Hope for living, loving and caring with no regrets!
- Don’t put on a superhero cape and expect to do it all
- How prayer can be instrumental in a Caring Season
- Using the lessons of caregiving to handle the frenzy of the Corona Virus
- Your No can equal a Yes for someone else which can be a blessing for them
- Allowing others to share in the journey benefits your loved one
- Bringing humor into the tough stuff helps to lighten the load
- Nourish for Family Givers is offering online support groups, learn more at Nourishforcaregivers.com
- Caregiving is never perfect but you can get better each day
Visit www.NourishforCaregivers.com to learn more about the FREE online support group meetings and face to face meetings when we are allowed to meet again.
Sagacity.care- Where they provide solutions that empower consumers, patients and their caregivers to partner more effectively with their health care providers.
*Transcript is an actual recount of the live conversation
This is Rayna Neises, your host, and today I’m excited to introduce you to Deb Kelsey-Davis. Deb is currently caring for her aging parents. She’s a registered nurse and a cofounder of both Nourish for Caregivers, which seeks to improve the health and spiritual wellbeing of caregivers and Sagacity.care a technology solution that connects parents, family caregivers, and healthcare providers with the information they need. She’s an active member of the National Association of Catholic Nurses, certified in gerontology and obtained her Lay Ministry Certification from the Archdiocese of Chicago Called and Gifted program. She and her husband are very proud of their two adult children, knowing without a doubt that it was the grace of God, that they’ve become the wonderful people that they are.
Welcome, Deb. It’s great to have you today.
Deb Kelsey-Davis: Oh, thanks Rayna. Thanks for having me here. I’m so happy to be with you.
Rayna Neises: I’m just excited to be able to talk with you a little bit about what you’ve been doing in caregiving, let’s start with a little bit about your caregiving story.
Deb Kelsey-Davis: Oh, my story is multiple seasons, so let me share. How I’ve journeyed through that. First of all, I’ve been nurse, you said that, and I’ve been a nurse since I was 19 years old. I feel like I’ve been caring for people my entire life in one way, shape or another. When seven years ago I was sitting with my mother in law and our family, she announced to all of us that she had cancer, head and neck cancer, and.
You know, as her treatment progressed, she needed more and more assistance from her family. So, her daughter who’s in health care, and me as a nurse, we just stepped up and said, Hey, I can do this. and I thought it would be really super easy for me as a nurse. Well as we worked through her failures in chemotherapy, her failures and radiation, and she became sicker and sicker.
It became clear to us that she needed more. She was placed after her failed treatments into a skilled facility because she had IVs. She had tubes everywhere. She had a stomach too, for feeding. You know, we were all working full time. So, it wasn’t until we started to really see her suffer, sadly at the hands of the healthcare team at that particular facility that we decided we had to do something.
So, we all cut back on our work schedules, her daughter and me. Decided we were going to keep her in our homes. we do two weeks at my place, two weeks of her place, so she’d stay with her son and me. And, I thought, this is great. I’ve got this. I can, do this. Well, let me just pause for a second and say, I did the clinical things very well.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the emotional and spiritual depletion that I experienced. And I think the thing I was most surprised by was that you would think I’d be more aware. But I started isolating myself from my family, from friends, and eventually from God. And I ended up being in a place of clinical depression.
And I didn’t see any of that until my caregiving ended. Today, I’m caring for my 94-year-old dad and my 85-year-old mother. She’s really his primary caregiver. I’m a remote caregiver today and it’s a journey. It’s many seasons wrapped up in one.
Rayna Neises: And that support that you’re providing for her is so important, even though you aren’t having to be the hands-on caregiver for right now in this season, that knowing that you’re there and having that emotional support for your mom, I’m sure it makes a big difference.
Deb Kesley-Davis: It does. Although I think with most of us who care for someone else in our lives. we, we put our superhero capes on, and we don’t want to ask for help. So even as her daughter, it is really a challenge to get her to just take a break. I’m there, when I’m helping. So, I know I did the same thing.
