Caregiving Articles by Kathryn R. Burke

Winner, 2017 and 2016 CIPA EVVY Awards Book Competitions 

Caregiving articles by Kathryn R. Burke. As a former caregiver and frequent presenter on this subject, I’ve experienced first-hand the multitude of life-altering emotions and occurrences (good and bad) that arise from helping someone who needs help.  Now, with hindsight, I am sharing what I have learned and how, as a caregiver, I coped—in print, online,  in presentations, and facilitating support groups. Here are some of the stories – my own and those of others who are fighting similar battles and managing the major lifestyle changes we face. Caregiving is a journey, one we will all content with at some point (giving care or receiving it), but you need not travel alone.

‘Senior Pets for Senior People’ by Kathryn R. Burke [Montrose Daily Press, July 22, 2018]
Why pair a senior human with a senior pet? One main reason is energy levels. We’re not as zippy as we once were, and they aren’t either. Older pets have outgrown the need to chew up your underwear, pee on the bedspread, climb the curtains, or poop in the middle of the kitchen floor. They are already trained. They can still learn new tricks and routines, but with a greater attention span than a rambunctious puppy or kitten. They offer unconditional love and alleviate loneliness … [read more]

‘How to Manage Holiday Grief’ by Kathryn R. Burke [LinkedIn, December 16, 2018 2018]
Grief at any time, for any reason, and in any form is hard to handle. At holiday time, it can seem insurmountable. I know. I’ve been there. And I found some answers I’d like to share if you are there, too. The holidays can be painful after suffering a great loss. But there are other options. It’s a personal choice, really. Kind of like sink or swim. Grief can overwhelm, pulling you down with it. Or it can uplift, giving you the impetus to share others’ grief, because now you understand what they are feeling. [read more]

‘Dementia’ by Kathryn R. Burke [written for theCaregiver’s Handbook].
Dementia is not a specific disease. It’s a symptom, or a group of symptoms, related to memory loss and decline in thinking ability that negatively affect a person’s ability to perform daily activities. Dementia can be a symptom of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), but not always. It could be a symptom of something else.[read more]

‘There Comes a time’ by Kathryn R. Burke [Montrose Daily Press,October 21, 2018
As we age, it’s inevitable that we will face the mortality issue.No one lives forever. The end can be quick, but more often, it comes with excruciating slowness. Good health descends into poor health, then into a physical reality that says we can no longer live at home. There comes a time when patient, caregiver, and family must make some tough decisions. [read more]

‘Get Down and Boogie’ by Kathryn R. Burke [Montrose Daily Press,July 22, 2018
As people age, they tend to become more sedentary and socially withdrawn. A fun and exciting way to combat that self-induced isolation is to get out there and dance. Dance helps with a multitude of health issues, but it’s also a great people-meeter for those who are seeing the years speed up while activity levels slow down. Dance is a way to keep your body flexible while staying socially engaged. [read more]

‘Are You There Yet!’ by Kathryn R. Burke [Montrose Monitor,July 16, 2018
Are we there yet? Are we?” That’s what my kids always asked about 15 minutes after we left on a road trip. And repeated, with increasing frequency, as we got further from home, but still had a long way to go.  “We aren’t there till we get there,” I would say. And, that’s pretty much the story of Caregiving. We aren’t there till we get there. Wherever you are on the caregiver’s path, you have some hard decisions ahead. [read more]

‘Goodbye to My Steam Man [Lewy Body Digest, April 18, 2018].
Lewy Body takes prisoners and it does not discriminate. When LBD targets someone, there is no cure and no escape—it’s a one-way journey, with a guaranteed rough ride at the end. The only variable is how long it will take, and for the caregiver, how long they can hold on. My husband was a brilliant man, humorous and creative,  well known for his railroad photography, his interest in travel and western history.  Then he became a prisioner of Lewy Body, and our lives underwent a huge change. But he left behind a wonderful legacy.  [read more]

