoming increasingly immobile and unsafe in her home, for many months and perhaps years, asked for my help.

I was fortunate to be able to say, ‘yes’.   I made plans for my family in my absence, and flew to Ontario to be with my mother for a few days.  I knew that this journey was going to end with my mother moving into an assisted living residence.

You can care give from afar by providing more than a physical presence. In caring for my mother, this has meant regular phone calls, to learn what was really going on for her, and how it affected her activities of daily living, and conference calls with my brothers to share information and make plans for future care.

For a few years now, my mom and the large part of the burden for her care has fallen on my two brothers, who live close by.  I am very fortunate that they are near, but they also need my support, and perhaps I too need to provide more support, to assuage the feelings of guilt I have had in not been able to share the load.

This is what I have learned along the journey.

As a long distance caregiver, you can provide care and emotional support from afar through phone calls and encouraging cards and notes.  You can help arrange meals, transportation, recreation and day care programs, and coordinate rides with family and friends to appointments or social events.  You can update family and friends on the status of your loved one.  I found that this eased the burden on my brothers, and was fulfilling, as it allowed me to use the skills I have developed in communication, empathy, and compassion.  You can also help with the household finances, bill-paying, and insurance benefits and claims.  On the care side of things, you can help arrange for housekeepers, personal support workers, home health care aids, friendly visitors, and other health care professionals to be brought in.  In essence, you can help your loved one navigate the system by providing them with local information and resources, and you also can enlist the help of family and friends.

In my instance, this help came from a gentle and patient family member, in whose company my mother did not feel judged.  The initial houseclean and haul out of garbage, recycling and items for the Salvation Army and Church Bazaar, was met with more requests for help through a dear family friend.  It was very interesting for me to watch the transformation of my mother’s behaviour, from being so attached to her home and its contents, to being accepting of change, and then asking for help, in order to ready herself, physically and emotionally, to leave her home.

When I arrived in Ontario, I saw my role as continuing with the cleaning and pack up process that had begun, while trying to make things fun, reliving memories while pouring over old family photos, and also making new memories.  Sharing memories helped draw us together, and provided us with much needed strength and support.

My mother is almost ready to move into her new home.  She has the security of knowing that she can take weekly visits back to her town home, before it is sold, to ensure she is leaving no stone or forgotten treasure unturned, and to say goodbye, in her time and at her pace.  When we speak on the phone, she never forgets to thank me for coming, and still jokes that she ‘wore me out’.  This experience we shared, fraught with vulnerability, definitely brought my mother and me closer together.

As a wise person once said, ‘information is the best prescription and laughter really is one of the best medicines’.

By guest blogger, Kathryn Seely, former nurse, mother, daughter and caregiver

The Sibling Relationship When Caring for Aging Parents

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Witnessing a parent’s health decline is difficult as adult children come to terms with the idea that the relationship with their mother or father is changing. If you are currently caring for an aging parent, you may be experiencing this sense of anticipatory loss. Your siblings can be a source of support since they are experiencing these same emotions alongside you. However, the emotional impact of caregiving can also cause friction among your brothers and sisters. If you feel you are often in conflict with your siblings while caregiving for your aging parents, know that you are not alone.

The Caregiving Role

Caregiving for an aging parent is a multifaceted job that involves the financial, legal, physical and emotional well-being of your mother or father. You may encounter many different opinions between your siblings on what decisions need to be made, which can lead to confusion about what people will agree upon. In addition, if your siblings have questions about the estate or their inheritance, this can have place pressure on the caregiver who is managing the financial and legal affairs of the parent.

The sibling relationship is an important factor in the care of aging parents. For one, siblings need to make key decisions and communicate their  feelings and opinions in terms of their

parent’s care. Combined with the emotional process of accepting their parent’s declining health, you may observe that your brothers or sisters may be attempting to resolve long-buried feelings with the family or may be unintentionally inciting sibling rivalries by falling into old family patterns.

Family Roles and Patterns

A major complication of the sibling caregiving relationship is that childhood roles within the family re-emerge. Family members can view the adult siblings with the same labels that they acquired—perhaps unfairly—as children. Birth order and gender may also influence these sibling dynamics. For example, if you were the highly-responsible child in the family and are now handling your parent’s care, your siblings may feel that you have everything covered with your aging parent, and not know how to help. Just as you would want to be acknowledged for the person you are today, rather than how you were characterized in the past, it is necessary to acknowledge that these labels may have a damaging effect on the sibling relationship. A question to ask yourself in your communications with family members is whether your feelings or opinions are based on the present situation or are remnants of the past relationship. Be mindful that you are offering space for your siblings to contribute in the way they can.

