I have to make a confession. This has been the hardest post for me to write. I have sat down, time and again to put the words together and they just wouldn’t come. It has taken me weeks of prayer, of introspection and a swift kick in the butt to finally get this done. I guess the kick dislodged the words, so here we go…
I use a cane. (Even typing that statement pulled at my heart.) Please understand that I have been fighting this inevitability for several years. I would rather rely on my husband, children and friends to prop me up, and yes, sometimes pick me up, as long as I did not have to use a cane.
I understand the benefits of using the device in my mind, and over the years, I have had many conversations with friends and clients convincing them to use their canes. But when it came down to me getting one – oh boy – all of that good sense just went to the wayside.
To me, the cane represented weakness, old age, and an inability to care for my family. Therefore when necessity prevailed and the need for the cane became apparent, it felt like accepting this device would also mean that I had to accept being weak, losing my vitality and not being able to do the thing I love the most- caring for my family. I really felt that using the cane would change people’s view of me from a fortress of strength and stability to a pile of dust, and I was not ready to accept that reality shift.
I needed some serious reinforcements to support me in this decision. My husband, who also happens to be my best friend, went with me to pick it out. After trying out several models I found one that suited me. It was young looking, sparkly and had a comfort grip handle. I used it to get to the car, where I proceeded to break down and cry. Partially because it was so much easier for me to get from the sidewalk to the car and I had less pain. Admitting that seemed like I was choosing my comfort over my family.
We went to Sam’s Club to pick up a few things, and my husband asked me if I wanted to “take ‘er for a spin” inside Sam’s. I couldn’t do it. So he graciously went in, while I stayed in the car and watched the people go by (yes, and to cry some more). To get my mind off of my “problem” I went on Facebook to see what was going on in other people’s lives. As I was looking down at my phone, a hand appeared through the window and a giant box of my favorite chocolates appeared, quickly followed by a kiss on the cheek. He went back into the store and shopped, leaving me time to dry my tears and think.
In my heart, I went back to holding my children’s hands when they were little to keep them safe. I realized that now that they are adults, we were still holding hands but they were doing it to keep ME safe. I also realized that my stubbornness in using the cane was keeping me dependent upon them and others, that in reality, they had slowly become my guardians and caregivers and that I was not really caring for their emotional health with my choice. By the time my husband had returned I had decided that I was going to try to make peace with this.
When we got home I decided to use my cane to walk to the door. My son saw me walking towards the house, he ran and opened the door, and said “Hey Mom, looking good!” (I cannot describe how good that felt.) When my daughters came to visit, they both ribbed me horribly (in my family that is a sign of acceptance and love), and I could sense the feeling of relief that came to them seeing me walk steadier (the jokes about no longer looking like a drunken sailor were also an indicator).
That night, when we sat down to read the bible and pray together, I asked them how they felt about my new accessory. They all agreed that they loved it because, it gave me freedom, and they would worry less about me because I had my “personal assistant” and that I could go back to being Mom again. Amazing how our own visions of ourselves can be so far off from what others really perceive.
I named my cane Whizzy- for two reasons. First it is because I can now “whiz” around from one place to another, without waiting for someone to steady me, and second as a reminder that “Wisdom is proved righteous by its works.” (Matthew 11:19) Every time I pick Whizzy up, I am reminded that it was the wisest choice, and that by using her, I am providing proof of Godly wisdom to myself and others – especially my children.
The response and support have been overwhelmingly positive. There are some who look at me with that look of: “why her?” The real question is: ”Why not me?” I deserve to be able to feel safe and secure, to reduce my physical pain, to not have to rely on people to keep me on my feet, (literally) and to have to dignity of being able to overcome my negative thinking and experience the emotional, physical and psychological freedom that comes with my lovely red cane – Whizzy.
