Hope for living, loving and caring with no regrets!

Caregiver Stories and Learning from Others

Episode 23

Rayna Neises, ACC, host, and Aly Neises, RN, cohost, recap Michele Howe’s story and explore some of the stories from her book Caring for Our Aging Parents.

  • Don’t be a hero, find your limits and get help.
  • Learn from other’s journeys so you don’t have to learn from the school of hard knocks.
  • The story of Joe and Frank from Michele’s book- how things come full circle.
  • Expose your children to older people to help them understand better.  Learn to extend grace.
  • Children bring a unique joy to those we are caring for and for us.
  • The story of Brad and his dad from Michele’s book-
  • Staying flexible is a must in caring for aging parents
  • Honor who they and where they are now
  • Balancing physical needs and relationships can be challenging



*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 Aly Neises your cohost. Today we will be discussing the interview with Michelle Howe and her book, Caring for Your Aging Parents, Lessons in Love, Loss, and Letting Go.

I really enjoyed talking with Michelle and being able to just hear her personal story, as well as some of the stories from her book.

Aly Neises: I agree.  I think one of the great aspects of Michelle is that she has these personal stories for her, one being that they’re caregiving of Bill, the neighbor, but also of her father-in-law. She talks about the things that a lot of our other guests have talked about. Their relationship with Bill was a very positive one. They called him the third grandpa. He was a part of their lives before, and then the end, those last five years, they really helped take care of him, the day to day stuff. And I think that relationship and that journey for her then like she talked about made it easier for her to take care of her.

Father-in-law. That the journey w walking their father-in-law all the way. Home was a much shorter journey. It was only five months, but she is very open and honest, and I loved that. She was so open and honest about how with Bill, they made a lot of mistakes. And she talks about how, unfortunately, caregiving, like a lot of things you have to practice and learn and develop in order to get to the next step.

And so they learned a lot in those five years, they had a lot of stress during those times as well. It sounded like her husband was working a lot. They were raising teenagers and that’s a big deal plus kind of helping this elderly man out whenever he needed it. And he had a lot of health problems in the end, in and out of the hospital, cancer, Parkinson’s I think she mentioned as well. I mean, just a lot of cards stacked against you. And eventually, the cards have to fall. And it sounds like they maneuvered it to the best of their ability, but she did really gleaned some things from that relationship and from that caregiving experience. And I just want to touch base on a couple of those things.

One of the things that really stuck out to me that we have talked about before is that her husband said don’t be the hero. You can’t do it all. You don’t need to do it all. We need to ask for help. We’ve talked about building our teams and having those people be there and support us and help us when we’re in the trenches. So I love that Michelle also talked about that. And then she also mentioned that you need to find your limits, same kind of concept, know where you are, know how much you can provide and know when you aren’t the right person for that job. It’s okay to ask for somebody else to do that for you. So I think those were the two big things that I gleaned from that interview the most. But I do love that she was just very honest, how we can talk about things and we can give you tips and tricks, but sometimes you’re not going to know and not understand until you’re in that situation. And every situation is different and every caregiving journey is different, but you will start to learn from the good things and the bad things that we do in situations just as we do as humans. So as long as you continue to grow, I think you can have a more positive aspect the next time or in the next caregiving journey,

Rayna Neises: I wanted to mention too that I thought was a little ironic was she talked about how Bill was so independent and he was a farmer and a hunter and he was single his whole life, no children. He just took care of it. He got the job done and he always had been able to do that until suddenly he couldn’t.

But I thought it was really funny because she noticed those qualities in him. But she didn’t mention those qualities in her and her husband. And that’s what their first caregiving season was like. It was about we’re going to do this. It needs to be done. Let’s just go, let’s just do it. I think so many of us that have that heart for caregiving, that’s our mentality.

And we don’t stop to look around for resources so that we have, we ended up learning everything hard knocks versus taking advantage of the things that other people are telling us. So hopefully listeners, you are a step ahead because you’re here listening to us and you’re hopefully listening to other people’s stories and learning from them versus having to learn from the school of hard knocks.

