Seniors, suicide and a sense of hopelessness

Seniors, suicide and a sense of hopelessness

Seniors and suicide

According to the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, “seniors make up 12% of our population but are 18% of all suicide deaths”. This study was created pre-covid. And while the statistics are yet to be available, I would expect these numbers will rise drastically as our oldest community members continue to live in isolation.

In the state of Nebraska, suicide is the 7th leading cause of death for ages 55-64 and the 18th leading cause of death for those over 65 (Suicide Facts and Figures, Nebraska 2020). Additionally, Census.gov reports that 14% of Nebraska residents are seniors and 30% of them are living alone. That leaves a high percentage of that 70% residing in long term care or assisted living facilities. And due to Covid 19, the majority of those facilities are on lockdown.

What Lockdown Looks like

If you have ever been to a senior community, you know that community is the key word. We expect a sense of community, interaction and activity. Now due to Covid 19,  you are often met with a stifling silence. The new normal upon entering a facility is:

  1. Document on a questionnaire your current symptoms.
  2. Take your temperature and record it.
  3. Don a mask.

And this is just for those who are able to enter. Since March of 2020, essential workers are the only people who are permitted into these facilities.

Staff suffers too

I’ll be honest as my heart hurts for the administrators and staff. They are in these positions out of true love and respect for the people they work. They are taking this personally and are going above and beyond to be more on on the floor and interacting with the residents.

However, that doesn’t take the place of family visitation. In many cases, our seniors are quarantined in their rooms, looking at the same four walls daily. Visitation with family is done through a window, each placing their hands on the respective side while hiding the tears that are forming. Phone calls have taken the place of physically hearing a loved one’s voice. And hugs are no longer allowed.

During quarantine communal meals have been deemed unsafe, so they  miss their dinner companions. There are no more Bingo tournaments or community sing alongs. They can’t meet a friend and work on a puzzle together, nor can they do group crafts. The lack of connecting with others can lead a normally “emotionally healthy” person into situational depression.

What Depression Looks like

Depression looks differently in an aging loved one. As many of our seniors also suffer from memory loss and/or dementia, they truly have no understanding of their current situation. This creates additional stressors on both the individual resident and the staff.

A person who once enjoyed activities may now show no interest in t hose activities. They may refuse to color, put together a puzzle or or even participate in physical therapy. Their appetite begins to decline and there is little interest in a favored dessert. A once smiling person may become tearful and express a loss of hope and/or a desire to not go on.

While they may not have a plan to end their life, their overall hopelessness has taken over any shred of their current situation changing. As the time slips by, so does their physical and emotional strength. They present as angry, withdrawn, and are failing to thrive.

What you can do

Realize the effect that Covid 19 is having on this lost population.

  • Recognize a change in bevior in a loved one and report it to their respective caregivers. Don’t minimize the overall impact of this pandemic.
  • Be honest when talking with your family member and acknowledge how hard this is. Often we try to protect or fragile family members and they may misinterpret your apathy as a disregard for their situation.
  • Make an effort to communicate. Make the call, send the letter or the text. Let them know you are thinking of them.
  • Send them a care package of their favorite items. Many who are used to doing their own shopping are now unable to do so and are missing having the things they love around them.
  • Send notes, cards and drawing to a local facility and let them know the outside world cares.

Recognize that your loved one is grieving. They are grieving the life they once lived. Yes, it is hard to be around them when they are feeling so hopeless. This is about providing hope in an unprecedented time to someone who desperately needs a thread of hope to cling to. And for the unknown future, this is our new normal.

Thoughts? Share with us your experiences with this situation. Email me at:cindijjeffrey@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Circle of Life… in real life

The Circle of Life… in real life

The Lion King

Remember watching the movie and listen to the song, “The Circle of Life” and the celebration that ensued with the birth of the baby? And who didn’t cry with Simba’s father died? I know I am a bawling mess every time I watch that show. there is a part of me that wishes real life was more like cartoons though, as they seem to quickly move through those tough emotions.

In real life, those emotions don’t move that quickly. They ebb and flow, allowing us to feel focused one moment and utterly drowning the next. believe me, I understand why Simba disappeared into the unknown to be alone and refused to come back to what he knew.  There are so many emotions vying for control. Guilt, grief, anger, sadness, joy and then they all start to mess together until we are not sure what we feel anymore.

