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

Benefits of a Pity Party and Understanding the Dying Process

Episode 144

Rayna Neises, ACC, host, reflects on her interview last week with Angie Rischpater (Episode 143). Angie is a physical therapist and she shared how, as a caregiver, you can be an observer or a detective to help your loved one. Instead of swooping in and taking, you can just support. Rayna continues with the topic offering the following suggestions:

  • [1:32] Deal with the problem and not the symptom by digging down and finding the root of the problem.
  • [3:29] Steps to becoming a good observer:
    • [3:45] Understand the difference between observing and looking
    • [4:15] Be mindful of your surroundings and practice
    • [5:21] Pay attention to the details
    • [6:29] Refrain from judgment
    • [7:18] Slow down
  • [8:00] Let the person you are caring for do what they can do.
  • [8:52] The learner (growth) vs. the judger (fixed) mindset.
  • [11:45] Learning to stay in the learner mindset can change how we interact with our loved one and how we support them.
  • [13:45] Check out Marilee Adams’ book, “Change Your Questions. Change Your Life” and visit inquiryinstitute.com for a free download of the Choice Map.
  • [14:04] This episode has been brought to you by Content Magazine, a quarterly electronic magazine designed to help you find God in your caregiving season, coming in January 2023.


*Transcript is an actual recount of the live conversation

[00:00:00] Rayna Neises: Sometimes it’s the quiet observer who sees the most. A quote by Katherine L. Nelson. 

[00:00:07] Welcome to A Season of Caring podcast where there’s hope for living loving and caring with no regrets. This is Rayna Nieses, your host and today’s episode is brought to you by Content Magazine. A quarterly electronic magazine designed to help you find God in your caring season. Last week, we had the opportunity to talk with physical therapist, Angie. I loved what she shared about being an observer or a detective in helping your loved one. Angie mentioned that when our loved one is having restrictions that we oftentimes are zoned in on what they are tying to accomplish. And we swoop in and maybe take over rather than just support. I loved her example of if someone is unsteady and they’re needing help going to the restroom, we have a tendency to do all the work for them. To take their pants down, to be able to[00:01:00] direct them to where to sit rather than to just help provide the stability that they need to be able to do that on their own. 

[00:01:08] And that really got me thinking, I know part of the time with my dad. I really had to think carefully about what things were influencing his struggles. For example, we got to a point that getting him out of the bed in the mornings was quite a job. And I can’t say that we solved the situation altogether. 

[00:01:32] But I do know that we helped by bringing in some additional tools that maybe we’d never really thought about. I like to think of it as dealing with the problem, not the symptom. And in order to do that, you have to look at the symptom and really dig down and find out what might be the root of the problem. So my sister and I both enjoyed the house temperature much cooler than my dad and my aunt. We’ll just put it that way, [00:02:00] especially in the wintertime. 

[00:02:01] Being able to sleep in a cooler temperature with blankets and staying warm in that way it just helped us sleep all night. And we found that my dad with an enlarged prostate would frequently get up in the middle of the night. But we also found that he was getting hot. So by taking that temperature down, he seemed to sleep better most of the night. 

[00:02:24] The only problem was by bringing the temperature to a lower point when he was so much more sensitive to the temperature, became a challenge in getting him up in the mornings. So we brought a space heater in, we began to encourage the caregivers to come in, turn that space heater on and start to really warm the whole room. 

[00:02:46] We knew that the bathroom definitely needed to be warmed up in order for him to be open, to taking a shower. But it also got to a point that he needed some encouragement to get out of the bed. And so by creating a snug [00:03:00] warm environment outside the bed. it made taking those blankets off a lot less of a shock, and he was a lot more open to that. 

[00:03:07] In fact, there were some mornings that he spent quite a while not wanting to get out of bed. And it actually got pretty toasty under those blankets with the heater on So really kind of digging into what could be the root cause of some of the behaviors that you see can give you some ways to strategize and think. But in order to do that, you have to be a good observer. 

[00:03:29] So I wanted to talk a little bit about being an observer because in life today, we really don’t do a lot of observing. And I found an interesting article on Wiki how, and it just talked about the steps to becoming a good observer. 

