WCP Life Solutions

Do You Put on Your Happy Face?


Do you remember the words from that old song…?

“Gray skies are going to clear up.
Put on a happy face;
brush off the clouds and cheer up.
Put on a happy face.”

It’s been a really bad day, the kids have been screaming, the dog got out and terrorized the neighborhood, the washing machine drains all over the floor, all heck is breaking loose and then the phone rings. . . it’s your friend on the other end, asking, “How’s it going?” You put on your happy face, smile and say . . . “Just fine.”

For the Alzheimer’s care giver it could be easier said than done, yet they too are famous for wearing their happy faces. They may have been struggling with the same repetitive questions, or pacing or wandering for the last hour. But then someone comes over, or talks to them on the phone, and they say everything is “just fine.” The happy face continues for a while – maybe a month or even years – until you just can’t bear it any longer.

“Pick out a pleasant outlook,
Stick out that noble chin;
Wipe off that “full of doubt” look,
Slap on a happy grin!”

Let’s put aside your “happy face” and be honest about Alzheimer’s Disease and how overwhelming it is. It’s time to figure out how you can take control of your life again. We’ve all heard the saying, “Knowledge is power.” That certainly is true when trying to cope with memory loss and Alzheimer’s Disease initially. But there’s more to dealing with this disease than knowing everything you can about it. That is the control we put on it from the beginning and it will serve you well as you become the specialist you need to be to move ahead and help others in your life move along with you.

It is important to be aware of everything there is to know about the disease itself – But beyond understanding the disease you will need to move to knowing everything about caring for your loved one, and about providing that care without emotionally, physically or financially destroying yourself or your family.

When this first comes into your life, you don’t even know the right questions to ask of doctors, specialist, other caregivers or support groups. And then there are the accountants and your lawyers, how can you possibly get it all right?

“Take off the gloomy mask of tragedy,
It’s not your style;
You’ll look so good that you’ll be glad
Ya’ decide to smile!”

You will make it through. All that is new will become a strength of knowledge that will direct you from stage to stage of this horrible disease. But though you will have challenge, and need to process emotions, fears and hurts unimaginable, the mask you feel you must wear must not be welded to your face. Find those people, those places where the mask can come off and allow you the vulnerability and “fresh air” to heal your spirit. A much as your loved one needs you to be a specialist in their care…they need the spirit of the one they love in order to tether to ever escaping reality.

Yes, they need you to remain the sunshine that gave birth to the love and joy that made life full. You can’t do that if you put on that mask and never take it off again…

“And spread sunshine all over the place,
Just put on a happy face!
Put on a happy face
Put on a happy face”

A Surprise for the Holidays

I made a promise to my kids to do a colorful Christmas tree this year.  I had several vintage ornaments, and another box or so that I had received after my parents were both gone.  I had never used them, nor even looked at them since that family meeting where we dealt with the remainder of their things that had been in storage.

And I knew I didn’t have enough ornaments for the tree. Even before I got things out of storage, I went to several antique stories to gather up a few more because I was excited to put this tree together.

The day after Thanksgiving, I set out to decorate the tree.  The boxes all had to come in for me to find the ornaments.  I also set out the ornaments that I had purchased.  And then worry started to set in.  What was I going to do for a topper?

I had not picked up a vintage topper, and the ones I had seen were more than the couple dollars I spent on the ornaments.  Over the years I had used angels, stars, snowflakes and even Teddy bears for tree toppers, but what would I do for a vintage tree?

I finally found the box with the vintage ornaments from my mom.  I took out a couple of sets of ornaments when nestled there below was a vintage topper.  I had totally forgotten that I had received the topper amongst the other items.  Memories came pouring out of that box as I sat there surprised, relieved, and a little sad as well.

I suddenly saw my mom decorating the tree.  “The topper goes first. because you don’t want to break any of the other ornaments putting it on.”  Be sure and spread out the ornaments because they have to cover the whole tree.”  and “The tinsel has to go on strand by strand because it is very precious, they don’t make tinsel like this anymore.”