It is unmistakably comforting to curl up in a thick chair with a tattered copy of a book you love, listening to the rain while you let yourself get carried away by the words on the page. I know – I used to hoard books. Don’t let the title “minimalist” scare you off – I have a love of books that dates back to my years toddling around with Dr. Seuss, a love that was handed down from my mother.
Until just a few years ago, books were stacked everywhere in my home. My two huge book cases were double-stacked with volumes ranging from children’s fiction to college text books, and piles had formed next to couches and the bed, not to mention on any available surface. I could not imagine my life without these friends surrounding me – the very thought of letting go of just one was enough to send me hurling at my shelves, attempting to wrap my arms around every book I owned in protection.
Today, I am the proud owner of approximately 20 books – six of which are craft books. To move from one extreme to the other took some serious work, and was not an overnight process. It started with the realization that I was not so much attached to the stories and words themselves, but the physical books sitting on the shelves. Once I had that realization, I began to let go of some of my books, and moved slowly towards a more minimalist reading collection.
The best way for any book-collector to tackle their bookshelves is by looking at one book at a time. When we look at the whole expanse of our book collection, it can be hard to imagine ever letting a single book go, but in reality there are volumes hiding on those shelves that we truly don’t need or want. Taking time to pull a book down off the shelf and truly look at it as an individual item will help you decide for that book alone if staying on your shelves is the best option.
Here are a few suggestions to help even the biggest bibliophile relieve your sagging shelves of stress:
1. Write It Down. Sometimes, it’s the way a book made us feel, our connection to the story or a character that keeps us from letting go of the book itself. Take some time to write down those feelings, those connections. Maybe you’ll keep these notes on your computer or in a notebook, or maybe you’ll begin a blog for them. Once you get those emotions and thoughts out, it can be easier to pass the book on to someone else who you think would love the story as much as you did.
Tiny Action: Grab a notebook and start writing down your thoughts about each book as you take it off your shelves. If you can’t think of anything to say, you probably won’t miss the book if it weren’t there anymore.
2. Divide. Get ruthless with your “yet to read” pile. My rule of thumb is simple: If it hasn’t been read in six months, it probably won’t ever be read. I went so far as to test this theory myself as I found books on my shelves I hadn’t yet read, but couldn’t yet bear to let go. I dedicated a shelf to “need to read” books, and noted the date. Any books that started out on that shelf on that date but were still there six months later I purged – I had discovered I truly had no desire to read them!
Tiny Action: Let go of any book you haven’t read yet that has been on your shelves for more than six months. Afraid you’ll want to read it someday? Make a note of it in your notebook – title, author, ISBN number even – so you can find it at the library if you truly want to read it later.
3. One of the best ways to make use of your book collection is to share it with others! As you look at books, anytime you find yourself thinking “So and so would LOVE this book!” write that name down on a sticky note, stick it on the front cover, and set the book aside. After you’ve got 20 or so books in a pile, begin handing them out – drive to friends’ houses and drop them off, or put them in the mail (book rate shipping is SUPER cheap).
Tiny Action: Pick five books off your shelves that you’d love to share with someone else, and then send them off to their new homes. Today.
4. Set aside one shelf of your book case as your “desert island” shelf. Most book lovers have books they know they will never let go of, no matter what. I call these “desert island” books – they are the books I’d want with me if I were stranded on a desert island, that I could read over and over again for the rest of my life. As you come across these books in your collection, add them to your shelf. Not only is it comforting to see those books being saved as you pare down others, you now have a physical boundary – you can have no more “desert island” books than will fit in this one space, so you are forced to think analytically about your collection.
Tiny Action: Clear off one shelf to keep as your “desert island” shelf. It can only hold one row of books – no double stacks or piles!
5. Organize your non-fiction books by topic. I found when I began to organize my non-fiction books by topic, I had overlaps in some subjects. For me, the largest overlaps came in religious studies (my major in college). As I saw where I’d doubled up on topic, it was easier to let go of a few books.
