Welcome. So glad you’ve stopped by. How about a cup of coffee, green tea with honey and lemon, or what the heck, a dry martini?

No one knows better than I that “caregiver” is just one way to describe us. We’re also teachers and artists, writers and readers, students of life, and the bearers of hard-won wisdom. We are parents, pet lovers, siblings, spouses, sons, daughters, and friends who know how to support and encourage each other. So, let’s embrace all the things we are, not only the caregiver part. I can’t wait to get started. Hope you feel the same.

4/21/2017

What’s In A Name?

Colleen Kavanaugh super-denier

For my guest, Colleen Kavanaugh, being a working mother, a daughter, and a partner are a few of the identities she’s comfortable with. But, when taking on the heavy responsibilities of advocating for a mom with Stage-4 breast cancer and a dad with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, she wasn’t quite ready to add “caregiver” to the list.  The result was a situation where she ended up doing everything on her own, with no safety net of support. Sound familiar? Founder of The Longest Dance , both a certified caregiving consultant and a certified dementia communication specialist, Colleen is also a daughter who has walked a mile in many of our shoes. I’m so pleased to share her story and the powerful lessons she’s learned in this first of a two-part interview. 

What were the circumstances in which you found yourself in the role of caregiver? This question always puts a line from The Talking Heads song, Once In A Lifetime into my head, “And you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?” During my decade of caregiving I asked myself that question, in David Byrne singsong cadence, over and over again. Caregiving was certainly never an activity on my list of things to do, that’s for certain. I look at my tenure as a family caregiver as what insurance policies call an “Act of God”, like a storm that you hear happening to other towns but never yours. My parents were diagnosed with diseases and needed care. Period. No choice. No picking what is behind door #2 after door #1 had been opened. To reductively sum up my caregiving storm in one run-on sentence…. I was a 34-year old newly divorced parent of a toddler, working full time when I began caring for my mom who was diagnosed (and lived a prognosis defying 3 years) with stage-4 breast cancer and within 9 months of her dying, I began caring for my widowed dad who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, all the while attempting to live my own life (which now included a new partner and his two children) while dismantling my parent’s very complicated lives.In the midst of it, not unlike being in the middle of a catastrophic storm, I was unable to control the forecast (the diagnosis), but only able to control how I dealt with storm prep and clean up.

What was the most difficult part of caregiving? Was there a positive side to it? If so, please describe. The most difficult part of caregiving, for me, was acknowledging that I was a caregiver. This denial was detrimental to my getting the support I should have gotten in order to manage the stress that I wore around my neck like an invisible barnacle. Even during the times when a parent’s care consumed my life, I was still a mother, partner, daughter, employee, volunteer and active daydreamer. I think part of denying my role was that I ultimately did not want to be doing what I was doing. And what I was ultimately doing was watching my parents die from terminal, degenerative illnesses. Who wants “Death Sherpa” on their business card? I certainly didn’t. That said, the flip side of my business card would have read, “Life Igniter” because, amid the intensity of the worries, endless to-do’s, and perpetual grieving, I truly learned how to live. I met death close up and it whispered to me that I needed to make the most of the unknown time I have left. The intensity of emotions and situations that exist within caregiving are a nonstop roller coaster ride of grueling climbs to a pinnacle that once reached, hurl you off the top into a descent that you can not prevent, control, or escape. It’s nausea inducing at first but slowly, over time, it becomes your new normal and you are no longer getting motion sick at each free fall (or in a caregiver’s case, each health decline, hospital visit, 911 call, or middle of the night crisis). When my caregiving ride was finally over, I knew I could not just walk away from all that I had learned. If an ounce of my experience could be of value to another family caregiver, I needed to share it and give others the practical support and encouragement I so often wished I had, but didn’t know I needed.

 

Please come back for Part 2 of our interview on Friday, April 28th. In the meantime, be sure to check out Colleen’s website to learn more about the services she offers to caregivers, and sign up to receive some valuable (and free) organizational tools for making life a bit easier.

4/3/2017

A Recipe for Caregiving

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A giving heart
A very large purse
Strength you didn’t know you had
Enough humor to get you through tough times
Headlights and Dramamine for this roller coaster ride in the dark
Compassion – not just for others, but for yourself
Confidence that you’re doing your best in situations where no easy answer exists
A nickel for every time you have to keep your mouth shut to keep the peace
A belief that you will be ok, no matter what

What would you add?!?

