An RN Family Caregiver Story with Consuelo Gropler_038

You would think being a professional caregiver prepares you for becoming a personal caregiver for a parent. In some ways this is true. But if you don’t have a strong support system from the professional caregivers around you, you can find yourself floundering. And beating yourself up about it.

Connie Gropler was an RN with nearly 2 decades of experience, when she became a caregiver for her Dad and a support system to her Mom and the rest of her family. As her Dad began to deteriorate physically, she found herself lacking that support system from the medical community caring for her Dad. She doesn’t blame them, rather, she feels that the system is broken. That there are not enough resources to support THEM. And I don’t disagree.This is one of the many issues a family caregiver can face.

Another issue is the “hospice talk”. It is important to understand that requesting a hospice evaluation doesn’t have to mean death is imminent.  The majority of patients are enrolled in  hospice for 7 days or less, but services are available for 6 months, and that can be a rolling figure. Hospice can provide resources to provide comfort and quality for both patient and caregivers,  that can be otherwise extremely difficult to acquire.

Until we makes some changes in the way the medical community  addresses end fo life discussions and care options, we need to become advocates for our loved ones and ourselves. How can you do this when you are faced with becoming a family caregiver?

  • Ask for help
  • Be proactive–ask about alternatives to treatment options offered (think Palliative care and hospice evaluations)
  • Call hospice yourself!
  • Be aware that if you use FMLA to take an LOA to care for a loved one, you will need their physicians attestation and signature on these forms for your employer. It’s one of those little things that can put you over the edge!

Check out the good work Connie is doing at Nurse

You’ll find her on social media Facebook: @nursepollinators Instagram: #nursepollinators

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Two Nurses Talk Nursing and Question One with Kara Smith_037

Nursing is a tough career choice, no doubt. But how much can you expect anyone to do? I talk today with another nurse. Three years into her career. We talk about what it’s like to be a nurse. And how nurse burnout can affect YOU.

We also discuss Question one, on the Massachusetts ballot for the November 6, 2018 election. This question proposes a legal mandate for nurse:patient ratios in acute care settings. On the surface, it sounds amazing. Please listen to this podcast to hear a different perspective from two nurses. One early in her career, the other a little more seasoned.

Why is this important to you?

  • It may impact the care your parent receives
  • It may impact the care you will need to provide to your parent
  • It may impact you as a patient
  • it may impact you as an employee
  • It may impact you as a tax payer

I hope you listen. And I would love to hear your take on this. Even if you don’t live in Massachusetts. Because it didn’t start here, and it likely won’t end here, unless it does…

Read Massachusetts Question One 

Stat Pearls on the Nursing Shortage authored Lisa M. Haddad; Tammy J. Toney-Butler

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Extreme Measures: Finding a Better Path to the End of Life with Dr. Jessica Zitter_036

What do you want the end of your life to look like? If you haven’t considered this, and talked about your wishes with your loved ones, you should. If you don’t, you risk ending up on the “end of life conveyor belt”. A situation that occurs when your family members can’t agree about what you would want when you can’t speak for yourself, they can’t let you go, and when physicians offer the next treatment modality (because that’s how they’re trained and it’s available), and don’t know how to say no.  Not a good thing, unless that’s what you want. Where all stops are pulled, every last ditch attempted. Even in a futile situation.

Dr. Jessica Zitter is an ICU physician with years of experience. She comes from a family of physicians trained to treat and cure. It took an ICU nurse colleague, Pat Murphy RN,  accusing her of “torturing” a patient to start her evolution. She began to understand that just because treatment modalities are available, it is not always in the best interests of the patient. That the need to prolong life at any cost is not necessarily a good thing, unless the patient has expressed these wishes. And if they haven’t, this leaves everyone else trying to do the right thing. Which can balloon into the wrong thing.

Dr. Zitter believes that this conversation needs to begin in high school. She is a proponent of Sex Ed and Death Ed. That the conversation starts in adolescence, and a person’s wishes can change over time. We both believe that the earlier these conversations occur, the more likely that a culture shift can occur and we can stop this “conveyor belt” for those that want to get off (or not get on in the first place).  She offers resources to help you sort this out.