Tiny Action: Organize your books by topic and author. Begin to pare down where you see overlaps.
6. Look for multiple copies, and get rid of them. You may laugh, thinking you would NEVER buy a multiple of a book, but trust me when I say I’ve found multiple copies of books on the shelves of almost every sentimental bibliophile I’ve met. Once you have more than a shelf or two of books (not a book CASE or two, a SHELF or two!), the chances of your remembering what books you own dwindles. Even if you love the book, there is never a need to own more than one copy of it!
Tiny Action: Every time you notice a multiple of a book, immediately give one copy away.
While going through this process, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
Take breaks. When I first began paring down my books, I would get dizzy after 15 minutes!
Take five minutes to step away anytime you begin to feel overwhelmed – this is a new experience for your body, and it takes some getting used to!
Stay hydrated. I found I would get drained and tired as I went through my books – keeping a glass of water next to me helped keep me alert and focused.
Set a timer. Sort through your books for no more than 30 minutes the first go-round or you will find yourself getting frustrated and overwhelmed.
Honor your emotions. Your sentimental attachment to your books is not something to feel ashamed of or sad about. Acknowledging your emotions as you sort through your books can be the first step in helping you move past that attachment and towards a more minimalist reading habit.
And above all, remember this: you did not acquire those books overnight, so you will not release your attachment to them quickly either. By spending a few minutes a week and by letting go of a few books at a time, you will find your feelings shifting towards the stories and the moment rather than the books themselves.
I am neither happy nor sad on Father’s Day. There are no warm memories to wrap myself in, or feelings of loss. Truth be told, I remember hardly anything about my father. He died when I was seven.
I grew up in the fifties, when almost no one was divorced. As a child, I didn’t know anyone who did not have two parents — just my brothers and me.
I remember having daydreams as a kid, that
my father was actually away doing some kind
of clandestine research for the government (this was during the Cold War, after all), and that he would one day reappear in my life.
The reappearance was always during an assembly program, where my astonishment
was seen by all — the kind of dramatic big reveal that is shown on talk and reality shows today. I never dwelt on why the government wanted a pharmacist for research. It was enough that he was back.
I do have one fond memory, though it tells more about me than him. It was the first warm day in spring — I must have been in first grade. I came running into his bedroom (by this time he was bedridden) and asked him to help me get into a pair of shorts. I had grown a lot since the summer, and there was no conceivable way those shorts would fit. But I was determined; I wanted to wear those shorts. “Push me into them, Daddy!” I remember saying. “Make them fit.” Nothing could make them fit. Supposedly, he called my mom, laughing, and said, “You better bring home some larger shorts.”
I am not embarrassed by my determination at age seven. In fact, it makes me smile. It was such a predictor of the drive and stubbornness that define who I am today. They are at once my best and my worst qualities. I am glad that my dad saw this part of me, and loved me in spite of it.
Throughout my life, I never felt I missed anything by not having a dad. I guess my mom did a remarkable job of raising us, loving us so completely that we did not miss what we did not have. That is why I was so surprised when, a few years ago, I had such a strong reaction to simple gestures I saw between fathers and daughters. In one instance, a father twirled his daughter’s hair. In another, the daughter played with her father’s fingers. These two acts of mindless intimacy created such a longing in me to have been somebody’s little girl, I was shocked. How could I, who hadn’t thought about my father in decades, yearn so much for what I hardly ever knew? The emotion was fleeting… I wanted it back. I wanted to experience what it felt like to miss my father.
If I have one regret on Father’s Day, it is that I wish I knew more about my dad, that I had more memories of him. But perhaps I have the most important memory. Years ago, my son made a comment about a teacher he had in day care when he was 3. He didn’t remember her name or what she looked like, he remembered only one thing. “I remember her,” he said. “She was the one who really loved me.”
Perhaps that is the most important gift our parents give us… we remember the love.
To those of us with and without fathers, Happy Father’s Day.
