Monday, December 6, 2010

MindfulCaregiving Holiday Tips for Greater Peace

Shift Your Expectations of The Holidays
The holidays when you’re caregiving are different, yet we bend over backwards to make them the same as they always were. At no other time are we so dedicated to pretending that nothing has changed. Preserve the simpler family traditions, but consider tossing out your more extreme expectations of the holidays, family members, and yourself. Stay in the present moment. Generate new, creative, simpler family traditions. Focus on gratitude for what you have now.

Shift Your Expectations of Others
People are different too. The demands of the holidays compound the regular stresses of caregiving to push family members to their emotional limit. If they need to act out, let them be. As hard as it may be to imagine, they may be doing the best that they can. Have compassion while asserting your own boundaries. You can’t make other people happy, or make them act the way you would want. You can only tend to your own state of mind and heart. Do what you can. Let that be enough.

Shift Your Expectations of Yourself
As your own stresses mount, lower the bar on your expectations of yourself. Make a little more time to decompress. Focus on your relationships more than the trappings of the holidays. Ask for a little more help from others. The happiness and holiday spirit of everyone else are not your sole responsibility. Balancing the holiday house of cards on your shoulders is a vulnerable position for everyone. Tell them that, and then ask for their partnership to help everyone get through the holidays a little happier, a little more peaceful, a little more grateful for all that you do have.
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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Creating the Nursing Home of the Future - Making Eden-like Culture Change on 2 hrs./wk

Ever since my decade of caregiving, I’ve been determined not to end up like my mother. My nursing home is going to be a place where I can feel useful, valued, engaged, and loved. But why aren’t more residents clamoring for change right now?

Generational values and medical institutional norms in nursing homes collude to foster a system that will stay stuck without radical concerted culture change. Many of our Elders don’t know that we each have the legal right to define our quality of life, regardless of age or circumstance. And whether or not they know their rights, they were raised not to rock the boat. Who wants to be the one to speak up? Even some of us boomers have timid tendencies, yet if we don't begin now to change the culture of nursing homes, we'll be stuck living in "homes" that, despite bright colors and crafty activities, will perpetuate helplessness, loneliness, and boredom.

When I took the Eden Associate Training, my classmates were all employed in nursing homes—after certification they would put their training to immediate use. I was self-employed. I needed to find another way to be part of the culture change movement. I joined a newly formed Coalition for Culture Change (many states have one) but I also wanted to do hands on work. Finally I learned of our state’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman program. By going through their free training and dedicating just two hours per week, I would finally be able to do Eden-like work.

Now I think of myself as taking on Dr. Bill Thomas’ three plagues: Loneliness, Helplessness, and Boredom. When certified, I will be empowered to walk into my assigned nursing home unannounced and at any time, to engage directly with residents and staff on behalf of individual residents’ quality of life. Any Elder who feels they lack a voice or a choice can ask me to be her/his voice. And the state and federal Ombudsman offices will serve as my backup, the clout behind the smile.

Consider ensuring a quality future for your Elder self, while making a difference for Elders right now. Every state has a Long-Term Care Ombudsman program, though each operates a little differently. Contact your state Ombudsman Office to find out what’s possible. or
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Sunday, October 10, 2010


Bernie Siegel suggests in “Love, Medicine and Miracles” that it's the feisty, opinionated patient who stands the best chance of survival.

I recently gave a keynote address to a local caregivers’ expo. During the Q&A, one woman raised her hand and said, “What do You think about the way people talk down to old people?” I told her that it dumbfounds me, that I have no idea where people learn to think that’s the way to speak. And then I continued to wonder...

Why Do so many people talk baby talk to elders? Could an elder supreme court judge possibly enjoy being patted on the head? And for that matter, how do they get away with it? What keeps elder parents, pianists or Marines from kicking a few shins?

I remember when I would bring my still sharp Phi Beta Kappa mother out and about in her wheelchair, and doctors and other professionals would address me, speaking about my mother in the third person. Did they assume that her brain and self-respect had been gradually leaking away since she turned 70?

I guess people of my parents’ generation were so schooled in being gracious that they put up with such treatment without a fuss, but it’s going to be a bit different when the children of the 60’s enter elderhood. We broke the mold when it came to self-expression.

A nursing home filled with residents of the “Me Generation” will be quite a different story. We’ll be rebelling at every turn. We’ll be leading workshops to train the staff in providing truly respectful service. We’ll have a ringleader or two, and we’ll stage sit-ins at the nurses desk. We’ll demand that people knock before entering, bring breakfast only when we’re ready, and offer more opportunities for participation than sing-alongs and making cookies.

