Hope for living, loving and caring with no regrets!

Episode 5

Deb Kalmbach has experienced multiple seasons of caring during her marriage.  She and Rayna discuss her experiences and how to make it better each time.  On this episode you will hear Deb discuss:

  • What teamwork meant to her during her caring seasons
  • How a spouse can be helpful and encouraging during the season
  • Regular routines and getting outside help will keep the marriage stronger
  • As a caregiver, you must consider the person left behind
  • You also have to ask for help


*Transcript is an actual recount of the live conversation
 onering as a Team

Rayna Neises: Welcome to A Season of Caring Podcast where there’s hope for living, loving, and caring with NO Regrets. This is Rayna Neises, your host.  Today I want to welcome Deb Kalmback. She’s an author, speaker, and life coach whose passion is helping women in difficult marriages. In fact, she considers herself an expert mostly because she’s been there and done that.

Deb encourages women not merely to survive, but to thrive as they move forward to find personal healing and hope for their lives and their marriages. Deb is the coauthor of, Because I said  Forever: Embracing Hope in a Not So Perfect Marriage and the author of a children’s book, Cory’s Dad Drinks Too Much and she also writes about women’s issues in her blog, Real hope for real life.

Welcome, Deb. It’s great to have you today.

Deb Kalmbach: Hi. Rayna it is such a pleasure to be here. Thank you so much for inviting me to come.

Rayna Neises: I’m so excited to talk about this topic-marriage and caregiving can be a real challenge. So I’m really excited to be able to share with our listeners some things about marriage even in this season of caring.  So tell me a little about your caregiving and how it impacted your marriage.

Deb Kalmbach: Well, we have cared for my dad. my dad was diagnosed with a form of dementia called pic syndrome. Oh, and I want to say it was probably like sometime in the late nineties and he lived for probably 10 to 15 years after that, he passed away about seven years ago and my husband, Randy and I weren’t really doing the hands on caregiving.

 My mom was basically doing that because we lived about four hours away from where my parents were. Actually probably farther than that- I always say on a good day, it might be four to five hours, but a lot of times it would take much, much longer, especially in the winter time because we were crossing over a mountain range and having to take ferries to get to where my mom and dad lived. And you can tell I’m from the Northwest, from Washington. We use ferries here to get around. I remember traveling back and forth a lot though, and I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t had the support of my husband, Randy.

It’s just such a team effort taking care of parents or any loved one, doing it together as a couple. I can only say that I am so grateful that this season of caregiving happened for us much later on in our marriage. We will  be celebrating our 50th anniversary this summer, which is quite a miracle of God’s grace. But had this happened much earlier on, it would have been lots more challenging because we had a lot of issues in our own marriage. And then trying to take on the stress and the responsibility of caring for parents would have been, probably more then I could have handled, and I just am so grateful to the Lord.

You know, that scripture that talks about he will not give us more than we can handle. You know he gives us what we need so we can stand up under whatever the stresses are.  I’m very, very thankful that this happened a little later on for us where we could actually be a team together.

And then, mom has been through a couple of fairly serious surgeries and the first surgery that she had. I was there with her when she was in the hospital, and then just right after that, and then we had arranged for some private caregivers to come in and help her because Randy and I had,  plans to go to a family reunion on his side of the family. So we left her with some very qualified caregivers.

And so we kind of ran that gambit of trying to figure out how do we tell if this is a qualified person, is this gonna work? Okay. And, we had some ups and downs with that, but learned through that process.

Then several years later, my mom had to go through another surgery and  Randy and I were both with her while she was in the hospital, which was so helpful and encouraging for me.  I stayed with mom for five weeks while she recovered. And I learned a lot about what it means to be the 24, seven caregiver and how difficult that really is. And just in terms of your stamina and just being able to keep going and able to care for that person without much of a break. You know, I thought, you know, the caregiver who comes in to take care of someone is just there usually for an eight hour shift and then they go home. But when you are the person who’s there, and I don’t know why we think. When were a family member caring for someone that we don’t need those breaks, that we can just, you know, go to bed and get up the next morning and just do it all over again.

