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”

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.