Hope for living, loving and caring with no regrets!
- More on helping your parent downsize their stuff.
- Take the time to learn the story behind special items.
- Understand each person will value different things.
- Record the stories behind special pieces to save the true legacy.
- 5 Minute crisis conversation will help remove the panic.
- Talk now can help avoid panic later.
*Transcript is an actual recount of the live conversation
Hi, Aly. How are you doing today?
Aly Neises: I’m so good.
Rayna Neises: Great. I really enjoyed Kathi’s tips on how to deal with our parents’ stuff. You know, as we’re in a caregiving season, especially when we’re caring for our parents, it is typical to have that challenge of having to take and help your parents as they have to downsize from that family home into an assisted living. I mean, there’s such a small space, and when I think about giving up all of my stuff just to fit in that small little space, it just blows my mind. I love to sew I craft; I have stuff everywhere and I don’t use it every day, but I love to be able to dig in and do those special projects, it’s relaxing. It is good for my mental health and just having to give all of that up.
It just really, I can’t even imagine it. So, I loved some of the things that Kathi offered to help us be able to honor the person that has the stuff and help them to be able to make some of those decisions.
Aly Neises: I agree like you said, I can not imagine when you’re, especially if you’re talking about living in a thought that you lived for 20 plus years. You accumulate a lot of things and they’re going to have different meanings and different values, and it’s gonna all be important to you or it’s not. And so, when you talk about downsizing to sometimes like 200, 300 square feet I mean tiny, tiny little rooms, that’s hard to decide what’s going to stay and what’s going to go.
And I think it’s hard as children to identify with what’s so important to mom or dad in that situation too. What’s important to me isn’t going to necessarily be what’s important to them. So I love how Kathi talked about Hey, tell me the story behind this. Why is it important to you?
[00:02:24] Why do you want to keep it? I think if. I personally am not one that’s attached to a lot of things. It frustrates mother who is attached to everything, that everything has a story, and everything has a memory and everything is everything. So, for her to tell me stories about the important things to her, I think would help us get through and weed through a lot of that information.
Rayna Neises: You know, I lost my mom early in my life and one of the things that I always loved was her jewelry box and digging through and when she would let me wear things, in fact, I remember, gosh, I think I was in. Third grade and we had a fifties day and I had a poodle skirt she had made for me, and she loaned me her pearls and I got to wear her Pearl necklace. And of course, I lost it.
But, just when I think back on that, I wish I knew. I wish I knew the stories behind what was in her jewelry box because obviously some of it was costume, but some of it was good stuff that probably came from my dad or from maybe her mom, but I don’t know because I never asked for the story behind it. To be able to share there is a story behind those things and hearing that story, it really can help you understand the value to the other person or build value for you as well to decide what’s that family heirloom that you really want to pass down.
Aly Neises: You bring up a great point about not knowing the story. I think that’s hard too when you are talking about saying goodbye to parents, if they don’t have their memories, if they some the from your lives not knowing the story, I feel like is harder. Then trying to figure out the what to keep and what to get rid of in those situations.
Rayna Neises: So asking the story, I think helps them also be able to share and think through the stories and maybe be able to say a little bit more, okay, why don’t we give this to such and such? Or why don’t we go ahead and donate that? It’s not important for us to keep that compared to the things that do have a really meaningful story behind them.
Aly Neises: I think you’re exactly right. I think you’re hitting the nail on the head. If you can both process those stories together. It’s better so that you can both come to that discussion together. I think then there’s less resentment. There’s less frustration. I know as a child it would be really frustrating when you’re like. Look, I have to get you into this small area. You don’t have a lot of space. We can’t take everything with you. Do you need to pick out the important things as a parent with somebody that had a house now you’re telling me to pick out 10 important things? How do you decide? I love that she spends it like that so that you can both have that conversation and opens the door so you can kind of go through that together. Plus, I think it’s great that you’re going to reminisce and create those memories and those moments too, for things to be able to pass down. no, you may not keep great-grandmas rolling pin, but you can talk about how your mom had memories baking in the kitchen and the things that meant so much to her during those times. So that when she’s no longer there, no longer able to talk about those things. You can also reminisce and remember.
