Hope for living, loving and caring with no regrets!

Ep 22 Michele Howe

Episode 61

This week, Rayna Neises, your host, talks with Elizabeth Miller.  Elizabeth is a busy wife, mom, full-time employee, caregiver, and consultant.  She helps other family caregivers through her consulting service, podcast, book, and support group.  She is the author of ‘Just for You: A Daily Self-Care Journal’.  She shares how to integrate self-care and other insights:

  • Integration – figuring out how to mesh it all together like a good soup.
  • You can be a great caregiver and you can also take care of yourself.  It is not an either-or situation.
  • Self-care for caregivers looks different.  It is using the 5 to 10 minutes you are given and maximizing your time.
  • Everybody else around you will be happier and healthier when you are happy and healthy.
  • Using a daily self-care journal can help get back to a daily intention and help shift your mindset.
  • There are many aspects of self-care (physical, spiritual, mental, emotional, and practical) and it helps to hit them all.
  • Find support from others in all types of interest groups.
  • Sprinkle some fun into your year with a ‘21 in 2021’ list of things you would like to do/learn.  The list gives you permission to take time to accomplish these goals, have fun, and check it off!

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 special guest Elizabeth Miller. Elizabeth is a wife, mom, full-time employee, family, caregiver, author, and Certified Caregiving Consultant. Elizabeth’s personal experiences, caring for her aging parents with chronic and terminal illnesses, as well as caring for a sibling with a developmental disability, inspired her to create a Happy Healthy Caregiver in 2015. Through her consulting services, podcast, book and online community Elizabeth helps family caregivers integrate caregiving and self-care with their busy lives. She is the host of the Happy Healthy Caregiver Podcast on the Wholecare Network and author of Just for You: A Daily Self-care Journal and facilitates an Atlanta support group for family caregivers called the Atlanta Daughterhood Circle. Welcome Elizabeth. It’s great to have you today. Well, you are just one busy lady, that’s for sure. As a caregiver, you’ve worked full time and you’ve raised two active children and you’ve helped family caregivers and helped provide care for your family members. How are you able to do it all and have self care in the middle of it?

Elizabeth Miller: 

So it’s a great question. Frankly, I had no business starting Happy Healthy Caregiver back in 2015, but it just kind of happened. I studied journalism at Penn State University that was kind of what I thought I would be doing with my life is being a journalist and, and telling stories and writing stories. Life kind of took a different turn down a non journalist path but writing has always been very therapeutic for me. And so I started just writing and then it was kind of like, Okay. I can help people that are in this situation. There were just not a lot of resources back then. And I just had this kind of big push and urge six years ago to start Happy Healthy Caregiver, because I wish it existed for me, frankly. And I felt like I could not, not do it is what it said. And it was tough while working, but I am always been a real structured and organized person. A productivity Ninja, maybe. And so it was getting up early and, and scheduling time on my calendar to go sit at Starbucks for a little bit before work or using my lunchtime wisely. I was great at doing that. That’s where the pockets of stuff that just kind of came in, while I was waiting for kids at practice and carpool, it didn’t make sense to go back home. I would write a blog post there. It was what I needed to, it just felt like I was doing so much for other people with work and kids and caregiving that this was my thing, which felt good.

Rayna Neises: 

I love that not only was it self care for you, but it was giving to others. So it was serving both purposes at the same time, being able to offer your experiences and your encouragement at the same time as getting it out of your head and getting some things for yourself.

Elizabeth Miller: 

Yeah, I just felt like I had to figure it out because I was taking care of parents and a mother-in-law in the past too where everything that they had was a lifestyle situation. It wasn’t like they were born with something or they got a disease that they didn’t ask for. It was their lifestyle that contributed to these situations. And so I had to kind of figure out how to get the balance. I don’t really even call it balance I call it integration because I don’t think balance is realistic. I think you just have to figure out how to mesh it all together. Like a really good soup. And so figuring that out and just try and stuff on, and this feels good. And this doesn’t, or I gotta say no to this. And it was just little things like that, that then just stacked up to feel like it was helping me and then maybe it would help somebody else.

Rayna Neises: 

Well I’m with your journalism background. I’m sure that processing of it really did help you reflect on yourself and say, this is helping me, or I do need to figure out something else because I’m not doing this well or not handling this well.

Elizabeth Miller: 

I mean, I’d see, I knew that I wanted to live my life differently and I didn’t want my kids in the same situation that we were in my husband and I. We just, we’re both on the same page with that. We were like, this is not going to be our life. We’re going to break this cycle, we’re going to figure this out. And we’re gonna show our kids at the same time, like what that looks like, an integrated, happy and healthy life. And yes, you can, be a great caregiver and you can also take care of yourself. It’s it’s not an either or.

Rayna Neises: 

So important. It does feel like most caregivers fall into the trap of feeling like it’s an either or.