I would watch her take days to decorate the tree, especially that ancient tinsel which she would later take off strand by strand and pack away like it was the gift of myrrh.

And I got it.

I realized why I can be a little persnickety about the tree…why the kids have their own tree to decorate in the back room.  My mom gave me her Christmas genes!

Over three years after my mom is gone, she gave me a surprise for Christmas….that beautiful old topper, and the awareness that she is still with us.

Retiring at 31

The 2016 Rio Olympics are about to wrap up and one of the athletes has ridden the amazing wave that only an Olympian of *ahem* Olympic proportions could ride…Michael Phelps.  Part of that fantastic wave has been the fact that this is Michael’s final Olympics…he is retiring.

We see it quite often actually. Sports figures and elite athletes are retiring at young ages.   And while we understand the wear and tear that a high-level “Known by one name” performer like a Shaq, Kobe or Phelps can take, it still rings odd to hear that they are “retiring.”

Talk to just about any senior, they will tell you that they just began to really live once they were in their 30’s.  The stories about 24 gold medals will be amazing for years and possibly forever, but no less impressive is the story of a war veteran who saved his platoon (or even his lone unknown friend on the battle field).   A Hall of Fame member is certainly impressive, but no more so than the young entrepreneur who spends his life developing an entire new industry.   And as awestruck as we might be by Simone Biles and her near perfect score, the discovery of a medical breakthrough that saves thousands by a female scientist after years of tireless research towers in impact.

Our seniors who lived a life-time in order to retire and leave a legacy are true heroes in their own right.  I can only hope that Michael Phelps will live another 31 years just as sensational as his first 31 years.  A legacy is so much more than what the world offers us today.  So ask to know your parent’s stories or the elderly neighbors down the road.  Perhaps a visit to a nearby community will enthrall our kids as much or even more than taking them to a game.

When my Dad passed, I knew he was a good man and Father.  He had been a pastor for decades. But, as my brother read his eulogy at his funeral, I finally heard his story.  I heard for the first time how my Dad, a newly minted officer in the Marines, fought for the right of the Black Officers to be able to use the Officer’s club on their base back in 1944.  While in general, unsung because he was “normal” most of his life…. that story wins the Gold if you ask me!

Is Three a Crowd?

Most of us have seen an episode or two of the 90’s sitcom The Golden Girls.  It seemed there was no end to the trouble the four ladies would get into.  But at the end of  every episode, out came the cheesecake which made all their troubles or frustrations go away.  It was an interesting concept and good fodder for humorous situations.

In fact, this is an increasingly familiar way for seniors to stay in their homes and on their own longer.  Websites are available which will assist with the process of finding like minded individuals and helping them connect within their communities.  There are also meet up groups like Let’s Share Housing which holds regular events for seeking housing partners.

It is important to know just how you will enter into a housing relationship and how deeply you might want that to go.  Conflicts that arise are not usually dealt with in 30 minutes like they are on television.  So what do you do when your housing arrangement includes sharing a mortgage?

Perhaps the surprising blush of romance comes along and one of you brings a boyfriend or new hubby into the living situation.  Maybe the role of Mom or Dad means a son or daughter needs to move in for awhile.  Any number of situations life brings us can create dynamics that were unintended and can challenge even the best shared housing situation unless prepared for in advance.

Of course there are the questions that arise in estate planning as well when one goes into a shared housing situation.  Such questions can have a dramatic effect on anyone who ends up taking on the role of fiduciary as a result of crisis or unexpected passing.

It is good to know that there are many new and creative avenues for senior housing and community in any given market across the US.  Groups like the Villages Communities and others, while not specifically for shared housing, are about harnessing the sense of community to help network seniors in a local area and keep seniors in their homes longer.  Shared housing will inevitably become more familiar to us all in an ever challenging and varied economy.  With adequate planning on both end of the process, from choosing the right housemate to well thought out exit plans, it may just be the right choice for you.

