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Colon Cancer Awareness Month

 

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 Make your bottom your top priority!

 Last month My Mother’s Caregiver was approached by someone from the Canadian Cancer Society about our blog. They liked it and were interested in engaging me to help them promote Colon Cancer Awareness Month this March.

I thought about it, and it seemed like a good fit for you, my audience. Why, do you ask?

Because often caregivers do not think about themselves first, rather they’re always putting others in front of their own needs. But, caregivers need to take care of their own health in order to be able to take care of others.

For example, did you know that colon cancer is the number two cancer killer in Canada and the US, yet it is 90% treatable when caught early? That’s why it’s so important for us to get checked before symptoms appear.

In 2012, an estimated 8,700 Ontarians were diagnosed with colon cancer and approximately 3,450 people died from the disease. In comparison, the only other type of cancer that claims more lives is lung cancer.  

Getting checked for colon cancer could be as easy as taking an at-home stool test (also known as the fecal occult blood test – FOBT). And if you’re at high risk for colon cancer,talk to your doctor about other colon cancer screening options. High-risk individuals include those with a first-degree relative (parent, sibling or child) with colon cancer and other factors such as inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease).

Visit stickittocoloncancer.ca for a list of some of the risk factors. 

If you’re not at the screening age yet (which is 50+), you can send a cheeky free e-card to friends and family to remind them to get checked for colon cancer.

Let the caregiver in you ensure your loved ones are getting screened as well.

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Loving the Lost

 

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Almost two years have passed since my Mom entered the nursing home where she lives.

Those early days were pretty tough. Mom was terrified, paranoid and still battling delirium. I was terrified, guilt ridden and exhausted. But, when I think back on those days, it is the people who came alongside me that I remember the most. I have a collection of warm memories of my family, friends, church, nurses and staff holding me up during this time. But, the people that surprised me the most were the family members of other nursing home residents.

I still remember Mom’s second day at the home. Despite, the warm spring weather, Mom had parked herself in a seat near the door, wrapped up tight in a long coat and scarf – (I don’t think she was planning on staying). Knowing I had given my Mom the safest and most appropriate setting for her current circumstances, wasn’t much comfort that day. As I sat there fighting back tears, the warmest, kindest gentleman approached; a man whose wife was in the nursing home recovering from a stroke. His caring and quiet presence calmed both Mom and I.

He had that look in his eye that said, “I know your pain, you’re gonna make it.”

Over the next few months, other spouses and children also comforted and encouraged Mom and I – much more than they probably will ever know. There was the adorable Scottish lady who was always so happy to see me and share a hug and chat. (Visiting Mom was difficult then, she gave me something to look forward to.) There was the helpful son who faithfully visited his father every day. He did so much helping that I thought he was an activity staff for almost two months before learning he was a volunteer. There was also the tender, gentle wife of a man who had been hospitalized the same time as my mother. She and I had wept together in the hospital waiting room. She too was so kind and supportive to both of us. Often when I’d arrive she was walking the halls calming my frantic mother.

One by one, I watched these people lose their loved ones, the people they loved and dedicated their lives and time to.  I think about them almost every time I visit Mom and wonder how they are coping and if they know how much their presence meant to me.

Lately, the gentleman is back. His wife passed away a couple of months ago and he comes in often to visit his wife’s old roommate. His loss and pain is still so real and his eyes quickly fill up with tears. Now, it is my turn to comfort, hug and come alongside. I’d take him home with me if I could.

In keeping with the last post’s theme of kindness, never underestimate what your smile, greeting or listening ear means to hurting people. Kindness is the balm that heals the broken hearts around us. It doesn’t take much time and it costs us nothing.

 I guess that is why this blog exists and this community. While strangers, we share an experience that links us together. Through the words we share, we look each other in the hearts and say, “I know your pain, you’re gonna make it!”

Be encouraged!

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The Caregiver's New Year's Resolutions

 

At the end of every year we some how can’t help but find ourselves reflecting.

We pick up the journals and begin to ponder the things we’ve accomplished or wished we accomplished and the events that shaped our lives. Some of these events were expected and some were a big surprise. This is especially true for the “Sandwich Generation”, people caught between the often-conflicting roles of raising children and caring for aging parents or relatives.

It was last year at this time that I got my first big surprise when my mother began showing very startling and rapid signs of vascular dementia. So as I stand back and reflect on lastyear, I see there are things I have done well and things I will do better.

 Thus my five top “caregiver” resolutions for 2012.

  1. I will enjoy the moments. You know the moments I am talking about. The days your loved one is well, lucid, funny and in the moment. Conversations are intimate and clear. You feel a sense of sacredness like this might be the last time they are this good. I resolve to enjoy these moments for what they are – a gift- without pining for them on the days that aren’t good.
  1. I will live without regret. Looking back at “what if?” and “what could have been?” is an exhausting and pointless exercise. It is what it is. I resolve to concentrate on what I can do, what I can change and let go of the rest.
  1. I will stop trying to be all things to all people. Guilt is an ugly taskmaster. Being a member of the sandwich generation means you are the wearer of many hats. I resolve to shelve the guilt next time I miss my son’s jazz recital because I’m called to sit with my mom who needs my help. I will stop apologizing for not meeting everyone’s needs simultaneously and just do the best I can.
  1. I will give myself permission to feel what I feel. Being a caregiver brings a host of emotions. You are allowed to cry, grieve, laugh, be angry and feel lonely. Scolding yourself or trying to be brave is a waste of energy. Many times in the early days of our family crisis, people tried to rush my healing, implying I was over reacting: “Your mother is over 80 …what did you expect?” The age of my mom didn’t diminish my loss. I resolve to feel what I feel and then get up and do what needs to be done.
  1. I will surround myself with people that lift me up. Even well meaning people can be mean. How many times have you barely been holding on and along comes some person (without a clue) just in time to deliver a wounding comment or a word of advice without having all the information? The world is full of beautiful, encouraging and supportive people. I give myself permission to surround myself with these people and take the others off my speed dial.

Feel free to adapt any of these resolutions to your list. Wishing you a wonderful new year!

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