November 2019 Newsletter

The switch from daylight to standard time always throws my internal clock off. It takes a week or two for me to adjust. Losing the daylight an hour earlier in the evening makes it difficult to accomplish those pressing outside jobs after work. It’s a fact, I get more of my stuff done in the evening than in the morning. At daybreak, I’m devoted to getting Mark up and ready for whatever experience life has planned for him. Since I enjoy working without interruptions, I stay up until I can’t keep my eyes open any longer. I used to fall asleep seconds after my head hits the pillow and stayed that way until the morning alarm goes off.  Consequently, I never considered staying up late as a sleeping problem but rather a necessity to get things done. However, the past couple of months have been different. I either struggle to fall asleep because my mind keeps going over unfinished tasks, or on those fortunate nights when I fall asleep quickly, I wake up after a short time. I can’t get back to dreamland because I’m worrying about silly stuff. Believe me, at 2 or 3 a.m. it’s all silly stuff and worry is such a waste of time. The sleepless nights increase my daytime stress level. I miss regular exercise, writing, and eating well planned and prepared meals. It doesn’t take long for a regrettable cycle to form. Insomnia interferes with normal physical, mental and emotional well-being, so I’m trying to improve my sleep disorder one habit at a time.

A few weeks ago, I spent 2 nights in the hospital with Mark which gave me a new appreciation for my own bedroom. It’s a hundred percent more comfortable and peaceful without the beeping sounds of monitoring equipment and hourly nurse interruptions found in a hospital room. The first night home I decided to write a few things about what I appreciated in that day. Thankfully, I slept soundly, so I set a goal to continue the routine.  It appears that feeling and expressing gratitude is an antidote for insomnia. It puts my mind in a better place. Setting a bedtime routine and alarm which allows enough time to unwind in a quiet room also helps. Having it get dark an hour earlier can be a bonus too. It’s the perfect month to work on a gratitude attitude and it improves my sleep too.

This month I’m determined to turn over a new leaf by forming at least one good habit. I’m a list maker and it’s usually full of things that need to be completed. This month I’ll continue to list things I’m grateful for like support groups in our area. I appreciate the opportunity to meet with others in like situations. Increasing friendships is well worth the time. Their encouragement helps me meet challenges. The experience and knowledge shared is beneficial.Simply put, it’s uplifting!

The purpose of this newsletter is to share information about organizations. In case it’s impossible for you to get out, or you don’t live in this area, I’ve also included links to useful and inspiring websites.

If you have an activity, announcements or other information you’d like shared in this newsletter, please add them in the comments or email Barbara@UnitingCaregivers.com.

Join me in celebrating November by living in thanksgiving daily and see how it benefits your sleep!


FREE SUPPORT GROUPS FOR STROKE AND BRAIN INJURY SURVIVORS AND CAREGIVERS

November 7, 2019Utah Valley Aphasia Choir meets at 6-6:45pm on the 1st Thursday of the month, prior to the support group at the BYU Speech and Language Clinic. It’s for all brain injury, and stroke survivors, caregivers, family, and friends. Come and enjoy the power of music and friendship together. Everyone interested is welcome to join.

November 7, 2019Utah Valley Brain Injury Support Group meets at 7-8:30 p.m. on the 1st Thursday monthly at the BYU Speech and Language Clinic, Room #177. Address: 1190 North 900 East, Provo, UT 84060. ​Dr. Devin Duval, an optometrist at the Child and Family Eye Care Center and a member of The Utah Valley Stroke Association Board will speak about vision rehabilitation. For questions call Lori Johnson at (801)422-9132.

November 12, 2019 – Brain Injury Alliance Support Group for Adults, 6-8 p.m. meets every 2nd Tuesday monthly at Sanderson Community Deaf Center, 5709 South 1500 West, SLC, UT 84123. This social group is for caregivers and survivors. Come join us for dinner and games this month. Bring your favorite dessert to share if you’d like. For more information, please call Jennifer (801)386-2195, or Beth (801)585-5511.

November 21, 2019IMC Caregivers and Survivors Education and Support Groups, meets at 7 p.m. every 3rd Thursday monthly at Intermountain Medical Center, 5171 S. Cottonwood St., Murray, UT 84107, building 1.

