Hope for living, loving and caring with no regrets!

Ep 22 Michele Howe

Episode 22

Episode 22 Rayna Neises, A Season of Caring Podcast Host, interviews Michele Howe.  Michele is an author who has been a caregiver herself and wrote an inspiring book Caring for Our Aging Parents: Lessons on Love, Loss, and Letting Go.  Michele shares wisdom from her own journey and for those she interviewed for her book.

  • Learn from each of your caregiving experiences by asking what went well and what did not
  • Some have the eyes and heart to see caregiving needs and others just don’t
  • Most of the time there is just one person in a family that steps forward to meet the caregiving needs of a loved one
  • Find others who are further down the road to share their wisdom
  • Be on the lookout for unrealistic expectations
  • Don’t try to be a hero- find your support
  • Let go of expectations of changing the person you are caring for
  • Spend time in self-care.  Ask for help right away
  • Have the hard conversations about what you can and can’t do
  • You are not alone.  Find others to support you


*Transcript is an actual recount of the live conversation
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, and today I’m excited to introduce you to Kathi Lipp.

Kathi inspires thousands of women each year to strip down their expectations and live with real purpose. With humor and wisdom, Kathi offers hope paired with practical steps to live with meaning. Kathi Lipp is the author of over 20 books, including Ready for Anything. Clutter-free Home. Clutter-free. The Christmas Project Planner. Get Yourself Organized.  The Husband Project and Overwhelmed. She’s the host of Clutter-free Academy the Podcast, and she also runs the Facebook group Clutter-free Academy where thousands of women and a few brave men support each other in living a clutter-free life.

Thanks so much for joining me today Kathi.

Kathi Lipp: Oh, Rayna, are you kidding? I know. This is going to be a fun conversation.

Rayna Neises: Well, we’re all about caregiving here. And as I think about the task of trying to care for our parents, a lot of times part of that process is helping them to downsize and deal with the clutter and things in their lives. And so tell me a little bit about how Clutter-free Home and living a clutter-free life can help us as we help our parents.

Kathi Lipp: Yeah. Well, you know, part of my journey is that my father was a hoarder. So I have some real, um, you know, one of the most poignant memories I have with my dad. I never saw my dad cry. He wasn’t like a super tough guy, but he just wasn’t a crier. Until my parents were moving out of their house and we had to make all these hard decisions.

And, my mom and my brother were just so frustrated with him. And so I was the enforcer. Like I had to go in and I, it was just awful. And. You know, the older I get, the more I realized that my dad was attached to his stuff because, you know, he didn’t have a lot of relationships outside of our family, and that was who he was, you know, his stamp collection, his electronics, those kinds of things.

And so, we’ve had to really reframe our thinking. Around, how do I deal with my aging parents? How do I deal with their stuff?  My brother has, I often told my mom, I’m just going to rent a, you haul back up the truck and throw everything in there. And she says, and that’s why you don’t have a key to my house. You know, like, good boundary, mom, good boundary. So one of the things that I found that is kind of helpful in this situation is to ask, our aging parents, tell me the story, like, tell me the story behind that piece of glass, or tell me the story behind that coin. Like, why is that important to you?

Because I think. We are our stories. And when those are pitched, it feels like we are pitched. The agreement that I’m coming to with my mom is, you know, to say what is important for you that I have and what isn’t, what can I find the right home for. And so those are some good, important questions.

Like what is important to you as a family thing and what is important to you? As you know, we spend a lot of money, like at one day she pointed at some milk glass, but didn’t really know what middle class was. And she goes, don’t just throw that away. That’s good stuff. And I’m like, okay, well tell me about it.

Like I need to understand. And I did the research on it and so I was able to show my mom, I understand. Like I understand the value and for things that maybe aren’t valuable but have sentimental value. my thing is, okay, I’m going to keep a few things that remind me of the people I know and love in my family.

