Category Archives: caregiver

Celebrate Your Life With A Video Biography

 

By Debbie Brodsky

Most people don’t want to think about death. Not their own, nor of their loved ones. It’s easier to avoid thinking about it.

I have been creating video biographies for families for over ten years. Of the many objections I’ve had for people not creating a video of their lives, the one that’s always baffled me the most is when people say, “It’s morbid.” They think that by creating a video about their life, that it’s a sign of things to come – that somehow creating a video about their lives is going to somehow cause their death. And no one wants to think about that.

I understand. It feels like by telling your life story, you must be somehow at the end of that story.

Yet we know intellectually that we all are going to die at some point. For those with a terminal illness, that time may come sooner than later. And for those who are left behind, being able to experience a loved one after their death – to hear their voice and see their face light up as they speak – is an enormous gift.

The irony is that when those who are reluctant finally do agree to share their story on camera, they end up enjoying the process immensely. Yes, it may bring up strong emotions, and yes, it’s sometimes hard. But they actually enjoy going on this journey with me – telling the stories of the milestones they have reached, the challenges they have overcome, and the family members they cherished when they were young. They love looking through old pictures, and remembering things they hadn’t thought about in years. More than anything, it brings a sense of peace and relief. They feel a weight lifted. This gift that they’re creating – this legacy for generations to come – is more than a gift to the future. It’s a gift to their present selves honoring their storied past.

If you or someone you know has a terminal illness, creating a video to celebrate their life is one of the best things you can do for them – and for you.

For assistance and resources for creating your video biography, please visit http://www.dmbpictures.com

Related articles:

http://www.dmbpictures.com/blog/2015/10/is-there-a-silver-lining-to-cancer/

http://www.dmbpictures.com/blog/2012/04/the-benefits-of-telling-your-story/

PS — I met Debbie when she conducted a seminar at HOPE CONNECTIONS in Bethesda, Maryland. If I could ‘roll back time’ I wish this is something I had done with my relatives. Just as there are no cell phones in Heaven, neither do they have video cameras. Before it’s  too late, why not start a Legacy project in your family? Make a list of the people you want to honor, call and schedule your first session. Hint: Don’t procrastinate on this one.

 

Part Two: “Let’s Talk Turkey” Here’s a real life example

Giving Thanks for My Father’s Death
By Rev. Rosemary Lloyd, 11/22/2016

[Permission to publish]

This Thursday, there will be an empty chair at the table for our family Thanksgiving gathering. My brothers and I made plans months ago to come from the many corners of our busy lives to be together for what we suspected would be my father’s final Thanksgiving on earth. But he won’t be with us. He died October 16, 2016.

It’s okay.

Don’t misunderstand: I’m sad; I will miss him forever.
And I am grateful for his death.

My father was 95 in August. For more than two years, we witnessed the mental diminishment that came with the unforgiving progression of late-onset dementia. Ultimately, the man who was a navigator during World War II—who could fly through night skies with stars as his guides—would say, “I’m lost. Where am I? Where are we going?” Untethered from the circadian rhythms of the household, he would wander restlessly at night and doze on and off through the day.

It became more and more difficult to understand what made him comfortable or uncomfortable. What he would want to eat instead of push away. Whether he would agree to take a walk or get dressed or simply refuse.
So, when he died quietly, sitting in his favorite chair, waiting to be called for dinner, I was, of course, sad. And grateful.

Grateful that his death was what so many of us dream for ourselves: It was peaceful, seemingly without pain, at home, near his beloved wife, the smells of his favorite dinner wafting from the kitchen. We are grateful for the mercy that he still knew his bride of 63 years, and recognized his children and grandchildren. The twinkle is his eyes still ignited when he saw a baby or a pretty woman. And he was still saying, “Thank you,” “I’m sorry,” and “I love you.”

I am so grateful that we had some crucial conversations along the way. Dad convened his adult children after Thanksgiving dinner some years ago to explain his finances to us all. He designated who was to have Power of Attorney for financial matters, who would be executors of his estate, and who his back-up health care agent was, after our mom.