Real life

Four years ago we unexpectedly lost my brother. I am still grieving and sometimes that hurt hits as and feels as though I have been gut punched. In the time following, our family lost a well loved minister, two beloved uncles and my mother’s partner. Last year my mom passed. Additionally, my immediate family lost two loving dogs, which also sucked.

For four years, I have been on the fuckin roller coaster of living and loving and crying and grieving. There have been times where I have been truly paralyzed by grief and there have been other times where my motivation to live was overpowering.

Grief doesn’t come with a handbook (ok, maybe a guidebook)…but one size does not fit all. For me, as I struggled, being a mom was my foremost goal and I while I wanted to keep a sense of security for my kids, I knew there were days that I just wasn’t present. Putting a smile on my face while talking to my loved ones about their own losses was so terribly hard. Keeping the consistency of a somewhat schedule and getting the kids where they needed to go kept me focused for short periods of time.

Anniversaries Suck

June has some tough anniversaries for my family. First my brother and more recently, we had our mom’s first anniversary of her death. Sometimes I think the anticipation of the anniversary can be worse than going through the day itself. Honestly, I suck at remembering anniversaries but my mind and body seem to know what’s going on, even when I don’t.

The best unsolicited advice I can give anyone reading this is the following. “be gentle with yourself”. Grief can come in like a fricken hurricane, go into a wave pool and return to a level five storm before we even know what we are dealing with. I now there were so many times I was figuratively getting ready to dip a toe into the water and BOOM, I was fricken sinking into the deep end.

It’s time to live

I know one thing. My brother would be irritated with me for not stepping up and taking life by the wings. He was a live in the moment type of guy and I remember him always falling asleep in his recliner because he ran himself ragged. While my mom’s body just wore out. She never recovered from the death of my brother, and especially the death of her other half, Ray.

She was done and her body was done. Thus the circle of life was complete.

Both of them taught me that life is meant to live. So challenge yourself today to take a new route. Step out of your comfort zone. Share those compliments you keep in your head. After all, sometimes tomorrow never comes…and what will your legacy be?

 

 

 

 

 

Self Perception or Reality, what do you see?

Self Perception or Reality, what do you see?

Self Perception

How often do you look into the mirror and instantly regret doing it?

What do you see?

How do you honestly see yourself?

Are you focusing on the stretch marks, the sagging boobs and the newly formed wrinkles? I ask, because sometimes that’s exactly what I see. However, on other occasions, I see the strength of a woman who has experienced multiple pregnancies, incredible weight gains and losses and survived multiple surgeries.

I see sagging and dimpled skin and I wonder when those bags underneath my eyes became permanent. WTF, right? When did my boobs decide to move south and not send a forwarding address? And the hormone changes? I dont’ care who you are, that added fluff to the middle is NOT welcome.

You are more than a reflection

What happens when the person in the mirror actually smiles back at you? Do you acknowldege the twinkle in th eye or the genuiness of the wink? How about you see past the reflection and look into her eyes. I challenge you to do that and look deeper into her soul. Your physical body is absolutely your responsiblity  and furthermore, so is what’s inside of you.

You are a reflection of how you feel. When you feel horrible about yourself, you will project negative statements about yoruself. Conversely, when you have fallen in love with who you are, you will welcome the wink from the person in the mirror. Ultimately, the choice is yours. You will NOT find love from others until you love youself.

Self Love

It sounds like something out of the 1960’s.  Self-love. Love thyself. But, HOW? I wrote a blogpost years ago about stopping those old tapes from playing over and over again. We are all programmed differently and that programming is based upon our life experiences. At some point, we personalized what someone told us and we took it to heart, ultimately believing it.

Therin lies the damage. To love yourself, you have to challenge those old tapes. You need to realize you are more than a physical body. People don’t love your for how you look (if they do, get rid of the superficial asshole). Other’s love you because of who you are, becuase of the energy you bring and how you make them feel.

So here is my challenge to you, my friend. Go stand in front of the mirror and tell those old tapes to “Shut the Fxxk up”. Take a lipstick or a window marker and write down what you love about yourself. I promise you that doing this over and over will make you more confident and an even better friend.

Let me know how it worked, I love a great transformation story!

 

Women need other women, not to compete, but to lift one another up.

Women need other women, not to compete, but to lift one another up.

Girls versus Women

Do you remember when you were a little girl and you wanted to be friends with everyone? And I do mean EVERYONE. Furthermore, it didn’t matter what they wore, where they were from or what they looked like. When we were little, we didn’t care about our differences. We only cared about finding a common connection.

So what happened?

