Monday, May 7, 2007

The Caregiving Conundrum

I mentioned last week that I was presenting on Friday, May 4th at the Catch Your Breath conference sponsored by the American Lung Association. What a day it was! With nearly two dozen seminars to choose from, attendees had their challenge in choosing. At my session on The Caregiving Conundrum, we faced the reality of “when” not “whether” each of us, particularly women, will become a caregiver. One woman in the session talked about her situation which mirrored my own a while back. As the only female child among brothers, she and the whole family have simply assumed she will be the one to manage the dynamics of an aging parent. Luckily, she is studying the options now before her mother’s decline makes the options fewer.

Another woman has a family member recovering from a head injury. We discussed the options for mild brain trauma, sharing resources such as the Brain Fitness program and various neurological treatment centers throughout the greater Metro area. I am planning to find out more about the Colorado Neurological Institute in Fort Collins this week as a result of that conversation.

We discussed ways to assess whether a loss of independence of a loved one is temporary or permanent, using experts and an array of products to help reintroduce independence into the person’s life. I also prepared an extensive list of free community resources designed to help caregivers. If you would like a copy of this list, please email me and I will send it off to you.

Among the other presentations, you can guess that the Chocolate Therapist was a popular session. With free tastings, people were buzzing all afternoon. Julie Pech, author of The Chocolate Therapist, says “Go dark!” She also says to have a daily intake of one to two ounces of dark chocolate a day! But it’s not just any chocolate. She recommends looking for brands that have the percentage of cocoa labeled on the package. Go for those that have at least 55%. We are in discussions with Julie about carrying her book and some of the chocolate she sells. A portion of every book sold goes to the Dragyn Foundation, created to benefit underprivileged children around the world. Stay tuned. When we have these products available, we’ll highlight them.

Cleo Parker Robinson Dance was there, too, offering the opportunity to move and breathe. The year-round dance school serves approximately 350 full-time equivalent students from age 3 and up. More than 35% of the student body is subsidized through needs-based scholarships. In 1999, Cleo Dance became an affiliate of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

The keynote was Mary LoVerde, Life Balance Expert and author of several books, including I Used To Have A Handle On Life, But It Broke. She offered powerful examples of connecting, the antidote to too much multitasking. Her humor and understanding of the dilemma modern achievers face had most of us either laughing or crying, often a bit of both. Among her many suggestions of practical things we can all do to stay connected with those we love and like in life, in spite of our long hours and demanding responsibilities, is the use of memory cards. She offered a personal example. When her father retired from his job, she sent memory cards (e.g., slips of paper, 3x5 cards, or beautifully designed ones that she sells) to all the people he worked with, family and others. As she collected them, the story of his contributions emerged. He was touched and delighted to recall so many of the big – and small – gestures that had an impact on those around him.

Long before hearing Mary speak – nearly ten years ago – I was inspired to place a “memory” jar at the funeral services for my brother who had succumbed to cancer very quickly. I left slips of paper near by and invited everyone who passed through paying their respects to write a memory about Bob. What a tribute! Every so often I pull out that jar and enjoy those memories, and him, all over again.

The weekend was full of focus on caregiving and independence, it seemed. The Caregiver’s Pampering Day at the Westin on Saturday provided the chance to many local caregivers to relax and be doted on. “I feel renewed and refreshed and ready to jump back in,” one happy participant noted. If you missed that one, there is another planned by the Life Quality Institute, affiliated with Denver Hospice Care, on June 7, 2007. For more information on this one, please email Jane Barton at If you are in a caregiver role, please take care of yourself.

Give us your ideas of some things you have tried in your pursuit of balance and health. Please post your comments.

No comments: