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Deer In Headlines: The elusive art of small talk

In Health, Local News, Opinion, psychology, sociology, Uncategorized on June 5, 2017 at 9:03 am

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer
I recently read a 2016 article in the New Yorker, in which journalist Karan Mahajan wrote about his personal experience as an immigrant trying to comprehend and learn to use American small talk. After a decade in the States, Mahajan, originally from Delhi, finally mastered the art of small talk and discussed its role in American society.

The complexity and difficulty of small talk aren’t lost in the fictional world as well. I recall an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, in which Lt. Commander Data, the android character on the science fiction show, was fascinated by the concept of small talk and spent a good part of the program trying to mimic the innate skills of another officer.

Although I grew up in the American heartland, I can completely relate to Mahajan and Data’s struggle to comprehend and apply this most useless but unmistakably necessary communication skill. But what is small talk and why do we do it?

According to UrbanDictionary.com, “small talk” is defined as, “Useless and unnecessary conversation attempted to fill the silence in an awkward situation. Usually is initiated by comments regarding the current weather, weather pattern of the past/future few days or major weather disturbances in the recent past.”

In day-to-day conversation, can be characterized in a casual exchange at a checkout counter when someone says, “how’s your day,” or waiting in a long queue for coffee, “they’re really busy today, huh?” I’ve also noticed that the person who initiates the attempted conversation is generally the one who feels most uncomfortable in the situation. Oddly, when I feel that way I tend to get quieter, not more talkative, probably a symptom of my lack of assimilation to this concept.

In his article, Mahajan suggests that American society is one where we all want to believe we like each other and that conversation should be easy among strangers. However, we only want to communicate to the line of privacy that should never be crossed leaving a sort of empty space where the meaningful conversation should be if we allowed it. Small talk is how we fill that void.

Politicians use small talk to placate voters on the campaign trail or at public events. Hairdressers and barbers are master small talkers, as often are restaurant servers, cashiers and others in the retail industry. Don’t misunderstand, that isn’t an insult by any means, quite the opposite.

Phone small talk is another thing at which I’ve never been very good. I really don’t like the phone at all. I don’t understand getting on the phone and talking and talking, largely about nothing. And I see people doing this all of the time. I just don’t get it. If I’m taking the time to call you, it’s important and needs some level of substantial discussion. Otherwise, text me. I can answer when I have the chance and it doesn’t interrupt my day.

I consider myself to have someone of an above average grasp of the English language and still this talent eludes me. It’s a valuable skill in many respects and sometimes people think it’s a “city” thing.

In my opinion, however, the “gift of gab,” as it is sometimes called, is far more common in rural communities than in more urban settings. You may have heard it said of someone that he or she, “never met a stranger.” What that means is that the individual in question has an easy time saying hello and striking up a conversation with pretty much anyone.

Many people in my family tend to be that way. When I was growing up I’d watch my dad go back and forth with a restaurant server or gas station attendant for what seemed to me as hours. I’d sit and wait while he discussed the traffic or the gas mileage of his farm truck or whatever. I never understood it.

I am just not the open communicator that one might need to be in those situations. I’m never rude, but I can be brusque. I just want to get in and get out. That said, there are people in or near my hometown that I know who work in various places and I’ll say hello or talk to them about something more meaningful. I enjoy those interactions, but I don’t want anyone to feel obligated to do so for my sake.

To me small talk is uniquely American and it has an important, albeit innocuous place in our society. I do wish, though, that when we could find more substantial common ground upon which to begin a dialogue with one another. Maybe someday.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. More at deerinheadlines.com

 

The Value of All

In Children and Family, Local News, Opinion, psychology, Uncategorized on May 12, 2017 at 8:56 pm

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGOEach one of us, at some point in our lives, experiences a time when we’re uncertain of our own value; not just to others but to ourselves. When most people think of the word “value,” a monetary concept probably comes to mind. How much do you make from your job? What is your financial worth? How much real estate do you own? That’s not the kind of value I’m referring to here, although money does play a role in the concept, as you’ll see shortly.

I’m mostly referring to the value we place in what we value as individuals, or “self-value.” More behavioral than emotional, self-value is different than self-esteem, which is more about how we feel about ourselves when compared to other people. Self-value has more to do with how we behave toward the things we value, including people.

If you’re going to “value” something, you have to do more than just think of it as important. There must be an inherent appreciation of its characteristics and qualities, good and bad, while investing the time to nurture and maintain your association with it.

