A podcast where we share stories of hope for family caregivers breaking through loneliness to see God even in this season of life.
Stories of Hope for living content, loving well, and caring with no regrets!
Rayna Neises, your host, welcomes Leslie McLeod. Leslie is a writer, artist, mom, and co-owner of a tech company. She has a passion for building up relationships, especially among families with aging parents. Leslie and her siblings rallied together to care for both their parents simultaneously. Based on that experience, she is writing a book to help families survive their season of caring without the added burden of preventable relationship damage. Leslie shares the following insights:
- [4:02] There is no precedent for this season for most of us.
- [6:13] Part of the caregiving component is independence vs. the need for care.
- [7:06] An important part of the communication piece is denial and avoidance.
- [08:09] An area of conflict is the money piece.
- [9:47] Another issue is crazy grief (emotional reactions that are anticipatory).
- [12:53] Being deliberate in communication is important.
- [14:37] Appoint a gatekeeper.
- [16:52] Be proactive.
- [17:34] Build bridges and do not divide us versus them.
- [18:25] Take advantage of resources.
- [19:10] Don’t pass up a hug.
- [19:22] Capture memories.
- [19:38] Do it together with love and grace.
- Visit Leslie’s website at lamcleod.com to see her beautiful artwork, get her newsletter to stay in touch, and receive updates on her new book.
A California artist, writer, wife, and mother, Leslie is an award-winning author of devotions and a blog, as well as a regular Guideposts contributor. She supports women in their second act, especially those caring for aging parents, through her newsletter, articles, podcast interviews, and guest posts.
Leslie’s writing a book (working title: “It’s Our Turn Now”) to help siblings and families navigate the relational pitfalls and precious opportunities of their parents’ last years.
You can also find her hanging out on Facebook and Instagram.
Leslie is also a contributing author to Content Caregiver Magazine. Read her story and tips by subscribing today!
*Transcript is an actual recount of the live conversation
[00:00:00] Rayna Neises: Welcome. This is Rayna Neises your host with A Season of Caring Podcast where we share stories of hope for caregivers breaking through the busyness and loneliness to see God even in this season of life.
Today I’m excited to introduce you to Leslie McLeod, a California artist, writer, wife, and mother. Leslie is an award-winning author of devotions and a blog, as well as a regular guidepost contributor and a contributor to Content Caregiving Magazine. She supports women in their second act, especially those caring for aging parents through her newsletter, articles, a blog, podcast interviews and guest posts. Leslie’s writing a book with the working title It’s Our Turn Now to help siblings and families navigate the relationship pitfalls and precious opportunities of their parents last years.
You can also find her hanging out on Facebook and Instagram. Welcome, Leslie. It’s great to have you today.
[00:00:55] Leslie McLeod: Thank you, Rayna. It’s good to be here.
[00:00:58] Rayna Neises: So start off by just sharing with us a little bit about your caregiving experience.
[00:01:03] Leslie McLeod: Well, it’s over now. It was a brief and very intense period a few years ago, about two to three years of caring for both of my parents. I lived about an hour and a half away. They still lived in the home where I grew up. They were together. They kind of looked the same, and so it was very easy for me to just go heavy into the denial mode. I had my head in the sand. I figured they’re fine. They’re fine enough. They were not fine.
[00:01:32] Rayna Neises: Hmm.
[00:01:33] Leslie McLeod: And there were no other siblings any closer than an hour and a half away. So we would just, kind of keep in touch in it loosely from a distance. But it was when my mom had a accidental overdose of Coumadin that she ended up in the hospital and we started looking closer and realizing they’re both a wreck.
My dad had encroaching Alzheimer’s. He was still working at his own company and driving and really shouldn’t have been doing either of those. But my mom was the one that was really falling, you know, physical problems. Her heart was bad, all that. So really falling apart. They were both in their eighties. And so with that sudden accident happened, my siblings and I, there’s five of us, and we all just rallied around quickly and realized, okay, we’ve gotta organize this thing, and who’s gonna do what, how are we gonna do it remotely? It was all very intense. It was chaotic, it was bedlam. It was like trying to put a puzzle together without the picture.
[00:02:32] Rayna Neises: Yeah.
[00:02:33] Leslie McLeod: Right, that you’re trying to put something together and you don’t know how to do that. None of us ever wanted to think about our parents falling apart, getting old and passing. I didn’t want to anyway, and so I didn’t. And so, you know, you’re so prepared for the other end of life when you’re having a, a baby and you have a, a new one coming along or a grandchild.
