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Courage to Caregivers_Kristi Horner 11/23/20

The second year of Courage to Caregivers’ programming has been one of the most challenging and most fulfilling I can remember.

The impact of the COVID-19 crisis can’t be understated, not only for our caregivers but for our staff as well. Without hesitation, I can say that the uncertainty and fear amidst COVID-19 have increased the request for services to support mental illness caregivers exponentially. 

Now, more than ever, it is essential to connect and support caregivers. Before the pandemic, one in five Americans were living with mental illness. Now, the cases have increased by anywhere from two to four times. More than 34% of Americans say they now live with anxiety or depression. How does that impact caregivers? The stress of caregiving is literally taking an average of a decade off life expectancy.

Courage to Caregivers is here to help. 

Our goal is always to be in the caregiver burnout prevention business. How have we responded to COVID?

  • In March 2020, we moved all of our programs to a virtual platform. We are now serving more caregivers than ever!
  • We’ve added a third day to our service offerings, supporting caregivers no matter where they live, including Pennsylvania, New York, South Carolina, New Jersey, Utah, Colorado, Texas, California and Delaware.
  • We saw a decrease in the stress of caregiving in our one-year pilot of our Breathing Meditation program by 48% on average, and a 36% reduction of stress in our Support Groups.

As we push toward the end of the year, we have a few organizational milestones we are excited to report. Earlier this month, we had a Summit for professional and family caregivers, called “Caring for the Caregiver: Illuminating HOPE in Uncertain Times with a Focus on Connectedness, Self-Care and Empowerment.” Also this month, we kicked off our first fundraiser, called “Illumination! 2020,” encouraging everyone who is involved with Courage to Caregivers — volunteers, staff, and donors — to be Illuminators in their communities. If you’re interested in joining us, please contact us via our website.

Why have we gone to such lengths to continue our programs? Because we KNOW they work:

Stephanie, who lives in South Carolina and is launching her own business, talks to her peer support volunteer on Mondays, attends breathing meditation and a support group on Wednesdays, and then looks forward to receiving her weekly email on Thursdays. “I have more than one avenue for support. While these programs are all new, it’s nice to know others have similar struggles.”

Our programs also help people like Sally every single day:

“COVID has been a challenge — there’s more to fuel my loved one’s anxiety that was already there… My direct caregiving has increased. It’s been hard to find any programs for my loved ones or at-home caregivers during this time. The burden falls on me. I work full-time and am a full-time caregiver, therapist, cook and maid.

I look forward to the Courage to Caregivers programs every week. Getting together with others with similar stories to mine helps with my ability to cope. We’re all in this together! We share ideas. There’s not a single time I don’t take away something that I use later.”

Our goal is to empower caregivers with the tools they need so they can provide support without burnout. Our solutions include One-to-One Caregiver Peer Support, Breathing Meditation classes and Support Groups.

But we can’t continue to do this critical work without you. 

Help me celebrate the important role that caregivers play, during National Caregivers Month in November, by committing to support Courage to Caregivers now!

Supporting our programs is easy. All you need to do is visit our website and donate there (no fees).

And, if you have more questions about Courage to Caregivers, I’d be more than happy to discuss our programs, program sponsorships or the services that we offer at your convenience. You can email me. I will respond to you personally.

Thanks again for the way YOU illuminate HOPE for caregivers everywhere!

Caring TOGETHER,

Kristi Horner
Founder and Executive Director
Courage to Caregivers

Courage to Caregivers _ Kristi Horner

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” —Mahatma Gandhi

We really have three topics this week – volunteering, mentorship, and saying no – but they’re all wrapped up in the overall idea of giving you.

According to HelpGuidevolunteering can “reduce stress, combat depression, keep you mentally stimulated, and provide a sense of purpose. While it’s true that the more you volunteer, the more benefits you’ll experience, volunteering doesn’t have to involve a long-term commitment or take a huge amount of time out of your busy day. Giving in even simple ways can help those in need and improve your health and happiness.”

One specific way we can give of ourselves is through mentorship. This is especially true for caregivers. While others in our lives may express compassion and sympathy, only someone who has walked in a caregiver’s shoes can truly understand the feelings, frustrations, worries, and logistical concerns of caregiving. At Courage to Caregivers, our Support Groups and One-to-One Caregiver Peer Support programs serve as connections between caregivers – those who want to be mentors, and those who need mentors.