I’ve got this silver jewelry box. I’ve got some silver earrings my grandmother wore, you know, and it’s saying, you know what? I am going to honor these, but I’m not going to honor. People by keeping their Thomasville furniture set from the 1950s like that’s, yeah, so it’s, it’s understanding the different things, but people want to feel valued and often they feel valued through their possessions.

Now there are some of our aging parents who they’ve taken it a little too far and they can’t get rid of anything and they won’t allow you to get rid of anything. And that was a little bit where we were with my dad. Um, the day my dad died, my mom kissed him goodbye. I kissed him goodbye. We cried for a while and my mom came upstairs and started bagging up his stuff.

And to some people that would seem very cold. To me, it was my mom not having that argument for over 40 years. And, really honoring him in that way. And so, it’s going to be different for everybody, but we need to understand why people are attached to their things.

Rayna Neises: That’s so good. I think when I lost my dad and we had to clean out the house and sell the house, it was hard for me to dig through that stuff. And he had done a good job of really getting rid of a lot of things, but just letting go of those last few things. It was the memories. So I love that you said that.

Tell me about it, because that’s what was hard to look at in its eye and give it away because it was the emotional attachment to the memory, not really to the item.

Kathi Lipp:  Yeah. And so often, we can achieve the same thing, not with the item, but a picture of the item or something along those lines. So thinking creatively, creatively about how can we do that is really a bonus.

Rayna Neises: It’s such a great idea. And again, just coming back to, it’s the communication

Kathi Lipp: Yes.

Rayna Neises: is so important when we are trying to help our parents as they age. It’s being willing to have that tough conversation and bring it up. And talk about it and get to a point where you’re both comfortable being able to talk through it. That’s so helpful. I know that you’re just getting ready to release. Ready for Anything, and that is a book that’s just coming at such a crucial time in history, but, you know, helping our parents be ready as well is so important. So tell us some tips about that.

Kathi Lipp: Yeah. So it’s been very interesting living with my mom, we have definitely at least two weeks’ worth of food at our house, but we’re living with my mom. And so trying to get her to that place has been interesting and I’m not trying to overstep my bounds. She’s been very, very gracious, so please hear me on that. But also things like, well, where’s your first aid kit? Oh, I don’t have one. Okay, well this is something we’re going to take care of. We’re going to get you a first aid kit because, she has cats, cats, every once in awhile, little co, you know, let’s just make sure you have what you need.

Understanding where her important papers are so she can tell me, um, under making sure she has enough food and water because, uh, you know, yes, we can all order groceries right now, but can I tell you I’m pretty tech-savvy and. I’ve had a hard time ordering groceries sometimes, and it’s, I don’t know how it is where you live Rayna, but like, it’s been grocery roulette here. You go on and you’re trying to order groceries and there’s no open windows for a week. And so you have to keep trying. And it’s like, Holy cow, who knew that this would become the new video game of the 2020 time is trying to get those groceries so.

That’s one of the things we’ve been doing for my mother-in-law as well. She’s in and the assisted living facility, but is completely isolated. Yeah. They’re not allowed to be around each other. They’re not allowed to be around anything. So trying to figure out how do we support her in that circumstance. And so setting up grocery deliveries of some of her favorite foods that she doesn’t get. Delivered to her room. So things like, she wanted little bottles of water because the big balls of water were hard for her to carry, and she wanted a certain kind of yogurt and things like that. And she has a little fridge in her room. We can’t just do one big grocery order for her. We have to do little grocery orders every week so that she can clean out her fridge. And it’s just things I had never really thought of. But it’s a different thing when you’re doing somebody who’s in an assisted living facility. So that’s one way we’ve been able to support her and help her be prepared and also send along, you know, a few snacks that are non-perishable.

So if there is a disruption in her food supply that she’s not going to be without, that she’s going to be able to be okay. So trying to think along those lines and having a, knowing the emergency contact numbers, you know, I’m glad now that we, we know more about who do we contact at the facility.

