Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Regressing ... a Tempting Thought Some Days!

Have you ever thought to yourself, "I sometimes wish I wasn’t an adult!”  Isn’t it true at least sometimes?

When we think of children, we often say (wistfully) that children view the world with eyes of wonder.  Many times I have wished I could suddenly morph into a 4-year old that covers their eyes to become “unseen”.  If only hiding or withdrawing temporarily were that simple!   Don't you often wish you could believe as they do:  If I can't see you, then you can't see me?
As a caregiver, how do you insert Wonder into your life and view things as you did before you became older, more challenged, tired, and ... a grownup?
Gratitude is a good start.  Make it a priority to take a fresh look at your life, starting today.  Why would you wait?  As you walk through the day, consider a change in perspective.  Can you make light of any of the tasks you do? Will you allow yourself time to laugh when the dog tilts his head with what seems to be a look of total empathy?  Certain days, the dog may absolutely be your best  and only friend!  Go ahead and talk to yourself, having a unique dialogue that makes you ruefully laugh at how crazy the day really and truly is!

Days can be bleak and lonely, no question, but can you try to view other days with the eyes of a child who finds the sunshine throwing shadows through the window blinds special?  Listening to the crunch of the autumn leaves on the edge of the driveway? Savoring the taste of a s'more?  It's often the little things that make life brighter and lighter, but as adults, we may have to look harder for them.  

Purposefully.  Intentionally.  Mindfully.

It’s worth the time and if practiced daily, can become your default life-stance. The word "Wonderful" means literally, "full of wonder".  Looking for the moments of Wonder in your day can be a personal therapy and compassion toward yourself. 

Caregivers are notoriously hard on themselves, but you can gently work more often to alter your mind shift, tracking the Wonder moments in your day.  See if it doesn’t slowly but surely change the way you treat yourself.  Bonus:  It can also change those around you, as Wonder brings back the naiveté we all once had in abundance.  Try going for the enlightened, lightened regression – and may it bring you joyful, wonder-filled moments!

Linda Kreter & the
VeteranCaregiver Team

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

What IS PTSD Really?

Many military family members (rarely the caregiver except in the beginning…) ask this question:  What is PTSD really?   

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is the mind and the body's response to a traumatic event.  PTSD can is more commonly seen in combat veterans and first responders who experience and witness trauma doing their jobs.  PTSD is one of the Invisible Injuries.   Though PTSD is largely invisible, meaning that to a stranger, it wouldn't be apparent, the condition is often misunderstood by friends and family.

Symptoms vary and can be either subtle, or abrupt, leading family and friends to be confused.  It can also leave the veteran wondering if life will ever be the same again, and the family members unclear on what to expect each day.  One of the earliest signs to a caregiver may be that the service member or veteran is acting “differently”. 

The relationship can feel upside down, and there may be avoidance and isolation.  The vet may re-live the trauma through night terrors or flashback memories during the day.  This can be exhausting, and possibly alarming to the spouse who becomes the imagined enemy or situation in the dark.  Training kept them alive, but upon returning home, it’s hard to “turn off” the extreme vigilance, the hormonal cascade (testosterone and adrenaline) when PTSD is triggered by a scent, a sight, or even an anniversary.  It is not uncommon to see self-medicating to try to keep PTSD at bay.

With treatment, it is possible to anticipate possible triggers (prompts) such as a car backfire, or Fourth of July fireworks.   There may be a startle response, and hypervigilance which shocks children with its suddenness, and feels like rejection to spouses. There may be emotional numbness or increased aggression that feels as though it should go away now that he or she is safely home.     
The body needs time to recondition itself to the new safe environment and many effective treatments exist.  Since PTSD is both a psychological and neuro-hormonal response to perceived danger, newer treatments address both aspects and treatment, including complementary therapies for anxiety reduction, mindfulness, and communication help families to manage PTSD.   Know that treatment is necessary and the right “fit” can be found with persistence and the knowledge that life can become higher quality over time.