Caregivers meet on the 9th floor Neuroscience Conference Room. Jennifer Roney topic is yoga and meditation.

Survivors meet on the 9th floor gym. Stephanie Obradovich, PT topic is Staying Active Through the Winter. For more information, please call (801)314-2086 or email Emily Redd emily.redd@imail.org

November 24, 2019University of Utah Brain Injury Support Group meets at 7-8 p.m. every 4th Tuesday monthly at Sugarhouse Health Center, 1138 E. Wilmington Avenue, SLC, UT 84106.  For more information please call Annie Wallace at (801)581-2221.


FREE WEEKLY GROUPS INTERMOUNTAIN HEALTH CARE NEURO THERAPY in Murray, Utah

Aphasia Talking Practice Group – Meets every Tuesday, Noon-1 p.m. at 5770 South 250 East #G50

Meditation Group – Meets every Wednesday, 3 p.m. at 5770 South 250 East Cafeteria Conference Room

Cognitive Skills Group – Meets every Thursday Noon-1 p.m. at 5770 South 250 East #G50

Contact: Emily Redd at Emily.redd@imail.org


FREE EPILEPSY SUPPORT GROUPS FOR THOSE EFFECTED BY SEIZURES

Together we share coping strategies, provide encouragement, comfort and advice from people with common experiences.

For more information contact Margo at (801)455-6089 or Utah@efa

This Saturday, November 9, 2019 Utah’s Seizure Strategies Seminar at the U of U Clinical Neurosciences Center, 1st floor auditorium. 175 N. Medical Dr., SLC, UT from 9a.m. to 1:30p.m.

November 13, 2019 – Provo Epilepsy Group for All, meets at 7:00 – 8:15 pm on the 2nd Wednesday at the Provo City Library, 555 N. University Ave., Provo, UT.

November 14, 2019 – IMC Epilepsy Group for All, meets at 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. on the 2nd Thursday at the Intermountain Medical Center, 5171 S. Cottonwood St., Murray, UT Bldg. 6, 1st floor – CR2 in the Doty Education Center.

November 20, 2019 – SLC Epilepsy Group for All, meets at 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. on the 3rd Wednesday at the SLC Main Library 200 E. 400 S., SLC, UT (3rd floor conference room).

November 28, 2019 – West Jordan Epilepsy Group for Teens, meets at 7 – 8:30 p.m. on the 4th Thursday at the West Jordan Library, 8030 S. 1825 W., West Jordan, UT.  Come and enjoy an activity and meet other teens with epilepsy. There are two teachers overseeing this group.

The Logan Epilepsy Support Group for All is in the process of looking for a replacement moderator that is as passionate about supporting their community as the last one. This Support Group will be postponed until further notice. If you have any questions, concerns, or information you would like to share, please contact Margo Thurman @ 801-445-6089


HELPFUL WEBSITES:

http://www.caregiver.org (online webinars for caregivers)

http://www.braininjury.com (medical, legal, information resource)

http://www.abta.org (brain tumor education and information)

http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/tbi (brain injury facts, programs, education)

http://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/all-disorders (education for brain injury, stroke and other neurological disorders)

http://www.msktc.org/tbi (TBI Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center) national leaders in TBI research and patient care.

http://www.nationalmssociety.org/Resources-Support (resource for those with MS)

http://www.epilepsy.com/utah and/or http://www.epilepsy.com (seizure education and support by state or national)

https://biau.org (resource for those with brain injury)

http://www.brainline.org (preventing, treating and living with TBI)

http://www.uilc.org (Utah Independent Living Center is a resource center which enhances independence of persons with disabilities)


ACTIVITIES TO DO WEBSITES:

https://store.usgs.gov/access-pass (free pass to National Parks & Federal Land Agency areas)

https://twilightinsight.wordpress.com/hobbies/hobbies-or-healing-the-brain/tbi-and-selecting-a-hobby (select a hobby – ideas especially for TBI survivors)

http://wanderookie.com/blog/2015/07/27/12-beautiful-wheelchair-accessible-trails-in-utah
(wheelchair accessible trails in Utah)

wasatchadaptivesports.org (Wasatch Adaptive Sports)

http://www.discovernac.org (National Ability Center)

https://healthcare.utah.edu/rehab/support-services/trails.php (University of Utah TRAILS Program)

https://www.meetup.com (meet up groups)


SHARING WEBSITES:

http://www.brainline.org/abbymaslin (blog about loving and learning after TBI)

http://www.unitingcaregivers.wordpress.com (caregivers sharing stories, tips and thoughts)


Thank you for reading. I hope you found the information helpful and will follow this website via email to receive notifications of every new post. The “Follow” button is located at the beginning of the newsletter. However, if you want to subscribe only to a monthly newsletter, please email Barbara@UnitingCaregivers.com. I will add you to the newsletter email list and send it to you.

