Hope for living, loving and caring with no regrets!

Kelly Johnson

Episode 30

Ep 30 Rayna Neises, your host, interviews Karen Hafner. Karen lives in Florida with her husband of 28 years, Rance, and together they have two daughters who are grown and out on their own.  She is currently working on her certification in life coaching and looks forward to sharing her experiences helping women who are raising their families. Karen’s father died just over a year ago and she shared the following insights regarding her caregiving journey with him and her sister:

  • Even with strained/broken relationships, the opportunity to care for a parent can be a restorative time for everyone.
  • When caregiving with sibling(s), approaches may be different, but allowing each to do what is comfortable for them can yield a successful team.
  • Assess care giver strengths and assign tasks accordingly.
  • Embrace the time as a family . . . Do things together that they love and celebrate with them as it will be a blessing for all.
  • Focus on you, your love for your parent, and what you can do instead of worrying about what everyone else is doing.
  • When the journey ends, it will be important to give yourself grace and know that your parent knew they were loved and cared for . . . They will not want you to second guess, beat yourself up, or have regret.

Transcript

*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 we have a special guest. Karen Hafner. Karen is married to Rance and they’ve been married for 28 years. They live in Winter Haven, Florida, and have two daughters as well as a son-in-law and grandchildren, hopefully on the way. She has been a dental hygienist but is currently working on her certification in Life Coaching. She desires to work with women who are raising families. She absolutely loves family and friends and fashion, entertaining, decorating, and deep conversations mixed with laughter and serving others through life coaching. She’s looking forward to planning events and holiday gatherings and of course shopping. Her faith is very important to her and is the center of all that she does with her time and talents. Thank you so much, Karen, for being with us today.

Karen Hafner: 

Thank you. Rayna. I’m looking forward to it.

Rayna Neises: 

So start off and just share with our listeners a little bit about your caring season.

Karen Hafner: 

Well, it was a privilege to care for my father. My dad passed away it’s been one year and a couple of days, since his passing. We as a family had decided that we would do our best to care for my dad at home. And we are so grateful that that’s the way it worked out for him. My dad had always been a very healthy person and he declined pretty quickly, in probably the last month of his life. One really neat thing. It happened during this time. I have a sister who was estranged from our family for several years and she wanted to come back and spend some time on my dad. So a couple of years before my dad began his, very swift decline, she asked if she could move in and spend two or three months really just redeeming some time with dad. And he said, yes, he was concerned because she wasn’t going to be working, just be at his house. And it turned out, to be a beautiful thing where, as my sister would say, it’s just like a relationship with the Lord. My dad received her back, with full forgiveness from being from the family. And she was able to care and love for him in his winter of life. they grew very close in the last couple months of his life, I was working part time, but I needed to spend full time care with him, with my sister. We didn’t know how long of course he had, but it was a sweet time for all of our family, to be able to be with my dad. Take him to his appointments, kind of intercept some of those challenges with, healthcare and appointments and miscommunication and things like that. So, we have really great memories of the last, couple months of his swift decline, because he was so happy that he was at his home and that it was his family that was there around him, caring for him.

Rayna Neises: 

That’s an amazing story. So many times when we face a parent passing there can be a lot of strain on relationships. So it’s really neat to hear that it was actually a restoration period for your sister and you, and that you were able to work well together. But I think that can be a real roadblock especially when there’s history of struggles.

Karen Hafner: 

Yeah, I think my dad was anticipating there to be challenges and he kept waiting for it. And all I kept receiving was love from my sister and she is a lovely person anyway. But she really needed and my dad didn’t realize that the need he had for his baby to come back and be there for him. And so, yeah, we are just so thankful for, for that. And it’s such a picture of how our father receives us and forgives us when we come and simply just say, I am sorry.

Rayna Neises: 

Definitely. And I know for my season of caring for my dad, I have one sister and we really grew closer together because we had that common mission. We had that common thing, Dad’s best interests. What are we going to do? How are we going to take care of dad and making those decisions? Because my dad had Alzheimer’s, he couldn’t make decisions for himself. We really had to be in that role together and come into agreement of this is the best thing for him, but I was so thankful that we as well, it brought us together, but I know so many times that’s not the story that I hear. So that’s amazing. I love, I love to hear that, that having her to be a part of caring, but being able to help you with the decisions and all the things that have to happen.