2/5/2017

An Interview With April Koontz

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I’m so pleased to post this recent interview with April Koontz, creator of  DaughtersUnite, “a place where daughters can turn for streamlined information and support from other daughters who have already walked this journey.” April’s open and honest story is one that many of us can relate to as we care for a family member, or two, or three. And I love her belief in the collective wisdom and knowledge that we can share to support and encourage each other. I also want to thank April for the beautiful illustration she designed especially for this piece. It’s a true reflection of warmth and spirit.    

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You’ve mentioned before that identifying as a caregiver came as a surprise to you.  What were the circumstances when you first realized that you were a caregiver?  I was the primary caregiver for my younger brother who suffered from severe bipolar disorder and polysubstance addiction for over 15 years prior to his sudden unintentional overdose in 2010. During his illness I never once identified as his “primary caregiver”. The term was never brought up by any of his treatment providers and it’s actually not a term that is used as much in the mental health arena. All I knew at the time was that I was his sister who happened to have a Masters Degree in Social Work and knew better than anyone else in my family how to navigate the mental health system. Five years after my brother’s death, my mom’s sister (my aunt) who lived in St Louis and was the primary caregiver for her husband (my uncle) who had Alzheimer’s, fell and broke her ankle. It was Christmas Eve and my aunt and uncle had no children and were fairly isolated because of my uncle’s hoarding disorder. Subsequently, my mom and I flew from Raleigh to St Louis the day after Christmas to provide as much support as we could. When we arrived, we realized there was no way the two of them could continue to safely live in their home. Within two months, we moved them across the country which was truly the most monumental job I’ve ever had in my entire life. My aunt has a multitude of chronic medical conditions herself so establishing medical providers, transferring their Medicare and actually providing ‘hands on’ care to both of them in addition to managing the sell of their home, cars and financial accounts was indescribably stressful. It was during this time that I was exposed to the ‘primary caregiver’ label and the plethora of caregiving resources and support available. The issue then was there was so much information that I was completely overwhelmed again.

What has been the most difficult part of caregiving? What has been the most positive? The most difficult part was the all-consuming nature of it. My mind was completely hi-jacked by every aspect of two other people’s lives including their physical and emotional health needs, their legal and financial needs and their 1800 square feet of wall-to-wall ‘stuff’. For two years I was sorting through mounds of bank accounts, IRAs, credit cards, life insurance policies, subscriptions, prescriptions, utility accounts, car titles and filling out new patient forms for every new provider each one of them established treatment with – which was a total of at least eight. Oh, and the grocery shopping, rides to and from their medical appointments, coordinating their care with their specific providers, picking up their prescriptions and remembering to have them refilled, bathing them, cleaning up their incontinence episodes, figuring out why their TV wouldn’t turn on or why their Internet was down and rushing over when one of them would fall. My uncle died of a sudden heart attack three months after their move which was definitely a blessing in disguise since his Alzheimer’s was worsening – however, I was then tasked with managing all of the activities that go along with a person’s death.

The most positive part was that I knew I was supposed to be helping them. The day my aunt called to say she had fallen and broken her ankle, I felt compelled – like I was being divinely nudged – to go help them. Throughout the process I’ve learned that stepping in as a primary caregiver can often be a very sacred experience. For me, it was about the human experience of walking along side a person during their darkest hours. Even though there have been many days that I’ve questioned where I’d find the strength and perseverance to make it through the day – it’s somehow always been there. Another incredibly positive aspect has been what I’ve learned and the amazing  tribe of caregivers out there who have been transformed by their own caregiving experience and want nothing more than to help others.

What would your advice be to someone who is new to this journey? Get armed with knowledge. Get real about who you are and what you value most in your day to day life. Get connected with others who have walked or are currently walking this journey. And, last, but not least, get clear on your personal boundaries. The last one is a huge one. We’re often thrown into the role of ‘caregiver’ as a result of a crisis. Our loved one falls or has a stroke or is diagnosed with cancer or dementia, etc. and we’re flooded with emotions and adrenaline that fuels our desire for action to help in any way we can. This is a great gift, but, it’s not sustainable over the long-haul. If we jump in with both feet without having established a support network ahead of time that can fill in when we need rest – we burn out very quickly. And there’s nothing worse than experiencing caregiver burnout. It’s exhausting, depressing, anxiety producing and leads to our own serious health issues.