So I just wanted to kind of throw that out there and say, I think those are all admirable qualities. I have them myself. I’m going to do it. I’m going to stick to it until it’s a done deal. And that’s a great quality, but it doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. So here we are again saying don’t do it alone. Take advantage of the resources, find the people in your life to help you.

Aly Neises: Michelle, as you already mentioned is an author and she’s written to help caregivers along this journey. And I know there were a couple in this, one of her recent books of the stories that we kind of wanted to talk about, as well. So you want to kind of expand on that.

Rayna Neises: One of the stories I wanted to highlight in Michelle’s book, Caring for Our Aging Parents and in her book, she shares a little of her story, but then she goes on to interview. Each chapter is an interview with different people who have experienced caring for an elderly loved one. This story was about Joe and it was actually pretty similar to her personal experience with her neighbor. Joe had a neighbor named Frank and Frank had been amazing to their family. He was always looking out for them. He was noticing the little things that they might not have noticed he was coming to the house and just offering help whenever they needed it.

And then as life continued like it does. Frank eventually got older and Joe started noticing some of the things that Frank used to take care of, that he wasn’t able to take care of anymore. And as I talked to clients, that’s one of the things that, I mentioned as your parents are aging, or as your neighbor is aging, you’re going to start noticing little things that have always been taken care of aren’t taken care of anymore. And that means they’re just reaching a point where they’re needing some help. And Joe saw that and he also knew Frank was pretty independent and wasn’t probably going to be really open to Joe saying, Hey, I’m going to do this. You know, so Joe was kind of really trying to figure out how can he have a win, win scenario with Frank and offer that help that Frank needed.

And he came up with the idea of offering help through his kids. And he approached Frank and said, we’ve been talking to the kids about being more aware of other people’s needs and being more giving to other people around him. And we’d like to be serving some people in the neighborhood. Would you mind if the kids did this for you?

Joe said in his interview with Michelle, he said he was amazed that Frank was actually grateful and very responsive to their willingness to help. And that it really helped Joe see that. Iit really is a matter of being able to give and take in all relationships. He says but now we’ll just have to remember that. We’ll be the ones looking out for Frank. Instead of him looking out for us, things really do come full circle eventually. As he reflected back, he said, it’s all good. It was such a great opportunity for their relationship to continue to grow and for his kids to grow as well. that is just beautiful to be able to introduce, that thankfulness and continue to build that relationship even as Frank aged.

Aly Neises: I love that they did come full circle, that it used to be the other way around and he was kind of taken care of them. And they could pay that service back. But I think also that the end of the journey, they both are going to benefit so much from that and the kids too like he mentioned, that’s such a great thing to teach our children about service and helping others and not as an obligation, but because it is a good thing and it’s going to help people. I love it.

Rayna Neises: I often say we’re really only one generation out of having multiple-generation households. I would say my generation one generation out, I guess. if you talk to most people in middle age, their parents had their grandparents live with them. At some point in their life. My parents had, my grandfather lived with them before I was born, but he lived with him for a period of time after my grandmother passed away. And so that exposure with children, having their grandparents in the household, understanding how older people are, they might smell a little bit, they might be a little bit harsh. Some of those things that we learned to extend grace, and when we were all living under the same roof, we’ve missed out on. My grandparents had all passed by the time I was born. So I certainly didn’t have that interaction with older people. I had one great aunt that was around quite a bit, but not in that everyday kind of basis.

And I think sometimes because we’re removed from older people, then that uncomfortableness can kind of come for kids of not really knowing what to do or say, or why they want to hug me or just kind of an uncomfortable piece. So I really do like that, finding ways to bring your kids into not only taking care of your parents or their grandparents but, neighbors and just any older person that needs help.

Aly Neises: I think it’s too important to show children that, we all are aging, we’re all going to change and we’re not going to be the same person we were five years ago, and that’s going to be definitely more evident when you’re talking about elderly people. How extending grace and teaching how to extend that grace and compassion and understanding, it would be very frustrating.

I’m sure it was frustrating. I think for Bill and for Frank to lose some of that independence and that availability and ability to do things on their own and take care of the normal things. Simple things like mowing the lawn things we take for granted every day. And a lot of times we don’t want to do either, but they simply can’t because they physically can’t.