Linda Kreter & the
VeteranCaregiver Team

Monday, November 16, 2015

Medication Management 101 for Veteran Caregivers

VeteranCaregiver received this message recently:  “Hi, I'm new to this [caregiving] and yet, I'm thrown in the deep end and need to manage 19 daily medications; can you help? No one will help me manage this now that we’re home!”

This is a challenge many caregivers confront and you are not alone.  There was even a television news photo (below) of a plastic grocery bag of meds for a single month – now that's a visual!  Many veterans are on multiple medications and as caregiver, keeping track of the medications is one thing, and tracking the effects of them is another.  It’s critical to start at the beginning:  create a Medication Log.  If you are hurt, absent, or sick, someone else may need to step in, so this is not an empty exercise.
CBS News Image 2014
You probably have a notebook, binder, or journal you keep appointments in, or some way to track this medical journey.  Add to your system the Medication Log, and note the drugs, dosages, time of day to take, and learn what each medication is for.  There are many good apps that consolidate this information for you.   In the large medical bureaucracy, and with the lack of fully centralized records, share this Medication Log at appointments to be sure each practitioner knows of the med prescriptions.  Every time a drug is changed, dosage adjusted, or medication removed, keep an eye out for any changes in behavior that might be connected.  YOU are the one living with the vet day in, day out, and you'll notice these things sooner than anyone.   

It’s important to know that meds mailed to your home should be called in earlier than needed to allow for on-time delivery, and be especially aware of months with 31 days in them with an automated system. If the 30th is on a Friday, it has happened that the mailed prescriptions may arrive after the weekend, meaning that well-managed pain or other condition under control will now go untreated until Monday.   Request a contact to call if more urgent behavioral or physical effects to medication occur; this can help you avoid a trip to the emergency room. 

Be aware that if you relocate to another VA that the medications may change, which means you'll be keeping track of changed meds, dosages, or differences in the drug formulary (if there are any). 

Keep a copy of the medication list in a set place in case something happens to you and someone else must step in to assist.  Over time, using a watch, alarm clock, or a smartphone, it may be possible to create more independence with your family member as they schedule and remind themselves of medications and timing. With planning, communication, and observation, managing medications and noting their effects will help convey important messages to the care team.

Linda Kreter & the
VeteranCaregiver Team

Monday, November 9, 2015

Caregiver Self-Identity: Who Am I Now? It's YOUR Choice --

A caregiver wrote VeteranCaregiver recently saying, "I used to be a marketing executive before becoming a full-time caregiver.  But I've lost my identity and don't feel accomplished or even know myself anymore?"

Such a good question; our self-identities can be swallowed whole by caregiving.  It can happen gradually over time, but you are not alone.  It's very easy to get lost in the daily grind, completing tasks, becoming more and more tired, and tending to everyone’s needs except your own.  You are last on the list.

Truthful statement:  only you can carve out time for you.  If you have become accustomed to putting aside everything that once gave you joy, does that help your situation at home?  Does it help you feel good, or like a martyr.  A therapist once said this:  “You need to choose, are you a martyr or a victim?”  Neither of those labels felt good, and were rejected.  How dare she say that?! 

But, if we make the conscious choice to set our boundaries, set aside a small portion of the day, and refuse to relinquish ourselves to others’ needs entirely, we will be better caregivers and individuals.  You haven’t lost your gifts and talents, and those unique traits are inside you – you just need to take the tarp off and give yourself permission to claim them.  
There will always be those who complain, and complaining is fine if it leads to possible solutions, but of little value if not.  No judgment here, but only you can help you begin your personal growth or to beef it up.  Best of all, you have now learned new skills, some of which you may take for granted.  Did you ever think you’d be able to direct the medical care of a loved one, or wade through bureaucracy with determination and purpose?  These new skills have made you a stronger, more accomplished version of yourself if you’ll stop to recognize it! 

