Around September every year, the emails begin. “Important changes to your Medicare health and drug coverage,” and “Plan ahead for Medicare open enrollment,” and “Is your Medicare Advantage plan right for you?”
Mixed in there are also the scam emails. And then also if an actual letter slips past you, the caregiver, and your parent gets hold of it, be prepared for questions and fixations around their insurance. Yeah, happened to me this year after being as vigilant as I could be about changing mom’s mailing address to mine and also asking the nurses to hold her mail. What can I say? I tried.
What I know is this – there’s a lot of information coming at you. You don’t want to deal with it. Yet you have to deal with it and it feels overwhelming.
I’m going to share with you my top tips to make this process easier on you, the caregiver.
First, from what I understand, you have until December 7th when Medicare’s Annual Election Period ends to decide to either keep the coverage your loved one has or decide on another plan. Which means that you still have time to break this process down and make it as easy on you as possible.
Tip #1: Break this process down into smaller, less intimidating chunks.
First, decide that you won’t decide anything right away. Take a look at the emails, log into the sites – Medicare and also any supplemental insurance sites your parent has and see what they have to say. Get used to the language and the navigation of the sites themselves. And also get used to the fact that the sites are hard to navigate and some information is usually missing or the page is not active (looking at you, United Healthcare).
Tip #2: Walk away from everything related to Medicare plans. Breathe. Take a walk. Do something nice for yourself. Seriously, I’m not kidding here. This deciding on a new plan is not any fun.
Tip #3: Go back to this a few days later. Looking at this with fresh eyes allows the the opportunity to see things differently and to begin to understand the information.
Tip #4: If you can find a way to compare your loved one’s current plan with the plan for the new year, that is the easiest way I’ve found to see if any big changes are in store.
Tip #5: Remember that this is a difficult and really not enjoyable process. Remember that you are doing the very best you can and your decision will reflect that. Know that it is going to take time and it’s not a one look and your done kind of decision. Give yourself some grace & space with that.
I remember the struggles I went through as I was suddenly called on to make decisions for my mom’s care AND the role reversal that took place AND dealing with now having to be in control while at the same time not letting my mom feel that she’s lost control.
This pandemic and the lockdown gave me an opportunity to see if what I had been thinking of and pushing away for years could actually be something that I could be of service to others. So……..in August I created is a pilot course program to support adult children that are just beginning to caregiver to their aging parents transition from being the child into being the adult so they can come to terms with the role reversal and easily navigate what’s next…….becuase there is always a what’s next.
I identified the need for this program by not only remembering my journey but also by talking with other adult children who were or had cared for, were caring for or decided on care for their parent.
I remember the stress, worry, physical & emotional burnout and the feeling of being on a hamster wheel that I experienced.
Looking back, the lessons I learned, the self-care, and the strategies I put into place, I’m stronger and I feel much more capable deciding on and caring for my mom.
I knew that when it came time to care for my mom, that I was going to do it my way. I know that sounds selfish, so let me explain. When my mom was caring for my grandma, that was my mom’s whole world. She would spend nights and days and weeks at my grandmas – while my step-dad was home alone. She would make endless runs into town daily. She was so tired that she wasn’t making the best choices.
Even in the midst of this COVID pandemic, my mom is thriving. As a daughter, that is my greatest joy.
It was not easy to take charge. My mom is stubborn and she fought me on it until that day that she had yet another fall (the 2nd in just a few months) and it was a bad one. She had two black eyes and a split lip. An evening spent in the hospital. The next day, I asked her, “Mom, what do you want to do?” She knew I was referring to how she was going to live out the rest of her life. She said, “I want to move to Waterford.” Well, I about fell off my chair because Waterford is a retirement community that I knew of by name. Mom had attended some lunch and learns at Waterford and got to know some of the residents and got to see how it operated.
What is know is, step-by-step, one next action by one next action, one day you’ll realize the roles have reversed.
There is a lot of value in getting used to being the adult & making decisions, feeling empowered to make decisions, getting some of your life back, having peace of mind as well as support, solutions & resources.
Are you the adult child who is just beginning to care for your aging parent? Are you looking to reduce stress, empower yourself to make decisions, reduce stress and get your life back?
I have just the thing you need. Solutions for anxiety, stress & feeling isolated while caring for your aging parent.
If you are feeling anxious, stressed and isolated, you should know that there is another way to care for your aging parent. In this resource, I’ll share over a dozen solutions that have worked for me as I’m caring for my aging mother.
I’m a worrier. Always have been. I get it from my grandmother. And my mother. I come from a long line of worriers.
Most of the time – actually usually almost all of the time, my worries never amount to anything except for my wasted time and a lot of unnecessary anxiety.
Recently though, I experienced my worst case scenario.