So if we can start to show the next generation, those kinds of things, that it’s okay. And it’s just a normal thing that’s going to occur. I think you’re gonna have more well-rounded children as well, more accepting of others, which really is all we need in this world.

Rayna Neises: For sure. You’re also going to be modeling how you care for older people so that when you are the older person, they step right into that role. They don’t feel awkward and they don’t feel uncomfortable with the fact that you’re needing more help. And so it’s just a natural thing to do. Cause that’s what we do. We take care of people who can’t take care of themselves. It’s a lesson I think we’re missing for a lot of kids these days. And it really is something they could use because we are so far away from family. We are so such a mobile society that, you know, many of kids don’t live right by the grandparents, but there are people who their children have moved away and they need someone. So I love that both of these situations were embracing that older person in there’s so much that that are older. People can give, they have the time they have the heart to love your kids and to spend time with them.

And so taking advantage of those relationships both ways is, a beautiful thing to do. So I encourage you as listeners to look for that look for those kids that can step in and offer that. They bring such joy to everybody. toddlers and young children are just a blessing all the time. We had a caregiver who actually was pregnant and had a baby while she was working for us, caring for my dad.

And she would bring him to work with her. And she said, when dad was in a grumpy mood, she just would bring the baby in and just talk. look, Bob, look, who’s here. And immediately there was a smile and there was,  reaching out and baby talk and all of those things that you just hadn’t seen that life in him in the same way as you did when he was interacting with that baby.

So I think the same thing is true when we go shopping or we go walking and he would see a little girl, he was immediately talking to all little children and I think it’s beautiful what older people can bring. It’s important to look for those relationships and caregivers as you’re in that place right now, you’re not necessarily looking for someone you can befriend because you have a lot going on, but rather someone you can bring into the circle to bring that joy to the person that you’re caring for.

So the second story I wanted to highlight from Michelle’s book was a story of a man named Brad and Brad’s dad was turning 82 and his dad had lost his mom and he was just kind of in a funk. His dad was a really social guy before he lost his wife. And he just kind of stopped doing most of those things cause they used to do them together. And so he was feeling that his dad was really isolating himself and he was concerned because he just felt like he could possibly be feeling depressed.

And he just wanted to do something really special for his 82nd birthday. So Bill rented a hall and he invited all the family and friends and he decided to throw a surprise. Perfect party. Unfortunately, surprises are not always good for everyone. And sometimes when we get older and we have our own opinion about things, we don’t want someone telling us what to do.

And that’s what happened the day Brad went to pick up his dad for the birthday party. His dad thought he was going to dinner for a special birthday dinner at his son’s house. And when Brad got to his dad’s house, his dad had his pajamas on and he was tired and not planning on going anywhere. And Brad proceeded to have the conversation. Oh, dad, it’s your birthday. We want to celebrate, come on. Just put on your clothes. It’s okay. And he tried to talk him into going with him for a full 45 minutes. And at that point, his dad just looked at him and said, I’m not going anywhere. And so Brad had to make the drive back to the reception hall, not only without his dad but an hour after he was expected to be there with his dad and had to break the news to everyone that his dad was not coming.

And Brad shares in this story, just that he experienced that really flexibility is important. not being able to, really push our aging parents, but rather learning how to, accept them for where they are and understanding that sometimes we know them. We’ve known them our whole lives. And we think we can think exactly how they’re going to think. But old age, It does have effects and it really can change the person and even their personality. Though his dad had always been a people person, even thinking of going to his own birthday party was not enough to motivate him to do that. And so just realizing that sometimes those changes are happening and being aware of them, it can make it easier to take care of our loved ones.

The other thing he said is that he understood that his father may not be able to explain why he doesn’t want to participate in something anymore, but he has to accept that and honor his dad’s choices. That’s one of the fine lines that we walk as we’re caring for aging, or even just sick people is that even if they can’t tell us or if they can’t explain it in a way that makes sense to us, we need to honor their wishes.

