Learn How to Save Your Own Life!

You were doing fine. Your folks seemed fine. Everything was moving right along, and then COVID happened. Suddenly, the kids are home all the time. You’re trying to work from home. And your parents, who’ve been so independent and on top of it all, are showing their vulnerability.

It’s more than a little disconcerting. You haven’t really given this a whole lot of thought but, dang, they aren’t going to be around forever and maybe, just maybe, there are things about Mom and Dad that you really should know but haven’t even considered asking.

Now is your golden moment. You have an opportunity to ask them all those questions you’ve been avoiding, but what should those questions even be? HOW do you even approach the conversation? And what do you do with that knowledge once you have it?

Here’s where you should go, right now: the Family Care Survival Course. This online 2 hour on-demand video curriculum will walk you through the tough stuff and give you a grounding in how to do this complicated stuff with greater success and more satisfying outcomes.

Designed by Tracey S. Lawrence, author of the ground-breaking book “Dementia Sucks” specifically for the adult children of aging loved ones, this course is packed with great, actionable information. Delivered in Tracey’s down-to-earth, approachable style, you’ll come away with a strategy to get your family moving in the right direction!

Don’t wait! Click here now!

True Story: Recovered from COVID!

My friend, Carlos Drouet, is an amazing guy. He’s sweet and humble. A US Army Vet of 9 years, he now serves as a Firefighter in Jersey City, NJ. He’s also a loving father. And the lead singer in a rock band called “Faith In Chaos.” In April, Carlos contracted COVID-19. Hear his story. You have a right to know that there IS a safe, effective treatment!

Hear Carlos’ Story Here!

Attention Cat Herders!

Rumor has is that the national shutdown is going to lift soon. Depending on where you’re located, it’s probably time to start giving serious consideration to how you’re going to get your business rolling again.

I am speaking specifically to employers who had at least 100 employees before the pandemic. Many companies have been implementing remote work, and for some industries, that works. For others, it’s a bandage, but not a permanent solution. Are you confident that all of the people upon whom you rely will be there on the day you officially “reopen”? Were you struggling to find and keep qualified people BEFORE all this happened? Maybe now is a good time to revisit how you’re going to rise to the challenge.

During this period of staying in place, many of your employees had a rude awakening. In addition to having to deal with keeping their kids safe and entertained, and finding ways to stay on top of their business emails, phone calls and tasks, another issue arose for many: their parents suddenly needing them more than before.

This virus is scary, particularly for older adults. For people who were previously independent and competent, the prospect of having to shop for food and medications in the shadow of this menace became a daunting new worry for them and their adult children. So employees who were previously untroubled by the prospect of caring for their parents were awakened to the notion that their folks may need significant ongoing assistance from them a lot sooner than they imagined.

What does that mean to you? Well, aside from having your own parents’ increasing dependence to contend with, you may also want to leverage this knowledge to bring those wandering kittens back into your fold. How? By speaking to their new concerns in your communications and offerings.

For instance, at a pre-pandemic interview with a candidate, maternity leave benefits might be featured as an inducement. What if you spoke of “elder care leave”? What if you told them about some wonderful initiatives you were offering to your employees who help aging parents? Do you think you might get their attention? Might that differentiate your business from your competitors?

Communicating to your current employees about your responsiveness to these kinds of needs has great value, too. Let’s face it: it costs a LOT of money and time to train employees. Having to replace and indoctrinate new ones is a huge waste of resources. Keep the great ones you have by letting them know you support them and want to help them manage better. They will be grateful and a lot more likely to stick with you for the long haul.

There are a lot of other ideas you might find beneficial, and Grand Family Planning is offering FREE webinars to share them with you! Write us here, and we’ll let you know when the next event is scheduled.

Don’t wait. Those kittens will be waking soon and running to whoever has the best treats.

View From The Hospital Bed

A big part of my life is devoted to educating people. My mantra for 2016 was about the need for everyone to appoint an advocate. When you get sick, you can’t fend for yourself. HIPAA laws require that you put your choice in writing so your advocate will be able to do their job should the need arise. My husband and I have done this, and we are clearly in the minority.

On New Year’s Day 2017, my husband, Bob, had a health emergency. Miraculously, I was able to find an internist who was willing to come to our home and see him on that holiday Sunday. Upon examining him, this doctor sent us to a hospital that, while less than convenient geographically, admitted him with relative speed and got him connected to all the specialists, tests and treatment he would need to recover.