As we make choices about volunteering and mentorship, however, it’s important to remember that we all need to say “no” sometimes. By saying “no,” we are able to place boundaries on our time, energy, and space. Failure to do so can leave us feeling overburdened and overcommitted … and I’m speaking from experience here. If you need help with this, and most of us do, here are 14 ways that you can say “no.”

Another way to look at it is that knowing when to say “no” also helps you know when to say “yes.” To get to your best “yes” … to give the best of YOU to others and to yourself … start by deciding what you want to learn and what you want to share.

Giving of ourselves benefits others, and it can be a powerful form of self-care, too. When you give, you also gain. When you focus on the needs of others and support your community, you can find a new sense of purpose. When you serve others and recognize their worth as human beings, you can improve your own life experience and outlook. When you give in ways that aren’t related to your role as caregiver, you can discover more about your own interests and what makes YOU unique.

Kristi Horner
Founder and Executive Director
Courage to Caregivers

A Message From Courage to Caregivers

Design Your Downtime
10/30/20

As life continues, celebrations happen, curveballs are thrown, and general life develops, it can be hard to remember you have interests outside of work and family. Your outside interests often have a positive effect on your work and family life. This is all the more reason to work on designing your downtime. Designing your downtime means not only doing what you love purely because you love it but also carving out the time to do it. This is not always easy. Maybe the best way to think about this is something our summer intern Maximilian Lauster said. He explained that when he gets stressed or overwhelmed, the best thing for him to do is completely forget about it, drown out the world for a little while, and then come back. Max does this by playing chess or listening to music, but you can do it however you want to. No matter what form it takes, designing your downtime is essential to life and essential to your happiness. It’s a work in progress – yet, my guess is that YOU are, too! AND you deserve it.

