Hope for living, loving and caring with no regrets!

105 Deb Hallisey

Episode 105

This week, Rayna Neises, your host, talks with Debra Hallisey. Debra lost her job due to her caregiving responsibilities with her mother and, as a result, founded Advocate for Mom and Dad, LLC. In addition, based on her experiences, she has authored a book that provides a step-by-step guide for discussing relationship issues. Debra uses personal stories to illustrate how these techniques healed her relationship with her mom. She is also a Certified Caregiving Consultant, Educator, Advocate, and Certified Dementia Practitioner. She provides the following insights:

      • Caregiving changes all your relationships.
      • Summarize what you are willing to do and what you are not willing to do.
      • Do things where you feel heard, understood, and validated.
      • Unexposed expectations and boundaries need to be addressed.
      • When asking for a change, do not end with a yes or no question.
      • Recognize the frustration and ask, “Is this a reasonable request?”
      • Self-awareness is key.
      • Use the drip method when asking for help.
      • When others are helping ask yourself, Is it ‘wrong’ or just ‘different’?
      • Think about what can help you, write it down, and make it a S.M.A.R.T. ask.
      • Write down the way they want to live and figure out if that is something you or someone else can do.
      • Find resources from Debra at www.advocateformomanddad.com, and her book, Your Caregiving Relationship Contract, is available on Amazon.
      • Caregivers, you are doing the best you can, so give yourself grace.

Transcript

*Transcript is an actual recount of the live conversation

Debra Hallisey: 

Caregiving changes relationships to just the relationship with the person you’re caring for, but it also changes all the rest of the relationships in your life, from your spouse and your children and grandchildren to work to even church members. It really, really does.

Rayna Neises: 

That is just one snippet of wisdom from Debra Hallisey our guests today on A Season of Caring Podcast where there’s hope for living loving and caring with no regrets. This is Rayna Neises, your host and our guest is Deborah Hallisey. Debra is her mother’s caregiver. She lost her job due to caregiving and as a result, founded Advocate for Mom and Dad LLC. Deb writes on caregiving issues from adult children of aging parents at her website, www.advocateformomanddad.com. Author of Your Caregiver Relationship Contract. The book is a practical step-by-step guide for discussing relationship issues that arise between caregivers and their care partners. She uses personal stories to illustrate how these techniques healed her relationship with her mom. As an advocate, Deb works with caregivers to help them effectively communicate with their caree, other family members and the healthcare system. Deb is a Certified Caregiving Consultant, Educator, Advocates, and a Certified Dementia Practitioner. I’m so excited to have you here today, Deb, how are you doing?

Debra Hallisey: 

I’m great. Rayna thank you for inviting me to your podcast. We’re going to have some fun today.

Rayna Neises: 

We are. I am so enjoying your book. I think, gosh, relationships are so tricky when we’re healthy, and when we’re not, right? There are challenge. And so tell me about this title. Your Caregiver Relationship Contract? I don’t think most of us think of a contract when we’re thinking of our relationship. So tell me a little bit about that.

Debra Hallisey: 

Yeah, no, we, we really, really don’t. First of all caregiving changes, relationships to just the relationship with the person you’re caring for, but it also changes all the rest of the relationships in your life, from your spouse and your children and grandchildren to work to even church members. It really, really does. And so. I started thinking about, well, what makes up a relationship? What will makes up a relationship is what are you willing or not willing to do for one another? How do you feel validated and supported and what are the shared interests and activities that you do together? So if you think about changing the relationship and just the physical task you might have to take on what are you willing or not willing to do, right? Because you can set a boundary that says, this is something I can’t do. We need to ask for help. And when you think about what makes a person feel validated? It’s interesting, because the book came from about five blog posts that I wrote, and the one that really started, it was one I wrote for my mother’s 85th birthday. Today, I will be her daughter and not her caregiver. And that really speaks to how do you feel validated? Like my telling my mom do this, do that, or, or we need to do this and we need to go to the doctor. It doesn’t validate her, but my saying to her mom, I really appreciate your willingness to change what we were doing in this way, because it helps me. Makes her feel heard and understood and validated. And the fact that she does change something makes me feel heard and validated. And then finally, what are your shared interests and activities it’s like as people grow older and frailer, They may not be able to do what they did when they were younger at all or in the same way. So how do you still keep them? So you keep that part of your relationship where you’re her daughter or her son or the spouse. And not just the caregiver. I think that’s really, really important.