Aly Neises: I think that as a child, You want what’s best for your parents and when you’re taking care of them, you know what things used to bring them happiness and joy. And that’s what we want. We want them to be happy and joyful and have this great quality of life. And I think Brad was trying to do this beautiful thing that before his dad would have been so happy with you he just wasn’t in that spot anymore. As children, it’s hard sometimes to see that our parents are aging and changing in having their, good days and their bad days and all of those things as well. And so to honor their wishes and to kinda let a sleeping dog lie is sometimes one of the hardest things to do.

And I’m sure that that was really hard, especially when you’re talking about a surprise party and there’s all these other people. It’s not just, his family at his house, but he had originally had thought it was a lot of people hoping to surprise him and show how much they loved him as well, and he

Rayna Neises: I’m sure it was really difficult to be gracious about it at all because you had put so much work into it and wanted it to be something special for him. So I’m sure that was hard for Brad to be able to just accept. But I think to understand again, that one event then makes you understand better. Okay. I can’t surprise. We’ve got to plan this together and make sure he’s on board before because I think anytime. Honestly, children, don’t like to be told what to do, but we can tell them what to do. Cause we say, where are the adult? You need to do what we say, but older people, they’re not, they’re not going to get bossed around and it has to be a joint effort.

And so understanding that honoring them is learning their new limitations and learning to honor those and to let them have a say, as long as we can, as long as it’s safe and there taking care of themselves as far as health-wise, too.

Aly Neises: Sometimes I think too, that that would be, that’s hard to, it’s easy to lose sight of that, especially when we’re talking about caregiving. And when we’re talking more about when you’re doing more as a caregiver, as far as the aspect of the physical needs, when we’re bathing and taking people to the bathroom and feeding and that kind of thing, I think sometimes it’s harder to honor and understand that they’re still people and they still have opinions and we still need to be respectful of that. In-kind of, extend some grace and dignity in those areas as well. And just that constant reminder of what, even if they can’t express it, what they would have liked or what they would want normally. And let that kind of be your true North and kind of focus on that and understand that they are going to have bad days and it’s not going to go as planned and sometimes you just have to start over tomorrow and that’s okay. But that journey can be really difficult too if you kind of lose sight of these are people and not only are they people, but they’re our loved ones. And so that’s what we need to do. We need to love them.

Rayna Neises: It’s a tough balance, addressing the physical needs and making sure that those things are done at the same time as preserving the relationship and keeping it a relationship. And I think that’s one of the hardest things about being a family caregiver is the family parts. That’s a matter of keeping those relationships I’m on good ground. And if they aren’t finding a way to move to that place, because that’s a lot of people’s story to that, Mom has always been difficult or always been critical of me. And so it’s hard for me to be here, be here and do these things for her because she’s always been so critical and you can’t really expect that at this stage, she’s going to change.

It’s still going to be part of what you’re doing. And so as a family caregiver, it’s a matter of finding a way to take care of yourself in those areas emotionally, because it is hard and it’s going to be a tough journey walking them all the way home, there will never be a time that that’s easy. And so it’s a matter of realizing that it is difficult. And again, just taking care of yourself in a way that lets you have what you need to do that.

So, these are just two stories from Michelle’s book and she actually has 30 chapters. And each chapter is a short interview with the person that’s caring for an elderly loved one, and then just, some nuggets of truth that they learned through their caregiving with the person that they love. I recommend it as a great encouraging book that can help you in your journey. So definitely check out Michelle’s book again. You can find Michelle at MicheleHowe.workpress.com  MichelleHowe.wordpress.com She has writen over 24 different books. So, you might also find something else that would interest you in her library of books.

Thank you listeners for joining us today. We hope that you have enjoyed thinking a little more about relationships and being able to meet the physical needs of our loved ones as we’re caring for them at the same time as remembering to nurture those relationships with those loved ones.

And just to reminder, A Season of Caring Podcast is created for the enjoyment of family caregivers. If you have medical, financial, or legal questions, be sure to consult your local professionals and take heart in your season of caring.

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Meet Your Hosts

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.

Rayna Neises & Aly Neises

Aly Neises, RN

Your Co-Host

A registered  nurse, has worked in healthcare for over ten years. Currently she is a case manager for hospice taking care of terminally ill patients and their families.

Her passion is to help and care for others.

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