But the other end is sad and scary and hard and. I didn’t have the maturity to realize I really should be addressing this. So we came in and, and, and we all brought to the equation different attitudes, different emotions, different skill sets and life experiences. And God really worked through each of us to make this crazy season and so hard and so painful, beautiful in some ways. With really lasting wonderful memories and kind of some, joyful relationship growth that you never would’ve anticipated, and that’s just God doing his thing. So,
[00:03:28] Rayna Neises: Yeah. Well, and I love that. I’m sure it’s really encouraging for our listeners to hear their family is not the only one that is a crazy mess and wasn’t prepared. I think anytime you’re having to deal with that crisis that puts you into the caregiving season, it is a lot harder.
[00:03:46] For our family because we had diagnosis that were slow, progressive. There were definitely opportunities to have some conversations, but I do know sometimes that creep can also catch you by surprise cuz you don’t really know when the last conversation is gonna be. For example, I had people who said to me when my dad passed, well, I’m sure you had all that planned.
[00:04:08] And I was like, Hmm, no, not really. We had some of the conversations, but not really because he wasn’t supposed to pass away then. He was supposed to go through all the stages and he didn’t, it was a blood clot that spurred other things. And like you said, those weak hearts when they get older and things, we just, we know my dad lived, I don’t know how many years in heart failure. But you hear that at first and you’re like, oh my gosh. And then it goes on for a long time and you forget. And then they have a crisis and it takes their life.
[00:04:38] Leslie McLeod: And he even lived longer than my, my mom. You know, we always thought that mom was the healthier one and dad had the heart problem. She was always worried about him. But even what, 10 years earlier she and I had, and it was a very silly way of, of, of being fun. But it was fun. We went shopping, we went to the mortuary, picked out tombstones. We looked at the property, we went out to lunch. We decided what it was gonna say. And I mean, what a weird date. But we actually had a great time. It was fun. Mom and I went shopping and it actually served us well when all of a sudden everything was already decided and taken care of. Didn’t realize she would be the one to go first.
[00:05:19] Rayna Neises: Yeah. And that she was able to have a voice in all of that.
[00:05:23] Leslie McLeod: Absolutely. It did. And even on her deathbed, you know, in her last few days she was, she was really quite lucid and she said, now remember there was that little chapel, I think it was called the Rainbow Chapel in it. She remembered it. She’s very visual. She’s an artist also. And so it was just, it was really neat to, to be able to have closure on that and, and give her what she remembered, what she wanted and what she planned for. So,
[00:05:46] Rayna Neises: Honor in that
[00:05:46] Leslie McLeod: surprises. Yeah. Yeah.
[00:05:48] Rayna Neises: It’s valuable and we’ve gotta get over being uncomfortable talking about it in order for us to have more peace when it happens, we’re not gonna avoid it. We’re all headed there and so unless the Lord comes back first, we’re all going to experience that. So we, by avoiding it, it doesn’t change it. It just makes the people who are left. To have to make decisions they aren’t sure about and that’s difficult. So thanks for sharing that. I think that’s important. So do you have a favorite story with your caregiving that you’d like to share?
[00:06:19] Leslie McLeod: Well, kind of the, the theme of what I’m, as I was thinking today, the theme is that God is a God of surprises. And as hard as I fought to try to control this crazy situation, the more I tried to figure things out and get it under control and fix things, the less peace I had and the more I was able to just let go and watch Him work. God would just bring resources and put ’em in our lap. We weren’t expecting it was coincidences that really weren’t coincidences. There was just wisdom and strength that I never would’ve thought I could have. And so one of these surprises was my dad, well my mom was the one who required the caregiver in the home because she would fall and she really needed somebody there 24 7, they were there together. He was not the primary one receiving care, but he needed it. And he, he should have also been receiving care, but he was still going to the office. He was still driving, as I said, and, but I had pretty much, written him off as this feeble, you know, feeble old man. We’d roll our eyes, dad, you know, he’s not making any sense again.
[00:07:24] And, you know, just kind of really very disrespectful, that dismissing him. He even mom had kind of a medical crisis one time when they were alone and it was at night and he, he panicked. He ended up going to the emergency room. Without her,
[00:07:41] Rayna Neises: Oh no.
[00:07:41] Leslie McLeod: he didn’t, he didn’t know what to do, so he, and so, you know, that kind of thing makes you think, well, poor dad doesn’t have all his marbles, but this, this blew me away. And it was, it was such a pivotal memory. The caregiver had come to the home in the evening. My dad was there taking a nap. I think it was after dinner, the caregiver started having a medical issue. She had some kind of allergic reaction to something she ate and. she started having a hard time breathing and she said, well, I just need some Benadryl.