Rayna Neises: 

Oh girl, you’re speaking my language here. You have all the important things. I think what that’s such a great way to summarize what you’re willing to do and not willing to do many times, we just get sucked into this role doing all these things that we really don’t want to do would never choose to do if we felt we had a choice and we forget that we actually do have. And so that’s where the resentment and the anger comes in later. That’s so wise and then validation, gosh, we all need it. And we forget, we need in those relationships outside of work, I think in work settings, we often talk about management styles and validating people, but in relatioships we neglect that we forget to consider things and really having that conversation that way and shared activities. So important. I share a lot about my dad because that’s one of most recent caregiving season and he was a physically active guy. I mean, we’re talking. Playing volleyball three times a week, go into the gym three times a week at 80 plus. Right? And so finding those physical activities, when he could no longer do those things, we continue the gym, we lighten the weights. We did a bike instead of walking on a treadmill, you know, we just adjusted those things and we actually did those things together. I think there is so much importance in that because we can focus on all of the tasks and forget that relationship side and those activities that we do. Whether it be a puzzle together or enjoying music together, that’s the relationship. And it’s so important to feed that throughout this journey. So I love that. So excited. Okay. In your book, you talk about unspoken expectations. Oh, they’re tricky. Aren’t they? So tell us a little bit about why that’s so important to realize that those are a part of our relationship.

Debra Hallisey: 

Yeah, I’ll tell you the aha moment came for me when my dad was diagnosed with congestive heart failure in 2014 and that November, he went in the hospital and he was in the hospital for two weeks. And I moved back in with my parents because my father was my mother’s caregiver, plus I live an hour away. So I wanted to be able to go and steam in the hospital. And my mom and dad had a routine when my mother got up in the morning, there were a set of things he did for her, and they had a routine at night and we were about a week into my dad being in the hospital and staying with mom. When I realized that every night I was starting to get tense and just angry at all the things had to do before I could go to bed. And I was exhausted and it was take her blood sugar, put eye drops in her eyes, bring the toothbrush and toothpaste from the bathroom into the kitchen, close the curtains in the bedroom, turn the bed down, get her clothes out, bring water out. Like that’s only six or seven things. And you would think, well, that’s not a lot, but when you’re exhausted, the thoughts of having to get through them before you get to bed. That having to bring the toothbrush and toothpaste from the bathroom into the kitchen. So she could sit while she brushed teeth, had my head explode every single night. And what suddenly occurred to me is, wait a minute. This is what dad did for mom. And mom’s expectation is that I could continue this. And because I was so new to it, it was mine as well It’s never anything she said to me, but I’m like, I cannot continue his routine, his contract, if you will, the same way that he does. And so I said to her, you know, mom, really tired, by the time it’s bed time. I need to change something that we do at night. Can we, let’s find a place to put your toothbrush and toothpaste so I just don’t have to carry it back and forth. Where should we put it? And that was the first time that I ever asked her to change something

Rayna Neises: 

um,

Debra Hallisey: 

that she and my father had a routine or a contract on. And it was the first time I realized that, although it was never spoken. She just assumed I could keep up with the way he cared for her. And I realized I couldn’t. And so it was this just big moment and, you know, and once I had that realization, I realized there were lots of unexposed expectations, both on her part and mine. And that people aren’t mind readers. And if you don’t tell them what’s going on and all of a sudden they cross a boundary they don’t know you’ve had, that’s when you blow up at them and that’s just not good..