Elizabeth Miller: 

Yeah, I think that’s a thing I would, I’d say maybe mostly for women, for some reason, there’s a pattern there. And so flipping that narrative upside down, it is a mindset shift. You kind of have to ask people, I know you coach caregivers as well. And it’s like, well, how’s that working for you? Is that working for you? And is it working for your relationships around you? What would happen if you just tweaked it and tried something a little bit different? Like, you know what the definition of insanity is? Right. And so I knew that I was overwhelmed. I knew that I was burned out or at least slightly charred I say at the edges. Something had to shift and to make that different and I think self care for caregivers looks different, right? It’s not, it’s not necessarily weekend retreats and girls nights out and an all day spa, those things are wonderful. But again, integration, like how are you going to figure out in your daily life? What does that look like? It’s using the five to 10 minutes. The bathroom breaks, the walking, the dog. It’s all of that. And just kind of how you can maximize that time.

Rayna Neises: 

Well, I love that in your example, it was that few minutes coffee shop it’s using the time that you have to really think about and not just let it dissolve away or get drawn into other things that bring more stress, but really being intentional to say, I’m going to take these few minutes because I need it. And it’s going to make me a happier, healthier person. And everybody else around me is going to be happier and healthier when I’m happy and healthy. Right.

Elizabeth Miller: 

Yeah. And if something happens to us, like we’re no good to anybody. We’re not happy. We’re short with people. Like I didn’t like who I was showing up as when I was the grouchy, impatient, hungry tired caregiver. And that’s just that wasn’t, that wasn’t who I wanted to show up as. So it had to had to shift.

Rayna Neises: 

Boy healthcare. There’s so much going on in the healthcare industry today. And with COVID, there’s so much, I think that we’ve seen that needs to change, but what would be one thing that you see that needs to be changed in industry that can help caregivers?

Elizabeth Miller: 

Yes. If I could wave a magic wand and help family caregivers is, you know, everything is so fragmented. It used to frustrate me so much when. Well, maybe not at the time, but looking reflecting back on it now, like pushing my mom in a wheelchair, into her doctor’s appointments meetings, taking the copious notes down, sitting next to her bed, you know, in my dad’s bed when they were in the hospital visits and nobody was ever really coming up and they were very quick to give me handouts on here’s, how you can best manage your mom’s diabetes better. Here’s how you do the wound care. So, what I would clap and celebrate is if someone would just go to a caregiver and be like, you’re probably losing your mind right now, here are some resources, local and national that could help you. You are called a family caregiver. And when you Google that you will find things that can be helpful to you. And if just that alone happened, in those settings and in the doctor’s offices, where the caregivers are showing up with their care recipients, I think that could make a huge impact.

Rayna Neises: 

I say it all the time, we don’t even know we need to put the caregiver hat on. We’re just the daughter, we’re just taking care of them. We’re just doing what needs to be done. It’s just natural to step into those things sometimes gradually support them in that way that we don’t even know we’re wearing a caregiver hat. So that’s such a good point

Elizabeth Miller: 

Yeah. I did not call myself that for- like my first website was not happy, healthy caregiver. I was a savvy sandwich, or I was going to figure out how to be in the sandwich generation and get good at it. Not feel squeezed, but to just be comfortable in the middle. But people thought I made sandwiches. And so that wasn’t a very effective, but I did not call myself that. I first recognized with the term in my looking for books to read and whatever else I was trying to uncover. I first grasped onto the sandwich generation terms. Once that word gets out and it’s just amazing to me, like there’s 53 million caregivers in the United States and they don’t know that that this is what they are and how they can connect to resources. It’s getting better, but it, has a long way to go.

Rayna Neises: 

That’s one of the challenges. I almost even avoid that word because so many people don’t feel like that’s their situation when it is that’s who you are. And the more equipped you are to understand this season the more, you’re going to be successful at the season and not find that burnout. I think when we just try to keep on pushing through and we don’t realize there are all of these resources out there, that’s when we get in trouble.

Elizabeth Miller: 

Yes. I agree.

Rayna Neises: 

So I love out of your own experience, you found that your self care journal was something that really could make a difference in everyday life. Again, like you said, showing up to be the person you want to be, not the unhappy caregivers. What benefits are you hoping readers will get out of your daily self care journal that you wrote?

Elizabeth Miller: 

Well, inside it has a little prompt and like something that you can color. And on different pages. So but what I was hoping is again, to kind of get back to that daily intention and really to help shift that mindset. And so just the questions of asking people. What’s on their bucket list? What is a happy memory? What’s a favorite area of your house? Like, bring it back to kind of personalize it and make you think about some people have been in this situation for so long that they’ve just lost sight of it. And so it’s a small thing that someone can do to have a daily intention. And I love the idea of everybody answering the same question on the same day. Like there’s just, it feels powerful to me. If we’re all kind of United on whatever day it is and answering that same question.

