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THE CAREGIVERS' LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: Remembering My Father Today

Today is Remembrance Day in Canada, Veteran’s Day in the United States. 

Today I remember my father, James Edward Thomson, who fought in Europe with the Royal Montreal Regiment and won an award for bravery from King George and was mentioned in dispatches. Near Antwerp, my Dad was off-duty and walking back to . . . → Read More: THE CAREGIVERS' LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: Remembering My Father Today

THE CAREGIVERS' LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: National Caregivers Month: The Third Pillar is Patience

Patience. We learn it the hard way in caregiving. In this break-neck-speed society, caregivers are like student drivers, always trying to put our foot on the gas, but with ‘fate’, the driving instructor, firmly putting his foot on the metaphorical brake. 

Caring for young children, an elderly parent, a loved one with disabilities, or someone . . . → Read More: THE CAREGIVERS' LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: National Caregivers Month: The Third Pillar is Patience

THE CAREGIVERS' LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: Wisdom Comes From Living

Last week, I spoke about the resilience of caregivers.  This week, I’d like to say a few words about wisdom. What exactly is the wisdom of caregivers?  The Oxford Dictionary defines wisdom as the quality of having knowledge, experience and good judgement.  Let’s start with knowledge. What do caregivers know?  Well, we know our loved ones and . . . → Read More: THE CAREGIVERS' LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: Wisdom Comes From Living

THE CAREGIVERS' LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: Lessons I’ve Learned From a Life of Caregiving

Here’s a short video of me reflecting on lessons I’ve learned from a life caregiving. Share the lessons you’ve learned in the comments below – I would love to listen and learn!

Thank you to my talented brother in law Frank Opolko for producing this video!

. . . → Read More: THE CAREGIVERS' LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: Lessons I’ve Learned From a Life of Caregiving

THE CAREGIVERS' LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: When Long-Term Caregivers Tell Their Stories, Outcomes Improve

Arthur Kleinman understands families like mine.  I know he does, because he wrote this: The chronically ill (and their caregivers) often are like those trapped at a frontier, wandering confused in a poorly known border area, waiting desperately to return to their native land.  Chronicity for many is the dangerous crossing of the borders, the interminable . . . → Read More: THE CAREGIVERS' LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: When Long-Term Caregivers Tell Their Stories, Outcomes Improve

THE CAREGIVERS' LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: The ER Caregiver Effect

There’s a tourist attraction in my city of Ottawa (Canada) called The Crazy Kitchen. It’s a room in the National Museum of Science of Technology that’s designed to demonstrate the effects of optical illusion on the mind and body. Entering the Crazy Kitchen is like walking through the doors of a house of mirrors at . . . → Read More: THE CAREGIVERS' LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: The ER Caregiver Effect

THE CAREGIVERS' LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: When Caregiving Feels Like War: Learn From the Military

The other day, I was listening to a banker talking about the volatility of financial markets.  She used a term I hadn’t heard before – VUCA.  It’s a military term used by forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and it stands for ‘Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous’.  “Wow”, I thought, “that sure sounds like my life!”
So, I googled VUCA and found a website about using military lessons learned for corporate leadership.  And my intuition didn’t steer me wrong – these lessons really are absolutely relevant to caregivers.  Because our world is always volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.
  • Always retain a clear vision against which judgements can be made, with agility to flex and respond appropriately to rapidly unfolding situations. (Yes, we do that every day.)

  • Provide clear direction and consistent messaging against a backdrop of continually shifting priorities, supported with the use of new virtual modes of communication where necessary. (We practice this with our paid helpers, with doctors and with members of our extended families. And we use technology to help us communicate our changing needs.)
     
  • Anticipate risks but don’t invest too much time in long-term strategic plans. Don’t automatically rely on past solutions and instead place increased value on new, temporary solutions, in response to such an unpredictable climate. (This is an interesting one and difficult to achieve. Again, it’s about agility, employing the benefit of our experience, and always looking for something new that responds to the NOW.)
     
  • Think big picture. Make decisions based as much on intuition as analysis. (Caregivers could give the course on this!)
     
  • Capitalise on complexity. If your talent management strategy is working, then you should be confident that you have the right people in the right place. This will enable you to rapidly break down any challenge into bite size pieces and trust in the specialist expertise and judgement of those around you. (Easy to say, hard to achieve. The caregivers we most admire do this well. They take complex situations and break them down, then work efficiently within a team.)
     
  • Be curious. Uncertain times bring opportunities for bold moves. Seize the chance to innovate. (Imagination and the drive to get things done quickly and easily makes caregivers natural innovators.)
     
  • Encourage networks rather than hierarchies – as we reach new levels of interconnection and interdependency collaboration yields more than competition. (Absolutely! We are all interdependent and never more so than in caregiving families.)
     
  • Leverage diversity – as our networks of stakeholders increase in complexity and size, be sure to draw on the multiple points of view and experience they offer. Doing so will help you expect the unexpected. (I love this one! In my family, we have all been so enriched by relationships we’ve had with our paid help from different cultures. Even ageing and disability as examples of diversity in my family have enabled us to explore new territory of human experience.)
     