Extremis is a documentary, currently on Netflix, which follows 2 families through the process of decision making for their loved ones who are intubated in the ICU. It is a raw account of the families and professional caregivers struggles to make the right decisions for the patient. It’s a very real picture of what goes on every day when conversations haven’t been had, and documented, as well as an excellent visual about the necessity of advanced care planning.

Dr. Zitter’s book, Extreme Measures: Finding a Better Path to the End of Life     offers stories of patient/family ICU experiences, as well as  valuable tools in the appendices for guidance to help you process this information and develop your own advanced care plan.

Other resources she mentions:

Vital Decisions, a  company whose mission is to be the force, the catalyst in this country, to fundamentally change how individuals are cared for during an advanced illness.

Serious Illness Care , a joint health system innovation center working to save lives and reduce suffering, started by Atul Gawande

The goal is that everyone gets the opportunity to live the way they want to live, all the way to the end. Our job as health care providers should be to help family members navigate the process, based on their loved ones wishes. Because with the advances of technology, there will always be that one next thing. The issue is, would you want us to go there for you…

You can find links to Dr. Zitter’s social media (and her book)  on her website

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The Happy, Healthy Caregiver with Elizabeth Miller_035

How do you become a part of a community when you don’t even know that community exists? When your friends aren’t going through this experience at the same time you are, it’s easy to feel alone. Elizabeth Miller started on her caregiver journey doing what many do…googling. She first came across the term sandwich generation, which fit her circumstances, and then family caregiver. She had no idea she was a family caregiver. She just thought she was being a daughter. Putting things together on her own, she was struggling to take time for herself. And knew that it was important. She needed to figure out how to take care of herself through the process of caring for her kids and her parents.

Elizabeth documented her personal journey (a background in journalism comes in handy!). Starting with 100 days of healthy on Instagram, then blogging and podcasting, Elizabeth shares what worked for her and is now helping others. As a certified caregiver consultant, she wants to help you find ways to be a happy, healthy caregiver.

Find her at as well as links to her social media. And check out the National Caregiving Conference, happening 11/8-11/11 in Chicago. There is a virtual attendance option for those who can’t get to Chicago. And look for Elizabeth’s book, which will be launching at the conference: Just for you: A Daily Self Care Journal

Other resources Elizabeth mentioned:

The Dutiful Daughter’s Guide to Caregiving by Judith Henry


Livable Communities with Danielle Arigoni_034


The livable communities program has TONS of resources on their webpage . From access to their weekly newsletter, which comes out on Wednesdays, to a document called Where We Live , which provides an annual report on the state of communities, to a map of what communities are involved…and so much more, check it out!

Funding for the changes necessary to make a community more livable can come from a variety of sources. Some can be as simple as thoughtful planning about existing public investments in infrastructure. Talking to your local planning committee to see what is on the docket for upgrades and asking your city government to be involved are great ways to start.

One of the biggest takeaways for me was the results of the 2018 Home and community preferences survey. Danielle tells us that ~7% of respondents have accessory dwelling units  or “granny flats”, but ~33% would like to build one. With the number of people over 65 increasing every day, I can only see this number increasing.  In order to see these units become accessible to more homeowners it’s going to take rezoning or perhaps policy change. For the one off, it can require a variance. Some may not want to see a change to their neighborhood or town. But there are pluses for both sides to having  these units. Having your aging parent in the backyard vs. across the city (or country) will make your life easier. Having your parents close by can provide a source of care for your children. And finding a space that can accommodate both your and your parents, can allow you to live in a home or area that you might not otherwise be able to afford. All things to consider.

Find out about their national conference, happening November 12-14 2018 in Charlotte, NC. This conference has ~100 slots open to the public. You can learn more here: 6th Annual AARP Livable Communities Conference 2018

Find AARP’s livable communities on social:

Facebook: AARP livable communities

Twitter: @AARPLivable