When we were getting ready to move, I asked my husband if we should have a yard sale. “I don’t think so,” he said. “Our marriage isn’t strong enough for a yard sale.” We looked at each other, laughed, and put everything in the donate pile.
It’s spring, and every weekend yard sale signs appear on corners, owners hoping for windfalls from parting with household bric-a-brac. Since everyone has stuff they don’t need, yard sales seem like a good way to make some money in your spare time. Before you begin planning your next yard sale, calculate your hourly rate, as this blogger did. You may want to reconsider.
“I made a whopping $600 in five hours! That is $120 per hour! But how much did I really earn per hour? To get ready for the yard sale, I spent 15 minutes a day for one month, or 7 hours. This means I spent a total of 12 hours to make $600, so I actually earned $50 per hour. I spent 4 hours the night before the sale bringing things up from the basement, sorting everything by category and pricing things, which increased my time investment to 16 hours, so my earnings dropped to $37. I spent 2 hours setting up in the morning, which increased my hours to 18 and decreased my hourly rate to $33. I spent 1 hour getting poster board and stakes, 2 hours making up signs, 1 hour driving around the neighborhood to post them and another hour after the sale to take the signs down — a total of 4 more hours, or 22 hours in total. My earning is now $27 per hour. Of course, I didn’t actually do all of this by myself; my spouse helped. That doubles the hours, so my hourly earning is now $13.50. Although I decreased prices sharply near the end, there was still lots that didn’t sell, so we put everything left in boxes and dropped the off at a nearby thrift store. While there, however, I saw some neat things that were selling for a real bargain, so I bought them, and ending up bringing more stuff I don’t need into my home.”
The solution? Ditch the yard sale idea. Take everything to the thrift store. Be sure to take your driver’s license…but leave your wallet at home. Long live your marriage!
When I started Moving Solutions 18 years ago, I knew I was in the business
of aging, not the business of moving, so it is not surprising that my writing is about aging as well. When you delve into the details of people’s lives, as Senior Move Managers do, you observe the impact of caregiving and getting older on individuals and on relationships. This makes me think about my own getting older and my own relationships, and I share these thoughts in my blog.
I enjoy using metaphors — describing how helping family members move forward can seem like tacking in a boat — sometimes you have to go sideways to make progress, and how some family dynamics are so fragile that, like fine china with a hairline fracture, no matter how much care you take, they break under the added pressure of a move.
I write about my 21 year old cat, and how he taught me how to age with dignity even as abilities faded, and about geriatric fiblets — white lies we use with people we love to help them preserve their sense of self.
I write about how surprising it is — at a certain age — to receive a compliment from a a handsome young man, and how disconcerting it is — at a certain age — to find your purse in the freezer.
Much of my writing is about Bubbie, my mother-in-law and for many years, my muse, who showed me how to live a full and rewarding life even with multiple chronic conditions. Bubbie, who wanted to be buried in a pink sweat suit and slip-on sneakers, because, “I’m not wearing pantyhose for eternity.”
Mostly, I write because I ponder things, and because turning thoughts into well-written prose is exciting, and sharing them is an act of joy.
In fourth grade they gave me a cello because I was the tallest girl in my class. In fifth grade they look it back because I was hopelessly tone deaf. Which is ironic, because over the years, my tone has gotten me into a lot of trouble.
For years, my husband accused me of having an angry tone to my voice. This was often in seemingly innocent sentences such as “I’ll be right down.” I would argue that it was his perception, that there was no angry tone. Most of the time I believed this, but sometimes I knew in my heart he was right. I don’t know if I actually sounded angry, but I was often annoyed when he called me away from something I was doing, so it’s possible my voice did reflect an angry tone. I argued that my words were neutral; he argued that my tone was not. In our house, we didn’t use angry tones when we argued. Angry tones were why we argued.