Take the time to write down your skills; what are you good at, what are your new talents, even write a resume.  Add notes on your smartphone, and read them to yourself or post it on your mirror to remind you that you are worthy, smart, savvy, and you matter.  Create a LinkedIn profile because in doing so, you’ll realize your skills are valuable, and you'll have an identity outside of your daily role.  Then Follow other people of interest and start learning anew. This is Post Traumatic Growth.  Many caregivers find new skills and experiences give them new capabilities, and IF they consider them, new self-confidence.  You are "more" than your daily caregiving!

With introspection, time spent thinking about you - yes, you - you will see ways to reinvent yourself, recall your strengths, and take back you.  You are worth it - take the time to believe it!

Linda Kreter & the
VeteranCaregiver Team

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Social Media: Joy & Peril ... It's Here to Stay!

We’re sure you’ve argued both sides of the fence on this topic of whether social media and the Internet has made a caregiver’s life better or worse.  We think it's done both. With a short phrase typed into a search engine, you can find multiple sources of information in milliseconds. 

There is ease in using social media to connect you to smaller groups who understand your situations and allow you to connect with someone across the world. Medical information can help your caregiving, and you can find apps for most everything.  Yet, it’s still up to you to find credible sources and to check the validity of the information.  Believe it or not, not everything you read online is correct!

The opposite view is that we are now at arms-length from people and more isolated from one another.  Online friendships can form instantly when someone agrees with a Facebook posting you made.   It also has the potential for harm when a comment is perceived negatively or judgmentally.  We've seen serious actions and consequences when a caregiver is hurt by public comments or even betrayals of trust.  Comparisons are made nearly every day, and the lens with which you view a comment can turn an innocent post into a hurtful jab, or you may miss the point entirely as you grab a view on your phone at the stoplight.

As caregivers, it's nearly universal that support and information will be sought online.  But, because studies and good old common sense are telling us that we’re often “overly attached” to our phones and tablets, and we know it, what are we doing about it?  Science also proves that in teens, social media is adding to depression, what others are doing/buying/saying, and cyber-bullying continues.  Think it’s only in teens?  No, it can happen to any of us.
What to do?  Try to keep yourself in a healthier, more balanced place, and set limits on what you will share online and to whom. There are full medical histories on the Internet, and that's your choice, but think of the potential years from now.  Know that anyone and everyone can access some of your information somehow and if you don’t want it out there, do not post it.  Employers still Face-stalk, and so do other officials, so don’t leave yourself open to interpretation that may harm you or your family.

UNPLUG sometimes. A certain hour of the evening, a cyber-free Sunday, two hours during the day so you accomplish more of what you set out to do.  Yes, you’re likely to be texted a million times if you go out, but sometimes adding space in your caregiving relationship can help you both.  Inter-dependence and co-dependence is hard on a family, and even medical staff can add to the dependence versus independence.  Be mindful and be aware.
Balancing your time can start with seizing back one or two of the many intervals each day you check your Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter page.  Or, use that time to go to a personal learning or favorite hobby website and take your mind off tasks for a while.  The best alternative is day-dreaming – it’s a hopeful and non-electronic means of recharging! 

Linda Kreter & the 
VeteranCaregiver Team

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Burn Pits Registry and 2015 VA Report