And I learned through that process that that’s doesn’t work so well. It’s really exhausting. And, thankful that Randy, he was still four to five hours away, still living, home, side of the state. He was still talking to me every night, you know, and I would tell him the rundown of the day after mom went to bed, you will not believe what happened today.  I don’t think I can do this much longer. And he’d say, you can, I know you can. Just like my cheerleader, helping me to keep going. And he did come over several times to, to, kind of give me a little break and just to be there to support me. But it was hard. It was an only for five weeks, but it was still still a difficult time.

Rayna Neises: [00:06:12] So your experience has been both being that supporter of the primary caregiver and then being the primary caregiver in those different seasons.  They look different, there’s definitely stress involved in both of them.

I agree that 24 seven caregiving for our listeners that are in that season right now that are doing that, it’s so important to get support, not to do it all by yourself, but go ahead and get some help in there.  Ask loved ones, get some professional help because it is five weeks. Doesn’t sound very long, but Deb, I can completely understand how that felt and those nighttime phone calls. I definitely made such a difference for my husband and I as I was in that season.  I think touching base and just having that person who’s your support be that support in this season too is so important.

What did you learn about how to balance of caregiving with your own and your spouses needs, how did you learn to balance those needs?

Deb Kalmbach:  I’m not sure I’ve actually got a handle on that yet. You know, I’m still learning, but I sure wish that we could have the 20/20 hindsight, you know, when you go into these situations, I feel like we’re just struggling just to keep our heads above water. And it’s so difficult to know what is it that I’m going to need?

You know, you just start on this path like with the five weeks with my mom, there really wasn’t time to sit back and really analyze how is this actually going for me now? Probably it would have been helpful if I had known you at that time, Rayna, I could have called you up and said. I need a coach to walk through this with me because I’m having a really hard time.  What is it that I can do to make this easier as I walk through this?  My husband really did the best he could to support me and to help me. But, just is so difficult when you’ve never quite experienced this before. And now that I have, I’m looking at things a lot differently.Like we did need more time together.

I think I would have asked him to come more and spend more time with me. Even though at times you can’t always do that. Someone might be working or have other responsibilities and, and certainly, you know, he couldn’t just leave everything for five weeks. That’s a long time. And he did come back and forth. At least three times during those five weeks. But I would have loved to have had him there more and,  we could have supported each other because it’s not always easy for the person who’s left behind either because they’re having to handle everything. And fortunately when we were going through this, we were both retired from our regular day jobs, so we didn’t have that responsibility, but we still had things that needed to be taken care of, and it. Was impossible for him to just leave everything and come and just stay with me all that time. So finding that balance of what we needed to help ourselves get through this time, I need to do it again. And I, we are looking at that season coming up, Rayna, so be prepared for my phone call. My mom is 93 and she’s. Living alone and she’s doing very well, but those of us who have elderly parents know that that situation can change so quickly and to go through it again, I would definitely get help.

I would find someone who could come in and give me a break or say, why don’t you leave for the weekend and come back and it would need to be someone I really felt very confident in that they would be there and that they could handle the caregiving duties the way I would hope someone would do with my mom. And so I can see that that is really, really important, that sometimes you need more than just an afternoon or an evening.  You might need like a couple of days.

We also had an experience that’s a little different, in caregiving my husband’s sister had some serious medical issues about a year and a half ago, and because we had  flexibility with our schedule. We as a team, Randy and I went to be with her and she lives on the other side of the country in Ohio, and we were going to help take care of her, which we did did, but the medical aspects were very challenging because she had a feeding tube and you know, some other things. She had fallen and had fractures in her back and just a lot of things. Fortunately, she was cognitive enough that she could tell me, this is what we need. Do that sort of thing.

But I also found in this situation that it was exhausting and we were there for about a month and it was round the clock, except that I did sleep at night. Her husband got up during the night and helped because I couldn’t have done that and taken care of her all day long.  It was really tiring and I found myself about.