Rayna Neises: 

So wise in that we don’t even realize sometimes where the boundaries are much less

Debra Hallisey: 

Okay.

Rayna Neises: 

communicate them. And that can be so tricky because it’s a lot of, this is about own work in realizing what the shoulds are that we’re experiencing that are bringing up that resentment, that lead to those outbursts. Really understanding that there are boundaries and there are things that we really need in order to continue in offering the support that we want to offer and asking for the help around those things that we don’t want to do. One of the things that, because I both had my mom and dad with Alzheimer’s disease, I have the experience of care of their physical needs. Both of them. I was only in my twenties when my mom was not able to care for herself. So in my early twenties, I started bathing her and feeding her. She was never incontinent, we just kept her on a routine. And so every couple hours we went to the restroom. So, know, taking care of those personal needs was just a part of being with my mom. So fast forward I’m in my forties and my dad’s diagnosed and he gets to the place where he’s needing help 24 7. And we’re looking at stepping into those care needs. And I knew I wanted to be a hands on caregiver with him, but I also knew I wasn’t comfortable bathing him. And so I asked out of the gate, I just said, this is one thing I don’t want to do. And my sister brought it up years later and said, you know, you said you would never bath Dad. And I said, yeah, I did. I did bathe my dad. But not regularly, when I had to step in and meet a need that he wasn’t able to meet for himself. It wasn’t like when he had an accident, I was just going to leave him dirty. You know, I helped him to clean up and do those things. because that was something I wanted to do every day, but because that was a need in the moment. And. I was Ok with being able to do that, I realized the difference in the relationship I had with my parents and going in, I was able to put that boundary down. And say, this is not something I want to do every day, because I knew that it would make him uncomfortable and it made me uncomfortable and that wasn’t going to equal a good situation. Right? And so I think realizing those things is what triggers us to say, we need help. But it’s so important. If we can do that before we get to the explosive part or to the resentment part, that makes such a big difference. that conversation you were able to have with your mom really helped to change and start to shift you, being able to say, this is what I need. I see that you need this, and this is what I need. Where can we find the middle ground?

Debra Hallisey: 

A hundred percent, a hundred percent. And you know, one of the things that I think is really important to understand is that the way. Talk is critical, like language. It’s not the, you should, you must it’s, I need to change something because I’m overwhelmed and exhausted, but the real key is you never end that request or comment with a yes or no question. Right. Cause I said, what do you think? And she said, no, I don’t want to do that. Where do I go? But by saying, where should we put them? It became, we’re going to do this, but you have control over where it goes. And that toothbrushes toothpaste still sit in the same drawer in the kitchen and she gets them out. And because I was able to say to her and validate and say, mom, I really, I know it doesn’t feel like much, but this just, really mentally and physically helped me knowing that task is off my plate. I know I’ve asked you to change something you and daddy did. Thank you for that. That validation and recognizing was really important. And, and subsequently a couple days later, she said, you know, I can put my own eyedrops in and I’m like hey, Great!. Fantastic. You know, so it was a real turning point, both that aha moment and that conversation. And I will just say my mom and I struggled growing up. We really did, but because we’ve been able to have these conversations to be open and honest with one another, we are closer than we ever were and we really forced a team. And that is a blessing out of caregiving. I never anticipated. And I’m so grateful for.

Rayna Neises: 

I love that. I love that you just said that because So many times my story is not that story. And so many times people talk to me about it and say, but Rayna My mom and I don’t get along. I’ve got a lot of baggage. There’s a lot of wounding from my childhood, or even from my adulthood, there’s been wounding that’s happened and that can be so tricky. So I love that this communication has really helped to, I don’t know, bring forgiveness, repair the relationship and really bring that team together that you so need. It’s so important in caregiving to be able to know, that they can trust you and you can trust them. And you’re both looking out for each other and that it’s not about the old stuff, but it’s about moving forward together. So it sounds like that language is really important. So how would you help to bring that common language to you and your carry?