Rayna Neises: 

So again, through your journalism background, the writing piece is something you really enjoy, but I like how you incorporated even just the coloring, because sometimes that mindless activity also allows some of the emotion to bubble up and to be more aware of some of the feelings that you’re experiencing and actually engage those feelings versus keep on rushing through and ignoring them. So that’s such great idea.

Elizabeth Miller: 

It’s fun to reflect back on, if I’m being honest I skipped days, I mean, it’s, you know, none of us are perfect, done is better than perfect. You just kind of, when you feel in the mood, you pick it up and you put something in it. But I love going back and looking at it in the next year and seeing, Oh, I didn’t do this day or what I did. And what was it? What did I write then? It’s like your little own personal time capsule in some ways.

Rayna Neises: 

And those are such, we think in the middle of it, we’re going to always remember, but it is amazing how many things we forget.

Elizabeth Miller: 

The little details and what a treasure to leave for somebody as a legacy to kind of detective work into what you were all about.

Rayna Neises: 

For sure. That would be amazing jewel to have, that’s one thing I wish I had more things from my parents, you know, when I look back I lost them when I was young. And so there are a lot of things about them, I didn’t know. And so it would be amazing to have something like that as a keepsake. And just being again, that finding yourself in a place to realize happy and healthy is something that’s possible, both for you and for the person that you’re caring for, but only when you’re intentional about it. And so I love that your message really gives us that goal of being intentional to really keep it out there in front of our minds, that we need to be happy and healthy and we can be.

Elizabeth Miller: 

You can be both. And I think, what people first think of when they think of self-care is the physical self care, and there’s so many different types of self-care, right? There’s the spiritual self-care there’s the mental self-care, the emotional self-care and then there’s also practical self-care like, putting systems in place so that things just kind of flow better and are more scalable. And so I try to hit. All of those. Some of them I’m more drawn to than others, but again, it’s been all in this journey of like trying on new things. And if you hear of something that works for somebody, then why not try and see if it could work for you and to try not to should on people. S H O U L D, because last thing a caregiver needs is feeling like they’re not doing enough. But it’s all comes from a place of love and knowing that I want you to, be happy. I want you to be healthy.

Rayna Neises: 

We are all journeying here and, I’m on the other side of the journey, as far as my dad and my mom are gone, but those things that I learned in the midst, I just want to share with others. That’s part of why I think support groups are great. I love your Atlanta Daughterhood Circle just getting together and having that true opportunity to be real and to share with each other through the journey, because we can learn so much from each other.

Elizabeth Miller: 

Yeah, the best sources of information are our current informer family caregivers. And, you know, I have people at my support group and it’s small, we’re small, but mighty. And there’s usually wine and some food involved because for some it’s their only time they can get out. For a while we did virtual, but then again, They need to get out of the house. But I had one woman asked me if she could, her parents had both passed and my parents are both passed now. And she said, I probably shouldn’t come anymore. And I said, no, no, I need you to come. Like, you’re part of the system of what makes all of this work is that you pay it forward and you can share with what works for you and had worked for you and relate to people. And particularly because she had parents with cognitive issues, which was not something that was in my primary experience, more of chronic, multiple health issues. So we balance each other that way. I think there’s a lot that former family caregivers can offer to the community.

Rayna Neises: 

And having a community is so important. So I always am encouraging our listeners to plug in, find what fits you. There are so many different types of support groups out there. Keep looking because you can find that support that you need.

Elizabeth Miller: 

Yeah, and I was just talking to somebody that she found her support through her writing group. Like it doesn’t necessarily have to be a caregiver, your focus group. It could be, for me, my book club was my sanity. You know, it was a sanity to read the book when I could read the book, but also I always got some personalized time from them to, you know, shed a few tears and get the push to get some ask for help. And so it can look differently. It doesn’t have to be a caregiving support group, although it’s a good place to start.

Rayna Neises: 

That’s such a good point again, it’s the whole person. It’s all of your needs. All of your, what makes you, you and what fills your cup you have to keep engaging in through the season because you got to have something to give from, and if it’s not full, you don’t have anything left. So, so I hear you have some little fun idea for 2021. Tell me a little bit about how to sprinkle some fun into our year.