Rayna Neises: And one of the things Kathi says all the time about decluttering is, will the picture do the same thing for you as the item? So actually, being able to take pictures of great grandma’s stuff and say, this is great, grandma’s such and such and have the story. Even turn it into a book or be able to just have a photo album that has the stories with them.
I think what a great treasure that would be for family members to be able to share with cousins or even other people that maybe are not in your direct lineage, but would have memories tied to that too. So, start today. Don’t wait until they’re old. Don’t wait until you’re in that situation where you have to make a decision. They need to be out in 30 days. You need to get the house on the market or all of those types of things. I love that tip because we can do it today and we can build memories while we do it. I thought that was amazing.
Aly Neises: I love that working with healthcare as long as I have and working with them. The patients and the clientele that I’ve worked with, plus my own personal family experiences. One of the things that get passed down a lot are recipes, and I love the thought of handwritten cards. I have a lot of, even my great grandma’s handwritten cards, or my husband’s grandmother’s handwriting.
I make her write recipe down, so I have it in her handwriting. I love the thought of putting those stuff into a memory book so you can look back and you have the recipes, but you also have the way that they took the time to even write the simple things. Those are the important things to me that may not be an important thing to somebody else but being able to compile those things in one area so there’s not just gobs and gobs of stuff.
And minimize that, I think is helpful as well. I love the thought of taking pictures too and just living off those memories. Not necessarily having the things, but just the pictures of those things. That is great a great tip.
Something that we need to all remember when we’re going through and trying to declutter and minimize things is that when you tell me stories and talk about what’s important, the important things aren’t always going to be the same for everyone, and that’s okay.
I think if you extend some grace with each other and understand that. What’s important to me may not be important to my brother or may not be important to my husband or whoever, if we just think about that and extend grace to each other and have patients so that we can understand why it is so important, I think we can start establishing more of a sense of understanding. And it may just be that. Your mom or dad just needs to talk about it. And then that’s enough and they’re more okay with donating it or giving it to somebody else or connecting it to somebody. But I love the thought of this doesn’t have to go to you, but I would like it to be your sister or I’d love for you to give this to aunt so and so. I really enjoyed when we did this together, so you can share that with them as well.
Rayna Neises: I think it’s important to make sure everybody’s involved, and it might not mean that everybody can be involved at one time together listening to the same stories, but writing them down is important because being able to then share them with the people who weren’t there will be a valuable as well.
My dad really did a pretty good job of decluttering the house. Now there were certain things, it’s so sweet, but every card, I mean, literally every Christmas birthday. Anniversary Father’s Day, Mother’s Day was in the top drawer of their dresser in their bedroom. And so those were things that were important to me. He kept them and he at certain times would go back and read through them. So, it was interesting he even started memory books, like just putting them in albums and my sister’s like, we’d open an album, she’d be like, it’s full of greeting cards. It’s just not something that’s meaningful to her, but it was to him.
Enough that he purged other things in the house and left the greeting cards. So it is interesting that each person’s different and it’s great to understand going in. It’s not about winning or losing, it’s about honoring them and helping them to be able to go through this process. It’s hard. It’s hard to let go of our stuff. And when Kathi said, we are our stuff. Oftentimes we are just really attached to it. It is part of our identity, and so realizing that I think can make this whole process so much easier for us as we support our loved ones, whoever it is, when they’re going through this process.
Aly Neises: I also think that there’s a lot of technology that can also help with decluttering and things like that. There’s websites and things like Legacy Box is one where you can submit photos and videos and all of that. So you talk about a box full of things can be combined down to one media file that you could share with everyone that you can all look back on and reminisce and things like that, minimizing some space, one thing that I wish as a kid, like I lost my grandfather and when I was in high school and I wished that I would have. Heard more of his stories, like, I wish we would have done this with his things. I have things of his, a belt buckle, that was his, I can remember him wearing it.
