Conquering Fear – How To Fight Your Phobia

By Roz Jones

Being a caregiver can be a scary thing, especially when we are new to the field.  The guide shares a few ideas for conquering some of those fears and phobias when taking care of a loved one once and for all! Please note, the fear of enclosed spaces (claustrophobia) is used as an example – though the steps are applicable to any fear. 

1. Expose yourself to fear. 

If you have a phobia, you probably go out of your way to avoid the thing that causes you to feel afraid. In the claustrophobia example, you may refuse to use lifts, as they make you feel uncomfortable.  

Unfortunately, by avoiding the scenario you fear – the lift – you are actually increasing your overall fear. Avoidance does nothing but make a situation worse, and you need to face the fear before you can conquer it. That means getting into a lift, even if just for one floor. Make yourself do it.  

2. Positive reinforcement. 

After you have forced yourself to confront your fear once, you need to make it a positive experience. This can be having a dessert you enjoy following your ordeal, or buying something nice from your favorite store. Do this as soon as possible following your first attempt to confront the fear – in the example, you should dive into a cupcake the second you step out of the lift. As a caregiver, you should always show your support to your loved one as much as possible. Let them know you understand their fear, and that you are there to help them conquer it. If you are the one experiencing fear, let your loved one know and ask them for their love and support while you conquer it.

3. Rinse, and repeat. 

The way to conquer a phobia is to do the above, over and over again. As you do so, you will learn to manage the fear, and you will also learn that there really is no danger in what panicked you. By continuing to deliberately expose yourself to your fear, and then allowing a congratulatory moment when you succeed, over time, you will rid yourself of the fear forever. Be a team! The caregiver and the loved one receiving care can help each other conquer their fears, together.

Overcoming fear can be intimidating. In order to be the best caregiver you can be, conquering your fears are a must! If you need guidance on how to do this, you need to pre-order my new book, Lifted. It will include a workbook that will help you work through each step.

Are You Productive or Just Busy?

By Roz Jones

Have you ever observed someone who seems to be busy all the time, but doesn’t really get anything done?  Do you feel that sometimes you’re in the same boat?  How do you know if you’re productive or just busy? It can be easy to get overwhelmed with the everyday tasks when taking care of a loved one. As a caregiver it’s important that we manage our time efficiently, not only to give proper care to our loved one, but to also make the necessary time to take care of ourselves.

Do you have goals?  People who are productive generally have goals and focus all of their work on achieving those goals. Of course there are always going to be distractions and obstacles when taking care of a loved one but those distractions don’t take priority over the big picture.

Do you focus or multi-task?  People who multi-task often seem very busy.  They’re always doing something, but they’re rarely doing any one thing very well. Tackle each obstacle you face as a caregiver directly, you’ll be more productive if you focus on doing one thing at a time.

Do you delegate?  Sometimes you may take on tasks that would really be better to delegate to someone else. It can be easy to want to say yes to every task because you want to provide for your loved one. But you might be able to delegate personal tasks while keeping the focus on business tasks. This will improve the quality of care given to your loved one, and minimize the personal burnout you feel as a caregiver.

Do you say no?  People who are productive know how to say no to something that is going to take them away from their own important work.  It’s okay to say no when you really don’t have time to fit in one more thing. Don’t feel guilty when saying no to certain tasks related to your loved one. Instead, feel reassured knowing that this will benefit both of you in the long run.

Do you let some things go?  It may sound counterproductive to erase some tasks from your to-do list.  But you may find that you have given yourself tasks that really won’t move your vision forward and will take up extra time.  It’s okay to scratch something off the list and go a different way.

Do you have a schedule?  People who are productive tend to have a schedule for each day of what needs to be done and when.  If you’re not planning ahead, chances are you’re staying busy but not productive.

Do you complete projects?  You can be busy doing something all day long, every day and never get a project completed.  If you find you’re starting a lot of things without finishing them, it’s time to look at your priorities and become more productive.

Do you feel peace?  When you spend your time very busy but not accomplishing much you might feel a sense of anxiety. You may worry about all the things you need to do that aren’t getting done. Try as best as you can to remain present in each moment. Rather than expressing a sense of anxiety, this will help you express gratitude appreciating the time you get to spend with your loved one.

But when you’re productive, you can actually feel peace when it comes to work.  You know what’s important and you have a plan to get it done on time. 

It can be easy to get overwhelmed with the everyday tasks when taking care of a loved one. As a caregiver it’s crucial that we manage our time efficiently. Not only to provide the utmost of quality care to our loved one but to also make the necessary time to take care of ourselves. If you are struggling with how to manage your time, you need to pre-order my new book, Lifted. It will include a workbook that will help you work through each step!

Care for Caregivers

By Roz Jones

If you’re caring for an aging parent or facing the challenges of assisting a loved one or friend who is chronically ill, disabled or elderly, you are not alone. You are one of the 22 million Americans who care for an older adult. Caregivers provide 80 percent of in-home care, but unlike nurses and home health aids, they are unpaid for their labor of love. 

