Tag Archive | asking for help

Sharing the Care

friendshipUPDATE: If you read yesterday’s post, you understand it was rather a “taxing” day. However, after getting out of the house, buying the printer cartridges and taking a stroll through “Michael’s” craft store, I felt better. So when I returned from this hour out of the house, I went back to the Turbo Tax site, placed a simple zero into the box, and voila! The returns were accepted by the government. Woo-Hoo!

What I didn’t tell you was a delightful woman met with Ken and me yesterday morning. She was from the Aging and Disability Resource Center. This time, it was to inform us of a “Share the Care” program.

One of the toughest parts of being a caretaker is asking for help. That four-letter word is trouble for all of us, but it’s one we have to learn. After all, friends and family want to help. And we are very lucky. We have been blessed by family and friends who had helped without asking; they have stepped forward and done many things for us–like his aunts and uncles, cousins and others pooling their money for a wheelchair ramp. And then hiring Scott who built  it for us. Yes, Scott was paid for his services, but I know his estimate didn’t fully cover all of the time and care he put into the job. You see, Scott is not only a meticulous contractor, he’s become a wonderful friend. When I cornered him to offer more money, which he richly deserved, he said, “As long as you’re happy, Barb, I’m satisfied.”  He built something beautiful for us. What a gift!

The frustrations that come along ,which caretakers feel silly asking for hel, are the little things– like fixing a leaky toilet or helping drag patio furniture out from the garage, or cleaning gutters. I feel I should be able to figure these things out alone. But when I add these simple things to the paperwork, bill paying, housework, and stepping in when Ken needs help with some small task frequently throughout the day, they get overwhelming, so admitting I need this program of friends and family to help me was a big decision. It caused me to once again choke on my pride.

It got easier when a good friend stepped forward and volunteered to coordinate such activities, and I breathed a heartfelt sigh of relief. Now, all I will have to do is tell her what I need, and she will go forth and conquer.

Hillary was right. It does take a village!

Finding Your Writing Purpose

positiveBefore I crawl out of the warm blankets and put my big toe on the cold hard wood floor every morning, I let the silence of the morning wash over me. I let my brain wake up slowly with the rest of me and enjoy the sheer luxury of a soft bed, soft fleece blankets and my little pug snoring softly by my side. I use this time to plan my day. Lately, it doesn’t take much to do that, now that I’m staying home most everyday, but I also use this time to ponder what I will write about.

Lately, I’m afraid I may have discouraged some of my “following” because I’ve talked a lot about the personal struggles Ken and I have encountered. Believe me, before writing any of those posts, I gave it great thought whether I should broach the subject at all. After all, talking about money problems, a car repossession, food stamps, energy assistance, etc. — is terribly embarrassing.

But, let’s face it, we all have periods when poop rains down on us, and we have to make a choice. Do we lie down and quit? Or, do we get up and find a creative way to crawl out of the pit?

This is the story of  a couple who loves each other enough to face “for better for worse, for richer for poorer,  in sickness and in health until death”. They have encountered a mean, progressive disease and long-term unemployment, which has resulted in a downward spiral. If we like a good story, we all want to know how the story will end, right?

It’s like a good novel. It’s a theme we all love. We all like to see a hero fall from grace and then rise again, right? We like to ride along with the character – will he give up or will he rise from the ashes? Heck, Harry Potter did it literally! He faced his fear and enemy, died, and rose again. And we loved it!

The other reason for baring my soul of these frustrations and  failures is to let others in this situation know they are not alone. When illness strikes, people get stupid. They don’t know what to say, so they stay away. We’re lucky. We are blessed with a stable of steady, good friends who are strong enough to walk this journey with us. We also have a family who knows how to love unconditionally. Without them, our situation would be so much more difficult.

So, for all of you who are lucky enough to be healthy, wealthy and wise, when sickness strikes one of your friends or family, don’t run. As hard as it is, stand beside them and let them know they are not alone. Being isolated is the worst thing a person experiences in life. Offer to help and keep your promises. They probably have as much trouble asking for help as I do–it’s humiliating to face you can’t do any more than what you’re doing and you’ve fell short.

