The Caregiver Cup Podcast

From Corporate VP to A Dual Caregiver's Tale of Self-Care and Transformation: Interview with Tracey Donaldson

February 06, 2024 Cathy VandenHeuvel Episode 199
From Corporate VP to A Dual Caregiver's Tale of Self-Care and Transformation: Interview with Tracey Donaldson
The Caregiver Cup Podcast
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The Caregiver Cup Podcast
From Corporate VP to A Dual Caregiver's Tale of Self-Care and Transformation: Interview with Tracey Donaldson
Feb 06, 2024 Episode 199
Cathy VandenHeuvel

When life handed Tracy Donaldson the unexpected role of a dual caregiver, it carved a path of profound transformation, from corporate VP to the intimate realities of supporting both her mother and spouse through their personal health battles. This episode takes you through her candid journey, sharing the complexities of caregiving intertwined with the process of self-reinvention. Tracy's experience serves as a beacon for those navigating similar terrains, offering wisdom on harnessing your strengths and the courage to accept help without shame.

If there's one thing that my own brush with personal loss has taught me, it's that self-care isn't just a luxury—it's an essential part of the caregiving equation. This conversation unravels the self-care strategies that have been my lifeline: from meditation and exercise to the power of connection with friends. Discover the delicate art of maintaining your own well-being while fulfilling the demanding roles of a caregiver, and why it's crucial to find moments of joy and fulfillment amidst the responsibility.

In the rich tapestry of family dynamics and personal fulfillment, this episode explores the emotional depth and practical aspects of caregiving. As Tracy and I share our family experiences, we shed light on the importance of embracing each family member's unique contributions, finding personal strengths, and navigating the guilt that often accompanies the balancing act. Our exchange culminates with a focus on actionable steps to enhance the caregiving journey, emphasizing why it's essential to find joy and satisfaction even in the midst of life's most challenging chapters.

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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

When life handed Tracy Donaldson the unexpected role of a dual caregiver, it carved a path of profound transformation, from corporate VP to the intimate realities of supporting both her mother and spouse through their personal health battles. This episode takes you through her candid journey, sharing the complexities of caregiving intertwined with the process of self-reinvention. Tracy's experience serves as a beacon for those navigating similar terrains, offering wisdom on harnessing your strengths and the courage to accept help without shame.

If there's one thing that my own brush with personal loss has taught me, it's that self-care isn't just a luxury—it's an essential part of the caregiving equation. This conversation unravels the self-care strategies that have been my lifeline: from meditation and exercise to the power of connection with friends. Discover the delicate art of maintaining your own well-being while fulfilling the demanding roles of a caregiver, and why it's crucial to find moments of joy and fulfillment amidst the responsibility.

In the rich tapestry of family dynamics and personal fulfillment, this episode explores the emotional depth and practical aspects of caregiving. As Tracy and I share our family experiences, we shed light on the importance of embracing each family member's unique contributions, finding personal strengths, and navigating the guilt that often accompanies the balancing act. Our exchange culminates with a focus on actionable steps to enhance the caregiving journey, emphasizing why it's essential to find joy and satisfaction even in the midst of life's most challenging chapters.

Send us a Text Message.

Support the Show.

Thank you for listening. If you know of another caregiver who could benefit from this podcast, please copy and share this episode.

Follow me by clicking on the links below:

Speaker 1:

Well, hello, my friend, and welcome to another episode of the caregiver podcast. Boy, do I have a great interview with you today? So I am interviewing Tracy Donaldson. She is a 30 year human resources professional 24 of those years was spent in higher education in human resources development and leadership, and she has such a great story. She's a dual caregiver. She's currently caring for her mom and her spouse. She lost her dad, I believe, back in 2022. In the interview, she shares her VP career and how she navigated that as a caregiver. Like I said, a dual caregiver.

Speaker 1:

We have discussions on utilizing your strengths, understanding your weaknesses and navigating through challenges as well, as I asked her for some advice and key advice that she would give to you as a caregiver. So, and she really got authentic and raw with us by talking about how she is now in this cusp of a new phase of her life and she is closing in on changing her career. She, she and I both agree we don't like the word retirement because it feels like an end. We like reinventing ourselves, and so she's going to be talking about that as well as much, much more. So sit back and enjoy our conversation, or my conversation that I had with Tracy Donaldson.