ONE MORNING

Reflections – My Mother 2016

As it nears the end of the afternoon on this beautiful Friday, September 25th, I find myself thinking of where I was just four short years ago. On August 2, 2016, when I got the call my mother had a stroke, the situation she was found in by the caregivers at her independent living facility, led me to believe that by the time I got to her side in Detroit, I might not have the opportunity to say good-bye. Actually, I wanted to say more than good-bye. I wanted to ensure she knew I loved her. The ride from Cleveland to West Bloomfield, Michigan took forever on that beautiful summer day. Construction backed us up in numerous spots in Ohio, Michigan and within miles from the hospital, we were hit from behind causing yet another delay. Oy-Vay.
As I have written before when we arrived at the Henry Ford Hospital facility we were greeted by a sign, DO NOT ENTER, see charge nurse. My heart skipped more than a beat as I hurriedly made it to the desk, demanding to speak what I expected to be NURSE RACHTED. Instead, a very soft-spoken nurse informed me that what we may see may be shocking. My mother looked just like my mother no outer signs of a typical stroke. The stroke left her blind, and yet my mother did not know she couldn’t see. The brain was not registering that information. Per doctor’s orders, we were not to mention to my mother that she was blind, and we were to act normal around her, although we were going to assist her and guide her.
As I approached the room and entered to see my momma, I noticed she was slouched on the bed dozing off in her Dorothy manner, meaning she could hear a pin drop when she was sleeping and even deeply snoring. So. as I came over to her I quietly said, “Hi Momma, it’s KIKI.” She looked straight at me as if she could see and said something like, thanks for coming to see me. As we talked for a while, I explained she was in the hospital because they suspected she had a stroke. As I asked if it would be ok for Rich, Alex, and I to stay at her apartment. Of course, she said yes but she was concerned there wasn’t anything in her house for us to eat, she apologized for not baking. (That was so typical of my momma.)
The first few hours we were with her we could understand how she was unaware of the loss of her sight, and how she sounded so normal, not skipping a beat in our conversations. She remembered that my brother Joel and his family and me and my family had all planned to be with her this coming weekend. She apologized to me for being in the hospital but assured me she was OK, and she would be home in time for all of us to have fun. In fact, she was making plans and asking my niece Sue and me to take notes.
However, within days mom started getting a little hazy about where she was, and almost overnight we started to see the signs of dementia that often come on slowly, giving you some time to grasp the situation. That was not the case and by day five the doctor told us it was time to take mom home or place her in a nursing facility, and we knew she would not want the later. We did some research and asked around but finally chose to bring my mother back to her Independent Living Community and bring in healthcare workers to aid her and us. Both Joel and I chose to stay in Michigan and oversee and assist with mom’s care.
2016, August, September, and the first two weeks of October were beautiful. The temperatures remained warm and most days the sun was shining brightly. This became a time in my life when I truly got to know my mother. When mom’s brain was clear she would tell stories about herself as a girl, meeting my dad, raising my brothers and me, being a working mom, and so much more. However, there were ever-increasing moments of confusion when she saw a little boy in her room who pestered her, and she would ask us to send him away. My brother Joel and I learned very quickly not to question what she saw or what she knew and we went with the flow, often bringing humor into a situation that sad, we were losing momma, day by day, and we had no idea how long we had with each other.
During the 2 ½ months I lived with momma I learned that she loved watermelon. I also knew how much she liked coconut cream pie, and I bought a pie and fed her some and she was so happy! Even as a grown woman-child I would crawl into bed next to her and tell her how much I loved her. I even asked her to forgive me for anything I may have said or done that may have hurt her. I felt the urgency to find peace with my mother as High Holidays were approaching, and I so desperately wanted my mother to be engraved in the book of life. I was not ready to let her go, I knew she missed my pops, and towards the end, she would ask for her mother and father, as well as her sister Ann. Hospice and the Rabbis who came to visit shared that this is often passing into the next life.
We were blessed to have some marvelous caregivers, some whom I have stayed friends with to this day. The Rabbi’s were wonderful as they helped bring me closer to my faith, and the comfort belief can have.
My mother passed on October 11, 2016; however, it was Erev Yom Kippur. Momma died on the last day of the beginning of the new year. It felt at first as G-D had played a trick on us, why take her on that particular day? As Rabbi Krakoff shared with us dying on Yom Kippur is a good sign, because it implies dying without sin (the day of Yom Kippur atones for sin, providing the person repents).
As we approach the DAY of Atonement, I want to extend, love, peace, and the wish for health and happiness to all. You don’t have to be Jewish to want the best for all!n share a meal with us, she always had a spot at the table. She kept a ‘pushkee’ a tin box that she would put spare change in and when it got filled, she donated the coins to charity. My mother, nor my father ever asked for anything, but they were full of giving.
Erev Yom Kippur falls in two days on Sunday, and every year my mother’s Yarzheit (Jewish Memorial) of her death is observed on Yom Kippur Day. This year will be no different I will ask G-D to forgive me for any sins I may have committed during this year. I will ask G-D in front of witnesses (this year virtually) to be blessed for another year and to be written in the book of life, and I will thank Lord for the wonderful mother I had and will always have. My mother is my shining star.
As we approach the DAY of Atonement, I want to extend, love, peace, and the wish for health and happiness to all. You don’t have to be Jewish to want the best for all!
My Mother – was a baby rocker – holding drug-addicted newborns
Momma Moss was known for chocolate chips cookies
Dorothy Moss

was a seamstress, she made dolls, and knit caps for newborns

Momma was loved by all and she had a rare sense of humor!
Did you ever hear the Joke about the Horse that Came into the BAR???????

Courage to Caregivers – Kristi Horner

We have a lot of resources to share this week. First, it’s National Suicide Prevention Week, September 6-12, and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reminds us that you don’t have to be a mental health professional to make a difference.

September is also National Preparedness Month, and here’s an awesome resource to help you plan for anything that might come your way. And it’s National Self-Care Awareness Month which, of course, we observe year-round!

Our self-care topic this week is decluttering your space, and probably the most famous expert on this topic is Marie Kondo, whose KonMari method is focused on how to make your home a more calm and relaxing space. With so many of us now working or learning from home, we could all use a little less stress and a little more peace and calm. Here are some of her top tips:

  • Tame the clutter.
  • Assign a place for everything.
  • Bring the outside in.
  • Purify your home.
  • Turn up the cozy.
  • Make tidying fun.

And here’s a checklist to get you started.

However, like many things about self-care, decluttering can be hard, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. So, if you’re like me, you might want to start small, maybe committing 30 minutes a day. Don’t try to do the entire house in one day – go room to room, closet to closet, drawer to drawer.

One of the benefits of decluttering is that it feels great to take control of something you can control, especially in these stressful and complicated times. The physical space in your home is one area where you are generally free to make the changes you want and adapt the environment to best meet your needs.