We’ll look for ways to improve the running of the place. We’ll take over the “activities program” and while we’re at it, we’ll come up with a different name for it altogether. Activities implies busymaking, as though all people need to feel enriched is to be kept active. We’ll have “life enrichment” programs maybe. Alive ‘n Kicking seminars. And if we can remember what we learned from Our elders, we'll do it with a bit of grace.

I daresay that "respecting elders" will mean something a bit different for us, the Boomers. It will mean something like listening to what we want, appreciating us for who we are, connecting with us on a personal level, and honoring our history.

If you were in a nursing home, what would you want your life to be like? What would you be doing? What new experiences will you be instigating? Who’ll be calling the shots for you?

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Person-centered Caregiving

I recently was asked by a local Hospice to meet with a patient (I’ll call her Ann) who had created a piece of artwork. They wanted me to consider writing an article about it, and her. She was a lovely, feisty woman. I met with her a number of times, taking notes as she spun out the stories behind the artwork and her process in making it.

Though the artwork had brought me to Ann, what became most important was Ann’s journey. I continued to write and will publish an article, but the point of our meetings became connection. The life of our budding relationship feeds the life of the article I am writing. When I stray to focusing on the article as an end in itself, the relationship Ann and I are building loses energy. When I focus on Ann, the writing comes to life. The life of both depends on the life of our connection.

This is a perfect analogy for caregiving. In the busy life of a family or professional caregiver, it can be too easy to forget, to mistakenly become too focused on the day-to-day tasks and agenda, and thereby sap the life of the human connection with a loved one, which is the true source of healing and wellness. Mind-body-spirit wellness. Excessive focus on the tasks of caregiving saps your relationship, and drains both you and the life of your loved one or client. Focus on your connection, in service to the wholeness of your loved one (as Rachel Naomi Remen would say) and you’ll find that you both have more energy. If you have neglected to make a bed, opting instead for having a good laugh together, good for you! If you are being drained by care giving, check out where your focus has been and change course.

This principle of Human Connection First, or Person-centered Care, is the core principle of the culture change movement in nursing homes that is radically changing the experience of living in long-term care. It is the catalyst of wellness for care receivers and givers. To learn more, check out the Eden Alternative (, The Pioneer Network (, and the ChangingAging blog ( and his ChangingAging LinkedIn discussion group (

This movement was begun by Dr. Bill Thomas and is spreading, now backed by the federal government in changes in the annual nursing home surveys. Nursing homes are now being designed, architecturally and in management structure, to follow the Eden Alternative principles. The result? Some residents who have been walking with walkers, throw away their walkers. Others who have stopped speaking and feeding themselves sing “Amazing Grace” and grab the spoon. (See YouTube on “The Green House Nursing Home Alternative.” ) Staff retention dramatically improves. And, miracle of miracles, it doesn’t necessarily cost any more than the old model. It actually can be cheaper. Read about the data in “Culture Change Goes Mainstream,” downloadable at The Eden Alternative also has a program for family caregivers.

As I write this, I am at home with the latest “bug” that has been going around. I had to cancel my visit with Ann and will deeply miss her this afternoon. We were going to play Scrabble together. When we do get to play, I’m betting that she will win.
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Sunday, July 11, 2010

From Caregivers to Carepartners

When we begin to focus on Elders as people who continue to "grow and become," we open to what they have to offer us. Seeing Elders as mentors with something to give helps us make the leap from caregiving... to care partnering. When those usually described as care receivers learn they have something to give - and there is always some way that they can, no matter how subtle -and those usually described as care givers deeply acknowledge the ways that they receive from care receivers, some amazing shifts occur in the care dynamic. They become Care Partners."

Instead of seeing the needs of 'caregivers' as separate from the needs of 'care receivers,' we need to focus on the well-being of the whole care partnership. At the Eden Alternative, we firmly believe that words make worlds. Like the term 'Elder,' the phrase 'Care Partner' is an excellent example of the transformative power of choosing our language carefully. As a concept, care partnership evens the playing field, as it is often easy to get trapped in a one-dimensional experience of care. With this in mind, teams must fully appreciate what it means to be a care partner team. The term "care partner" should never be used simply as a politically-correct replacement for the words "staff" or "aide" or "caregiver/care receiver." Care partnership encompasses so much more, both in nursing homes and out in the larger community.