Genesis Life Transitions is there to help in your planning process whatever that may include.  It is our desire that you live out your years as you want to and enjoy the peace you desire to have.  We always provide a free consultation if you simply contact us at info@genesislifetransitions.com

When They Can’t Care For Themselves: Conservatorship Basics

How Does a Conservatorship Work?

The judge appoints a person or organization as a conservator or guardian to make medical and/or financial decisions for an adult or child.  The one being represented is called a conservative, ward or protected person. Generally, in an adult, the conservatorship ends when the conservative dies, or in the case of a child, when it’s determined they are able to make decisions for themselves.

What Problems Happen With Conservatorships?

Conservatorships are not a bad thing.  Often, they’re necessary.  However, their execution can be problematic at times for a variety of reasons.

Conservatorships should be considered as the most restrictive form of court intervention as they can strip people of their individual rights.  A conservator is ethically/legally responsible to perform due diligence (research) to assure that they are making decisions as closely as possible to the wishes of the protected person.

When a conservatorship is due to family differences, more complications can be created. The family may need to sit on the sidelines and the conservator removes decision-making control from them.  Hopefully the ward is protected through the inclusion of a more neutral party.

It is a huge responsibility to be a conservator or a guardian.   Many do an incredible loving, caring compassionate job as they take care of relatives or close friends.  However, they may be overwhelmed or undertrained.  This can be exacerbated if court directions are not sufficient for them to carry out their duties and legal responsibilities effectively.

Is it a Good Choice When Family Can’t Agree About Mom & Dad?

It may be. But a better first option might be to go through facilitative meditation. It is always better to handle things as a family, but a neutral third party can help guide that process as well as save time and money over court systems.

If a family situation is too tense, however, and resolution is unlikely, the only other option is to go to conservatorship.   For our parents, who want to leave a legacy of a strong family, and conservatorship should be a last resort.  In any situation, a family should see an attorney who specializes in elder law and discuss whether conservatorship is an appropriate solution to the situation.  Conservatorship IS NOT necessary in every situation, but only when appropriate legal planning has not taken place or in the case of conflict which may cause physical, financial or legal risk.

If the children are concerned that Mother is unable to manage her affairs, for example, the family should provide an attorney with information to prove this to file a petition with the court.  And if the judge believes it’s warranted, he or she will grant the power to whoever is agreeably chosen from among the family, or outside as deemed necessary.

If a member of the family is appointed…get help: There are many services to help family conservators and guardians with care-management services and a variety of other needs. When it comes to needing to assistance with understanding financial matters (especially related to seniors), get a financial adviser.

Genesis Life Transitions is available to discuss the conflict you face and provide coaching or full mediation services as needed.  We also provide professional conservator and guardian services. Call today for a free 15 minute consultation.

How Do I Provide Care for Someone Who Hurt Me?

Let’s face it, my Dad was a cranky, opinionated, old son of a biscuit.  It’s no surprise considering he was a conservative Pastor for over 40 years.  As challenging my life was, I know it pales in comparison to the very real damage: physically, emotionally and spiritually faced by scores of others.  How does that play out when one is faced with taking on the role of caregiver for a family member or spouse who has been abusive?    elderly upset couple

Caregivers often struggle with the huge responsibility that is suddenly – or unexpectedly – thrust upon them. They know that society thinks they should care for their parents or spouse even if they don’t know that they can bring themselves too.  There may be the strong compunction of religious issues that require us to “honor their parents.”

For those caring for an elderly family member but feeling resentment and anger about their past actions: healing can happen.  Emotionally damaged families can find a way to forgive.  But, how does one forgive?