In order to truly value something material, you must accept everything about the object and appreciate all of its inherent characteristics. If, for example, you value muscle cars, you probably enjoy far more about any one vehicle than its financial worth. Your value in the vehicle rests in a full appreciation of the machine’s components, handling, paint finishes, and so on. Much in the way someone might appreciate a piece of fine art, or chef’s signature creation.

The same is true for the people in our lives as well. When we place a higher value in others, we do the same for ourselves. And, conversely, when you devalue others, your own value suffers as well. Here is an example.

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Deer In Headlines author, Gery L. Deer

Suppose someone who you employ is not performing as you expected. First, you need to evaluate if the expectations were clearly laid out at the beginning. Does he or she know what you expect from them as well as they knowing what to expect from you? If it was not clearly defined at the beginning, a misinterpreted expectation can cause you to devalue each other.

Additionally, when we place and express value in those around us, our own self-value increases. Plus, this behavior is generally reciprocated in many ways. When people realize their valued with you, they are more cooperative, more open to change that might originate from you, and allows you to more fluently communicate with those who might have been resistant otherwise.

So how do you get there? How do you go from being less self-focused, to more able to value the things and people around you? Personally, I think most of it can happen by just lifting your eyes from the floor and be more aware.

We have a terrible tendency today to live our lives in a bit of a vacuum. Part of that is caused by technology but also our society. Modern Americans are isolationists and self-segregators. We tend to gravitate to what’s easier, what’s mostly like us and what we’re used to, rather than put in the time to appreciate differences.

Literally and figuratively, we walk around with our heads down and faces in a screen, so we miss a great deal of what’s going on around us. How are you supposed to value what you never even see? There is no value on the Facebook post you just shared or in that two-hundred-thousandth cat video you watched on Instagram today.

For our lives to have value, beyond money, we must embrace differences, explore new opportunities, and be open to fresh experiences. It’s hard, I won’t minimize that, but it can be done. You have to want it and commit to it and sacrifice for it.

To value anything outside yourself, and in turn, giving your own life more meaning, you have to commit to a higher standard of physical, emotional and professional well-being. Nothing of value is easy. But you have to start by honoring your own values, keep your eyes open and be wary of those people and things that cause you to devalue yourself, and, above all, be compassionate.

Watch the TV version of this content on WDTN-TV2’s Living Dayton

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communication, Ltd. More at deerinheadlines.com

What is “fun” to you?

In Entertainment, Health, Local News, Opinion, psychology, sociology, Uncategorized on April 11, 2017 at 3:52 pm

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

To me, the concept of “fun” meant to waste time in frivolous pursuits. I mean, I’ve probably had fun doing things but completely oblivious as to how to recognize it. As it turns out, a little fun can do wonders for the psyche, as most of you probably already know.

There are those of us out here who weren’t raised in a “fun” environment. There weren’t party or card game nights, elaborate social functions or trips to fancy resorts to jet ski or go horseback riding. The most “social” thing my family ever did were reunions and holiday parties, all motivated by my mother’s need for social interaction which my father thoroughly loathed.

Sadly, I’m more like dad than mom in that regard. I’ve never been much of a social butterfly, keeping my circle of friends tight and close and never really reaching outside of that for fun. I’ve learned over the years, however, that it’s not a good idea to isolate yourself so much.

Having fun through socialization doesn’t have to be a chore. In fact, it should be thoroughly enjoyable or else it shouldn’t happen at all. For me, though, it has always been hard. I’m sure some of that comes from a working family, there simply wasn’t time for leisure fun when survival was so prominent.

Being the kind of person who doesn’t perceive “fun” the way others do, I can’t always relate to the way others experience it. For example, I don’t get the idea of putting your life in danger or even taking the slightest risk of injury or harm for the sake of having a good time.

I’m not a drinker, and I will never ever be a skydiver, bungee jumper, or anything else that requires signing a liability waiver because you could die from doing it. I’ve had enough risk in my life that I didn’t ask for without intentionally piling on a bunch of other hazards. So, I’m left being “no fun” for some people to be around because I won’t take idiotic risks.

The idea of people going to a bar and getting drunk for “fun” is completely foreign to me as well. I can’t wrap my head around any of that. It just seems, at least when it’s in excess, like immature, sad behavior. That might seem a little judgmental, but so be it, I’m judged often enough by the rest of the world for not drinking at all, so to each his or her own.

