In April, I traveled from Philadelphia, PA, to Long Beach, CA, for Aging Reimagined: A Community Approach to Health and Independence, a colloquium with other elder care professionals sponsored by the SCAN Foundation, Long Beach State University, and the City of Long Beach. I returned with an entire legal pad of story ideas, contact information for fantastic new connections in the field, slide decks loaded with valuable stats and information, and a lengthy new project to do list. It was energizing and exhilarating, albeit exhausting (I left on a Tuesday afternoon and returned early Thursday morning).
Why the quick turnaround? This was a milestone trip for me as a parent/caregiver: it was the first time I traveled anywhere without my daughter, the first time leaving her overnight in the four years she's been with our family, the first time I went somewhere I couldn't easily return from should a problem arise. A great deal of coordination and advanced preparation went into those three days, along with a great deal of trust in the caregivers who took my place. While I don't plan to travel without her too often, I now know we can make it work—and even make it a positive experience.
Caregiving calls us to many experiences: some we welcome, some we would gladly pass over. But all of these experiences can lead to growth if we look for the lesson(s) in them.
Here are this month's tips and tools:
- TIP 1: WIDEN YOUR MARGINS. Some tasks simply cannot be eliminated from our caregiver to do lists, like doctor's appointments or trips to the grocery store. But by delegating to others or by saying no to things we truly don't have time or energy for, we can free up a little more space in our schedules. Need help streamlining your caregiving to dos and widening your margins? Make an appointment with me.
- TIP 2: GIVE YOURSELF GRACE. There's no final exam in caregiving. We're all learning as we go and grow, including the person in your care. Take comfort in knowing you cannot fail, but though you may fall, you can start over. You are doing what no one else can do. You are human. As you navigate the highs and lows of the caregiver experience, listen to and learn from the stories of others.
- TOOL 1: EMPIRE AGING. Bookmark this new elder care resource from colleague and friend Emily Garnett, an experienced elder law attorney who is creating a comprehensive index of resources, terminology, and information on aging, caregiving, and elder care. And stay tuned for the ways Emily and I will collaborate to deliver more elder care resources to more people.
- TOOL 2: #CARECHAT. On Twitter? Join this once-weekly real-time caregiving conversation on Tuesdays at 1pm ET by using the hashtag #CareChat.