Rayna Neises: My mom had Alzheimer’s; I was just 16 when she was diagnosed. And so, my dad did a wonderful job of saying, you know, I’ll care for her. You go live your life at such a young age. And so, I did. Mom lived 12 years with the disease at home with my dad, and he was the primary caregiver. He was there doing it all.
He brought in help just during the day and he wouldn’t let anybody bathe her. He let them cook and clean and do those other things that he didn’t really want to do. But all that hands-on responsibility really fell on his shoulders. And I would go home and say, leave, come on, let me take care of it.
You know? And it was hard for him just to let me do, like you said, the little things. I think when you’re in that caregiving mode, you just see it all and you just step right into it and take care of it. It’s kind of your routine and you don’t even realize that you’re blocking people out who can support you.
And so as caregivers, I definitely encourage you, listeners, to pay attention to those people who are standing on the side saying, let me help. You know, I can do this for you. But sometimes we feel like we’re the only ones who can. And we know that number one, that’s not true, but we can allow people to help and it will be in our best interest and in our loved ones, best interest if we will step aside and let them come in and offer that support.
So that’s, thanks for mentioning that. That’s a great point. So, faith, you know, it’s really an important part of coping, share specifically what leaning on your faith has looked like for you and how it’s been helpful for you.
Deb Kelsey-Davis: Well, it’s interesting because prayer has always been a big part of my life and prayer still is, and it’s a big part of my care giving. But what I think is probably more specifically, most important to me is to know that as much as my world is changing around me and as a caregiver and all the listeners out there, I’m sure you can relate to this too.
You may start out your day with one set of plans, but it ends maybe looking totally different, you know? So, I know that, God has plans for me, and if I can start every morning, this is, this is where my faith comes in. Just saying, Hey, today’s a new day and I put my trust in you. And I know that if I in the morning set out with a few things that I hope to do, and I look at the end of the day, where God took my day.
All of a sudden my trust begins to build more and more confidently each and every day because not only do I see the surprises that have come into my life, but I realized that with everything swirling around me, that God is there. I really do focus on gratitude and assessing that gratitude by what did I not expect to happen in this day that came into the day that I could never plan for. Oh, my goodness. So, there’s a number of blessings that you, can uncover each and every day. And that’s how my faith carries me because I perhaps stopping enough to take a look at it at the end of every day.
Rayna Neises: I love that. And in this moment of time in history. Wow. I mean, we are in this constant change with this virus that we’re trying to deal with, not just as family caregivers, but just in this craziness of the world today. And, being able to stop and say at the beginning of each day, you know, thank you, Lord, for the gift of today and help me to see you in the midst of it.
And then taking the time to, at the end of the day. Acknowledge where he was if we missed it in the middle of it. it gets great when you really see him in the middle of it, but so many times it does take stopping at the end of the day, taking that deep breath and saying, okay, you were right there. You know, even if I burned lunch, you were right there. That kept, you know, it kept it from being worse or helping me to find something else or whatever happened that day. With the virus in this time right now, it’s such, chaos. And I think as caregivers, in some ways, we’re a little more equipped to handle chaos because it is where we live on a regular day, but there’s more pressure on top with everything else that’s happening.
Deb Kelsey-Davis: Oh, there certainly is and I think, you know, right now there’s a lot of people who are, you know, really commenting on how caregivers may just well be the most well-prepared people out there to deal with this virus. Because in truth we have got a lot of us, I know for myself, I’ve been isolated as a caregiver. I’ve had to deal with changing days every single day.
The world almost changing underneath your feet. Not necessarily every single day consecutively, but it happens. So, I think I’m a lot more calm right now. During this state of frenzy, if you will, simply because of maybe the gifts that came from my first season of caregiving and now caring for my parents. It’s just putting the faith, putting the release and trust in God and recognizing what I can control and what I can’t.
Rayna Neises: Definitely, and that is such an important exercise almost daily. I’m going, okay, my hand is open. I can do the things I can do and the things I can’t do, I just need to let go. And that is definitely part of what caregiving does for us when we are willing to learn. To stop clenching on so hard. I think human nature for some reason is to hold onto that so tightly and learning to care means that we have to let that go.