What’s the biggest challenge facing caregivers, today? From my experience, caregiving happens in stages and there are challenges in each stage, but the biggest challenge is not being prepared. We’re not taught (at least in the U.S.) about how to embrace – much less, face the fact that if we don’t die suddenly we’ll all eventually get sick and die. As a result, we don’t take the time to think through and plan for how we’ll manage the caregiving duties we all will eventually face in our lifetime. There is no getting around it. Unless we’re complete loners who live in the wilderness or extraordinarily wealthy and can hire a personal staff of caregivers we’ll eventually end up in the caregiver role in some way, shape or form. We also don’t think about who will care for us and the demands our caregiving needs will have one those we love. I was deeply struck by a question a dear friend of mine named George Fuller, the founder of Silver Compassion asked me: “Who in your life will change your diapers?”. That’s a profound question and speaks to the need to think ahead and actually have these types of conversations with our core people in our lives. If you don’t want a loved one changing your diapers then you better save enough money to ensure that doesn’t happen. The reality is most of us won’t be able to financially afford 24/7 professional care and someone we know and love will fill this role. Who will that be for you? Whose diapers will you agree to change?

What made you want to create Daughters Unite? What’s your vision for Daughters Unite moving forward? In June 2015, I was sitting in a continuing education seminar about elder law. At one point, the attorney who was facilitating the seminar starting talking about the fact that it’s typically the daughter who ends up in the primary caregiver role for the family. On average, the daughter is 49 years old, employed, married and, according to one Metlife study, experiences a negative inheritance of $324,000 due to giving up promotions, moving to part-time hours or leaving the workforce altogether. I was completely stunned. I had managed my brother’s care, moved my aunt and uncle across country and have aging parents who I’m certain will need my help at some point down the road. It was at that point that I decided I needed to somehow pull my fellow daughters together. Since launching Daughters Unite, I’ve now realized three very important things: 1) Daughters don’t recognize themselves as caregivers until well into the caregiving process; 2) Since they don’t initially know they’re a caregiver – they miss the tons of information and support that’s available for them as “caregivers” when they need it most; and, 3) There are way more Millennial Daughters in the role of caregiver than we knew existed. That being said, I’ve had the privilege of meeting several amazing daughters turned caregivers turned entrepreneurs who have written books about their caregiving experience, developed training programs for caregivers and/or offer caregiving coaching services. The ultimate vision is to build the Daughter Dream Team and introduce the products, programs and services these experienced Daughters have created to the Daughters who have yet to realize they either are or will be a caregiver.

It’s easy to lose our other selves when we’re caregiving.  Share something about you that is unrelated to the caregiving role. I’d say my greatest passion in life is music. Beginning in my teenage years, throughout every decade so far – I’ve been singing in rock bands and writing songs. I’m actually in the studio right now working on a collection of songs that have really been my saving grace as I’ve worked through my grief over the sudden deaths of my 34 year old brother and 53 year old cousin who was a close friend of mine. I’m thrilled with how these songs are turning out from a production standpoint and can’t wait to launch the album.

Artists aren’t the only ones with creative gifts. For some it’s painting, or music. For others its making people feel comfortable or cared for. What’s your gift? I believe one of my gifts that I’ve noticed as I’ve gotten older is my ability to show up for people in their darkest hour and actually ‘stay’ with them in their sadness and grief. I’m comfortable walking with others through the sudden hospitalization or death of a loved one and helping oversee the detailed arrangements or other logistics that are needed. The ability to do this is actually an incredible gift to me.

April can be reached via:

FB:  https://www.facebook.com/daughtertribe/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/DaughtersUnite

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/daughters_unite/

Website:  https://daughtersunite.com/

 

10/21/2016

Living An Artful Life

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When someone asked my mother who or what was most dear to her, the two-fold answer was given without any hesitation. My siblings and I came first, and art was second.

Always focused on the positives in her life,  she embraced family, friends, and a variety of painting mediums, in much the same fashion – with profound appreciation and attention to the qualities that made them unique. Her signature work was all rich jewel tones and welcoming flowers, which, over time, offered a visual reflection of her personal journey as both a woman and an artist.

When she died in 2013, her supplies came home with me. It didn’t matter if, or when they might be used again. What I needed most were her well-worn paintbrushes standing at hopeful attention in a favorite coffee mug, and those boxes of brightly smudged tubes of paint.