If the main number can’t dial through and we’ve had to learn also, they can’t be answering the phone all the time. They’re taking care of people’s lives, so I need to be okay with not having information at the drop of a hat.

Rayna Neises: That’s tough. And it’s interesting cause you’re experiencing both ends. With being right there with your mom and coaching through those opportunities of trying to figure out how to maneuver in the same space. But then to have somebody far away too, that’s a whole different ball game. So you’ve had that learner hat on big time.

Kathi Lipp:  Oh my goodness. Yes. And it’s been, there’ve been so many blessings for us, like for my mom, she’s a quilter, so she’s got a new full-time job, sewing masks and also finding those activities that we like to do together. Now, I’m not a big puzzle maker like that’s not my thing, but it’s definitely my husband’s thing and my mom’s thing.

So every time I come downstairs I’m like, why am I working full time? And you guys are doing puzzles full time. I need to understand how to get that gig. But also we’ve been able to figure out, my mom doesn’t enjoy cooking. I actually really enjoy cooking, but she doesn’t mind doing dishes. I hate doing dishes.

So finding our roles in all of this has been really interesting and really good. And for awhile she was feeling guilty about not cooking and I was feeling good about guilty about not doing dishes until we had the discussion. And like you said, it’s all communication. And once I found out she was fine doing the dishes, I’m like, I can cook all day long. That is fine. So that’s been a really good answer to our situation here.

Rayna Neises: I love that. And you’re living with her, not because anything happened that she needed you to necessarily rather, you guys kind of had a life change that brought you into that place.

Kathi Lipp: Yeah, so our house in San Jose, we sold it and it changed hands the day the shelter in place went into place, and then our home that we had already owned for a year and a half, but we were moving into full time, was being used as Airbnb at the time. And then it was snowed in, so we actually couldn’t get to our house.

And my mom has a large house where she wasn’t using her master suite. So my husband and I took that over with her blessing.  We’ve been trying to understand how do we help her financially with that? And she says, you’ve bought all the groceries. I’m fine. And so I’m like, okay, as long as we’re okay with that of them, and we, we revisit that conversation.

Often because things can change, but, um, so it’s us. Yeah, she’s fine. She could be here by herself, but it’s definitely been easier, I would say emotionally and physically to have us here and then we’re part of a team with Roger’s mom. Taking care of her. She has two sons who live locally and we live across the country, so we do more of the long-distance. The phone calls, the tech issues the grocery delivery and they’re more a little more hands-on.

Rayna Neises: And that’s so important. I love that you just gave the perfect example for caregivers. Oftentimes. We don’t mean to be martyrs, but we have a tendency to be martyrs that we just go in and do it all ourselves and we don’t think to ask for help and we don’t think that we need help. And I love that you just laid right out it’s a team. It takes a team, and each situation is individual, and those needs are different in each situation, but there’s takes more than one person to support.

Kathi Lipp: I will be honest with you, I had a lot of resentment towards Rogers brothers for a long time because they were all saying, you just have to move home because mom needs more help than we can do. You need to move home. And it took everything for me to not scream. Georgia was not home like neither Roger or I have ever lived there in our entire lives.

You guys made the decision to all move there long after Roger know moved to California and so you know, their only solution for a long time was you have to move here and. My parents live here, my kids live here, my husband’s kids live here. That wasn’t going to happen. But now we have a way to connect.

Cause I guess, you know, Roger calling his mom all the time didn’t count, but I knew it counted because I knew that that’s what she needed. But they wanted somebody physically here to take her to doctor’s appointments and things like that. And that’s just, that was never going to be our reality. But we’ve been able to fill in in other ways.