In June, the VA released an update on their research of conditions potentially related to Burn Pit exposure; you can read it here:
For those unfamiliar with the term, Burn Pits refers to open-air burning of plastics, medical waste, and trash – sometimes creating fumes that some scientists say are new, unique compounds that may be toxic to humans.  Not every respiratory problem is related to the Burn Pits, but a recent report provides new information based on the VA Burn Pit Registry and continuing research. 
An important note:  if you were deployed and exposed to one of many of the Burn Pits in Iraq or Afghanistan, it’s important to join the Burn Pit Registry at the VA and to be evaluated.  If you’re unsure and have questions, you can contact the Environmental Health Coordinator at your treating VA medical center, or call 877-222-8387. 
VA Blog Photo
Higher concern rose in 2008 when a greater than expected rate of respiratory conditions and symptoms were noted from serving troops exposed to fumes in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Frequent exposure to the foreign dust storms and the unusually small sand particles also appear to be increasing common illnesses among previously deployed troops and include asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and COPD or (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). At first, this was discussed among troops, not widely accepted at the medical level, but it wasn’t long until the potential number of veterans affected reached a critical mass with media coverage. 
In a new study released in July, 28,000 veterans who completed the questions in the Burn Pit Registry, also noted additional health effects such as higher blood pressure and insomnia, though it’s often difficult to isolate those symptoms from other conditions.  Current findings are that about 30% of veterans have been diagnosed with respiratory conditions other than allergies and include quality of life issues including a reduced ability to run, walk stairs, or continue their prior physical activities. Almost 46,000 veterans have responded to the lengthy questionnaire.

If you know a veteran who served in the following conflicts and times, and who was repeatedly exposed to burn pit fumes or multiple dust storms with possibly related respiratory conditions, please urge them to join the VA Burn Pit Registry to assist in this research and analysis. 
·        Operations OEF/OIF/New Dawn
·        Djibouti, Africa on or after September 11, 2001
·        Operations Desert Shield or Desert Storm
·        Southwest Asia theatre of operations on or after August 2, 1990

The Burn Pit Registry is found on the website (, you can speak to the Environmental Health Coordinator at your nearest VA facility, or call 877-222-8387 for more information.
Linda Kreter and the
VeteranCaregiver Team


Monday, August 24, 2015

Traumatic Brain Injury: Share with Family & Friends for Understanding

Traumatic Brain Injury or TBI, is one of the “signature wounds” and a physically damaging, but often invisible injury of the most recent conflicts.  In some cases of traumatic brain injury, PTSD is also present. 

For families, it is often very challenging to have extended family and friends understand because there may not be a visible wound or scar and they can be judgmental.  Please share this blog with them, or the TBI Video on’s Video Resource section.  Support for you, the caregiver, is immeasurably valuable.

Traumatic Brain Injury or TBI, is actual physical or biological damage to the brain, and treatment can be complex depending on the severity of the TBI. There are multiple descriptions of TBI:  mild, moderate, and severe, leading to the diagnosis and treatment path with the severity of the injury.  For the caregiver, this designation also can be a measure of describing the tasks the injured person may have challenges with, but – it also depends upon which part of the brain was injured.

There is also a “penetrating TBI”, meaning something (shrapnel for example) has breached the skull and the membrane covering of the brain, the dura. There are also blast injuries to the brain, which in simplified terms means that the brain has been blasted and bruised inside the closed confines of the skull. Since the brain is crucial to executive decision making, personality, judgment, and countless other functions, any brain injury is meaningful to both the veteran and the caregiver. 

Some of the symptoms of TBI are headaches, intermittent dizziness, and fatigue, which can be initially shrugged off as adjusting to life in the community. Additional symptoms such as blurred vision, more consistent dizziness and balance issues, restlessness and agitation benefit from treatment.  Though the veteran may be unclear about their behavior, when memory and concentration issues complicate the relationship and household, getting help cannot be ignored.  Some of these symptoms may also be in reaction to vestibular (inner ear) issues, and having the correct diagnosis is important for VA ratings and treatment. 
Traumatic Brain Injury remains one of the most challenging undiagnosed conditions of the recent conflicts.  If you know that you are seeing personality changes, memory issues, balance, dizziness, insomnia, and/or frustration that manifests itself in anger or isolation, please ask for an evaluation ruling out an undiagnosed TBI.  Persist. Even if you’re told that playing football in high school is the root cause, remember that blasts and concussions are cumulative, and there is a rare FOB that didn’t take incoming rounds. 