Ending a Thanksgiving Month

This month has been hard, harder than usual. So another fitting title came to mind, Grateful This Month is Over. However, the word thanksgiving makes me smile, so it quickly became my preference.

Sammy

Sammy at 22 years old.

The first two days in November were uneventful, like the calm before the storm.  The cliché is most fitting due to the unseasonably nice and warm weather we were enjoying. On the third day, my month fell apart when our twenty-two-year-old cat, Sammy, disappeared. He seemed anxious that day, meowing and pacing the house. The weatherman predicted a storm coming and I assumed Sammy sensed it too and wanted to go outside to enjoy the nice weather while he could. I let him outside and took advantage of the empty house by vacuuming. When I finished, I opened the back door, but he wasn’t there. At this point I wasn’t too worried and thought he just ventured farther than usual. I went back inside to complete a few more chores. The wind started to howl and it was dark. He wasn’t there on my second check. I earnestly searched all his favorite outdoor spots to curl up, exploring every possible place in our yard and garage. When he wasn’t there I got in our van and searched the streets. No Sammy. Did he run away to die? For the past year I’ve joked he was in hospice care because last November I brought our outdoor cat inside, due to wounds he received in a cat fight.  I really didn’t expect he’d survive then, but wanted to make his last days comfortable and happy even though he often triggered my asthma. He was my irrigation buddy and kept me company every time I worked out in the yard. He was there for us when our children grew up and moved away. A portion of our garage became his apartment, which he could freely go in and out of during the day, but closed in at night. He was there for me every time I came home, which I appreciated, especially during the times Mark was hospitalized. We’ve put a cat down before and I wasn’t ready to do it again despite his old age. I hoped Sammy could pass naturally in our home with us by his side.

It’s hard not knowing what happened to Sammy. I feel cheated I didn’t get to give him a proper goodbye for all those years we’ve enjoyed his companionship. But I’m grateful for the memories made and I especially appreciate this past bonus year we’ve had with him.

Dad & Sammy

Dad with Sammy, Dec. 2016

Six days later, after I’d raked most of the leaves in our yard and moved every storage box in the garage looking for Sammy with no closure made, my dad had a heart attack. Heart disease is unfortunately prevalent in my family. Dad’s first heart procedure was in 1985 – a triple bypass surgery. Then he was only 57 years old. In 1995 he had an heart attack and they put a stent in to correct the blokage. For the past year I’ve been going with Dad to his cardiologist appointments treating his heart murmur, a-fib and congested heart failure. I worried his heart was a ticking time bomb and I fretted about the when and how it would go off. Luckily it was a mild heart attack and not the massive one I feared. Over the next 6 days he had many tests and two procedures to create the best treatment plan for his heart problems. A heart valve replacement and a pacemaker were the remedies given and he made it through the surgeries with only one complication. His heart rhythm was off, so they had to give him a shock treatment which corrected that problem. We were relieved and expected to bring him home in a few days. On discharge day his heart went out of rhythm again and despite medication, they couldn’t get his heart to slow down.

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Taking time to celebrate with my mom and my super siblings. I sure love this crazy bunch! We were missing Dad, so we took the cake and ice-cream to the hospital conference room to have with him. Nov. 2017

After two days another shock procedure became necessary. It did the trick and now we pray he can stay in rhythm. He is a miracle and we’re grateful for so many prayers which aided his recovery. Close calls like this make me realize how fortunate I am to have my parents. It renews my appreciation for their influence in my life and the foundation they set in building a strong family. I have wonderful siblings and collectively we support and unite, especially when one of us is in need. I’m blessed to go through life with them.

As if the above wasn’t enough stress, Mark’s severe bladder infection and elevated PSA level led to more tests, which found a lesion in his bladder and an enlarge prostate.  Surgery to fix both problems is scheduled the first week in December.

