Hope for living, loving and caring with no regrets!

Celebrating the Role of Caregiver

Episode 115

This week, Rayna Neises, your host, speaks with Jenn Chan. Jenn is a CEO, certified senior advisor, certified caregiving consultant, and a support group facilitator. Inspired by caregiving for her grandmother, Jenn has dedicated her career to elevating the family caregiver role with fun, love, and positivity.  She believes caregiving is a lifestyle and that becoming a senior caregiver is a life milestone worth celebrating. Jenn shares the following insights:

  • (4:26) A digital detox, where you unplug from all electronics, is a great self-care tip. 
  • (7:00) Self-care can be just checking in with yourself emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually.
  • (8:54) Understanding the caregiver identity and embracing the caregiver term opens up a door to resources, workshops, support groups, books, conferences, podcasts, and so much more.
  • (11:59) The Senior Shower Project is a way to celebrate family caregivers with a party at the beginning of the journey. 
  • (14:05) People attending the Senior Shower identify with the new caregiver,  show their support, and celebrate. 
  • (18:03) The celebration can open doors to bring resources to the caregiver to grow their care team. 
  • (20:16) Find supplies for your party at SeniorShowerProject.com.

Transcript

*Transcript is an actual recount of the live conversation

[00:00:00] Jenn Chan: I really want to celebrate family caregivers of older adults with a party specifically to celebrate caregiverhood.

[00:00:09] 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 I have special guest Jenn Chan. Jenn is the CEO and founder of Senior Shower Project, a startup gift shop with a mission to celebrate family caregivers of older adults with a party! She sells caregiver greeting cards, create senior shower party kids, curates caregiver gift boxes, and hosts virtual caregiver dance parties inspired by caregiving for her grandma Jenn dedicates her career to elevate the family caregiver role with fun, love and positivity. She believes caregiving is a lifestyle and becoming a senior caregiver is a life milestone worth celebrating. As a Certified Senior Advisor and Certified Caregiving Consultant Jenn also facilitate support groups for [00:01:00] LGBTQ plus seniors, dementia caregivers and young caregivers. In her free time Jenn enjoys dancing, snorkeling and high altitude trekking.

[00:01:10] Hey, Jenn. So good to have you here today.

[00:01:12] Jenn Chan: Hi, Rayna . Thanks for having me on here.

[00:01:15] Rayna Neises: So let’s start off by just having you share a little bit about your grandma and your caregiving experience.

[00:01:20] Jenn Chan: I love my grandma. Grandma raised me so in turn, you know, I took care of her. My brother and I lived in the same house as grandma so we both took care of grandma. She had diabetes and then eventually she needed to use a walker. It was difficult for her to walk and then that she was in a wheelchair. So, with caregiving comes with transferring and then she also became incontinent. So, you know, we had our fair share of diaper duties being in the same Household, my brother and I were can I share in the test, you know, I got one weekend, he got the other weekend and it was a whole 10 years, just about 10 years taking care of our grandma.

[00:01:54] We started in our mid twenties. So I like to say that with my caregiving experience, it really [00:02:00] started off in my formative years, you know, my, my young adulthood. Really happy to do it again, family, really, family values in my life, and then my family lives. So it was, it was an honor to really take care of grandma till her very end. She made it to 98. I’d say it was, it was it was really wonderful experience.

[00:02:17] And that really, again, I say formative when I talk about caregiving, because I’m still really deep into caregiving roles right now with what I will be sharing with you today. Just once, once I feel like once you become a caregiver that got really stays with the you know, just developing the passion for it and figuring out how you can help other caregivers that may be in the same boat and whatever journey they are on right now. So that’s how the really, really short version of a 10 years, but yeah, it’s just a lot does highlighting that Grandma was really pivotal. She, she was a true matriarch and she taught us what it was like to be the glue of the family. And I really found that with caregiving [00:03:00] and in returning the care for an older adult that is kind of the glue too you want to show them that you’re there, you’re by their side till the very end of you’re able to.

[00:03:10] Rayna Neises: I love that because not only did you step into that and really meet those needs that she couldn’t meet for herself, but your brother did as well. And that was a team effort. And so many times that can be a struggle to have other step in with you and to feel like have the full family support. So such an important thing. And I agree. I think those of us that are caregivers, we have a heart for it. And I think because we have that heart for it, we also have the eyes to see, and it is really interesting how quickly we see the needs, once we’re out of our caregiving season, that other people don’t quite notice.