Speaker 1:

Well, caregiver cup listeners, today I have the pleasure of interviewing Tracy Donaldson, who I met because she responded to one of our weekly, one of my weekly emails and instantaneously with her response she had said I'm your new friend from Jersey. And I'm like, oh my gosh, I have to meet this lady and we have to go ahead and connect because we kind of have so much in common. But you know, as caregivers, we have a lot in common and we're going to talk about that today, but we all have different stories and we have all have different backgrounds and different experiences, and so our conversation today Tracy and I are having is about caregiving and our experiences, in addition to much, much more. So, tracy, thank you for being a guest on today's podcast episode.

Speaker 2:

Delighted, delighted, to be here.

Speaker 1:

Wonderful let's get. Let's get the ball rolling today by you telling us about yourself and your caregiving story.

Speaker 2:

So I'm I'm that typical, you know, midlife female worked all my life, worked full time, had a professional career which I'm closing down, I'll explain later but you know, all those, all those things that you get when you're 63, you're in the middle of everybody, right? You're the, you're your parents, what I want to say, their strength, they're, they count on you. Your, your your spouses. You have kids who count on you still. So so I'm there, I'm, you say we have a lot in common and sometimes when you are telling stories and such on your podcast, I actually laugh out loud because I think, oh, yeah, I know exactly what she's talking about with that. But yeah, so I, you know, kind of came into this whole caregiving thing. I, now that I look back on it, it probably happened, it's probably started to build before I even realized it was building.

Speaker 1:

I know one of the questions I was going to ask you is yeah, did you expect it to come? You know, you don't.

Speaker 2:

Well, I sure didn't. You know, my father had died in March of 22. And my brothers and I were keeping a close eye on my mom. She was living by herself in rural Pennsylvania, assuring us all that she was fine and everything. And maybe it's because I'm a female, maybe it's because I've spent 30 years in HR, you know, I could be with her for a very short time and recognize I don't think things are going as well as we thought. So we, my brothers and I and her, started to have these conversations about what was next for her. But in the meantime, after my father had died, I was already the executor, the co-trustee, the healthcare power of attorney, the financial power of attorney, all of those things.

Speaker 2:

And then, almost a year to the day that my father died, my husband suffered a stroke. Yeah, yeah, he had been living with diabetes for over 30 years and he had, you know, some major computations from that high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease, you know, vision issues, all as a result of this long term living with diabetes, which at times was controlled better than others, you know. So, yeah, so I didn't. We were working so hard on getting his health in line and we thought we were making progress and they I'm just one day. That all changed, so that part I wasn't expecting.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and then, at the same time, you were caregiving for your mom, right? From afar from afar.

Speaker 2:

She wasn't with us yet. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Speaker 1:

So she is with you now.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, at about, I guess. My husband was hospitalized for a month and my brothers and I thought, oh, wouldn't this be an excellent time for her to come down. She's a retired nurse. We thought this would give her sense of purpose, something to do, some way to feel needed. She was still very deeply into grief and depression over my father, so you know, she came down and it was really then that I started just seeing how much support she actually needed.

Speaker 1:

Okay, okay. Does she have a specific disease, or is it just kind of failing as she ages?

Speaker 2:

Just failing as she ages. We've gone through all the tests and the you know the assessments and such and they, at this point she's labeled as mildly cognitively impaired. She has a lot of memory issues. She's 86, you know she's 86 years old, she's doing really good then at 86.

Speaker 1:

Yes, yeah, yeah.

Speaker 2:

She's fairly mobile. Still, you know, honestly, it's the depression that's kicking her butt.

Speaker 1:

Well, let's talk about you, because with two people now I mean the dual caregiving role I know there's tons and tons of challenges and you're still working. And then you have this shadow going that your job is based on what I read Tell me if I'm right or not, tracy which your job is going to end in June. You have tons of stress and challenges, so tell us about the challenges that you face when you know on a daily basis, Well, you know, right now I'm very much relieved of a lot of my work responsibility.

