This week our fellow daughter, Shay Moser delivers part three of her three-part series on the lessons she’s learning from her best friend, Dena. Dena traveled the caregiving journey with her mom who had pancreatic cancer and is now traveling it with her dad who has a terminal illness. Thanks, Shay, and Dena for sharing your heart and wisdom!
I’ve called her in tears on more than one occasion for help dealing with a difficult teammate or office situation. As a business coach who helps women leaders and entrepreneurs create systems, structures, and strategies to support their career and organizational goals, my best friend Dena knows how to dole out just the right amount of feedback and encouragement that leads to professional progress. While she runs a tight business ship, I wondered through this three-part article series if she can coach herself out of personal struggles like her caregiving role and, if so, how.
Dena is the primary caregiver for her dad, who has a terminal illness. She was also a caregiver for her mom, who passed away from pancreatic cancer eight years ago. While my parents are in good health and leading independent and full lives, as I wrote in the second blog post of this three-part series, I’m learning all about Dena’s caregiving superpowers. I want to soak them up so I’m ready to activate my superpowers for my mom’s and dad’s inevitable dependence on me. In the second blog post, I shared Dena’s caregiving superpowers for balancing self-care, marriage, kids, a house, spiritual needs, friends, hobbies, and caregiving. How does she take advantage of her professional coaching experience for caregiving?
Reaching out for caregiving resources
“Because I help people create systems and boundaries in business, I implement them pretty well in my own life,” Dena says. “I won’t let caregiving consume me. I’m a mom first, so I don’t let my coaching business eat up any of my Alli time,” Dena explains about being a mom to her daughter. “In caring for my mother and father, there have been patches of emotional and physical demands that I couldn’t do because I was committed to my responsibilities for Alli or my business.” These boundaries pushed her to find more caregiving resources and ask for help.
Two and a half years ago Dena hired Golden Heart Senior Care in Scottsdale, Arizona, to check on her dad at home twice a week. “They helped me manage some of his light household duties and supported him in things he was no longer able to do, like grocery shopping.
The most important part of this stage, or any stage of a new disease, is to watch for progression and make course corrections as we need them”, Dena says. She also hired Universal Home Health Care in Tempe, Arizona, which provides at-home physical therapy and occupational therapy to help with her dad’s lack of mobility. “After four months of support from these two care companies, it became evident that he needed much more care.” That’s when Dena hired a senior living consultant to help her navigate the 1,500 assisted-living and group homes in their area to choose one that was a fit for his age, activity level, and style.
Appreciating and accepting their journey
Being a career coach also has made Dena more mindful and aware. “My biggest piece of advice for anyone is: don’t take it personally,” she says. “Remember it’s their journey. When my dad was given the terminal diagnosis, he didn’t take it well and made choices that I disagreed with. But I had to remember that this is his journey — not mine.”
Over two years, her dad lived in three assisted-living facilities in an attempt to find the right fit for him and proximity to her. Then he found an assisted-living facility two hours north of Dena, amidst the pine trees and cooler weather. “At first, I struggled with his decision to move there for many reasons, including the fact that it was going to be harder on both of us, and I took it personally that he wanted to move away.”
After a lot of thinking and praying, Dena realized that she could either fight to be right or have acceptance around what he desires.
As power of attorney for her dad, Dena could have pulled the “I’m in control of you” card. But that would only make her “right”, not at peace. Her dad would be miserable. It was because of Dena’s coaching career that she was able to let go and not make it about herself. “My dad is at the perfect place. He’s safe. It’s a beautiful facility. He loves it,” she says. “The moment I got out of the way, all those ‘controlling’ thoughts stopped. All of my — and my dad’s — power and freedom returned. There’s going to be a moment when it doesn’t work for him anymore, or he passes away, but until then, I’m glad he’s enjoying the rest of his life on his terms.”
The moment we get stuck trying to make something go our way, we’re not open to anything else. That’s where we need to remember the two coaching distinctions Dena shared: Don’t take it personally and have acceptance. “No matter who you disagree with — your parent, partner, employee, neighbor, or child — remember not to take it personally and to be open. Look at the situation from different angles. Ask what’s possible.”
Preparing for plan B
When you’re asking what’s possible, it means you are flexible. And any situation improves with flexibility, especially plan B.
Let’s say you’re overseeing a project — from reviewing your parents’ care options to organizing a fundraiser or managing your child’s school and extracurricular activities schedule. If a hiccup occurs — such as how Dena’s dad wasn’t happy with his assisted-care facility — you need to be open to understand and course correct. Dena learned her father simply wasn’t content in his desert dwelling and wanted to be close to the pine trees and snow. Plan B — once she let go of plans A1, 2, and 3 assisted-care facilities — was to let him move to the facility he chose.
“As the CEO of a nonprofit, I have a vision and strategy for our fundraisers,” Dena says. “But if we find during our postmortem meeting that something didn’t work with a fundraising event, I have to be open to understanding the problem and course correct. I can’t take it personally if a board member says something isn’t working and vice versa. We have to talk about the circumstances surrounding the breakdown, share and listen to one another’s perspectives, and stay open to new ideas. You have a vision and a plan, whether it’s with caregiving, a fundraising event, or kids’ schedules, but you have to be willing at all times to course correct if something isn’t working in one of these areas of your life.”
Dena’s dad is well enough to be far from family in an assisted-care facility in Flagstaff, Arizona. But as his power of attorney, Dena regularly assesses his finances and found that he has only enough money to cover expenses for two more years. That’s a big hiccup.
“We don’t know if he’ll outlast his money, and if he does, we’ve had to think about who will pay $4,500 a month for his assisted-care facility. My husband and I can’t afford it, and neither can my brother. “Dad, I said, you have two more years of retirement money, and then your choices are to either move in with a loved one or go to state housing. He’s welcome to move into our spare bedroom, which is what he’ll likely choose.”
Maybe plan B isn’t ideal, but Dena is flexible. She’s recognized the hiccup, and she came up with plan B options for her dad, including her spare bedroom. Maybe he’ll throw out other ideas, too, that they can discuss. The important thing is they’re preparing for plan B instead of waiting for the money to run out and then going into panic mode.
Panic mode is something I won’t have to go into when it comes to caregiving for my parents, thanks to seeing and hearing first-hand how Dena coped with her mom’s end-of-life care and is coping with caregiving for her dad. I’m sure when the time comes to care for my parents, I’ll have questions for her and will need to lean on Dena’s shoulder from time to time. Until then, I’m thankful for the headstart in caregiving she’s given through this article series. Thank you, Dena!
Despite Dena being sandwiched in between caring for her daughter and dad, plus juggling the demands of running a nonprofit, coaching clients, and more, Dena has taken the time to share her wisdom, strength and hope with us through her best friend, Shay. This is powerful stuff, Girls, and we so appreciate the both of you! If you haven’t already – join our growing community today and hear more incredible stories of daughters!