Traumatic brain injury may also not show up right away, but over time, and unusual, agitated behavior that may include unfiltered speech can baffle and test all concerned. Relationships are often affected, and there is challenge to holding down a job, resuming the former routines, and fulfilling ordinary family roles. 

Communication and denial are common before diagnosis and persistence in seeking help is encouraged.  Leaving the brain injury undiagnosed or untreated can strain the best of marriages and partnerships.  As a caregiver walking on eggshells wary of a sharp comment, seeing the veteran forget how to drive home from a familiar place, or suddenly withdrawal from the family or relationship are additional signs.  Your family member may have no idea that there is something wrong until it becomes very obvious, or the relationship is tested beyond the breaking point.

With neurological assessments and cognition testing, the severity of the brain injury can be determined, and treatment plans coordinated.  Sometimes the most difficult thing for the caregiver is to convince the vet there IS something organically wrong, and it's important to seek treatment. 

It's important to remember this is a physical brain injury, and that significant recovery options should be considered and researched as everyone is unique. Interestingly, we have the NFL and football players bringing TBI into the news and urging new and innovative treatments. Know that help exists, and be vigilant in seeking help.  

If there is an undiagnosed TBI in your household, continue to keep a journal of symptoms that show a pattern to share with the care team. Help and improvement is possible with treatment, and learning more helps everyone in the care team and extended family and friends making things more supportive - rather than more isolating.  There are excellent resources for living with TBI and for newer innovative treatments such as Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment; look at what is best for you and your family.

Linda Kreter & the
VeteranCaregiver Team

Monday, August 17, 2015

Positive Attitude Contagion & Your Support Group

Each day we have a choice to make about our attitude. 

If you become mindful about the fact that only today matters, and that you cannot change the past, nor (usually) predict the future, your perspective can be changed for the better. 

This prayer/musing made me laugh because sometimes it reflects what we all feel:

Dear Lord/Higher Power/Other,

So far today, I am doing all right.  I have not gossiped, lost my temper, been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, or self-indulgent.  I have not whined, cursed, or eaten any chocolate.  However, I will get out of bed in a few minutes, and I will need a lot more help after that.  Amen*

This practice of adjusting your attitude many times daily is difficult, but it’s nearly always possible to find something good, even on the worst of days.  Being around those who are negative, usually have something critical to say about you or your situation, or who just plain drain you is exhausting.  Saying to yourself these people are “just negative” or trying to avoid them altogether is nearly impossible.  So, what can you do?

The great football coach, John Wooden says this:  “Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out”. 
 Isn’t that the truth?  Interestingly, if you don’t buy into the Negative Ones and their critical, harping, unpleasant responses, they eventually want to be around someone who will react to them and feed the negative. Work to find a handful of trusted friends who are positive, and can be called upon when you need a boost.  Do the same for them. You’ll find that the more positive your attitude and behavior is, the more you attract others with the same perspective.  Like attracts like, and allows you to weather the tough days, and being around the negative ones when you can’t avoid it.

We all have tough, seriously-I-can’t-take-one-more-thing days, but when we stop for a second, take a deep breath, and briefly wait instead of reacting with a knee-jerk response that you’ll regret the rest of the day, this habit you’ve been practicing can come to you more often.  And, more easily.

There will always be jerks in life, but don’t buy into their “jerkdom”.  Remember too that positive people evolve into groups – and find an ally, a friend, a kindred spirit to start your own group, and to keep helping you adjust your attitudes about the day.  Take each day at a time, look inward and adjust your attitude as the day progresses.  Finally, reflect on your day each night and see the growth, the slipups, and especially note what you’re thankful for, even if it’s the fact you got a shower today!  
We continue to believe in the best within you; best wishes on lifting today to be the best it can be!

Linda Kreter & the
VeteranCaregiver Team

*Prayer from Today Matters by John C. Maxwell

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Vietnam Era Caregivers - You Are Not Forgotten

PTSD is not only a condition of today’s troops, veterans, and first responders, unfortunately, it is a condition that affects our vets of much earlier conflicts.  When you consider the state of the country at the time of Vietnam, our troops came home to protests, rioting, and a very difficult adjustment for those serving. 