Speaker 2:

I had actually taken leave of absence for a couple, full leave of absence. I was doing much like you were. You talked in one of your podcasts, or maybe more than one, about being in the hospital. You need to be on the laptop and doing work and making phone calls. That was me to a T. I was fitting that in between tests and my husband being awake and making sure he was getting exhausting, as you know.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I did.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, but I did that. I did that, um, honestly, I look back at that and I just think I don't even know who that person was. I was just on auto, auto, auto, auto. But I did take a full leave in June, through July and through August and when I got back to my office in September I was hopeful because so many of the things were in in order. Now I'm doing air quotes with my hand. Uh, so many things were in order now, but it was still just never ending. My husband wasn't driving yet, so everything he had to do, um, I had to take him. Yeah, um, you know. So anyway, uh, I'm, I'm, I'm rambling here, but but the but the point is is that I um did, finally say.

Speaker 2:

I finally took the white flag and said this is ridiculous for a period of two more years, which is really what I would have done. I would have retired at 65, probably. Anyway, what am I doing to myself here? More than that, and I'm sure you and a lot of other caregivers can relate, I really love what I do and it just bothered me to know and to be doing it half-assed. I could do that.

Speaker 1:

I know it. I know it and I felt that way because I retired back in. It's been a little over a year from now, and I retired last year because I felt that it was a perfect time for me to retire, because I felt the same way that for probably about a year I wasn't as passionate and, yeah, it didn't feel good. And then when I retired, I knew I had this podcast, I had this community, I had this passion to create things for caregivers that would at least fill my adult learning cup and give me a purpose. But yeah, it does. It makes you feel I don't know what the word is, but when you're trying to juggle so much and it's burnout, when you're trying to juggle so much and taking care of two people, taking care of your job and your family and yourself, you're not doing anything well, right.

Speaker 2:

Right.

Speaker 2:

That's truly where I got. Yeah. So I went to my boss and I said you know, the other thing is is that I had a pretty major job. I was literally in charge of the HR function at our commandee college, and so I had a whole unit reporting to me. I had major responsibilities that I just thought this is not, it's not fair to me, it's not fair to them. I can't do this anymore Not in good conscience, you know.

Speaker 2:

So I went to my boss, who had been extremely supportive all along, and I just said to her is there? I'd like to step down from my vice president role. I would like to stay engaged. How, what could we do? What could we work out? And we ended up, you know, agreeing that I would go on this sabbatical, which, in in my case, it's going to be what we call a terminal sabbatical. I am going to do this project and then I'm going to retire at the end of June, and the project is a legitimate project. So I feel really good about that. But I've, you know, handed over my, my leadership responsibilities to someone else in my office who, by the way, is going to be really great at it. I'm so proud of her and so happy for her.

Speaker 2:

But, yeah, so. So I will be retired as of the end of June.

Speaker 1:

You know, let's talk about that, that crucial conversation that you have to have with a boss, because I've had that conversation as well many times. Actually, it was through the six plus years I had three different bosses in corporate America, you know. But you have to have those crucial conversations to say this is where I'm at, this is what I can do, this is how I'm feeling. Tell me about your conversations.

Speaker 2:

Well, you know, the thing was is that up until a point I really wasn't missing a beat. Now that came at huge cost to myself Because, again, I don't know who that person was I wasn't sleeping. If I was, it was very short period of time. My laptop went with me everywhere. If I had five minutes, I was checking emails or responding to somebody or, you know, writing policies or whatever I was doing.

Speaker 2:

But again, you know, I was the one who knew that I couldn't sustain that over time. I mean, it was going to crack and fall and shatter to the ground, or I was, one of us was. So, you know, I happened to have a really, just a really great boss and I know everybody is not that lucky, but I was and I knew that I could go to her and tell her what my concerns were. And she agreed. She said, you know this, you know she agreed that I could not sustain this.

Speaker 2:

You know, one foot in, one foot out of the job, that my team needed me, that everybody there needed me, and also that I couldn't do it to myself. So she was just really supportive. I it took me two months of no sleep and just gyrating on that whole thought. You know how that is too. You're just worrying and thinking and worrying and thinking and planning and trying to manifest something to become, and I mean kind of that's probably what happened. I sort of manifested it in the end, but I had I set up a meeting with her and I had the conversation.