“Caregiving is a difficult job that can take a toll on relationships, jobs and emotional well-being,” says Dr. Elizabeth Clark, executive director of the National Association of Social Workers. “Those who care for others need to be sure to take care of themselves, as well.”

Here are some important tips for caregivers:

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help 

We tend to wait until we are in crisis before asking for help and consultation. Seek out the help of a licensed clinical social worker or other trained professional.

It’s Not Easy to Tell Your Parents What to Do 

The most difficult thing about caring for a parent is the day you have to tell them they need to have help, they can no longer drive or they may have to move from their home. Discuss long-term care wishes and desires before any decline happens. 

Take Care of Your Mental Health

It is not unusual to feel frustrated with your parents or children when they refuse your input and help. Seek a referral to a professional who can help you cope with your personal issues and frustrations. 

Stay Informed

We live in a world of constant change. Medications and treatments are constantly changing and the only way to keep up-to-date is to stay informed with the latest news. Attend local caregiver conferences, participate in support groups, speak with friends and relatives, and talk with professionals in the field of gerontology and geriatrics. 

Take Time Out

Caregivers who experience feelings of burnout need to accept that occasionally they may need a break from their loved one in order to provide him or her with the best care.

Laugh

Humor and laughter are tremendous healers.

Hire Help

If possible, you may want to hire help. The most important thing is to find trustworthy people to provide assistance. Use recommended home care agencies, talk with friends about their experiences and interview professionals before deciding on the one you are going to retain.

Caring for Elderly Parents: 5 Tips for Avoiding Caregiver Burnout

By Roz Jones

Joanne’s mother, Betty, had rheumatoid arthritis for years.  Suddenly and unexpectedly, Betty was disabled by the pain, fatigue and limited mobility that she had feared since her diagnosis.  

Joanne convinced her fiercely independent mother that living alone was no longer an option.  And Joanne, the eldest of four children, knew that caring for her sick mother fell on her shoulders.  Joanne was a legend in the circles of her family, friends and colleagues for her ability to act with grace under pressure.

Joanne took two weeks of vacation from her job and cooked and froze meals for her husband and three children.  As she flew to her hometown, she wondered how she would coordinate her mother’s care from a distance. Supporting her husband as he built his new business, nurturing her kids and directing a major project at work already made her feel that she was running on empty.  

You may relate to Joanne’s story.  One out of four Americans cares for a friend or relative who is sick, disabled or frail. That’s 46 million Americans who offer unpaid help to a loved one.  If they were paid caregivers’ compensation would exceed last year’s Medicare budget! And if you become a caregiver, you, like Joanne, may try to do it alone, shrouded in secrecy. 

Solo caregiving compromises your ability to nurture yourself and others. Let’s take caregiving out from behind closed doors.  For your sake and the sake of those who count on you, please get some help. Caregivers are competent people who feel that they should be able to do this job.  Yet, many soon find themselves unprepared and ill-equipped to manage the sometimes daunting tasks, such as managing a complex medical regimen or remodeling a house so it’s wheel-chair accessible or even finding someone to stay with their loved ones so they can go out to a movie without worrying their relatives will fall on the way to the fridge.

If you are a caregiver, you know that this act of love has its costs.  You stand to forfeit up to $650,000 in lost wages, pension and social security.  Add to that is the personal cost to your well-being, as your new demands leave you less time for your family and friends.  You may give up vacations, hobbies and social activities.  Finally, caregiving places a burden on your health.  Caregivers are at increased risk for depression, anxiety, depressed immune function and even hospitalization.

Instead of reaching out, caregivers become isolated.  Many who assume the caregiving burden fit the profile of the giving family member, like Joanne, who does not want to trouble others with their problems.  Some fear the consequences of disclosing their new demands to coworkers or employers. Caregivers are further challenged by the cultural conspiracy of silence.  Our youth-centered society turns a blind eye to the unpleasant and inevitable reality that all of us age and die.  This leaves both caregivers and care recipients unprepared.  Look no further than the path of Hurricane Katrina to witness the consequences of a lack of planning.

What can you do?   Start talking about the “what ifs” and make a plan.  

1. Start with yourself. What will happen to you and your family if you become disabled or die unexpectedly?  Do you have disability insurance? Do you have a will?  Do you have a living will, and have you identified the person who will make the medical choices you would make if you are not in the position to do so?  

2. Approach healthy family members.  Say, “I hope that you live many happy years in which you enjoy all of the pleasures you worked so hard to create.”  Have you thought about what would happen to you in the event that you cannot live independently anymore?  If some medical event befalls you, who would make your medical choices?

3. Look into community resources that support caregiving.  A day program, for example, helps your loved one by providing social connections with peers.  Your community may even offer transportation to and from the program.  Getting out of the house offers the additional benefit of getting bodies moving.  Socializing and exercise are the two most powerful interventions that help your loved ones stay at their best.  