Rayna Neises: And that’s important to realize there are different ways of accomplishing that. And I think as we talk to the listeners, we talk about that distance person. They’re still a part of the team. And there are things like phone calls and even just the phone calls to doctors or other people that you can be a crucial part of that team. You don’t have to physically be there. And oftentimes people feel like, because I’m not there, I don’t. I don’t have a say. I shouldn’t worry about it, but that’s not true at all. I love that. That you saw that, and now they’re seeing that.

Kathi Lipp: We’re learning. You know, like one of the things the pandemic has taught us, my mother in law said she would never go to video church. Like she just thought that that was an abomination. She was married to a pastor for years and years, and now it’s like, okay, none of us have a choice. But the advantage has been that her sons now go to church with her.

So Roger has set this all up on Zoom. So we’re watching on one screen and we are talking with each other on another screen and all enjoying the service together. And this is as close as she’s going to get to go to church with her kids on this side of heaven. So it’s been a real benefit to her.

Rayna Neises: That’s so neat. I love that technology has allowed you to bridge that gap and these times have just caused us to change and to be more open to things than we have been before. So that’s such an amazing way to be able to, again, bring the whole family together is not just something you guys are participating in, but bringing the brothers into that’s really amazing.

So as parents are aging and we’re looking to support what other things come to mind, that would be really helpful for us to think about. I love the questions that you have for us to think about helping them to pair down their items, but anything else that comes to mind?

Kathi Lipp: Yeah one of the things I like to talk about is a five-minute plan. And what I mean by that is it, let’s have the conversation about how we’re going to react when we have some challenging news. So my, my dad was chronically unemployed. My first husband was unemployed, much of our first marriage. And so I married Roger who’s had the same job for 35 years. It does, you know, your husband’s a farmer. We are the only people who have been married to guys who have had a job that long.

Rayna Neises: Their whole life. Yes.

Kathi Lipp: Yes. But Roger still could get laid off. Something could happen and so, you know, for a long time, anytime something happened at his job, you know, his job is a fortune 50 company. So like anytime there was something in the news, I’d be in a panic. And he said, okay, we need to talk about your reaction to all of this stuff. Because I had a really tender spot with that. He said when I come home, and I tell you I’ve been laid off. I’m like, Oh my gosh. He goes, what are we going to do in the first five minutes?

And he said I think we should pray. And then I think I should work on our finances and make sure we’ve got things where we think we’ve got, you know, just to do that. What could be your role? And I’m like, panic. My role is panic, don’t, you know? And he says, how about we can come up with a more constructive role?

And I said, well, what about. What if I started canceling all of our subscriptions; like Netflix and things like that. And so what it does, it gives you a way to prepare and it’s a way to have a conversation about a really scary thing with it, taking some of the juice out of it. And I think that’s away, it’s like, okay, you know, what is the most likely scenario where your parents are at. And so for my mother-in-law, just recently there were tornadoes going through there, and so we said, okay, mom, do you know what to do in case of a tornado? And that facility she’s at, they have got it nailed down. Everybody knows what they’re supposed to do, where they’re supposed to go, but that just allowed my husband to sleep at night.

So to have those conversations to say, mom, if something goes different with the stock market, you know what, what? Let’s prepare now so we can write down what you say. Because the worst time to make a decision is in the midst of a crisis. You can be a genius before you can be a genius after. But in the midst of a crisis, pretty much all of us are idiots. And so let’s talk about it beforehand.

Rayna Neises:  I love that because as a coach, I know that your brain, it really is true. Your brain stops working. You just go into survival mode. That’s all there is. There is no other choice. And so by having these questions now and maybe even that emotional reaction. You’re still able to have the time to switch into the logical side of your brain or even more. I love the creative side of your brain being creative, being able to handle this catastrophe in your imagination because it’s not really happening right now.

Kathi Lipp: Right? It’s actually, it can be almost, this is going to sound crazy fun to think about, like all those different things. we’ve had the conversation here. What if one of us gets coronavirus. You know where, uh, it’s a big house. Thank you, Jesus. But do we stay in the house or do we go to our mountain house where we’re totally isolated?