Speaker 1:

What a beautiful gift, though, that you gave to yourself, and a hard decision. But I mean, I think, as caregivers, we have to take a serious look at ourselves and our sustainability and what we can do and what's in the best interest of everybody, all the relationships and everything around us to go ahead and make those hard decisions. And I'm glad you had brought the two months of manifesting and really stewing on it, because it's not an easy choice, no matter what that choice is for us as caregivers. It could be our, our, our career, it could be our living condition, it could be, you know, the, the care that we're giving ourselves. You know, tell me, let's back up a little bit too. When you took that time off, I'm sure you went into it Terribly stressed and in this I don't know how else to say it, tracy but this go mode that you were like, you were like, wow, tight, and then all of a sudden, now you had this time to go ahead and really focus in on what was important, and that's you and caregiving what?

Speaker 2:

was that like? It's funny because I counted on my calendar one day the number of appointments and things that I had to take care of with my husband in that three months and it amounted to 85 in all three months that was physical therapy, dialysis three times a week, multiple, multiple, multiple follow-ups, two more hospitalizations over dialysis, complications. So honestly, it was more time like I wasn't so completely out of my mind and I was able to get a lot more in order at that point, which is a big thing with me and it's really ridiculous. When I think about it. I look back and I think you know, really, tracy, there are some things you can't control, no matter how hardheaded you want to be.

Speaker 2:

You really just have to let some stuff go. You have to understand you cannot do all of this, but that three months was good because it did clarify a number of things. You know, when I was gyrating on the decision to stay or to go at work, one thing just kept coming through to me and that was I don't want to have any regrets, I don't want to stay at work on this arbitrary two-addition year timeline I have, when I just saw you know in living color that I could lose my husband at any time in a blink of an eye.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, you know, almost lost him in March.

Speaker 1:

Oh, really, really.

Speaker 2:

What for what am I staying at work for for two more years?

Speaker 1:

And to be an advocate in such a complex situation is so important. I mean, I think about the simple things of being.

Speaker 1:

You can't be there 24 seven for your love but you have to stay on top of things, because if you're not on top of things, then you're missing. You're missing things and it could result in in something that you know could be, you know, hazardous or or or not to the best of their interest. And so, especially with his situation, you want to be in the know, you have to go ahead and keep updated on everything.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

You know yeah.

Speaker 2:

But I did, I. It was around June that I was, you know, waking up with that heaviness and that hopelessness every morning that things were never going to get better, and I started looking for resources and that's when I came across your podcast and, honestly, that's what started to get me thinking, hey, I have to, I have to get a plan for this. This is not working.

Speaker 1:

So how do you? How do you and I just say balance how do you take care? What are some things that you do, tracy, because you are dual caregiving, because you are still working your career, because you are dealing with some complex health issues for your loved ones, what do you do for yourself? What are some practices that have worked for you? You found the podcast, resources or things that you've done.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. So the podcast, I listened to yours and I listened to a couple other ones. Like I really like Jay Shetty, for example. I just find his stuff uplifting and I mean there's a bunch, there's a bunch, but those are two I listened to. I use the calm app for both meditation and just trying to get to sleep. I never make it through meditation. I don't know if anybody else has figured out how to do that, but I put those buds in my ears. So to me that's just a sleep method. I like to read. I go to the gym, you know I keep in touch with friends, so I've managed to fit those things back in and, honestly, a lot of that is because I listened to people like you who said you have to do this.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, it is such a hard thing though, because as caregivers, you know and I know it's sounds like you're you're just a high achiever, go getter kind of a person and when you first are faced with that, you're like all in. I just I shake my head too, because if I could do something over again and do it over again, I wouldn't have had my laptop alongside of my husband during his chemotherapy. I would have, just I would have. I wish we could have seen, or wish I could have seen, my nervous system inside, because I could have seen what I was doing to wreck my nervous system and wreck everything, instead of just, you know, being present, dealing with the situation and trying to go ahead and be more productive in different places, versus trying to do it at one time.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, it's just you know, but you know what we all have to go ahead and stumble and fall in order to try and figure out what's the best for us, because somebody else may be listening to say I'm going to do it and I'm like you got to try it. There was one point, tracy I was in the lobby of the hospital while my husband was having a CT scan and I was doing a Zoom meeting with new hires in our company. There was a beautiful plant behind us and you know that would possess me to go ahead and do all of that. You know, talk about exhausting, but anyway.