Today is Your Day of Peace

The ability to let go of past hurts is one of the keys to longevity and good health.  You can forgive without necessarily forgetting.  Past events cannot be changed, so don’t let them zap your emotional and spiritual energy.  This ultimately will be unhealthy, gets you nowhere and even work against you over time.  Instead, endeavor to stop branding family members for past behavior.  Instead, practice forgiveness for one’s failings.

Make It New

Movies are made of stories where estranged loved ones reunite, forgive their mutual pasts and create new stronger relationships out of the rubble of the past.  The individuals may not change, but the damaging dynamics of the past certainly can.  It is your task to take that energy and do your work in building a new relationship with one’s family.  Begin a new era in the timeline of your family and formerly damaging relationships by supporting a new family dynamic that fills and feeds your life rather than damaging and destroying it.

 Understand They Have Flawed Pasts, Too

Too often the damaging relationships we find ourselves in is due to the fact that our parents and spouses came to us damaged as well.  Their best laid plans and actions were flawed by their own experiences and slights which informed their process – they did what they knew to do.  It doesn’t make their past actions right or okay, and it certainly does not mean that abuse is ever excusable.  But, it may be part of the answer in how one can find the intestinal fortitude necessary to appreciate and care for them in the time you have left.

Accept It For What It Is

Why spend time wishing things were different?  Denial and transference only make things worse.  Don’t doubt having the strength and grace needed to change the world.  Once the role of caregiver is accepted, it needs to be done to the best of one’s ability with full strength and full grace.  Only in doing one’s best will life be what it is intended to be both for the caregiver and the one being cared for.

Stay Positive

Attitude is fully in your control even if you cannot change the circumstances.  Will you face the day with an attitude or an embrace?  People are going to act certain ways, and we cannot change that fact.  But those actions and decisions you face are all yours.  Are you “glass half full” or “glass half empty?”  Your attitude is what ultimately decides whether others can push your buttons or not…allowing one to drive our responses, and ultimately our happiness.

Seek Help #1

If you continue to struggle with how to forgive someone who’s wronged you in a significant way, seek help with a therapist who can help you work through your feelings.  Their work will help one go to deeper levels of growth and understanding as well as be a support through the process.  This can help you deal with the realities of what you have faced, but more importantly, provide you with tools to help you work through the daily challenge.  As you understand the actions that were so hurtful and damaging, it allows you to start moving forward.

Seek Help #2

Ultimately, some are not able to move beyond the hurt to forgive and move forward as a caregiver.  If not, then make that decision quickly and move forward to ensure the family member is cared for.  Home health and Care Communities are there as well to ensure a healthful and life-full environment needed to have the opportunity for a chosen quality of life.

Recently, I was touched by one attendee to a caregiver support group I led.  She was the ex-daughter-in-law.  She shared how awful her husband and his father had been to her over the years of her marriage, yet there was no one left to provide the care this man needed.  Amazingly, she took on that role.

All you can do is your best…to forgive, to forget (if you can), to let go and move forward standing strong.  Without the weight of those past hurts, live each day to the fullest, with love, gratitude and forgiveness.

Genesis Life Transitions is there to help with the challenging decisions and actions that come with aging.  We are specialists at helping you deal with conflict between family members, decisions around life changes, and taking the steps necessary to have your voice heard all the way to the end.  And, we always provide a free consultation.  Call today.

The Farm Auction

My wife and I were just starting oustock-photo-13673705-old-farm-windmillr family when we went home to Iowa to help Grandpa prep his farm for the big auction and his eventual move to an assisted living community.  It was  like a treasure hunt as I entered the attic and found pictures of the grandmother after whom we had named our daughter as well as some of the dresses she wore in her pictures among other treasured items.  I barely got out of that hot attic that August afternoon before fainting.

The next two days were emotional for Grandpa as he saw belongings from over a hundred years of family residents hit the auction block.  There was a sense of pride as the numbers went up, but also a sadness as he realized with each item that was sold…the farm would soon be no more.

The family sensed it as well..the bittersweet emotions that come with significant change affected us all.   We dealt with it by seeking some item or another  to take home that would never live up to the memory of emotions that were being felt.

