Death, How To Cope When You Are The Caregiver

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Death and Dying issues to help caregivers by Francy Dickinson

Geo n francy oilMy Georgie has been gone for three months and I am adjusting to life again. I wanted to continue to share things with you. As you know, I began this blog to help myself and other spouse/caregivers with the issues that come up in daily care giving. I still want to be a voice in the wilderness for those that are giving their love, time, effort and attention to a loved one. Helping someone on their life’s journey is a very special and loving job…I hope you will find my words help you along the way. 

If you have been reading my blog over the years ~ you will remember I have always asked everyone to use hospice services when your senior is nearing death. You never have to be worried about it. The Hospice Services comes into your home and does an assessment of the senior and they share their ideas of how to help you. Their services are paid by a Medicare type of services…it then becomes a special Hospice Service expense and the medications and services are then no longer billed to you. So, financially, mentally and physically Hospice is the way to face the end of life issues with your loved one. It will help you overcome the worry and they will help you step by step…question after question.

That said; Georgie and I did not know he was at the point to call on Hospice. The doctors did not know what was wrong with George. He had a lot of tests and the diagnosis was not known. We had made another appointment for the next Tuesday to see the main doctor and talk to him about placing George in a care facility to review his health issues. In the mean time…we were home alone together. I was trying to understand how to use the oxygen, medications, catheter and take care of his physical needs. I was going on five days without real sleep and the situation was not good and we both knew it.  He was weakening by the minute and it was becoming very hard for me to do transfers and be strong enough to help him. We were ready for his “in hospital” care. I told George that after his stay at the care center I would be asking Hospice to come and help us and he understood that…but his end came before we could move through our plans.

Early on Saturday morning…George was taking his Albuterol breathing session. At the end of the session I went to remove the breathing mask and found he had passed. His eyes closed and he had stopped breathing. It was quiet and fast and I was heartbroken.

What I am going to talk about today is the process that followed. But once again, IF I had had the services of Hospice..all the following steps would have been taken care of for me. I would have been able to sit and be calmed by loving professionals and they would have taken over the different steps that come with a death while in their care. This is why I want you to NOT follow my lead…to avoid the sadness I had to walk through have the Hospice professionals by your side…caring for you and your loved one.

What to do when your spouse, or senior, passes and you are all alone:

  1. When George passed I went into shock. Lucky for me, I had my family and friends on my cell phone and I kept the phone close to me. I knew I was very tired and I had been afraid of my falling and needing help. So I was able to pull out my phone and call family and selected friends and our dear minister – to come and help me.
  2. Everyone arrived within minutes and each of them comforted me in their own way. They were not totally in the know…of what to do…but they worked together to decide on the immediate steps to take. I was in such shock, shaking and crying and just out of it…so they were gentle, loving and moved me through the process.
  3. We all knew we did not have to report the death the minute it happened. I had looked at the clock and knew he passed at 7:10AM but that was not really needed. I was just so struck with sorrow, I had no real knowledge of what was happening around me. That is why Hospice would have been so helpful…but my own support group did their best.
  4. Our minister asked everyone to come and circle around George and say a prayer and when we did that…each of us were then able to feel we had settled the tension and brought the love into a protective circle.
  5. If you have a faith that requires immediate burial, I suggest that you start today to make plans for the end of life. You will need to know the process and have numbers to call. In my situation, I knew that George wanted to be cremated, but we had no time frame to worry about. So we just took our time and did not call 911 until all the family members that wanted to view him, did so and at that time we made our call.
  6. Our local paramedics arrived and asked if they could inspect the body alone.So we cleared out of the room and they looked over things taking note that everything looked like a “natural death”. They wrote down the death and they made calls to the medical examiner and logged it in to the official book as a death with time and place written down. Then they alerted the police.
  7. A while later, the police arrived and they questioned all of us and asked questions about George’s health care and asked me to review the last couple of days. It was very hard for me to do this interview. I was still in shock and my mind was not able to connect properly with their questions. If I had had Hospice…that step would not have happened. Hospice is a legal service and the medical examiner takes their word for it. The police were very kind, but they had a job to do and they did it. Once again, they needed us to clear out and let them be with the body. When they were done…we were released to remove the body.
  8. We did not hurry…once again, we gathered together to say another prayer and wish George a loving passing. Then we called the mortuary services and they arrived to remove the body. I did not have to do anything personally. They simply enclosed the body and took it away. They were very kind and my family was very loving.
  9. My sister felt I needed to be taken home with her. I was still in shock and she wanted me to try to sleep and process the death away from the house.
  10. When I left my home, my friend and daughter-in-law cleared out the bedroom. They disposed of the sheets, pillows and medical things in the bedroom and master bathroom. They tried their best to clean the area so I could return to the house and not be upset. They did a loving job, that I am sure was very difficult for them.
  11. I returned to the house in two days. At that time, we had to go to the mortuary to review the details and pay for the services. They applied for the social security and veteran’s death benefit for me. So the basic paperwork was done.
  12. Now, this is where I will caution you. From that day forward, everyone I knew tried to help me. They gave me advice on social security, insurance, returning medical supplies, my own health, my mental health and so on. It was a constant barrage of information and suggestions to follow their opinions. This was the hardest time for me. I did not want to be rude…I listened and tried to understand what they were saying. But really, it became total overload.
  13. I will ask you to simply, sit and be quiet. Write down things and numbers and make your notes very complete…this is no time for shorthand. Then just take it easy. There is no time frame of getting services and help, insurance, social security and such done. Just do it on your own time.
  14. As usual…others try to take over and care for you. But you have to do it all on your own. It is best of you ask someone to drive you here or there. When we are upset the world does not need us behind the wheel of a car. But just write down a list of to do’s and slowly work through them.
  15. George and I had already talked through end of life issues. I knew he wanted no memorial and wanted a cremation. So, that made it easy for me. What does your loved one want? This is the time to talk and get it out in the open.
  16. The doctor had us fill out the no resuscitate papers and post them up on the kitchen door so the EMS could see them.  We talked about the issues of care at the end of life. So we were in place when his death happened. But what about you?  Do you have your end of life issues down on paper? Please do it for you and for your loved ones. Don’t make more work and worry for the loved ones left behind.