Relationship with the Parent in Care

Your siblings have a different relationship with your parent than you do therfore they may have different needs in caring for your parent. If your sibling has resentments towards your parent that are coming up at this emotional time, resist judging them for their feelings as we all have our own individual process of letting go. It may be helpful to reframe how the siblings views the role at hand. Express your own need for assistance and ask for their support in your role as primary caregiver, if they cannot offer this to your parent.

In another common scenario, your parent may have helped resolve any disagreements among your siblings. Now with your parent unable to intervene, your siblings might need to devise new communication and conflict management strategies.

Communication

Effective communication is important to ensure trust and transparency between your brothers and sisters. Your siblings can provide helpful input in the decisions you face as the primary caregiver. Regular and consistent communication with your family members (especially those that live out of town) can alleviate tension between siblings. Some primary caregivers may send regular email updates to siblings, or make use the apps such as Tyze now available for managing the care of a loved one. Communication can also motivate people to contribute and ensures that each family member is on the same page with the care of your parent.

A family meeting can help establish new patterns and build trust with your siblings for your abilities to care for your parent. If needed, a counselor or psychologist can help facilitate your family meeting to ensure turn-taking in talking and guide the process towards a productive outcome.

Be aware that each sibling is processing the emotional situation of their parent relationship at their own speed and to the best of their abilities. You can help to create a better connection with your family by providing positive feedback when siblings help, listening intently to what your siblings say, and by clarifying issues as soon as they arise. This does not mean that you have to compromise your own feelings in the relationship; rather, you have a duty to express yourself in an honest and non-accusatory way that. If in the end, your siblings are still not responding to your efforts, it may be time to step back and recognize their limitations in caregiving. At times, you may have to take on the role without any assistance of family members. If this is your situation, reach out for the support of the caregiving community to ensure your own needs are being met.

Come by and borrow these library resources:

  • Caring for your Parents: The Complete Family Guide (Book) by Hugh Delehanty and Elinor Ginzler
  • Family Meeting: A Media-Based Approach to Planning Care for Family Elders (DVD) by Sheri Hartman and David Kleber
  • Online: Handling the Sibling Relationship (Podcast), http://archcare.ecarediary.com/CommentRadioShow.aspx?id=215

 

By Lindsay Kwan

*Adapted from the July/August 2016 Family Caregivers’ Grapevine

Resistance to Care

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While many of us are willing to help a family member or friend, sometimes that help is resisted or declined all together.  Everyone one has the right to refuse help, but it can be worrisome when there could be a risk of harm.

Resistance to help can have a number or causes. The family member who has up until now lived a lifetime of self sufficiency may find accepting help a blow to self esteem. They may worry about their ability to afford extra care or special equipment.

The following suggestions may help:

Have an open discussion. Ask if there are specific tasks that the person needs help with. Share your observations and thoughts about what kind of help they could use. For example, “ I notice you become short of breath when you work in the garden. How about if we found someone to do the heavy lifting for you?”

Share your concerns. You may say, “I would feel so much better if you had some help with the house work. I know it really tires you out.” Or, “I worry that you might fall. Would you be willing to use a walker when you do your errands?”

Supply information. Gather reading material that your family member can review  on their own time and at their own pace.

Don’t rush. In so many instances accepting help is like issuing a visible public statement that you have become less able. It may take a while to get used to the idea of using aids like wheelchairs or a hearing aids.

Seek reinforcements. If you are the only one making a suggestion, it may carry less weight than if others voice the same concern. Family meetings can be a good way to open discussion. Go along to doctors’ appointments and raise your concerns while you’re there; your worries may be eased or validated.

When someone we care about rejects what we think is best, we may have to take a second look at what we are asking and why. Is the person in danger? Have we explored all the alternatives? If the person is a competent adult, don’t they have a right to accept risk?

Our role as caregivers is to care and it can be distressing to stand by while a family member rejects the help we think they need. With a little creativity and patience we can hopefully arrive at a solution that’s acceptable to everyone.

 

By Josie Padro

How to Work through Anger

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When someone is asked to think of a difficult emotion, anger might be the first one to come to mind. Anger doesn’t feel great in our bodies. It might make our throat tighten, our palms sweat, and our hearts race. Unleashing anger might feel good momentarily because you’re letting go of pent-up energy, but it can have extremely damaging effects if not let out in a healthy way. Angry words can hurt people – angry actions even more so.

It’s okay to feel angry. Really – it is. Anger is your body and mind’s way of signalling that something is not right and that you need to pay attention to what’s wrong right now. 

The trick is being able to tap in to your intuition so you can work through the anger and address what’s causing it. Anger is a secondary emotion; it is always caused by something else. When you can identify what’s causing it, you can begin to work through and let go of anger.

Think of a movie you love with a very angry main character. There’s probably a catalyst moment in the film where the actor sprints down the street in the rain, gets in to a physical or verbal fight, or enacts some sort of revenge on the person or people they’re angry with. Now, what does that person do after they’ve lashed out? 9 times out of 10, they cry. The anger needed to be released so they could address the underlying emotion that was causing them to be so angry: sadness, jealousy, frustration, etc.

Holding on to anger or releasing it in ways that are harmful to yourself or others can be hugely detrimental to our well-being. When we feel angry, our adrenal glands produce cortisol (aka “the stress hormone”). This can help us greatly if we are, say, being attacked by a bear and need to defend ourselves. The trouble comes when cortisol is being released in to our bodies constantly. High cortisol levels have been connected to sleep disturbances, weight gain, mood swings and depression, and more.

So, what do you do when you’re angry? Your response will depend on a number of factors: who you’re with, where you are, your overall emotional state, and how equipped you are to deal with what you’re feeling. Here are a few over arching tips for dealing with anger:

RELEASE | The first thing to do when you’re feeling angry is to figure out the best way to release it so you can work through what’s causing it. This is a good time to tap in to those self-care tools you have available – but they may need to be tweaked depending on what you need. You know yourself best! What helps you let go? For some, it’s screaming in to a pillow. Others go for brisk walks or runs, dance with abandon to a favourite song, or swim laps at the pool. You could also call a safe person to vent or write all of your emotions down in a journal that no one will read. It’s important to note that if you’re with the person who’s making you angry, going for a run or writing in a journal might not be available to you. Take some calming, deep breaths if you can, or consider just walking away or telling the person you’re with that you need some time to yourself.

ADDRESS WHAT’S CAUSING THE ANGER | Did your loved one say something that made you want to explode? Did a doctor tell you you’ll have to wait even longer for a referral? This is a great time to use “I feel” statements. Take a deep breath, and let them know how you’re feeling. This prevents the other person from becoming defensive, and can help them to address your needs. Read more about “I feel” statements here. If you’re alone and notice you’re feeling angry, or that you have been feeling that way for awhile, really take some time to think about what’s causing it. Often, it’s that you’re sad or frustrated at a situation you don’t have control over, or feel that you don’t have control over. You could be grieving changes in a loved one, or feeling frustrated because so much is being asked of you.

MAKE A PLAN | If your anger is in response to a particular event, addressing why you’re feeling the way that you are with the person or people involved can help prevent it from happening again. If, however, your anger is due to underlying or lingering issues, it’s time to make a plan to help prevent you from reaching a breaking point again. For example, maybe you’ve realised that you’re feeling angry because a lot is being asked of you and you have not had a break. If this is the case, look in to respite, or create a plan with family members to delegate responsibilities.

Managing anger is a complex process, and you do not have to do it alone! Remember to reach out to a caregiver support program, counsellor, or therapist if you’re needing some more support.

What do you do to manage anger? We’d love to hear and learn 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

How to Diffuse Frustration

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Frustration is a frustrating emotion.

When you get caught in a wave of it, it can feel hard to break free. You might feel stuck, and that feeling could cause more frustration. If left unchecked, you might lose sight of why you felt frustrated in the first place, which makes it very hard to work through your emotions.

Frustration is a primary emotion, which means that it is an emotion often expressed as other emotions, such as anger. If you can take some time to diffuse frustration before it’s expressed as anger, you have a better chance of communicating more effectively with your family, co-workers, friends, or loved one.

The next time you’re feeling frustrated, try following the steps below to diffuse and work through the challenging emotion.

BREATHE | Acknowledge that you’re feeling frustrated and pause, wherever you are. Even if you’re in the middle of a conversation or sitting in traffic. Name the emotion, and take a deep breath in, and out. Breathe all your air to expand your belly as big as it will stretch, then blow the air out forcefully through your lips. If you’re able to, let out a loud sigh. Do what grounds you. For some it is deep breathing, for others it is a walk in the forest, playing music, or exerting some energy exercising.

REFLECT | Now it’s time to figure out why you’re feeling frustrated. There might be several reasons, and that’s okay. Talk yourself through the layers that have built up to make you feel this way. Chances are, you have a lot on your plate. Did you say yes to something you didn’t want to? Are you feeling unsupported? Are you waiting for answers about your loved one’s condition? You can’t solve it all at once, but identifying the source of frustration can help you to come up with a plan to address it.

REACH OUT | Now that you’ve identified where your frustration is coming from, it’s time to get support. What kind of support you will need depends on your unique situation. Maybe you need so carve out some time for self-care, or perhaps you have not been getting enough sleep and need to take some steps to ensure you get a good night’s rest. If you’re feeling that you need some help caring for your loved one, you might need to talk to their support team and ask them to help out. Sometimes what you need might just be to connect with other caregivers who are experiencing similar situations. Talking, sharing, and connecting can do wonders to help manage frustration.

What steps do you take to diffuse frustration? We’d love to hear from you in our comments!

 

Cassandra Van Dyck