‘Digital Dilema’ by Kathryn R. Burke [Montrose Daily Press, April 15, 2018
Can’t remember your password? Can’t remember your login? Can’t Remember S#$%! CRS is a serious problem for seniors as short-term memory takes increasingly frequent vacations making it hard to manage in our password-protected digital age. For the kids and grandkids, this isn’t a problem. They start with computers in grade school and have ‘smart’ phones and credit cards by the time they’re twelve. For us older folks, who grew up leery of credit and committed to buying only what we could pay for, with cash or a paper check, today’s digital world is a scary place. [read more]

‘Escape! Get Away So You Can Stay’ by Kathryn R. Burke [Montrose Daily Press, March 25, 2018].
There comes a day when you say, “If I have to change one more pair of pull-ups, I’m going to strangle her with them!” Oh, oh! Caregiver compassion just took a vacation. You better take a break, too, or it might be a one-way trip.  . . . Taking care of someone long-term wears you out. It will test your endurance beyond endurance. You just plain run out of gas. And patience.  . . . It happens to all of us, sometimes with increasing frequency as caregiving tasks become more intense, and thus, more wearisome. If you need to keep on moving forward, take a step back. Escape. Get away. So you can stay. [read more]

‘Getting on When they’re Gone’ by Kathryn R. Burke [Montrose Daily Press, March 4, 2018].
I grew up in a family where we all ate supper together. No cell phones, iPads, and iPods; we actually talked with one another—face-to-face. Imagine that! And, we looked forward to that time of the day when we could come together as a family and share the day’s experiences. . . . Over the years, as wife, mother, grandaughter, and Caregiver, I have found food provides a strong, cohesive base of Caregiving Companionship for me and my family.  [read more]

‘Food and Caregiver Companionship’ by Kathryn R. Burke [Montrose Daily Press, February 4, 2018].
I grew up in a family where we all ate supper together. No cell phones, iPads, and iPods; we actually talked with one another—face-to-face. Imagine that! And, we looked forward to that time of the day when we could come together as a family and share the day’s experiences. . . . Over the years, as wife, mother, grandaughter, and Caregiver, I have found food provides a strong, cohesive base of Caregiving Companionship for me and my family.  [read more]

‘Grief is a Personal Process, especially during the holidays’ by Kathryn R. Burke [Montrose Daily Press, December 24, 2017].
One year ago, four days before Christmas, my world fell apart. My husband’s illness had escalated to the point where I could no longer manage at home; we both wound up in the hospital. They sent me home and him to a nursing home—an inevitable one-way journey, but still one we were not prepared for. Nobody is, really. [read more]

‘Care for the Caregiver’ by Kathryn R. Burke [Montrose Daily Press, September 24, 2017].
Caregivers need care, too—sometimes even more than their Careé (the person they care for). When they don’t get it, they are susceptible to Caregiver Burnout—a very real, debilitating medical and psychological condition brought on by unrelieved stress. Care for the caregiver is often forgotten in the emotional and physical demands of caregiving. [read more]

‘Building Your Care Team’ by Kathryn R. Burke [Montrose Daily Press, March 19, 2017]
So, you’re a Caregiver. Trying to go it alone. Not working all that well, is it?  Experience has taught you can manage family illness or infirmity just fine by yourself. … Caregiving for someone with a prolonged or terminal illness or disability is a whole new ballgame. The old rules no longer apply. Recovery is not on the immediate horizon—if at all. …So, yeah, if you’re on this journey alone, it’s not going too well. … You need to build a Care Team to ride to the rescue. [read more]

‘Caregiver Advocacy’ by Kathryn R. Burke [Montrose Daily Press, February 12, 2017]
Caregivers need to be sure the one they care for (their Careé) has basic needs met: enough rest, healthy diet, medical care, physical exercise, and social stimulation. But, there is a lot more to Caregiving than what amounts to basic babysitting. Caregivers are also advocates. It’s a big part of the job, and only gets bigger as your Careé’s health declines and more care is required. [read more]