By our definition, a care partner team is composed of the following care partners: the Elder herself; those care partners who work with her, whether they work in a nursing home or through home health support; her family members, friends, volunteers, and any other health professionals that collaborate with her. Care partnering implies a balance of care, that opportunities to give as well as receive are abundant and experienced by everyone involved in the care relationship in every moment. To deepen the experience of care partnership, consider holding Learning Circles on the subject that bring Elders and all of their care partners together.

From the Eden Alternative Tip of the Week, 7/11/2010
Understanding Care Partnership
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Friday, June 18, 2010


What can a person do when they think a loved one has an unhealthy amount of stuff in their living space? A recent LinkedIn discussion on hoarding got me to thinking, What are the issues raised by such a situation? And how can family members disentangle from their own feelings about clutter for long enough to know how to broach the topic, or even whether it is appropriate to say something?

As both a caregivers’ and Elders’ advocate, I can see both perspectives. As the discussion developed, I saw not only how easy it would be, in the heat of the moment, for us to sidestep the issues of an Elder’s individual right to choose, I also saw how very fuzzy the line is for most of us between “normal” clutter and a compulsive health issue.

If a caregiver asked my advice as a caregiver’s coach, I would first ask questions to identify the context of the situation, such as:
  • Is your loved one’s behavior diminishing her/his enjoyment of life? Or would (s)he be dismayed at the idea of having their clutter being gone?
  • Is the situation, right now, a serious health hazard?
If the caregiver were unsure of whether a health hazard existed, or if the loved one’s clutter was actually providing a healthy comfort, I would tend to think that any intervention would be inappropriate, though an explorative conversation with the Elder might be of help. Before speaking, it would be important to be very clear as to one’s feelings and motivations, and so I would ask the caregiver:
  • How much of the “problem” rises from Your discomfort with clutter? What does it mean to you?
  • Does some of your discomfort come, perhaps, from seeing your Elder behaving in perhaps an uncharacteristic way? Does it, let’s say, look like “slipping?” Or losing control? (Anyone applying this sort of judging attribution probably won’t be effective in starting a respectful conversation.)
  • Are you capable of broaching the topic with your loved one solely out of an intent to support her/him in having the lifestyle (s)he wants? Are you capable of separating your own feelings about it, from your desire to be of service?
The LinkedIn discussion ultimately gave helpful guidance in discerning the difference between “normal” clutter and chronic hoarding. Everyday accumulation of stuff is not to be confused with the mental illness of hoarding. When thinking about a loved one’s propensity for clutter, it pays to know the line between normal clutter and chronic hoarding. Learn more rather than risk overstepping the personal rights of your loved one. Visit The National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization (NSGCD) at where they’ve identified a five-level hoarding scale to help determine a person’s level of need, as well as the level of training required of those seeking to help them. Levels 1 and 2 are degrees of normal clutter. Levels 3-5 represent behaviors ranging from mild compulsion to mental illness to health hazard. These last three levels may require the help of professionals (with the Elder’s agreement) such as professional organizers or mental health professionals. For health hazard situations, if respectful conversation hasn't worked, before calling the health department try to rally the family to stage an intervention.

My advice? Each of us at any age has a right to make our own lifestyle choices, so tread carefully when considering taking action on behalf of a loved one. Talk to your Elder first, then family. Get support for yourself, and ask advice of professionals. But if your loved one is level 1 or 2, with no apparent hazard to their health or well-being, let them be. Each of us has our own standards of neatness and cleanliness. And consider this: creation of clutter and upset about it are rarely about the stuff.
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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Who Will You Be in Caregiving?

Using the Enneagram for Effective Caregiving

The real act of discovery is not in finding new lands,

but in seeing with new eyes.
—Marcel Proust

When I was a kid, one of my role models was Horton the elephant from Dr. Seuss. His phrase, “I meant what I said and I said what I meant—an elephant’s faithful, one-hundred percent!” became my childhood mantra. It was important to me to be dependable and to speak intentionally, and it still is. Since then, these values (or traits) and others have guided my life, but they haven't always been enough.

Each of us knows the character traits that make us strong and help us to thrive. What are your best loved character traits? Which ones have gotten you through tough times? Which ones have made your relationships work? Especially in the early stages of caregiving, these character traits will help you.

But, increasingly, caregiving will stretch you. If you have been a verbal person, you may need to hone your listening skills. If you have been a habitual giver, you may need to develop boundaries. If you have been a problem solver, you may be called on to accept life as it is.