Karen Hafner: 

Yes. It’s funny my sister has not ever had children. I have two daughters and I think it’s funny. I don’t know if your listeners will relate with this, but I think sometimes the way we parent our kids comes out and how we care for our parents in the last days. We didn’t fuss, my sister and I, or fight, but it was interesting how we did things differently. And I could see so many things I did with my um, dad. And some of her question marks, same as my husband, when your husband and wife parenting the children’s so, we got some laughs out of that. I was like, yeah, I think I’m parenting right now.

Rayna Neises: 

I agree. And I actually, I have stepchildren, but I don’t have children of my own. My sister has two and I agree. I saw the same types of things. And one of the things that we talked about today is even the fact that it worked, because we let each other do what we needed to do for comfort for ourselves. Not always. I mean, it was always in the best interest of my dad, but sometimes they’re just things you need for your own sanity. Right? So you do them your way and she did them her way. That’s part of the give and take and the area of in those relations and ships is letting each other be who you are and using those strengths versus working against other.

Karen Hafner: 

Yeah, very, very true. I think that’s why just in pursuing my life coaching certification, it’s kind of a family joke. I’ve always been a questioner. I love people and I love to ask questions and my sister always depended on me to go to the doctor appointment. She’s like, you’re going to ask a million more questions than I am, and then you’re going to get all my answers. And they’re going to tell you when I won’t know what to ask. So we would, again, like you’re saying, we kind of work off our strengths and I’ll do this and you do that, but I’m definitely going to be going and asking a bunch questions.

Rayna Neises: 

That’s great. That’s a perfect example of those strengths and weaknesses. So what would you say was your biggest blessing in this season of caring for your dad?

Karen Hafner: 

Blessing. Yeah. I think just, we were able to embrace the time and realize that at 89 years old, his days were coming to an end and we were able to embrace it as a family spend as much time having family gatherings. He’s a big baseball fan watching base fall. Big baseball fan our little league organization and my dad’s hometown, has a big, big group of kids. And it was actually just a couple months before he passed. They ask him to throw out the first pitch. At the opening ceremonies and he really wasn’t sure he could do it. He was somewhat concerned, with even just being able to stand up from his wheelchair and do it, but he did it and it was such a wonderful thing to see. And yeah, that was, that was a big blessing for all of us.

Rayna Neises: 

That’s neat. My dad was a baseball player as well. So we spent a lot of time watching the Royals and talking about that stuff whenever we spent time together as well. So it’s great to be able to enter into those things that they love and celebrate them with them.

Karen Hafner: 

Yes. Yeah, for sure.

Rayna Neises: 

What would be some of the unanticipated challenges that you faced in your caring season?

Karen Hafner: 

The probably the most, change my attitude of what I expected from others because I did not want to be angry. I didn’t want to be frustrated. I didn’t want to be disappointed and use up all those negative emotions during a time when, I realized the days were drawing nigh that he would, leave us. And sometimes even unintentionally, I think we can have expectations from doctors, from family members, people that we love that are close by and they, as we know through grief, they don’t always see things the same way. They’ll do things the same. And I had the try and just tell myself I am here. I am grateful and able to be available and do what I need to do to love him and be at peace with that and not worry what anyone else is doing. There was nobody doing anything that was really wrong or anything like that, but I could see it becoming a mental obstacle that was frustrating me and my husband saw it and I thought, you know, we all love each other. And everyone is showing their love in different ways. And I needed to just really focus on, on me and my love for my dad and what I could do.

Rayna Neises: 

Wise words as caregivers there’s a lot of emotion that’s involved in it. And I think you’ve nailed a lot of what we feel that guilt, that frustration and oftentimes it comes from expectations and realizing that those expectations are what’s causing us to feel that way can really help when we identify what’s the expectation, why am I feeling this way? I often had a coaching session with myself on my drive home with that 220 mile time would be asking myself, how did the weekend go? What went well, what didn’t go well, how are you feeling? You know, just really checking in with myself because I needed to do that in order to decompress, let it go and be ready to reengage in home with my husband and stepsons and all that kind of stuff. And so important to do that, but it’s a learned thing. Oftentimes we’re just so busy when we’re caregiving. We don’t take the time to stop and ask ourselves those questions and really get to the bottom of the feelings that we’re having. So that’s a great, great thing to share with our listeners, asking them just to stop and think about it, what it is that’s causing the frustration and anger.