I think everyone has at times wished they had a tape recorder they could replay to prove their innocence, or someone else’s guilt, over tones actually used or words actually said. The trouble is, there usually is no tape recorder playing, so we are left with our imperfect and often biased perceptions. We seldom consider that our perception may be flawed, that our interpretation is influenced by where we are in life or in our relationships.
I remember an incident years ago. I was near the end of a relationship with a boyfriend because he would not commit himself fully. The final blow was when I made brownies, and he said, “These brownies are almost perfect.” I stewed. He wouldn’t even commit himself over brownies! It was one more example of how he always held back. The next morning I left for good. The six month relationship was over.
It was years later when I accepted that my interpretation may have been right, but it also may have been wrong. My dissatisfaction with the relationship may have influenced how I interpreted things. In short, his statement about brownies may in fact have been about brownies. This is a humbling experience, because once you accept how subjective interpretation is, you recognize that not only is your perception of events potentially flawed, you are vulnerable to being misunderstood by others as well. When it comes to interpreting things said in relationships, we are all somewhat hearing impaired.
On the other hand, being tone deaf can be a good thing, too. My older brother often uses a tone with me that he seldom uses with others. Coming from anyone else, I might find it offensive, but coming from him, it is a non-issue. It is not that I don’t hear the angry tone, it’s that I am so certain of the love behind it that I don’t care… I choose not to care. His tone may be angry, but I know that he is not angry. I call it older-brother-speak, and I am good with it. That’s the wonderful thing about being tone deaf…. we have a choice. We can choose to take offense, or we can choose to rely on our knowledge of who the person is and how they feel about us.
In reality, then, there are three tones to each communication: the tone the speaker intended, the tone actually used, and the tone that is interpreted.
When I played cello, being tone deaf was bad, but in relationships, being tone deaf might be a good thing. One thing is certain, there would be a lot fewer arguments if we were tone deaf to other people, and they were tone deaf to us.
I sat next to a frail, elegant woman and noticed the heavy, man-sized ring on her index finger. “Was that your husband’s ring?” I asked. She nodded, and showed me the chain around her neck. “This was my mother’s,” she said.“I understand,” I told her. “I wear my mom’s wedding ring.”
Many of us have things from loved ones – dishes, furniture, artwork, needle points, jewelry, clothing. But it is this last group of items — things we wear — that most intrigues me. These represent the private, personal connections we indulge in. Often, the items we wear are jewelry; rings are the most common. When my mother first died, I wore her wedding ring on a chain around my neck. Eventually, I put it away. One day, years later, I took off my wedding band and quietly put hers on my finger instead. I’ve worn it ever since. It just felt right.
I’m not alone, I know. One friend wears his mother’s wedding ring on his pinky finger. Another wears her mother’s bracelet. She says she feels like she is visiting with her mother when she has it on. Sometimes, the item represents an event of special significance. One friend said of a ring her mother gave her, “I rarely take it off because it is the very last ‘thing’ that she ever gave me and I feel as though a piece of her is always with me.” Sometimes the memories are less painful; one friend wears earings she gave her mother as a gift because she remembers shopping for them together.
The items we wear are not always jewelry. Some are clothes. On the outside, they appear ordinary. One friend wears her mother’s Mickey Mouse shirt. Another friend thinks of his dad when he wears his father’s golf shirts. I wear two tops that belonged to my mother-in-law. They are from Chicos, and I like them. But they are more than just clothes. Every time I wear them, I think, “Today I am wearing Bubbie’s shirt.”
Often, there is no single point in time when the item becomes special. It belonged to someone you loved, they died, and you decide to wear it, perhaps as a way to honor them, perhaps as a way to remember them, but mostly as a way to keep them close.
What I find so intriguing, what makes this appeal to me so much, is that it is all very personal and private. No one knows, when they look at my hand, that this is my mom’s wedding ring, and I like it that way. I covet our special relationship. When things have been part of someone else for so long, and they become part of your daily life as well, there is a connection, a continuity, a closeness, that is comforting. And perhaps that is the gift we receive from items we wear that belonged to people we loved. They comfort us.
