Category Archives: Looking into the future

Caregiver Burnout: 9 Ways to Avoid It


In celebration of National Caregiver’s Month, I would like to welcome Hannah Munson as our guest blogger to ‘The Purple Jacket” today.  Hannah is a recent Social Worker graduate who interned for two years as a caregiver in the Metro Detroit  area provides us with some gentle reminders  on how to avoid Caregiver Burnout.

While reading Hannah’s  terrific post, I am reminded that in order to ‘Be A Healthy Caregiver’, we have to take good care of ourselves, too!   Thanks Hannah for your contribution today!

Caregiver Burnout: 9 Ways to Avoid It

Caregivers are the kind of people whose profession warrants them to take care of people who are no longer capable of doing it for their selves. However, we must not forget that caregivers are also human beings who also have their own bodies which also need to be taken care of.  Every caregiver has to see to it that he or she is always in a good working condition.  But, if there are times when he or she begins to experience burnout something must be done right away.  The following are some of the ways to avoid burnout:

1.      Do not keep everything to yourself.

If you feel like you need someone else who understands your predicament as a caregiver, might as well join a support group.  These groups will enable you to express your anxiety, predicament and other problems without the fear of being unfairly judged.

2.     Take some time off.

Caregivers must be proactive in telling their superiors that they badly need some time off for themselves.  They should not wait for their supervisors to notice their being stressed out before they request for a time-off.

3.     Eat nutritious foods.

This would mean that you should not just eat anything that you want.  See to it that you are eating foods that will help you become healthy enough to take care of your patients or somebody else.

4.     Have enough sleep.

Even if your occupation requires you to work on a graveyard shift, this should not be reason enough for you to deprive yourself of enough sleep.  Always find time to have enough sleep to recharge your senses and your entire body.

5.     Exercise regularly.

Exercise is one of the most effective ways to prevent burn out.  When you take the time to exercise on a regular basis you will always have the chance to unwind. Get focused on your exercise and you will be relieved from stress and anxiety.

6.     Find time for your favorite hobby.

Burn out is usually caused by too much exposure to highly stressful situations.  One way to relax is to have time for your favorite hobby.  Read if you must or indulge in your favorite sports.

7.     Be informed.

Sometimes, caregivers experience stress, anxiety or that burn out feeling when they need to take care of a patient who has serious medical condition.  Read and search the internet for more information regarding your patient’s condition.  This way, you will become better equipped with knowledge on how to deal with your patient.

8.    Express yourself.

Some caregivers would prefer to keep their sentiments to themselves because they are too shy to share it with others.  Call a trusted friend with whom you can express your feelings. Letting out your emotions will prove to be one great way to relieve yourself.

9.     Take time to meditate.

You do not have to go to the gym or to a Yoga class in order to have time to meditate.  Just look for a quiet room in your house where you can sit comfortably and concentrate.  Meditation allows you to relax and become more focused on your goals and not on the negative things that are happening in your life.

This was a post written by Hannah M.  She runs the website ‘How Much Is It’.  You can access her website by clicking here.   “How Much Is It” a large resource that helps you find the cost on just about anything.  Please, Check it out!

If you are interested in being a guest blogger on ‘The Purple Jacket” please send me an email by clicking here 

 ‘We Might Have Cancer…

But Cancer Does Not Have Us!’

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We Give Thanks…to the Horn Blower!


One of our favorite breakfast nook’s is Chris’ Pancake & Dining (it gives us the illusion that I am cooking!). As we pulled the car up to the parking lot, I stopped the car in front of the building so that ‘The Little One’ would have a short distance to walk to the restaurant. (Four weeks ago he would not have been able to walk on his own to the front door of the restaurant.)

As he was getting out of the car, the person behind us had to blow the horn as we were not moving fast enough to meet his needs. In the classic ‘The Little One’s’ style, he got out of the car and asked the horn blower…’What’s the hurry?’ That exchange reminded me that he is feeling better as four weeks ago, he would not have even bothered with an exchange like that.

While thinking about the ‘horn blower’ and his impatience, I was reminded about what really is important on Thanksgiving… Giving thanks, being present to your loved ones and caring for those around you.

Cancer has taught both of us a lesson that has been invaluable and it comes in one simple word… Thanksgiving!

We are thankful for today, hopeful for tomorrow and want to enjoy as many sunsets as we possibly can. There are so many things that happen in life that are not in our control. Why blow the horn if you are not in danger?

When you give up control, you gain freedom!

The horn I am blowing today is in thanksgiving and gratitude for the things I have, the family and friends that surround us and the continued good health and happiness of ‘The Little One.’

