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Caregiving Reality

Providing hope and encouragement to those facing the reality of caregiving

Support for Caregivers

Rundy Purdy speaking

Rundy Purdy, author of The Sea is Wide: A Memoir of Caregiving is an experienced caregiver and gifted speaker. With compassion and gentleness, he touches audiences by sharing his journey of hope through hard experiences. In his presentation he leads caregivers and their families through the often emotional and difficult subject of caregiving to bring out a fresh perspective. If you are interested in having him share his experience of caregiving along with a message of encouragement, perseverance, and love, then please go to: http://caregivingreality.com/speaking/

If you would like further updates on Rundy’s writing, speaking, and further caregiving support, sign up for our newsletter. Bonus: Everyone who signs up for the newsletter will receive a pdf of the first three chapters of the book absolutely free!

Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash

What happened in your July? Maybe you had some fireworks to start out the month, and a lot of hot weather. Over here we’ve had a lot of rain. Besides all of that, Rundy was on the radio. You missed it? So did most of the country. But never fear, you can still listen to it in podcast form. More details here: http://caregivingreality.com/videos-podcasts/rundy-on-caregiving-sos-july-2018/

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Check out this interview with Rundy on WENY out of Elmira where he speaks about his upcoming event with the Chemung County Agency for the Aging on April 21. We hope you can make it!

 

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Rundy Purdy, author of “The Sea is Wide: A Memoir of Caregiving” will be speaking at the Big Flats Community Center in conjunction with the Chemung County Department of Aging and Long Term Care. The event will take place at 476 Maple St, Big Flats, New York 14814 on Saturday, April 21 and run 8:30 AM – 11 AM. A light continental breakfast will be served, and the event is free and open to the public.

Rundy brings fresh insight, compassion, and a message of hope to all caregivers. As a result of his years of experience caring for his grandparents, Rundy has a passion to help those facing the caregiving struggle. His goal is to inspire and encourage others as they overcome obstacles to become all the caregiver than can be.

First 50 registrants for this event will receive a free copy of his book. Registration required by calling Chemung County Department of Aging at 607-737-5520 by Monday April 18th, 2018.

We hope to see you there!

Facebook Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/2113029872258983/

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I recently added two new articles.

  1. The Face of an Epidemic
  2. Planning For The Future Home

Good stuff. Go read now.

In other news…

on the personal front, I’m going to be a dad. My wife and I are expecting a baby March 5th (or thereabouts, depending on when the little boy decides to make his appearance.) Yes, I said little boy. So that will be the beginning of a whole new caregiving journey. So much more to come.

(Just thought I’d slip that in there.)

Be well, and may you know blessings in the new year!

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Photo by juan pablo rodriguez on Unsplash

Although there are many kinds of caregivers, some of them more visible than others. We all recognize professional caregivers such as nurses and aides who spend their time caring for the sick. Most of us are also aware of the typical family caregivers–parents caring for their little children, or an adult child caring for an aging parent. All of these people are caregivers and are fulfilling important roles, roles which are difficult and come with many stresses and struggles. It is good to recognize and value the work these people do–but there are other kinds of caregivers who often go unnoticed.

People around the country whom we would not typically expect to be caregivers are filling the role–often unnoticed by their community and unappreciated. Because they are not the typical caregiver they often don’t have the normal support structures or resources. Because their local communities do not recognize that they are caregivers the people around them may not realize they are struggling and need help.

Who are these people? They might be grandparents who through difficult life events have become the primary caregivers for their grandchildren. Or perhaps someone who is caring for an ill friend. We often fail to recognize how much someone gives up when they take on the duty of caring for a friend; it is a role which can often feel like a very thankless task.

Another example would be an elderly widowed mother caring for her adult son who is a disabled veteran. In old age most people look forward to the typical retirement dream–relaxing and having less responsibility. They expect that when poor health finally does come, other people will be caring for them. So when society thinks of an older woman they don’t expect this woman to be the caregiver for her adult son. If it isn’t expected, it often isn’t seen.

I recently met this very caregiver. The experience of seeing an elderly woman unselfishly living out the latter years of her life caring for a son who had once been healthy but now is disabled for the rest of his life was a stark reminder to me of all the unusual caregiving situations which are hidden around us. It is a journey that not very many people must take, and it is one that we as a society often overlook.

So today I’m asking you to consider the invisible caregivers you have in your life and around you in your community. Look a little closer. You might see caregivers where you didn’t expect them, people who are overlooked and need support. Don’t let them slip by unnoticed. What can you do for them?

Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash

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Frailty

Photo Credit: Bob Travis

If I say the word “Frailty” what comes to your mind? Maybe it is the image of an old person stooped over a walker, with thin wrists and bony knuckles clutching at the handles. That is a picture of frailty. We know how easily a stumble can happen, and how suddenly a fall comes–then the broken bone. A broken bone can bring the shattering of the rest of that person’s life. The elderly are frail, and life is fragile.

We commonly think that frailty is limited to an elderly person, but that is not true. We are all frail, and that is something we would do well to remember. Personal confession: I recently had a painful reminder of this truth. Consider this post a reminder for you.

I am still in my mid-thirties and have managed to maintain a healthy, fit, and strong body which allows me to pursue an active lifestyle. Someone meeting me for the first time would probably think I embody the opposite of frailty. But how painful it is to learn the lesson of how weak and untrustworthy our bodies truly are!

Through a series of minor events at the end of May I ended up developing a severe muscle spasm in my back. Perhaps you have had one of those occasions where life was going along just fine and then you were flat on your back. This muscle spasm was the worst I have ever experienced in my life. I went from being able to lift objects that weighed several hundred pounds to being unable to lift myself. Moving caused excruciating pain. In the space of a day–just like that–I was rendered helpless. I couldn’t even use the bathroom by myself.

Thankfully, though my injury was painful it was not serious. With some pain medication, a bit of prescribed muscle relaxants, some therapy, and a bit of stretching I was able to quickly recover. I couldn’t work out in the yard for a few days, but soon enough I was back to my normal physical activity. This was a story with a happy ending, but the episode was a stark reminder for me of how frail we all are. Last year I hiked one of the high peaks in the Adirondacks with my wife, and did it without difficulty. We’re going back for more this summer. Every week I take bike rides and lift hundreds of pounds of weights. I’m healthy. I can do things without even thinking about it. And yet somehow in the space of hours I can go from being able to climb a mountain to being unable to climb out of bed.

The lesson is that our own bodies can betray us at any moment. This human frailty ought to teach us to be humble. It doesn’t matter if you are fifteen, twenty-give, thirty-five, fifty-five, or seventy-five–we are all frail. You may think relying on other people is something only the elderly must do–but watch out! It doesn’t take much to make any one of us dependent on help from others. We shouldn’t assume that we have the guarantee of going through life with the ability to live independently when accident or ailment can render us utterly dependent at any age.

My brief stint as a complete cripple has made me a little more grateful for the health I have, and a little more mindful of how easily I might lose it. If you are a caregiver, remember that it is not just the person in your care who is frail, you also live in a fragile body. Know your limits, accept help, and remember that as today you are helping someone else, the day will come when you also will need help. It is part of being human, being fragile, and if we accept the state of our existence well then we will have a little better humility for it and a little more peace living in it.

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Photo Credit: Matthew Keefe

There is something new in the wind. I mean, the air waves. Caregiver SOS is an hour-long weekly radio show devoted to caregivers and their needs. It airs 6 p.m. Sundays on NewsTalk 930 (AM) KLUP in the Greater San Antonio region. The show is hosted by nationally recognized gerontologist Carol Zernial and veteran broadcaster Ron Aaron. It has been going on for a number of years, so that isn’t what’s new. What is new is that I was asked to be a reoccurring guest on the Take 10 segment of the show.

Take 10 is a ten-minute segment in the hour long show where a guest is asked to share some thoughts on an issue facing caregivers. Dr. James Huysman was the regular contributor on the show but as his schedule became more busy they needed someone to fill in when he wasn’t available. Since I had worked with Carol and Ron previously at a caregiver conference in 2016 they thought I would be a good fit to fill this spot when necessary, and I was thrilled for the opportunity.

If you are local to the San Antonio area you can listen Sundays at 6PM on your radio. If you are not local, you can listen live via the online radio player at the station website. If you are not able to listen live there are podcasts available for old shows. However, the podcasts are about a month behind so since I started about mid-April the shows on which I have appeared are not yet available as podcasts. Check back at the podcasts in a couple of weeks and you should find the latest with Rundy on Take 10.

Never thought I would be a guest on a radio show. Life is strange.

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Photo Credit: Unsplash

When Charles Dickens wrote, “It was the best of times and the worst of times” he was secretly telling you what his writing process was like. Few activities are capable of moving a person from the smile of inspiration to the groan of despair so quickly. There are days when two minutes ago I thought everything was going great and now I’m convinced I’ll never finish writing a book again.

I say this by way of introducing the fact that I am working on my next book. Since I have not yet reached the halfway point on the first draft, I am still decidedly in the early stages. Things are just starting to solidify. The vision for the final result is far from clear, but it’s coming into focus. This is, by turns, slightly exhilarating and utterly terrifying. Possible failure looms largest if I stop to think too much, which is why it is better for me to write and not think.

