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After Caregiving Ends


Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. Lao Tzu

March 9th! This day comes around every year and there is no way to avoid it. Sure, I could roll the covers over my head for the entire day and wallow in sadness, but what does that accomplish; more sadness, more isolation? I think not!

As I look back on these last four years, I see quite a bit of change in all facets of my life. There is the weight loss, the new moustache, establishing The Whole Care Network and TLO Cruises and Tours and of all things getting a tattoo!

 

The tattoo is probably the most outlandish thing I have ever done in my entire life, however the tattoo has so much meaning to me as I ACE, (After Caregiving Ends). I believe it is through the experience of the white flower and tattoo which has allowed me to work through my grief and (If you would like to learn more about the tattoo see my post entitled “We’ve Only Just Begun: White Flowers and Green Shoes by clicking here“) guide me on a peaceful path.

When Richard (aka TLO) made his life transition on March 9, 2104, two lives were forever changed. As I look back on what I wrote the three previous years on March 9, there is one constant theme, love endures. What is different for me on March 9, 2018 is that I have started to live life again and break out of my isolation.

As I wrote in “What’s The Deal With Caregiving” I believe there are four stages of grief that caregivers experience:

  1. Relief < caregiving has come to an end and the one you are caregiving is now pain-free
  2. Sadness < the life that you once knew is forever changed
  3. Guilt < when you realise that you move on with your life without the one you love
  4. Acceptance < that day when you wake up and say to yourself…”Job well done” and you’re ready to move on with your life with your head held hight.

It took me 15 months to get to the point when I could get to acceptance. What I realize this past year is that I left out one important stage in grief, taking…

5. Action < Moving from isolation and activate your hopes, dreams and desires.

Whether it was the experience of the while flower, the tattoo, starting the Whole Care Network, (I could use countless examples from this past year) these experiences that happened over the past 12 months made me realize that until I took action, I was going to continue to isolate myself and stay stuck in my own muck (Richard would be most displeased!). Taking action has not only has restored my confidence, taking action has allowed me step outside my comfort zone which has provided exciting opportunities for personal growth and fulfilment.

What I have learned along the way is just as caregiving is different for each one of us, life after caregiving is going to be different for each one of us too. Now four years past, I don’t miss him any less; I’ve learned to live with him, and the love, care and commitment we had for each other, in a different way.

It’s “funny” how taking action has allowed me to find deeper meaning to our love, care and commitment. I will be interested to see what March 9, 2019 brings to me on The Purple Jacket!

 

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Getting To Bluetiful


Love has no age, no limit; and no death. John Galsworthy

As the holiday’s approach, it can be easy to fall into the “blues” especially when you are experiencing your first holiday without someone you love. When a life transitions, two or more lives are impacted, there are no two experiences that are exactly alike.

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Chris MacLellan with a portrait of the late Bernard Richard Schiffer in the background.

I’ve heard it said many times, “the first year is always the toughest when you lose someone you love.” I think the jury is still out on this statement. I know in my case, after my loss, I realized how ill prepared I was for the conflicting emotions of grief that I experienced. One of the most disheartening experiences for me was when someone criticized me for the way I handled my grief. We all experience loss, yet no one can tell us exactly how to deal with loss, loss is so personal and so real. I’ve come to learn this was their problem, not mine.

I also learned that it was equally important not to have anyone impose a time-frame on when I should be “beyond my grief.” Grief isn’t something that is taught in school, grief is an emotional experience that impacts each one of us in different ways. Like a plant that needs to be watered to regain its bloom, we too in our grief process need to be watered for us to bloom again. There is no timetable for a new bloom, yet without the proper nurturing and care, our soil dries and we start to wither away. Finding the proper water and soil is critical for “Getting to Bluetiful.”

There is one aspect to grief that I think all of us experience in one way or another, we stop living… I know, I let it happened to me! I believe once we recognize that we have stopped living, then we are ready to start the process of dealing with our unresolved grief.

Emotional isolation has an adverse effect on anyone. Getting to “Bluetiful” starts by being validated by trusted family and friends, without fear of judgement and without fear of laughter. Telling our stories allows our soil to be tended so we can receive nourishment on our journey to “Bluetiful.” I appreciate everyone who has allowed me to share my story.

While amid grief, “Getting to Bluetiful” can have its challenges, but it is a worthy journey when you have the proper water and soil to help you along the way. Sure, there will be days where the path will be bumpy, mixed in with some sharp curves. When those days happen out of the blue, simply pull off to the side of road for some fresh water and soil (a good cry? YES!) which will replenish your journey to “Bluetiful.” That old cliché is true: Time heals all wounds, however wounds healing at their own pace and in their own time and in your time, you will get to Bluetiful!