You know, like maybe even two weeks into it, just at a point where I wondered if I could physically keep up with the demands. And so again, you would think I would be learning some of these things along the way, but now that I’m kind of analyzing it. I look at it and I can see in that situation, that would have been another case where we would have needed to ask for someone to come in and help, and there were family members and friends who were close enough that they could have done that.

Somehow it feels like it’s kind of self centered, you know, to say, can we ask someone to come so we can have an evening to ourselves, you know, and here’s my sister in law, bedridden and dealing with all these problems. And here I am fully functional and you’re hoping that you can help and and do the best you can for them.

So it seems kind of selfish to ask for something some time for yourself, but I believe that that is so important and important for our marriage too, because we were both really exhausted. Now, some of her friends were willing so kindly willing to come. And they gave us like an evening out or an afternoon out, which was so very thoughtful.

But I think because of the length of time and because of the needs that we were addressing, we could have used more time. I hope that the next time I’m in a season of taking care of a loved one, that I will be able to say what I need and, feel okay about that.

Rayna Neises: Yeah. So important, I think you have really summarized some things that everybody who’s listening, who’s in a season has felt that need for support and time with your spouse, it is just important. You can have the phone calls and that connection’s important, but just getting the hugs and having the time to really just spend together, nothing can replace that.

So you do have to make that a priority and plan for that. And that’s what I’ve found in my four and a half years of caring for my dad was we had date nights. We had intentional time set aside when I was home for us to spend together, as well as those consistent check-ins because both of them are important.

I don’t think you can do without either one, but the other thing that you brought up was just that guilt of having to ask, and I don’t know why we feel that way. I think  that it’s worse because we’re caring for a loved one. But yeah, we need to just get rid of that. We, if you’re feeling guilty for asking for help, just stop it.  That’s what I want to tell all of the listeners today. Just stop it because no one can do this alone.

I think you said it exactly right so many times we assume because they’re family members that we just should, but it’s not realistic. And as you mentioned, people who are paid to do this, nurses in the hospitals, they’re on eight hours or 12 hours and then they’re off.  And just because we’re not being paid to do this does not mean that our needs are not the same as theirs.  We all know that our decision making and our tempers, all of those things have  a time limit though. There’s only so much of us.  To be able to give our best having those built-ins scheduled times that we get a break is so important.   Not just for the marriage, but for you in your personal health.

As you’re thinking about your mom aging, and as this season will becoming, how do you see yourself balancing your marriage and,  personal needs in the season that’s coming?

Deb Kalmbach: [00:15:59] Well in this season that is approaching, I would like to pretend like it’s coming. Kind of through that with my dad too. It’s like, no, no, this is not happening.  Denial is just such a, not necessarily fun place to hang out, but at least pretend that it’s all, it’s not happening, but I know better and hopefully we will be able to be more intentional.

We have done a couple of things. Big decision about a year and a half ago was we sold our home on the other side of the mountains and we moved to the same town where my mom lives.  We wanted to be closer. We have a son and daughter in law and two grandchildren who live in the Seattle area, and so we’re about two hours from them instead of four hours where we used to live. And now I’m, we’re here with my mom. And, she independently, as I mentioned, and, but we’re, we’re about 15 minutes away from her. And I think that was one of the best decisions that we could have made. We knew that it was approaching time for us to make a change because we lived in this very rural, remote area where there’s three feet of snow on the ground all winter long. And just some issues that with our own aging, were probably going to be challenging as time went on. And so we’re over here now and we are, we’re just so thankful that we can be here and we’re getting to know the community better.

So when the time comes I think that I’ll have more information about who might be available in this community, who is reliable that I could ask for support, and so I won’t be traveling. And we haven’t figured out all the logistics yet, but, we’re working on that.

I’ve never run a marathon in my life, but as I try to imagine what that would be like, I can see that caregiving is kind of like a marathon. It is a long haul, and unlike a marathon runner, most of us aren’t really trained. To do that long haul that we might have to, but it’s important that we pace ourselves. You know? I mean, I, that’s one of the things, I go to this gal to get my hair cut and she runs marathons and she tells me about her experience and how you just have to pace yourself. You have to know that. If you go too fast, you’re going to burn out, and you just have to have a pace that you can maintain.