Speaker 2:

Well, you know, there's a thing in us that says I think this is what we have to do now, and so we make it work. The problem with that, of course, is that you hope it's not like a regular project at work, it's like a runaway train, and instead of a project at work you would say, okay, we had to take some drastic action, but now we've got to put in some systems and such that will make this easier and we'll achieve our end. When you're in the middle of this runaway train, when you're on this runaway train, you're just hanging on, you know, trying to keep it on the track you know and you don't have time to really like even think okay, how could I be doing this better?

Speaker 2:

until you know, some things happen, and I don't know what they are necessarily. I just know that you know. It just isn't sustainable forever. So your brain must kick in somewhere and say whoa, whoa, wait a minute.

Speaker 1:

I know, I know, you know, and I've had clients and I've had myself be extremely sick. And then it's like a wake up call. When I had COVID back in 2020, I think it was 2020. In the fall of 2020, I'm laying there in an isolation room thinking, if I don't get out, who's going to take care of my mom and my husband, right, and that scares us to death as well as caregivers, you know. So you are the person. You are the person when it comes to it. Now I have a question for you that I didn't read it right on our little notes back and forth, but I feel like a caregiver in you as well. We're like the CEO of this, right? Yeah?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, oh, definitely.

Speaker 1:

So you know, I think you're a little bit more comfortable in managing this caregiving journey for your mom and your husband. What are some best practices that you do to go hot and ensure that everything is managed properly? Do you like, for example, what do you do?

Speaker 2:

Well, I mean, I guess for me it was putting some systems in place. You know, I've always been a calendar kind of gal, you know, so making sure that before I leave a doctor's office I've got the follow up already in my electronic calendar already scheduled. I really am a relationship builder, so I made sure to know our doctors. I would make friends with the nurses on whatever shift I was visiting on, so that I could hey, milton, you know I need some help in here, would you give me a second? And because I had already taken the time to say good morning, good afternoon and how are you doing, and whatever, anytime I was there, they were more willing to help. You know, I would, you know, just like turning to simple things that you think are no big deal, but turning 30 day prescriptions into 90 day prescriptions so you're not constantly chasing that little administrative task. Those are a couple of things I did. So true, so true, yeah, yeah.

Speaker 1:

And having those contacts are so important and you know those advocates that you can go ahead and relate to. That's such a good piece that people don't think about. You know as, because you know your husband was in the hospital for such a long time. You know as far as you know. You talked about, you know, the 90 day. So efficiencies, any type of help. You have siblings now. How are the siblings involved with your mom? Are they available to help you out and give you a break at all?

Speaker 2:

Well, I have three brothers. So I have an older brother who, really, before we moved my mom down here he lives 24 miles from where she, you know, was living in rural Pennsylvania and he was the one who was going over there to have dinner with her and, whatever that being said, he is not the one who could do full time care. Just because there are some things that he does not, I would just say, not agree with, like you know, my mom is in a very depressed state and he believes that that's in her control to fix that. Just get over it kind of thing. Just get out, you'll have fun. And he did yeoman's work at her house when we had to sell her house. My next brother, who is right after me, it is in Missouri and already is taking care of a mother-in-law with his wife same age and everything.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so he would be the most equipped to be the most helped to me personally, but is already otherwise engaged. And then there's my younger brother, who also, you know yeoman's work. You ask him to do anything move furniture, sell things, mow lawn, whatever. They would do anything like that but just not as emotionally equipped to take care of an 86-year-old.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, Well, I think that I think what you brought up is important, because so many caregivers look at their family and the scope of help they have and looking at their strengths, looking at their situation, looking at that, because not everybody even with my brother and my sister, you know we all had different strengths and we all have different weaknesses that we had to embrace because not everybody could go ahead and do everything. I mean, you give a bandage or an injection to give and I'm going to have to have a garbage can next to me because I'm going to throw up.

Speaker 1:

Right.

Speaker 2:

Me too.