Debra Hallisey: 

So I think there’s a couple pieces to it. I think that you need to recognize that they’re unspoken expectations the first time you’re working through this and really practicing it somebody is going to cross a boundary and you’re going to snap. Okay. That’s okay. It’s the learning that happens. It was like, all right, well that wasn’t good. So what is the deconstructing of what happened in that situation? So here’s the thing, first of all, it requires true self-aware. Which is not an easy thing.

Rayna Neises: 

Nope.

Debra Hallisey: 

It requires you to be self-aware, it requires you to, I call her my inner eight year old. My mom can ask me to do something. And if my immediate reaction is anger or frustration, like with that first emotion, like, oh God, I have to stop myself and say, is this a reasonable request? And that’s my inner eight year old reacting to my mother saying something to me I was eight or is this something that is really not doable now? Can I say, no, I can’t do this now, but I will do it in the future. So it’s, self-awareness, it’s recognizing when your inner eight year old rears up, then it’s also recognizing how much gender and birth order play into this, both from you right. Like, I’m the female and my God, I’ve got to do this. I’m the only girl I’m the youngest, or I’m the oldest. I have to do this, whatever that is. But it also plays in my mom’s going to be 90 in February 1st. So it also plays in because so many times in families, the daughter can say something and it’s like, yeah, whatever. But if the son says it. All of a sudden they’re willing to do it. And you know, and I say to people, you know what I know that makes you angry. I know it brings up when you were a kid and your brother came first or it always happened. But in this instance, that is your ally. Work it, go say to your brother, mom’s not listening to me. Could you please tell her to do this? She’ll listen to you. Right? I think the thing is willingness to work on yourself. Because we have these old records in our head and they’re very familiar and very comfortable. And if we’re not willing to stop that record and be self-aware and figure out where it’s coming from, then you’re not going to be able to do these communication techniques.

Rayna Neises: 

You’re not going to be able to be the caregiver that your loved one needs and that you need to be. And some people aren’t willing to do that work. And that means they’re not the ones who should be stepping into this role. Because that’s where elder abuse comes in. And other situations that get so icky and so sad is really this not able to move into a place of health and wholeness a person that’s providing the care because this is hard work.

Debra Hallisey: 

It is hard work yeah, it is. It is hard work, but it can be very, it can be filled with joy.

Rayna Neises: 

Amen. Yeah. So important. There’s so much blessing in it and that’s true of everything. The pressure creates the diamond and without the pressure of the diamond can’t happen. And so we have to realize that’s just part of what we’re looking at. So asking for and saying yes to help is hard. It is hard for caregivers and for the person who’s receiving that care. How do we do that? How do we get to a place where we can ask in a way that you’ve talked about the language of it and expressing your own needs? Is that mainly what helps us is to realize that we need something and asking for it from a need based. Cause I talked to people all the time, you know, you’re a parent, you are your parents’ legacy. They don’t want you to give up your life. They don’t want you to end up this depressed, lonely, resentful, angry person, because you’ve done nothing but care for them. They want you to have the life that makes you happy and fulfilled. They just want you to do that and care for them. And so it’s a balance. It’s not an again, that’s where it comes to the hard comes in. Right. We’ve got to be able to do both. So how do we ask and how do we help them to hear our needs?

Debra Hallisey: 