‘The Stress Response:  good or bad?’ by Kathryn R. Burke [Montrose Daily Press, August 14, 2016]
Stress happens when we are faced with a situation that causes a strong, emotional reaction. Sometimes stress can be positive, provide a little physical or mental boost, like when you are anticipating an athletic event or psyching yourself up to give a public presentation. Sometimes it can be annoying, but short-lived, like a fight with a spouse or partner, bad day at work, coming up short at the grocery check-out and having to put things back. But, when stress is ongoing with little or no relief in sight, it has long-term physical and mental consequences. [read more]

‘The Big Bingo’ by Kathryn R. Burke [Montrose Daily Press, June 16, 2016]
When Granny went to that big bingo in the sky, she left her 3 grandkids a winning card. Judy, the oldest, used hers to get a divorce – she was in a bad marriage – and to pay off the mortgage and raise her two kids. Jenny, the youngest, was just 17. She used her share to go to college. She is now a marriage and family therapist. John, the middle kid, spent his on cocaine. While the money lasted, he was a popular guy. John picked up the tab for the whole party crowd. He found a wife along the way, who had even more problems than he did. They both started hitting the bottle as well as snorting coke, and not surprisingly, sunk into a deep drug depression together. [read more]

‘Fifi, Fido, and a horse named George’ by Kathryn R. Burke [Montrose Daily Press, June 12, 2016]
Anybody see the story on Facebook about Thula the therapy cat? She’s a magical feline BFF bonded with a 6-year-old autistic girl. Have you visited someone at Montrose Hospital lately? Therapy dogs make regular rounds in Med/Surg every week. How about that guy with one leg and in a wheelchair, whose dog (attached by leash) tows him around in his wheelchair? I saw him at Walmart yesterday. Geriatric George at Alice Billing’s Thunderheart Haven in Ridgway may be retired, but this old horse still understands how to provide comfort and confidence to a shy kid. Farm and ranch folks have long known that horses have a sixth sense when it comes to dealing with humans suffering from physical or mental trauma. [read more]

‘The Elephant in the Room’ by Kathryn R. Burke [Montrose Daily Press, June 5, 2016]
Even if you’re in good health, after a certain age, talking about sex can be uncomfortable. If your doctor asks, “Do you?” or “How often?” you are likely to squirm, maybe duck the question, and mumble a noncommittal answer (women) or brag about sexual prowess (men, even with a missing prostate). Older people do have sex—they really do! And most of the time, they manage just fine. Many nursing homes accommodate conjugal visits. Regardless of where ‘home’ is, though, what happens when desire dims, when illness or injury diminishes sexual performance, or in some cases, catapults into insatiability? What do you do when physical intimacy is no longer possible or when one partner wants it and the other doesn’t?  [read more]

‘Living With Alzheimer’s’ by Kathryn R. Burke [Montrose Daily Press, May 22, 2016]
The brain scan last week told the story. Two years ago, my husband’s brain looked almost normal—a few blank spots here and there, but on the whole, very few ‘holes.’ Last week, it looked like he had a head full of Swiss cheese. When he has memory gaps resulting in confusion as to time and place, I explain it to him this way: a normal brain is like a block of cheddar—pretty solid; an Alzheimer’s brain is like Swiss cheese—lots of holes. That pesky memory mouse pops up in one hole, then hides in another for a while.  We never know when (or where) he will pop back up again. [read more]

‘Calling for Help’ by Kathryn Burke [Montrose Daily Press, May 15, 2016]
I just left the hospital. A close friend had a heart attack early this morning. She is 90 years old, and has been the sole Caregiver for her husband, who is 93, for over five years. His family does not offer assistance. She has had to struggle with this alone. “I can’t do this anymore,” she told me just a few days ago. And today, in the hospital, she said, “I kept telling them, but they just didn’t get it.” Maybe, now they do?  [read more]