And as we declutter our physical space, we also need to consider decluttering our minds. When I think about this, I am reminded of when our daughter was little, and she had a hard time falling asleep at night. She would say, “Mommy, I have so many thoughts in my head – I can’t sleep!” So, we had the idea to keep a journal next to her bed so she could “empty” all those thoughts from her mind in order to fall asleep. It worked perfectly! Maybe journaling can help you declutter your mind, too.

Meditation also can help. Actually, I think about it as the antidote to a cluttered mind. Guided meditation has helped me, and I may be biased, but I think our Courage To Caregivers leaders are the best! Consider joining us on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday evening, or consider subscribing to our YouTube channel. Our Breathing Meditation program is designed just for this – to declutter your mind, heart, and soul!

Kristi Horner
Founder and Executive Director
Courage to Caregivers

#VOTEBLUE4YOU – Amy Ferris (THANKYOU!)

Tonight, my heart broke. It did, it cracked open. We live in a small community and I fell in love with this community years ago, right after I fell in love with Ken. He loved this place with all his heart. His mighty heart. And I loved him and so, yeah, the rest is history.
This community Is filled with a collection of people – all walks of life. Every walk of life.
Tonight we drove to town and right on the road – between two trees – was a confederate flag. Right there. On the road. Hanging there – a big confederate flag – as if it were okay. And my heart sank.
That isn’t the Republican way, It’s the trump way.
And for the first time tonight, I actually knew that with every fiber in me. I thought I knew it, but you can’t look at a confederate flag and feel anything but deep pain and deep sadness. The hate. The violence. The vulgarity. The need to destroy and create chaos.
The absolute obscenity.
The unbearable weight of racism.
If you’re a trump supporter you need to own that.
You need to go into your heart and ask yourself: Am I okay with this? With this hate? With this violence?
Ask yourself if you would be okay with a Black friend being massacred because of hate. Your neighbor – who you chat with and who you nod to and wave at when they leave their house; who you sit next to and laugh with – would you be okay with that person – that neighbor, that friend, that co-worker – being lynched or shot or killed because of the color of their skin because that is what that flag represents.

The cult of trump is destroying and killing this Country.

Vote him the fuck out.

Focus on Management

It’s a new month with a new theme, and we have lots to share as we focus on management as it relates to caregivers. This week, we’ll focus on planning for the future as well as the resources we have available to help us. We’ll also keep in mind that September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month – an important month for all of us.

Here’s a resource from WRAP – Wellness Recovery Action Plan – that combines all of those themes. Utilizing the WRAP for Life process for suicide prevention is an invaluable tool for caregivers and their loved ones. What I love about this process is that it involves your loved one directly, including taking ownership of their future planning. It includes resources for daily planning, a wellness toolbox, and crisis planning.

Management is an essential but often neglected topic for caregivers. We have a lot of things thrown our way, and it’s often difficult to keep up. Planning for the future, allocating resources, decluttering your space, time management, and determining who is on your professional team are all ways we can manage and maintain control.

Whether you’re helping your loved one on a sporadic basis or with more consistent care, providing primary emotional and financial support or occasional assistance, or co-caregiving with a partner, it may be concerning to think about your loved one’s future without your presence. Caregivers also can feel the impact of depleting their own financial, emotional, and mental resources to care for a loved one.

Planning can help reduce this stress, and it’s a key part of self-care. When you feel prepared, you feel less anxious.

But the planning process itself can also make us feel anxious. It may be hard to have a conversation with your loved one about the future. But remember our tips from two weeks on how to have difficult but necessary conversations? You’ve GOT this.

And as you plan, consider all of the resources you can draw upon to help you function effectively. These include tangible resources, such as people, places, or things that help us as caregivers or make life easier for our loved ones. They also include intangible resources – such as empathy, flexibility, support, and hope – expressions of goodwill that help make our days a little easier. Without a doubt, my go-to intangible resource is HOPE.

Finally, here’s an outstanding resource on caregiver management from AARP Foundation: “Prepare to Care – A Planning Guide for Families.” It’s a helpful guide that applies to caregivers of all kinds.

Setting goals for management and planning for the future can seem daunting at first, but they are necessary for self-care. It might be helpful to start small. Baby steps forward ARE steps in the right direction!

