Hope for living, loving, and caring with no regrets!

Self-care is Self-preservation

Episode 94

This week, Rayna Neises, your host, talks about a few of the emotions that are a part of this season of life.  There are 53 million unpaid family caregivers in the United States it is easy to feel alone and overwhelmed with emotions while you are caring for a loved one and it is totally normal. Rayna explores three emotions and their impact:

  • Worry is a normal reaction to caring for someone else who can’t do it for themselves, but it becomes a problem when it leads to fretting and anxiety.
  • Try forcing yourself to focus on something else or flipping the worry with twice as many positive thoughts on the subject.
  • Loneliness can be a natural progression as others become uncomfortable or you stop having time to participate in social activities.
  • Be real. Reach out. Get out. You need to foster connections with people beyond your loved one.
  • Grief will be a part of your caring season. It is natural to grieve what was as things change.
  • Tend to your grief:
    • Reach out to friends, family, clergy, anyone who can give you comfort.
    • Pay attention and be deeply honest with yourself about what you need to do and not do through this season of life. Be patient, kind, and compassionate with yourself.
    • Take care of yourself. Grief expresses itself in many ways.
    • Anticipate and plan ahead. Don’t wait for others to reach out.
    • Make room for your grief and sadness. Cry as you need, feel the anger, and trust that you know what will help with the healing.
  • “Acceptance is not about liking a situation. It is about acknowledging all that has been lost and learning to live with the loss.”  Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler.
  • There is comfort in knowing you are a part of a caregiving army who can find strength in each other.


*Transcript is an actual recount of the live conversation
Rayna Neises: 