Yeah, you’re right. I think asking for insane. Yes. To help there, there are two pieces to that. There is the person we love, and we’re caring for doesn’t want to ask for help. Right. And I think sometimes it’s a generational thing, I think about my mom and dad, they grew up during the depression, you know, born right after world war II. And so like privacy and not telling people your business and the fact that you need help is just an ingrained part of who they are. Okay. so we need to respect that and understand that, but by the same token, as you just said, they want us to live the best life we can while we’re caring for them. And so being able to say, I need help. And putting it about, you can help them say, okay, this is something that I need to give in or not give into, but this is something I need to consider. I will say that don’t expect this conversation about bringing help into be one and done. I call it the drip method. Right? You have the conversation. You’ll let it go. And you have it again in a different space in time. It can take, a long time using the drip method, but each time you have it, you help them understand a little more why you need the help. The other thing I would say is understand like their boundaries as well. Like if someone is adamant about, no, I don’t want a stranger living in my home, but you still need the help. Don’t push live in care. How about if we get help a couple hours a week? Right, start small and then grow it from there. I think that’s really important. And then everything we talked about really asking, getting your, your loved one to say yes, to help in a lot of ways of setting a boundary that says I can’t do this. The solution is to ask for help, not for you to change an action. Like I asked of my mom, the is for help. One other thing that I love, this came from my aunt, Mary Ellen who we lost a lung cancer. One of the other impediments, like even calling a neighbor and saying, when you’re out, can you buy bananas? Right? Like, oh no, no, no. I don’t want to bother them. They have their own life. I think part of that often comes from when the neighbor brings the bananas over. They don’t want to take payment and that’s just no way I paid my way, again that’s a generational thing. So my aunt Mary Ellen bought. To every target, Walmart, Publix, ShopRite, whatever, and anyone who would go shopping for her, she gave a gift card to, and then when that was almost done, she gave another one. So that conversation went away. Then there ourselves as caregivers who are unwilling to ask for help. Oh no, I’m the only one that can do it. Like I see this all the time with married friends as well. I have to do it my husband does it wrong. And I’m thinking, is it really wrong or is it really different? You know? That’s the thing like, so I think as caregivers, we think, oh, they’re going to do it wrong. Is it really wrong or is it different? And if you really have a hard time, talk to somebody about it, a counselor, a minister, whoever and this is the final point about asking for help. So often when we ask for help, Well, first of all, when people say, what can I do? We’re often not prepared. So think about what it is that can help you and write it down. Okay. So when they ask, you can tell them, but when they ask, you can say, oh, can you walk the dog? And they’ll say, okay, sure. But that’s not enough information for them. If you say, can you walk the dog Tuesdays and Thursdays between five to seven for 20 minutes, you have now created a smart ask. It’s specific, it’s measurable, it’s attainable, it’s relatable and it’s time bound. And they can now negotiate and say, well, I can’t do it Thursdays between five and seven, but I could do it between six and eight. Right. What you never want to do is ask somebody. Something like, can you walk the dog? And somebody says, yes. And then the details become the devil and all of a sudden they will never help again. Plus it really makes you think through what you need. So creating kind of smart asks, think is the right thing to do.

Rayna Neises: 

Such a good point because that’s where expectation comes in. Again. Well, I asked you to walk the dog. Why don’t, you know, that, that means on Tuesdays and Thursdays from five to seven. You had this very specific idea in mind, possibly you had your routine in mind. This is when the dog is used to walking. This is what we always do. in our house. And you never communicated that. And so they can’t meet your expectation because they don’t even know what your expectation is. And I love that too, because the person who’s being asked knows what they’re committing to. When you just randomly say, can you walk the dog? I’m thinking you mean right now today? And sure I can do that, not the rest of my life or, or twice a week for the next two months. You know what I mean? That request isn’t specific enough for them to even know what they’re agreeing to. So that’s just totally setting you up for tension, stress, and frustration. So I love that. Get that ask ready and make it sure that it’s smart. I always tell my clients, if you have a list of things, when someone says, what can I do to help, or I’m here to do whatever you need me to do. And you’re like, oh, I, I don’t even know because you are overwhelmed in that moment and you don’t know what you need, but having that list. and making sure ask. That’s gold. So listeners get busy on your list, get your paper out and get busy. All right. I want to talk a little bit more about your book. So, in the book you talk about practical and step-by-step guides to really being able to have that communication skill. Tell us a little bit more of what people can expect when they pick it up.

