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Learn and Grow

January 25, 2017

Who’s Caring for Caregivers?

caring for caregivers

Among those of us in our 40s, 50s and 60s, huge numbers  are called upon to provide caring for aging relatives. More than ever before.

By 2020, for the first time in human history, there will be more individuals over 65 than children under the age of 5.

What this astounding statistic translates to is that for many of us, if we’re not caring for our aging spouses, we’re likely caring for our parents and grandparents. And if we, ourselves, aren’t caregivers, we undoubtedly are close to someone who is.

With this reality, an intriguing and vital need has arisen: How do we care for caregivers?

While we naturally focus on those who need caregiving due to medical necessity, the fact is, primary caregivers – most often spouses and children – have profoundly important needs, as well. How do we as a society and as individuals assess and support those needs?

The first step as those on the outside is to recognize the breath of the situation the caregiver is addressing. Often caregivers, based on pure love, shoulder far more responsibility than they express. Caregivers can feel every emotion from ultimate obligation to feeling as though their own needs are less important, so they rarely express the true scope of what they’re going through. As a support system for caregivers, we must make an effort to learn as much as we can about the reality of the situation, even beyond what the caregiver shares. We must strive to view the circumstance objectively and determine where the caregiver is at – physically, emotionally and mentally. caring for caregivers

Studies show that caregivers can experience symptoms ranging from fatigue to anxiety to depression – and we don’t need a degree to recognize those symptoms. We know the personalities of those close to us, and when we see adverse changes in a caregiver, it’s a clear sign that he or she needs additional support.

While we never wish to pull a caregiver out of a situation – after all, one’s heart and soul is in it – the single most effective form of caring for a caregiver is by giving him or her a break from the circumstance via respite care. When a caregiver is serving a loved one around the clock, again, we know it takes its toll. A daily form of respite for the caregiver – where someone else assists while the primary caregiver gets a break – dramatically improves the circumstance for everyone. As family and friends of caregivers, if we can ensure respite, whether it’s through outside professionals or loved ones, it dramatically improves the circumstance. A gentleman caring for his wife with Alzheimer’s recently described how, with the support of his children, having one hour per day of respite care, so he can run his errands, has dramatically reduced his stress levels, making him a better caregiver.

Indeed, caregiving to the extent that we are is a remarkably new phenomena of which society has never known. And, more and more families are having to navigate this process every day. We still have a lot to learn, personally and culturally. However, what we know for certain is that in order to best care for those in need, we must also care for caregivers.

December 29, 2016

Join with Us and Celebrate the True Spirit of the New Year

Celebrate the New YearIn modern times, New Year’s resolutions are goals for the coming year.

However, the New Year tradition dates back over 4,000 years, and was actually about reflecting on the prior year. Put simply, it was about looking back, as opposed to looking forward, and using that momentum to improve.

There’s a lot of empowerment in using the New Year to look back. After all, through the good times and the tough times of the past year, we made it!

It’s via this enlightened lens that New Year’s serves as an especially poignant annual milestone for those of us living with disability, illness or any adversity. We made it!

For those among us who made it through our first year of adversity, it’s a wonderful time to look back on the strengths and wisdom gained – maybe some we didn’t fathom we had until we drew it from deep within. Those among us who have faced years or a lifetime of adversity know it’s a fitting time to look back and remind ourselves how far we’ve traveled on this journey. For all of us, it’s an opportunity to realize that we made it with courage and tenacity through the year, and that, in itself, is something to celebrate.

Hardships are easy to look back upon, but the scars earned can be tough to appreciate. The fact is, no one chooses adversity. However, when adversity finds us, and we move through it, the scars become records of strength and courage – and that recognition is life-affirming.

We owe it to ourselves – and New Years is the perfect time – to look at all life has thrown our way, and say, “I made it, and I’m stronger because of it!”

Within all adversity resides opportunity, and nothing marks opportunity like the New Year. Let us all use what we’ve experienced as wind in our sails, moving with increased strength and wisdom into the New Year.

