Navigating Senior Care

I never.

I never thought it would be this difficult.

To be clear, I mean the situation, not my mother.

We’re starting Mom’s fourth week with us and I’m exhausted, both physically and emotionally. Fortunately my mental capacity remains arguably sharp enough to recognize and practice everything I’ve learned about my own self-regulation. What’s surprised me is that my SR lens is focussed on me much more than my mom. I thought I’d be looking for her stressors, working at reducing and reframing those. Nope – I’m working on me.

With mom’s sketchy memory we’re never really sure what is true and what is drama. She’s homesick, but at times doesn’t remember where home is? She’s angry that she was brought to our place without anyone giving her notice (not true, we’ve been discussing this move since last fall). At least once a day she tells me she never wanted to come here and she wants to go home. While we attempt to respect her wishes we also know that going ‘home’ means she will need substantially more care than she was getting. When we relent and agree to arrange for her to go home she shifts her position to liking it here. There are no goal posts. There is no final answer.

In the positive column, Mom got a cell phone and TELUS set it up with her old home number. She was delighted when she got a call from one of my Aunties. On a recent good day Mom sent out her first text complete with an emoticon happy face. She proudly carries her phone with her everywhere. Her watch strap broke and she’s figured out how to use her phone to tell the time. “Hey Siri, what time is it?” We all celebrate those lucid moments.

I never anticipated having to navigate the BC Senior Care system. Somehow this phase of life caught me off guard. Why can’t they just have a flow chart: step one, step two and so on. If yes, go here; if no, go there. Maybe they do and I’m just missing it.

After many phone calls, we’ve connected with an Integrated Case Manager who was kind and patient. She has the task of getting this process started. Because Mom doesn’t have a family doctor in our town we had to ask our own doctor if they would take on Mom as a patient. Our doctor is fabulous but I didn’t want to ask what seems like a ginormous request. I got my dear Reverend to make that call. The request was graciously declined.

Now we’re back to connecting with the Case Manager for the next step. Without a family doctor Mom is considered to be an orphan in this system. Yup, an orphan. I cringe every time the word is referenced. No doubt a stressor in my ProSocial domain. Pause, breathe, repeat. Hopefully she will get on the intake list (this week?) or perhaps I’m being far too optimistic.

This morning, I ask myself again; what are my hidden and not so hidden stressors? Which ones can be reduced and which ones do I need to take a break from. I’m thankful for friends who have gone this route before me and have been generous with their wisdom and support.

Better is possible, isn’t it?

Carol

PS I’d appreciate any tips, good news stories, and how you navigated this stage of the process. How did you keep your own peace and calm?

PPS The comments and encouragement you all gave me on my last post meant a lot. Thank you so very much.

 

 

 

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The Thing About Opening the Can

She’s here!

GG, Grandma, Mom, has arrived. And she’s staying. For three months. At least that’s the plan. The seal on the proverbial can is broken.

Mom and I, like many mother-daughters, have a complex relationship. Mom loves my brothers, and while I know she loves me, it feels like we’ve never really connected. She likes my friends, in fact my friends all think she’s wonderful. But, she’s always had a love/not like, thing for me.

In my early 40’s, I did a lot of work around my relationship with my mom. At 61, I have come to a place of peace about Mom and me. At least most of the time.

Mom is 83 and has lived the last 21 years with my brother, his wife, and their three kids.  Mom’s aging needs coupled with my brother’s aging family (the kids are adults now) meant Mom was in need of more care and attention than my brother, his wife and kids could give her. That is not a blame statement. It’s life.  She was alone far too much now that everyone in that house was either at work or school. We, on the other hand, are retired. The obvious solution…Mom comes to live with us.

Mom is happiest when she is free to do whatever she wants to do, whether that is planting geraniums, hanging laundry outside to dry, or playing scrabble. She loves to hose things and is a master sweeper. She likes to be helpful, but on her terms. Mom does not like adhering to boundaries. Period. Had she been born later, Mom would have been considered a maverick, a cage rattler, and very innovative. She’d always wanted to be a Kindergarten teacher and frankly she’d have been fabulous.

The antithesis is that Mom cries a lot, seems to crave conflict, and sees the glass half empty. When conflict inevitably erupts into flared tempers and unkind words, mom smiles and becomes calm. At 83, those things remain the same. Here’s where my work with self-regulation fits in. The ‘Pause’ has been critical. Looking for and recognizing stressors is giving me a chance to break some of my deep rooted patterns. The goal is co-regulation. We are not there, yet.  (To my faith-based friends, be assured that my ‘pause’ includes prayer.)