Early last year, having outlived the battery in the pacemaker/defibrillator that slept under his skin, he opted to have just the pacemaker replaced, saying he didn’t want his heart “shocked” if it was ready to stop. We gently pushed the conversation to the next level: What if your heart stops beating in the hospital or at home? Do you want us to attempt CPR to try to restart your heart? “No,” he answered softly. “I don’t want that.”

He asked his doctor for a DNR order and it was placed on the refrigerator at home. I am so grateful for his courage, and for my mother’s and brothers’ tender compassion that allowed us to talk openly. And for the doctor’s humanity in receiving Dad’s request. Those conversations were a gift that gave everyone peace of mind on October 16th.

Though he “graduated” from hospice in August, I am grateful for the dedicated and compassionate people who supported my parents for six months. If you ask her, my mother will tell you how “Wonderful!” were the world-expanding visits from the chaplain, and social worker, and nurse—for both of them.

I am grateful for the many years that my father was our guiding star, and for the gift of words that expressed his love for us and his faith in a God who would be his eternal rest. I am grateful for the many family, friends, and strangers-to-me who expressed their condolences, sent food, came to the house and the funeral parlor, to the church and the graveside. I am grateful for the co-workers who allowed me the time to be with my family and who understand that grief isn’t over just because the funeral is.

As I look around the table this Thanksgiving, I will, no doubt, see eyes that twinkle like my dad’s, and eyes that sparkle with brimming tears. And I will feel so much gratitude for the gift of my father’s life and his death. May his memory be a blessing for generations.

Your Spouse as Healthcare Agent? 

Your Spouse as Healthcare Agent?   Perhaps NOT!

 Our GUEST BLOGGER, M. Jane Markley’s specialty in Advance Care directives makes her a highly sought speaker and trainer. Please register for the FREE webinar with Kim Adams, July 21st. 

Jane said: “In my June 2015 newsletter, I spoke about CHOOSING your Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare, also known as a Healthcare Agent.  I emphasized the importance of addressing three criteria when making this decision.  As a refresher, here they are.  The person you choose should:

  • Be ready, willing, and able to take on the role
  • Have had a conversation with you and understand your wishes
  • Be able to abide by your wishes and be your advocate when needed. 

What are the Pro’s and Con’s of having a spouse be your healthcare agent?  Over 40 years ago, my mother chose me, not my father, to be her healthcare agent.  He fully met the first two criteria, but she felt that he wouldn’t be able to meet the third, because of the type of care she would want when “the crisis” occurred.  She believed I would best be able to advocate for her.  Then she told everyone in the family her wishes. Spouses frequently struggle with the choices their loved ones make. If they can’t support those decisions, or advocate for them, they’re not the right person to assume this role.  Whomever you choose to be your healthcare agent, speak with them to make sure they meet all three.”

These are the nuances of advance care planning that not everyone considers. Do you have other questions about this type of planning?  Want to learn more in a safe environment?  Join us Thursday, 21 July at 7:00 pm EST, when I’ll be speaking about advance care planning, and taking questions from the audience on Kim Adams’ Monthly Dialogues for Living and Dying Well.  Please register at:

https://app.webinarjam.net/register/1117/0eaa8c834f


I hope that you will be able to join us for this
FREE program. Have ‘The Conversation’ and Give ‘The Gift’

 Copyright © M Jane Markley Consulting, LLC. All Rights Reserved
www.mjmarkley.com   (301) 744-7656

Q and A with Kara Dolce, Founder of Fighting Pretty www.fightingpretty.org

Sample box from FIGHTING PRETTY

Common Denominator for Cancer Patients (CDCP)

                 Appearance = Self Image (SI)

Elizabeth:  Speaking from personal experience, losing my hair, my eyelashes and eyebrows was one of the most devastating consequences of chemotherapy in 2004. The stress of radiation and multiple surgeries contributed to my losing 30 pounds: I looked emaciated! The American Cancer Society (ACS) sent a Reach to Recovery volunteer to share her cancer experiences, and give me a post-mastectomy Teddy Bear pillow. She urged me to attend a Look Good/Feel Better (LGFB) session held at the U S NAVY Hospital in Bethesda. A volunteer demonstrated how to work around the ravages of cancer, and sent us home with a bag of free (donated) cosmetics. http://lookgoodfeelbetter.org/

Flash-forward to September, 2015, when my former SOWER* volunteer friend, Betsy McGuirt was enrolled in home hospice care. Betsy and her husband had battled brain cancer for fourteen months. Their goal was to have as much quality time as they could, with their family and friends.

