On the Cusp of Many Changes

Here’s a post from last week when I almost didn’t know where to put my focus at any given moment.  Maybe it’s time for a brain dump, prayer, and some quiet before the mayhem?

Inside

The bout of pneumonia is largely past now with occasional coughing spells and nasal rinses to get me through the occasional flare-ups.  Unfortunately this illness has exacerbated the seizure attacks when trying to go to sleep.  It is definitely time for an adjustment to my specialized dental appliances however the trip to go see my Craniomandibular Specialist got cancelled due to the pneumonia.  Oh well, the fact that it has been raining in Florida virtually every day for the last few weeks including a tropical storm this week makes me glad we were not camping in all that mess.  Ever camp and travel in hot, muggy, wet conditions with a large dog?  Yeah, it would have been a moldy, muddy mess for sure!

Outside

We are in the process of selling our Livin Lite Camplite 16 DB that has served us well for the past 4 years.  We very likely will need to accommodate one or more family members during some upcoming travel so we are pursuing the financing of a more suitable travel trailer.  This is a week of finalizing the sale of our “Tin Can Ranch” and the purchase of the new unit, Lord willing, requiring many tasks and 2 long days of travel:  one day this past weekend to scope out the new travel trailer and another day soon to go pick it up.  Travelling a total of 4 days to my medical appointments in Florida was out of the question yet 2 shorter trips over the period of a week was more doable yet very tiring.  No problemmo.  My beloved River Bear is a skilled “bus driver” too!   The cancellation of medical and other appointments this past week (because we were supposed to be out of town!) has allowed for plenty of time for rest-n-naps!  Hopefully the new owner of the 16 DB will be able to solve her delays soon as well.

Things got crazy when late Sunday night in the middle of the Memorial Day weekend we found the perfect travel trailer and price point for our situation!  Within 24 hours of the posting of the listing and us finding it, we were on the road and ultimately making an offer.  Do you think that the Lord cares about the special thingies of our lives?  I submit to you that He does.  The morning of Memorial Day that we were scrambling to take a day-long road trip to see the travel trailer, Steve sold a performance surf ski for his River Bear Racing!  We delivered it to a gentleman along the shores of Lake Erie then headed south to check out the new Camplite.  A week later it was in our driveway!  However, the timing of this transition has found us with TWO travel trailers, much paperwork, a couple of trips to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, yada, yada, yada.   We are a little nervous but trusting the Lord that things will also be resolved in time for our first camping trip in June . . .

Family

Looks like my family member in Florida will be visiting us for most of the month of July.  It’s still a month away yet many travel arrangements and accommodations are needed to both get her here and have her in our home.  Steve and I still must practice extreme avoidance procedures (changing clothes and showering when coming home from being away) which is tough on an older family member who needs care.  We will make as many preparations as we can before she leaves her home (in a moldy State), have initial provisions for her when she arrives, and hope for the best that her clothing can be sanitized and de-fragranced so she can travel and visit with us in July.  She has many fears, concerns, demands, yet is asking to come.  That is kind of weird since she has traveled with virtually no care just a few months ago and did alright.  So I will be very busy taking care of many details.  Thank the Lord I am less reactive to fragrance and trace amounts of mold, etc., and my activity level has increased some overall these past 2 months!

Home

Getting out in the garden continues to be a great therapy for me in many ways.  The vegetables are now in the ground including a new asparagus bed . . . until the bunnies find it of course!  No worries as I am working on my rascally rabbit defense system as we speak.  Overall I am still months ahead of schedule for Spring clean-up as compared to the past 6 years battling a serious illness.  I am humbled and grateful.  When my days in the past focused on basic household chores and a plethora of medical appointments and treatments.  Was really nice yesterday to sell a piece of medical equipment that I no longer need and then drive directly to a local nursery with the cash to purchase a lavender plant!  The rains today shall nurture the earth and my garden refuge wonderfully.  Thank you Lord for the lovely view out our windows to encourage me on my recovery journey.  You are soooooo good!

I am in awe of the overall goodness of these changes happening in our lives.  Steve an I are grateful and humbled, tired and excited, stressed and energized all at the same time.  So I’ll end with my happy place that provides refuge through it all.  (Can you find the pup in the photo?)

Thank you Lord for your blessings and goodness, love and care.  Gentle Reader:  He is so good!  JJ

Front Door 6.18

 

Clarity Came to the Caregiver

Sometimes the moments of frustration break away to clarity and decision.  Gratefully, the crisis is over for now in our care-giving responsibilities.