In the fall of 2017 my brother and I agreed that Mom could come and spend some time with my husband and me. We were (are) still renovating our house and we needed a bit of time to get the house ready for a long term guest so the plan was to bring Mom to our place at the end of March 2018. She would stay for at least 3 months. On March 31st we arrived at Mom’s place, helped her pack and on Sunday, April 1st we made the 4 hour  journey to our place.

About 25 years ago, my family moved about 4 hours and a drive through the mountains away from my mom. Mom would visit when she could often driving here by herself. My kids LOVE their grandma. She taught them how to throw and catch a ball, how to tie their shoes, and pretty much potty trained my sons. She played games with them, and made them the ‘best sandwiches ever’. The relationship between my kids and my mom warms my heart. When we got to the part of the drive where you can see our city lights at the end of Kal Lake, mom informed us she’d never been here before. We were speechless. The can’s lid lifted. We got a glimpse of what was inside.

Our grandchildren were excited for GG to come and since her arrival they’ve visited and played UNO, trains, and worked on puzzles with GG and it’s only been a week. My heart grew as I listened to the sound of the piano while our Granddaughter and GG played a long and intricate rendition of Chopsticks. GG knows how to have fun with kids.

Yet, at the end of the day, when all my kids and g’kids had left, after watching TV with us until it was bedtime, Mom went downstairs, to her ‘suite’ and cried so loud I sent Jim down to investigate. This was not a little whimpering cry, this was loud sobbing, intermixed with words. Mom’s crying is nothing new, and if you’re wondering, I have for years (decades actually) queried depression and wondered if an anti-depressant might be helpful. I’ve taken mom to the doctor, but have had to fight my way into the treatment room. Long story short, mom insists she is not depressed, her despair is all because my dad left her. It’s been the same story for 50 years. As we peer deeper into the can, it’s getting darker. How do we shine some light into that part of my dear mom’s heart?

I knew when I invited Mom to stay with us, things wouldn’t be easy.  My brothers, their wives, and Jim and I want the rest of Mom’s life to be worry-free or at least have less opportunity for worry. Mom’s memory is sketchy. More so than ever before. My brother warned me. Mom has trouble remembering where she lives, the names of her grandchildren, which is minimally troubling, but when she couldn’t remember where the stairs in our house were, after going up and down them a few times, we knew this was more than ‘memory’ loss. I’m not going to lie, there have been moments I’ve wanted to push down the lid of this darn can, reseal it, and send mom back to my brother. To mix metaphors; that ship has sailed.

Before you go all judgey on me, I did arrange a mental health intake appointment for mom last fall. When they called her, she told them she was fine and apparently that was that. Her ‘walk in’ doctor, ordered a battery of tests and to my knowledge everything came back normal. With mom here with us, we can more aggressively look for some medical answers. We hope.

This week our navigation into the world of Senior Care begins in earnest. I’ll be calling Interior Health and am hopeful we can set up a cognitive ability test that will give us a base line – albeit, a late baseline, so we can get a clearer idea of how mom really is. Just writing that shines some light into our can.

It’s unlikely that mom will go back to live with my brother and his family at the coast. Once we opened the can it became quite clear that moving back may not be an option. In more lucid moments mom gets that, but at other times she sobs because she doesn’t remember where she lives. That is distressing for all of us, but mostly for her.

“They” say that there are 3 stages in life. Apparently I’m in stage 3. I’m sure someone has already figured this out, but I’m convinced that there are more than 3 stages. What do we call the stage where you are losing the ability to consistently make your own decisions? That stage between lucidity and confusion?

We warn people saying, “Be careful. You may be ‘opening a can of worms”.  I’m seeing that in our can it’s more than worms. It’s a new kind of life, a mix of: old and new; past and present; joy and sorrow. The balance is different almost hourly.

It’s not all dark, but it’s not all light. What I’m seeing as I peer into this can is more  kaleidoscope than I’d imagined.

You know how worms are good for the soil? I wonder if by opening this can into mom’s life, we’re providing the air needed for the worms to do their good work…to enrich and nurture…to bring new growth for another stage of life. For better or worse, this lid is staying off.

Post Script: I was asked if my Mom knew I was writing about her and if I’d received her consent. The answer is yes. She read and approved this post. In her words, “Oh Carol, everybody who knows me knows I’m not fake. I have nothing to hide. Maybe they’ll learn from us.” There she is again, my Mom the teacher!