Elizabeth Miller: 

We need it. Right? So for the past couple of years, we’ve had a family tradition. I did not make this up. I lifted it from The Happier Podcast with Gretchen Rubin and she and her sister is one of my favorite podcasts to listen to that. You know, again, we have to be fed right in order to kind of give back to other people. And so they had a few years back had started, I think it was 18 in 2018 or 19 in 2019. And it was basically just little small, intentional things that you had wanted for the year, not huge lofty weight loss goals or anything like that. New Year’s resolutions, it’s things that you just want to get to the end of the year and you’ll be just so like proud and happy that you had put some focus in these areas. And so we’ve had a lot of fun with it. My little family of four, we have made it a New Year’s Eve Day tradition where we fill out our lists and usually by sharing it with each other, we get other ideas. But some of the things that are on my 21 for 2021, and I call it more fun at 21. Are things like, I don’t know how to play chess. I’d like to learn how to play chess. I want to learn how to do one of those latte art things on the top. I’ve got an espresso machine and I want to make a fun cup of coffee for a guest. I want to watch Game of Thrones. Everybody’s talked about it. And so it’s like almost like giving yourself permission to again, remember productivity Ninja. So do I really have time to watch eight seasons of Game of Thrones? But if I put it on my list, I can check it off. And that feels amazing. And then there’s some things, volunteering and so just again, trying to hit those different avenues of my life and to make sure that I’m hitting those in, and we have a lot of fun with it as a family.

Rayna Neises: 

That sounds great. And especially if you can incorporate the people you’re caring for, and maybe do some of those things together, pick up old things that you used to do together that you might not have engaged in lately. Whether it be gardening or, you know, we’ve learned a lot in COVID season to come back to doing things at home, but I love that you involve your whole family and then it will be really fun to see if you all can hit all 21. That’s a great goal.

Elizabeth Miller: 

Yeah. Yeah. We get better and better every year. I know we’re doing more than what we would have if we didn’t write them down. And there is a lot of stuff. I think COVID, you know, COVID kind of put a monkey wrench in our 20 20 20 lists, but But we did more than we thought. And there was some fun things on that one. Like I re re one of the fun moments in 2020 for me was on my birthday. I like to kind of just pick something, an activity I want to do. I wanted to ride one of those scooter Byrds that you rent on the sidewalks downtown. We live in Atlanta. And so that happened we went blueberry picking, which was something that I would have had to twist my kid’s arm to do, but again, it’s on my list. And they had fun and we had fun and we rode the Byrd in a parking lot because I was a little nervous about riding out in the street and we wiped it down with hand wipes and all of that. But we had some fun, you know, it wasn’t all bad. Right? I feel like caregiving is kind of like that too. It makes the good parts really shine because of the hard, rough spots that we find ourselves in sometimes. For sure. There’s always the good and the bad. We have to take time to notice the good, but the more that we’re in the deeper struggles of caregiving, the more the good can shine. So I love that. I hope that maybe people will think about something fun that this year Rayna do you have something like something that you’re thinking about if you were doing a more fun in 2021.

Rayna Neises: 

Well, I have a big thing and it’s probably, it’s not like my plan thing, but it’s launching my book, birthing this book to the world in June of 2021 is so I’m so excited about it. And I’m so looking forward to just being able to share it. And so not a small thing, but definitely something I’m looking forward to having a lot of fun with.

Elizabeth Miller: 

Do you have a title picked out?

Rayna Neises: 

It is published. It will be released in June of 2021. So it’s No Regrets: Hope for Your Caregiving Season.

Elizabeth Miller: 

I love it. That sounds amazing.

Rayna Neises: 

Thank you! Well, thank you so much for your time today. I love your podcast, the opportunity to hear other family caregivers and what they’re experiencing, what gems they’re bringing out of their experience, I think is so encouraging. And so we’ll definitely want to stay in contact with Elizabeth. Listeners, you can find her at HappyHealthyCaregiver.com. And then again on the Wholecare Network with her Happy Healthy Caregiver Podcast.

Elizabeth Miller: 

Wonderful. Thank you. Rayna, there’s space for everybody, by the way, just because there’s two caregiving podcasts out there doesn’t mean you can’t have one too. So we gotta do a lot to help these 53 million people.

Rayna Neises: 

Definitely. Thank you.

Elizabeth Miller: 

Thanks for having me.

Rayna Neises: 

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

*Transcript is an actual recount of the live conversation

Resources

Elizabeth Miller

Elizabeth Miller

Certified Caregiving Consultant, Family Caregiver

Elizabeth Miller is a wife, mom, full-time employee, family caregiver, author and Certified Caregiving Consultant. Elizabeth’s personal experiences caring for aging parents withchronic and terminal illnesses as well as caring for a sibling with developmental disabilities inspired her to create Happy Healthy Caregiver in 2015.

Through her consulting services, podcast, book and online community, Elizabeth helps family caregivers integrate caregiving and self-care with their busy lives.  She is the host of the Happy Healthy Caregiver podcast on the Whole Care Network, author of Just for You: a Daily Self-Care Journal, and facilitates an Atlanta support group for family caregivers called the Atlanta Daughterhood Circle.

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Meet Your Host

Rayna Neises, ACC

Your Host

Author of No Regrets: Hope for Your Caregiving Season, ICF Certified Coach, Podcast Host & Speaker, offering 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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