I’m almost there too!

Chris MacLellan is the host of Healing Ties Podcast and the author of “What’s The Deal With Caregiving?

“Everyone has the potential to be a kindness leader. Everyone has the potential to leave footprints on the heart of another. It is simply choosing to do a kind act to make someone else’s life ‘bluetiful.'” Allison Lazicky from Top-Notch Teams.

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Creating Servant Leaders One Oreo Cookie At A Time


Good leaders must first become good servants.  Robert K. Greenleaf

Servant Leadership is a philosophy and set of practices that enriches lives of individuals, builds better organizations and creates a more just and caring world.  Servant Leaders lead with others in mind.   Robert Greenleaf  is regarded as the founder of the concept of Servant Leadership. Servant Leadership is not only a process, it is a way of life.  

The Way To SuccessAllison Elkow Lazicky from Top Notch Teams is serving up Servant Leadership in more ways than one.  Using the metaphor of an Oreo Cookie, Allison  sets the stage by saying that before one can dig into the delicious center cream, we set expectations with the top half of the cookie and learn how to develop an attitude of gratitude with the bottom half of the cookie.  I love the metaphor of the Oreo Cookie and Servant Leadership.

I think there is a strong connection between servant leadership and being a caregiver.  As caregivers we often put ourselves second and focus on the needs of someone else. Becoming a servant leader is a process; becoming a caregiver is a process too.  When we (caregivers) develop a care team, we have to empower members to the best of their abilities.  While we might want to jump right into the center of the Oreo cookie, we have to set our expectations and adapt that attitude of gratitude.

I find the concept of Servant Leaders and Caregivers fascinating.  I think you will find the conversation with Allison Elkow Lazicky fascinating too.  Here’s to creating great teams and Oreo Cookies! Listen in and learn how Allison is creating healthy teams and Healing Ties all around us!

 Visit Allison’s website, Top-Notch Teams by clicking here! 

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We’ve Only Just Begun: White Flowers and Green Shoes


Fond memory brings the light of other days around me. Thomas Moore

For some reason, I have been thinking  of Karen Carpenter’s popular song, “We’ve Only Just Begun”…

We’ve only just begun to live
White lace and promises
A kiss for luck and we’re on our way
(We’ve only begun)

While “white lace and promises” are great…I wonder what the song would sound like if I changedwp-1489778736321.jpg those lyrics to White Flowers and Green Shoes? (probably not!) Well, I don’t think song writer Michael Williams has anything to worry about in regards to me, or anyone else for for that matter,  changing the lyrics to one of the most iconic songs of our time.  As many times as I have heard this song over the years, it wasn’t until recently that the song presented a different meaning to me after a white flower appeared in my life.

Before the risin’ sun, we fly
So many roads to choose
We’ll start out walkin’ and learn to run
(And yes, we’ve just begun)

So many roads to choose. I have debated long and hard about sharing this story with my readers on “The Purple Jacket” but have come to the conclusion that since our life has been an open book, this experience would be important to share with everyone who has followed our story.

A few months ago one of my longest and best friends said to me; “you have so many wonderful things happening in your life right now, have you ever considered going for a psychic reading?”   My theological background was skeptical, but I was open to the experience.

The experience was more than I could have ever imagined. From my past and present life, to future romance, to business success, every topic was touched without me really saying a word. It was amazing what someone knew about me, who did not know me at all!

Then we moved onto the topic of Richard…

“Richard wants you to know that he has made it to the other side.”

“He’s checking in on you, but spending lots of time in Paris visiting friends” (Richard loved Paris and he and Herman traveled to Paris six times)

“You’ll see a flower, a white flower, I’m not sure what kind of flower, but I know that the flower will be white.  I don’t know when the flower will appear, when you see the flower, that will be Richard telling you that he is okay, that he is with you, encouraging you, wanting to live your life to the fullest and that he will always be with you.”

an-american-in-paris-limited-edition-official-opening-night-playbill-3Two nights later, I attended the spectacular musical “An American In Paris” at The Fox Theater in St. Louis.  Thirty minutes into the performance,  one of the actors walked out on stage with… a white flower!     Yes, my jaw dropped!

There is really no explanation for this phenomenon.  Chance event?  Richard and his love for Paris?  The white flower appearing in a stage play about Paris?  The psychic didn’t know I was going to see that play two days after seeing her.

I’ve shared this story with a couple of trusted friends and now I am sharing it with you. Whether you are an ardent advocate for psychic readings, you do it for fun,  have never done it before, or abhor the thought of psychic readings, seeing the white flower in “An American In Paris” has changed me forever.