What do you wear that belonged to someone you loved, and why do you wear it?
As a Baby Boomer, I am accustomed to feeling important, which is why it bothers me that I will soon become invisible. All my life, I’ve been courted for my influence and my buying power. Once I reach 65, my opinions won’t be worth squat. In survey after survey, I’ll be lumped into an “over 65” category that assumes I think and purchase just like an 85 year old. And I don’t like it.
Companies want to know how old you are so they can understand differences in priorities and spending habits. Once you reach 65, however, you lose the preferences that define you as an individual or a cohort. You become part of a group whose members presumably all think alike – the old.
The 65+ population has significant spending power, so you would think companies would want to know a lot about them, but apparently not. This is more than dumb marketing; it’s ageist. Though seemingly innocuous, these surveys perpetuate stereotypes and marginalize older people. They influence the young, and, even worse, they influence older adults who may adopt these beliefs themselves.
I tried being devil’s advocate. Maybe it’s because the surveys are mostly online, I suggested, and people 65+ aren’t online. That’s not true. According to the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, 54% of people over 65 use the Internet (up from 13% in 2000). One third of people over 75 are Internet users, and twelve percent of people over 75 use tablets. Use of technology by seniors may not be as high as with younger age groups, but if you want data about how people 65+ think and spend money, there are plenty of senior Internet users to provide answers. Of course, that is not the impression surveys give.
Next, I tried another argument. Maybe 65+ individuals aren’t major consumers of consumer products and services. As a Senior Move Manager who spends most of her time in the homes of people 65+, I can assure you they are still big consumers, although what they spend money on may change.
I admit, for companies like Urban Outfitters and H&M, segmenting age beyond 65 may not be important. But how does that explain this Chicos customer satisfaction survey:
25 – 34
35 – 44
45 – 54
55 – 64
65 or older
I prefer not to answer
Chicos seems to think that the under 25 year old group has different opinions than the 25-34 year old group, but that everyone over 65 thinks alike. That’s odd, because I spend a lot of time in Chicos, and I’ve never seen anyone under 35, yet alone under 25. But I’ve seen a lot of people 65 and older.
What’s even more insidious is that this value system is the standard in survey creation. Grapevine Surveys and Constant Contact, two email marketing platforms, both illustrate age segmentation with age brackets that end with “65 or older.” Users who plan to design their own surveys assume this is what they are supposed to do, too.
Fortunately, some organizations get it. In a report entitled Is “Seniors”‘ One Demographic Group? ESRI, a reserch organization, concludes:
“Seniors” represents a large and diverse consumer market that will continue to grow. It has previously been under served and has significant wealth and money to spend. In the past, product manufacturers have focused on trendy products to catch the eye of young consumers while creating one-size-fits-all solutions for seniors. But seniors aren’t just one group.
Knowing the customer is key to success with seniors, just as it is with the population overall. …Companies that address seniors as discrete segments with unique needs can position themselves for success in this growing and increasingly profitable market.”
I am happy to report that some companies do see the light. Last week, I received a survey with age segmentation that went to 85. I wondered what forward-thinking group realized that seniors are not all alike. It was from a funeral home.
This holiday season, we’re not going home, we’re giving home — to patients and families who come to the area for specialized medical care. It’s through an organization called Hosts for Hospitals, and if you have extra bedrooms, you can give home, too.
Hosts for Hospitals is a non-profit organization that provides free lodging to patients and families who come to the Philadelphia area for specialized medical care. It’s one of a handful of services like this around the country, but more are growing.