I don’t know where he got it or why he got it or anything like that, but I wish he knew the story behind that. The wish. My brother has a couple of his pocketknives and things like that. Things that were always with him. I mean, one of the pocketknives is so worn from his thumb you can almost see it imprint, and I wish though, I have the story, you know, I have the thing, I just don’t have that story and my mom will even tell you like she didn’t ask.
It’s not something she thought of task like. Dad, where’d you get that? You’ve had it forever. So I think how she cares, she talks about it and just this way of going about it so that it’s honoring your loved one. It’s honoring their past, honoring their memory, not only now, but in your future too. I think it’s going to be really beneficial because the goal is to walk our family members all the way home. that eventually this journey is going to be over. So all you’re going to have are the things and the memories. We need to establish them as much as we can now, so we have them later.
Rayna Neises: Understanding that’s our legacy, our life, our whole life is our legacy. It’s not just that one piece of our life that we experience the end, but actually the whole life, my parents never really talked about life before my sister and I. My parents were married at 17 and 18 and had their first child at 36 there was a lot of life before they had kids, they just never really talked about it.
At my mom’s funeral, I learned things about her before she was a mom because that was just not the most important thing to her at that time, but truly understanding who she was and how she became the woman that she was. It helped to hear those small pieces and put that whole legacy together. I think being able to reminisce over the objects, we’ll help you get more pieces to the puzzle of really seeing the full legacy of what they’re handing down to you. And that’s beautiful.
Aly Neises: I love that you call it a legacy because that is exactly what it is, and I think it’s important to understand that they’re trying to leave a legacy for you, and you’re trying to leave a legacy for your own family. So I think it’s important also, when you’re going through these not only involving yourself but others. And I think like even grandchildren and great-grandchildren and those kinds of things, no matter how old they are or how young, like sometimes considering even what they might want in the future. I’m trying to have those things so you can create a legacy. You may not remember a great-grandma, but the line number, the stories that you can tell about her or the things that bring you happiness and bring you hope, and when you talk about her memory and that kind of thing are things that they’re going to be able to hold on to as well.
Rayna Neises: Definitely. the other thing that I just, that really stood out in my interview with Kathi was that five minutes crisis, scenario. I just loved that. I was like that is so smart because there are so many things in life that are uncomfortable to talk about. We don’t even want to think about them happening.
And so we just act like they never will. But the truth is they happen. And if we don’t talk about anything before, then we don’t really know how to handle it. We don’t know how to honor the person that’s going through it. We don’t know how to handle it with our loved one in a way that’s helpful and beneficial. I just, I love the thought of having those five-minute conversations. What are you going to do in the first five minutes? If this happens or when this happens, and especially I think being able to ask those things of your parents, of anybody that you’re caring for helps you to just maybe take some stigma away from it and just really take the panic out of it if it actually does happen. I thought that was an amazing idea.
Aly Neises: No, I agree. As a hospice nurse, you know, we deal with death and dying on the daily, and so it’s always amazing to me. The stigma that’s still surrounding dying, like we’re all going to eventually die. And so even have those kinds of conversations. A lot of times I find family members haven’t talked about it until we’re on hospice.
] Like that’s a little too late for some of these families to even plan a funeral or know what those wishes are. But I love when Kathi’s talking about when it’s a crisis. So we also deal with crisis is very often one of the things that always amazes me that we’ll talk about a crisis, but when the crisis occurs, it’s still, no matter how logical you are, sometimes when you’re emotional the most, you get the best of you and you just panic.
So if we can talk about these things a lot before they happen, I feel like people feel more prepared. So, when those things do happen, it’s like your brain will just kind of overtake and feel like we’ve already been here, done this, we know what to do. The next step is going to be this, and you have a plan and you kind of go on autopilot almost that you’re biased overtakes and handles it.