An unfortunate side effect of Mark’s traumatic brain injury is seizures and they are more numerous when he has any other health issue. This month the seizures have come abundantly.

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Nov. 2017 Mark and I

Mark is blessed with a great sense of humor and he uses it constantly to cope and to put others at ease with laughter. The other night after a seizure, I asked him how his head felt. He said, “Full of wisdom.”

“I’m not sure how that feels, but I assume it would feel pretty good,” I replied as my worries were lifted.

In the urologist’s office, after the doctor explained the upcoming procedure, he looked at Mark and asked him if he had any questions. Mark rubbed the top of his bald head and said, “How do you keep your hair?”

The doctor laughed and replied, “I have a hair Goddess. She blesses me with hair so I can cut it and donate it for wigs. Then she blesses me again.”

I‘m fortunate to have a man that works through hardships with comedy. He’s a joy to be with and knows just how to lessen my concerns.

I can’t blame Sammy for taking off. There have been days this month I wish I could crawl under a bush somewhere and not be found. I wonder if he sensed a different kind of turmoil than the weather storm that was brewing the night he left. I speculate he thought he’d do me a favor by leaving and give me one less thing to tend to.  If this was he thought, he didn’t realize the hole in my heart he’d leave.

The month of November encourages me to have a gratitude attitude. This month I’m thankful that despite the hardships and worries experienced, I still have a lot to appreciate!

Feeling Blessed


img_1444Thanksgiving is more than the annual national holiday which celebrates a harvest festival. It is family time with an expression of gratitude. I love this holiday because it reminds me of the importance of giving thanks. It renews my goal to make every day a day of thanksgiving. Some days that’s harder than others, but even in the face of life’s challenges there is something to be thankful for.img_1446

This year I’m especially grateful for movement of my shoulder. I know it sounds silly, but when you go months without something and have to work hard to regain it you appreciate the simple movements that previously went unnoticed. I appreciate the education of doctors, nurses and therapists who have developed the skills to help heal and improve our health issues. I’m grateful for the hard work and progress Mark has made through his left hip surgery and therapy. I am thankful for life and realize every day is a bonus day and should not be taken for granted.

img_1448I’m grateful for our comfortable, wheelchair accessible home, which always gives me something to fix up or improve and the space I need to be able to work at home. I appreciate my employment in property management which enables me to pay for all the necessary things in life. I am fortunate to have wonderful bosses and friends in Steve and Rick. I appreciate all they do for me in our business as well as the support in my personal life. They were patient and caring as my shoulder healed and took on some of my responsibilities.

We are blessed to live with Mom and Dad. I am grateful for their continued love and support and thankful we can help each other in all things by living together.

I appreciate my children, siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts and uncles, who I know I can count on for help at any time or in any situation. They are the foundation for everything we accomplish along with the love and support of neighbors and friends. Many people volunteer their precious time to help us. We are blessed by many people—family, friends and neighbors who love and give service to us.

If you are reading this, I’m thankful for you and your interest in my life.

Gratitude-unlovks-the-fullness-of-life-happy-Thanksgiving

What are you grateful for today?

The Advantages of Gratitude

Gratitude Unlocks.jpgLast Thursday I had the opportunity to speak to the caregivers of the Brain Injury Alliance of Utah support group. The title—Gratitude When You Don’t Feel Grateful.

I’ve been asked, “How long after the accident did it take you to feel grateful?”

gratitude-shortcutsOne of my first thoughts after I realized we had been hit and were pinned inside the wreckage of our car was, I’m grateful the kids aren’t with us. It was on a Saturday afternoon and we needed to make a final decision on which home to purchase. Fortunately, we left our two young children with my parents while we traveled to our three favorite homes one last time before making an offer. Looking at the back seat of the car makes it evident their chance of survival would have been near impossible. During the three months Mark was in a coma, I realized it could’ve been worse had our kids been with us.

I recognized the blessing right from the beginning, but that doesn’t mean I always see the positives and feel grateful. Sometimes my mind stumbles into a pity party where I’m entertaining thoughts of how Mark’s, mine and our children’s lives would have been if the accident never happened. Yes, at times I wish life could have turned out differently.