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November – National Care Givers Month


November is National Care Givers Month!

 We all know some one who is a caregiver, whether we find ourselves taking care of a loved one, know someone who takes care of a loved one, or even if we have heard an inspritational story on the news.

 In today’s busy world it can be easy to forget to show our appreciation to those who make a difference in our lives and the lives of others everyday. As we prepare to celebrate another Thanksgiving, let us give thanks to those who choose to spend their days serving others.

“Appreciation is the highest form of prayer, for it acknowledges the presence of good wherever you shine the light of your thankful thoughts.”
Alan Cohen

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Downsizing


While we know that the tumor has been downsized by the radiation and chemotherapy treatments, we have taken a long look at our personal belongings and have started the process of downsizing in this area too.  So far, the experience has been quite cathartic.

How much ‘stuff’ does one really need to be comfortable in life?  China that has never been used, kitchen gadgets (well, except for the Tumor Extractor!), glasses, roasting pans; yikes where did all this stuff come from?   And better yet… what really is the need?

Funny as it seems, when I was in the seminary those little rooms we lived in seemed so small…now as I look back at that experience, living austerely has its benefits.  Thomas Merton does know what he is talking about!

Cancer is a life changing experience for all who are involved in it.  We have grown closer because of the disease and have I have come to a reality check with my life.   You see, what is important is not how many items you collect, rather what is important is how many lives you touch.   The last few years I have lost touch with my own reality; cancer does have its peculiar benefits.

As the green leaves transition to beautiful autumn colors, we are in a transition mode as well.  What we do for ourselves dies with us.  What we do for others will ever be immortal.  I am honored and proud to be a caregiver, it is one of the most remarkable experiences in life.  I am also grateful for the reality check that our downsizing has provided to us.  May the ‘Little One’s’  health continue to improve; let the downsizing begin!

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In Medicine…East vs. West


As ‘The Little One’ continues to show signs of regaining his strength, we decided to take a detour and visit Dr. Mo this past Saturday.  Who is Dr. Mo you might ask…well Dr. Mo specializes in eastern medicine, specifically acupuncture.   We visited Dr. Mo earlier this year for treatments of sciatica and after four treatments we were pleasantly surprised at the relief ‘The Little One’ received from the acupuncture.   ‘Why not consult with Dr. MO’, we both asked each other this past week. 

While we will not know for a least another month what effect the radiation and chemotherapy has had on the tumor; we know very well that the chemo and radiation has ravished his body, zapped his strength and pretty much turned his life upside down.  Traditional medicine, while proper seems to have a wait and see attitude during this ‘down time’ before the next PET scan.

This attitude was confirmed during my phone consultations with the oncologist and primary care doctor this past week.  The nurse for the oncologist told me over the phone that ‘The doctor normally does not call patients back’…my response to that was simply…’That is odd, don’t you think?’   The primary care doctor referred me back to the oncologist…(they share the same office!).   My response to the primary care doctor was just a tad more direct…”In the patients best interest, one of you needs to be taking the lead in the decision-making.’

That comment rang a bell with me.  The ones who need to take the lead in the decision making are the patient and the caregiver.  While we are all striving for excellency, when it comes right down to it, we are the captions of our own ship.  Authority while respected, is not all-knowing.  There is a reason that medicine is a science.  There are no two bodies alike!

We both know what we are facing with this disease, sometimes you just have to think outside the box.

What do we expect to gain from Dr. MO?  Alternatives, options, hope…just as we expected to gain from the traditional forms of medicine.  Yet not to pursue all options available to us, does not give life a chance.   We both saw the results of the acupuncture in March and April of this past year…why not give it a chance? 

In life…there are plenty alternatives, there are plenty of options, and there is plenty of hope…we just have to engage these options ourselves….rather than waiting for that call to be returned.

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The Future is Now


“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone Else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs

As I pondered this quote from the late Steve Jobs, I took quite a bit of solace and inspiration from it.  As a caregiver, you freely give your life to someone else while being mindful of your own individuality and needs.    As The Little One heads into his final four days of radiation treatments, our lives are changing before our eyes.   We can’t predict the future, we can only deal with the present.   We intend to live our lives to the fullest and enjoy each and every day we have.

The key here is not to wait until there is a serious illness to have this revelation.  We have been fortunate to have followed our heart and intuition since we became friends.   While our life is different because of the  illness, the illness will not control our lives.