With hope that Better is Possible,

The Story of the Log Jam

 

 

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OneWord 2018

Wayyy back, in 2011, I joined the OneWord movement. My collection of OneWords has been:

2011 Joy

2012 Joy (again…hmm)

2013 Enough

2014 Impatience

2015 Acceptance

2016 Next

2017 never did get its own word probably due to my ongoing adjustment to retirement, or more precisely, semi-retirement. Uncovering ‘Next’ has been hard work.

How often do we hear that after birthing a baby many women grumble about how ‘No one ever told me it would hurt this much”? yet in truth, lots of people warned you about the pain?

Retirement has been a bit like that for me. If the already retired warned me that this was going to be a BIG adjustment, I wasn’t listening. And let me tell you it’s been a challenge.

Many slip into the retired life seamlessly; my dear reverend is one who has embraced the sleeping in, enjoying daytime Jesse Stone marathons, re-watching Harry Potter, studying the genetics of pigeons…all while single handedly renovating our entire house. (OK, so maybe he’s still working, but now without pay). For others the adjustment is a bit more of a struggle. Going from working full out, long days, in a fast paced, high tension position to endless days of little or no routine could be called a significant life disruption. As much as I was tired and knew it was time to go, never did I dream that the freedom of retiring could be a big dark tunnel leading to nowhere. Sounds dramatic…yeah, I’m actually chuckling myself. Although in year one there were some pretty brutal days. Don’t judge!

Please don’t misunderstand, there have been many many good days, even months. Having the flexibility to be with my grandkids, go for walks mid day, have my leisurely 2 and no more, cups of coffee in the wee early morning has been bliss. A new kind of peace. While it’s taken me a bit longer than some, I am enjoying this next phase of life. At least, most of the time.

Having worn out my last OneWord, ‘next’, it’s time for a reset.

 OneWord 2018.

Less. 

 Less striving. Less wanting. Less comparing.

 Less, but better, because Better is Possible!

Best wishes for 2018.

The Story of the Log Jam

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Joy and Sorrow

Joy and Sorrow: side-by- side, interwoven, enmeshed.

Each important. Each deserving of attention. One, more demanding.

To experience both is to wonder at life beyond myself.

To embrace both makes me more fully human.

Today I sing a broken Hallelujah on behalf of friends in the trenches of sorrow.

Today I watch in delight as a grandchild discovers life with the fresh eyes of youth.

May I remain steadfast when the extremes of life collide.

May I hold what needs to be held without breaking, leaking, or collapsing.

Joy & Sorrow: side-by-side. 

Love. 

The Story of the Log Jam

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Just How Narrow is That Door?

As I approach my third year of retirement, or more like semi-retirement I’m still looking for balance. Every so often, I find it. It is comfort, peace, happy, joy…it is good! But then, world events, family messiness, and the never-ending renovations to what was intended to be our relaxed retirement oasis shoots my mind into overdrive.

As we settle into this new rhythm of life, Jim’s being a clear, predictable 4/4 while mine fluctuates between 5/4, 12/8 and once in a while a lovely 3/4 waltz meter, what’s becoming exposed is the big stuff. The “why are we here?” stuff. The, “I’m pretty sure things were never intended to be this complicated” stuff. My morning musings, as they often are, centred on God. Faith. Grace. Rules. Inclusion. Belonging.

Sometimes it feels like we try to micro-manage God. I’m pretty sure God is capable of doing His God-work without us holding fast and strong to our feeble interpretations of what it is He wants. God is a God of order, but I highly doubt He is rule bound the way us humans cling to our rules. It’s the collective we who act out in subtitles that say “do it MY way, or you don’t belong”.  

I worry about the narrative that condemns people based on a narrowly sliced view of scripture. God’s work is BIG, it’s inclusive, it is for all. 

Ultimately it’s between God and me. It’s personal. That’s the point of connection. This is where my heart returns to its source, the God of creation.  It is Grace. It is Inclusive. It is Transforming. It’s where I belong.

I wish that all believers would let go of their rules and really truly lean into God and Let God be God!

Carol

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#Selfreg Santa

Out of our dozen grandchildren several are rather sensitive, but none as much as Noah. He’s also musical, athletic, articulate, and wise beyond his almost 3 years. Noah was born on Christmas Day 2013 and we assumed he’d embrace all things Christmas. He does love presents, shopping for presents, talking about presents, and from what he SAYS about Santa,  you’d think he LOVES Santa.

And he does…from a distance.

To be clear, this post is less about Noah and more about an incredible Santa. A Santa who clearly understands the principles of self-regulation. A Selfreg Santa.