Kristi Horner
Founder and Executive Director
Courage to Caregivers

changing the subject and having hard conversations with Kristi Horner

Our topic this week is really two related topics: changing the subject and having hard conversations.

Every one of us has a story. We own that story, and part of ownership is deciding when to talk about it and when to change the subject.

You may recall that our son had a horrible motorcycle accident last year, and for some time afterward, it seemed that everywhere I went, I was greeted by, “I’m so SORRY … How’s your son?” Of course, I realized that people meant well when they asked this, but I felt I was being pitied. I was desperate to get back to talking about something else – and doing something else – instead of constantly being defined by my caregiving role.

Changing the subject in this way was hard for me, but it was also necessary. Sometimes, we just don’t want to talk about our story. And that’s our right because it’s OUR story, and we OWN it.

When people constantly focus on the negatives, it can keep those negative scenarios alive for far too long. In other words, when people do this, they interview for pain. It’s better to focus on the positives by asking uplifting questions, talking about opportunities and possibilities, creating HOPE, and painting a picture of a brighter future that could be. If you know a caregiver, here are some great questions to ask:

  • What do you dream about?
  • What brings you hope?
  • How can I best support you?
  • What do you need?

While changing the subject is hard, it can be just as hard to know when to face things head on and have hard conversations when necessary. If we avoid all of the hard conversations, we may just be kicking a can down the street. We risk the conversation blowing up even BIGGER than if we opened the can today.

So, here are some tips for tackling difficult conversations:

  1. Plan, and be prepared. Go in with the facts, and be specific. Remember, there are always at least two valid positions on any topic.
  2. Set ground rules – healthy boundaries for healthy conversations. There should be NO judging.
  3. Communicate directly. Be assertive (not passive or aggressive) in your communication.
  4. Listen – really listen. Prepare a few open-ended questions in advance to flush out the other person’s point of view.
  5. Regulate your emotions. Emotions can run high in hard conversations, and being prepared helps you to keep your emotions in check. If your loved one can’t keep their emotions in check, remember that it’s OK to hit pause and take a break.

It takes a lot of courage to have hard conversations as a caregiver. It also takes courage to own our story and to decide when is the right time to talk about it. As Brené Brown says, “When we deny the story, it defines us. When we own the story, we can write a brave new ending.”

Kristi Horner
Founder and Executive Director

Kristi Horner Founder and Executive Director Courage to Caregivers

7/23/20
The current pandemic has brought with it many kinds of losses – including personal, social, financial, and even our sense of “life as we know it.” Any loss can make us feel grief, and that, appropriately, is our topic for this week.

Grieving can be both personal and communal. We’re all navigating this differently and maybe feeling different kinds of personal losses, but we’re also feeling “collective grief.” We have all lost something in the last four months, and because of that, we’re all grieving together. This is hard.

In this article, Lucy Hone of the New Zealand Institute of Wellbeing & Resilience reminds us about the power of resilience. This can include tuning into the good that still remains, hunting out positive emotions, and keeping memories alive through routines and rituals. According to research, Hone says, “participating in rituals returns a feeling of control to the bereaved, and people who do so experience lower levels of grief.”

Elisabeth KüblerRoss is legendary when it comes to navigating grief and loss. This is one of my most favorite quotes of hers – when you read it insert ANY loss you have experienced – not just a loss of a loved one experienced through death. “The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.”

Although we may never really “get over” the loss of a loved one – or any significant loss, for that matter – we do find new ways of coping and managing overtime. Regarding this pandemic, I know that not one of us will emerge in the same way or as the same person we were four months ago. But it’s my hope that all of us, and the world around us, will change for the better.

That’s probably why I’ve dusted off all my go-to resources for facing loss during this pandemic. Here’s a list of some of my favorite grief and loss resources.

As a final note, tomorrow is an important day for us. It’s International Self-Care Day, and we’ve decided to celebrate with our very first Day of Giving in honor of our commitment to self-care for caregivers!

We are so proud that Courage to Caregivers has been able to help hundreds of caregivers through our peer support, breathing meditation, and support group programs. And this newsletter reaches hundreds more with weekly inspirational messages and resources.

Thank YOU for supporting our mission to provide hope, support, and courage to caregivers and loved ones of those living with mental illness. We can’t do this important work without YOU.

Kristi Horner
Founder and Executive Director
Courage to Caregivers