[00:03:45] Jenn Chan: Yeah, you can. I think once you’re a caregiver, you can spot other caregivers quite quickly.

[00:03:50] Rayna Neises: Yes you can

[00:03:51] Jenn Chan: And I do just want to give a little bit of credit. I know I mentioned my brother and I, but we had a big family unit, so I always give credit in terms of the care team, our cousins, aunties, and [00:04:00] uncles, they all contributed. So we were fortunate that everybody lived within kind of the same area code and each person could pitch in, in their own way. So I want to say it takes a village and we had a village and it was very nice, very grateful for that.

[00:04:14] Rayna Neises: So from that season in time, we talk self-care a lot, and I think caregivers get tired of hearing about it, but we know how important it is. And so what was one of your favorite self-care things that you did?

[00:04:26] Jenn Chan: Yeah, self-car. So there’s so many to choose from. Rayna. Let’s see. I would say my favorite self-care was hiking. Yes. Hiking really allowed me to take time for myself. And the reason why is because I actually I think w I think. Folks today, call it digital detox. You unplugged from all electronics. And that’s really what I did when I went hiking. I wasn’t listening to anything except for the birds or if I was by the coast, since I’m in California, you know, listening to the ocean waves and just really [00:05:00] clearing out my thoughts and the fresh air . Hiking really allowed me to exercise get out. And then a part of it was very I guess you could say. Hiking for me was really paralleled to just caregiving in some way. We should really be focused on our wellbeing, but I really saw the parallels because when it came to hiking, especially backpacking, it was truly thinking about everything that you needed to have a successful hike. Like make sure you pack your snacks, make sure you have your emergency kit and then make sure you tell people where you are. Communication, right?

[00:05:32] You had your preparation you had your safety kit. A lot of times, even on these hikes, I feel like, I’m spending time to myself, but I’m learning how to take care of myself. And that parallel to care of grandma, do I have my communication set with the care team? Do I have my safety kit? Do I have my just in case emergency protocol? They paralleled but at the same time when I got to hike on my own, I really got to. Yeah, fill my cup. You know, I got to [00:06:00] exercise, I got to check in with my physical wellbeing, emotional wellbeing and really just clear my head cause with caregiving, it’s a lot of noise and sometimes it’s a lot of noise because there’s a lot of things to do. There’s a lot, again, lots of communication, but when, when hiking, you can clear all that out. Especially if you unplug from your electronic devices.

[00:06:23] Rayna Neises: Such a good point. I find myself just even being able to get out and take a short walk can make such a big difference. If you don’t feel like you have time to really get away. But I think those times of really getting away help you to clear your head, walk will help some, but not near as much as it sounds like that hiked in for you. So important self-care, it’s a tough one, but we’ve got to figure out how to take care of ourselves. It’s just, at the top of the list of things to do for sure.

[00:06:53] Jenn Chan: Yeah. And I think of self-care, you know, I briefly mentioned, like, it’s not, it can be holistic. It doesn’t have to be an [00:07:00] item or like a habit. I think of it as a combination of, okay I’m checking in with myself emotionally, physically, mentally, and sometimes I even talk about spiritually, because that could also be tuning in with yourself. And are you following your own spiritual path or are you hitting your own fitness goals? Whatever it is, whatever that day is, I feel like self-care changes every day, whatever that day is that present moment. And you tune in on those different levels, it can either be one of those self-care categories or it could be a combination of all of that for whatever your wellbeing needs for that moment, for that day.

[00:07:36] Rayna Neises: I think too, it’s something that needs to be done so frequently that check-in. How am I, what do I need? can I do about what I need? Because sometimes we don’t even know what we need unless we stop and check in. So that’s a really important point. Thanks Jenn.

[00:07:52] Tell us a little bit about what does your caregiver identity mean to you?

[00:07:58] Jenn Chan: Okay. Well, we were talking [00:08:00] about seasons, right? We were talking about seasons there, right? Rayna. So I mean, caregiver identity has evolved. I want to, I will let you know, it’s an evolution through the journey. And I can say right now, as my identity, I’m a former caregiver. You know, grandma made it to 98. She passed away in 2015. I’m sitting here as a former caregiver. But when I was caregiving, the identity piece was huge. I didn’t know the term caregiver. I had no idea that there was this caregiver term. Maybe so like year five out of the whole 10 year experience, I was simply thinking I’m a granddaughter taking care of my grandmum and I’m sure you’ve heard that a lot through the caregiver community.