I suppose it’s human nature to feel this way, but before long I realized what a drag it is. When I recognize I’m staggering in self-pity, I remind myself what a waste of time and energy it is because all the wishing, worrying or feelings of regret do not change the situation. It only brings me down.

Some days are dark and worrisome, but the best way to pull myself out of discouragement and unhappiness is to turn my thoughts around by looking for the positives. Sometimes this is harder to do than other times, but I’ve learned it helps every time. When I consciously focus on the positive, I see the it in more situations. It gets easier with practice and before long my outlook on life changes for the better. I’ve learned I attract what I’m focused on.

As I recognize the positive interactions of family and friends, I can readily appreciate them for the love and support they give. The result is—they’re usually all the more helpful and loving. That isn’t the motivation for appreciating them, it’s just the way it works out.

gratitude-transformsWhen my kids were teenager’s I started a gratitude journal. It helped me get through a rough time. Every night I wrote down five things I was grateful for. Some nights it took a while to think of five things I appreciated. Knowing I needed five things to write each night encouraged me during the day to notice the positive in simple things and take mental note. This practice turned my discouragement into encouragement. It brought inner peace because I was focusing on the good instead of dwelling on the bad.

I don’t believe gratitude always comes naturally, which is another good reason to write down what we’re grateful for. In times of discouragement we can go back and read it. I found that remembrance really does help.

be-thankfulOne evening a few years ago, we were having a birthday celebration with my parents and siblings. The conversation centered on their travel destinations and the wonderful things their grandchildren were accomplishing—two things which are lacking from my life.

My mind traveled to that depressing pity party, with thoughts turned to all the places I’ve never been nor could possibly go to with Mark. I lost focus on how blessed I am to have my siblings who all live nearby and both my parents still alive. For an evening, I forgot how fortunate I am for the love and support we all share with one another. Instead of enjoying with them their experiences, I let ungratefulness take over my heart and mind. grateful-happiness

I didn’t live in thanksgiving that night, yet I know I’m happiest when I do. I believe gratitude is the key to happiness. I remind myself often to count my blessings so I can feel peace and contentment in my life. It works every time.

What hidden advantages do you feel gratitude brings to your life?

 

The Fullness of Life

Gratitude-unlovks-the-fullness-of-life-happy-ThanksgivingMy day has been filled with gratitude for all I have. I am thankful for life and realize every day is a bonus day and should not be taken for granted. I appreciate the education of doctors, nurses and therapists who have developed the skills to help heal and improve our health issues. I’m grateful for the hard work and progress Mark has made through his hip surgery and therapy.

I’m grateful for our comfortable, wheelchair accessible home, which always gives me something to fix up or improve and the space I need to be able to work at home. I appreciate my employment in property management which enables me to pay for all the necessary things in life. I am fortunate to have wonderful bosses and friends such as Steve and Rick. I appreciate all they do for me in our business as well as my personal life. I am also blessed to live with Mom and Dad. I am grateful for their continued love and support and I’m thankful we can help each other in all things by living together.

I appreciate my children, siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts and uncles, who I know I can count on for help at any time or in any situation. They are the foundation for everything we accomplish along with the love and support of neighbors and friends. Many people volunteer their precious time to help us.

We are blessed by many people—family, friends and neighbors who love and give service to us. My need to give back is the driving force for writing our story and developing Uniting Caregivers. This passion has brought new friendships through writing and caregiver’s support groups, along with readers and participators of this blog. I have learned so much and have gained from their experiences. I am grateful for the influence of other writers and their encouragement in my own writing endeavors.

If you are reading this, I am grateful for you! I appreciate your feedback, whether it’s done with words or the click on the Like button. I hope what is written has helped you find hope and encouragement in your trials. I have truly been blessed in my life’s journey and writing about our experiences manifests those blessings to me.

What_are_you_thankful_for

How to Keep Thanksgiving

give thanks-candleA perfect picture of Thanksgiving is sitting at my parent’s large dining room table, beautifully decorated with an autumn tablecloth, centerpiece, nice plates, glasses and silverware, surrounded by wonderful family and friends.