While completing my internship in Hospice a few years ago, I was often observed families who were trying to resolve life long issues at the ’11th’ hour.  We all know that is an impossible task, yet understandable under the circumstances.   We can’t fix the past, yet we should not live in it either.    We can live today and search for tomorrow; that is what life and hope is all about.   Or as Steve Job’s put it…”Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

 

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A Trip to the Hospital


The phone rang and there was a trembling voice on the other end…”They are admitting me to the hospital”  The Little One said.  It was not difficult to hear the fear and anxiety in his voice; the psychological aspects of going through chemo and radiation are often overshadowed while in the mist of the treatments.   Even more unbelievable…his doctor wheeled him to the hospital emergency room herself! 

While no one really relishes a trip to the hospital, this was the best way for ‘The Little One’ to help regain his strength and take a break from the cancer treatments.  The chemotherapy and radiation has zapped his strength;  low white blood cell count and low potassium levels seem to be the culprit in this sordid mess.     All fixable items on the health dept chart when recognized early and treated properly.   We are thankful for the chemo-therapist for his swift action and recognizing that was something amiss.

Try as we might, we just can no longer do these treatments apart.  Independent as he is, these treatments are just not something that you can do on your own.   The issues are enormous;   house and doctors in Florida, job and family in St. Louis.  Yet one thing is certain…home is always where you are when you are with the one you love.

Last Saturday I met with a wonderful geriatric social worker in St. Louis by the name of Jeanette.  The hour I spent with Jeanette was worth its weight in gold.  One of the great lessons that I was reminded of during my visit last week with Jeanette is the need to network and explore expertise other than your own.  (Now is not the time to be a legend  in your own mind.)  There are more options available than meets the eye, it’s just getting to the right resources in time to make the proper decisions.  I am thankful for her knowledge and thankful to Sherrill Wayland from Metro SAGE St. Louis for the great referral.

As I have previoiusly mentioned, being a caregiver is a privileged…Yet in order to be a good caregiver you have to sometimes detach your emotions and explore knowledge and resources outside your area of expertise.  There is no need for the caregiver to go solo!  My visit with Jeannette reminded me that in order to think outside the box, I have to get out of my own world.

As we move into the final stages of the chemotherapy and radiation treatments, we are doing this together…side by side, one by one.  Now that I am in Florida, one decision is firm…’The Little One’ will no longer be ‘physically’ alone to go through these daunting treatments.  We look ahead with hope, with anticipation and most of all…with all your love, prayers and support!

 

 

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Back On the Same Page


Earlier this week I posted about ‘mixed messages’ that we were receiving from the radiologist and chemotherapy in relation to the amount of protein drink that the little one should be drinking on a daily basis while going through his cancer treatments.  I am happy to report that we are now all are on the same page, it was just a minor philosophical difference in their treatment plan that needed to be tweaked.   Treatment plans are just that… plans; sometimes the game plan has to be changed in the middle of the game.  The key to any change in game plan is to have the proper data at hand so that intelligent adjustments can be made.   It is not unusual for professionals that have diverse opinions on how treatment plans should be administered.  What is equally as important is for those professionals is to  have the ability to communicate and change the game plan in order to have a winning formula.  Every game is different, as is every patient. Sometimes you just can’t go by the book, you have to make an adjustment in the middle the game. Earlier this week I had not intended to be critical positions as not meant to be critical of physicians, but rather to demonstrate the need for communication and consistency within the team. The physicians are the “managers,’… the caregiver is the ‘coach,’… the ‘patient’ is the player in the field;  if all three components of the team are not communicating properly, then the team is in chaos.  The coach is often the advocate between the manager and player.  Advocacy is the main role of a caregiver:  I am happy to say that we are now all on the same page!

The news continues to get better for ‘The Little One’ as we have had a number of good days in a row.  Lots of energy, eating well and good conversations with the staff at both the radiologist and the chemo-therapist this week.  We believe that the tumor has shrunk as food is going down the esophagus with a little more ease.  One of ‘ The Little One’s” favorite food is baked chicken and  until this week,  ‘The Little One’ not been able to enjoy baked chicken because of the tumor in the esophagus, it was just to difficult to get through the esophagus path: Quite a relief to enjoy something so delicious as your favorite meal without the worry of  pain as the food travels down the esophagus. How often we take things for granted like eating a moist juicy piece of chicken, until that delight is taken away from you by this insidious tumor.

We have now completed three weeks of the five week program. While it’s been an uphill battle, we are pleased with the progress that has been made. The unknown causes fear and trepidation, we certainly experience that during these past few weeks. We know more than we did three weeks ago, and I am sure that we will learn more over the next two weeks leading up to the completion of the treatments. The treatment plan calls for a 30 day reprieve from chemotherapy and radiation after the completion of the treatments in two weeks.  Once we are past 30 days from the last radiation treatment, ‘The Little One’ will have to go through the same set of tests that revealed the tumor in August. These tests  will reveal what the aftercare plan will be; we are hoping for the best!