Bob remained in the hospital until January 11. He had four roommates during his stay. Three of them were single males with no advocates. Their fates were all frightening and sobering.

The first roommate was in great distress when I came for my first visit to Bob’s semi-private room. He had not been fed in 27 hours. There were no doctor’s orders for meals and no one to follow up for him; just the nurses and staff, who were overwhelmed caring for lots of other patients. He was alone and apparently had no primary care physician. This guy was pulling out his IVs as he howled in anguish. A nurse helped him removed his tethers to prevent him from hurting himself and the fellow immediately checked himself out with his condition untreated.

Roommate 2 came in with COPD and pneumonia. Single and apparently lacking a primary doctor, he had stumbled into the ER in crisis and was admitted. Over 24 hours later, no meals (but he stayed long enough to finally enjoy the “cuisine”). No advocacy. He did receive some treatment but needed to go home. His pets had been unattended for the two days he’d been receiving care. With outdoor temperatures in the 20s, he lived two miles from the hospital and had no money for a cab ride home.

Roommate 3 was a young man with several doting female family members (his mom, grandma and an aunt). There was not a lot of room for all of us, and there were a lot of strained smiles and “excuse me”s getting in, out and around in the room. But that fellow apparently received adequate care and was released within two days with his mom to help him.

The saddest case was an elderly gentleman who was in my husband’s room for just a few hours. He had been a heroic policeman who had disarmed killers and saved lives. Having lost use of all of his limbs over time, his family abandoned him. He brought Bob first to anger with his protestations and then to tears after hearing his story.

As I managed Bob’s care from the outside, I was impressed with the internist who got us there. He was communicative, respectful and responsive. He coordinated with other specialists he respects. He got things done and kept his eye on the big picture. This is someone I want on my team.

This challenging return to caregiving has made me refocus on an important priority: starting with the right doctor. Most of us begin with our insurance and go from there. Searching the “provider locator,” we try to find a network doctor who will serve us along with suitable “in-network” facilities as we need them.

Unfortunately, playing the game from the insurance company’s perspective, we are at the mercy of actuaries rather than medical professionals. The decisions being made are based on finance, not health. And that’s a dangerous approach. The needs of the patient, the human being in question, should always come first. But that’s not how the current system is built. That’s why it’s broken. The cards are stacked against us and we often don’t realize how badly until we’re in the middle of a crisis.

So here’s what I recommend: find a good doctor. Not just someone who tells you what you want to hear. We all need someone who is more than simply qualified, but who listens and is willing to work as part of our team; someone who knows how to navigate. Otherwise, we can find ourselves stuck in the cracks of this broken system.

And please appoint an advocate: select someone you know and trust, who will stand up for you and follow up with the professionals, because we’re all human. We all miss stuff. And you need to put it in writing, or they’ll never get anywhere.

It doesn’t matter what hospital you’re in so much as who’s writing the orders and who’s coming to visit. That’s all part of a much bigger prescription that requires a team to implement.

While these suggestions may seem overwhelming, acting on them while you’re healthy is the smartest thing you can do to protect yourself. Doing it by yourself from a hospital bed is damned near impossible. 

How “Dementia Sucks” Got Published

Even as a young girl, I dreamed of being a published author. Over the years, I’ve written a lot of stuff, simply because it’s my nature to write. I also have this habit of wanting to share solutions when I find them, so I have spent considerable time teaching and educating as well.

My subject matter has varied, because my life has offered a number of “teachable moments.” When I was a graphic artist, I learned a lot about design and the technical aspects of taking an idea from brain to computer and then figuring out how to make it translate to ink on paper (and later, as web content and video). I taught at companies, for associations and as an adjunct professor at institutions of higher learning. I even wrote most of the questions for the Adobe Certified Experts exam for Illustrator CS3.

The caregiving phase of my life, when I devoted a great deal of time, energy and resources to helping my aging parents, was nothing I had anticipated. When my father got sick, I was taken by surprise. My parents were living in Florida, and while we “visited” frequently by phone (I live in NJ), everything seemed fine until I saw my father in person in 2003. Yes, he did a great job of covering up is infirmities. I realize that I was also complicit in his deceit: denial is a very powerful defense mechanism, and I didn’t want to believe my father was as sick as he was.

Losing my father in a relatively short period of time (just over a year) was painful, but illuminating. I learned a great deal about my parents’ situation and what was required in order to effectively advocate for my loved ones.