One thing I have learned is that in order to have fun, you have to let your guard down a bit and be open to experiencing the moment as it’s happening. That’s not easy for some people, myself included. I think that’s why alcohol is such a huge part of the social fun because some people need to knock down those inhibitions first, quiet (depress) the nerves, and take the edge off that normally keeps their behavior leveler.

I have always had a tough time attaching the word “fun” to anything I’m doing. Yes, there are activities and events I enjoy, but to label them as fun, by definition, would be hard for me. If I were to do something that added an element of danger just for the “rush” of it, I would be so stressed out by the risk, even if it’s irrational, I just wouldn’t get any fun out of it anyway.

No matter what your sensibilities, you have to choose what “fun” is to you. Most of what I consider to be fun is more about who I’m with and where I am than what I’m doing. I doubt that’s a strange concept, but trying to understand when and how I’m having fun certainly is to me.

What is “fun” to you? How do you relax or spend your down time? I think how we spend our down time and what we choose for fun says a lot about us as individuals and as a society. In a world where we spend so much of our waking hours trying to survive and provide for ourselves and our families, it’s important to take the time to re-energize the body and the spirit.

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Catch the Deer In Headlines Podcast online at MyGreeneRadio.com! More at gerydeer.com

 

Don’t go changin’ to try to please me.

In Health, Opinion, psychology, sociology, Uncategorized on April 3, 2017 at 6:01 am

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

People are who they are, regardless of how we may paint them in our minds or want them to be otherwise. Some people are practical, pragmatic and detached, while others are driven by their emotions. You may know people who are defined by their occupation while others seem like any job will do, so long as it pays the bills. And then there are political, religious and sociological beliefs, about which we won’t detail in this short work.

What this all adds up to is that people are different and we can’t change each other and shouldn’t try. We have to accept our differences, or we should anyway, out of respect for the other person.

Even when someone exhibits dangerous, reckless or destructive behavior, it’s not our place to interfere. Of course we can always try to guide someone who’s harming his or herself or others to seek help, but we can’t make them, nor can we do anything to alter their personality or way of thinking. Probably one of the most common examples of people trying to change each other’s behavior or personality is in romantic relationships.

Even when they don’t intend to do so men and women try to change each other when they enter into romantic relationships. When we meet someone, an image of that person forms as we learn about them. Over time, the image alters as we get better acquainted and sometimes the person seems different to us than we initially thought. This is when a relationship can take a hard turn, for better or worse.

Probably the worst thing we can do is to try to change someone’s personality, outlook, basic behavior, or whatever it is that makes them who they are as an individual. Like it or not, we are who we are, and no outside forces can alter those characteristics.

The only way someone can change is by doing so on their own. Yes, there can be external influences that may initiate or motivate some kind of transformation, but long term adjustments must come from within.
So what kinds of changes are we talking about here? Suppose someone does not respond to you the way you expect and that upsets you. Here’s an example.

John brings home flowers, candy and a nice gift for his wife Marsha’s birthday. He arrives at home to be greeted at the door by Marsha who is all dressed up for a formal evening out. John has either clearly forgotten about something or Marsha has her schedule mixed up.

If we ignore, for the moment, the obvious communication problem between these two – a much longer topic for another time – how would you expect each person to respond? Oddly, we expect someone to react to things exactly the same way that we do. It’s like being expected to gush over a colleague’s iPhone video of her cat doing something interesting when you just think it’s dumb.

So in the case of John and Marsha, she expects him to have been home a half hour sooner and dress for an evening out, and he thinks they’re staying in for a movie and pizza. But the reaction is what matters. Immediately, Marsha asks where he’s been and does he know what time it is?

She’s upset, confused and angry. She thinks he just forgot her birthday and made a drive by at the local convenience store for some fast birthday gifts. John, on the other hand, expects her to be appreciative that he remembered her birthday at all and made an effort to do something nice.

Expectations have a lot to do with communication problems and why we wish we could change someone’s behavior. What should happen is for people to be more understanding of each other, taking into account our emotional state, or even our lack thereof.

Communication is really the key. We can all be different and be ourselves if we’re willing to talk and accept those differences in each other. Our diversity is what usually brings us together as human beings, it’s high time we started to recognize it in our personal relationships as well.

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. More at gerydeer.com

Pursuing your passion

In Children and Family, Health, Opinion, psychology, sociology, Uncategorized on March 18, 2017 at 9:36 am

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

I once read that great things are unique and unconventional. I’m certain that’s true and in order to achieve great things we, ourselves, must be equally unique and unconventional. We have to step outside our comfort zones. Or, as is often the case with me, run screaming outside them and be willing to screw up big time and embarrass ourselves in the process. To do any less will mean perpetual mediocrity.