  • Never lose focus on employee engagement. Provide strategic direction, whilst allowing people the freedom they need to innovate new processes, products and services. (This goes for working with members of extended family and with helping friends, too.)
     
  • Get used to being uncomfortable. Resist the temptation to cling on to outdated, inadequate processes and behaviours. Take leaps of faith and enjoy the adventure. (This is the zinger. What a nugget of good advice for caregivers!)

. . . → Read More: THE CAREGIVERS' LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: When Caregiving Feels Like War: Learn From the Military

THE CAREGIVERS' LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: FREE WEBINAR – Managing Caregiver Emotions When the Going Gets Tough

Join me this Wednesday evening the 29th at 7pm EST for a FREE WEBINAR at The Caregiver Network – details below.Managing Emotions When The Going Gets ToughJune 29, 2016 @ 7:00-8:30 pm (EST)REGISTER HERE+ Google Calendar + iCal ExportThis sessi… . . . → Read More: THE CAREGIVERS’ LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: FREE WEBINAR – Managing Caregiver Emotions When the Going Gets Tough

THE CAREGIVERS' LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: FREE WEBINAR – Managing Caregiver Emotions When the Going Gets Tough

Join me this Wednesday evening the 29th at 7pm EST for a FREE WEBINAR at The Caregiver Network – details below.

Managing Emotions When The Going Gets Tough

June 29, 2016 @ 7:008:30 pm (EST)

This session is intended for Caregivers

How can uncomfortable emotions be managed when caregiving feels unmanageable? Is it ever possible to make peace with grief and loss in caregiving?
Re-framing grief and anxiety as natural components of loving relationships with dependent loved ones is the theme of this presentation.
The session will offer caregivers tools to better understand and manage their own grief and anxiety. Questions addressed during this session will include: Is it possible to befriend grief and anxiety?  What happens if you try to shut these feelings out? What is the difference between difficult emotions that are natural and those that are symptoms of mental illness? What are the tools to feel better and keep caregiving?
The purpose of this session is to help caregivers understand the nature of their own difficult emotions and to offer self-management strategies that enable resilience and wellbeing in the face of loss and challenge.
 This presentation will be followed by a question/answer period.

  1. Presenter

    Donna Thomson

    Donna Thomson cares for her adult son with severe disabilities and for her Mom who is still feisty at 93. She’s the author of The Four Walls of My Freedom: Lessons I’ve Learned From a Life of Caregiving (The House of Anansi Press, 2014) and blogs regularly at The Caregivers’ Living Room (www.donnathomson.com). Donna is the Caregiving Advisor for Tyze Personal Networks, a free online tool designed to help caregivers coordinate a network of support.
  1. Presenter

    Julie Keon

    Julie’s career path changed and evolved after becoming a mother herself to Meredith, in December 2003. While no longer a practicing birth doula, Julie is active in the death midwifery movement and now offers care to those at the end of life. She welcomed a new opportunity in 2012 when she became a licensed marriage officiant for the province of Ontario, and expanded her services after graduating as a Certified Life-Cycle Celebrant® in early 2013 from the Celebrant Foundation & Institute with a focus on end-of-life and funeral celebrations. An avid writer, Julie began work on her first book, an extension of her essay, What I Would Tell You, in 2011. Her book was published and released to the world in May 2015 and has been very well received by not only parents and the professionals who work with families like hers but also by anyone who has found themselves in a caregiving role.

. . . → Read More: THE CAREGIVERS' LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: FREE WEBINAR – Managing Caregiver Emotions When the Going Gets Tough

THE CAREGIVERS' LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: The Divine Spark Inside Me

For the past couple of weeks, we haven’t used our front door.  We enter and exit through the garage so we don’t disturb the temporary home of a young family of purple finches nesting in our porch light. We don’t turn on the light on either, becaus… . . . → Read More: THE CAREGIVERS’ LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: The Divine Spark Inside Me

THE CAREGIVERS' LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: My Caregiver Worst Fear

Every caregiver has a worst fear – a nightmare scenario that unfolds like an unwanted, sinister guest in the imagination.  It might be triggered by the sound of an unusual thud upstairs, a front door slamming, or the smell of burning toast.  … . . . → Read More: THE CAREGIVERS’ LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: My Caregiver Worst Fear

THE CAREGIVERS' LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: FOR YOU, ON NATIONAL CAREGIVER DAY

You won’t receive any cards or cakes for National Caregiver Day.  You won’t be handed a box of chocolates or a new diamond ring either.  If you did, you would have made it or bought it and wrapped it yourself. That’s the thing about care… . . . → Read More: THE CAREGIVERS’ LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: FOR YOU, ON NATIONAL CAREGIVER DAY

THE CAREGIVERS' LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: THE WEIGHT OF LOVE IN DEMENTIA CAREGIVING

Recently I had the immense pleasure of reading every poignant and fascinating word in a literary magazine called The Sun.  The January, 2016 edition is on the subject of care. I highly recommend this magazine (and particularly this edition) to car… . . . → Read More: THE CAREGIVERS’ LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: THE WEIGHT OF LOVE IN DEMENTIA CAREGIVING

THE CAREGIVERS' LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: Can We Care For Ourselves if We Don’t Value Care?