The stories were dreadful.  Like now, families felt somewhat isolated, but the country was far less respectful of those serving.  Today, even without full understanding of how to act or what to say, our troops are mostly warmly accepted and supported.  By contrast, my uncle was briefed to change out of his uniform immediately upon arrival in the States to avoid the chaos of the anti-war protests. Others were verbally and physically assaulted.  
The effects of coming home and working diligently to be invisible in the communities has also produced a long-term result – many of those from Vietnam did not receive treatment for their PTSD, nor did it have that name in the 1960’s, though the condition has been around as long as there has been trauma and conflicts. 

Another result is this aging population may come to seek VA care only in their later years, and they and their families have lived for decades with what is today openly discussed.  PTSD then and now will have many of the same symptoms of scent and sound triggers, sleep disorders, difficulty communicating and relationship challenges.  Add to this the possible loss of prime mobility, hearing loss, and aging issues, including presumptive conditions like Agent Orange, and we know we must actively communicate with the caregivers of each era.

It is less known, but very sobering that 80% of Vietnam veterans reported active PTSD symptoms 25 years after their service in a RAND study, with very high rates of depression and suicide.  These caregivers are hidden among you and please lend your support to them, include them in your peer groups, and learn from their experiences. 

PTSD may be a more familiar term these days, but our Vietnam era caregivers are only now coming out of the shadows.  To our Vietnam and earlier era caregivers, thank you for your quiet strength and service.

Linda Kreter & the
VeteranCaregiver Team

Monday, July 27, 2015

Leadership Skills & Personal Growth

You probably don’t sit around a lot (if at all!) thinking about your leadership skills.  But, what if you could grow your skills by viewing life in a new way?  You're already on the path to learning new skills to be the best caregiver possible, so consider your value. 

You navigate the medical maze.  You research and communicate to a care team and your family member about medications, appointments, mobility logistics, and scheduling.  Aren’t you the "leader of the pack" for caregiving in your family? 

John C. Maxwell, the leadership expert defines Leadership as Influence.  Your ability to consider your tasks from the perspective of your value and influence is powerful.  Science has shown that seeing situations and communications positively can lead to better outcomes.  And, improving your communication skills (tone, presence, body language, preparation and more) feels better when you view yourself as “someone to reckon with” due to your skills.  This is growing your leadership skills and mindset.  

Positively framing your thoughts leads to personal growth and an evolving positive perspective when practiced mindfully.  Wonderfully too, Leadership Skills can be developed at the pace you choose.  You cannot always change the situation around you, but you can change your reaction and response to it.

There is enormous value in being able to express yourself well and to show in subtle ways you are resourceful, knowledgeable and worth listening to as a caregiver. The confidence with becoming a more assured Leader will help you in every aspect of your lives.  

Sometimes it takes someone else to state what you don't yet believe, but the caregivers we know are strong, smart, solutions-oriented, and care warriors.  To help, take a look at any of the books on the Recommended Reading section; just 10 pages or 10 minutes listening a day can change your life for the better.

We strongly believe in you!  

Linda Kreter & the
VeteranCaregiver Team

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Caregiver Friendships - Evolving or Disappearing?

Simple fact:  caregiving is not an easy task.  It changes you and your previous life.

Many friends may love you, but they may be afraid of being put in the same role, so they now dodge you.  Their avoidance may be amplified because they find great difficulty in accepting what has happened to you and your family.  In others, the illness or injury may be painful to see. Not everyone has the same emotional maturity.

The best may also be brought out when you need it the most.  The friends who call, provide help unasked, and just listen when you need it are priceless.  When friends find the changes in you and your family member too hard to accept, those friends may fade away.  Try hard not to judge them, but instead appreciate those that remain true friends, especially as they support you when you are nearly out of patience and hope.