We aren’t in control of it all. And the more that we understand we aren’t, the more that we can put our eyes on who is and there is such peace and comfort in that.
So, one of the things as a caregiver is just learning to say no, and that is a hard thing to do, as well as learning to say yes. So where does, yes, come in with your nos.
Deb Kelsey-Davis: Okay. Let me tell you, first of all, just so everyone knows that they’re, no, it was not an easy thing for me to say at first. It only came from, probably crashing physically, mentally, emotionally and I realized that by saying no to certain things, I was actually saying yes to myself or yes, to more present time.
Within the case of my parents right now. I look at no as a complete sentence, number one. And I look at it as honor and dignifying myself and realizing that there are only so many things I as a human being can do in any given day. And I would challenge, you know, everyone else out there who’s listening, you know, we sometimes put too many expectations on ourselves and good is good enough.
I think that sometimes saying no, it also means that you’re giving someone else, you were saying this early Rayna, it’s given someone else the opportunity to say yes, and even if they don’t jump up and say yes, you can ask them to say yes. You can let them know. That’s so much to ask them as you’re delegating, but to let them know, I’m worn out.
I just can’t do all of these things. And say, can you help me with and put it out there? There’s so many graces in that because I know for myself as someone in my first season of caregiving, I was wearing this superhero Cape and I felt like I did have to do it on. What I realized is that I was denying my brother at the time of the blessings of him experiencing some of the things that I was receiving, but because I wasn’t letting him do too many things cause I felt like I had to do it all. He was missing out on that.
Rayna Neises: It is so important to realize that when we do it all, we are robbing other of the opportunity to be a part of it. And there are so many amazing memories and blessings and growth opportunities in the caregiving season that we really should be willing to share those, we don’t need a hog of them all.
We should be willing to allow the others to be blessed with that as well. Not to mention the person we’re caring for, the blessing that they have of having those other loved ones be a part as well. I cherish the relationship I was able to establish with my dad in that season where he was in so much need.
If I had hogged it all, then there were a lot of people that wouldn’t have even had the blessing of knowing him. I mean, some of our paid caregivers became almost like daughters to him, and it was amazing to watch those relationships grow and what a blessing he was in their life. And so really being able to get the perspective of, we don’t have to be the superhero, we don’t have to say Yes, to everything we can say no, and with that no comes, not just a blessing for ourselves, but also for those around us.
Deb Kelsey-Davis: Ah, yes. And they’ll tell us a little, be honest here. Sometimes it’s a, I find that sometimes our loved ones get bored with us. You know, they’re rough. Let’s just be really honest here. You know, if you’re the only one they get to interact with very much, social isolation can happen when more than one person is present.
So, it’s a really important thing to give them the opportunity to interact with more than one person. You know, give them that gift of being present to so many others and the gifts that other people can give that maybe you don’t. We don’t all have so many gifts that there’s nothing left for someone else to give.
Rayna Neises: I agree completely. I often tell people I’m really not very fun. I have my own kind of fun, but I’m not like a fun, fun kind of person. And it was always so neat to watch my dad interact with those caregivers that were just fun and lighthearted. I mean, they were just goofy and I’m not goofy. I might be goofy for a moment, but it’s not coming from me.
[00:14:34] It’s me joining in. You know? Yeah, it was so much fun to see different personalities bring out different joys and my dad and different personalities in him as well. So that’s such a great point, because I do feel like at the. In the of long periods of time there where he was kind of sick of my face and me bossing him around, or just the way I did things, being able to have different personalities, I think is a blessing. I brought a lot to him as well that relationship was valuable for us, but it was really neat to see different relationships. So, what words of wisdom would you pass along to someone who’s, in the middle of their caregiving season right now, and especially in the middle of this crazy time.
Deb Kelsey-Davis: so it’s not unique. So that’s something I came up with, you know? there’s a phrase out there one day time, and I think that what I didn’t do, my first season of caring was really think about just one day at a time and know that all I had to really focus on was that . I would get so wrapped in knots about the things I did to the previous days or all the things that I was worrying about, they hadn’t happened, and many times they never did happen.