The Enneagram, a powerful and flexible personality typing system, can serve as a useful tool for revealing how you can grow in order to do the caregiving to which you are committed. The following table gives you a glimpse of how the system might be used. With further study, it can help you not only to navigate caregiving, but also to manage your relationships with family and professionals. To learn the richness and depth of the Enneagram, visit

Below is a simplistic list of the nine personality types of the Enneagram. Next to each is the “growth point,” or the characteristics that such a person might want to strengthen.


Type 1 - The Perfectionist, or The Judge
Knows what is correct and right. Sees in black and white.
Grows by knowing what they want, instead of what would be right.

Type 2 - The Giver
Central focus is on giving to others. Can feel they deserve something in return.
Grows by discovering what they themselves want, and by being alone.

Type 3 - The Showman or Achiever
Conscious of image, action and performance.
Grows by seeing themselves separate from image and achievement.

Type 4 - The Tragic Romantic
Loves the drama of life, but can look too much for what is missing.
Grows by appreciating and feeling satisfied, knowing what they have is enough.

Type 5 - The Student or Observer
Loves to learn about a variety of subjects, but self-sufficiency can cause isolation.
Grows by entering the realm of their feelings, joining mind and emotion.

Type 6 - Problem Solver or Skeptic
Fear causes a preoccupation w/ safety and trust issues, the need to nail down loose ends of life.
Grows by developing faith and the courage to be their own authority.

Type 7 - Playful Optimist
Playfully imaginative, looks for the pleasures of life, but can seem self-indulgent.
Grows by staying instead of leaving, dealing with their pain, developing emotional depth.

Type 8 - The Boss or Challenger
Wields authority, fights passionately for justice, can enjoy a good arguement.
Grows by learning to wait, listening to the other’s perspective, questioning their ideas.

Type 9 - Peacemaker
Instinctively understands others, but can lose connection with self.
Grows by clarifying the self, by maintaining boundaries for self in the face of conflict.
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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

3 Principles & 9 Tips from “The Caregiver’s Compass"

In “The Caregiver’s Compass”, the reader applies a few basic principles to a wide range of caregiving issues and experiences. Whether looking at the value of anger, navigating crises, recharging the spirit, or picking your battles, the reader learns:
  • First, be present, since it is only in the present moment that any of us makes a difference at all;
  • Second, monitor your thoughts and the words with which you describe your caregiving. Since language creates reality (Searles, Flores), choose your words to create the best possible experience for you and your loved one;
  • Third, notice your resistance to moments, circumstances, and people. Since “what you resist persists” (Jung), by choosing to allow things to be as they are, they are free to move and you can become unstuck.
Some tips or points to remember from the book include:
  • If you’re going to make something up, make it life-serving. Speak and think in a way that generates the kind of caregiving you want to be doing.
  • What you resist persists.
  • Fear is usually not an indicator of a life-or-death crisis.
  • Asking for support in the form of partnership can be empowering.
  • Whatever your strengths, caregiving will call on you to stretch. Do what works rather than what is habitual.
  • You can’t change someone else—you can only change your part of the equation.
  • Give enough, but not too much. Helping or fixing can disempower your loved one.
  • You already know the things that lift your spirit. Tend to them.
  • Let humor grease the skids of your day.
Read what others are saying about "The Compass" at
Buy "The Compass" at at
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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Uplifting Spirit During Caregiving - An Inquiry

This is the way you slip through into your innermost home:
close your eyes, and surrender.

You may recognize spirit in its absence—when you feel drained, weak, or depressed—but what calls spirit to rise to the occasion of life, especially during caregiving? Where do we connect with spirit? What heals us?

There are many ways to think about spirit. Some are organized bodies of thought about our relations with the eternal. Others speak to the degree of life we feel within us that has more to do with our relationship to our inner being, and it shows up as... well... uplift. Some say the growth of spirit is about all of that, suggesting that a life force, around us and within us, connects us to humanity, nature, and the All of creation. Whether you are clear about your beliefs, are a seeker, or have no particular spiritual beliefs, the following inquiry may offer you some new access to inner peace.

I believe, as many do, that caregivers with some form of spiritual practice have an easier experience. So where does one begin? One community adept at moving the spirit is the Quakers, or the Society of Friends. I was raised Quaker, which for me has been less a set of beliefs than it is a way of being, a way of thinking and living. The skills I learned for Quakerly, compassionate reflection put backbone into my caregiving, were the “rod and staff” that kept me vertical.