I used to believe that everyone searches for purpose in life. But, what I’ve learned in my nearly half-century on this earth, is that there are people who just don’t care. That’s not meant to sound harsh, I just mean that day-to-day living is, for all practical reasons, their “purpose.”

Still, some can find meaning in the most superficial of accomplishments however self-serving others might see them. Achieving great things means different things to different people, some more superficial than others. But it’s all in how you look at it.

In my experience, finding that sense of self-worth is incredibly difficult and a constant personal journey for me. I have no real answers to how to get there, but I have discovered that the path begins with three steps – locate your passion, apply your talent and help others. Let’s look at the details.

First, “locate your passion.” According to Dictionary.com, the most accurate definition of the word “passion” in this context is, “a strong or extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, or desire for anything.” Such as, “he has a ‘passion’ for music.”

My friend Jim Karns, and the rest of “The Brothers & Co.” and I find some of our purpose in bringing laughter and music to others.

This is probably the most difficult part of the process because even the very concept is ambiguous. I know it’s always been hard for me to nail it down and then figure out how that fits with work, family responsibilities and goals.

Finding your passion requires a great deal of personal exploration, reflection, and trial and error. The journey to discovering your passion is the search for that one “thing” that makes you forget to eat or go to the bathroom.

Whenever I hear someone talk about “passion,” particularly related to an occupation or job, it usually comes from some crunchy granola-type artist or non-profit worker. I’m not sure I’ve ever found a single, motivating passion in my life. I have several, all of which have equal importance to who I am. I’m still working on it, and it’s very likely to be a continuing effort of weeks, months, or even years.

Second on my list is, “apply your talent.” Here the idea is to take whatever talents you have – natural or learned, yes there are both – and apply that skill and energy to your passion.

For example, let’s say your passion turns out to be writing. You’ll probably first want to decide what kind of writer you want to be. Do you pen Shakespearean drama, or do your talents flow more towards “Fifty Shades of Grey?” What makes you want to write? What kind of writing makes you want to sit down and just let the stories flow onto your computer screen, to the exclusion of everything else? That’s where applying your talent to your passion really comes into play.

Third, and possibly the most rewarding and important of your first steps, is helping others. As you achieve a certain level of awareness and success, it becomes more important for you to share your knowledge and understanding with those less accomplished.

This in no way implies that you have to be an expert or have every aspect of your life’s pursuit nailed down. It just means that you should try to help those who may not be as advanced in their search. Mentoring is one of the most rewarding of experiences to come out of this process.

Mentoring is not the only way to help people while continuing your personal growth. I’ve found that volunteering to work in an organization or for a cause that falls within your passion interest can also be incredibly valuable to both the beneficiaries of the effort and to yourself.

Giving your life more meaning by pursuing a personal passion is not easy and it’s certainly not right for everyone. We only get one life and one future so don’t waste it.
Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd.  More at gerydeer.com

 

What’s in a label?

In Education, Health, Local News, National News, Opinion, Politics, psychology, Religion, sociology, Uncategorized on March 18, 2017 at 9:22 am

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

One things that human beings have in common is an insatiable need to label each other, both individually and by groups. I’m no expert at human evolution or psychology, but I’d guess that categorizing our fellow man must have been a leftover from prehistoric times. Our instinctive ability to size up a potential adversary may have served us well as cave people, but today, those emotions can inadvertently damage our relationships in the civilized world.

For our discussion purposes, the term “label” generally implies a negatively-focused word that’s used to identify someone based on visible stereotypical characteristics, like behavior, clothing, language, ethnicity or socioeconomic status. It’s not a factual assessment but rather an assumption, and it’s nearly always wrong. I’ve never found labels particularly helpful and arrived at from a single action or characteristic.

It gets a little confusing when you think about how to accurately describe someone without bias or negativity. If I were a Muslim, for example, it would be OK to say, “He’s a Muslim,” if you are stating a fact. On the other hand, if it’s stated in a way that has a negative connotation behind it like, “He’s one of those Muslims,” that’s not a fact, it’s a label. It comes with images of terrorism or other undesirable stereotypes.

In fact, trying to find any unoffensive example of labeling was a challenge, but I figured if I use myself as the subject that would be OK, so here it goes. I was raised on a farm in a rural community. Some people have a predetermined “image” of what someone like me should look, act and sound like.