You need people along the way. You know, I think of those people who have the water, the water stations, you’ve got to have those kinds of supportive people on the journey. And I. Would hope that this time that my husband and I could take advantage or access to those kinds of people that, and be willing to say, we can’t do this by ourselves.

We need each other, first of all. And I think that that’s the, you know, that’s like key is that we can. Support each other and we can be there to help each other move along in the process of taking care of our loved one, but we can’t do it alone.  I believe we need other people from the outside.

So that Randy and I can have a break and maybe it’s a family member, maybe it’s one of our siblings, just because we have the luck of the draw, so to speak, of living in the same part of the country.   I think some of my siblings could also come alongside and I would ask them to help.  Maybe they could come for a couple of weeks and give us a break or whatever the situation might call for, but, but I’m learning that. I need to ask for help.

When I was going through my marital problems, it took a long time before I got to the point where I could ask for help because it seems like in our culture, you have to be self reliant. We need to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. And as you were mentioning rain, it’s kind of like, we should be able to do this. It’s a family member and you know, to have to ask for other help seems like it’s, we’re not meeting our own expectations, but there’s no way you can do this. That’s what I’ve learned is there’s no way it’s, it’s impossible to be able to maintain. At the level that you might think you can.   I experienced some moments with my mom. You know, we both have a lot of grace for each other, but we had some moments where, you know, she would say something and I would snap back at her. And, and then I felt so badly.

And one evening we were sitting down to have dinner and she just said, I just need. To pray and ask for your forgiveness. Deb and I go, Oh, mom, I need to ask for yours too, because you know, it’s, it is, it’s stressful and difficult.  But we have a good team, I think here we’ve got, Randy and me by the grace of God, we’ve healed enough in our marriage that we can be there for each other and really support one another, which is, is such a blessing.

Rayna Neises: [00:21:32] So looking back, you’ve learned a lot of lessons of things to be able to carry forward with you, and it sounds like being willing to ask for help when you know, and even before you get to a point that you feel like you need it, is of those for sure to consider. And then just making sure that you cherish and value the time with Randy to help support you through it.

Marriage is a wonderful blessing. Just like any relationship, we have to be intentional with that relationship and caregiving puts one more stress. And those of you that are listening, you’re probably feeling a great deal of stress today and most days.  Remembering to allow your spouse to be a team member with you, to support you and to always be person that can, just offer that encouragement that you need is a really important piece as well.

Thank you, Deb, for joining me today and sharing your caregiving story and just how important that support of a spouse can be in this caregiving season.

I really appreciate your time today and listeners, we’re just really glad that you joined us.

And just a reminder, this is a podcast intended to encourage family caregivers.  If you have medical, legal, or financial questions, consult your local professionals. Thanks for joining us today on A Season of Caring and we’ll see you next time.

Deb Kalmbach:  Thank you Rayna.

*Transcript is an actual recount of the live conversation

Deb Kalmbach

Deb Kalmbach

Author, Speaker and Life Coach

Deb Kalmbach is an author, speaker, and life coach whose passion is helping women in difficult marriages. In fact, she considers herself an “expert”–mostly because she’s been there and done that! Deb encourages women not merely to survive but to thrive as they move forward to find personal healing and hope for their lives and marriages. Deb is the co-author of “Because I Said Forever: Embracing Hope in a Not-So-Perfect Marriage” and the author of a children’s book, “Corey’s Dad Drinks Too Much.” She also writes about women’s issues on her blog, “Real Hope for Real Life!”
Deb and her husband Randy are parents of two grown sons, an “adopted” daughter-in-law, and grandparents to two precious grandchildren. The Kalmbachs reside in the quaint seaport of Port Townsend, Washington. Deb and Randy will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary in 2020.

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Meet Your Host

Rayna Neises, ACC

Your Host

An ICF Certified Coach, Pod-caster, Author & Speaker, offers encouragement, support and resources to those who are in a Season of Caring for Aging Parents.

Her passion is for those caring and their parents, that they might be seen, not forgotten & cared for, not neglected

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