I’ll let the pictures tell the story.

noah-2015-santa-crying

Santa visit 2015

My Bina (aka Grandma) heart broke a bit seeing his fear. No hidden stress here – a straight up fear/terror of a big man in a red suit with a long white beard.

And then in 2016, THIS!

selfreg-santa

Santa VIsit 2016

What a difference a year makes. There were no tears but there was still enough fear to elicit a refusal to get closer than several feet to the big man in the red suit with the long white beard. Sensing Noah’s stress, Santa came down to Noah’s level and in doing so, Santa ‘turned off that darn alarm’. He helped Noah keep his PFC online.

Having spent the last several years indoctrinating myself in the practice of self-regulation this hit me square in the feels. (Yeah, you heard that right, a boomer using millennial speak)

What echoed in my mind were the words of Stuart Shanker.

“When does selfreg work? All the time!”

Thanks to The MEHRIT Center’s team, including Dr. Susan Hopkins for impacting me to the extent that I see or at best look for selfreg everywhere and for Christmas 2016 THIS is it!

Once again, real life proof that better is possible.

The Story of the Log Jam

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#Courage

My heart is with the students, staff, and parents of @abbysenior as they head back to school today. While you can’t know most of the people sending love and thoughts, we are intertwined in this tragedy by our love.

Whether you’re a staff member, a student, or a parent/guardian/grandparent know you are being held in prayer. Rest in our arms as we embrace you with hope and courage. One day/moment/breath at a time. Do what YOU need to do, let us circle the wagons with our love.

Lean into each other. This is what community is about. This is the worst part of life now resting into the best part of community. Let your staff comfort you for as they comfort you, you are comforting them. Roles will have little place today. Today you are all one in grief demonstrating a courage that is difficult to comprehend.

Staff, students, parents, Abby community,  you have demonstrated such grace to the world. Authentic grace and love. What a testament to school communities around the world.

May the angels of peace be camped at your door posts. May all who walk in your building be gently enveloped by the presence of healing and hope. May the God of the universe sustain you, and hold you in His arms.

The Story of the Log Jam

 

 

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Endurance Self-Reg Style

The secret of life? To endure.

If my memory is even somewhat accurate this was the ending of one of my all time favorite books, Woman of Substance by Barbara Taylor Bradford. Her quote parallels the sage advice I often get from my reverend when nearing the end of a project. “Finish well”.

Here I am nearing the end of what is not so much a project but a 10 week sojourn back at work, cheering myself on with “finish well”.

To recap, I retired from a 36 year career in education on September 1, 2015. Since then I’ve filled in as “Acting Principal” in March and am presently starting week 6 of 10 as an elementary counsellor in my former school district. 

Work is different this time. There is the obvious of being more relaxed because, well…retirement. But this time round I’m being mindful to observe, to listen, to be present. To pause. Truth be told, there has been a wee tendency towards judgment, but as the enlightened human I’ve become, judgement has been set aside to free up space for growth – particularly mine.  Here’s what I’m noticing:

  • the adults in many of my buildings are tired
  • the students are not tired
  • excitement for summer break is building
  • dread for summer break is building
  • staff still have way too much to do in the 3 1/2 weeks that are left
  • some schools laugh more than others
  • laughter is necessary
  • listening is often the best kind of self-regulation (for the listener and the listenee)
  • there is no ‘one size fits all’
  • consistency and routines are difficult to maintain in June
  • consistency and routine are essential in order to finish well

Along side of spending another spring at school, I am wrapping up the Foundations course on Self-Regulation through The Mehrit Centre that began in October 2015. (thank you to Dr. Shanker, Dr. Hopkins & the squirrely members of Cohort #1) As I put the finishing touches on my final Self-Reg project, I find I’m looking at schools through a clearer lens. A lens that starts with soft eyes and rather than narrowing it is in fact expanding. There is much to see.

My personal inquiry question has become:

How will the intentional practice of self-regulation change the trajectory of a school and its community?

My thoughts on why schools must embrace self-reg:

  • unity (think “The Village” thanks Shortreed)
  • common language – think unity
  • self-regulation will move schools towards creating a more equal playing field
Fair isn't always equal

Posted on a wall at Willoughby Elementary School. The caption shared by Joe Bower on his blog For the Love of Learning was  “Fair isn’t equal; fair is when everyone gets what they need.”

  • for teachers to co-regulate they must listen. When students are listened to they feel valued. When people are valued by others they often begin to value themselves more. These are the beginning steps of changing a negative bias to a positive bias.
  • when staff listen to students they get to ‘know’ their students. When staff ‘know’ their students they can differentiate both academic and emotional learning in a more meaningful way.