[00:03:45] The first thing was understanding that there’s a difference between observing and looking. And that might sound a little bit funny at first. But when we look at something, we’re just taking it in or just kind of, we see it and it goes away. But when we’re [00:04:00] observing, we’re really seeing, and we’re keeping it in mind. And we’re really trying to find a meaning or purpose. And observing can actually take practice. So taking some time to really start to pay closer attention. 

[00:04:15] So the second step to becoming a good observer is being mindful of your surroundings, actually practicing. Mentally taking a picture of things and being able to pay closer attention to those surroundings. If you practice taking that mental picture, looking back on it and trying to remember what did that person have on? What color was their hair? What color was their car? 

[00:04:39] You know, any of those types of details. You can do that by also taking a physical picture. So take that mental picture, think through the details that you see, take the physical picture and compare them. Or if you need a little help, beginning to think a little bit more critically by observing. [00:05:00] Then go ahead and take that physical picture and observe the picture. Really looking for those details and paying close attention. 

[00:05:07] I find that being a good observer helps to be visual. So closing your eyes and actually recreating what you saw in your own mind’s eye can help you to be a better observer. 

[00:05:21] The third one is pay attention to the details. Be purposeful in noticing things. So when you’re trying to observe the one that you’re caring for, possibly paying attention to how they handle the temperature. My dad often felt colder and I learned to dress in short sleeves. Because the temperature in his home that was comfortable for him. I was hot to me. But noticing when he was feeling cold. He really would get in a bad mood if he was too cold. So making sure that he had that soft blanket near when he needed to take a nap or keeping him physically moving and active so that he would keep that blood [00:06:00] pumping helped him. 

[00:06:01] Noticing when was the last time he ate? How well did he eat? Did he eat his favorite things? Or did he ignore those things? Sometimes when we ignore some of our favorite things, we might notice that that’s beginning of getting sick. It might be a tooth ache so we really have to be a good observer as a caregiver and start looking at the kinds of things that could be the root cause of that behavior that seems to be different. 

[00:06:29] The fourth thing is really important. And I totally agreed with this wikiHow article where it said we have to refrain from judgment. . That to me, took a lot of practice and because having a tendency to just look and have an opinion, came very naturally. So learning to just observe and not to determine if someone’s right or wrong, or really just paying close attention to what is actually happening and not judging it. So mentally you know, thinking of yourself as maybe a court reporter. [00:07:00] The job of a court reporter is just to record everything that’s going on. It’s not to win the argument. It’s not to vote on the jury. It’s just to record what was said. So really thinking of your job is just being that person who’s in the room, recording everything that they see and hear.

[00:07:18] The fifth step that they said was to slow down. And again, we are so busy in life today, that is a constant thing to be reminded of. Even as a caregiver when there is so much to do, we have to learn to take those breaks and really slow down, build that mental picture. Take that picture every day and just begin to work on studying what we’re seeing and how our loved one is responding to medication changes to personnel changes that we have different caregivers around them. How does that impact them? Lots of things to think about when we are being an observer. 

[00:07:58] So one of the things Angie [00:08:00] mentioned that I really liked a lot was when we’re learning to develop that skill of observing, we’re also equipping ourselves to relieve some of the stress of doing it all ourself. You know, letting the person that we’re caring for, do what they’re able to do. Offering the support as they need it, but not stepping in and taking over. And I think that was such an important point. 

[00:08:24] As I think about being an observer, it reminds me of this course that I took one of my favorite courses I took during my coach training. 

[00:08:32] It was from the Inquiry Institute, which is mary Lee Adams Institute. And actually I got interested in her teaching from her Change Your Questions, Change Your Life by Marilee Adams. And in that book, she teaches the concepts of. The learner and the judge are mindset. 

[00:08:52] And with the learner and the judger mindset. You might’ve heard it as growth or fixed mindset, Marilee uses learner and [00:09:00] judge her. She teaches about the learner. And the learner is open to learning, to discovering. And it’s a mindset of curiosity. 

[00:09:08] Judger is worrier they’re more worried about establishing what’s right or wrong or determining whose fault something is. It really is a mindset of blame. And I think with that judger mindset we’re often rooted in being concerned about what other people think. So possibly being embarrassed by a situation because we’re really looking at trying not to be embarrassed. We’re worried about what other people think. 