The emotions would be that much more poignant just a few months later when Grandpa passed away.  The fabric of his spirit had been knit together with that farm.  A man who had worked from dawn to dusk for the better part of a century was no match for a chair and the short walk to the dining room three times a day.

There are no easy answers…was it the wrong decision?  I don’t think so…because it was his decision.  Did he know?  Maybe.  A man who had lived on his own terms for so many years made a decision on how to die.  He chose to have that fabulous auction and see people gain enjoyment in history and memories.  He chose to make a move rather than be forced to move.  And most importantly, now physically unable to rise to the challenge, I think he chose to  die in a place where he would not see his farm fall into ruin.

Nearly 20 years later we still drive by the farm whenever we are back in Iowa.  There is an indent from the road where the driveway used to be.  Gone are the houses, the old barn and the “New” old barn.  If you look closely you still see the small windmill turning in the breeze.  And, if you tarry long enough, you might even hear Grandpa walking in peace through the trees on the farm he loved so much.

Dangerous Curves Ahead

It’s a common issue with families; when and how do we have conversations about aging and death?  However, unless we look ahead and have these conversations, invariably there is significant damage left behind.  Much like slowing down to prepare for the challenges that come with a strong curve or winding roadway, we need to focus specifically on difficult conversations.

There are numerous factors which make some conversations difficult.  Conversations around health challenges that come with aging quickly become personal.  Some physical changes as we age are embarrassing, and their treatment is not much better.  These realities bring up issues related to our gender, culture and values which are all challenging in their own way to our parents and ourselves as well. The physical & mental cost needs to be addressed.

Eventually, the changes that come with aging lead to challenges with the activities of every day living, where we live, and how we live.  Opening conversations around each of these areas can be fraught with danger as well.  On top of the physical challenges and changes we now begin to layer issues such as perceived safety, security, taste/choice, companionship and, not least of all, freedom.  There is also the very real fear that these issues will affect both parent and adult child alike. The emotional, mental costs also need to be addressed.

Ultimately, the conversations lead toward end of life decisions, Powers of Attorney, death and burial.  These are the conversations that we are most shy of due to the realization of change and loss.  We also recognize the shortness of time to resolve those issues that have been left unsaid.  And, for adult children, we are often faced with our own mortality for the first time while dealing with it’s reality in our parents.  The personal and spiritual costs are last to be addressed.

This may help:  OASIS

  • Open— crisis, planned, casual, spontaneous
    Find the way to enter the conversation; like a dangerous curve…slow down, prepare and focus on the road ahead.
  • Articulate the question/problem/issue
    Know how to handle the conditions and be as aware as you can be for what lies ahead.  Are you prepared, knowledgeable, connected (does the person perceive there to be an issue/problem/question)
  • Search for solutions
    It’s more than just slowing down;  but knowing what to do and having options that can be applied if necessary.  This is a great place to work TOGETHER.
  • Integrate options into action
    Remember that having the conversation is just the beginning.  Having a plan and following through is what is important.  You will have to have other difficult conversations, but you don’t have to start at the beginning time and time again.
  • Study and evaluate
    See the conversation as a starting point for learning.  Know that you can get better at every part of this…communicating, making decisions, focusing on legacy rather than challenges.  Build on success!

There are time that it is useful to have a neutral party help you have these difficult conversations and help with planning for aging and other eventual choices.  It is especially helpful when there is currently any family conflict or there has been conflict in the past.  Genesis Life Transitions is helpful in being that neutral coach to help you work through creating a plan that allows Mom & Dad to have their voice all the way to the end. We always provide a free consultation.

When Planning Goes Wrong

Believe me, I am a huge advocate of planning.  But there are times when planning isn’t the answer it is supposed to be, or it is not enough.  There are some pitfalls to planning that are worth going over so that our plans do all they can to minimize conflict and confusion.