Working through the grief, I threw myself into writing a guide book about caring for both my parents in their final years; giving workshops on the topic; and even creating a writer’s group especially for caregivers. It has been soul work for sure, but at the same time, I’ve yearned for something less end-result and more about finding joy in the process.

Just like the Zen saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher arrives,” this month I found my way to a glorious collage and painting class called Big Bold Blooms, given by Lynn Whipple, one of my favorite artists. The irony is not lost on me since I could kill a plastic plant if given enough time.

The old paints and brushes are thrilled to be needed again, and my collection of tissue paper and oil pastels are calling out, “Pick me! Pick me!”  Feeling my mom’s presence close at hand, the first piece emerges in a mix of ripe purples, greens and turquoise, with a few tiny buttons thrown in for good measure.  Is it perfect? No. Do I care? Not a bit. Discarding judgment and being open to wonder are the real goals here.

Thanks to Carla Sonheim, a private Face Book page has been created for Bloomers, as we’re known, to share our progress. The wildly diverse styles and colors are breathtaking, and so is the generosity of spirit towards sister painters, from newbies to professionals, around the globe.

Starting with the warm and wonderful Lynn, our gifted guide, everyone’s words are kind, the encouragement is enthusiastic, and for those going through difficult times, there is comfort and compassion to be found.

Every day, I become more enchanted with each creative session, and with my gracious teacher and classmates, as well.  Like my mother, they understand that living an artful life is not just about learning to paint. It’s about celebrating each other with an open heart.

Carla and Lynn’s websites: You’ll want to check them both out.

http://www.carlasonheim.com

http://www.lynnwhipple.com 

10/3/2016

The Cone of Uncertainty-What I Know About Grief

stairs-of-the-sagrada-familia-cathedral-barcelona-1228081-640x480

When I first moved to Florida many years ago, the expression “Cone of Uncertainty” caught my attention. During hurricane season, it refers to the cone-shaped path that a storm might potentially follow at any given time. In other words, the weather forecasters can’t really pinpoint when or where it might land.

Turns out, that’s also a way to describe how we grieve.

Those familiar with Elizabeth Kubler-Ross know that she divides the process of grief into five stages – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. To that neat package, I say, “If only it were so simple.” Imagine being able to identify that you’re angry with only two more stages to go, or feeling depressed, but relieved that acceptance is just around the corner. Unfortunately, it’s not that linear. Grief will pinch your heart months or years later walking into the hardware store and smelling pipe tobacco, or driving in the car listening to the radio and hearing a parent’s favorite tune. It is not always loud or obvious, and surprisingly not a constant.

Sometimes deep sadness is coupled with a mix of other emotions. If a parent was suffering you feel at peace knowing their pain is gone. You may be relieved that the stress and challenges of caregiving are at an end, yet at the same time feel unmoored because the concentration and energy you devoted to this job are no longer required. For caregivers in particular, grief can sometimes seem insurmountable for this very reason.

In times of great loss, regret can often keep us stuck. The death of a parent is the death of hope. You may have longed for a different relationship with them. One in which you said or heard, “I love you,” or “thank you,” more often. Our parents also tend to be the keepers of family history and with their deaths we lose our connection to the past.

Guilt is another difficult emotion to overcome. You wonder if you did enough or should have done things differently. Harsh words were spoken and apologies are too late. Now is the time to remember you’re only human. Being the perfect child is just as unrealistic as being the perfect caregiver. Stop judging yourself. Instead create something positive out the negative. Maybe your father liked his cats more than his kids. Make a donation to The Humane Society to honor his memory. Maybe you wished your mother had spent more time with you as a child. Look into becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister or volunteer as a reader to kids at the local elementary school. I’m not suggesting you leap into anything immediately, but there are ways of softening the guilt and regret that attach themselves to the death of a parent.

Keep in mind that the experience of losing a mother or father will be different for every sibling. It depends on your relationship with that parent; what words remained unspoken; and how you viewed your contribution to their well-being, not just at the end, but throughout their lives.

Anniversaries of a death or certain holidays can be tough. A year after my Dad died, I raised a glass of wine, played Puccini’s Madame Butterfly (our favorite opera) and said, “Daddeo, wherever you are, I hope it’s interesting.” He was fond of telling me that heaven seemed like a very boring place. On Mother’s Day, I do all the things my mother loved to do – thrift shopping, listening to Barbara Streisand CD’s in the car, eating lunch at Too Jay’s, then I come home and tell her ashes all about it.