[00:09:36] So we have more of a tendency to jump to conclusions and interact in a certain So when we think about the learner and the judger Marilee teaches from what’s called a Choice Map. 

[00:09:51] She says that in the very beginning of that map, we’re sitting in a place where anything that impacts us in that moment, our thoughts, our [00:10:00] feelings, or our circumstances are all impacted by our questions. When we’re thinking about what we’re going to do, how we’re going to respond. The thinking before the actual decision to do something is the question that we ask ourself. And if we learn to change our questions we can change our life. So the concept of thinking in questions can be a little curious, but I found it to actually be really interesting. 

[00:10:28] So let’s think about in the morning when we go in and pick out our clothes, we look at our closet and we’re immediately asking ourselves lots of questions. What’s the weather going to be like today? What did I wear yesterday? What’s going to be comfortable ? going to do today? Do I want to wear this? Will that work for this situation? We’re immediately asking ourselves lots of questions. And from those questions, we then make decisions that move us forward. Marilee says that’s happening all the time whether we’re noticing the questions we’re asking ourselves or not, we [00:11:00] are asking questions. So the questions can either be learner questions or they can be judger questions. When we find ourselves in a situation when that person cuts us off in the highway, we immediately think to ourselves, is there a curiosity? Oh, I wonder why he’s in such a hurry. I wonder if everything’s okay with that person? That puts us in a learner mindset, not being angry or frustrated and immediately triggering our response in a negative way. Whereas if we’re using our judger mindset, we’re immediately angry. Who does he think he is? He’s not driving safely at all. Or putting ourselves in a place of judging and that puts us into a place on the choice map which leads to being stuck in a pretty negative place. 

[00:11:45] And so when we think about learning, how to observe our loved one and how to assist them best. Learning to stay in that learner mindset. Can really change how we interact with them and how we support them. [00:12:00] The learner mindset is a mindset of curiosity. So asking ourselves questions about, I wonder why he’s doing that. I wonder, what are the facts in this situation? I wonder what he’s trying to accomplish or what he would like to happen.

[00:12:17] When I think about in my caregiving season, a lot of times, those are the questions I was asking myself when I saw unusual behavior with my dad. If he was pacing a lot, if he was wanting to leave. Then beginning to ask myself those questions, what’s making him uncomfortable?. I wonder where he wants to go? Those questions so that I can support him in help to alleviate the stress that he’s feeling or to help him accomplish what he’s trying to accomplish. 

[00:12:45] So, as we think as family caregivers, how can we support that person that we’re caring for? We ask the questions , we start to observe the behaviors and then with curiosity try to discover what it is that they’re trying to [00:13:00] accomplish. As we talk today, we’ve literally talked about how to become a better observer. In allowing ourselves to just step out of our own agenda motivation and just observe. Learning to pay close attention to those details and stay in the moment and mindful in the moment. Once we get that observer behavior solve and grow and improve the situation. Are we asking ourselves, judge your questions that put us into a negative place? Of blame and frustration and shame either maybe on ourselves or anger with someone And just getting into that judger pit that can really be a drag. So, if you’re interested in learning more about the learner and the judger mindset, I would highly recommend Marilee Adams book, Change Your Questions. Change Your Life. You can also visit inquiry institute.com and the Choice Map is [00:14:00] available for free download there. So you might check that out. 

[00:14:04] Thank you for joining me today on A Season of Caring Podcast, this podcast has been brought to you by Content Magazine. A quarterly electronic magazine designed to help you find God in your caregiving season. Filled with stories from other’s caregiving seasons, practical tips, prayers, inspiration. And brain trainers for fun. Coming in January of 2023. Content magazine. 

[00:14:32] A Season and Caring Podcast is 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.

*This transcript is a literal recount of the live recording, please forgive the grammatical errors



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Meet Your Host

Rayna Neises, ACC

An ICF Certified Coach, Author of No Regrets:  Hope for Your Caregiving Season, Podcaster, Positive Approach® to Care (PAC)Independent Certified Trainer & 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

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