I was in this type of scene a few nights ago, however it wasn’t a Thanksgiving dinner, but rather a birthday celebration. My mother still enjoys gathering her five children and their spouses home for a feast three or four times a year to celebrate birthdays. Lots of laughter is heard while we enjoy each other’s company. This is a happy table, yet I came to it feeling overwhelmed and discouraged. I tried to mask the weight of my daily tasks and worries about Mark’s health. When the conversation turned to past vacations my siblings had taken and the possibilities of future trips, I forgot all my many blessings and had to leave the table. Instead of feeling joyful for their experiences, distress set in. I was no longer focused on how lucky I am to have all my siblings live close by and both my parents still alive. For a moment, I forgot how fortunate I am for the love and support we all share with one another. Unfortunately my thoughts turned to all the places I’ve never been nor could possibly go to. I wasn’t living in thanksgiving, yet I know I’m happiest when I do.

Thanksgiving is more than the annual national holiday which commemorates a harvest festival. It is an expression of gratitude, especially to God. I appreciate this time of year which reminds us the importance of giving thanks, however, every day should be a day of thanksgiving. But it’s hard to give thanks in all things.

Life with Mark is a happy one, largely because he knows how to keep thanksgiving. He appreciates everything, including his adversities. He is cheerful and content and loves to bring joy to others. However, he has reason to be bitter, resentful or has cause for deep sadness due to loss of abilities, a beloved career and painful health issues. I know I am lucky to be a caregiver to one who has such a grateful heart. I know many caregivers who are not as fortunate. Three of my favorite ways he shows his appreciation daily are:

Says “Thank You” Often — Two simple words, yet they are so powerful! Hearing those words is a great payment for the care or deed that is done. Joy and appreciation is felt when I hear those words and it makes my efforts worthwhile.

Writes Thank You Notes — Letters of appreciation are a keepsake and tangible evidence of gratitude for what has been given or done. I have hundreds of such notes written on regular lined paper in three ring binders, which I treasure.

Compliments — He notices the work that goes into a good meal and lets me know how much he enjoyed it. He tells me when he thinks I look nice or likes my haircut or outfit. He is constantly looking for and stating the positive.

I’ve learned from Mark that expressing appreciation brings happiness not only to yourself, but those around you. It also lessens stress and anger, which makes you a healthier person. When we focus on our blessings, we see more blessings because our attention has been turned in a positive direction.

Recently in one of my writing groups we were given a blank piece of paper to write as many positive characteristics about ourselves in five minutes. The goal was to fill the page. I enjoyed the assignment and kept it to read when I’m feeling low.

thanksgivingdailyfinishLikewise, making a gratitude list to read when you’re feeling like you’ve missed out in life, maybe another good idea. Some general ideas to help you get started:

  • People
  • Physical abilities
  • Material possessions
  • Spiritual gifts
  • Nature
  • Things about today
  • Places on earth
  • Modern-day inventions
  • Foods you are grateful for.

How long can you make your list?

How would your life improve if you lived in thanksgiving daily?

A Gratitude Attitude

Gratitude1Neils’ story, Dancing with Class reminded me of the benefits in looking back and remembering how smitten we were with our loved ones from the start. Beneath the surface of the caregiving responsibilities, it’s the beacon of love that motivates us in our journey. Taking a step back can rejuvenate our efforts.

I loved Judith’s beautifully written editorial comment, “When our eyes locked I smiled mostly in wonder because I could see love, a physical manifestation, as a light with many colors streaming from his face. I knew that we were together, united and I was safe, as I had never before been safe.”

This expresses perfectly how I hope to make Mark feel—together, united and safe. I imagine that’s the goal of most caregivers. If your loved one isn’t able to communicate their love and appreciation for you, imagine Judith’s wonderfully expressed words. Caregiving is a physical manifestation of our love and hopefully our loved ones see it and feel it too.

We often take our loved ones for granted and don’t appreciate or even realize many of their accomplishments until they either leave us or are severely injured. I related to Neil’s words, “I did not, until that moment, know how well loved and respected she was.”

I love the month of November and the Thanksgiving celebration, which reminds us to be grateful for what we have and the people in our lives. Taking time to reflect on our blessings and the positive traits of our loved ones brings joy and contentment in an otherwise noisy and hectic life.

What resonated the most with me from Neils story was, “The physical issues were not unlike that of a newborn baby. The changes in body functions required frequent attention. Preparing meals, bathing and nurturing were not unfamiliar, but the intensity of it was.”