Karen Hafner: 

You know many times in coaching, we say awareness is curative, and I think that’s what you’re sharing as well. Let me just try and be aware of what is going on in my heart and mind. And process it out and do something constructive and positive with it.

Rayna Neises: 

Sometimes we can do something about it. Sometimes we can’t do something about it. For example, you knew that he was 89. And what was that happening was, he was reaching the end of his life. So many times we want to do more, you know, make that not happen. And that feeling can be really hard to get to the place where you just kind of open, hand it and go, okay, no, he’s had a good life. We’re doing everything we can it’s time to let go.

Karen Hafner: 

Right.

Rayna Neises: 

And that’s where sometimes is a great time with hospice coming in to try to help with some of those, tell us a little bit about your hospice experience.

Karen Hafner: 

And I always heard wonderful things about a hospice and I think it can be a wonderful experience. We were blessed that it was very wonderful. I grieve because ever since my dad’s passed, we’ve had some family members that haven’t had a great experience and I know that’s really tough. One of the maybe I could say challenges or disappointments I had to work through and I was able to do it a little bit better because my daughter’s a pediatric ICU nurse and she kind of coached me through, as a situation that happened. When we got to probably the last 48, 72 hours, my dad was being very, he was very agitated in his bed shifting and moving and just agitated. I had asked my dad before because of the agitation. Would you like something for that? Do you want us to help you? He knew exactly what we were talking about, even though his eyes were not open and he wasn’t looking at me, he said, no too soon. Well, the next day he was irritated, agitated in his bed. And I said, do you need. Some help. And he said, yes, I need something. Well, I kind of, I don’t want to use the word pride myself. I, I always liked that. I try to turn every the stone over and think through everything. And I was so keenly aware of thinking. I’m going to think through, I’m going to ask every question. So I’m prepared and aware. Well, I asked the hospice nurse, I said, what do you think? She said, yes, we’ll give him the most minuscule amount of morphine just to relax him. And then you’re be able to enjoy it more because it’s hard to watch him like this. Well, never occurred to me that that tiny little dose would cause him to never wake up again. And I did not know that. And so he became relaxed or by that evening, my family was there, all my siblings, everyone. We had a wonderful hospice nurse there and she said, well, he’s really ready for his next dose. Would you like us to go ahead? I said, Oh no, no, we were here waiting. We want him to wake up. And she looked at me and said, yeah, he’s not going to wake up. And I was so chopped. And it’s not that anyone did anything wrong. There’s no crystal ball that you can determine these things, I guess, but it never occurred to me that that could happen. And we were like, where, why we’re not going to get to talk to him. So that was hard. And my daughter helped me through it saying, mom, if you had known that he was not potentially going to wake up. Would you have done anything differently? He wanted some help. He wanted medicine. So that really helped me think. Yes, like you said earlier, I was doing what was best for him. He asked for it, he needed it. And there was us that was suffering with our expectations. But. I thought you can’t always know, you can’t always think through it all. And so for any of your listeners, that may be going through some of those painful. Questions of why did I do this? Or why didn’t I, you know, you’re loving your family member, your loved one, the best you can. And there’s so much going on so much emotion. I just say, give yourself grace and just know that your loved one knew they were being loved and cared for.

Rayna Neises: 

I want to echo that. That’s just beautiful because so many times when we are reaching the end, we just don’t know what to expect. And we can oftentimes struggle with the decisions that we had to make and the position that we had to be in. I was 28 when I lost my mom, but one of the things that was a challenge for me, as I look back on it was those types of things. What options do we have? What medications are available? I just didn’t know enough to ask those questions. So. When I went through it much later with my dad, my dad actually died 20 years after my mom’s passing. I knew a lot more and it was a lot more able to ask those questions and get a better understanding. But there’s still things because of our emotions that we look back on. And we might question, and so I love that encouragement that we have to give ourselves grace, and we have to know that we’ve done the best that we can. And our loved one knows that, like you said, they know that we love them. And they know that we’re here to support them and to do whatever we can to make them as comfortable as possible.