It caused me to think, okay, I’m the main cook. So I’m going to, I’m going to stock the freezer with things like soup and stews and things that, I might actually be able to eat if I’m the one who gets sick and trying to think of, okay, can we block off this side of the house with some tarp where there’s a bathroom and a room that people can stay in?

So that. they can be isolated for 14 days. We don’t have, we don’t have like a, you know, a basement or something that one of us can go into. So it’s trying to think along those lines. Fortunately, we have not had to use that plan. But we could have the conversation because we’re not in the midst of the crisis.

So to have those conversations with your parents about their most likely scenario, like are they running low on money? Are they not able to get groceries on a consistent? So what is the next step? How do we figure this out? Is there a neighbor who could help? That’s more locally situated where fortunately we live in 2020 where we can use the Domino’s app and if we’re really in a crisis, get mom a pizza if we need to, but that’s not an everyday solution, but it’s good to know that we have options.

Rayna Neises: Definitely and that creativity brings, in fact, even in caregiving in general, learning to be creative like that is such a huge asset because when you’re in those situations, the go to answers aren’t always the best answers for your family. And so being able to even think through what could be the best answer, is just, that’s great. I love that. So what would you do? And then in the next five minutes and when you have a specific scenario to look at, that’s great.

Kathi Lipp: It gives you a place to plan instead of panic. And so you know that that plan will continue, but the first five minutes, that reaction will help set the tone for your crisis.

Rayna Neises: It will definitely, and the first five minutes, like you said, moves you into the right direction versus making panic decisions that could put you on a path is really not where you want to be at all.

Kathi Lipp:  Exactly

 Rayna Neises: That’s great. Well, Kathi, I can’t believe our time is gone already. It’s crazy. I’ve just so enjoyed being able to talk to you. Such practical ideas and ways for people to really start to think about how to support their parents, how to support the people that they’re caring for, whether they’re right here with you or across the country. So share with my listeners the best way to get in touch with you. I know we’re getting ready to launch Ready for Anything.

 What day is that released again?

Kathi Lipp: The hard copy comes out May 19th the e-version is already out, and so if you go to KathiLipp.com we have all sorts of bonuses and prizes and all sorts of fun things if you preorder. But my favorite place for you to connect with me is on Facebook at Clutter-free Academy. We have, like you were saying in the introduction, we have 10,000 women and a few brave men and who are all decluttering the homes is the most positive place on the internet. And so we would love for you to come join us over there.

Rayna Neises: I love to visit there too and see the great progress people are making and just pick up some simple little tips for me to implement. And it is really encouraging and it feels like anybody can do it and clutter.

Kathi Lipp: they can.

Rayna Neises:  Decluttering doesn’t, I feel like that when we first say it, but I love that, that you make it, that everybody can and

Kathi Lipp:  Yes, it’s, it’s a fun place to hang out and people’s lives are changing. It’s very cool.

Rayna Neises:  It’s amazing how our stuff really isn’t just our stuff. There’s so much more involved. So. Thank you so much for your time and it’s just been a blessing to have a chance to visit with you and listeners.

Just a reminder, A Season of Caring Podcast is created for the encouragement of family caregivers. If you have medical, financial, or legal questions, be sure to contact your local professionals.

Thanks again, Kathi and take heart in your season of caring!

*Transcript is an actual recount of the live conversation

Michele Howe

Michele Howe


Michele Howe is the author of 24 books for women and families. She has published over 3000 articles, reviews, and curriculum. Her most recent releases are Giving Thanks for a Perfectly Imperfect Life and Deliver Us: Finding Comfort in Times of Desperation from the Psalms. Find out more about Michele at michelehowe.wordpress.com

Your turn, share your thoughts . . .



  1. A Season of Caregiving – Stepping Into a Purposeful, Faith-Driven Life - […] https://aseasonofcaring.com/2020/07/04/caring-for-our-aging-parents/ […]

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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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