As there are numerous ways to speak about spirit, there are many places we can find it. The book Faith and Practice, from the Society of Friends, suggests that we might find inner peace “through group worship; through a relentless pursuit of truth; through a sense of the beauty and wonder of the world about them; through meditation; through art, music and literature; through sympathy and love in the family, and among their fellows.”

Certain locations or times of day can be conducive to connection with your life force. My spirit is most alive in the early morning when I feel at one with nature. As John Woolman tells us in his Journal and Essays, “The place of prayer is a precious habitation... I saw this habitation to be safe, to be inwardly quiet, when there was great stirrings and commotions in the world.” Communing with the spirit makes everything a bit quieter, a bit easier. It calms the “great stirrings and commotions” of caregiving.

Caregiving forced me daily to seek ways of healing my spirit, and so I created my own ways of communing with spirit. As Idrove to visit my mother in the nursing home, I would visualize aprotective cloak around me, a barrier to the force of her negativity. Ihad never been one to pray, but one day as I drove, I found myselfspontaneously saying aloud, “Dear God, still my soul. Bring me thypeace. Give me a vision broad and blue to tent my day.” Verbalizingthis prayer gave me instant peace.

I gradually learned to choose life exactly as it was. Saying “Yes” to my life became one of my biggest tools for leveraging my well-being. But then there were times when I just felt like quitting. In such moments, my prayers took on a more infantile tone. I’d like to go away with God’s blessing. I’d like Him, or someone, to clean up my life, saying, “You go on now. I’ll take care of this mess and these people.” So maybe I’m not a mountain climber after all. Maybe walking by the water in the valley will really make my cup run over.

Wanting to seek relief or to take a break is so very human. You can make room for that feeling too. As you allow your state of mind, whatever it is, and accept that you are merely a part of a much bigger whole, life gets easier. You may need to set aside time to tune in to your spirit, or you may be able to do it moment by moment
during the day. Whatever it takes, whatever it means to you, for the sake of everyone involved, make spiritual recharge a priority.

My Prayer of Acceptance

Listen here! I’ve done my best!
(Now I lay me down to rest)
I won’t stop here but could this be...
(Where is thy staff to comfort me?)
Don’t need to know what waits me there
(Be thou my comfort and support)
But keep me well. And keep me whole
(And after all, be still my soul.)
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Friday, January 22, 2010


(Harmony) is when...
“Yes” is tempered by a gentle “No,”
and “No” is expanded with measured compassion.

—Mrs. Chana Rachel Schusterman

While times for silence in caregiving can be a rare gift, opportunities for defining boundaries and setting limits abound. As your loved one ages, your role can shift before your eyes. Within a given day, you may function as child, nurse, entertainment committee, adult friend, healthcare advocate, sibling and/or spouse, each role requiring a somewhat different voice. Notice that most of these roles are in response to others. How easily we forget ourselves!

When dancing with your various and mutable roles, you can remain effective by staying centered in yourself. To stay centered in yourself during caregiving, develop the habit of identifying, protecting, and asserting your own limits and bounds. Notice where your responsibility stops and another’s begins. Notice what is yours to do, and what could or should be done by others. Notice what you need in order to be effective. If what you need must come from another, but is not forthcoming, ask for it. Setting your bounds and limits in your relationships and in your life is an art of balancing control with allowing. Here are some guidelines for promoting healthy limits and boundaries:


There is no perfect limit. A boundary is determined by who you are and the situation in which you find yourself. Some of the following suggestions may help you to fine-tune your boundaries.
  • If you are a responder in conversation, practice taking up more room in conversations than you usually would. Though this may, at first, feel like a big change to you, your increase in outspokenness is most likely slight. You can afford to experiment with making room for yourself.
  • Become a curious observer of yourself (and others,) rather than a harsh critic. Be kind, yet discerning. A harsh demeanor often shuts down relationship. Kind curiosity will have you setting your boundaries within the context of who you and the other person are.
  • Confront what scares you. Look at it head-on, journal about it, describe it. It will diminish. Lack of healthy boundaries is often rooted in fear.
  • Practice tolerance of ambiguity and uncertainty. Living more easily with unknowns promotes inner peace and diminishes fear. Boundaries established from this centered place in yourself will be better aligned with your true self.
  • Notice what is yours to handle, as distinct from what is someone else’s. It is too easy to jump in to handle what could be done by others. It could be damaging to try to do what is someone else’s prerogative. It is deeply frustrating to try to fix or change what cannot be changed (like another person.)
  • Limit yourself to doing one thing at a time. Like the turtle in the race with the hare, you may get there faster. Certainly you will arrive with greater peace.
  • Adjust your limits according to your comfort level. Setting your limits too rigidly increases discomfort. Be somewhat flexible, and you’ll be less disappointed. When you are disappointed, pay attention. Disappointment can show us our unhelpful expectations, as well as what could be more realistic.
  • Refrain from reading other people's minds. Keep your attention on yourself while simply being aware of others. Listen actively and take others at their word. Then ask questions when you don’t understand. Explicit communication goes a long way toward clearly seeing the bounds and limits of each relationship.
  • Focus less on managing outcomes. As much as possible, limit yourself to what you can do in the moment. If you manage the present moment, the future frequently takes care of itself.
Here are a few suggestions for gently asserting your boundaries in conversation:

A Linguistic Prescription for Empowerment
  • Say NO (respectfully) at least twice a day.
  • Experiment with words and phrases other than NO that mean what you want to say.
  • (This will provide safety until you can release the idea that "NO" means "I don't like you.")
  • Counter self-criticism with 'SO WHAT?'
  • When someone asks a question that is invasive, instead of answering and giving information you don't want to, respond with the question, "WHY DO YOU ASK?"
  • Accept compliments. Don't deny or over-explain. Just say THANK YOU, or better, "THANKS FOR NOTICING!"
  • When someone is overstepping your boundaries, a useful neutral phrase you can say, without apologizing or over-explaining, is, "That doesn’t work for me."
  • Speak using “I” statements whenever possible. They make clear where you stand without creating unnecessary confrontation or conflict.
Experiment with any of the above approaches that feel right to you. Trust your instinct for what will work for you. The better you know yourself, the clearer it will be where you need to strengthen your boundaries or limits.
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Friday, January 1, 2010


Once in a while
you have to take a break
and visit yourself.
—Audrey Giorgi

In an earlier blog, I wrote that balance is “to have equal amounts of the necessary elements such that no one predominates." Here we will be talking about having a balanced life, as distinct from emotional balance (though they are connected).

Life is change, and it will not magically simplify, yet with a little bit of thought you can take steps to simplify it. To do that, you will need greater clarity about what is working for you, and what isn’t.

Ordinarily, a good deal of life runs on automatic, guided by at least a mental calendar of obligations, if not an electronic one with audible reminders set to beep you like a drill sergeant. Rarely do we step back to question which of our activities are necessary, let alone which ones truly serve us. Below is a simple exercise to help you see new choices you can make that will make a little more room in your calendar.

The Housecleaning Matrix
(from The Caregiver’s Compass, due out in March 2010)

1. Take a fresh pad of paper and turn it sideways. List down the left side your
activities in a given week. Then make five or six columns to the right of your list.

2. At the tops of the columns put codes that indicate what you want more of in
your life. You’re going to be rating your activities and commitments according
to which satisfy your needs and values. For instance, the chart could show you
which ones cost money or make money, which ones give or take away your
energy or time. Think of the things that you want more of in your life and you’ll
know what to put at the tops of the columns. Add as many columns as you need
to reflect what is important to you.

3. Save a column to note which activities are for you and which are for others.

4. Below your chart, write a bit about what motivates you to do each one. This
will show you the underlying values. You’re going to be learning about the values
that fuel you in your life and those that don’t.

5. Put plus/minus signs, letters or symbols in each of the columns to indicate
which activities take from you, and which give back. Adapt the system so that it
works for you. If an activity gives you a lot of energy put two or three plus signs.
If one takes just a little time, show a small “t”. If an activity is for others but you
get pleasure out of it too, put both an O for “Others” and an S for “Self.” It will
begin to look something like this:

6. Write down all of your insights as you look at your completed matrix. Is it
severely out of balance in any aspect? Which activities would you be better
off not doing?

7. Now, on a new page, list the people in your life, and rate them according to
which give or take energy, which make your life simpler or more complex,
which support you, and which don’t. Housecleaning comes in many forms.

If it looks hard to make changes to improve your situation, remember, as Henry
Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or can’t you are right.” This is your
life. Preserve your inner resources so that you can do the caregiving to which
you have committed.

Hopefully you now see ways to lessen your obligations. With a little more time
in your calendar, might you be able to practice a little more selfcare?

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