January 29th, 2017
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Breathe Deeply


Dear Resilient Friends:

I have been away for awhile but have not forgotten about you.  2017 started off in a difficult direction for my family.  Both of our parents have been ill, requiring hospitalization and additional involvement from me and my five siblings.  We are striving every day to do our best to give loving care and attention to both parents, splitting our time between the hospital and our parents house often amidst a swirl of new medical terms and medicines while we carry on with our jobs and other personal responsibilities.

We are trying to ease their pain and make their lives easier by taking on some of the responsibilities that they have been handling for most of their lives but the handing off of some of these tasks is a delicate dance which requires a lot of respect, patience and yes, humor.  Sometimes really sarcastic humor.

It has been a topsy turvy month with many of our days beginning in one direction and then ending in a totally different place and direction.  I know that being a caregiver can be rewarding and even a gift to a loved one but it can also be exhausting, difficult and stressful.  Caregiving can sap a person’s strength, patience, and energy, making it even harder to give loved ones the care they need.  I was a caregiver for about two and a half years for my husband before he died but that was a different experience since he was my husband.

Caregiving for my parents is a very different experience.  First of all I am older and don’t bounce back from losing sleep the way that I did ten years ago.  I did most of the caregiving myself but with my parents we have been lucky to have found some wonderful nursing help who have been invaluable to us.

Also when it came to medical decisions, I made them with the help of our doctors and sometimes my husband’s children.  Until recently, my parents made most of their health decisions but now one of my sisters has medical power of attorney and she has been great about keeping all of us informed as to what is happening with medicine and medical procedures.  As you can tell, caregiving for our parents is a family effort in order to make sure someone is at the hospital, someone is helping my mother and handicapped brother and when regular day-in-and-day-out household things need attention we work it out.

I am sure we not the only family finding ourselves with two parents who are ill at the same time.   Many of you may have become caregivers or were caregivers at one time and perhaps went through  or are going through many of the same struggles that we are.  Sharing can help us and many others.

I welcome recommendations, tips or advice from anyone out there who wishes to offer suggestions or resources on handling the ins and outs of navigating tricky health care decisions and even the basics of pacing yourself while caring for others because issues always arise that you don’t expect.

Personally, I know am having a tough time with the cardinal rule of caretaking:  taking care of yourself first.

I know what I am supposed to do to preserve my health but sometimes I am too tired or stressed out to do it.  Sometimes I eat handfuls of M&M’s rather than eat a salad.  Sometimes I eat a cookie rather than a piece of fruit. Sometimes I read a magazine to chill out my brain rather than rest my head on the pillow and try to go directly to sleep.

But the one thing I do remember to do is breathe.

It sounds like a small thing, maybe even an insignificant thing, but for me it’s not.

Breathing happens whether we think about it or not but conscious breathing can change my mood and my outlook.  You may not have noticed but when we are in a stressful situation our breathing becomes more shallow.  Almost as though we are holding our breath.

Even now, if you closed your eyes, thought about a restful place and took a couple of really deep breaths, I bet you would feel better.  Breathing deeply helps much needed oxygen get to our busy brains and the rest of our stressed out bodies.  I feel more balanced after breathing in deeply a few times, holding my breath and then slowly releasing it.

Try changing your breathing patterns for yourself my friends.  It may help you find some momentary relief from life’s anxieties.

Well, that’s all for now.

I will try not to be away for such a long period of time and I hope everyone has a healthy day!!!

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4 Responses to “Take A Deep Breath”

  1. Debbie Smith

    Mary Kate, it is good to read your words again. Welcome back.
    I feel for you and your family as caregivers. It is a 24/7/365 job. It does provide you with intimate time with your parents that you might not otherwise get.
    It is good you are not alone in this situation, up to a point. Sometimes you might wish you were able to make all the decisions, if you and your siblings disagree on important issues.
    You already know you must have time for yourself, or your health will fail. This crazy craze about adult coloring books and pencils helps me. Instead of leafing through a magazine, you can retreat into your mind and just concentrate on coloring. It is amazing how it clears my mind. Might work for you or it might not. The book and pencils are easy to take with you. Just an idea.
    Outside help is important. If you have no one scheduled, it makes the caregiving easy to fall mostly to one person. There are wonderful people out there. We had two who practically became like family who cared for Mom and Daddy. But your parents will probably resist. And you can understand why ~ I don’t want strangers in our home. It can be tough to find good people and it can be just as difficult to get your parents to accept the idea. Just go slowly.
    I am yammering on like I know something. Please do take care of your health. Decisions will have to be made and a clear, healthy mind helps. I realize the emotional toll this takes on people. If your parents are generally healthy they could need this care for a long time.
    Remember you have people who care about you and your situation. Wish I had a magic wand.

    Love, Debbie

    • Mary Kate Cranston

      Hi Debbie: Apologies to you too for the delay in getting back to you. Our Dad is now out of the hospital and staying at a wonderful assisted living facility. The people there are caring and kind and we are happy that he is there. He may need more care than this place can give but for now things are starting to stabilize. Thank you for all of your suggestions. Thank you for taking the time to send them along to me. It really helps to hear from other people. It’s funny that you bring up the coloring books because I have rediscovered mine. I had two of them on a table in my family room and I would look at them but hadn’t opened them up in awhile. I was cleaning the table off last week and spontaneously opened them and started to color. I don’t know why I stopped. It is amazing how coloring clears your mind and helps you start to de-stress. Thank you again for your comments. I hope you and your family are well.

  2. Jean Waters Farmer

    Just wanted to say this is a wonderful post about a terribly painful journey. Painful because you’re almost having to reverse roles with your folks. Painful because you want them to be at peace in their lives. Painful for so many reasons. But from the sounds of it, you and your siblings seem to be handling things in such a positive family way. The Waters family has been there. I’ll say a prayer each day for you and your family as you continue to learn from one and lean on one another.

    Also, wanted to pass along that the nursing care you can get from Holy Cross Hospital, through Medicare, is wonderful. Or at least they were when our mom and dad needed them. If your parents need it, Medicare pays for a nurse to come check on them. Best part for us was that the nurses helped us understand our caregiver roles better.

    And you’re so right–breathing is crucial!

    Take care.

    • Mary Kate Cranston

      Dear Jean: I am so sorry that it has taken me so long to respond to your kind comments. As you know it has been a hectic time. To know that you are saying prayers for us is uplifting. It truly is a wonderful thing you are doing for us. Thank you!! We need as many prayers as you would like to say. It takes a lot of mental and physical energy to provide all the love and care that we can for our Dad. Thank you for your support! It means a lot!


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