Our individual lives are chaotic enough, but when another person is relying on us for the most basic needs of daily living, responsibility and pressure are added from sun up to sun down. It’s no wonder exhaustion and doubts creep in concerning our ability to be a good caregiver.

It’s been a tiring year for Mark and I. Tests, surgeries, therapy and too many needed doctor visits, which have nearly depleted all my energy. However, “no matter what’s going on outside of us, there is always something we could be grateful for.” I appreciate the connection and inspiration I get from other caregivers, which fill me up. I’m looking forward to the rest of Neils’ story and a Thanksgiving month, which continually reminds me to take time to count my many blessings.

How to Live in Thanksgiving Daily

Give-Thanks2I’ve noticed people who have a gratitude attitude are the happiest kind of people in the world. It’s a quality which makes them more likable and at peace with themselves. Think about a happy person you know. I’d be willing to bet they are grateful for what they have, look for the best in all circumstances and are a joy to be around. They tend to make others feel better about themselves. Where there is an abundance of gratitude, there is happiness.

Now, think about an unhappy person. Are they resentful and bitter because life didn’t turn out the way they thought it should? You might hear them say something like, “If only I were smarter, had a new car, a college degree or a different job, spouse or parent, then I could be happy.” There are many good reasons for us not to be happy and it’s easy to blame our unhappiness on the things we lack in life. The more we focus on the things we don’t have, the more unhappy and more resentful we become. The lack of gratitude can make us miserable. I know from my own experience I am much happier when I appreciate what I do have rather than concentrating on what I don’t have.

My best example of someone who lives in thanksgiving daily is my husband, Mark. I don’t know of another person who is more grateful, happy and gives more joy to others. I also don’t know anyone who has more reason to be bitter, resentful, or has more cause for deep sadness due to loss of abilities, a beloved career and painful health issues. I know I am lucky to be a caregiver to one who has such a grateful heart. I know many caregivers who are not as fortunate. The inability to appreciate others causes criticism of efforts and does not allow one to acknowledge another’s contributions. My life with Mark is a happy one, largely because he lives in thanksgiving daily. Three ways he shows his appreciation are:

Says “Thank You” Often — Two simple words, yet they are so powerful! Hearing those words is a great payment for the care or deed that is done. Joy and appreciation is felt when I hear those words and it makes my efforts worthwhile.

Writes Thank You Notes — Letters of appreciation are a keepsake and tangible evidence of gratitude for what has been given or done. I have hundreds of such notes written on regular lined paper in three ring binders, which I treasure.

Compliments — He notices the work that goes into a good meal and lets me know how much he enjoyed it. He tells me when he thinks I look nice or likes my haircut or outfit. He is constantly looking for and stating the positive.

I’ve learned from Mark that expressing appreciation brings happiness not only to yourself, but those you are grateful for. It also lessens stress and anger, which makes you a healthier person. When we focus on our blessings, we see more blessings because our attention has been turned in a positive direction.

thanksgivingdailyfinishTry making a gratitude list and read it when you’re sad and feeling ungrateful. Some general ideas to help you get started:

  • List people
  • Physical abilities
  • Material possessions
  • Spiritual gifts
  • Nature
  • Things about today
  • Places on earth
  • Modern-day inventions
  • Foods you are grateful for.

How long can you make your list?

How would your life improve if you lived in thanksgiving daily?

Giving Thanks

give thanks-candleIt’s that time of year when we are focused on giving thanks, yet every day should be a day of thanksgiving. But it’s hard to give thanks in all things. I haven’t thought of giving thanks for a car accident which caused my husband to be comatose for three months and hospitalized for rehabilitation for another six months. I’ve not said I was grateful for thirteen surgeries and years of therapy he’s had to have due to his traumatic brain injury. I’ve never thought I was thankful for an accident that caused him to lose his ability to work as a master electrician, seemingly wasting four years of apprenticeship schooling plus two years of journeyman experience and testing before earning his master’s license. It’s difficult not to envy people who can travel and do other fun activities as they please, while it’s problematic for us to visit the neighbor next door or a friend’s home due to stairs and a wheelchair that doesn’t climb them on its own. Life is complicated and unsettling when you live with seizures and have the worry of blood clots due to the inability to move freely. The list of concerns and complaints could go on, but I’ll spare you more grief.