And when the evening comes, we smile
So much of life ahead
We’ll find a place where there’s room to grow
(And yes, we’ve just begun)

So much of life ahead: starts with me accepting that no matter what else I think I could have done for Richard, his destiny was predetermined and my caregiving cape is limited.

Sharing horizons that are new to us
Watching the signs along the way
Talkin’ it over, just the two of us
Workin’ together day to day
Together
Together

Sharing horizons that are new to us:   Richard had a beautiful sunset to his life; now I am experiencing new horizons. Life is full of new horizons, when we are open to new sunrises.

No matter what side of the aisle you are on in this conversation, the mere fact that a total stranger said to me, “He wants you to know that he’s made it to the other side and he’s Okay” opened up new horizons for me.  Richard was an agnostic Jew, for him, once the “lights went out” that was it.  Over the years we had plenty of conversations about life after death; he was not a believer.  Fro me to be told that “he wants you to know that he’s made it to the other side and he’s Okay” is impactful.

This experience has helped me get to the other side of my grief and start to live again. This does not mean I miss him any less, this simply means that I am can find peace.  My faith tells me that I will see him again; my mind tells me he is forever pain free; my heart tells me he is standing right beside me.

And when the evening comes, we smile
So much of life ahead
We’ll find a place where there’s room to grow
And yes, we’ve just begun

Songwriters
NICHOLS, WILLIAMS

And yes, we’ve just begun:   It’s never too late to start over; it’s never too late to live your dream; it’s never too late to find peace and happiness.   It’s never too late to find your white flower in the midst of a thing called, life after caregiving ends.  

Now, for me:  when the evening comes, we smile! 

Here are some simple reminders to help support you during your caregiving journey: 

  • Try not to isolate yourself from others
  • Asking for help is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness
  • Set a daily intention for yourself
  • It’s Okay to admit that caregiving can be difficult
  • Remember to take care of yourself, too!
  • Share your horizons

I used to wish for visiting hours in heaven,  then my good friend Sam said to me: “There wp-1489779515429.jpgare! Every time you have a memory of Richard. Every time you cry. Every time you laugh, Richard is right there with you.” Something tells me that Richard is up there, holding a white flower, too!

Oh and those green shoes you were wondering about? Those green shoes are Richard’s size 7 that he wore once a year on St. Patrick’s day for over 30 years.  White flowers and green shoes…find your keepsake memory.

Read more: The Carpenters – We’ve Only Just Begun Lyrics | MetroLyrics

 

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Preventing One Million Falls


The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless. Jean-Jacques Rousseau

According to the Centers for Disease Control: “each year, millions of older people—those 65 and older—fall. In fact, more than one out of four older people falls each year, but less than half tell their doctor. Falling once doubles your chances of falling again.

Falls Are Serious and Costly

But what if there was a way to encourage those 65 and older (well, everyone for that matter) to exercise and create better balance?  Well now, you’ve come to the right place!

Dr. Sheryl Flynn is the founder and CEO of Blue Marble Health, a software company that specializes in developing tools that support healthy aging and chronic disease management.  Dr. Flynn founded Blue Marble Health because she wanted to develop tools that could directly impact older adults while supporting their care team.  I just love that!

2016-10-28-4Dr. Flynn’s Health in Motion platform offers older adults and those with chronic disease to screen their fall risk while offering exercises to help improve balance and coördination.  And best of all, the App is user-friendly along with the ability to send information to your care team.   Having your health care information readily available at a moment’s notice helps mitigate emergencies when we have to interact with healthcare professionals who are not regularly on our health-care team.

Dr. Flynn has a goal to prevent one million falls within the next five years.  This is a lofty, but attainable goal with the Health in Motion App.  Don’t just take it from me!  Listen in and learn how Dr. Flynn and the staff are preventing falls and creating Healing Ties all around us!

As an added bonus, enter the code “Healing Ties” and receive 20% off your order!

Chris MacLellan is the host of “Healing Ties” and the author of “What’s The Deal with Caregiving”  ©WholeCareNetwork

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Preserving Our Legacy


The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge. Bertrand Russell

2016-10-27-3I am often inspired by family caregivers who share their story; I find story sharing to be healing.  One of the reasons I started to blog about our Caregiving experience was to have an outlet to share our story.   When we share our story, there is a sense of relief that you have been heard, that your experience might be of help to someone.

Mike Stith from One Legacy has a passion for sharing inspirational stories.  Mike has helped families preserve their family legacy through story telling that he captures in a variety of ways.    Mike believes that in sharing stories, On Legacy is adding a special piece of history for future generations.  I think he is right on target with that assessment.

