Caring for you and your loved ones

There are times when living the life you want may feel so far away that you can’t imagine how you’ll ever get there.

Today I want to talk about how to get through times like those.  And offer a few strategies and books that literally saved my life when I was going the toughest of times — feeling grief from loss or impending loss.

Many of you know that MOTUS, my sweet, 80-year-0ld mother-in-law is in the final stages of her once inspired and vibrant life as a professor at Vassar and world traveler.  She is now in a nursing home with round-the-clock care.

She is on our minds 24/7.  We are on the phone to her almost daily and jumping with dread and alarm when our caller ID shows her nursing home is calling. I know some of you know the scary feeling.

After sharing about my mother-in-law, I have received so many touching emails. It made me realize that caring for loved ones who may be ill or elderly is happening for many of you, too.

You may be responsible for elderly parents; have loved ones who are terminally ill; or loved ones affected by dementia, Alzheimer’s or serious illness.

I hear you loud and clear about needing strategies to get through the more challenging times.

If you are not currently affected by any of this, I am so glad.  It is hard to get through life unscathed by struggle so I hope what I am about to share can help you, too, if you ever face something similar in the future.

I also welcome you to share your wisdom with our community  in the comments section if you have gone through any of these situations and have thoughts or strategies that worked for you. There are some amazing women in our community who have and are forging a path for the rest of us.

The single most important strategy you need to cope is reliable, ongoing support.

Without it you are adrift.

Who is your support team?  Whether it is professional medical, social service or respite care support, family, friends or strangers, you must ask for help and line up a team to help you.

And, you need to identify them before the need becomes a crisis.

Stay close emotionally and physically, if possible, and provide hope.

In the book, Using The Power of Hope to Cope with Dying, the author, an internationally acclaimed expert in the fields of death, dying, grief, nursing, and hospice care, developed the four stages of hope.  In dying (and we are all dying, by the way), there can be great hope.

The very act of asking a loved one “what are you hoping for today” breaths life, light and love into every step of the journey.

Create guiding principles for care. Their care and yours.

I mentioned recently that my husband Rob and I promised each other and MOTUS that regardless of the situation, we would do our best to make sure she stays safe, comfortable, free of physical pain, and that her dignity is maintained.

From the time her health started to fail, these guiding principles have given us a way to focus our attention and resources for the best possible outcome. So far, so good.

Know that this period is temporary.  Nothing lasts forever.  And, neither will this experience.

There are often so many little joys, stolen looks, funny, touching moments — and memories that are created. Writing them down and sharing them with others is a way to lighten your own sadness.

Learn what to expect.

For most women, reading What To Expect When You’re Expecting is required reading for having a baby.  Similarly, my “bible” for understanding the needs of someone dying and practical strategies of what to expect is Final Gifts, written by two Hospice nurses.

I learned more about how to read behavior of someone in end-of-life stages and how to give comfort to someone than in any other single book ever.

If you have worked with me as your coach, you know I’ve likely given you or urged you to buy Final Gifts.  It’s a life-saver and important information to help your loved one if he or she is in the end stages of life.

And, finally, please take extra good care of yourself — and have a plan in place to do that. Your loved one is counting on you and grateful of your gift of love and hope. You’ve got to stay healthy.

Thank you for being a part of this community where “grief shared is halved; joy shared is doubled.”

Whatever you’re going through, we are stronger together.