As we move forward trying to cure the physical aspects of this disease, we are keenly aware of what this disease does to the psyche. While cancer affects all of us, the emotional roller coaster of having cancer can only be realized by the person who has the disease.  While we hope and pray that the chemotherapy and radiation destroys and obliterates the tumor, we are mindful that in order to successfully complete these treatments, there has to be a holistic component to the treatment plan. That is where our faith our family and our friends come in because it is through your love and compassion that we are able to make it through these treatment days.

 

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A toast to Friends…


This weekend was filled with a tremendous amount of emotions as we prepare for the start of chemotherapy and radiation on Monday.  After a lovely and quite evening at home on Friday, we ventured out Saturday night for a splendid evening of celebration as two of our friends celebrated their 25th anniversary together with a commitment ceremony, only to be topped off by a lovely reception at the Chase Park Plaza…Quite a posh evening  for this ‘Mutt and Jeff’ combination…yet we enjoyed the evening immensely and ‘The Little One’ held up well, albeit that we had to duck out a tad early do to fatigue.  (why did I not take a picture or two Saturday night?)

One of the things that struck me was the fellowship that we shared with so many friends from the Gateway Men’s Chorus Saturday night…One of the things that I will miss this year will be my involvement with the Chorus.   While serving as President these past two years, we have been fortunate to gain so many new friends;  it is through our family and friends that we will gain the strength we need to over come this illness. So many well wishes and words of encouragement on Saturday evening left us with a humble heart.  While I will miss the Chorus, I know that the Chorus is in good hands with the new Board President and and Board of Directors.  I will be rooting for them from the sidelines, just as they are rooting for us as we embark on this journey. 

As I thought about the kindness and love that was demonstrated to us Saturday night,  I reflected today as we drove to the airport about the meaning of friends  and how friends are a precious commodity and should never be taken for granted.  Friendships are not like faucets, they can’t just be turned on or off at a moments notice.  The true meaning of  friendships are those friends who argue,who love, who care, who regret, and who argue all over again, yet accept you for who you are and what you do.    Sometimes things happen in life and before you know it, people you cared for… are no longer around.  Some you miss more than others, some you know you can call at a moments notice who will be there for you in your time of need.

Often times when a friendship is broken, it’s hard to know what to do or how to fix it.  Sometimes a simple sorry is all that is needed, other times more time apart is needed to heal the wounds.  Life is to be celebrated; no anger, hostility, resentment…life’s to short to have those feelings, yet our human frailty and ego often stands in the way.   Sometimes you just have to let go…

Life can take us all on a different paths, people change, situations change, yet the love of friends, both close and far never fads.   On Sunday, ‘The Little One’ headed back to Fort Lauderdale to start our treatments for radiation and chemotherapy.  These are truly OUR treatments, we just experience the treatments in a different way. Our friend Tom picked ‘The Little One’ up at the airport…Tom and a host of friends in South Florida are going to keep an eye on ‘The Little One’ this week as we monitor the results of the first week of radiation and chemotherapy.

Monday morning at 10:10 am we start our first round of radiation to be follow with chemotherapy on Tuesday

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.   

There is so much that is ahead of us that is unknown; yet what would we do without a friend… What would we do without  friends?

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Decisions, Decisions…and the love of our friends…


Chemotherapy and Radiation: Radiation and Chemotherapy…can’t live with them, can’t live without them. It is a necessary evil; what is one to do? …Well…we move ahead with our head held high!

As we get ready to face our life changing event; we are comforted by the support that has been shown to us by so many people. The way we are going to get through this is simply by the love and support that our family and friends have shown us. While cancer is a life changing experience, we will not allow the cancer to take control of our lives. The human body is so complex, and each one of us reacts to medication is many different ways. Until the treatments begin next Monday, we have no idea how ‘The Little One’s’ body will react. Overcoming our fears, moving ahead with the treatments, we turn our trust over to a higher power. Coming from two different faith backgrounds, (Jewish & Catholic…by the way, who said mixed marriages did not work? 🙂 ) we tend to look at the ‘higher power’ component in a different way. Yet what is common in the belief in this ‘higher power’ is the ability to love, the ability to care, the ability to look beyond oneself. Life is made hard when life events take control of our lives…it is when we release control that we are free…free to love, free to learn and free of all that binds us…that is how we will be free of this insidious disease called cancer

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