So I would say try as much as you can to live that one day at a time and also don’t get caught up. I have two things I’d like to share. The other is, I’m a doer and I’m a task list maker and I love to check things off. Try to hold yourself back and carve out some time. Maybe you don’t get some of those things checked off.
As I love the Bible story about Martha and Mary, I’m a Martha, but find some time to just sit down, stop what you’re doing and just be there. Even if there’s no words, just be present in the room. It’s amazing how much eyes can communicate; how much a light hand and touching can communicate as well as a smile. And I found that, right now when I’m with my parents, my dad appreciates that a lot more than any of the words that any of the swirling around I’m doing to get things done. So just try and remember that.
Rayna Neises: It’s a hard balance because the things have to get done and we know as caregivers, the medication has to be picked up and the pillbox has to be filled in, the food has to be done, and there are all of those things. But the moments of the presence really are the things that we cherish, especially once they’re gone.
And so, from that thinking of that, I know you have one season that it has ended share with us any wisdom you have with that as far as coming to the end of your caregiving season.
Deb Kelsey-Davis: Okay. I’ve always been, I wouldn’t say afraid of death, but I never really, even as a nurse, I would, I would join people as they were. Yeah. Moving towards their death. But I think it’s different when it’s someone close to you when it’s personal. And so how I was always afraid of how do I help someone transition in a Holy way from where they are here with us into the hands of God. And I would say that I learned a lot from Eva. That was my mother in law. She taught me so much. She also taught me that, it doesn’t have to always be serious. So, I love how you were talking about your relationship Rayna with your father.
Right before as we were in hospice, and right before she passed, I painted her fingernails. This, you should pink. She never wore nail Polish, and at first, she was like, don’t, what are you doing? What are you doing? I go, no, no, let’s do this. You look cool. I painted her nails and as the hospice folks would come in and out, she’d raise her hands to show them and she would laugh. Even though she had stopped eating and she was so weak that gave her something that still helped her to retain maybe her dignity, the fact that, you know, we’re, we’re alive and we’re living up to them or not. And after she passed, I remember before her body was removed from our home, looking at her nails and just recalling. The laughter and the fact that, you know, we prayed together. There’s many things we did I answered together in those last days and weeks, and I just, I’m thankful for that. So, I just, you know, however, it is for you personally, if you need to, you know, get support. Hospice was wonderful for us. They helped us spiritually to open up during that time but look at it as, as life-giving, as you’re walking towards the end.
Rayna Neises: I frequently say on this podcast that my heart is to help people walk their parents all the way home and then to have a life to walk back into once that season’s over. So important and so hard to do in the midst of it, it feels like holding on to them is the most important thing. And I know for the years that I took care of my dad with Alzheimer’s. We knew an end was this is where we’re going. but sometimes the journey is so long, 14 years that you don’t know when the end is coming. And I think that’s one of the most challenging things in caregiving is we don’t have an expiration date. So, we don’t know when to expect that or when this marathon might be over.
But knowing that part of my job as his daughter was to fight for him and be his voice for him throughout his journey, but also to know when it was time. To just be present and let go and let him make, make that final step on his own there with them, but really being willing to say, it’s okay, Daddy, we’re good. We love you. We’re okay. It’s okay for you to take that next step. Hard to do. But really knowing that getting yourself to that place to say it is okay and I will be okay, and life is still here for me to continue to move on and for me to move into ministering to supporting, encouraging other people who find themselves in that season made a big difference for me.
But there is life after and we can love them well, and it’s okay to love them even as we let them go. And it’s hard to do, but so important.
Deb Kelsey-Davis: And that was what I learned because I didn’t do a great job the first time around. And it’s okay to say that I learned a lot. With my parents, it’s totally different. You know, it’s much more comfortable, I think there’s this big elephant sitting in the room that nobody wants to talk about, and yet, you know, they want to talk about it.