4. Make specific suggestions to friends, family members and neighbors who want to help. You may even want to keep a “help list.” When they say, “Let me know what I can do,” you have a response:  “Could you take Mom to her physical therapy appointment this week?”  “When you’re at the store, could you pick up some oranges and blueberries?”  “Could you watch the kids for an hour so I can get to the gym?” Your giving friends will appreciate specific ideas about how they can help.

5. Take care of your health.  Get good nutrition, plenty of sleep, and regular exercise to stay in top health.  Wash your hands regularly to prevent colds and flu.  Manage your stress with laughter, a prayer or even a deep breath.  Nourish your soul with a taste of activities that recharge your batteries such as writing in your journal or gardening.  Finally, talk to your doctor if you feel depressed or anxious.   

The best strategies for effective caregiving include preparation, acts of self-care and reaching out for help. That begins with the courage to start talking openly about caregiving.

Managing Caregiver Guilt: 5 Tips To Manage Guilt So Guilt Serves You, Not Imprisons You

By Roz Jones

Guilt is a common feeling in the landscape of care giving. Guilt can propel you to be the best you can be …or it can immobilize you.

 For caregivers, painful feelings — such as guilt, sadness and anger — are like any other pain. It’s your body’s way of saying, ‘Pay attention.’ Just as the pain of a burned finger pulls your hand from the stove, so, too, guilt guides your actions and optimizes your health.

You have a picture of the “Ideal You” with values you hold and how you relate to yourself and others. Guilt often arises when there’s a mismatch between your day-to-day choices and the choices the “Ideal You” would have made. The “Ideal You” may be a parent who attends all of the kids’ soccer games. Miss a game to take your dad to the doctor, and you think you’re falling short.  

You may have needs out of line with this “Ideal You.” You may believe that your own needs are insignificant, compared to the needs of your sick loved one. You then feel guilty when you even recognize your needs, much less act upon them. A mother may ask herself, “How can I go out for a walk with my kids when my mother is at home in pain?” (A hint for this mother: she can give more to her mother with an open heart when she takes good care of herself.)

You may have feelings misaligned with the “Ideal You.” Feeling angry about the injustice of your loved one’s illness? You might even feel angry at your loved one for getting sick! Recognizing those feelings can produce a healthy dose of guilt. Yes, you may even feel guilty about feeling guilty.

 “Why did my loved one get sick?” you may ask. Perhaps, if the “Ideal You” acted more often, your loved one would be healthy. What if you served more healthful meals? What if you called 911, instead of believing your husband when he said his chest pain was just “a little heartburn”? 

 If you’re the kind of person prone to guilt, learn to manage guilt so that guilt serves you rather than imprisons you. Here are 5 tips for managing your caregiver guilt:

 Recognize the feeling of guilt: Unrecognized guilt eats at your soul. Name it; look at the monster under the bed

 Identify other feelings: Often, there are feelings under the feeling of guilt. Name those, too. For example, say to yourself: “I hate to admit this to myself, but I’m resentful that dad’s illness changed all of our lives.” Once you put it into words, you will have a new perspective. You will also be reminding yourself of how fortunate you are to have what it takes to take care of loved one.” 

 Be compassionate with yourself: Cloudy moods, like cloudy days, come and go. There’s no one way a caregiver should feel. When you give yourself permission to have any feeling, and recognized that your feelings don’t control your actions, your guilt will subside.

 Look for the cause of the guilt: What is the mismatch between this “Ideal You” and the real you? Do you have an unmet need? Do you need to change your actions so that they align with your values?

Take action: Meet your needs. Needs are not bad or good; they just are. If you need some time alone, find someone to be with your loved one.

Change your behavior to fit your values: For example, Clara felt guilty because her friend was in the hospital and she didn’t send a card. Her guilt propelled her to buy some beautiful blank cards to make it easier for her to drop a note the next time.

 Ask for help: Call a friend and say, “I’m going through a hard time. Do you have a few minutes just to listen?” Have a family meeting and say, “Our lives have been a lot different since grandma got sick. I’m spending more time with her. Let’s figure out together how we’ll get everything done.”

Revisit and reinvent the “Ideal You”: You made the best choices based on your resources and knowledge at the time. As you look to the future, you can create a refined vision of the “Ideal You.” What legacy do you want to leave? What values do you hold dear? Then, when you wake up in the morning and put on your clothes, imagine dressing the “Ideal You.” Let this reinvented “Ideal You” make those moment-to-moment choices that create your legacy.

Understand that you will be a more effective caregiver when you care for the caregiver first. Loved ones neither want nor expect selfless servants. As a caregiver, when you care for yourself, you increase and improve your own caring. Yes, guilt is part of caregiving, but this guilt can help you become the caregiver you and your loved one want you to be.