Critter Care—New Program for 2017!
I love critters. Always have. Always will. My family of choice includes cats and dogs. I am not alone in my love of critters. According to American Pet Products Association, over 60 percent of all households in the United States have a pet. We love critters! Consequently, over 60 percent of households will be called to care for aging and ill critters. Caring for critters is not unlike caring for humans. In fact, the similarities are fascinating—physically, emotionally, financially, and spiritually. So, repeat after me. Prepare to care! Our critters are worth it.
Collaborative Care: Working and Caring Together
For most people rooted in Western culture, it is difficult to ask for and to receive help from other people. However, the reality is that we will all need help due to the challenges posed by aging and/or illness. So, how are we to overcome our resistance to assistance? Well, our friend the goose has much to teach us about giving and receiving care. Look to the skies. As geese fly in formation, they embody the essential ingredients of collaborative care: shared leadership, interdependence, self care, encouragement, and trusted relationships. This is not a “fly by night” approach to care! If we choose to emulate the collaborative flight of geese, all involved in the caregiving journey will be well served.
Compassion Fatigue: When It Hurts to Care
As professional or personal caregivers, we witness the suffering of others—physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering. To witness the pain and suffering of others is to be forever changed. Compassionate people bear the suffering of others and often times compromise their own health and well being when they assume too much of the burden. We must always be aware of where we end and the other person begins—thus highlighting the importance of boundaries. We can companion others in life, but we cannot assume the responsibility for another’s life. To do so puts us at risk of experiencing compassion fatigue, a risk for all who care.
Moral Distress: Searching for True North
Amazingly enough, human beings are born with an internal compass designed to keep us aligned in life—a moral compass. Our personal values and beliefs serve to calibrate our compass such that each person has a unique sense of True North. When encountering a situation that requires us to deviate from our aligned position, it is our moral compass that sounds the alarm that something is amiss. Due to the increasingly complex ethical situations in health care, moral distress is frequently experienced by health care providers as well as patients and family members. The challenge is to first recognize this type of distress and then to proactively seek a common understanding of the relevant issues. Moral distress can be effectively addressed if not mitigated when all perspectives are welcomed, communication encouraged, and a safe space provided for interaction.
Resistance to Assistance
For most of us, it’s not easy to ask for help. But if we understand the “why” beneath our reluctance, perhaps we can overcome our resistance to assistance. Ultimately, it’s a choice. I’m not saying you should, must, have to, ought to, or need to ask others for help. But if you choose to ask for or to receive help from others, you will probably encounter a sharp point of resistance somewhere along the way. Better to know the location of that sharp point than to step on it unexpectedly. As always, knowledge is power.
Living in Harmony
As a caregiver, living in harmony may be an unfamiliar melody. Can you name that tune? If not, please make note of the idea and importance of harmony—defined as agreement, accord, a pleasing arrangement. Sounds fabulous, right? Within the context of caregiving, living in harmony is the consequence of a thoughtful, compassionate, realistic approach to caring for family and friends—and YOU!!! So, as you care for others, remember to hum the life-giving chorus of self care, self care, self care. It will serve you well.
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Caregiving in the Twenty-First Century
Caregiving in the twenty-first century is an interesting journey to say the very least! Caregiving today poses different challenges and opportunities than those encountered by previous generations. We’ll consider how the changing nature of families, family legacies of caregiving and illness, and the geographic dispersal of families inform our experience. We can’t anticipate everything that will happen. However, we can proactively plan for the certainties of life. We will age. We will need more help than we ever imagined. Hence, we need to prepare to care for ourselves and our loved ones.