Karen Hafner: 

Yeah, yeah. For sure. Yeah.

Rayna Neises: 

And I think one of the things to is there’s never a time to have a final goodbye and none of it is good enough. That would be one of the things I think, as we look back, we think, I didn’t really get to say goodbye, but at the same time we did, I mean, I did to him, but I didn’t get to hear it from him. You know, I mean, back and forth, like you said, that conversation, we don’t know when our final conversation is going to be. And so it’s hard because we want to know, we want to be able to make it this special thing that happens. But often, most of the time it is really just one last conversation. It’s not one that we, that we get. And having Alzheimer’s shows those conversations were few and far between anyway, as far as really coherent conversations. But one of the things that brought me comfort was as we were there at his bedside, as he was passing. He knew my sister, we had one hand and I had the other, because he was just holding on, he would squeeze. We knew that he knew we were there. Those little things can be really encouraging when we look back on. So I didn’t get to hear the, I love you Rayna or anything like that, but I did get the squeeze that made me know that he knew we were there with him.

Karen Hafner: 

Encouraging for you and comforting for him.

Rayna Neises: 

So the road of caregiving is, sometimes long, sometimes not always hard in some ways, but always filled with blessing. Karen, as we wrap up, what would be one thing you could offer our listeners today that maybe you haven’t said yet?

Karen Hafner: 

I try not to look back at the situation and have regrets. It’s so easy for something to pop in your head and go. I didn’t think about that. Oh, I coulda shoulda, woulda. And I just refuse to do that and I would encourage others. Just accept where you are, because we always hear 20, 20 hindsight. It’s so easy after you’ve had time pass. You’re rested now the emotions aren’t running high to think differently, but you know your heart was in it and you did the best you could with the information you had and your loved one knows that, and they would not want you second-guessing and beating yourself up and regretting. They’re not in pain anymore. And remember the blessing of just being able to be by their side. And like you said, squeeze their hand, whisper in their ear. We know that hear us, even when they’re not responding, and know that we just showed as much love as we could and as much care as we could.

Rayna Neises: 

That’s beautiful. Karen, thank you for those words of encouragement and listeners, it is important to realize that this journey of caregiving does come to an end. And sometimes we are busily engaging in doing and doing, and we forget that our goal is actually to walk our family member all the way home. And then my goal for you as well, caregiver is to then have a life to walk back into. So that means that you have to care for yourself while you’re caring for them. So that the life that you’ve have right now, you will have even once your loved one’s gone. So just encourage you to think about life after and be sure that you have the life that you want even once you walk them all the way home. You can find Karen on Facebook at Karen Hafner Lifestyle Coaching and engage with her and have more opportunities to gain some wisdom and encouragement as you’re walking throughout life, caring for children or loved ones or parents, whoever it is, she has a heart to support you as well that you can reach out there.

Karen Hafner: 

Thank You

Rayna Neises: 

Thank you again for listening to A Season and Caring Podcast and just a reminder this podcast is created for the encouragement of family caregivers. And if you have medical, financial, or legal questions, please contact your local professionals and take heart in your season of caring.*Transcript is an actual recount of the live conversation

Karen Hafner

Karen Hafner

Caregiver Survivor and Life Coach

 

Karen has been married to her wonderful husband Rance for 28 years! He has been an optometrist for 30+ years. The live in Winter Haven, FL; and have 2 daughters and one son in law; no grandchildren yet! She is a Dental Hygienist R.D.H. but she is currently not working rather focusing on completing her certification as a Life Coach. She desires to support married women raising a family.

Karen absolutely loves family, friends, fashion, entertaining, decorating, deep conversations, laughter, serving others through life coaching, planning events, and holiday gatherings, shopping. Her faith in Christ is the center for all I do with my time and talent.

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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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4 Things you need to know as you begin your season of caring

4 Things you need to know as you begin your season of caring

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