I did not have the opportunity to meet three of my four grandparents, however I do remember my five older siblings talking about all four of our grandparents with fond memories.  How I wish we would have been able to capture my grandparents legacy so that I would have had a better sense of my grandparents.  One Legacy is preserving family stories for future generations in a way will capture the hearts of future family generations.

Don’t just take it from me, listen in and learn how Mike Stith from One Legacy is creating Healing Ties all around us!

To learn more about One Legacy visit them on-line at http://onelegacy.com/

You can reach Mike Stith via email at mstith@onelegacy.com   Twitter https://twitter.com/one_legacy_com  Facebook https://www.facebook.com/onelegacyllc

Chris MacLellan is the author of “What’s The Deal with Caregiving” and the Host of  Healing Ties Radio

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The Exceptional Theater Company


Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others. Jonathan Swift

In this election season when there is so much negativity on our airways, it is nice to come across someone with a”feel-good” story that warms your heart.  Debra Lombard has your feel-good story of the day!

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Chris MacLellan with special guest, Debra Lombard Executive Director of The Exceptional Theater Company 

As the Executive Director for The Exceptional Theater Company, Debra has turn her passion for theater and the arts into a career that many of us dream of doing.   The Exceptional Theater Company is designed to teach theater to persons with physical and and intellectual challenges which creates opportunities for for personal growth in countless ways.

Debra’s program is filled with many feel good stories as the program enhances verbal skills, improves movement, builds self-confidence and advances socialization while stimulating free thinking.  During our conversation on Healing Ties Radio, Debra and I both recognized how this interactive environment created respite care for caregivers!

Don’t just take it from me;  listen into our episode of Healing Ties and learn how Debra Lombard is creating Healing Ties all around us!

2016-10-11-54Oh…and stay tuned to the end of the show and learn about the terrific story on how the logo was created for The Exceptional Theater, the story will bring a tear to your eye and a smile to your face!

Join us in Chicago for the First Annual National Caregiving Conference on December 2nd and 3rd hosted by Denise Brown as Caregiving.com!  To learn more about the conference and to sign up to attend, visit Caregiving.com 

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Having The Talk: How To Make End Of Life Wishes Easier


The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today. H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Richard and I during one of our many talks about what he wanted. This conversation centered around his medication.

Having “The Talk” does not have to be hard or difficult, yet the talk does have to happen at some point in our lives.   I’m not referring to the birds and the bees talk our parents have with us when we are adolescents. “The Talk” I am referring to is the talk we have with our loved ones about end-of-life wishes.

As a caregiver, one of our most important roles, if not the most important one of them all, is to be an  advocate. How can one advocate if you do not know the wishes or desires of the person in your care?  Richard and I always had the ability to talk openly about his wishes. In fact, our end-of-life conversation happened spontaneously; by the end of the conversation, our tears of love and joy were comforted by the knowledge that I knew exactly what he wanted.  “I will tell you when I am ready for hospice” he bellowed…Yes you did!

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Click on the image to purchase Jack’s book

Recently I had the opportunity to visit with Jack Tatar who has written a book called “Having the Talk.”  “Having the Talk” focuses on ways to begin a family discussion earlier rather than later, about planning for the later life issues of a retired or retiring parent. Jack’s research demonstrated to him people have “the Talk”, but they have it too late, either when there’s little that can be changed, or after expectations have been set by siblings about “who gets what.” When this happens, families are torn apart, and loved ones who played together and protected each other throughout their entire lives now find themselves not talking to each other, usually all the way to their deathbeds.

Here is our recent episode of “Healing Ties” featuring Jack Tatar as we discuss how to have those difficult end-of-life conversation.  

While I understand not everyone is going to be able to have the same experience of having “The Talk” like Richard and I did, let me share a few suggestions on how you might approach this delicate conversation:

  • Always use open-ended question
  • Don’t force the conversation, if there is strong resistance, back off and revisit it at another time
  • Express the importance of  the need for you to be comforted, knowing that by following their wishes, makes it easier on you
  • Enlist the help of an objective third-party
  • Use examples of family and friends.
  • Learn about The Five Wishes 

I believe there are two common aspects to caregiving that everyone experiences, there is a beginning and there is an end, and in most cases, we are not prepared for either one of these life changing events!  It is difficult to plan for the unexpected, but having a plan in place does help temper the confusion when an emergency happens.

Have the talk…you will be glad that you did!

 

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Christopher MacLellan, MA is a Certified Senior Advisor, Certified Caregiving Consultant, the author of “What’s The Deal with Caregiving?” and the host of “Healing Ties™” podcast.

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