1. Not reviewing your Will

Too often we create a will and forget about it. It is important to take that document out and review it to be sure it has kept up with your life situation. Your adult children might have a problem with being given into Aunt Edith’s care. More importantly, children are often left sorting out personal effects and heirlooms among themselves. This is difficult enough for families who live and work well together and fodder for significant conflict when families don’t.

2. Not defining a Power of Attorney

You have a plan, but have you given the necessary power for those decisions and plans to be carried out? Power of Attorney does not naturally pass to your spouse, and if you are incapacitated you can end up not having your loved one positioned to be your voice. Be sure and complete an adequate POA. Have a clear Directive of care and POLST on file and easily available at any given time. Take the extra step of having a signed HIPPA to be sure all things are in order with medical staff. By taking these necessary steps you save your loved ones from costly court/legal costs. You also insure your voice is carried out; dealing with rifts that the emotions of crisis can bring.

3. Picking the wrong person

We often get stuck on tradition even though that may lead to putting people in positions that they are unable to fulfill or are unsafe for them for one reason or the other.   The oldest child may not be the right fit if they have their own physical problems or deal with struggles that can mean the stress is just too great to be effective in the role of Executor. Clauses like majority vote on decisions, or even choosing a neutral third-party Executor can minimize the potential for conflict.

4. Not Communicating

It is important that your plan is recognized as a living document that needs regular care. You must also see it as more than a folder on the refrigerator. Too often plans are not put into place because no one knew there was a plan to begin with. This is the quickest way for crisis to cause conflict when it was completely unnecessary. When you have a completed plan, have a family meeting to have the difficult discussion of your eventual aging, decline and death. This is the best way to insure your family works through the challenges ahead without conflict. They will forever thank you for giving them your voice to follow all the way through.

Genesis Life Transitions is available to help you make sure you have the family plan in place to guide your family in carrying out your wishes every step of the way.  For this and other ways that we can help you with the challenges of aging, contact us through our website www,genesislifetransitions.com or call for a free 15 minute consultation.

Caregiver Guilt: “…before I’m so tired I just don’t care anymore.”

According to statistics, 29% of adults are providing some level of care to a loved one who needs assistance.  That means that over 65 million adults are taking on this challenging and often under appreciated role.  Sometimes it is not only under appreciated, but weighed down by conflict with others who simply do not understand this selfless act.

Those who devote their lives to caring for their loved one often do not know the full price they are paying and simply try to deal with the challenging emotions and struggles as best they can.  And as life is full and busy in their role, and the struggles great, they will sometimes take on and heap on guilt.

Though taking on the task with love and respect; exhaustion, and even the twinges of resentment can drift in.  At times these emotions can lead to significant guilt as one looks at the whole of their life… everything from  guilt for taking care rather than taking time, to guilt for feeling guilt.

This past week I was working with an individual who has been taking care of his wife with Alzheimer’s  and other very significant health issues for the past 8 years.  I was amazed at all he had done and the success he had had in caring for her, but he felt guilty that it was getting beyond what he could handle.  He had come to a realization though, “I need to make some changes before I’m so tired I just don’t care anymore.”

The decisions were difficult, but this selfless man was, after all these years, getting some regular professional assistance to come in and  help in caring for her.  Obviously this does a great deal in helping with the exhaustion and resentment that can set in.  He also was taking some other fantastic steps to help deal with the guilt that one can feel.  He joined a community of support and set up a period of professional counseling to help work through his feelings; setting himself up (and therefore his wife) for a successful transition.

The best answer to the difficulty of this decision and any guilt he felt, was that he was  able to realize the gift of time and energy to once again be her husband and focus more of their time together to simply being together.

Genesis Life Transitions is there to help coach you through the challenges that come through the aging process.  We are experienced in helping you focus successfully on relationships, difficult decisions, finding the right living situation for you and your loved ones or having difficult conversations with family.  Call for a free consultation and let us help you create peace for you and your family today!