Girls learn to compete

At some point in our lives, we learn about our differences. And we give them more power than what holds us together. We begin to notice that others get more attention or adoration than we do and therefore, we tell ourselves that we are inferior. Furthermore, rather than embrace that other person, we allow our insecurities to control our thinking and we begin to shun others.

We begin to question ourself, and ultimately, we begin to question our own worth. This is the point of no return and from this point on, everything becomes a competition. Often resulting in the questioning of motives from other girls who want to become friends with us. The level of untrustworthiness we often subject others to is ridiculous, and is the energy we spend on it.

My Own Experience

Recently, I had an opportunity to utilize the services of someone I had not spoken with since high school. Keep in mind that we are talking decades (don’t judge me). Initially, I blatantly refused to contact her because we despised one another during our high school years. In a moment of wisdom, my husband not so kindly told me to get over it and we called her. Allow me to say that she was amazing to work with and we even had a few laughs over our ridiculouslessness back in the day.

People change, my friend…hopefully, you are one of those people who has changed. I know that I am NOT the person that I was in high school and honestly, I thank God for that. The years have shown me patience, experience, and grace. Hopefully, I can let go of my own fears and see past my own insecurities while embracing others for who they truly are.

We need other women

As we grow older and potentially wiser, we realize that most women are facing the same internal struggles that we are. We recognize their insecurities in the quick oneover glance, or the fake wave followed by, “I gotta run”. The signs may differ, however we all tend to have the same fears of being rejected by one of our own.

The years have taught me otherwise. I have learned that most other women are doing the best they can…just like I am. We need other women to reinforce our strengths and to remind us that we are not alone in the battles we face. Women understand women and we need those connections to lift one another up and call us out on our bullshit.

So, thank you to all of you who are in my tribe. Those who light up my world when I let the darkness in. Additionally, thank you to all of you who call me out when I begin to believe my own bullshit. We are stronger together.

 

The Empty Christmas Tree

The Empty Christmas Tree

The Empty Christmas Tree

It’s ten days from Christmas and our tree is still standing empty, begging for decorations and presents. It is awaiting a happy family to stand around while strategically placing their personal ornaments and alight it with joy. Incidentally, our house is in total disarray from the flooding of our kitchen and only half of the house has festive holdiay decorations. The tree stands empty.

We proudly brought our family tree home last week and  just haven’t found the time to decorate it. The kids have activities, dad has been ill, and honestly, mom just hasn’t been in the spirit.

Grief and the Holidays

Here’s what no one tells you about grief. Or maybe they do and I just wasn’t listening. Grief hits hardest in the least expected times. As a social worker, I understand the stages of grief and the roller coaster of emotions that we all experience. Additionally, I recognize the ability to personalize the most innocent statement from a family member while wondering what the hell they are thinking. For a licensed social worker, I really suck at feeling emotions.

I am just not as festive as I usually am. As a mom, this sucks, because I want to create amazing Christmas memories for my boys. I don’t want them to suffer because their mom is dealing with my own issues. So where do we find the balance? How do I let go of the avoidance?

Not Dealing is Avoidance

This season is the first one without my mom. While we had a tempestuous relationship and often failed to understand one another, she trusted me with her last will and testament. For me, that is an honor that I don’t take lightly. Granted, it is a total pain in the ass and trying to make things happen from another state is compounding the stress. However, she trusted me to carry out her final wishes and I will make that happen. My internal struggle comes from pushing through those demands and trying to put on a smile for my boys and celebrate our blessings in the hear and now.

Until my late 40’s, I had never had to be the responsible child. After all, I had a pretty amazing older brother who took care of the tough stuff and only filled me in when he thought I needed to know something. When he passed away, those expectations passed onto me. I am pretty sure my extended family thinks my mom was crazy for leaving these decisions to me…after all, I am the wild child… the one who does my own thing and who really likes to live in a bubble. In other words, I like avoidance.

Truth be told, I also wondered if I could step up. But I did, and I will. Because she trusted me to do so. Adulting is tough and watching your parent pass away, regardless of the relationship between you definately changes you. It changes how you feel about the world and it provides a sense of mortality that only comes from that experience.

Stay in the moment

My friend, I know you are grieving. Do what you need to do for you. Will others disagree and judge? Absolutely, but they are not walking your walk. They only know their own pain and grief. And we all grieve differently. We tend to focus on our own pain and forget that others are also struggling. Be kind and try to be gentle with others and with yourself.