The book I am working on is about my time caring for my grandmother. Because that time in my life followed the period chronicled in The Sea is Wide it can be considered a sequel of sorts. I think of it more as a companion story since the narratives overlap to some degree.

It is still too early in the process for the manuscript to have a definitive title, but I have been referring to it under the moniker, A Hole in Her Heart. Maybe that will stick, maybe not. The working title is factual (if nothing else) since a hole in the heart is exactly what happened to Grandma as as her illness worsened. (Medically–technically–it was a pseudo aneurysm in her left ventricle, but the doctor simplified the language to “hole in the heart.”)

My dream is that the book will tell an honest story about the living of life and the facing of death. Ideally, it would provoke readers to think about how they live and love and face hard things. Finding the right words to share these things is really, really, hard.

I won’t venture to say how long it will take me to finish this book. If I did, I would be wrong. So, it will be done when it is done. But when the book does finally come together I will be looking for some early readers for feedback. If you would like to be one of those test readers, stick around. Maybe you’ll get a chance.

Photo Credit: Unsplash

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Today at 11AM Central Time I was invited to give a presentation to a teleconfderence sponsored by the WellMed Charitable Foundation. Thanks to everyone who tuned in for the tele-conference, it was wonderful to have a chance to share with you all. At the end of the call I mentioned there was a video on my website of a full talk I had given. As it so happens it was the talk I gave at the Caregiver Summit hosted by the WellMed Foundation last November You can find it here: http://caregivingreality.com/videos-podcasts/wellmed-caregiver-summit-2016/

Drop me a comment if you would like!

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Magnolia Hall

In the week of February 20th – 24th I made a long overdue trip to South Carolina in the larger Hilton Head area. I say “long overdue” because the trip was originally scheduled for this past October until an ill-timed hurricane changed my plans. This time around the weather was wonderfully balmy. Coming from the snow-covered north, the warm temperature and gentle breezes felt almost unreal.

Two talks were scheduled for this trip: one at the Greater Beaufort Alzheimer’s Support Group, and the other hosted by Sun City, which is a massive gated community for those fifty-five and older. Coming down to South Carolina to talk was very exciting. When I first published my book and began traveling for speaking events I never could have hoped to see so much of the country as I have in the last twelve months, or to reach so many people. Every new trip reminds me of how grateful I should be for these opportunities.

For making this trip a reality two people deserve special mention, and a big shout-out of thanks. Because of their generosity, Rob O’Keefe and Lynn Ann Casey made my appearances in South Carolina happen. If you had the chance to hear me speak and you benefited then you have them to thank. I can’t say enough about how much they did in facilitating this trip.

The two talks in South Carolina were very different. The first presentation was on Wednesday the 22nd and was at the Alzheimer’s support group. It was a small and intimate setting–as a support group should be. The second event was on Thursday and took place in a large auditorium called Magnolia Hall (see the picture at the beginning of the article). This venue often functions as a movie theater or location for other programs, but for the afternoon I was the only show. At that event we had around 100 people in attendance. There are different things I enjoy about both the small intimate and the large events, but this was the first time I had both types of events back-to-back. It is a bit disorienting to switch venue sizes so drastically in the space of a day.

I was very thankful that my wife Debbie was able to come along for this trip. Not only is it much more fun to have her along, but at Magnolia Hall I really needed the extra help handling book sales. (I have learned I can’t talk, sign books, and handle monetary transactions at the same time.) I hope Debbie and I have more opportunities to go as a team!

When I come back from these events I always want to share stories because that feels like the most meaningful part. But I think the best stories are the ones I will never know–those stories are hidden in faces that stare out at me from the audience with so much understanding in their eyes. I know even without them speaking that they are walking the familiar hard road.

But there are also the people who come and speak with me afterward in soft voices that sometimes quaver and lips that sometimes tremble with the hurt they have known. I don’t really know how to give adequate words to their struggles. The vulnerability that people can share in this short time is unlike almost any other public interaction. Sometimes it is as if for this small window of time the normal social walls are down and people can speak about some of the rawest parts of their life with a complete stranger. It is a privilege that can be a bit overwhelming.

Then there are the people who send meandering emails to me after the event, sharing about their loved one. This is the silent telling of their story as a catharsis they couldn’t manage in person. There is the man’s wife of fifty-five years, born in France but now never able to go back again. There is such fondness in what he shares, but also an unspoken sadness over all that was and is slipping away.

I hope to come back to South Carolina again. There are many places to see, but–even more importantly–many people to reach. We’ll see what the future holds.

audience at sun city

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