Speaker 1:

Versus my sister. She could do any of that. But give me the, give me the when my mom and dad were both in hospice. Give me the book and let me track the medications and all of that kind of stuff and I'll make the calls and I'll talk to the people. That kind of stuff. That's my strength. So what is your biggest strengths as a caregiver? Or maybe even ones that surprised you that you didn't even know that you had?

Speaker 2:

Well, I'm definitely in the same camp as you, I think. With the administrative work I can get appointments scheduled and rearranged and get transportation done and conversations had and medicines refilled and I can go. I can go into a doctor's with a big list of questions and then I do the research on what the answers are. And that's me. You know, I'm doing all of my mom's finances now and that's the kind of stuff I'm good at. So I have learned that. That's where I can contribute. I think over time, you know, I think we're going to have to find a different living situation for my mom, because I don't think she's happy here. There's nobody her age here. She needs friends and people who are her. You know, her constituents, I guess I would say, and that's perfectly okay. So that's going to be like a next step.

Speaker 2:

But, just recently we found an adult day program which she's going to start next week, so that again she gets out and she has some social activities that are in line with what she enjoys and with people her own age I think that's her biggest common is that she just feels so lost, you know.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and that might help her a little bit as well with the, with the depression, and if she find a. I know my mom used to love to go ahead and she was in a senior living apartment so it wasn't an assistant living home or anything, but they had. I mean, monday was bingo day, penny bingo that she looked forward to. And then there was one day where they all brought down their own crafts and I swear my mom never really worked on her crafts, she was just too busy gabbing Right. But she all got peace where she could go ahead and you know, for an hour and then that filled her cup for a while. But yeah, that's a big one as well. You know what about you with your? You said that you still continue to do your relationship. So how do you finagle that so that you get your time? You get your Tracy time. What do you do for that?

Speaker 2:

Honestly, I just had to start taking it. You know, yeah, and that was difficult because I always have this little cloud of guilt hovering over me no matter. No matter which person needs me, I always feel like I'm not there enough for them, whether it's my husband or my mother or my daughter or my son who lives in Georgia and that's me.

Speaker 2:

It's not like they're saying to me oh you know you're not doing this or that, it's the way I feel about it and I just have to fix that. But that's a. You know that's a. It's a heavy thing that weighs on your mind. You know you thinking that it is your responsibility to fix all this stuff. You know, especially when you're a fixer by trade. I know it.

Speaker 1:

If you ever did you ever think that you were going to be? I mean, I feel like caregiving is a self-development journey. You like that too?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, you definitely find out. You definitely really have to go deep inside to pull out strength, to pull out things that you admit to yourself. Finally, you know, it's like just recently, you know, when everybody was on board with my mom coming down here, including my mom, you know, because we just felt she'd be safer, happier with people around her and all that kind of thing. But the reality is is that our house isn't always husband, because my husband worked full time. I worked full time, we had two kids, we were always a home on the go and we remain that just different kinds of go, and so you know that leaves her a little bit on the outside sometimes because she doesn't drive and whatever. So it's just recognizing that that may, it was a good temporary decision, I think, but not a long term solution. So reaching deep in to find, you know, to be real with yourself, I think, is just what you're capable of and what you're really not the best at, and being okay with that because we can all be good at everything.

Speaker 1:

No, we can't. And embracing the, embracing your feelings and being okay with okay I'm. I'm feeling, you know, anxious today, or I'm feeling worried today, or I'm feeling angry and resentful today. Let's talk, let's, let's think about why I'm feeling this way and it's okay to feel the way you feel, but then thinking about how can I go ahead and and move on beyond that and get beyond that, you know. So I deal with that every day with my spouse. It's like, okay, one minute I'm worried about him, the next minute I'm I'm in this pity party or angry, because I didn't see my life being this way in my sixties. I did, for sure. I envisioned this retirement where we were going to travel and have this beautiful garden and I was going to be this happy person clicking up my heels when reality as when we have aging parents or we have a significant other, they potentially can get sick.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, not fair. Everywhere we travel. Now, if my husband and I go anywhere, we always have to in advance. We're going to have to book dialysis as a guest patient because he has to have dialysis three times a week, and that's a reality that I was like, oh, this just sucks. This is not my beach and drink scenario at all. I know it, I know it, so did you.