Stay in the moment. Today, I am going to go shower, put on some makeup and gather my family around our naked Christmas Tree. Together we will create a masterpiece of memories and together we will smile as we remember the story behind each ornament. I will allow myself to cry when I need to (I really do suck at this) and I will allow myself to be happy and guilt free when those moments arise.

The passing of our loved ones creates waves of emotions that we may not be prepared for, however it also allows us to remember why we loved them in the first place. Never underestimate the connection between love and grief.

And for you? Merry Christmas. Celebrate how you need to for you and yours.

The Favored Child…which one is yours?

The Favored Child…which one is yours?

The Favored Child

If you have more than one child in your family, the chances are great that you have the favored child. Whether you think so or not, I guarantee that your children think you do. This is a tough one to swallow, isn’t it?  As parents, we try so hard NOT to focus our attention on just one child. However, the truth is that it may be beyond our capacity to show love and more about how our children internalize our actions.

I did a poll on my Facebook page a few days back asking if people have a favorite child. They had two choices…Absolutely not and it depends upon the day. The vast majority agreed that it depends upon the day. So let’s explore what may be the resoning behind that answer.

A day in the life

Look, I get it. Parenting is hard. As moms, we are expected to put aside our own needs to meet the continual needs of others. I have always said that becoming a parent is putting your needs aside for your child’s wants. Truthfully, that is sometimes easier said than done. And let’s face it, each child is different and each child has good days and bad days just as we do.

But wow…when we all have those bad days together, things can go from perfection to destruction in a matter of seconds. My two boys are like night and day. Their demeanors are so different from one another. Honestly, I try to respect their differences regardless of how trying that can be. The irony is that when we found out we were having another boy, I was stoked because I thought i knew what I was doing.

Let’s just declare right here that I was wrong.

Where it all began

My family loves watching Last Man Standing. We get such a kick out of watching another famiy work and often laugh at their antics. We also talk about how we would handle those same situations. If you are a fan, you already know that Mike, the father always claims that Eve is his favorite daughter.

I took this to a whole nother level in our home and began telling the boys that they were my favorite child after they did something helpful or amazing. This little interaction resulted in them trying to outdo one another in order to be “mom’s favorite child.” Fast forward a few months and I began wondering if there will be any  psychological ramifications to their adult psyche.  Both the social worker and mom in me is always worrying that I am jacking these boys up. That struggle is real.

Adult Relationships

Which led me to my thoughts as an adult. I always though my parents favored my brother. After all, he was rarely in trouble, he was the first in our family to go to college and he went on to be a very successful and respected professional. I, on the other hand was the difficult child and while I used to joke with my parents that they would have been bored if I had been more like my brother, they didn’t necassariy agree.

Looking back, he may have thought that I was the favored child. After all, we grew up very differently, as he was raised by my grandmother, my mom and dad and I was primarily raised by my mom in the younger years and my dad and brother as I grew older. 

Grandparents and the favored child

The favored child doesn’t just stop in one generation. That favored child’s kids will also feel the difference in how their grandparents interact with them. Where the grandparents choose to spend their time and the relationships they may or may not cultivate say more to the next generations than they may have ever thought.

According to an article on Owlcation, there definately can be long term ramifications when children do not feel as though they are always being compared to their siblings or are always in continual disagreement with their parents. Wow, no pressure, right?

The truth is that as parents, we need to be aware of how our interaction are delivered AND how they are being received. each child responds to interactions based upon their individual experiences and expectations. And, as parents, we are responsible for interacting with each child according to their own indivudal needs.

What if you clash

Let’s face it. There will be many many times where our kids will do something that just make us shake our heads. And there will be times as parents when we make a decision and shake our heads. As parents, our job is not to be their friends, rather our job is to teach them about how they fit into the world around them. It means that sometimes we all lose our shit and we can model how to apologize and own our actions.

It also means focusing on the postives and letting our children know they are loved and accepted for who they are…not who we want them to be. Maybe that is the key. Allowing the children to be who they are rather than holding on to a dream we had for them. Allowing them to fail so they will learn how to work through the tough times. It’s been said that it takes seven positive statements to undo one negative statement. Those are some big numbers, however I think we can do it. 

I will leave you with one last thought. Don’t push yourself so hard that you have nothing left to give. These children didn’t ask to be brought into the world, we brought them here. Take care of yourself, mama because these littles are only little for a short period of time. Grant yourself some grace and model setting boundaries so your child can also learn to do the same.