Dear emotional daughter or son, It is normal to feel emotional during the season that is filled with so many small losses. You’re able to feel the grief and the joy at the same time. You really can. Your loneliness is normal. No one knows exactly what you’re feeling during the season. Don’t let that stop you from sharing with others who are in a common season. Remember to focus on all the things you have to be thankful for even in this season. They are always there. Rayna, This is the intro to chapter 14 in No Regrets: Hope for Your Caregiving Season. Thank you for joining me today. This is Rayna Neises, your host, at A Season of Caring Podcast, where there’s hope for living, loving, and caring with no regrets. We’re still in November, which is National Family Caregiver Month and I wanted to talk to you a little bit about caregiving and the emotions that are apart of this season of your life. So in 2020, the National Alliance for Caregiving and ARP presented Caregiving in the U S 2020. And this was statistics about family caregivers. You are one, but you might not realize how many of you there are. There are 53 million family caregivers. And that is up considerably from five years ago, actually it’s up from 18% to 21%. So nearly one in five are providing unpaid care for an adult with health or functional needs. So you’re not alone, even though it often feels like it. We’re actually up to 24% of the family, caregivers are caring for more than one person and more family caregivers have difficulty coordinating their care. It’s more of a challenge to be able to take care of them all and navigate all the things that you do every day. 26% of the people that are caring are caring for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias and feeling caregivers report that their own health is fair to poor. 21% of the people who are caregiving realize the impact on their own physical health. Such important information to understand. 22% of Americans say caregiving has made their health worse. Ouch. We’ve got to make different choices. We’ve got to make sure that we understand the impact, and we’ve got to make sure that we are doing the things to take care of ourselves so that we don’t have those negative impacts. 39% of caregivers are men leaving 61% women. 45% have had at least one financial impact due to their caregiving. And 61% of you are still working while you’re caregiving. I think that is a misnomer for a lot of people. I don’t think we shift to the label of caregiver till we find ourselves doing it full time. And because we aren’t doing it, full-time we often don’t take on that hat of caregiver to really understand the impact that caregiving can be having on your life. I’m probably preaching to the choir. But I think it’s so important that we realize putting on that caregiver hat or that label. Just helps us to realize the impact that all that we’re doing is having on all of our lives. You know that I think that you were following the highest calling. There’s nothing more important than honoring the person that you’re caring for. At the same time as caring for yourself, it has to be a, both, not one or the other, but both and today, as we talk about emotions and their impact on our bodies and our health. That’s why I wanted you to be aware of all of these statistics. You are a part of this group of people. What you’re doing is so important. And I want you to be able to continue to do it and be healthy at the same time. You are one of 53 million people caring for a loved one. Unpaid caregivers to loved ones here in the United States that is just amazing. You are not alone, but you can feel very much alone in this journey. I’m going to share today about three different emotions that we experience as family caregivers. Oftentimes not even realizing these emotions are there or not realizing what we can do with the emotions. I’m going to start with worry. I think it’s human nature to worry, right? To be thinking about what could be happening, what should be happening, what we need to be doing next, what could be going wrong? Next, those thoughts can flood our minds quickly and be extremely overwhelming. It is normal, but we do have to control it. If your worry is turning into fretting or anxiety, then there will be a negative side effect of that. It’s a fact it’s going to negatively impact you. So learning to focus in on something besides the what ifs, what if this, if that, that is going to impact the cycle, that will keep you going downward and offering more and more stress. It can lead to poor or little sleep headaches, stomach aches, even addictive behaviors. If we don’t find a way to manage our worry. Try forcing your mind to focus on something that you love, an activity, reading Well going for a walk and focusing on the moment and what’s around. You try forcing yourself to think outside of the one ifs or the worries that you have for your loved one, set the timer for 10 minutes, and don’t allow yourself to think about any of those worries. Find a way to change the rut that you’re in and really focus somewhere else. Thinking about other things like good memories, or even just getting up and moving around can activate your brain and help you to shift your worrying. Another thing that you might be able to do to help if you’re a worrier is to flip the thought from the worry that you have to the positive, and maybe for each worry that you have think of two positive things that have to do with that. So an example would be, if you’re worried about your dad sleeping too much, then flip it to the positive and think. Sleep gives his body restorative nature. It helps to clean the brain. It helps to give him energy when he is awake. Another positive would be his sleep means he’s peaceful and at rest. So just looking at some of the things that you might be worrying about and trying to think of two positive things for each worry that will give your brain something to focus on besides the worry itself. Also might give you some tips that ideas of how to overcome that worry by changing it. By changing the behavior, because you might have some things you haven’t thought of before. So worry is definitely one of the pieces that can have a negative side effect on us, but it’s also a very normal thing that can happen. Remember that your worry will increase your likelihood to want to escape the situation. So adding more stress and worry to your caregiving situation can definitely have negative impacts, seek professional help if you find yourself in a place of just being overcome with anxiety and worry in your caregiving role. It really will make a difference. Sometimes when we are worriers, it can also lead to the second emotion that we frequently feel, and that is loneliness. Our worry can isolate us. It can also make us not very much fun to be around. So we might find that others are not spending time with us because we’re so negative, we’re so focused on the worry or borrowing trouble from the future. That it’s something that they’re not being willing to do is spend time with us. So think about how that worry can impact that. Loneliness can be a pretty typical feeling in this caregiving season because of the fact that we are some what stuck inside with the person that we’re caring for. Yup. We get to get out and go to the doctor. Oftentimes they get to do that a lot. Right? But that’s not the kind of interaction that feeds us and encourages our spirits. So thinking about loneliness, we might have found that your friends or even the person you’re caring for their friends have backed off. They’ve become a little uncomfortable. They don’t know what to say. They don’t know what to do. They don’t know what you need. You might’ve found that your caregiving responsibilities are taking more and more of your time. So you might have let go of activities that put you in social settings. That’s understandable