[00:08:39] I’m just spouse taking care of my partner. I’m just the daughter taking care of the father, whoever it may be, but that, that role of caregivers. I found that as soon as I learned about that caregiver term, that opened a whole door, I mean the power of the caregiver identity, embracing the caregiver term, embracing that [00:09:00] this is the caregiving role as a key word in this digital age you’re able to find a whole bunch of resources. Caregivers, caregiver, workshops, caregivers, support groups, caregiver books, caregiver conferences, just caregiver cafes. There’s so many things that are our caregiver podcasts. And so, so many things that are attached caregivers now that, that knowing that you’re on this path that take care of somebody, if you’re going through a difficult time hitting through a challenge. You’re going to find a resource. Somebody has gone down that journey and you’re going to find something. So for me, it felt like I wasn’t alone. I mean, I was with my care team with my family and that was the family unit. But by embracing the caregiver role in the identity, it gave me such a bigger world.

[00:09:47] There’s so much more out there. And that allowed me to start talking about caregiving and then allowed me to start building my own community outside of just my family. So it was like an caregiver identity, [00:10:00] and I was able to connect with other folks. So for me, the identity was huge knowing that I wasn’t alone and that there’s a lot more people I can connect with. And even after caregiving, I can continue embracing this post caregiving identity, because I I’m now a storyteller. I can talk about caregiving. I can be sharing my story on podcasts like yours and also meet other people who can share their story for the people who were like me. When I would say like, just started.

[00:10:28] Rayna Neises: I love that too, because I agree that most of us don’t realize that we are caregiving. I often say, when you don’t take on the identity, you don’t realize how important you are, or how important caring for yourself while caring for them is. We started out talking about that self-care thing. And I think the average person doesn’t realize that self-care is even on the radar.

[00:10:54] If you’re trying to do this caregiving thing, without it on the radar, you’re in trouble. So we need to put [00:11:00] it on the radar. We need to know that we are caregivers and that there’s a lot of things involved in that. There’s a lot of stress that we are really realizing, and then there’s a lot of support. So I love that point that there are so many things out here to support those of us that are caring for a loved one. We just need to find it and we need to embrace it. And using that word helps us to do that.

[00:11:24] Jenn Chan: Absolutely agree.

[00:11:27] Rayna Neises: It’s funny. Cause that caregiving word is one that I find a lot of people avoid. Family caregivers, especially just kind of, oh, I’m not, I’m not caregiving. I agree with that so much. So tell us a little bit about the Senior Shower Project and why does it matter?

[00:11:43] Jenn Chan: I’m happy to share the Senior Shower Project as my startup. It’s a company that I started. Let’s, let’s call it a startup gift shop because The Senior Shower Project itself is where I really want to celebrate family caregivers of older adults with a [00:12:00] party specifically to celebrate caregiverhood.

[00:12:03] So when I say as a startup gift shop was because I’m designing party decorations and materials to bring this Senior Shower, the party to life. I really want to celebrate when a person in the family becomes a family caregiver. I really think of it as a rite of passage for somebody to become a caregiver.

[00:12:23] There’s a lot of parties out there. Think about it. There’s bridal showers, there’s baby showers, and they all celebrate pivotal moments in life. It’s like they’re celebrating specific life milestones. And when I thought about The Senior Shower Project, I said, okay, well, you know, there’s parties for say, like, you know, entering into a parenthood, like a baby shower. There that’s for the beginning of life. I think there should be a party for those taking care of those in the later stages of life. That’s a huge life milestone, life transition. Let’s just flip it and call it a Senior Shower. I think people who take care of seniors and older adults has a completely different journey [00:13:00] ahead and what they can use is. Just a family and friends to get together in the beginning and to celebrate them. Support them at the very beginning of the journey as they embark on the wild, wild world of caregiving. So with the, with the project, I believe it matters because I feel like going back to the caregiver identity, right. Going back to self-care I think that was the pivotal moment like becoming a caregiver that will be a event that family person identify and embrace the caregiver role, not just for themselves, but for their community. Think about it if all the family and friends are there. They’ve recognized that they’re about to become a caregiver.