Speaker 2:

I was going to ask you or mention to. One of the things that I discovered along this way is there's a point too and I don't know if you've gotten to it with Dennis at some point in your journey, but where they are ready for you to let go of the reins a little bit, because I and I was just on this track where, with my husband, where I had everything organized and everything in order, and here's what we're doing, and blah, blah, blah, and he needed that for quite a number of months. But then there was a point where he's like, okay, but I can take care of this myself and I can take. No, you don't, you don't need to talk to Dr So-and-so, I'll do that this time and me being like, oh, okay, so that was another. Learning is when to when to let go for that particular situation, which, of course, is different than my, than my own situation.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I haven't experienced that. But yeah, I kind of wonder okay, are they? Are they okay with that? Yeah, I haven't experienced that. It's been the opposite for me with Dennis I I have said okay, now you're going in for your, your third treatment now of this, this new round. Do you need me there?

Speaker 1:

Mm-hmm you know, but then here are the questions I have. So it's interesting. It's interesting. I wonder why he's doing that. I'm is he. Is he doing that because he wants to give you a break, which would be a beautiful gift? Or is he doing that because he knows that you have your, your mom's, there and she's depressed? I'm wondering why he's doing that.

Speaker 2:

I'm not completely sure, but my guess would be that it's a thing with him where he needs to feel that independence. Okay, you know, like he, he was a former athlete and so to have all of this kind of stuff happen was just a big blow to him mentally, and that that's my guess, you know he doesn't talk about a lot of that kind of thing, it's just to him. It's about how can I get stronger as quickly as possible.

Speaker 1:

Good for him, good for him, and I can't even imagine how hard it is for you, though. Is it hard for you? Which part of it? Letting him go, letting him go, letting him do it Well, yeah.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, sometimes, like this morning, you know it's snowing here. It's been very, very cold, so the surface is slippery. He's still walking with a cane. He's driving now and doing very well with all that, but my whole self is just tense. I asked him if he wanted me to help him get to the car this morning, you know, before he went on dialysis, and he told me no, he would be okay. And of course, what did I do? I stood up and looked out the window and watched him get there, yeah, in our bedroom, and it's like okay, tracy, you just gotta.

Speaker 1:

It's kind of like raising your kids again. It reminds me of that. You know it's like, okay, I'm not going to let go of my kids and let them go. Yeah, you just have to trust that, their instincts and what they need to do, what they're doing. I haven't experienced that, but I'm sure there's some listeners out there that have experienced that. Yeah, my only thing is you just have to trust. You have to trust that's what they want. Ask really good questions when they get back. How did it go? Did it feel good to be by yourself? You know that kind of thing I don't know. Oh my gosh, oh my gosh.

Speaker 2:

Wow.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, well, we are kind of wrapping up this conversation, which was really, I think, really insightful and good for that. So what I have two questions for you that I usually the podcast is what key advice would you have for somebody that is a new caregiver right now, what's trying to navigate this world? I mean, we talked about the laptop thing and being at the site, but what piece would you have for your advice for that?

Speaker 2:

I think if I had anything to do over, I would have jumped off the runaway train earlier to take those moments of. There's got to be an easier way to do some of this and start looking for those resources, because it was when I started reaching out and realizing, like, through your podcast, through other podcasts, through some friends who had been through the same situations and all those and actually taking the time to get that information, it was then that I was able to actually have a coherent thought about some possible different ways of doing things or different ways of approaching.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

And then I think, another just a big learning for me is I am convinced in all scenarios that I am capable of anything I set my mind to. So that's just my hard headed German heritage. I'm a redhead, I'm just stubborn.

Speaker 1:

So I think, just admitting that, listen, you cannot do all of this and you don't have to do all of this by yourself, yeah, and if you listen to I don't know if you've experienced this, but if you listen to the health professionals out there, the nurses, the anybody out there, even your friends, are going to say don't forget to take care of yourself. And you're rolling your eyes, but they're trying to drop you these little hints to say, hey, do you get it yet?