They have want to talk about it. So, funny story, I’ll share very quickly. My parents are the kind of people that they don’t rest easy unless they know we as their children are taken care of. Right. I mean, that’s what every parent does. So, guess what? Last year, my dad with his walker, my mom out there, we went to the cemetery to get my plot.
Rayna Neises: Wow.
Deb Kelsey-Davis: They have their plots, and I said, you know what? I need to get my plot. And they had so much, I hate to say this word fun, but we were laughing. We were talking and, and the, gentleman who was there helping us thought this family is bizarre. But what it did was my parents know now they don’t have to worry.
The only thing, the only requisite I had there, cause I was asking about proximity cause I knew where my parents were. And the gentleman simple, don’t you want to be? I said, no. My mom, I’m sure will continue to just yell at me every time. So, I need to be a little bit further way. We were laughing about that.
But you know, humor is such a big part of dealing with the things that aren’t so easy sometimes to deal with. So it’s a very different journey I’m on right now with my parents because of what I learned from Eva.
Rayna Neises: Well, thank you so much for joining me today, and I’m just so excited about the things that you’ve shared. I know our listeners have had an opportunity to really pick up some great things that they can put in their pockets and think about how to do this journey. And how to learn from it, how to say, okay, I’m, I have blown it. But now I know more now than I did before, which is such an important lesson.
I wanted to close today by just sharing a little bit about nourish and some of the things that we’re doing with this season, with the virus and, and all the things that were locked down in our meetings. Our regular schedule meetings Nourish is a national program that has, places.
Churches throughout the country that meet regularly to offer support to family caregivers. And we’re not able to meet right now because no one’s able to get together right now. And so, you guys have stepped up and are offering some wonderful support. So we’ll share a little bit about what Nourish is doing.
Deb Kelsey-Davis: Sure. Absolutely so, we’re doing house calls, you know, old fashioned house calls, although we’re using technology to make that happen. Yeah. One of the things that, because people aren’t able to get together face to face, we’re taking advantage of technology. Yeah. People every day. Time-wise, I’m going to mess up the time zones, but it’s 11:00 AM Eastern and I’ll just stop there while we’re getting together.
We’re spending an hour together, either by phone or on video, whatever you’re comfortable with. Well, really a chance just to connect. Spiritual nourishment as well, just to share, you know, there’s so much that we can gain from that. So much support we can gain from that. And Rayna, thank you for being a part of that.
You know, it’s a, it’s an honor to be able to, you know, have the time with you. You bring so much to the table with your own caregiving experience and there’s life after caregiving, but that’s not always something easy found. So I really appreciate that. But no, we’re, we’re doing that. And you can go to the website, which I know Rayna you’ll share out and we can get information from there about where to find us.
Rayna Neises: Nourish is an amazing program and I’m honored to be able to partner with them and just be able to help facilitate some of those conversations. And right now, we we’re meeting daily, but like the rest of the world, things will change. And so, as we get back to our new normal, some of those things will change.
So definitely I wanted to take this time in the moment of the Coronavirus crisis that’s happening to offer that support to all the listeners. It’s just an opportunity to come together and like she said, just to be nourished both spiritually and, practically as we’re sharing what we’re doing and how we’re just surviving this new crazy, and so I would love for our listeners to join us, I will definitely put our link in our notes page, but you can visit the NourishforCaregivers.com also, Nourish has some great support on. Facebook, so feel free to look for them there. Again, Deb, I just really appreciate your time and your heart for caregivers. My heart’s there with you, and so it’s fun to be able to be with people who have that common calling.
Deb Kelsey-Davis: Yes. I love it. I love it. There’s so much goodness in it all. And I thank you, Rayna, for everything that you do because I think that, we need people who can help lift us up to see that goodness and the blessings in everything. And. It makes dealing with some of the things that aren’t so pretty sometimes just so much better. Thank you.
Rayna Neises: Thank you and thank you, listeners, for joining us today. Again, just a reminder, this podcast is intended to encourage family caregivers. If you have medical, legal, or financial questions, consult your local professionals. I look forward to seeing you next week and take care of you and your loved one as you Take Heart in this Season of Caring.
*Transcript is an actual recount of the live conversation
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