My corn-fed brethren might even be labeled with a term that I find incredibly offensive – redneck. Despite what some might think, it’s just as intolerant to pin a racial slur on a white person as anyone else. It does, indeed, go both ways.

People are people – not labels. (Infographic courtesy of TrustLifeToday.com)

The general assumption is that someone with my background is uneducated, ignorant, with a “hillbilly” accent, bad grammar, less than stellar dental hygiene and who prefers to date within his or her own family. Throw in some right-wing, gun-totin’, Bible-quotin’, racism and that’s pretty much the way the liberal left sees us too.

Absolutely none of this is accurate where I am concerned, nor is it for most people I know. I’m well educated, I have no discernible accent, I’m not racist and, while my grammar isn’t perfect all the time, I’d like to think I’m above average in that area. The point is that the “rural” label is usually so far off as to be laughable. In fact, when people meet me they generally have no clue as to my background. None of this implies anything positive.

All that said, a close friend reminded me recently that labels have a positive side as well. In some cases, when people are vastly different from ourselves, a label can sometimes give us a reference point to understanding.

If you’re like me, a rural-raised American, you may have never met someone from, say inland China. When that opportunity arises, a label might be helpful as a starting point. If I say, “she is Chinese,” you probably already have an idea of what that means in your mind and an image forms based on your past understanding.

This type of labeling can be helpful provided the assessment does not end there and you keep an open mind about the individual. We must be respectful of the fact that we are each far more than the sum of our parts. I’m a farm boy, but a quick Google of my name will tell you there’s nothing “typical” about me. And that’s true for most of the people I know who grew up like I did.

Remember that labels are generally bad, but could have a positive application if people are willing to look beyond the surface and learn about the individual. Categorizing anyone can be incredibly destructive and serve only to perpetuate nonconstructive stereotypes. Give people a chance and learn about them before you slap a tag on their forehead. Our diversity in the world really is our strength. Let’s start behaving that way.

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. more at deerinheadlines.com

 

It’s not me, it’s you

In Children and Family, Local News, Opinion, psychology, Uncategorized on February 7, 2017 at 6:39 pm

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGOAre the people around you accepting of changes you make in your life for the better? In other words, if you altered major factors in your life right now, in positive ways, would your friends and family support and encourage you?

That’s a problem many people face when they realize there are things they’d like to improve about themselves, particularly if they involve major changes in lifestyle, work, or personal relationships.

Let’s face it, when you decide to make a major transformation in your life, the world around you can also change dramatically. Those close to you may have trouble adjusting to your alterations. A good, albeit extreme, example might be when someone quits drinking alcohol.

Alcoholics or even people with a moderate level of alcohol consumption have reported that after they go on the wagon they lose friends and even family contacts because of it. In that situation, it’s most likely because those people also have a problem with drinking and are uncomfortable being around someone who has made the decision to stop.

Sometimes, making a change requires major alterations in lifestyle. You might change your eating to help lose weight or quit smoking or look outside your home area for a job change. All of this can be upsetting or even intimidating to people around you. And whether your closest ties will accept your changes and support you or not can affect your success. Case in point – my choice to create a healthier lifestyle for myself.

Because of childhood health issues, I’ve always felt I wasn’t as strong as I could be. And, with the half-century mark just around the corner for me, I’ve spent the last six or seven months thinking about how to shore up my overall health.

Watching my mother deteriorate from Alzheimer’s disease and my father’s struggle with Parkinson’s and diabetes, and knowing I really can’t do anything to prevent those things entirely, I am still determined to give myself the best shot at the longest, healthiest life possible. So, a few months ago, I started making more dramatic changes in how I eat, handle stress – that is, taking down time – and getting exercise.

Deer In Headlines author, Gery L. Deer

Deer In Headlines author, Gery L. Deer

I’ve always been a pretty active person, bicycling, general manual work, at home and around our farm, always felt like it was enough to keep me in decent physical shape. I was wrong, but it’s always been hard for me to wrap my head around the idea of “exercising” for no productive purpose. The thing is, I was my own worst critic. This was for a constructive and productive purpose – to help my strength and endurance so I could better handle aging and illness as time goes on. Once I accepted that, I was on my way.

I haven’t talked to family much about it, other than to say that I have started swimming. I’ve adjusted my work and home schedules around it – making all of this a priority because if I don’t, it won’t be successful.