Support from others that understand your daily life can sustain you. Those friends are to be cherished and it's important to support them in reverse. That's a balanced friendship.  You may also find it wise to renew older friendships with those who are not caregivers, but who know YOU, and will listen, not judging you on hard days.  Judgment can wear down the strongest caregiver.
Be wise in who you surround yourself with, and approach new friendships slowly to discover the trust level possible. We are not suggesting wariness of new people, but we've all had the experience of being used by others and it doesn't feel good.  Betrayals by those we've let become close can cut deeply, and you want to avoid that as much as possible.

Assess yourself when you're with someone. Do you feel an energy or psychological boost when together or after a visit?  Do you feel uplifted or calmer?  Those are good friends!  Add people to your life that inflate you and who give you oomph and confidence. Minimize contact with those that diminish you. Reduce the drama; it's usually not worth it.  

There will always be both kinds of friends in the world, and seek support from good friends as they will grow with you.

Linda Kreter & the
VeteranCaregiver Team 

Monday, July 6, 2015

Optimism is Contagious! Choose Those Around You Wisely

It can be very challenging to be positive when those around you are negative – harder still when those individuals are family members. How can you stay more positive in that situation?

The dynamics of any group are strongly affected by the mindset of those around you.  Since it's next to impossible to change other people (good luck with that!) or to avoid them if they're family (relocation?), one way to positively affect your own viewpoint is to consider your reaction when others act negatively.

Being around those always harping and negative is draining.  Being around those who are positive and optimistic can lift you up.  Think inflate versus deflate! If you're blessed to have a combination of people around you that can support you when you're down and you can do the same for them, that's great. There will always be the naysayers and some people are comfortable in their drama - but don't buy into that.

Work to five a handful of trusted friends who are positive, and can be called when you need a boost.  Do the same for them. If you surround yourself with positive people, then the negative ones you can't avoid will matter less to you.  I call them Toxic Clouds and I work to be pleasant to them, but remove myself when it's not mentally healthy for me to be around them. Do you really need Toxic Rain to fall on you?
Also, positive people help YOU to view things differently and that can be immeasurably helpful. We all have tough, down days, but when you can recall a kind, warm memory from something someone said to you, or incorporate it into your life, you will view things with greater optimism. I love the words from the book, The Slight Edge, by Jeff Olson:  the little things in life are easy to do, but just as easy Not to do. 

As you learn to wade through the water with a more positive view, remember to pass it on.  Mirror the positive attitudes shown you, and now you become the Lifter and it becomes a habit to tune out the negative and re-frame it positively. Just as muscles learn movement to create muscle memory, so can your mind.  

Optimism is contagious, so seek new ways of dealing with the negatives you cannot avoid, surround yourself with Safe People, and grow your optimism and positive perspective daily. You CAN turn negative drama into Harmony for yourself.

Linda Kreter & the
VeteranCaregiver Team

Friday, June 12, 2015

Presence: Improve Your Outcomes

Have you ever looked around the halls of the VA, or seen caregivers together in a group?  Do you automatically note those that seem to magically command more respect and response?  It is a troubling fact that if we don’t know how to present ourselves to others that we won’t receive the same answers, directions, or decisions – but it’s true.

One of the most common questions and concerns from caregivers is this:  “I always feel invisible and ignored by the care team, what can I do to change that?” Just as it’s often impossible to change the situation and circumstances, there are choices to make to increase your success percentage.  Remember that small changes add up, and you can try them and discard what doesn’t work for you.  If your life is made smoother by these small acts, it’s not only possible, it’s probable that you’ll continue to make positive changes.  These are skills and results that no one can take away from you.

Work with us for a minute.  Some may seem petty, illogical or unnecessary, but they work.  If you feel uncomfortable, add or adapt these skills to better suit you and work them in slowly.