In the midst of this pandemic, my husband got sick. He is sent to the emergency room where they find that his gallbladder is infected and about three times its normal size. They need to operate to remove it, but before that can happen, the gallbladder needs to chill out, so to speak. That will take up to 6 weeks.
Because of the pandemic and safety protocol, I could not go into the hospital with my husband. So I spent many hours in the car in the hospital parking lot. Which was both nerve wracking because I didn’t know what was happening or what kind of care my husband was getting. It also was entertaining: I watched a woman back out of a parking spot, with the hatch on her vehicle open and drive off. I still wonder how far she got. Hopefully she didn’t figure out it was open when she tried parking it in her garage. And yes, I supposed I should have waived her down but I was right in the middle of a rosary for my husband and let’s face it, I was not thinking clearly.
My husband was hospitalized for 3 nights. Thank God for iPhones. That was how we were able to communicate.
My week last week, after he was finally discharged was all about his care. Making sure he took his medication on time. Making sure his appointments were scheduled. Making sure he was eating and drinking properly. (I’m sure he would have loved to be drinking). Making sure that the doctors orders were followed and also driving him to his appointments.
Also last week, we celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary. This anniversary looked so different from last year. Our 25th was celebrated in Hawaii.
The hospital parking lot was what I saw this year, on our 26th anniversary. I couldn’t help but think, “just one year ago we were in a completely different situation.”
My mind goes to weird places. Especially now during this time. A few weeks ago, before the gallbladder situation gave any indication it might happen, a thought passed through my mind about what if one of us has to go to the hospital? That’s the absolute worst place to be. It would be the end. (Spoiler alert: it wasn’t.)
The afternoon that my husband and I returned home from a check at the hospital, a nurse at my mom’s retirement home called to let me know that my mom had a little fall.
I haven’t been able to physically spend time with my mom since early March. The last time we were together was March 11th. So when the nurse called to let me know that mom fell, I thought, “this is the worse possible time for this to happen.” And I literally looked at my husband, after I hung up the phone, and said, “what else can possibly happen? I can’t take any more.” Then I got myself up, began calling her doctor and ordering some items for her from Amazon and strategizing with her nurses to make mom as comfortable as possible and to do whatever was needed.
By the way, my mom is doing okay. It was indeed a little fall. Nothing was broken and no concussion. She’s still sore and I’m pretty sure she has reactivated her sciatica but it could have been much worse.
In the middle of all of this I had a very, very minor procedure taken care of at my doctors office. And a mammogram that had to be done at, guess where, the hospital. Worst possible time for all of this, I thought. But then, when I arrived at the hospital, I saw a couple, clearly checking in to give birth to their baby. They were well prepared. A large suitcase, overnight bag, backpack, cooler and the car seat for the baby. The couple was smiling (I can tell when someone is smiling under their face masks – their eyes crinkle) and they radiated so much hope.
Today when I was out driving around, I drove past the hospital and the doctors office. I said a thank you and was grateful that I did not have any appointments or plans at either one of them this week.
The next day, I got this email from the Universe:
I really needed to hear that. So what miracles reached me during this time? First, I was relatively calm during this time. I felt like time had slowed down for me and I could move through these two crises slowly and mindfully.
The couple checking into the hospital to give birth to their baby. Had I not been scheduled for my yearly mammogram at the hospital (which in my mind was one of the worst places I could be during this pandemic) I never would have been able to see or feel their joy and hope. That gave me the shift in perspective that I needed to move ahead myself in hope.
What did I specifically do to make it through this time? I’ll share all of that with you. I’m sure you may be going through a difficult time, have gone through it or will go through it in the future. So take what I did as a template for you to use but remember this – you do you. What works for you. What your soul is yearning for. Do that.
I got as much rest as I possibly could. When I was tired, I napped. I went to bed earlier. Sometimes it was really difficult to do this but I kept saying to myself – you need to rest.
Me and God, we talked a lot. I had full on conversations with the guy. That was helpful.
I got outside. I got to feel the warm sunshine on my skin, breathe the fresh air and watch the animals.
I surprised myself. With my husband in the hospital, some of his household duties became my household duties. And a few I wasn’t sure I could do by myself. But guess what? I did! That felt powerful.
Angel cards. One of my Polkadot Powerhouse sisters recommended that I get a deck of cards. These cards allow me to have some fun connecting with God and his incredibly beautiful universe.
I asked for help. I reached out to family and friends to let them know what was happening. I asked questions that I just didn’t have the answers to.
I journaled. There were so many thoughts and feelings coming up for me during this time, that getting them out of my head and my heart were so therapeutic. I honestly feel lighter after I journal.
I kept busy and moved forward. Even if it was just to fold the towels and put them away.