My mother lived on her own in Florida after my father died, but my husband and I spent our vacations visiting her, helping her, making sure her needs were addressed. When her cognitive decline became evident, we invited her into our home and I began taking care of her hands on.

The following five years were extremely challenging. Living with a parent when you are an adult is unnatural. Dealing with a person whose cognition is failing is one of the hardest things a person can do. They are still the person who drove you nuts in your teens, who second-guessed you as an adult and is undergoing changes before your eyes. They will make you question your own sanity while they are losing theirs.

Journaling was a natural activity for me to combat the insanity I confronted each day as my mother’s caregiver. At one point, I brought her back to her apartment in Florida to sort through her clothes and bring back items that she could use in New Jersey. It was her last trip to her last independent domicile. And I was all alone with her. So I started a blog, where I recorded my ravings and put them out to the world in case someone, somewhere, might find value in my perspective and the things I learned along the way.

My mother died in April, 2015, and I no longer needed to journal about caregiving. I stopped blogging.

A year after her death, I revisited my blog and was able to appreciate what I’d written as a reader might. I found myself enjoying the ride. I was pleased with the calibre of the writing, and I was glad to have a record of all we had been through. So much had become blurred in the heat of crisis.

And I thought “The book everyone has been telling me I need to write already exists.” It just needed some polish.

So I grabbed all the blog posts and got to work cleaning it up, discarding things that might hurt living people and turning it into a manuscript.

Then my husband, Bob, got sick. In January, 2017, Bob landed in the hospital with several life-threatening conditions. I was thrown back into full-time caregiver mode. I couldn’t stay focused on building my business. But I could work on the book at off hours, mostly at night when I couldn’t sleep.

After five months on disability, Bob improved sufficiently to return to work. At a family get-together, I saw my niece, who is a copywriter for a well-known media agency in NYC. I told her about my book and she asked if she could read it. Could she? I sent her a PDF to read.

She got back to me quickly with positive feedback. (She is not one to offer praise unless its warranted). I was encouraged to go forward and committed to finding a publisher.

I set about doing traditional market research. I purchased a copy of “The Writer’s Market” and began crafting my pitch letters, looking for the right publishers. I searched for books like mine. And then I received an email.

A fellow to whose blog I was subscribed wrote about how he got HIS book published. He had self-published his first book, but he wanted a publisher for his next work of non-fiction. He had gotten an offer, but it was less than ideal. And then he read an article about “book shepherds” in the San Francisco Book Review.

The first expert cited in the article was the person the author contacted. He happily reported that this wonderful resource helped him to find a much better deal with another publisher.

And then I thought “Why wouldn’t I contact her?”

So on July 5th, 2017, I sent an email to Debra Englander, explaining who I was and what I hoped to accomplish. She asked me to send her what I had, and we would talk Friday.

On that Friday, we spoke and she told me she loved my book and thought she had a publisher who would be interested. I was shocked, but pleased. What was next?

She would send me a contract. She would write a “mini proposal” to the publisher and see what they thought.

I signed the contract, mailed it with my check and hoped for the best.

Twenty days later, I had a deal with Post Hill Press. And they would publish it in May 2018.

I worked with the editors. They created a cover I absolutely loved. Together, we honed the manuscript into a real book.

In April 2018, I received the first copies of the book. Holding the actual product in my hands was a thrill that’s difficult to describe. On April 29th, I gave a book talk at a new dementia home in Paramus. On May 15th, 2018, the book was out for all the world to see, and I delivered a talk to a women’s group I belong to.

Since the release of the book, almost a year ago now, I’ve learned a lot about the publishing world as it exists today. I have promoted the book at bookstore talks, podcasts, TV shows, blogs, webinars and more. I am evolving my business toward professional speaking and training. The real revelation was that getting published wasn’t the finish-line; it was just the beginning.

Gratitude for the gifts of my journey permeates my life. Being able to use my experience to help others is truly gratifying. There’s a lot more to do, but having the book out gives me credibility and a platform to keep disseminating the message: “Don’t Walk the Caregiver Road Alone.”

If you’re an aspiring author, I encourage you to find your voice, find the courage to share it with others, and take pride in your accomplishment. Writing a book, however you do it, is not easy. Showing it to others requires courage that relatively few possess. But if you have something to say, the act of documenting your message is cleansing. The act of sharing it can be world-changing, even if it’s for just one other person. And that’s a gift that only you can give yourself, and to the world, if you dare.