If you don’t want to be alone, plan ahead to get together with people who will be emotionally available for you. Just like everyone grieves differently, your friends, family and co-workers will support you in different ways. Not everyone can be a good listener when you need to talk through the grief. Some people are better with concrete tasks like bringing over dinner or taking care of a chore you’ve been putting off.

Midway through the experience of attending to both my parents, what concerned me was something that often occurs with caregivers. Our identities merge with the task of caring both physically and emotionally for an aging parent and at some point the question arises – “Who will we be when the caregiving ends?”  You might discover this type of service is something you’re really good at and you want to do more. For someone else, the idea of being responsible for another living creature, even if it’s just a pet, is way too much. The point is to be gentle with yourself, no matter what you feel.

Keep in mind, there’s no set timetable for grieving and no right way to do it. Give yourself permission to experience moments of joy amidst the mourning. It does occur. Don’t try to be all things to all people. If that means a moratorium on helping others deal with the loss, so be it. If you need help, ask for it – from clergy, from friends, a support group or a grief counselor.

Grief, which is so often muddied with guilt, regret and anger, can be exhausting. Doing what we can to make things right with our parents before it’s too late, opens us to the possibility of experiencing what Mary Pipher, psychologist and author, refers to as “good, clean sorrow.” It’s certainly something to hope for.

Excerpt from The Dutiful Daughter’s Guide to Caregiving

Photo by Carlos Koblischek

8/28/2016

Should Your Parent Have a DNR?

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During the six years I cared for my mom, her trips to the Emergency Room became more frequent. Depending on the issue, the first thing out of my mouth on arrival would sometimes be, “She has a DNR on file, and I have a copy in my purse.” Sometimes, people would look at me strangely or with judgment, because they didn’t understand what was behind those words – that I loved my mother deeply, and she trusted me to make her written instructions known, regardless of how much it hurt.

How fortunate I was that both my mother and father were open to discussing and completing legal papers outlining all their end-of-life decisions, not only a DNR. Particularly during a medical crisis, it removed the burden from my shoulders of having to guess what they wanted.

Until my parents’ health began to decline, my knowledge about this document was limited. It’s clearly a very personal choice – one that should be made with an understanding of the procedures involved and their limitations. Below are answers to common questions that will hopefully aid in making an informed decision.

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What is a DNR? DNR stands for Do Not Resuscitate. It states that medical personnel should not perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if a person stops breathing or if their heart stops beating. If no DNR is in place, then any healthcare facility or personnel is legally required to attempt life saving measures.

Why is a DNR so critical? It has to do with the effectiveness of CPR procedures, which can include mouth-to-mouth resuscitation coupled with strong chest compressions, electric shock, inserting a tube into a patient’s mouth or nose to open up airways, and even open-chest heart massage. If someone is already in a compromised state of health due to age and illness, CPR can cause more harm than good. Statistics range, but all point to the fact that as we grow older and typically, more frail, the effectiveness of CPR diminishes in terms of increasing chances of survival or improving quality of life.

Is a DNR part of a Living Will? Just like a Living Will and Health Care Proxy, a DNR is considered a form of Advance Directive. It is, however, a separate document that only relates to the two specific conditions noted earlier – when a person stops breathing or goes into cardiac arrest. Like all Advanced Directives, it should be completed well ahead of a medical emergency.

Where is a DNR obtained? Considered a physician’s order, it’s important to obtain a DNR Order directly from a physician or hospital in the state your parent resides. A DNR is not valid unless signed by both your parent and the doctor. There should also be ample time given for meaningful discussion by everyone concerned, including whoever holds the position of Healthcare Proxy. If, due to illness or injury, a parent is unable to express their wishes concerning a DNR, in most cases, their Healthcare Proxy is permitted to sign instead.

Also, different states require that the form be printed on a specific color of paper prior to being signed. For example, in Florida, DNR’s must be printed on yellow paper. If not, medical personnel can actually opt to ignore this directive.

Is there only one type of DNR? In some states, a DNR that is completed in a hospital or nursing facility is not valid if a person is discharged to home care. In this case, a home DNR should also be completed and clearly placed where it can be seen by medical personnel entering the residence. Some hospitals may even require that this form be completed every time your parent is admitted. Make sure to ask for clarification.