[00:08:11] I’m gonna, I’m gonna run down to CVS and just get some Benadryl. I’ll be okay. Well, my dad, this feeble, befuddled old man. Said, mm-hmm. That’s not okay. So he threw her in the car, drove her down to the drugstore and helped her get some Benadryl. And so she took the Benadryl tongue, swells up, getting worse. She can’t breathe. So the, you know, at the drugstore, they, they called the, the ambulance hauled her off. My dad figured out. how to get the phone there, call the house to see how mom was doing. She didn’t answer, so he’s thinking, oh my gosh. She, she fell, she’s a wreck, gets in the car, comes running home, she’s fine.
[00:08:50] She’s just on, on the couch, she’s fine. But he thought, you know, we should probably tell the service that we contracted the caregivers through. He figured out where the phone number was. He got the right phone number, looked it up, called them, told them there was a medical crisis, but she’s okay. Here’s where she’s at. And then I’m at home hour and a half away, and I get a call from the service saying, this is, this is what had happened. And I was, so, it makes me cry to see, think about. I was so impressed at my dad and his wherewithal, and he kicked it into high gear. He handled it completely appropriately, absolutely to the letter I, I didn’t think he was capable of doing that.
[00:09:33] And I was humbled. And I called him on the phone and I said, you know what, you’re a hero, dad. You saved her life. Did you know that? And he goes, Uhuh, nah, I’m just a mean old son of a gun. You know? And he, he didn’t think, he didn’t think I was serious, but I was serious. And I was so impressed. And it was just a delightful gift from God to see my dad still in, such a caring and capable person. And I, I certainly. Couldn’t write him off. Shouldn’t write him off. You never should, because you never know.
[00:10:05] Rayna Neises: You don’t know. It is amazing how at times of crisis, Or even just general days, those thoughts can go through and they can really step up. I’ve had anaphylactic shock myself, and it is a very scary thing when you get to that point that that tongue is swelling. And just that, that he was so calm and able to take each step. That’s amazing.
[00:10:27] Leslie McLeod: It really was.
[00:10:28] do we?: yeah, we never know, that’s, it’s challenging.
[00:10:31] Rayna Neises: yeah.
[00:10:31] Leslie McLeod: We don’t. And I’m, I’ve just learned not to pigeonhole, you know, my parents, no matter what condition they’re in, there’s still surprises there. There’s still personality there. There’s still wonderful treasures that you can mine even when they’re falling apart. And not to pigeonhole God either. Cuz he’s full of surprises too,
[00:10:48] Rayna Neises: He uses anyone and you never know. A lot of times the least likely candidate is the one He uses. So
[00:10:55] Leslie McLeod: Yeah.
[00:10:55] Rayna Neises: beautiful. So what would be one thing that surprised you about caregiving? I.
[00:11:01] Leslie McLeod: Well, a couple things that surprised me, was how we came together as a team. We siblings, you know, we hadn’t, we hadn’t lived, we still didn’t live together. We were all across the country, all five of us. But we had to become a team. Since we had lived in that same very house, you know, what, 30, 40 years earlier, all of a sudden we had to figure out a game plan, figure out ways to communicate with each other. Figure out how to deal with differences of opinion, you know, on how we should do that. And so it was surprising to me to see how well we did at that and that was a God thing, just, you know, Susie was the one that was very good with the, the paperwork and the business stuff.
[00:11:45] I was kind of able to handle the medical type of decisions and the remote siblings were able to, to weigh in and, and share their, come in every once in a while and give us breaks. The younger sister was struggling with divorce, so she wasn’t really available until the end, and then towards the end my husband suggested quit driving an hour and a half.
[00:12:03] We’ve gotta move ’em closer. And so for the last year, they were right in the backyard where my little sister and I live. And so it was just neat to see the way we would just pass the baton. Okay, it’s your turn. Here’s what you do best. Okay, you do that. Even bringing in the, the grandkids, sometimes they were adults too. It was, it was remarkable. It was, it was, the teamwork was. Surprising except when it wasn’t, and that was the other surprising part, was there was one particular huge, huge misunderstanding. I’m not sure if it was a misunderstanding or just a difference in how it was handled, but it shocked me so much that I didn’t talk to this one sibling really for about five years after that.