A lot of times the situations we run into is that they need be on hospice, but why don’t we do if mom and dad is having the heart attack? So what does that five minutes look like from the onset of them complaining about chest pain? What are you going to do in that kind of situation?
I think it’s honestly totally understandable to panic, the instinct would be to panic. So if we talk about it, what you’re going to do, then I think the next step is going to be more understandable and you’re more apt to do that next step.
Rayna Neises: I know our experience with hospice. when they went through the intake paperwork, they said, here’s the numbers and you’re not going to call nine one one you’re going to call us. And they told us all those things. But I agree. It’s in the moment. It’s still just this. I have to save him. You know, you’re just, your gut instinct is to go into that mode. I’m not ready for this. You can’t leave me now. I mean, just those are all normal emotions and I really can see where it would be helpful to not you say it, but for them to be able to say it. So if your dad were to experience chest pains, what would you do? And then I would have to be like, uh, actually say it so that I would be like, okay, I’m going to pick up the phone and I’m going to call you and you’re going to be able to tell me, and then I’m going to know, how to help him as far as be comfortable versus having them come in and do CPR on him. If I call nine one one . And so just being able to go through that scenario as the person who’s going to experience it or possibly could experience, I really do think it will help. You know? It is a scientific fact that when we are feeling unsafe, our brain goes into a different mode and we can’t think logically. There is no logic available because we’ve switched into survival mode and being able to play through some of these conversations and being able to actually maybe experience the panic of thinking of losing your loved one will put you in that place. But then, like you said, get your brain to be able to trigger into, no, I know what to do. I don’t have to panic. This isn’t unsafe. This is what was expected and actually know how to respond to it. I think it’s so helpful to do that in those crisis situations and the big crisis, but I think it’s also helpful to be able to start bringing up any concerns that you have. If you’re seeing one of your parents aging.
Having that conversation with mom, what’s it going to look like when dad’s gone. Being able to open those doors and have those conversations are going to be invaluable because it’s going to happen eventually. So being able to start to take the panic out of it, the crisis out of the situation and have the conversations more comfortably are just going to give us more opportunities to know that we’re honoring them well because we’re having those conversations.
I think even when you’re just anybody that you’re in a caregiving role with being able to ask those questions. It’s ironic because, you know, we’d been through it with my mom. Of course, my dad planned my mom’s funeral, but it was like once Dad was gone. It was like, Oh. We really didn’t talk about it. We didn’t say, what music do you want? Who do you want to do it? We didn’t have any of those conversations when he could have had those conversations, and it was funny because people said to me, I just assumed you would have done that. Well, of course, we did a lot of things, but Nope, that’s not one of them. We knew where he was going to be buried, but we didn’t get into the specifics with them, so we were able to model what we did by what he did for my mom. But that was only because we’d been through that with my mom. I think it’s, it’s just interesting how we just avoid those things. We were so focused on helping him live that we didn’t think about when he was gone.
Aly Neises: I think it’s very common thinking about death and dying means that it’s going, I think we kind of have this personal fear that if we talk about it, it’ll come faster, it brings mortality into it. And so none of us want to think about one’s dying that’s not a comfortable place to be. But I think it’s important to have those conversations while you can in so that you can honor those people in the best way that you can, but also so it gets more comfortable. When you’re in crisis mode, it’s hard to handle things. it’s impossible. Like you said, fight or flight is a real thing, and so.
There’s all kinds of scenarios and all that situations, but if you can talk about them before and have a plan in place, so it’s going to make those things so much easier for you.
Rayna Neises: And just being able to think through, what would you do if a tornado came through? What would you do if your house burned down? What would you do? You know, just even starting in some of those things that feel like they’re maybe less likely to happen. just starting with those conversations, what would happen if we all lost our phones? I mean, even if it’s silly, I think you just getting you talking and getting you thinking through. And like I said, when I was talking to Kathi, I think creatively solving the problem because that creative side of our brain can bring so much more comfort if we’re creative in how we try to solve it. that can only happen if it’s not in the moment.