So what’s it like to be a guest host? We’ve been doing it for about 10 years now. We provide a clean bedroom and bath, access to a refrigerator and a shelf in our pantry so guests can cook or keep snacks. Guests do their own cooking and laundry. We provide a roof over their heads, and a place they can call home while they are away from their own home. If they weren’t staying with us, most guests would need to stay in hotels or travel 3-6 hours per day by car. For some, hotel bills would be tens of thousands of dollars.
When we first started as hosts, I got a pretty notebook and left it in the in guest room so guests could write a message if they wanted to. We keep cards we’ve received from guests too, and over the years it has become a sweet reminder of strangers who became friends.
You can tell that pets are a big part of our family since most of the cards and the entries in the book start with, “Dear Margit, Bill, Poppy, Stryder, Tiger, Peabody and Ernie.” Pets are one of the things that Hosts for Hospitals screens for when they match hosts and guests; we cannot host anyone with pet allergies.
What are our guests like? Well, they are all different. Some are patients, and some are family members. Our youngest guest, 8, stayed with us (with his mom) for four months as he waited for serious spinal surgery at the Shriners Hospital. Our oldest guest was 75. Bob was our handiest guest. He was here to receive Proton Beam Therapy at Penn and was home most of the day, so he kept looking for repair jobs to do around the house. He fixed a hole in our fence, took down a small dead tree and finished a quarter round project my husband had started. He took our greyhounds on so many walks they were exhausted. It was great!
Some guests, like Bob, are at the house much of the day. Others spend most of the day at the hospital. All of them, if they are home at 7 pm, watch Jeopardy. My husband makes it clear on the first day that from 7 till 9 he owns the remote, but they have access to our high speed Internet service.
Guests come for various conditions, all serious or unique enough to require specialized care not offered nearby, but not necessarily life threatening. We spend a lot of time laughing with guests. But some conditions are serious. We’ve had guests receive grim prognoses while they were staying with us, and a father who stayed with us while his 21 year old daughter waited for a heart-lung transplant. He left a note one morning, “Thank you for allowing me to stay at your home. It made a difficult time much easier. However, I will not be coming back. Michelle is not expected to live past this morning.”
Hosting is not for everyone, but for us, it has been easy and incredibly rewarding. Our guests make us realize how lucky we are, not just to be healthy, but to be able to offer something they so value, that is so easy for us to give.
The Healthcare Hospitality Network (HHN) is a professional association of over 200 unique non-profit organizations that provide lodging and support to patients and families who are receiving medical care far from home. HHN has a toll-free referral line and searchable database with information about programs throughout the country. HHN also helps communities and organizations develop hospitality lodging programs, and help existing members become more effective at serving families.
Perhaps my perspective about Hospitality Housing is unique. As a Senior Move Manager, my career is spent in homes with mostly empty bedrooms. I can’t help but think about how well those rooms could be put to use giving home.
Blah, blah, blah, blah, You Have Cancer, blah, blah, blah…
That’s about all you hear when you receive a serious diagnosis. Then you start to research your condition, investigate treatment options and plan your future. You are so stressed, the last thing you want to think about is getting organized. Yet, getting organized can do a lot to reduce stress for both you and your family.
This post was inspired by Albuquerque professional organizer Hazel Thornton’s blog article Organizing to De-Stress a Major Illness. With her permission I have put my own spin on her original content, which can be viewed here.
Organizing Your Medical Records and Important Papers
When you face a major illness, you feel out of control. One way to feel more in control is to create a control binder. A control binder keeps all your medical records and important papers together and organized, so you can find what you are looking for when you need it. You may keep it at home, or take it with you to medical appointments.
Create a Control Binder. Get a 3-ring binder with tabs, create sections for research, second opinions, medical history, appointments, treatment plan, medications, contact information for health care professionals, and a miscellaneous section. Chances are your insurance and billing papers will fill an accordion file all by themselves, so establish secondary storage for overflow.
Organize your Important Papers. Before entering the hospital, you will be asked for copies of important papers, including advance directives (Living Will and Health Care Power of Attorney). LifeinCase® is an example of one personal document storage system, but there are numerous products with varying price points.