[00:12:45] I couldn’t forgive this sibling for what they had done. What I thought they had done, the visual of it was, was just, was so heinous to me. I thought, how could they be so cruel and selfish? And so I, I couldn’t even talk to the sibling. And that I think was, that was sad. And so, God, Gave me the invitation a few years ago to write about this season, about this experience, and maybe help other people avoid that kind of situation by recognizing common points of conflict, recognizing tools and communication methods that you can use. The thing is, and what I realize is that your relationships. We’re so focused on mom and dad, and it’s really, really important to take advantage of those moments with them because, you know those are your last moments with them. However long that takes. This is nearing the end, and so they become very, very precious and you focus so much on them.
[00:13:41] Well, You know, I have to say it gently, but they’re not gonna be around all that much longer. Your siblings are your spouses, your, your nieces, nephews, the other kids. Those relationships are gonna continue and you wanna make sure that those aren’t damaged beyond repair during this time of incredible emotional duress.
[00:14:00] Rayna Neises: Yeah. So important
[00:14:01] Leslie McLeod: that is kind of, that’s what happened with the one sibling. The sibling didn’t even realize I wasn’t speaking to them because they were just off in their own world doing their thing with their family. But it, it hurt me badly. And it wasn’t until I realized maybe I could communicate some of these things in a way that’s helpful to other families that are dealing with this, that the Lord said.
[00:14:21] And there was a verse in Mark I think about, don’t even try to put your, your, your gift down at the altar if your, your brother or sister has something against you. Take care of that first, and then come back and sacrifice to me. So that was my, okay, I’m gonna have to call this sibling and talk to the sibling. And I did. And it was a good conversation. I’m still uncomfortable with how it went down, but I had a chance to explain how I felt and the sibling had a chance to explain why they did what they did and, and move forward. And so those were some of those goods and bads, I guess, about the relationship component of this caregiving season.
[00:15:00] Rayna Neises: Yeah, definitely my sister and I didn’t really have much of a relationship before my dad’s illness. We saw each other on holidays. I lived away from home most of the time, and even when I lived at home for a period of time, we would see each other some, but not near, like we did when it came to coming together to take care of my dad. That last four. And a half years of his life. And I definitely, one of the routines that I developed is when I was there, my dad was in day stay on Fridays for about five hours. And my sister and I started going to a chiropractor together and then out to lunch. And we did that very regularly.
[00:15:38] And I look back on that and realize that time together, let us grow closer. About each other’s lives, not just, yeah, we hit the bases about Dad and what was going on and any challenges we were dealing, but we also got to know each other as adults and really involved in each other’s lives. And that relationship has become, I would say today, she’s one of my best friends. I wouldn’t have said that before the journey that we went through with my dad, and so I
[00:16:04] Leslie McLeod: that’s a beautiful
[00:16:05] Rayna Neises: that. Yeah.
[00:16:07] Leslie McLeod: silver lining.
[00:16:08] Rayna Neises: Mm-hmm. Definitely.
[00:16:09] Leslie McLeod: You know, I think sometimes God can use, we we’re kind of in a rut and a routine of, of our lives, and God shakes everything up enough. To, to be able to recreate it in a way that’s better. So he, he used that difficult time to create something, you know, more beautiful for you.
[00:16:25] Rayna Neises: Yes, definitely. And I know a lot of our listeners aren’t experiencing that with family members and they’re oftentimes, when I talk to people that are caregiving, they feel like they’re the only ones, but it’s all on their shoulders. But I always encourage people to, you have to reach out and I. I think the key is when you feel like you’re the only one doing it is offer an invitation to the other people, to something specific. When we offer someone an invitation. It doesn’t mean we get mad at ’em when they say no. When we have an expectation, that’s when we get disappointed and get our feelings hurt and get angry.
[00:17:03] But when you offer an invitation, when you invite somebody to dinner and they’re just like, oh, I don’t think that’ll work for me. You don’t go home and pout, you know, you just realize, oh, that didn’t work. So what can I invite them to be a part of another time? And so I think sometimes if we can really help to make that shift in our mind, to invite those family members to be a part, whatever that looks like, however big or however small, if you keep inviting, I think eventually you’ll find something they can do. Then they’ll bite on. Maybe not, but at at least keep trying, so,
[00:17:34] Leslie McLeod: And and understanding that they have their own limitations and perspectives. I realize that we all have emotional issues and that may preclude them from being able to be more involved. They just can’t handle it. For whatever reason, maybe financially, maybe they don’t have time, maybe they don’t have the health or strength. Maybe it’s just too difficult for them. Maybe they have such a horrible relationship with mom that they can’t, they can’t do it. And so to me, just crawling into their head a little bit or just knowing that there is a different perspective than mine. Mine isn’t the only one that, that helped me just extend a little bit of grace when, when I couldn’t understand, it’s not
[00:18:12] Rayna Neises: important. Definitely.