Recently I vented about the stress and trials of caring for a family member at a distance.  She is having difficulties making decisions.  She is having difficulty trusting anyone to help her despite reaching out to a few family members to do just that.  Then she changes just about everything after you have helped her establish according to her wishes at the time.  I am concerned for her safety.  Mostly I have been concerned for my own sanity and stress level, caring for a lady for whom nothing is quite good enough.  What a tough place for us both to find ourselves.

So we will back away for now until she finds that she really needs us.  Her summer visit is now cancelled.  Her indecision really is a decision of sorts!  My beloved saint of a hubby and I will see this family member within a month where we will regroup in person.  Until then I will focus on the tasks of recovery from my own serious illness.  More about that next . . .

Fiji, water, patio, covered porch, Indiana, Spring, garden, relaxing, healthy food, carrots, Bible reading, prayer time, shade sail, flagstone

This Distance Caregiver Thing

I may not be cut out to be a personal caregiver.  After 3 decades of working as a healthcare professional and caring for a thousand or more adults over my career, you would think that this would come easy for me.  It is not.

It’s one thing to work with up to twenty different personalities in a single day for 30 to 60 minutes at a time, trying to facilitate a therapeutic experience that is meaningful for the person and billable to his or her insurance company.  I learned to quickly develop a rapport with each individual, turn our focus to the therapy evaluation and treatment process, and wrap it all up with a plan for the next session or discharge.  Often the most challenging patients were put on my schedule because of my experience working in mental health settings and with persons diagnosed with dementia.  Many were depressed, angry, resistant, unable to focus for more than a brief moment, or simply were not coherent at all.  I would often have to come back to a person’s room several times a day or miss my own lunch break to facilitate a feeding session during his or her mealtime while my tummy growled.  There were the difficult families, co-therapists who would “steal” your patient throwing off your schedule, the CNAs who wouldn’t bring the client to the clinic, or the patient who almost always needed a diaper change before we could fit in any therapeutic activities.  Standing tolerance, functional transfers, and self care were easy goals to fit in when the nursing staff just couldn’t fit in the care needs of their residents; occupational therapy gotter done.  I wiped a lot of bums in the process.

It’s another thing to try to help an aging family member 1,000 miles away with a range of personality, behavioral, cognitive, and early physical changes.  I am having difficulty managing the frustration of dealing with a person who can make decisions one day and not the next, seem to engage in manipulation/pity partying/whining then be as sweet as sugar, ruminate on minute details for hours, and complain more than converse about most everything else.  She has changed this past year for sure then other times she seems just like her old self.  I just didn’t see some of these more difficult characteristics before this year and before I understood that the diagnosis of a brain disease has made everything in her life more complicated.  Of course she wants to make her own decisions and we agree.  Of course it is hard even a year after diagnosis to accept that she is having problems and needs help.  And when depression, anxiety, and compulsive tendencies take over, it is nearly impossible to help her to keep moving forward.  I just don’t know what to say or do sometimes.

I could do nothing.  My husband and I could do nothing.  Instead we have offered to help and have devoted probably 100 hours of such thus far.  She has asked to stay with us this summer then backpedaled when picking apart every detail of the visit that will not be perfect, problem that will not be solved in the way she would like.  I am sorry.  We just cannot move across country to cater to your every need in sunny Florida my dear!  There are always limitations to what any caregiver, professional or family member, can do for a person in need.  We will likely continue to help her and have started to set some boundaries too.  I am still in recovery from a serious illness and, while I can do more than when I first discovered her illness just 3 months ago, there are limits.  Should she come she will have to contribute some financially and is reluctant to do so.  She will need to follow the routines of our household and is reluctant to do so.  She will need to leave a tropical climate for the ravages of the four seasons in the Midwest and is reluctant to do so.  She wants to see what it would be like to live with us but isn’t sure she wants to come for a visit.  Whatcha gonna do lady?

Tonight I am frustrated.  The Lord has set me on a path to healing with a trip to a medical specialist that happened to reside in a town near my beloved family member out of state.  It seemed to be providential that I would spend some time caring for her as I could when in town for medical visits.  We prepared for each trip for many hours on the phone and followed up for many more thereafter.  I helped her with 2 day-long projects in-person with great physical consequences for me after the last time I was in her town:  travelling alone for the first time in over a decade and only 5 weeks into recovery from a new treatment that is working!  Geez oh man.  I just don’t know how much more I can do until I am further along in my healing process.