[00:13:39] So they also see them as a caregiver and then the support can happen in the, I would say in a very proactive way, like in the very beginning versus versus when it gets a little bit more intense, crisis mode. I like to plan, you know, going back to hiking and parallels, prepare and get your kit going. And you’re heading out on the trail. Make [00:14:00] sure you have everything. I want The Senior Shower Project to bring this party called the Senior Shower to life so that caregivers of seniors can have the people there to prepare them. They get the celebration, it’s all positive, but, they have their people to support them at the very beginning of the journey and a fun, light, positive way. And hopefully for the people who are at the party they can give them self-care advice and all the other gifts and all the other tools that they could use. So for a new caregiver, they could be set up for success, at least at the very beginning and then find out what happens.

[00:14:35] And ultimately, I also think caregivers deserve a party. That’s a lot, it’s a lot of work. So who doesn’t, who doesn’t like a party, there’s a lot of theme parties out there what The Senior Shower Project. My theme happens to be caregiving for older adults. let’s talk about.

[00:14:53] Rayna Neises: That is so cool. I know my season started with just that need. My aunt had been living at my dad’s house. [00:15:00] And he had cancer and went through surgery and then developed MRSA and all of those things really sent his ability to be independent in those daily living activities downhill. Like really fast and it just maxed her out and her ability to handle it. The needs just became huge. And she’s like, I can’t do this anymore. Which left my sister and I in a place of, okay, now what? And as we explored options and made the decision for us to keep him at home and bring all those caregivers around him to support him in his home versus any of the other options. I was one of them, but I was driving 220 miles one way to take care of him. And that was a significant change in my life. I was spending three days a week away from my family and taking care of him, but just thinking of that as being something, to have a party, that was, that would be so cool. I mean, I never even thought about it that way. it also is something [00:16:00] that makes you, like you said, it’s a milestone. It’s a moment in time. I look at that and go, I know, four years earlier when he said girls, I want to be at home as long as possible. That was a milestone for me to make that decision to be the one who drove and to keep him at home. So I can just see where that party, that moment is a loud, proud moment of saying things are changing I’m going to do what it takes to support my dad until I walk him all the way home.

[00:16:32] Jenn Chan: No. Yeah. And Rayna, thanks for sharing that. I mean, just the fact that you’ve fulfilled your dad’s wish. That’s amazing. And that’s, that’s what caregivers do you hear that you’re like, okay, this is, I want to do everything I can to deliver that to their loved ones. And I am, and then also 220 miles, one way that’s a lot. So, so I’m thinking, you know, if you knew you were going to start driving this, right? Like if your, if your network knew you were going to be driving 220 miles, [00:17:00] maybe some of the gifts they can give, you could be audio books, right? Hey, or suggest podcasts, or it can even be self-care podcast, caregiver, whatever. Like, here’s a good story to take your mind off caregiving while you’re driving, because you’re going to be caregiving for however many hours. And then on your way back, maybe here’s something light-hearted something else to listen to, or maybe it could be gifts that make your drive more comfortable, whatever that is. But because your community, knowing that you will be making this drive and doing this work, it could be possible for you to say, Hey, you know, got any advice for what to do on the road for 220 miles, but it’s the conversation. And so that could happen at the beginning versus say, six months down.

[00:17:40] And you said I’ve been driving every day for this many miles for six months, that’s taking a toll on my body. Please help me. How can I alleviate the, just the physical ailments of driving so much? I feel like if your network knew and you told them that’s what they’re going to do, then it could be possible that they can help. Not just you looking [00:18:00] for resources, they can bring resources to you, which then creates the care team.

[00:18:07] Rayna Neises: So cool. I just, I love that idea because I think for so many different levels, like you said, the support that it brings, but also just I’m going into a new phase. I’m going to need you to understand as my friends that I’m not around, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not around, you know,

[00:18:25] Jenn Chan: Well, that’s true. I agree with that. And you just touched a really good point of friends, kind of like, not, not, you know, now that they know, I feel, I mean, do you tell me if it was your experience, but sometimes when I started talking about caregiving my peers sometimes did not know what to say. Did not know how to like continue on with the conversation, but I feel like if you included them on this life milestone celebration, like, Hey, this conversation is open like I’ve opened the door for you. Come to the celebration this topic is on the table please connect with me. I feel like there’s power to that. And, in so few [00:19:00] words, just even by an invite.