[00:18:14] Leslie McLeod: Yeah. Yeah.
[00:18:15] Rayna Neises: So what’s one thing that comes to mind when you think about living content, loving well, and caring without regrets?
[00:18:24] Leslie McLeod: I guess the main thing was forgiving. Forgiving my siblings, forgiving myself. Fell short. I fell short. I, I didn’t handle things well with mom and I can’t fix it now. There are questions I wish I had asked. There are things I wish I had told dad. And to forgive myself and allow also my siblings where they disappointed me where I felt like they screwed up. They were selfish. Whatever forgiving is, is huge. And I know God forgives me. God forgives them. He has so much grace. And so who am I to withhold that from myself and from them. There were so many ways that, that God showed up and with a beautiful thing.
[00:19:08] Like even, you know, my dad was in intensive care and he was on a ventilator and it was nearing the end and he, he didn’t understand about death. And I, I was privileged to be able to share, in a simple way what Jesus meant. And, and at that moment, some. Random guy from our church just showed up in the lobby and said, is there anybody here that needs prayer?
[00:19:29] I just feel like I need to pray. Well, he prayed while, you know, while I was sharing what it might be like for dad. And so, just knowing that there’s moments of grace that I could never plan and, and just realizing that God’s got this. I can’t fix it. I can’t make Mom and dad. Well, I can’t necessarily be the perfect daughter that I really would like to be. I can’t be the perfect sister or wife. There’s just no way. I’m just strung out. It’s way too much to handle. But he is got this and he’s got an army of surprising resources to help. Some are visible, some are not. But leaning back and trusting him with all the pieces that I can’t control was was a gift I could give myself and I could give my, my relatives as well.
[00:20:19] Rayna Neises: Yeah, forgiveness is such an important piece. I think that has a lot to do with letting go of the regrets. If you feel that you have some, it’s just being able to forgive and know that you, like they, everyone else were doing the. best you could do at the time. And my goodness, you know, we’re human and God knows that. So it’s okay. He made us this way. So yeah, we have to be willing to forgive ourselves and others. That’s beautiful.
[00:20:44] So, one nugget truth you’d like to pass along to our listeners.
[00:20:49] Leslie McLeod: Keep your eyes on the big picture. And know that this is a very intense season, but it is limited. It may feel like it’s forever. It may go for years and years, but it’ll end and you need to take care of your own heart and your other relationships. They’re important. They’re gonna continue, they’re gonna reshape. Those relationships are gonna be different after mom and dad are gone. They’re valuable and they’re worth putting some time and effort and attention into. Even when you’re preoccupied with mom and dad, take time to take care of yourself and your emotions, your heart, and also your, your siblings and your other family members because they’re gonna be the ones that you carry with you . After mom and dad are gone.
[00:21:32] Rayna Neises: Yeah. Yeah. It’s easy to forget in the thick of it all because it feels so all consuming. But I feel like one of the things that lets me look back without regrets is that I was really intentional during that season. Like you said, pouring into the moment, being present right there, but then also detaching and being present in the next relationship or in present in the next moment, and creating those times, carving out those times to keep the marriage strong and the relationships beyond just the parents.
[00:22:02] So that’s lots of wisdom there. Not easy, but definitely.
[00:22:07] Leslie McLeod: not easy.
[00:22:08] Rayna Neises: Can be done when you, when you realize how important it is. And so I think that’s what a lot of times when those of us that are on the outside looking back to where we were, that’s the wisdom we have to offer is that we’ve been there and it can make such a difference.
[00:22:23] Thank you so much, Leslie, for joining us today and just sharing from your heart.
[00:22:26] Leslie McLeod: Rayna
[00:22:28] Rayna it’s a pleasure. It’s been so good to talk to you again. Take care.
[00:22:31] Rayna Neises: Thank you listeners for joining us for Stories of Hope from Leslie. This episode has been brought to you by Content Magazine online, electronic magazine, available quarterly to offer you hope and encouragement through your caregiving so that you may find God even in the middle of your caregiving season. Take a moment. Take a deep breath. Find that space with Him. Jump back into your caregiving refreshed and ready to go. It’s available now at contentmagazine.online, and A Season of Caring Podcast has been created for the purpose of sharing stories of hope, for living content, loving well, and caring without regrets.
[00:23:09] If you have legal, financial, or medical questions, be sure to consult your local professionals and take heart in your season of caring.
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