Organizing Your Support System
People with support systems are healthier and recover more easily from illness than those without them. Your support system can be a network of family, friends, neighbors, loved ones, colleagues and professionals. It can be uncomfortable to ask for help, but think about how you would feel if the tables were turned, if a friend or family member were ill. Give them the same opportunity to do for you what you would be happy to do for them. Not everyone can or wants to help the same way. Fortunately, there are many ways to help and a number of free online tools make it easier for everyone involved.
Appoint a communications director. Communicating the same information over and over to concerned friends and family can be emotionally and physically exhausting. This applies to both the person who is ill and to caregivers. Designate a trusted friend or family member to speak on your behalf. Caring Bridge is a free web service that connects people experiencing a health challenge with their family and friends. With CaringBridge, you can communicate en masse, rather than one by one, and they can stay in touch with you. MyLifeLine is a similar site. If several people need to be kept aware of your schedule, calendar sharing programs like Google Calendar may be useful.
Designate a support services manager. There are all kinds of services that may be helpful to you and your family. Do you need meals prepared? Your dog walked? Your car serviced? Food shopping? Someone to accompany you for medical treatment? Someone to take your mother-in-law to the doctor’s (which you ordinarily do)?
Your support manager can organize these activities, providing you and your family the support you need and offering friends many different ways they can help. Online tools such as Lotsa Helping Hands, Care Calendar, and Meal Train let friends know what you need help with and when, and enable them to schedule when they can help.
Your support system could help you with housekeeping chores, or you may qualify for Cleaning For a Reason, a program that provides monthly free house cleaning for cancer patients.
This is no time to worry about whether bills are being paid on time. If you are responsible for family finances, appoint a trusted advisor to take over this task or to help you accomplish them.
If you’ll be getting care out of town, hotel stays for you or family members can be expensive. Check to see if the medical center participates in a hosting program, like Hosts for Hospitals that provides patients and family members with free lodging.
Organizing Your Medications
Major illnesses usually involve major medications. A organizing system that works for 2 or 3 prescriptions may not work for a dozen or more, many of which change frequently. You’ll need a system to keep track of what you’ve got on hand, when they need to be renewed, what you need to take and when, and what you’ve already taken. Many kinds of daily and weekly pill dispensers are available. Since medications may make you drowsy or unable to focus, designating someone to help you manage your medications is a good idea.
Organizing Your Self
Stress and medications both impact memory, decision-making and the ability to focus. Keep a notebook handy to jot down reminders of calls you need to make, grocery lists, questions for doctors, etc. Create checklists to help with daily routines, doctor visits and health care treatment. Checklist.com offers hundreds of pre-made templates as well the option of creating your own.
Be kind to yourself. This is not the time to beat yourself up over all the things you are not doing. Give yourself permission to do less by asking for help and putting some things on “back burner.” This may mean relaxing some of your standards, and forgiving yourself for accomplishing less than you would like.
Nearly everyone knows someone who is in the midst of a health crisis. Maybe you are the person who is ill, or maybe you are the caregiver. Maybe it is your family that is going through this, or maybe it’s a friend or relative. Often, you wonder what can I do? Keep this post. Share this post. Offer to help when asked.
On a personal note. Myyoungest was 3 when I was diagnosed with cancer (he is now 27).After treatment,I remember sitting on our porch on a glorious spring day with him on my lap, thinking, “It doesn’t get any better than this moment, right now.” But soon I was back at work, in my old routine, and the lesson of what is truly important receded. Serious illness often brings with it a mindfulness of what really matters in life. Hold on to it. It is the one gift your illness is giving you.
Much of the information for this post was taken from a blog article by professional organizer Hazel Thornton at Organized for Life in Albuquerque, NM, home of The Clutter Flow Chart Collection — with these handy tools by your side, clutter will simply flow out of your home, office and life!