but again, being aware of that could be leading to more feelings of loneliness. Where we know we’re not the only one home when we’re caregiving. Right? But sometimes it can be difficult to have interactions with our loved one. The person you’re caring for might be hard of hearing. And that makes it really difficult to have a conversation and just have normal connection with them. They might have to mention it. So it might be difficult for them to even track conversation and they might have lost their words and not been able to have a conversation or to be able to talk back to you. So be sure to be aware that just because there’s someone there doesn’t mean it’s meeting your emotional need for connection. Loneliness is a very logical emotion for you to experience as a caregiver. Again, it can lead to destructive and addictive behaviors. So it’s really important that we understand that if we’re overeating or we’re finding ourselves depressed we find ourselves drinking or doing some other things to escape from our reality. That is just a reaction to the loneliness. Also realize that loneliness causes us to release more cortisol. That cortisol is our stress hormone and that stress hormone then has negative impacts on our body. Loneliness is also a risk factor for dementia. So there’s lots of reasons to take action and find a way to take care of this emotion of loneliness. So, how do you handle it? I say, be real, be real with yourself. I’m lonely. Be real with others, reach out and tell them that you really need to see them more often. You need to talk more often reach out and just make the phone call. Most people are excited to hear from us. So remembering to go ahead and be the one that asks instead of expecting others to ask for us. Reach out, get out, reach out and get out. Get out. Gosh, again, as a caregiver, you can spend 24/7 in your home caring for your loved one, and that’s not healthy. Allow others to come in and help ask for the help that you need. Get a chance to leave and go to lunch with a friend, a movie, dinner, church, social functions, club meetings, ask someone to cover you once a month for you to go to that club, meeting that you really enjoy. Make sure that you’re asking and getting the help that you need so you can get out. If you’re not getting out it definitely is going to lead to more isolation and loneliness. Invite people over, you know, the person that you’re caring for us routine. Find a time that they’re most often quiet and content’s being alone and invite that friend for coffee. If your a person you’re caring for, can still interact with you, invite them to be a part, but don’t give up those connections with people. Virtual connections are very helpful. Phone conversations are as well, but really the best way to help your isolation is to find people that you can spend time with. And again, I’m going to tell you support groups can be extremely helpful, whether they be online or in-person. Just getting that connection with someone else who is in the same season of life that you’re in can be very helpful. So today I want to so today we’re talking about emotions that you can experience as a family caregiver. We started talking about how worry can overwhelm us and consumers. Also, loneliness can be very difficult to manage. And the last one I wanted to share today is grief. Grief is such a difficult emotion and it is definitely a part of caregiving. In this holiday season, grief can definitely play a part in your life without you even realizing it. Grief can be overwhelming with triggers like smells or anniversary dates, or even just special occasions that you always enjoyed with the person you’re caring for and they can no longer be a part of that with you. Don’t overlook those small griefs that you are suffering throughout the process of caring, whether it be a change in relationship, or just not being able to have the same holiday dinner that you’ve always had before, because mom can’t cook it anymore. Be aware of those feelings of grief, tend to your grief. Here’s some suggestions from from grief expert, Judith Johnson. She’s an author and educator life coach and interfaith minister. And she talks about bereavement and how to maintain inner balance during the holidays or other times when grief is a big part of it. The first one is to reach out to friends, family, clergy, anyone who can give you comfort and solace during this difficult time. Realizing that we need people and going ahead and being the ones to make the call instead of waiting for someone else to reach out. Paying attention and be deeply honest with yourself about what you need and what you do not need in this moment, whether it be in the holiday season or any other time of life .Oftentimes we feel pressured to do something because we have expectations or we feel like it’s impossible to do what we need to do. Pay close attention to those needs. Be honest about what they are be patient kind and compassionate with yourself about what is true for you. Take loving care of yourself. You know, grief expresses itself in so many different ways. Give yourself permission to be a little grumpy or to not be as effective as you have been in the past, or to need a nap. here or there. Stay focused on what’s happening on the inside of you and tend to that so that you can really be your best self for the person that you’re caring for.. Anticipate and plan ahead. Don’t wait for others to make plans for you, but really find a way to know what your needs are and face the truth and communicate what you need. And the last one is make room for your grief or sadness. Grief is a very private matter and everybody’s going to handle it differently. But welcome your grief. Sit with the tears if you need to. Allow them to be healing and then be open to the fact that you’re grieving. And the truth is this is hard. What you are doing as a family, caregiver is very difficult. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler say “Acceptance is not about liking a situation. It’s about acknowledging all that has been lost and learning to live in that loss.” So grief is that process learning to live in the loss. And as you are caregiving, those small griefs are going to continue to add up. Just don’t overlook these key emotions that we often experience as family and caregivers. And I think. As much as we experienced them, we have a tendency to overlook them. We have a tendency to feel like we don’t have time to feel these emotions or to experience this because there’s so much to do and someone else’s counting on us or because people are counting on us. We just don’t feel that we have time to feel the emotions we need to feel. So I want to encourage you as a family caregiver. I appreciate all that you’re doing the person who’s caring for. You appreciates you as well. You are seen, you are so important and you are not alone. There are many, many others who find themselves in the same season of life with so much on their plate and so much in their heart to give and to care for their loved one. I hope that you find this encouraging today, the emotions you’re experiencing are not uniquely yours, but there are emotions that all family caregivers have experienced or are experiencing as well and knowing that can bring you some comforts. Thank you again for listening to A Seasonal Caring Podcast. Just a reminder, this podcast was created for the encouragement of family caregivers. If you find yourself with financial legal or medical questions, be sure to consult your local professionals and take heart in your season of caring.

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Meet Your Host

Rayna Neises, ACC

An ICF Certified Coach, Author of No Regrets:  Hope for Your Caregiving Season, Podcaster, & 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.

Rayna Neises, ACC

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