Debra Hallisey: 

So, what you can expect is that the end of every chapter, there’s going to be worksheets based on what I talked about or questions to ask yourself. And it’s everything from just what we talked about like You know, the worksheet about they ask for help is really like, so you get a call that you need cupcakes for your kid to bring in, right? Like, like, is that really a high priority? Do you have to bake the cupcakes or can you stop and buy some? Right. And so you’ll just say, yes, I can do it, but I can’t bake. I’ll drop off something from this, whatever. Right. Oh, this is one of my favorites. When you are getting the spidey sense that things are changing and you roles may be changing. You may have to start paying a little bit more attention at the end of chapter one and two, I have the idea of creating a list, like sitting down and saying. You know, when does your corporate, you go out and you’re recycling. Oh, well that’s Tuesday night at five. O’clock. Right. So if you create a list of all of the things that have to get done in the house and then put, who does it. Then a different list of who’s their electrician, who’s their plumber, who’s their internet service, right? It, it becomes you can couch it in if you’re ever away or you’re not feeling well. I want to be able to step in and. Not, you know, you’re getting old and I don’t want you to do this, but really let me, let me understand how you live your life. And that includes a list of what they love to do. I want to go to church on Sunday morning at 9:30. Is it something that I can do, or can a fellow church member bring us or a neighbor or something? Really kind of writing down the way they want to live their life and then figuring out is this something I can do or something else someone else can do. And who is that person?

Rayna Neises: 

you have to honor who they are. They’ve lived a long life. They are still alive. They’re not gone. And just because they’re reaching a point in which they need help doesn’t mean that they should have to change everything about their life. It doesn’t mean that gets to stay completely the same. does mean that together you can work on helping to honor who they are. What’s important to them provide those things and it doesn’t have to be, you that does it. I say it over and over again. Build your team. the people that they need to support them that they can grow old. You can walk them all the way home and have a life that you love. It doesn’t have to be either, or it needs to be both. Oh, I just love you, Deb. Thanks so much for being on the podcast today. Listeners make sure her website at www.Advocateformomanddads.com definitely Your Caregiving Relationship Contract book is available at Amazon. And anything else you would like to share with our listeners as we wrap up?

Debra Hallisey: 

Yes. I want to share what my best friend told me while we were talking. We talk about what the high of the week is and what the low of the week is. And one time it had been a very bad week with my mom, and she said to me, You’re doing the best you can give yourself grace. And that’s what I want to say to the listeners. You’re doing the best you can give yourself grace.

Rayna Neises: 

So good. Thank you so much for being here today.

Debra Hallisey: 

Thank you so much. This was great chatting with you. I really appreciate the opportunity and getting to know you a little better as well.

Rayna Neises: 

Definitely, just to remind our listeners, A Season of Caring Podcast is created for the encouragement of family caregivers. If you have financial, legal or medical questions, be sure to consult your local professionals and take heart in your season.

Debra Hallisey

Debra Hallisey

Caregiver, Author and Certified Caregiving Consultant

Deb Hallisey is her mother’s caregiver. She lost her job due to caregiving and as a result founded Advocate for Mom and Dad, LLC. Deb writes on caregiving issues for adult children of aging parents at her website www.AdvocateforMomandDad.com.

Author of Your Caregiver Relationship Contract, the book is a practical, step-by-step guide for discussing relationship issues that arise between caregivers and their care partners. She uses personal stories to illustrate how these techniques healed her relationship with her mother. Deb has been a guest speaker and trainer for a variety of organizations including, Artis Senior Living, The Care Years Academy, Northwell Hospital System, The Parkinson Foundation of Oklahoma and United Way.

As an advocate, Deb works with caregivers to help them effectively communicate with their caree, other family members and the healthcare system. Deb is a Certified Caregiving Consultant™, Certified Caregiving Educator, Certified Caregiving Advocate and Certified Dementia Practitioner®.

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Meet Your Host

Rayna Neises

Rayna Neises, ACC

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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