The stress of caring for my beloved family member, even at a distance, is weighing heavily on my heart and frame tonight.  I know I am called to help her some.  The amount is unclear for every time I set a boundary there is push-back.  My ability to manage stress has changed since battling a serious illness  for over six years.   I am saying no, making things as clear as I can.  My hubby wants to accommodate her this summer (and permanently if desired) as best we can yet to do so could create some financial and scheduling chaos.  My beloved family member is not yet willing to consider some things that we see need to be done for her personal protection and safety long-term.  We understand that these are big decisions.  However, waiting seems to just foster more indecision on her part, more stress on our part as her potential caregivers.  Dear Lord, what shall we do?

We are grieved that my family member has strained relationships with several family members who are not fully ready to attend to all that is needed to care for her.  She hasn’t been able to talk directly with them yet which puts us in an awkward situation with them should she have us proceed in our role as caregivers.  We are grieved for the sorrows that her and her children have endured trying to make sense of the heartaches in their pasts and how it strains their relationships today.  Conversely, I have only good memories with my family member so I’d like to think that I am a little more level-headed in honoring her wants and needs.  Who knows?  It is still hard to care for her varying emotional states on a daily basis.  Good golly, why still struggle when there are two people who love you, seem to care about you the most right now, and are willing to invest their time and energies in doing so?  Help us out here my dear:  will you be spending the summer with us or not?  Will we be making some major purchases to help make the visit more comfortable for all of us or not?  I do hope we know the answers to these questions in a couple of days.  This distance caregiver thing is running me ragged!

Stay tuned, Gentle Reader.  We are praying for guidance, peace, and the same for our family.  Let’s all take a deep breath and take care, k?  JJ

The Technical Side of Green

Now for a little detour from my usual posts to a topic from my professional website on the benefits of viewing greenery in the landscape.  Be sure to take in some natural plantings this Winter wherever you are.  What evergreen trees and bushes are still leafed out or putting on a show from their peeling bark or knotty branches of interest?  Subtle hues of beige and cream, dark brown even red can pop against a fresh snowfall, glisten when covered in layers of ice.  Taking a moment to capture these scenes is good for us!

Here’s my article published this month in the Allen County Master Gardener newsletter and at Two Step Solutions.  Enjoy!

boy, under a tree, child, reading, book, green spaces, nature, benefits, viewing, attention

The Technical Side of Green

By Julie H, Advanced Master Gardener

There probably isn’t a person big or small that doesn’t like the view of a lush countryside, bubbling brook, or vibrancy of the Fall colors in the Midwest to brighten his or her day. “Natural elements grab and hold our attention in effortless ways, even in urban settings,” and this has a profound beneficial effect on us according to research by Dr. William Sullivan, Professor and Head of the Department of Landscape Architecture at University of Illinois.

In his book chapter* entitled, “In Search of a Clear Head,” William Sullivan shares research supporting the premise that:

It is clear that being in or looking onto a green space can improve people’s ability to focus their attention. But is the effect of green space on attention useful to a variety of people under a variety of circumstances? The evidence shows that a wide range of people benefit from exposure to green spaces. Studies have demonstrated links between green spaces and higher performance on attentional tasks in public housing residents, AIDS caregivers, cancer patients, college students, prairie restoration volunteers, and employees of large organizations.

Green spaces help us to recover from mental fatigue, help us make better decisions, and behave with less irritability. Simply put for our homes, work, schools, and communities:

We need nature at every doorstep!

Further, the more senses that are engaged, generally the more stress reduction occurs as well. In one study, students looking out a classroom window onto a natural space had the power to improve test accuracy TENFOLD! So why are we sending students into windowless classrooms? This is something important to think about as we craft study and workspaces at home and in our communities.

So you might ask if these benefits would include an adult playing golf? A child engaged in athletic team sports? “Yes” for the golf although probably more from the exercise than the putting “greens,” and “No” for outdoor sports. Although the playing field may be a green space and it is usually good to be outdoors, the benefits are better during unstructured activities. Better examples would include walking in display gardens (!), growing a few vegetables, viewing natural waterways, and even observing animals in their native habitats. Taking a walk outside is generally a good idea for many reasons yet in another study, only students who walked in an arboretum showed statistically better test scores than ones who walked in the downtown area of their college town.**

To boost the restorative benefits of everyday contact with gardens and green spaces, view and actively engage in those spaces around you. Such is the heart of the Master Gardener (and other community horticulture, 4H, gardening) programs isn’t it? Engaging the public in educational, exploratory, and experiential gardening activities is the fun and heart of what we do as Master Gardeners for persons young and old. A little “dose of nature” is a great low-tech idea for all of us.