I think many of my readers know the frustration of wanting to help a friend with cancer, but don’t know what to do, particularly if you live in another location. I called ACS to schedule a “Look Good/Feel Better” program for Betsy, but they had no programs in rural North Carolina.

I don’t remember how I found www.fightingpretty.org, but as soon as I ordered her package, they sent it immediately.

Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 12.16.43 PM

Betsy left me a tearful voice message: “You made my day!” She loved everything in the box, including the Pink Boxing Gloves which reminded her of her father’s life as a boxer. Her husband passed the gloves on to me, now that my breast cancer has metastasized to my bones. They are a constant reminder, always positioned above my desk.

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Q:  What’s been the biggest surprise since you incorporated Fighting Pretty Inc. as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in 2013?

A: The biggest surprise has been the impact that Fighting Pretty and our Pretty Packages have had on the women who have received them. We have received thousands of thank you letters from women who have received our Pretty Packages ranging in all ages, all types of cancer and from all over the world. Our Pretty Packages are really making an impact on women battling cancer and in some cases, continue to make an impact on their families even after their loved ones may have lost their battle with cancer.

Sample box from FIGHTING PRETTY

 The outpouring of generosity and love from friends and loved ones requesting Pretty Packages for women battling cancer, companies donating thousands of products and cosmetics, and individual donors supporting the cause has been incredible! We are so grateful for all of our supporters – big and small. Your strength gives us strength!

Q:  What’s been the most effective way to let people know about FIGHTING PRETTY ?

A: Most people are finding out about Fighting Pretty through social media and word of mouth. There are many referrals that come from women who have received Pretty Packages; however, we are working on attending more cancer walks in 2016, and partnering with even more cancer hospitals around the country to distribute literature about our programs and even donate or give away Pretty Packages to current patients getting treatment.

Q:  FIGHTING PRETTY is now three years old. Tell us those amazing statistics of how you’ve managed to help so many women!

A: Fighting Pretty started very organically. I was given a pair of mini pink boxing gloves as a symbol of strength and hope. And when I finished battling cancer, I not only sent on my boxing gloves to a newly diagnosed “fighter,” but I wanted to help all women battling cancer feel strong and beautiful, like my friends and family had done for me. I started by sending one care package to a friend. Then another package to someone else’s friend. And it got to the point where I realized I should send these to everyone, even if I don’t have a direct connection. I started a Facebook page, created a logo and the next thing I knew, I sent 11 in my first month. Then I doubled that, then tripled that, and finally reached the highest month – October – when we sent over 100 Pretty Packages. Next came a request from Australia, then France, then the Philippines. And next thing I knew, with the help of my mom, we sent over 2,500 Pretty Packages to 49 states (no one in New Mexico!) and seven countries in three years.

Because the Pretty Packages are personal, contain quality items that have been carefully procured, and are generally sent from a friend or family member, recipients of the packages absolutely love them. And because friends and family members don’t really know what to do to help their loved one who is battling cancer, they turn to us!

Q: I just asked all of my Facebook friends to “Like” the Ohio State University FIGHTING PRETTY college chapter. It is alarming how many young women are being diagnosed with breast cancer. How can we get more colleges to join this movement?

A:  As a young breast cancer survivor myself, it is alarming, but a real issue. My personal opinion, not backed by research, is that more women are aware of breast cancer now, so they are finding it younger, but living longer because of developed research. Only 15-20 years ago, not as many younger women were aware of the disease, and so they were less likely to do self breast exams, resulting in more advanced breast cancer later in life. Again, this is my personal opinion – not backed by research.

I am very passionate about spreading awareness of Fighting Pretty, but also the promotion of self breast exams.  I know that when I was 26 years old – only a few years out of college myself – the last thing I thought about was getting breast cancer. It was my grandmother’s death that triggered me to do a self breast exam, to find out I had Stage 3 breast cancer that spread to my lymph nodes. I’m happy to say at 34, after surgeries, extensive treatment, and hormone therapy, I am cancer free!

