- Checking In. Thoughtful expressions of interest, concern, “Just thinking about you,” mean a great deal.
- Gifts of time: A Valentine can be delivered in endless forms: “I’d like to invite you to a movie.” “Please join me for lunch.” “I’ll pick you up. If you’d like, we can run errands together.”
- Gifts of labor: Make dinner, do laundry, walk the dog, take the car for an oil change, shovel snow, make/return phone calls, write thank you notes.
- Gifts of food: homemade cookies, jams, a delivery of organic fruit, a carry out from a favorite restaurant.
- Gifts of ideas: Deliver a selection of books (on topics of interest) from the local library, a quote book on grief, an invitation to attend a book club meeting, a lecture, or a live performance.
- Cards: The sky is the limit to the creative ideas that can be expressed with a handmade or store bought card.
- Gifts of Empathy: “I’d like to hear how you’re feeling these days.” “If you’d like to share your experience, I’d love to hear what it has been like to live without your loved one.”
- Compassion and Patience. It is a gift to understand another’s pain, and to have compassion for them and their experience. Compassion requires patience, and the ability to accept changes that come as a result of loss.
- Deliver Valentines and all gifts in loving ways and with a patient heart. Remember love is the gift.
- Give without expectation of reward. Generous acts are gifts to ourselves. Be conscious of, and enjoy, the time spent delivering kindness to others.
Thursday, February 13, 2014
Valentine’s Day is celebrated in many countries, and it is marked in different ways. In Finland and Estonia it is celebrated as “Friends Day,” where friendships are honored and friends remembered. In the United States, it is most associated with romantic relationships. Like all holidays or special days, the first Valentine’s Day after the death of a partner may trigger emotions, or, like cupid’s arrow, it may be a day that stings.
Grief doesn’t have a beginning, middle and end. Grief may be lifelong. There is no promise we will stop missing our mother, our father, our spouse, our best friend. And for some of us, we don’t want to. The concept of grief as something we experience in stages provides hope through structure for those whose suffering is great, who may be immobilized, and can’t move on. When we are suffering acutely, it is a comfort to hear the assurance that a normal day is just ahead, that we will again find pleasure in simple things like friends and food and walks.
Grief is personal, and offering advice or support or relief can put us in awkward territory. We deserve to grieve in ways that feel right, that express what needs expressing, that align with our loss. There is no stopping grief, no shortening its duration. But steps can be taken to make it manageable, to understand it, to understand ourselves.
During 33 years of providing hospice care, thousands of individuals seek support while they grieve by attending grief support groups, or talking one-on-one with our grief support counselors. At grief support groups, there is comfort in the experiences of others. “She knows what I’m feeling!” “I understand what he means!”
Hospice of Michigan offers regular group support in the Southeastern Michigan (Ann Arbor, or Wayne, Oakland or Macomb Counties). These small groups are led by experienced grief support counselors, and they provide a comfortable setting to share experiences, or gain insights from others experiencing loss.
For many, Valentine’s Day can be difficult as they face the day without the person they loved. But you can help. With Valentine’s Day upon us, consider it Kindness Day, and offer Valentines of Kindness to loved ones who are grieving. We can bring joy to loved ones, whether it is our mother who is missing our father, or a friend who has lost a spouse, or a child who has lost a grandmother.
KINDNESSES ON VALENTINE’S DAY OR ANY DAY:
Filling an empty space on someone’s calendar with a joyful surprise, or a thoughtful conversation – may fuel another hour or another day. Don’t underestimate the power of kind acts to heal broken hearts.
Happy Valentine’s Day!!
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
One of the biggest frustrations I have as a geriatric care manager is the tragedy of guiding adult children through a crisis with their aging parent(s) that takes its toll in stress, time away from work and family, and last minute travel expense that in retrospect was entirely avoidable.
Every year 98% of our referrals come to us crisis. Often we are not called until the family has attempted to find solutions through word of mouth, or internet searches, and trial and error—and realized too late there was more error than trial. Some of those errors can be costly.
Some typical scenarios:
- A burned out caregiving spouse gets seriously ill or dies from the chronic stress and neglect of her own mental and physical health needs for years, leaving behind a spouse immediately in need of placement or 24 hour care at home.
- The widow living on her own, her kids all live out of town. They come to see her once or twice a year and believe mom is “just fine” as she always tells them on the telephone. Her son flies in for a weekend and finds she’s lost 30 or more pounds, she and the house are a mess, the car has huge dents, there’s a pile of unopened mail, she has not taken her medications in months. He has to leave by Tuesday or will lose a major deal.
- The couple with major health problems who know they need to move and want to move to a better living situation than their three level home in a crime ridden neighborhood, but are trapped by “overwhelmed inertia”—there is so much to be done that they do nothing. By the time they feel “ready” to move they are too frail to be eligible for the independent living places they desire.
- The sibling concerned about the exploitation of her parents by her unemployed sibling who is living in their basement and off of their money while neglecting their care and household.
- The couple who were perfectly fine until….
And so it goes. The phone rings and the sounds of angst fill my ears. I want to help, need to help, but who has legal authority to engage services? Who has financial authority to access the parents’ funds or is willing to pay for services? Who even knows what they have and where it is? Arguments ensue between siblings over what should be done, how it should be done, and who will do it—the one thing they can agree upon is that none of them have the time, experience, or patience! If only they had called sooner.
When is the best time to call a geriatric care manager?
The best time is when you don’t think one is necessary! At that time we use our knowledge and experience as nurses and social workers to evaluate the elders’ mental and physical health, finances, home environment, and support system in order to create a plan and gather a team of experts such as elder law attorneys, home health care and companion service providers, financial advisers, and senior move specialists to maintain what is working well, fix what is not, improve what we can, and prepare for future. Taking a proactive, rather than reactive approach saves thousands for both the elders and their children. In fact, the tax deductible expense of geriatric care management services are usually recouped by the savings—often several to a hundred fold!