Lessons learned. I am still working on paperwork and details of my husbands death. I am still trying to learn to sleep and eat properly again after so many months of 24/7 care giving. It’s a hard road and I am walking it slowly, alone, but not afraid. I have support of friends, family and my small dogs. I am still working on my feelings of loss and I am still raw with my emotions. But I am taking care of myself now.

I gave care to my mother and my husband until their deaths. Now, its time for me to care for myself. Its hard to do…but I am trying day by day to form ideas of what my future is going to be. I so miss my Georgie’s smile and I can not imagine how I will live my whole life forward without him. But day by day…I learn and do.

I hope this helps you to prepare and take the fear out of a passing in your home. I cleared the house with love and blessed George on his way. I am sleeping soundly in our bedroom. I got new bedding, I brightened up the bathroom and I cleaned and cleared away the sadness of care giving in my surroundings. I now find my bedroom a place of comfort for me and I enjoy spending time there.

I will say…having my family and friends as well as my community of loving friends on Facebook, Twitter and through the group that follows my blog was totally positive and loving for me. I also had a #WritersThatChat group that continues to support me through the long grief process. I am a lucky girl to have had such a dear, as George, with me for over 30+ years. As I walk down my own path of life…I do not do it alone…I am surrounded with love.

Blessings on all that you do for your own loved one. francy

PS/ I find a little reminder of George is so healing for me. I blew up a picture of him and have it in my bedroom with a candle to light. I can have a good chat with him each day…kiss his picture and feel his love any time I am in need. Grief takes its own path…some move through it fast and strong…others have more up and down days. There are no rules for missing someone that you loved…but being ready for the hard time of passing helps.

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How to Deal with Elder Losing a Child or Pet

francy Dickinson                                  www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Dear francy: I care for my Aunt. She is 87 and her two children live out of state. News has arrived that her daughter has died unexpectedly and I am wondering how to handle this when she is already so confused?

Thank you for sharing this question, I just had a similar event with a death of a daughter of a dear friend that had lost his wife within the last couple of years. This is always a hard emotional challenge and then you add age and health challenges and you are in a pickle trying to give support.

Here are some tips:

  1. Even if someone is in a coma, I tell them gently about sad news. I remember years ago a couple we knew were in a tragic auto accident and the husband died and wife was gravely wounded. Their son sat next to the mother while she was in a coma and told her that her husband has passed. He did it with such gentle words and asked her to just relax and know he was there by her side. Months later she told him, that she did not remember his words but she did know that her husband had died when she came to and she felt he had been with her as she went in and out of her unconscious state. Giving her the choice to deal with bad news while she was so ill is a scary thing, but keeping real life from someone that is alive is pointless.
  2. Be gentle with words, using a soft but consistent voice and keeping your emotions down is important. Everyone cues off of the person they are with so if you are upset, they will be upset.
  3. Get a picture of the person that has passed and take it with you when you speak of the death. Hold it up for them and let them absorb the feelings or memories that they have of the person. If they are suffering from dementia, take a childhood picture and an adult picture so the elder is able to grasp onto either memory.
  4. If memories are lost, then remind them. Tell them a little story about their life and include the person that passed>Like: “Auntie, when you were young you were married to a nice man and you had two children. One was a daughter Megan and she grew up to be very pretty, smart lady and loved you very much. I am sorry to tell you that your Megan is gone, she died today. She will not be coming to see you again. Do you understand? Do you have a question for me?” Let them express how they feel. They may remember and be upset or not connect at all. It will all flow, but to give them honor you do not hold back news of life.
  5. If they go into a very agitated state, then you want to call the doctor and tell the office what has happened and ask them for assistance. Many times doctors will prescribe just a few pills to help a person get through two or three days of extreme tension while they are processing their grief.
  6. If the person forgets about the death in times to come, that is fine. It is up to you to inform them, not remind them on a daily basis. Maybe their mind can not remember, or maybe they choose not to accept the loss. Both of those things are fine for an elder that is unwell.
  7. Let others in the family know the extent of grief the elder is feeling. They may not express their grief to a visiting friend or relative, but you as there care giver see the grief in their actions and response and you know that things have changed even if they are not expressing that change verbally. So, quietly inform the family or visitor before they engage in conversations.
  8. Many times elders want to talk about their own dealth when there is a passing of a friend or relative. This may upset the family but it is very normal and you need to let them talk it out. That is the key, let the elder set the tone of the conversation and you follow their lead. Guiding them to as much positive thought patterns as you can with your return conversation. Always leaving the conversation on an up note about the future of that day or an event that is coming up. Just do not rob them of feeling sad, nor rob them of feeling it is OK to look forward to another day or week of their own life.
  9. I remember my husband trying to comfort me when I lost my sister telling me her medical accident was for the best because she would have suffered with cancer and this had removed that future suffering. It was his way of being kind, but it upset me. A death is a death, it does not matter if it is an accident, a health concern, a suicide or an older age event. It is still the end of someone’s life and grief needs to honored. Do not try to make the death have a reason, just leave it as it is. A child lost, is lost, no matter what the cause. Honor and respect the sadness a parent will have and will carry for the rest of their life. Unhappy feelings have to be felt and it is good to know and let them just be.
  10. Allow the senior to grieve give them space and time. I always bring out a picture of the person or pet that has passed and place a candle in front of it and light it on the day of the death and then in the evening for a week or two. It is not meant to be a ritual of faith, it is just a ritual that allows the person to express their grief and remember and honor the passing.
  11. If the elder is very involved in their faith then notify a local chaplain and ask them to visit. Let them have time alone, even if they are in a place of confusion, let the faithful and long heard words of prayers be said for the elder. Let their mind absorb the ritual of faith and let it comfort them. No matter what their chosen faith a lifetime of prayer comes back when they hear old prayers or songs.
  12. Attending funerals, this is simply up to the family to judge. My mother had lost so many friends by the time she passed at 100 years that she was unable to go to memorials any longer. They were just to depressing for her. I actually went to the memorial of her last dear friend’s passing on her behalf. Mother was happy that we were represented and she was able to process the dealth on her own without the large crowd of strangers at the memorial. I filled her in on the service and gave her a picture of the flowers and the memory booklet that they gave to me. It was a good way for her to experience but not get herself so involved she became ill.
  13. Do not under estimate the feelings of an senior or elder with a pet. Often when they lose all of their family or spouse they turn their love and whole inner support to a pet. This make the pet like a family member and dear loved one to the senior. Honor the pet as you woud a person, for they are thought of like that by the elder.
  14. Life without my sister has never stopped being sad. She has been gone twenty years now and you would think I would have tucked it away. But often I find tears on odd occations over her memory. Mother was the same way. There is no time limit to grief, some process fast and well, some accept the loss because they have experienced so many losses in their long years of life. Some grieve a pet more than their spouse. There is no rule…there just is.

I want to thank you for your time with your Aunt and your tender concern over her well being at this time of loss. It is a gentle miracle that she has you there to be with her. Some times its just knowing that someone is there with you that cares that will make the difference in the healing a broken heart. You are there and you have given her that support and I honor you for your caring touch.

Please do go to my website at www.seniorcarewithspirit.com for more ideas. I have a great e-book called Care Giving 101 Workbook that will help you with giving care in your own home or in the senior’s home. It has all the basic home nursing tips and gives you ideas to support yourself as well as your spouse or loved one. These books are very popular with care givers and I encourage you to buy one so you can feel more in power of your situation as the care giver. It can be very lonely out there all alone when you are giving care – I want to make the experience more comforting for you.

I write these blogs to share information that I have gathered in my many years of care giving. I am now tending to my husband with Alzheimer’s and my books and services are how I’m able to stay at home and care for him. Thanks for all you are doing for your own loved one, blessings. francy

PS I am on Twitter @seniorcaretips and I would love to have you listen to my talk radio show on senior care issues just click the radio button on my home page. The show is on demand so you can listen whenever you have time.