[00:19:02] Rayna Neises: I love that because I can see that season. I was really intentional to say, Hey, let’s get it on the calendar. Let’s do lunch when I am in town because I stayed three days a week with my dad. And so. You know, half the week was gone. So the flexibility wasn’t what it used to be. The three days a week that I was home, I had kids and a husband and all those things that needed to be taken care of too. So it had to become, instead of just, are you open? It was like, let’s get it on the calendar in order to really sure that I didn’t lose those relationships. But I love again, the celebration with me. I mean, I think that would have been amazing to be able to be intentional, which is a big thing I talk about from the very beginning to say, Hey, things are changing I want you to be a part of this celebration. I want you to know that your support still important. What our relationship looks like is changing, but it doesn’t mean that don’t have the relationship or the is not important.

[00:19:57] Jenn Chan: That’s true. I really like your intentions, a [00:20:00] setting, and also the inclusion, the inclusion piece.

[00:20:03] Rayna Neises: That’s so cool. So. Tell my listeners, how they can find out more about throwing their own party and the resources that you have and just all the great things that you’re doing.

[00:20:13] Jenn Chan: Yeah, so I mentioned it’s a start-up gift shop. I am in the midst of creating all my party decorations. So for now I would say follow me on all my socials at Senior Shower Project. And you can check out my website, Senior Shower Project. I’m constantly rolling out new. I currently have caregiver greeting cards and some fun party napkins. So stay tuned to see what other products are rolling out for me to bring this party to life. But Hey, if you want to have a party now

[00:20:40] Rayna Neises: Yeah.

[00:20:40] Jenn Chan: Have your party now don’t wait for me. Don’t wait for me that the concept’s out there. I just, you know, I just want to be able to design fun, fun party material. That say and just shout caregiving, celebration. I want to recognize all the caregivers that are [00:21:00] out there.

[00:21:01] Rayna Neises: I want to also invite you to check out her on the social so you can learn more about her virtual caregiver dance parties.

[00:21:09] Jenn Chan: Oh, yeah. That one too, when I’m not designing a products, I decided that I was gonna that I wanted to throw a virtual caregiver dance party. This was in light of COVID and I knew that. Obviously are, are taking care of their loved ones. They’re not going to be going out to outdoor events. It’s too risky. So caregivers should still have some fun. So, with zoom and with all the digital capabilities I’m throwing seasonal caregiver dance party. So it’s, so I can bring the caregiver to you. You don’t need to go out into the world, right? And last year I did it every month because I felt like I had a date. put it on. Like you said, put it on the calendar,

[00:21:48] Rayna Neises: Yeah.

[00:21:48] Jenn Chan: but you know, make, if this is a social event, dance with other caregivers online. And that’s the thing so that was last year. And then this year I’m going to be doing seasonal virtual caregiver dance parties, just [00:22:00] because I’m busy designing party products for all of you. Everything I do is for you caregivers.

[00:22:07] Rayna Neises: Well, definitely check out Jenn on her socials and keep in touch as her line is growing. Thanks so much for being here today and just challenging us with some new ideas. I’m excited.

[00:22:19] Jenn Chan: Thank you for having me on here.

[00:22:21] Rayna Neises: And thank you listeners for joining us today. Just to remind you 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 of caring.

Jenn Chan

Jenn Chan

Founder of Senior Shower® Project & Former Caregiver

Jenn Chan, CSA®, CCC™, is the CEO & Founder of Senior Shower® Project, a startup gift shop with a mission to celebrate family caregivers of older adults with a party. She sells caregiver greeting cards, creates senior shower party kits, curates caregiver gift boxes, and hosts virtual caregiver dance parties.

Inspired by caregiving for her grandma, Jenn dedicates her career to elevate the family caregiver role with fun, love, and positivity. She believes caregiving is a lifestyle and becoming a senior caregiver is a life milestone worth celebrating. As a Certified Senior Advisor and Certified Caregiving Consultant, Jenn also facilitates support groups for LGBTQ+ seniors, dementia caregivers, and young caregivers. In her free time, Jenn enjoys dancing, snorkeling, and high-altitude trekking.

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Meet Your Host

Rayna Neises

Rayna Neises, ACC

Author of No Regrets: Hope for Your Caregiving Season, ICF Certified Coach, Speaker, Podcast Host, & Positive Approach to Care® Independent Trainer 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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