None of us can predict what the New Year will bring; but, we’ve already proven that whatever it is, we can handle it.

As author, Sarah Ban Breathnach, put it, “Take a leap of faith and begin this wondrous new year by believing. Believe in yourself….”

 

November 30, 2016

Celebrating the International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2016

In 1992, the United Nations founded the “International Day of Persons with Disabilities,” celebrated annually on December 3rd, around the world.

In 1992, the United Nations founded the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, celebrated annually on December 3rd, around the world.

The theme for 2016’s International Day is, “Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want,” which draws attention to the U.N.’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals that strive to create a more inclusive and equitable world for persons with disabilities.

What’s inspiring about this year’s theme is that the “17 goals” don’t stem from merely those with disabilities, but they are literally the U.N.’s initiatives for all people around the world.

The goals range from ending hunger to quality education to gender equality to climate action, and so on. Truly, what this year’s theme says is that people with disabilities are… well… just people after all. That’s an empowering, inclusive world view.

See, among the foremost reasons those with disabilities have been historically disenfranchised around the globe is because their needs – read that, our needs, among those of us with disabilities – have been viewed as somehow different. Of course, there’s never truly been a difference. Those of us who have disabilities have always needed, wanted and deserved what everyone else needs, wants and deserves – that is, education, family, community and career, to name a few. Yet, over modern decades, in modern societies, our supposed needs have been noted as “different,” and in that well-meaning but skewed societal view, we’ve consequently been treated differently. For example, we were given “equal access” to architectural barriers, which often really meant a separate entrance, as opposed to “universal access,” where everyone has the same architectural access, walking, wheeling or otherwise.

International Day of Persons with Disabilities

However, this year, on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the U.N. has put a stake in the ground. The U.N. has proclaimed that the needs of those with disabilities are the needs of all people – there is no difference. And, let us hope that the U.N.’s 17 goals for mankind come to fruition because then we will simply have the International Day of People, a day that celebrates true equality for all.

November 23, 2016

Disability and Illness: Looking at the Positive Side

disability and illness

disability and illnessWhen it comes to disability and illness, no one wants or wishes it.

Yet, for many of us, they are a part of life. And, there within that phrase – it’s part of life – resides a key perspective. Yes, disability and illness can be challenging, harrowing and difficult. Yet, may I be bold enough to ask, might they also be life-affirming?

As one who’s had a severe disability for 45 years, works among those with disability and illness, and is immersed in disability culture, I’ve had unique insight into all of the ways disability and illness impact our lives – including for the better. I know it sounds counter-intuitive that disability and illness can positively impact our lives, but they truly can.

While it’s very clear how we’re adversely affected by disability and illness, the rewards are equally poignant. Disability and illness can bring astounding levels of humility and perspective to our lives, and allow us to sometimes see a kinder world, to experience the best in others, to realize what’s truly important. Yes, disability and illness can shine a light on that which is right in our lives, not just the tough stuff.

Roll up to a door in a mobility device in public, and it’s amazing how strangers scramble to open the door in kindness. See who sits by your bedside when you’re ill and experience true love. Realize your own astounding strength when facing challenges and grow in empowerment. Indeed, adversity opens us up to awe-inspiring aspects of life that we may not otherwise experience.

It’s understandable to see negatives in disability and illness; however, life is not one-dimensional. Disability and illness are a part of life. In fact, disability and illness prove to be many parts of our lives.Yes, difficult at times. Other times, indifferent. But, let us not overlook the positives, as well – that is, what disability and illness teach us, show us, and gift us.

Helen Keller wrote, “It has been said that life has treated me harshly; and sometimes I have complained in my heart because many pleasures of human experience have been withheld from me…if much has been denied me, much, very much, has been given me.

Indeed, for all of us, regardless of plight, when we look at the other side of the coin, it, too, shows how much we’ve been given.