Last week I agreed to lead a fall workshop on the subject of caring for the caregiver. I proposed exploring the premise and possibility of matching a self-caring action with each caring action we perform for a loved one. An example might be to nurture … . . . → Read More: THE CAREGIVERS’ LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: Can We Care For Ourselves if We Don’t Value Care?

THE CAREGIVERS' LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: ‘SETTLING FOR’ – THAT’S WHAT CAREGIVERS DO

settling for, to be satisfied with:to settle for less.I had a dream and it was to become an actor.  I studied performance at university and went on to work in professional theatre as an actor, director and t… . . . → Read More: THE CAREGIVERS’ LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: ‘SETTLING FOR’ – THAT’S WHAT CAREGIVERS DO

THE CAREGIVERS' LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: WHAT DOES ‘SETTLING’ MEAN TO CAREGIVERS?

SETTLINGsettling down,a.    to become established in some routine, especially upon marrying, after a period of independence or indecision.b.    to&… . . . → Read More: THE CAREGIVERS’ LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: WHAT DOES ‘SETTLING’ MEAN TO CAREGIVERS?

THE CAREGIVERS' LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: TREATING OURSELVES AS WE WOULD TREAT OTHERS

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Elizz for IZEA. All opinions are 100% mine. Recently, I was chatting with friends about why caregivers have so much trouble asking for help. “Maybe it’s because asking for help sometimes feels … . . . → Read More: THE CAREGIVERS’ LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: TREATING OURSELVES AS WE WOULD TREAT OTHERS

THE CAREGIVERS' LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: Rhetoric vs Reality: The Real Role of Families in Hospital Care

If you’ve ever gone to the Emergency Room with someone you love who has mobility or cognitive impairments, you know that hospitals are very unsafe places for vulnerable people.  Unless your loved one needs life-saving care such as in the Intensive… . . . → Read More: THE CAREGIVERS’ LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: Rhetoric vs Reality: The Real Role of Families in Hospital Care

THE CAREGIVERS' LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: My New Year’s Resolution for 2016

Happy New Year, everyone!Yesterday, I happened upon an article titled ‘7 Habits of Chronically Unhappy People’.  It was number 5 that caught my eye: You Strive to Control Your Life.  Now, I’m a very happy person – I’m an optimist by nature. &… . . . → Read More: THE CAREGIVERS’ LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: My New Year’s Resolution for 2016

THE CAREGIVERS' LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: My Caregiver Transformer Christmas

I’ve been thinking a lot about how in my family, we plan special family occasions and how we change our plans or even cancel at the last minute.  And I’ve been thinking how typical that is for anyone giving care to a loved one.For example… Tomor… . . . → Read More: THE CAREGIVERS’ LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: My Caregiver Transformer Christmas

THE CAREGIVERS' LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: What Goes Around, Comes Around in Caring

Hello December Blog Party Readers and Welcome to The Caregivers’ Living Room.  I am a caregiver, an author and a caregiving consultant.  Feel free to look around my site and visit often!What Goes Around, Comes Around in CaringA mother arrives… . . . → Read More: THE CAREGIVERS’ LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: What Goes Around, Comes Around in Caring

THE CAREGIVERS' LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: WHAT DO CAREGIVERS NEED FROM THE HEALTH CARE SYSTEM?

What do caregivers need from the health care system?  This was the question I was asked at a recent online Town Hall event sponsored by The Caring Experience, a new project designed to collect the stories of Ontario family caregivers and develop p… . . . → Read More: THE CAREGIVERS’ LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: WHAT DO CAREGIVERS NEED FROM THE HEALTH CARE SYSTEM?

THE CAREGIVERS' LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: DOUBLE VISION in the ER – DO THEY SEE WHAT I SEE?

My friend and colleague Vickie Cammack and I are co-writing a book of reflections on caregiving.  Vickie and I would love to know your thoughts about our work so far!  This is the first instalment from a section we’re working on abo… . . . → Read More: THE CAREGIVERS’ LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: DOUBLE VISION in the ER – DO THEY SEE WHAT I SEE?

THE CAREGIVERS' LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: Your Parent Has Been Diagnosed With Alzheimer’s. Now What?

If you watched “Still Alice,” you will have a better idea of what a person with Alzheimer’s goes through. Especially if you have a parent with this disease, you will know how it feels like to be in their shoes. “The poet Elizabeth Bishop once wrote: ‘the Art of Losing isn’t hard to master: . . . → Read More: THE CAREGIVERS’ LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: Your Parent Has Been Diagnosed With Alzheimer’s. Now What?

THE CAREGIVERS' LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: How to Help an Alzheimer’s Caregiver (Share This Post With Friends and Family!)

A Guest Post by Vee Cecil Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease is an incredible challenge, both physically and emotionally. Often, primary caregivers are spouses who are also aging and sometimes have health issues of their own. It’s not uncommon for Alzheimer’s caregivers to neglect their own health and well-being out of . . . → Read More: THE CAREGIVERS’ LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: How to Help an Alzheimer’s Caregiver (Share This Post With Friends and Family!)