Aly Neises: Another awesome thing she had even mentioned was like even talking about her mother in law who lived in assisted living and how they were talking about how they were worried what was going to happen during our tornado or a fire. Like did she understand where she was supposed to go and what she was supposed to do and what a peace of mind it was for her husband. To be able to hear her verbalize, yeah I do. This is where I go, this is who I check in with or whatever. This is the plan. facilities are great about doing things like that. Number one, cause it’s a regulation. But number two, cause you have, you have a lot of people you have to organize in a quick amount of time. sometimes as caregivers in the home setting, we get kind of lax about some of that. There’s only three of us living here. It won’t be that they did a deal to get us out of the house or to get us into the basement or whatever. So I think it’s important to have those conversations, even about the basics, the things that you wouldn’t normally have that conversation about.
So you do have a plan. So mom or dad is more comfortable when that time comes and hopefully it never comes. That’s what we all want. Right? But if you’ve had that plan and you’ve had that conversation. Then you can kind of rest easy a little bit knowing that they know what to do, when to do it, and you also know what to do and when to do it when you have to do it in a quick amount of time.
Rayna Neises: And when you have caregivers that are coming in, sometimes you have new people and you might forget to have that conversation with them. We had an incident where dad fell in the middle of the night and the caregiver didn’t reach us for quite a long while, and I was pretty frustrated by that because there was a list on the fridge that said neighbor’s phone number, and she had gone through that list trying to reach us, and our phones weren’t ringing because it was the middle of the night.
But she did not, I think to call the neighbor who was the person who could actually get him up off the floor. She called me at five o’clock in the morning. I was 220 miles away. I couldn’t help her get him off the floor. And so just realizing that as you have other people in to care for your loved one, make sure that you’ve had those conversations. These are the important numbers. this is the order of who I want you to call if anything were to happen. Because like you said, we don’t anticipate that it will, but we never know if it will or not. And making sure they are equipped and remember where they can find that information is so important no matter who they are, whether it be another family member that’s sitting with you with your loved one, or if it’s someone that’s a paid person.
Just that reminder because it changes. The people change and sometimes the plan changes. My dad’s ability to handle the stairs was different at different times. There were times that medications and side effects that he was having was way more challenging than other times. So just problem solving through it in that situation.
If your loved one’s now in a wheelchair and they weren’t before, you want to have those conversations and make sure, you know, where’s the easiest way to get out of the house and how are we going to do that and where would we meet if there was a fire or whatever. So I just love that talking through and making it like a game I thought it was funny when she said that about, you know, it sounds funny for it to be, fun, but it can be fun when you’re making it even kind of silly. So.
Aly Neises: I agree. And I think the, she hit the nail on the head, but when her husband came home and it’s like, okay, so let’s talk about me losing my job. What are you going to do? And she says, panic. I’m like, exactly. That’s exactly what I do. What do you mean? So to talk about before you can talk about the logical ways that you can handle those situations.
And I love that you talk about how that’s important, not only for your family to know, but if you have other people coming in and out and where to find that information and how to handle all of those situations, I think is going to make everything more seamless and better for everyone. Happier, healthier relationships and have your health or healthcare givers make that journey even easier for everyone. That’s really what we want.
Rayna Neises: Exactly that’s the goal.
I just so enjoyed having Kathi on she really came about it from a different perspective than some of our other guests, and it was just fun to see what her tips and ideas were.
Again, her book is launching just next week on May 16th and Ready for Anything: Preparing Your Heart and Home for Any Crisis Big or Small. So be sure to check that out and learn more ideas from Kathi Lipp on how to get ready for a crisis. Thanks so much, Aly. I think this is a really helpful episode today.
I hope our listeners have enjoyed it. Just a reminder, A Season of Caring Podcast is created for the encouragement of family caregivers. If you have medical, financial, or legal questions, please contact your local professionals, and take heart in your season of caring.
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