When I think about what we have missed out on and the unfulfilled expectations of life, I’m unhappy. I realize I need to change my focus and count my blessings. I should not compare my life to another—just my own. How far we have come and what blessings we have gained while overcoming our struggles. I am happiest when I recognize and appreciate what I have.

I am thankful for life and realize every day is a bonus day and must not be taken for granted. I appreciate the education of doctors, nurses and therapists who have developed the skills to help heal and improve our health issues. I’m grateful for the hard work and progress Mark has made through surgeries and years of therapy, which has enhanced our quality of life.

Because it’s challenging to travel, we find fulfillment in simple things such as gardening, canning, reading, writing, playing games, listening to music, putting together puzzles and other activities at home. I’m grateful for our comfortable, wheelchair accessible home, which always gives me something to fix up or improve and the space I need to be able to work at home. I appreciate my employment in property management which enables me to pay for all the necessary things in life. I am fortunate to have wonderful bosses and friends such as Steve and Rick. I appreciate all they do for me on in our business as well as my personal life. I am also blessed to live with Mom and Dad. I am grateful for their continued love and support and I’m thankful we can help each other in all things by living together.

I appreciate my children, siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts and uncles, who I know I can count on for help at anytime or in any situation. They are the foundation for everything we accomplish along with the love and support of neighbors and friends. Many people volunteer their precious time to help us.

With the loss of some abilities we have gained others. I am grateful for every course in life, good or bad, which gives us knowledge that can never be taken away or become useless. Our self-confidence improves as we realize we can overcome grueling circumstances. Our compassion towards others has grown, along with the ability to understand their needs and our desire to help has intensified. We no longer take for granted the human adaptability and the drive to conquer challenges. We are inspired by people’s good will and how they strive to do their best. It gives us hope and the desire to do likewise.

We are blessed by many people—family, friends and neighbors who give service, love and support to us. Our need to give back is the driving force for writing our story and developing Uniting Caregivers. This recent passion has brought new friendships through writing and caregiver’s support groups, along with readers and participators of this blog. I have learned so much and have gained from their experiences. I am grateful for the influence of other writers and their encouragement in my own writing endeavors. I appreciate my sister-in-law, Dianne, who edits nearly every article before I publish it to make sure I’ve punctuated correctly and that my writing makes sense.

If you are reading this, I am grateful for you! I appreciate your feedback, whether it’s done with words or the click on the Like button. In just over a year, Uniting Caregivers has had several exceptional guest authors participate and nearly 16,000 views. I hope what is written has helped you find hope and encouragement in your trials. I have truly been blessed in my life’s journey and writing about our experiences manifests those blessings to me. So I must say—if I’m grateful for everything I’ve listed above, I need to be grateful for a terrifying car accident which switched our life’s track dramatically and helped me understand all that I’ve written and hopefully has changed me for the better!

Every day should be a day of thanksgiving. When I focus on my blessings I am happier and life is easier. Being grateful makes what I have more than enough.

What_are_you_thankful_for

A Season to Reach Out to Others

walk aloneRecently I read this post on facebook—”It’s important to remember that not everyone is surrounded by large wonderful families. Some of us have problems during the holidays and sometimes are overcome with great sadness when we remember the loved ones who are not with us. And, many people have no one to spend these times with and are besieged by loneliness. We all need caring thoughts and loving prayer right now.”

It is a good reminder— there are people who need our prayers, support and friendship. Those who have family problems, health struggles, job issues, worries of all kinds. It is always good to know that someone cares and understands. Whenever possible, reach out to those who would benefit from an invitation to dinner, or some other activity.

Every family situation is different. Some family members and friends may not even enjoy a gathering and prefer alone time — but it is important they know they are remembered and included especially around the holidays. We have all felt to some degree rejection and have been offended at times. None of us are perfect and none of us have perfect families or friends. This is the season to forgive one another.

One of my most memorable Thanksgiving’s is when I missed our extended family dinner to serve with my son at the homeless shelter. It was Christopher’s idea and I went along with it because I wanted to be supportive of his noble idea. It turned out to be a very good experience for both of us.

Nobody is immune to hardships, loneliness and grief. Let’s reach out to those around us. As we do so, our own burdens will be lightened. As we focus on giving service and sharing with others, our love and blessings grow. When we appreciate what we do have, the things we don’t become less important.