What I learned through this entire upheaval is this: I made it through my worse case scenario. It wasn’t pretty at times. It didn’t go like I had thought it would. But I made it through.
I learned that sometimes throwing a tantrum and asking what the hell could possibly happen next and actually losing my shit is okay.
I learned that I can say when I’m hurting and when I’m upset. That is the way to heal.
What has been your worst case scenario? What did you do to make it through to the other side?
During this time of upheaval and anxiety, I’ve been talking with individuals who are feeling isolated, can’t think straight and are looking for strategies to empower themselves through my Lunchtime Zoom.
I wanted to share with you the three big takeaways from the previous Lunchtime Zoom:
There are a lot of pluses coming out of this.
Your mind is going to be different. You are going to be changed. You’ve learned to appreciate the things that you can’t do now.
There are no rules to this game. There is no right or wrong answer right now.
We also identified some strategies to help us all to move forward:
That it is more than okay to be sad and have a meltdown.
Anxiety can be lessened with laughter.
To take care of yourself and do what you need for you.
To keep busy. I’ve never raked so many leaves in my life!
And yet……Not to overwhelm yourself with getting things done and accomplishing so much.
Call a friend and chill for a while.
I’m going to start journaling about this.
We would never think that we were in a situation like this and the only thing we could think to do was to laugh about it.
Don’t apologize or feel bad for having a meltdown.
Our topic was Thriving in this time of Uncertainty. We shined a light on what we were experiencing. When you shine a light and call it out of the darkness, that particular struggle lessens its power over you:
Our Fears & Challenges:
🔦Lasts – the last time you hugged someone, the last time you went to dinner.
🔦When I stop and let my mind go places it shouldn’t, you can get into panic mode really fast.
🔦The grocery shopping thing. Thinking that i’m going to run out of something. The mask, gloves, wipe the cart, do I have my list? We also looked at the good that had come out of this situation.
The gifts that have come from this crisis:
❤️Focusing on what I’m really here for.
❤️Been able to tackle some more projects.
❤️Not dealing with sports schedules and other things.
If during this time you are feeling lonely and bored, in a panic or are just plain melting down – I want to tell you that you are not alone in this.
To that end, I am extending an invitation to you to join me along with those just like you, looking to find clarity, community and a space to talk about transition.
You can click here to register for my Lunchtime Zooms. We meet each Monday at 12 Noon CST to have conversation, empower one another and offer massive compassion to one another so that we can all come out of this quiet isolation thriving.
I’ve been remembering my Grandmother Ethel lately. Actually, since the news of this virus began.
I’ve been thinking about her because I can remember how in a crisis she was always so steady. Grandma Ethel was the calmest person I knew when the shit hit the fan.
In her almost 99 years walking this earth (Grandma passed exactly one month before she turned 99) she had lived through many crises. The Depression, Scarlett fever, WWI, Spanish flu, disco. (Had to put a little humor in this). I’m not sure how she handled those crises because obviously I wasn’t around, well I was for disco. What I do know is that the crises that arose when I was around, she handled with a steadiness and confidence that calmed our family.
During each crisis, Grandma Ethel stayed well informed about what was happening, but didn’t let the news shake her. She just kept moving forward. Taking care of what needed to be done and she stood strong in knowing that, “this too shall pass.” And it always did.
I’ve decided to follow her lead during this crisis. This too shall pass. I’ll keep moving forward.
What I refuse to do is to be a slave to the news. I’ll keep informed, of course but I won’t let it enslave me.
So far, in the last few days, I’ve been enjoying the slower pace of life. Breathing the fresh outdoor air and of course, watching movies & television shows I haven’t seen in years. (Dawson’s Creek, anyone?)
I’ve also been texting with my mother and sending her links to funny videos. We are going to work on communicating over FaceTime soon, too, since her retirement community is on lockdown for all of the residents’ protection.
Steady. Calm. Focused forward. This too shall pass.
P.S. If you are looking for community and connection during this time, I invite you to join my private FB group Life-On Purpose.
This is a community of individuals who are seeking to live their lives authentically and purposefully. Join us!
For my client Carolyn, this was the most challenging step to becoming the person she always knew she could be.
She never looked at what the future could look like. She was stuck in a rut. She did the same thing, day in and day out. And never questioned it. She never once thought that life could be different.
She wanted a different life. Carolyn wanted friends. She wanted to get out and do things that made her happy. She wanted to look forward to her life.
When I asked her what the future looked like, she couldn’t say. When I asked her what next week looked like, she couldn’t say. Even the next day was tough for her to visualize.
Visualization is like a muscle. When you don’t use it, it gets flabby.
When you use it, it gets strong and you can visualize your future. What I know is when you do this, when you visualize your future – be it a day or a week or a year from now – and you visualize yourself in a better place than you are now, you get more of that. That’s the way it works.