*Fostering Reasonableness: Supportive Environments for Bringing Out Our Best; Edited by Rachel Kaplan and Avik Basu.

**Based upon William Sullivan’s lecture entitled “Attention Restoration” presented at Gardens that Heal: A Prescription for Wellness; Chicago Botanical Garden, 5.10.17.

 

The Dog Behind the Curtain

Dimly lit, like the medical equipment stored all around me, I sat in the vinyl seat of that cold wheelchair.  My head was unsupported as I writhed this way and that, right leg then left leg shaking uncontrollably.  Breathing was irregular and challenging as I pushed the air out of my chest to start the cycle again then again, gasping every few intervals.  Just my legs were visible from behind the curtain drawn along my right side and lit from light in the hallway.  A passerby might see my exposed knee bouncing up and down from underneath my torn jeans or maybe not.  Who would expect to see a middle-aged woman seizing just beyond a dark veil anyways?

Most likely a dog in a kennel could be positioned in such a fashion!  Perhaps to put her to sleep, to stow her away out of sight, to deal with her later?  Only a mean caregiver would treat an animal in such a way.  Or perhaps a nurse in the outpatient lab of a local hospital?  The latter was my lot this afternoon.  And hours later I grieved the insensitive treatment that I had received (rather had not received).  She never even responded earlier to my light chatter or attempts at humor as she withdrew 10 vials of blood from my scarred veins.  I had to ask her with strained breaths not to wheel me into the waiting room where others would gawk at my strife.  Holy cow.  Aren’t you paid to care for your patients?  You don’t have to care about me personally but HAVE YOU NO HEART?

Most of them have seen me react many times before to medical procedures that trigger anywhere from a couple of moments of shaking to over 2 hours of convulsive episodes and long after the procedure in their outpatient clinic was completed for infusions, injections, blood draws, and port flushes.  Several times other nurses have had to find coverage for their stations or stay late to take me to the bathroom in a wheelchair while my body writhed, gasping for air like a child with cerebral palsy.  Eventually the episode would resolve minutes after voiding in the toilet.

Once I was in the clinic having an infusion of fluids on my birthday and ended up spending the entire evening in the Emergency Room when the seizure attacks would not stop.  That was 2 1/2 years ago.  Twice they have had to call my husband to come and get me or bring me a medication to try and make it stop.  Dozens of times they have just allowed me to sit in a treatment room recovering, long after they had gone home for the night.  A p.m. shift nurse would come in and check on me every 30-60 minutes as I stared at the walls or the mobile T.V. screen in front of my face.  When I could walk again I would move to the lobby for another interval of time until I was stable enough to go home.  No one even noticed I was there.  By the way, they always play my fav HGTV in the Surgical Waiting lobby dontcha know?

This time the aftermath felt like being banished to the broom closet by an abusive grandmother.  I could not reach the call light and no effort was made to make it possible.  I heard the same phlebotomy nurse chatting lightly with the next patient after me who was there for an EEG.  And again with the lady having a blood test.  I guess they were less “complicated” than me.  They probably didn’t remind said nurse of her own seizure episode many years ago that had disrupted her life for 6 months.  (She had told me about that earlier this year while I was sitting in the clinic recovering from an episode triggered by the pain of the needle stick and extraction.)  Yeah maybe that’s it.  Or did she just want to get back to the break area this afternoon and not be bothered by me anymore?

These episodes and experiences create additional trauma for the person enduring a serious, long-term illness.  You come face-to-face with the reality that people just don’t care as much as they should or get tired of caring, even as professional care-givers.  Take more of their time, their effort, their expertise, their personal comfort than they are willing to give and you will struggle making up the difference.  You are pretty close to being on your own.  It is not your fault yet it is your fault.  Suck it up and figure out a way to get home and not kick the dog when you get there.  Almost 3 hours later I felt as beaten down as I could possibly be as I walked out of that place.

A warm fuzzy friend with big brown eyes and wagging tail greeted me at the door when I got home.  She loves me.  I love our Elle.  So at least for me, I will be caring for our dog in a well-lit room with all the comfort measures she needs within a reasonable time of her letting me know that need.  She may not even need to ask me.  I know what she needs.  I care about her and know how to take care of her.  She will not be shunned to a dark corner behind a curtain as others are walking by.  At least unless she is barking wildly at the UPS or FedEx driver, that is.  Into the laundry room alone you will go . . . but just for a moment or two.  She would bite a chunk out of them if I didn’t!

Well Elle, I must say that I know how you feel. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr.  JJ

woman with dog, German shepherd, travelling, pet, Nissan Frontier, trip, jump seat