Quality of Life
A 2012 issue of AARP The Magazine contained an exceptional and gritty article about caregiving. The focus is primarily on the role a spouse plays in taking care of a dying spouse – in this case, a wife with ovarian cancer – but the caregiver may also be attending to an ailing spouse or parent with a debilitating disease such as Alzheimer’s or other dementia.
It’s the one vow that can really come back and bite you in the butt: “…in sickness and in health.” On your wedding day the phrase conjures up visions of tiptoeing into a sun-drenched bedroom with lunch on a tray for your wife…What you don’t expect it to mean is crouching in the harsh fluorescent glare of a hospital treatment room and holding her head to yours, trying not to faint as a technician inserts a large needle between her ribs to suction two liters of fluid from her lungs.”
The role of a caregiver is one that not many will be able to avoid. Currently across America 43.5 million people are caring for a loved one who is 50 years or older. I’ve done it. My brother’s done it. Chances are, you’re doing it too.
AARP Caregiving Resource Center is a magnificent tool for all of you who are involved in caregiving. If you’re sitting there saying you don’t have time to check out this caregiving resource, you need it more than you can imagine.
Please start taking care of yourself and check out the resources that have been developed just for you.
This is a well-written piece from my local newspaper, the Seattle Times. There’s a similar article in a recent Newsweek issue entitled American Women Have It Wrong or “Why women should stop trying to be perfect” that discusses the struggle in which many of us women find ourselves – regardless of the generation – thinking we can do it all, trying to do so, and paying the price.
Both articles are worth the read and at the very least will provide great dinner-table conversation opportunities.
The start of October is fast approaching so it’s time to see what is in store for us. I have many October occasions to tell you about in this posting, starting with those somewhat unknown ones associated in general with the month of October:
- Adopt a shelter dog month
- Clergy appreciation month
- Eat country ham month
- Cookie Month
- National popcorn popping month
- National vegetarian month
- National pizza month and, appropriately
- Sarcastic Month
Now a few day-specific “celebrations:”
- October 2: National custodial worker day
- October 2: Name your car/automobile day
- October 3: Virus appreciation day (Sickness virus or computer virus????)
- October 5: Do something nice day
- October 7: Bald and free day
- October 7: World smile day
- October 9: Moldy cheese day (I guess this could also be a co-celebration of Clean out the fridge day?)
- October 12: Moment of frustration day
- October 13: International skeptics day (I don’t believe it)
- October 17: Wear something gaudy day
- October 19: Evaluate your life day
- October 22: National nut day (the edible or the friend-type?)
- October 27: Make a difference day
- October 30: National candy corn day
- October 31: Increase your psychic powers day (I bet you already knew that)
There were so many I could have posted but I just put a few out there, hoping that you have more to add.
In my opinion, the article linked above paints a clear picture of what the 47 percent might encompass. As with any situation for which we have little understanding or exposure, it’s healthy to see what the flesh and blood of the situation equates to – put a face on it.
Making a generalization that those who don’t pay federal taxes are taking unfair advantage of government handouts seems so inaccurate – I guess that’s what generalizations are: inaccurate attempts (oversimplifications) to state something about which we have no understanding. Just about everyone with whom I associate has gone through difficult times – financial and otherwise – at some time in their lives. Not everyone stays hungry and without the means to get by – as if they would choose to remain that way year after year after year.
The above article introduces us to
- a 76-year old woman who works but is not able to pay her electricity bill;
- a well-dressed man with a Master’s degree in engineering who needs help with his rent who was very embarrassed to ask for help; and
- a woman battling cancer and diabetes at risk of losing a leg.
These individuals are not second-class citizens just because they’re going through a rough patch in life. I don’t consider myself a bad person because in the mid-1980’s I was laid off from my job as a program director at a cable TV company and had to collect unemployment insurance while looking for a replacement job. That time was temporary – as many trying times in life are.
Does this mean that everyone in need of a handout represents the “better angels of our culture?” No, there will always be those who try to bilk the system – heck, the big bankers and financiers did that very recently – and arguably, still are – and they certainly weren’t dining at the downtown food kitchen or struggling to pay their utility bills. We might categorize them as second-class citizens because of their greediness, but I dare say they look vastly different from those portrayed so cavalierly in the political arena during this current election season.
The above video is amazingly dramatic and not just because it’s so well done and the music is so compelling. It’s dramatic because it speaks of facts about Alzheimer’s and other dementia that are hard to wrap your mind around.
Here’s one fact I’ll provide, and then I encourage you to watch this two minute video to increase your awareness of this insidious disease.
The Fact: there are 15 million caregivers currently living in America. If caregivers were the only residents in one of the states in the United States, they would completely populate the state of Illinois – the 5th largest state in the country.
Awareness is key – pass this link on to others so that greater attention is placed on this disease that is the ONLY cause of death among the top 10 causes of death in America without a way to prevent, cure, or even slow its progression.
I congratulate Chris MacLellan, the Blogger whose article is linked above, for coming to the realization that:
- caregiving is a noble and worthwhile job; and
- caregiving can be bad for one’s health.
All of us at one time or another have turned the focus away from our own well-being onto that of others to the detriment of our emotional and physical health. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t attend to the needs of others – we must if we’re to be a supportive society – but it’s important to be aware of what we personally need in order to remain healthy. It’s a difficult balance to reach, but it can be done.
My article, “Caregiver: put on your oxygen mask first” addresses the mistaken notion that we can do it all. We can’t. Our reserves will always run low and our fuel tank will always near empty unless we feed ourselves with that which sustains us. Chris discovered what he needed to do. I hope we all come up with the winning formula that allows us to take care of ourselves while we take care of others.
Katie Couric is redesigning her news career with a daytime talk show; and Jeff Probst of the “Survivor” television series has done the same. I guess you don’t have to be a normal non-celebrity middle class person to be bored or unsatisfied with life to have an excuse to recreate yourself.
In my article, “Creating the next chapter of your life” I focus on the tendency of some of us to seek new ways in which to express ourselves and/or additional ways in which to make an impact on our small portion of the world. This is certainly a topic that rarely leaves my thought process as witnessed by some of the other articles I’ve written, including: “Dragonfly: a well-lived brief lifetime,” and “Voices of the Bored Retirees.”
But I’m not the only one who is currently redefining or recreating ones life.
I am personally acquainted with a 79-year old woman, a 64-year old man, and a 63-year old, 59-year old, and 36-year old woman, who are actively pursuing a transition from one chapter of their lives to the next. Personally, I feel that such a pursuit is good for the psyche; it brings a fresh outlook on what we’re still able to accomplish, and, equally as important, might prove beneficial to others as we stretch our wings – and perhaps even our comfort zone – in our efforts to make the most of our talents.
Does this mean that if a person spends decades in the same career they are less evolved or community-focused?
Hell no. I happen to be married to a wonderful man who has been with the same company since he graduated from college more than 30 years ago, and not only is he doing all he can, and then some, in his career, he also reaches out to others for whom his other non-job skills – and there are many – can be used. And boy do we need those dedicated employees in this world who are not only committed to their chosen career path but who also defy the odds – and improve the economic forecast – by staying with the same employer. I’m glad some of you are doing that, and doing it so very well.
I think I can credit, and thank, my limited attention span for the catalyst that keeps me on the look out for that “something else” that might be out there for me to do. Fortunately, most of the reboots I’ve experienced have worked out for the better. Not all of them are money-makers, but I can honestly say that they have all had a more positive than negative impact on the world around me. I’m the only one who has to account for whether or not I’ve been a “good and faithful servant” of this life that I’ve been given and I’m committed to keep trying until I get it right.