Speaker 2:

Well, I know they say it so casually yeah, do you do? You think if I had five minutes I would have it to take care of myself? No, I need to make this phone call and you kind of and that accompanies your eye roll, right, but they're, they're absolutely right. My one friend used to say to me so, superwoman, when are you going to just realize that you need some help? And I remember saying to her hey, lori, I'm getting to that, I really am going to get to that. I just I have a plan to sit down and think about all this. I just listened to your podcast about you know your story in the park, which you had told before, I believe, because I remember that one and I thought, yep, that was me. At one point I was, I needed to do that way earlier, way earlier. But I just, yeah, I was very similar to you. I had to have a many meltdown breakdown before I actually did it. You know, right, right.

Speaker 1:

Oh yeah, that's so true. That's so true. Okay, the last question is what is something you're continuing to work on or you're going to be working on as a caregiver? In your present state, knowing now what you know, what are some things that you're going to work on or you are working on?

Speaker 2:

Well, I definitely am going to be pursuing a better situation for my mom, with me still involved in a very big way, because I'll have to be, you know. But I'm getting her a situation that she likes more for a living and that works better for her. But also, I am not ready. I don't want to go back to work full time at all, but I'm not ready to give up all of my professional years and everything. Just saying I'm retired, like that whole word, just makes my skin crawl honestly. So I want to.

Speaker 2:

You know the word sounds so cliche, but reinvent, reimagine, just think about what are some things that I can use my skills at that either may help in this space or just something altogether different. You know. So I don't know, but you know, as an HR person you develop massive skills over the years. You know organizational skills, people relationship building skills, conflict resolution skills, all those things. So how can I take some of that and apply them both in the caregiving situations that I had of them? You know, as my husband continues to recover, his need for me to be a daily caregiver is long gone, at least for the moment.

Speaker 1:

And I hope you know knock on wood.

Speaker 2:

I hope it stays that way. He still needs my help on a number of things and I've got those down to a system now. But I don't need to be. I don't need to put on his socks anymore. I don't need to help him take a shower any longer. That's all done for the moment. My mom she's going to need some more help, but I'm probably not the one to give it all to her, so you know, those are the kinds of things I'm pursuing.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, finding your mom happiness, and then that'll open up some of your self-time and being able to find a passion, find something that lights you up each and every day and gets you going, you know, once you've rested and got beyond that point. So I just think there's something beautiful about going through this spiral hurricane of caregiving that makes us come to this other side, where there is something about that reinvention. I truly believe that At least it's for me. It sounds like it's for you as well. I don't think I would be sitting here today if I didn't go through caregiving. I wouldn't be the person I am today without having hit rock bottom and spiraling and going through all of this chaos and good times and bad times. So I just think there's a special gift that we get from caregiving, as hard as it was. So I think that's what's happening with you. I can't wait to see where your world goes, you know, and what happens, and how you. I feel like you're going to plant a new garden and it's just going to grow beautiful. I hope.

Speaker 2:

So I do too. I feel like that. I don't know. You know, circumstances make us what. We are right. We're always at odds with circumstance sometimes and, you know, I think about what you know. You took a career in human resources and I think your focus was, yeah, adult education and organizational development and that kind of thing, yeah. And so now that you took a very personal and educational journey yourself and turned it into something that you could give back, so you're contributing to others, but you're also using all those great skills that you know, it's filling, that.

Speaker 1:

I'm pointing to my heart. It's filling my heart and that's what I need and I think that's what I right now. Who knows what two years will be, but that's where I'm at now. So, well, Tracy, it has been a complete pleasure to go ahead and say your story, hear your words of wisdom and your experiences and your challenges. So thank you again for being my guest on the caregiver cup podcast.

Speaker 2:

Thank you, I appreciate it.

Speaker 1:

You're welcome. What did you think, my friend? Wasn't that a great conversation? I want to thank Tracy Donaldson for sharing such a personal and raw conversation with me about the struggles and challenges and the joys and gifts of caregiving. My key takeaway for you is what are you doing today to make your caregiving life just a little bit better? What conversations are you having with your loved ones and anybody that you're connecting with and, most importantly, what are you doing to go ahead and make your caregiving life a little bit more enjoyable? We'll talk to you real soon, and thank you again for listening to another episode of the caregiver cup podcast.

Dual Caregiving Challenges and Career Transition
Balancing Caregiving and Self-Care Practices
Family Caregiving and Finding Strengths
Caregiving and Finding Personal Fulfillment
Reflections on Caregiving Life