Can a DNR be revoked? Yes, it can be recalled if your parent chooses to do so, but any facility, physician or other individual who has the DNR on file should be notified, and all existing copies destroyed.

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There’s no question that bringing up the subject of end-of-life choices, in general, is one of the most intimate and important talks we can initiate as family caregivers, and likely the hardest. Yet, the reality is that honoring a parent’s wishes may well be the most profound gift we can give them, and in doing so, find some measure of comfort for ourselves.

8/14/2016

Speaking Up

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Awhile back I invited my writer’s group to compose a letter to people they interact with who are not caregivers themselves. To say the flood gates opened with this assignment would be an understatement.

Responses included:

The son or daughter who never calls, or who only calls to tell you about their problems. Or maybe they rarely visit, or never ask how you or your spouse is doing?

The busy sibling who has no time to help, yet is always happy to criticize your caregiving efforts.

Numerous acquaintances who use that well-worn phrase “Let me know if you need anything,” as a sign-off to every conversation, and that’s where it stops.

The well-meaning friend who comments on how worn out you look, just when you were feeling pretty good.

The doctors who act like you and your parents are working for them, and not the other way around.

It’s clear this particular prompt struck such a nerve, and in all instances the group remarked that they stifled their responses for fear of being labeled a complainer, a troublemaker, or a bitch. I get that keeping quiet can sometimes be the better plan, but, there are many instances where we’ve simply got to speak up, because remaining silent only reinforces a status quo which is hurtful to those we love, and to ourselves.

Here are a few excerpts from my own letter, written to some of the physicians involved in my parents’ care over the course of six years. This isn’t an indictment of all doctors, for some were compassionate, generous with their time, and truly seemed to understand the challenges faced by my parents, and me as their advocate. For the record, I gladly wore the labels noted above and did share a few of these comments with healthcare personnel.

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Dear Medical Professional,

Before we begin, please fill out this ten page form of very tiny type, documenting your qualifications. Already completed this for the last caregiver? Sorry, I’ll need you to do it all over again. You’ve been waiting to see me for an hour? Well, everyone knows that a 9 o’clock appointment really means 10.

Do not automatically assume that all patients in their late 80’s have no capacity to understand what you’re telling them. Also, be prepared to answer a list of questions about side effects, expectations of recovery, etc. after you propose a risky surgery or procedure. Never use the enticement, “You’re not paying for this. It’s covered by Medicare.” Where do you think Medicare gets their money?

Please refer to elderly patients as Mr. or Ms. or Mrs. and not by their first names, or as the UTI or cardiac cath in room 202. Surviving this country’s health care system thus far, entitles them to a great deal of respect, and you are treating a person, not a condition.

Stop saying, “How are we doing?” when a caregiver and her parent finally get to see you after sitting for two hours. WE are pretty damn tired of late night trips to the ER. How are you?

Don’t look at a caregiver and say, “You need to do such and such,” as if this person has been hanging out on the couch eating bonbons and watching soap operas, all this time. Instead, look her in the eye and ask, “And how are you holding up?”

The next time a nurse brings an elderly patient the two Tylenol you prescribed for pain due to a pelvic fracture, don’t get all huffy when the daughter/caregiver raises hell and demands to speak with another hospitalist. Prescribing opiates may not be your first choice, so do your research, or call in a pain management specialist. Just don’t minimize that patient’s distress.

To close, I get that you work long and demanding hours. As a caregiver, so do I. Maybe we can work together as a team to change things in this broken healthcare system of ours. Please accept these suggestions as a token of my commitment to this worthy goal. The next batch of suggestions will be accompanied by a bill for consulting services rendered. Payment will be due within 30 days, and FYI, I don’t accept insurance.

Respectfully,

Judith Henry

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Readers, if you’re game to give this exercise a try, pen your own letter to someone, and look closely at what you’ve written. Like the members in our writing group, you may feel a sense of relief just getting these unspoken words out of your head and onto paper. But think for a minute – is there a way to present your thoughts constructively to the person you’re writing to?  For example, instead of automatically saying, “I’m fine” to the adult kid who calls with a cursory “how are you?” be honest. To the physician who barrels in with a treatment or surgery, assuming your parent (or you) will acquiesce quietly, explain you have a list of questions prepared to be answered first.  When someone tells you, “Let me know if I can do anything,” don’t just say ok. Tell them what they can do to help, and be specific.

You never know. Your words may just start changing things for the better.