The partnership with OSU came about very organically. A student, Hope Farabee, was doing a class project and wanted to help cancer patients feel beautiful. She found us online and wanted to help. Together, we developed a 3-step pilot Fighting Pretty club: (1) Fundraise (2) Make Pretty Packages (3) Distribute to a local cancer hospital. The OSU team is starting their fundraising step this month!

Q: What’s the best way for potential cash donors or IN-KIND corporate donations to reach you?

A: Visiting our website is where you will find the most information about how to donate. We are always looking for financial donors to back our mission so we can continue to grow and spread awareness of our cause across the nation. In-kind donations help us send quality items to the women who need it most – the women who are Fighting Pretty. We have worked with really big brands like Maybelline, OPI, Revlon and Mary Kay, and smaller brands like Alima Pure and Inspyr Socks. We love making new partnerships because it not only helps us to grow our business, but it helps to spread awareness to help even more women around the world feel strong and beautiful during their cancer journey.

For cash donations, people can donate right through our website:www.fightingpretty.org or send a check to: 2645 SW Maple Lane, Portland, OR 97225. For in-kind donations, please contact us atinfo@fightingpretty.org. We are excited to hear from you!

Q: How often do you need volunteers to help build your FIGHTING PRETTY packages for mailing?

A: Right now, we are sending on average 50-75 Pretty Packages per month. So we typically only meet once every month or every other month, depending on how many Pretty Packages we have “in stock.” However, as we grow, we may be hosting more Pretty Package development events! It’s not the building of Fighting Pretty Packages that we need the most help with, it’s sourcing the materials and spreading awareness so we can help even more women battling cancer feel strong and beautiful during the toughest time of their lives.Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 6.35.05 PM

Kara Dolce, Founder, www.fightingpretty.org

 

I’ll Never Stop Volunteering! Need a body for medical research? Take mine!

Last year I explained that my God-given soul returns to Him, eternally, when I die, in my Blog post, My Life in Three Ice Cubes: …Whenever Death comes, as you can see, the third ice-cube (my corpse) will be a mere puddle, like the cocoon abandoned by the butterfly, or the shell discarded by a cicada.

I’ve heard other survivors declare that “Cancer is the gift that keeps on giving,” because late stage effects extend our suffering. I say organ or whole body donation is the only gift that can keep on giving. If I can’t use my body anymore, why shouldn’t someone else benefit from it? Continue reading

GUEST POST

Sue Montgomery, RN, BSN, granted me permission to link to her article, “WhenMed-Surg Nurses Care for Dying Patients” in Working Nurse magazine.

Here are some medical acronyms and terms that were new to me:

  • Med-Surg = Medical-Surgical.  This refers to a sub-specialty of nursing that cares for patients with medical and surgical needs.
  • ICU  = Intensive Care Unit
  • ATC = Around The Clock
  • PRN = As needed
  • IV = Intravenously

The Sandwich Generation — Caregivers again?

Death is somewhat like the weather: we can talk about it forever, but eventually, it happens. Start now to share with your family through guided discussions and documents that describe how you feel about your life, from beginning to end. If your health heads south, the family is led by your decisions, if you can no longer communicate.

Katy Butler wrote about her family’s experience in 2010, “What Broke My Father’s Heart” New York Times Magazine, when her dad received an unwanted pacemaker. I showed this story to my ninety year old uncle. His incredulous response: “I’ve read it twice! Do you really think this is true?” [His pacemaker was installed five years ago.] The record-breaking reader response to her article signaled a wakeup call for the rest of us. With additional research into the medical industrial complex, in 2013 she published, Knocking on Heaven’s Door which became a New York Times bestseller.  http://katybutler.com/site/category/the-new-york-times/  Won’t you tell me your reaction? Continue reading

My Life in Three Ice Cubes

Are these familiar Bible verses? “In the beginning, GOD created the heavens and the earth…” HE was lonely, and created a man and a woman. In Jeremiah 1:5, HE said: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I set you apart…” My interpretation? God knows me, loves me, and gave me my Soul.

ice cubes

These three ice cubes demonstrate how I visualize my life process and the concept of “SOUL.” The first ice cube represents my Birth; at Midlife, the second ice cube has partially melted signifying my life’s half over. When Death comes, the third ice cube will have dissolved into a puddle and released my SOUL. Here’s my evidence: Continue reading