So, my dear readers. I think I’ve found a focus for this blog after all. I’ve posted almost 200 posts about writing and teaching. I’m good at both, but hardly a master. I’ve gotten up on my soap box and screamed my opinions — and if you like that, have no fear that won’t go away. I’ve also talked about my stories and novels — and that piece won’t go away either because it is my life’s blood. But I think my higher calling is to write something that might touch another’s heart. To give someone else the courage to look medical threats in the eye and dare to come out swinging. If I can do that, my writing life is a success. And along with my novels of heroes who rise from the ashes, I’ll have enough material to keep me at the keyboard for a lifetime.

That Four-Letter Word

Which wayAnother grey February day, but my spirits are bright. Snow is coming, but it doesn’t matter. Why? Because I finally found direction.

Yesterday afternoon Ken and I met with a representative from the ADRC — Aging and Disability Resource Center. It was a pleasant visit. Much more pleasant than I anticipated. I admit, some of the questions we had to answer were a little embarrassing, but at the end of the meeting, I felt lighter.

For those of you who’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know my pride gets in my way — on occasion. It’s in my DNA to be ashamed of defeat. It turns out my Grandfather had to accept “RELIEF” during the depression when he was fired from his job. For him, accepting money from the government to feed his family of eight was humiliating. He had fought for years to make it BIG in America as an Italian immigrant. But when both of us were backed into a corner for the sake of our family, we had to put our pride aside and ask for assistance. Liked Grandpa, I am backed into a corner, which gave me two choices, lay down and quit, or come out swinging. I chose the latter. And like Grandpa, I decided it was finally  time to fight for some help.

Ken’s MS and my long-term unemployment has destroyed our financial situation. And through the last three years, things have changed. Now, I must be home to care for him. He can no longer stay alone all day long, so full time employment is out of the question. Like everything complex, on one hand this is a curse, on the other it’s a blessing. After all, look at all the wonderful time we get to spend together.

As the ADRC  interview progressed, we found out we are eligible for financial assistance. We aren’t sure of the nuts and bolts of it all, and there’s TONS of paperwork to wade through, (it is the government, you know) and it will take time. But with guidance of helpful people and learning to utter that four-letter word, HELP, we will get some relief from some of the pressures we’ve been enduring for three years.

So, the next time you have a choice to yell, HELP! or keep quiet, I’m all for the yelling–now that I can utter the word out loud.

Saying that, just remember asking for HELP is a practiced behavior. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t do it on the first try.

A Fast Week

time flying byI can’t believe it Saturday already. This week went SOOO fast. I find this curious because I’m a person who has no schedule, except for my writing hours in the morning.

I’ve always found Time to be an interesting concept. I wonder if the neanderthals or the early homo sapiens ever felt the same way about time as we do. Probably not. Instead of chasing deadlines, they were consciously just trying to stay alive and not be eaten by some saber-tooth tiger or something.

I understand there are scientific reasons why time behaves the way it does, and it’s an interesting topic for novels–specially science fiction stuff, but I see time as some finite quality that I have to make the best of my life.

Maybe time went fast this week because I found the energy to do things I’ve been putting off for quite awhile. I can’t tell you what precipitated the change from a slothful lump to a ball of fire, but I did things like get the tax papers together, call numerous agencies for one reason or another, make appointments with doctors and arrange payments with creditors. But to balance these taxing realities,  I took time to create a painting. Write my blog everyday. Add a few chapters for the next novel. Make a few necklaces and earring sets. And I went to see a caregiver counselor.

The latter was the hardest of all my tasks because I had to face the fact I can’t do everything. I had to admit, I need help. This was haaaaaaard.  You see, I like to think of myself as a strong, self-sufficient, independent person, and when I can’t “deal,” I feel weak and pathetic.

I know. I know. I’m terribly hard on myself. But when a person grows up a leader and a person who is perceived “STRONG” by others, showing  human weakness is humiliating.

Ken has struggled terribly for two weeks, MS is a frightening disease because the patient, as well as his or her loved ones, don’t ever know what the day will bring. The worst part is, you don’t know how much time you have left together. (Remember that FINITE element.)  So, maybe the week went fast, because Ken’s frailty scared me into action.

By admitting I can’t do it “ALL,” I realize there are helpful resources out there who are ready to help me stay sane. I can call them any time when I need to say that four-letter word HELP.

In the meantime, I’ll meet with a friend for an hour or two to connect with the outside world, and have a laugh over a cup of coffee. That’s the best way to spend TIME I’ve ever found.