First let’s start with doing your research.  Know what appears to be available to you, or know the information you need for your family.  No presence in the world will help if you are asking for something impossible.  Armed with the facts and the questions, look in the mirror.  Fact:  People are often ignored because they lack Presence.  You're tired, frustrated, weary of the strain of trying so hard to be heard, and it can show in your body language. 

The simplest way to be seen and heard is to change your posture and to stand tall. (Yes, the old adage of imagine yourself pulled up by a string, shoulders, hips, and heels in line.) Tired people often stoop and give an air of vulnerability. That can sometimes work to your advantage, but standing tall gives you a better physical presence.  We are a nation of “slumpers”.  People note someone who stands out in a room. 

Lift your chin and look people directly in the eye. This “speaks” firmly without saying a word.  It says "I know what we need to accomplish today,” and conveys to the other person you are (of course!) anticipating a professional response. It’s much harder to avoid/ignore someone who is direct, standing tall, and commanding attention.  You’ve watched it before.  Presented in a way different from the pack, certain people seem to get a good response from exactly the same question!  You want to be that person.

Know what you are seeking to make it easier for someone to help you.  If you don't know the exact words for the document or title of the person you seek, then ask if you're using the correct terminology. Your stand-tall presence quietly and your tone of voice says, "I'm here to find answers and I will still be standing here until you help me, or guide me to someone else who can."  Next step if they’re not helpful is to say, in the same calm, no-attitude voice, “Okay, I see this is more complicated than I thought; will you please direct me to your supervisor, or someone who can help me?”  Persist. Stopped by a regulation? Ask to see it or where to find it.  HIPAA hurdle?  Your paperwork says you're entitled to see the records if all is in order.

You've done your research and now follow the chain of command upward.  Persist.  As you go higher and you’re being reasonable, now people are more likely to help you, because the pressure is building - for them.  Is it really so difficult a question that five levels of people don’t know the answer?  Persist. We know many a caregiver who asked for directions to the Director’s office and sat waiting until they received an answer to their relatively simple question.

Engage fully with erect posture, direct eye contact, and increased presence - you will find you gain better results.  Presence is a leadership skill that has faded for many people in the same way a firm handshake is missed.  Enhanced presence and leadership skills are a work in progress and will always help you.

Make the choice to grow; leadership skills never get old.  Stand out in the crowd with an improved presence – and receive the answers you need to move forward.

Linda Kreter & the
VeteranCaregiver Team

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

LEARN: Managing Triangular Communication

This is a practical blog post to correspond with the video of the same name. Learning this skill can make your world much, much better.  It will also baffle your adversaries! 

Do you recall a conversation with one person where a third person inserted themselves into the discussion?  Did you notice that the conversation rapidly became frustrating as your one-on-one conversation became a two-against-one situation with another agenda?  Triangular Conversation is in play... where you previously had a direct conversation.

                          Person 1 <----------------------------> Person 2

Certain people regularly use Triangular Communication as a means of manipulation and control. It's a good idea to manage, alter, or avoid these conversational events.  We see it early in life, when two children playing together enjoy themselves; but when a third arrives, the dynamic may be competitive and adversarial.  This challenging discussion style may be found whenever people communicate.

Triangular conversations have the potential to take on a difficult dynamic and alter the previous one-on-one communication.  If the person is simply nosing into your discussion and offering unsolicited advice, the triangle is merely annoying, but still creates a Villain, a Victim, and a Hero.  If there is a negative intention, you now have a toxic triangle, where you may feel the effects long after the discussion.  In either case, which one do you think you will be?  No doubt, you don't need this in your day!

                                                           .   .
                                                         .       .
                                                       .           .
                                       Victim   ...............   Hero
Learn to recognize this destructive communication style and then intentionally remove yourself from the discussion. This happens among family members, the care team, children, and peers.  Awareness is key.  Once you've recognized the situation as a triangle, extricate yourself, disengage, and then re- engage when you can discuss the matter one-on-one.   

This is a drama you can identify and avoid. 

Linda Kreter & the
VeteranCaregiver Team