It took some time for Carolyn to strengthen her visualization muscle, but once she did, things began to happen. She found a group of friends. She began traveling to watch her favorite baseball team – something she hadn’t done since she was a child. Finally, she was invited to travel to Italy with a group. She went!
Have you ever woken up one day, having totally recovered from, oh let’s say, the flu with a new zest for life? The flowers are blooming, the sun is shining and you feel like dancing zest for life?
It’s not just me, is it?
Over the years, and over the course of those years suffering from bouts with the flu, a bad head cold, earache or bronchitis, I’ve often experienced the feeling of a reboot after recovering from these ailments.
What if the purpose of having the flu is actually to make us more mindful and appreciate our lives even more?
I’m getting pretty philosophical here, right?
What do you think is the purpose of having the flu? Head on over to my private FB Group – Life-On Purpose and let us know your thoughts on this deep question.
Good health to you! Or…………maybe a reboot to you?
P.S. If you are looking for community and connection, I invite you to join my private FB group Life-On Purpose.
This is a community of individuals who are seeking to live their lives authentically and purposefully AND happily. Join us!
P.S. If you are looking for community and connection, I invite you to join my private FB group Life-On Purpose. This is a community of individuals who are seeking to live their lives authentically and purposefully AND happily. Join us!
Recently, I found myself walking down the same street I walked years ago, when I was employed by someone else. Ugh. Being in that space, on that street, brought me right back to where I was those many years ago. And where I was – was a mess. I hated my job. I was nervous and anxious all of the time because I was so worried that I wasn’t doing this job, that I hated, right. I was scared to death to make a mistake.
That’s literally all I thought about during those years. Who’s going to yell at me now? Because trust me, it was a weekly if not daily occurrence. My confidence was in the toilet. And because that’s all I was focused on, I can see now, that I got more of it. You know what you know. When you know better, you do better. I think either Maya Angelou or Oprah Winfrey said something like that. Of course, in that moment, and in that space, I did not know this. Now that I do know better……….I’m sharing my insight with you.
Looking back now, I’m wondering, why did I care? Why was I so anxious and scared? It didn’t frigging matter. It was a sucky job and I did not belong there. So I left. And that was scary. What would have been even scarier, though, would have been staying.
Once I left, I began to shift out of survival mode. I began to calm down and think about myself. Which was a foreign concept because up to that point in my life, I only thought of others first. Always. Back then, beginning to think of myself and then giving myself permission to take care of myself – what is this concept? At first I thought I was being selfish. Looking at where I am now, I always take care of myself first. I have found that when I don’t, I do not have the energy or the love to give to others.
Anyway, back to walking down this street, present tense……..I realized that I was completely different. I am smiling, happy and very, very grateful for the woman I have become. I am now choosing to be in this space. I am choosing the people that I am spending my time with. I am thriving, not surviving.
Does this sound familiar? Do you feel like you are in survival mode? I have a secret to tell you – you can change that! I know this to be true because I did it.
What does thriving look like to you? What needs to happen in order for you to thrive?
P.S. If you are looking for community and connection, I invite you to join my private FB group Life-On Purpose. This is a community of individuals who are seeking to live their lives authentically and purposefully AND happily. Join us!
I recently met a client at a coffee shop who lives locally.
We had a great conversation, although I knew he was holding something back.
He shared that he wasn’t afraid of anything except dying. I asked him why he was afraid of dying.
“Leaving my family and not knowing how they will turn out.” Meaning his children and grandchildren.
I asked him, “What if you weren’t afraid of dying?” Big gasp of air, leans back in his chair, hand over mouth. I can see that my question is shaking some thoughts and feelings loose. And of course, that was my intention.
He says, “That’s a big question.” Yes, it certainly is. I pushed on – “So what if you weren’t afraid?”
He was quiet for a while and I could see that he was really trying to sort this all out. There was a glimmer in his eye when he said, “I would keep being there for my family. But I would tell them things about me they don’t know. I would share the lessons I’ve learned. I would make sure my grandson knows how to drive.”
That is what it will take for him not to be afraid of dying. It’s not a huge tweak, you see, in the way that he is already living his life.
You notice he didn’t have any grand plans like jumping out of an airplane. He just wants to be there for his family and to pass along as much of his wisdom and the lessons he’s learned as he can.
Now that he knows this about himself and the way he wants to live his life, he can focus on doing just that. By being focused and purposeful, he is able to make decisions easier. He knows his goal. Now he is living it out.
What if you weren’t afraid of dying? How would you live your life? What would be different than the way you live it now?
P.S. If you are looking for community and connection, I invite you to join my private FB group Life-On Purpose. This is a community of individuals who are seeking to live their lives authentically and purposefully.