I’ve written before about Self-Reg as the missing piece in providing the grounding for the best kind of lifelong learning. Teaching students, staff, parents, and dare I dream… community, how to move from survival brain to learning brain is foundational to a life of not just learning, but learning with joy.

The goal, the really BIG goal: to become more fully human.

To my friends and colleagues who are nearing the end of another school year or perhaps the end of a lengthy, worthwhile career: thank you for all you do. Stay calm and remember that there really is time left for all that needs to be done. Breath, pause, laugh, listen, pace yourselves, and above all finish well. 

One last thing. It doesn’t matter who starts self-reg, (admin, teachers, parents, district) what matters is that you start!

As always, I write with the knowing that better IS possible,

The Story of the Log Jam

 

 

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An Open Letter to My Kids

To my beloved children (TLC):

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Yesterday Derek (my in law in training ;)) posted this on Facebook:Derek and Daycare

I agree with Derek, I love THIS. I love that Noah is in a daycare that celebrates diversity. “It is important to teach our children to show mutual respect to everyone in Canada”! YES!

And then my wonderings began in earnest (you knew that they would). 

When Noah’s daycare celebrates his (or more so his parent’s, because face it he’s only 2), traditions, beliefs and culture, what will they look like? 

Maybe it’s because Easter is just around the corner that my thoughts went to the traditions we practiced when you were still kids. I wonder if as adults you think as much about the Easter bunny as the redemption offered to us through Christ? Are your Easter memories more about the Easter egg hunts we had than the massive Easter productions that jammed packed Easter weekend with Church. (an aside – remember the time that a goat almost pulled Landon off of the stage?)

Speaking of church…of God…of beliefs…what beliefs do you hold as truth now? Is your image of God a loving, caring God? A God who not only created the universe but also took the time to form you so lovingly into tender tiny humans and then for some crazy reason placed you into our care.

As you aged you each exchanged the mantle of my faith with a mantle of your choosing. The point being you had a choice. You had something of faith to choose from – whether to re embrace, adapt, or change completely.

Each of you grew up bathed in prayer. Whether it was Omie & Oma, Grandma, or me, you never entered a single day without being covered in prayer. Prayer for protection, for grace, for love, compassion, and understanding. And don’t kid yourselves, when you were teens and in your early twenties, those prayers included a plea for a big dose of guilt that would rob you of any sense of unbridled fun when you made those inevitable and in my opinion ‘bad choices’. Just so you know, Grandma and I still pray for you and your offspring daily!

What about your kids? What are the traditions and more importantly beliefs that belong to your families. What do you celebrate?  Let me be clear I am not talking about church attendance and/or religion. And lest you think I’m judging you, I’m not. You are all amazing, caring, and loving parents. You, along with Brittany, Derek, and Deb do parenting so well. I am extremely proud of each one of you.

Wrestling down my wonders I landed on this: What is the foundation of your life? What is that uncompromising part of your heart, soul, and mind that you want to share and pass down to your children. What is YOUR guiding force?

When it’s time for daycare to celebrate your family’s beliefs, what will they celebrate?

Much love,

Mom

 

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From My Heart

DSC_6409.JPGMy heart is too small. It wants to carry everything. From the joy of grandchildren to the wrenching sadness of people displaced from their homelands; extremes that weave through my heart on a daily-sometimes hourly basis.

Joy alongside angst, how is that possible? Moments in the day where I am brushed by a gentle sensation of joy, peace, perhaps happiness, interwoven by times when sorrow is all but paralyzing; both live within this heart of mine. Being able to notice this spectrum of life yet not be crushed by its extremes has become somewhat of a dance. And trust me, I’ve always been an awkward dancer. My heart, with its capacity to expand enough to hold both contentment and suffering, yet beat rhythmically sustaining my life, is in the realm of the mysterious.

“What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost, but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.”
Viktor E. Frankl

Throughout my ongoing studies around self-regulation, the why, the how-to, the process, there has been a niggling wonder about what happens when the tension is gone. What is this calm state? Its purpose? Why aim for this sweet spot? In Viktor Frankl’s words I find some meaning. When I reduce the stressors I make room for the for the authentic, genuine, perhaps  even altruistic me.

My aim: a heart not simply void of tension, but a heart of full of purpose.

DSC_4885.JPG

And with this is mind – the call of a potential meaning – I am satisfied that my heart is indeed large enough for a life leading to better as possible.

The Story of the Log Jam

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