But my close friends are looking at me sometimes like I’ve got three heads. Rarely has anyone seen me dressed in anything but boots, jeans, or business attire. I’ve never been one to sport an athletic wardrobe, yet suddenly, there I am in warm ups and workout shoes. Granted, I’m a bit set in my ways, so their disbelief is as much my fault as theirs.

No one’s been unsupportive, though. In fact, quite the opposite. I’ve felt better than I have in years, and that probably shows just in my activity level. Changes like this can be incredibly obvious and might only affect those around you in that you’re choosing a bowl of mixed raw veggies at the big game party, instead of downing a whole bag of Cheetos.

Also, I’m certainly not suggesting you should be all smug and superior like, “See what I’m doing? You should too.” What’s right for you isn’t necessarily right for them. Earnest Hemingway said, “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” But if people can’t accept that you want to improve yourself then it’s their issue, not yours.

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. More at gerydeer.com

 

The invisible side of caregiving.

In Children and Family, finances, Health, Jobs, Local News, National News, Opinion, psychology, Senior Lifestyle, sociology, Uncategorized on January 10, 2017 at 9:32 pm

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

12191385_10153464406329342_2088873762632508759_oWhen you think of the term “caregiver,” you might have the image in your head of the dutiful family member looking out for an elderly parent or disabled child. What you see in public or on the surface is someone helping a senior citizen do her shopping or teaching a child with limited mobility to use an iPad. But, it’s the stuff you never see that is really the hard part of the job.

Caring for a family member is not something that comes with many benefits. Actually, there is only one benefit – looking after your loved one. Yes, there are some people who get paid to take care of a family member, but that’s rare and extremely difficult to

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Shower prep for caregivers can be like gearing up for battle. Helping a senior parent with every day personal care can be hard to get used to – for both – but extremely necessary.

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Medicines must be cataloged, dosed, and set into daily dispense containers. Tracking of administration is also necessary to ensure proper care, safety and financial maintenance.

Personal care is one of the hardest parts of caring for a senior parent. Different than helping a child with these issues, an elderly adult has a different perception of self-sufficiency and personal dignity. I can’t even imagine how hard it is for my father that he now needs help just to do something as simple as shaving or taking a shower.

As a Parkinson’s sufferer, Dad can’t hold his hands still enough to shave with a safety razor and we’ve had to go to an electric model. He does his best to try to do it on his own, but his hands can’t apply any pressure to the razor on his face so it misses, well, pretty much everything. So once a week, we do a complete, clean shave starting with a trimmer.

Showers also require some consideration to personal dignity while trying to ensure complete cleanliness. When I help Dad with a shower, it’s like gearing up for battle. It’s tough to get used to, for both of us. But we do our best. I just try to make sure he gets in and out without injury, get him clean and get him dressed. How would you feel if, suddenly, your children had to help you with trimming nails, combing hair, or washing? You have to be aware of your charge’s discomfort while still meeting the needs.

Managing medications is also a challenge for caregivers. I’m actually pretty lucky in our situation because Dad’s meds – for now at least – can be divided into two daily packets. Every Sunday, I refill a daily box dispenser and we have a record book to record every dose administered and by whom.

14192078_10154177027939342_4999691246789055042_nMoney is probably the biggest sore spot for many caregivers as well because we end up having to handle our own homes as well as the finances of our charge. It wasn’t long after my mother became ill that I learned who the money manager of the house was as I grew up.

As is common with many elderly folks, Dad was letting bills go unpaid, utilities were being cut off, debt was mounting and statements lay unopened, piling up on the kitchen table – Never again. My siblings and I took over managing his money and paid off all his major debt so we only have living expenses, medicines and doctor bills to worry about.

The problem is that things won’t stay that way. People don’t understand how little Medicare and its supplements really cover and the expenses continue to mount as a senior’s care grows more complicated because things like Parkinson’s continue to progress.

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Adjusting work to caregiver life is rarely easy, sometimes it is impossible. Many caregivers have to choose one over the other.

Naturally, The U.S. Congress is far too busy voting itself another ridiculous raise and cutting Social Security to bother considering how to better spend money to care for its citizens. After all, it’s “our” money. And there is no outside financial support for caregivers.

So, the bills continue to roll in – co-pays, lift chairs, vaccinations, home care (yes, it’s mostly self-pay), unforeseen changes in the health of the patient and the understanding that with Parkinson’s, diabetes and glaucoma, my father will get worse, even with the best possible care.

Tons of other things come into play too. When you’re a caregiver, you’re often the housekeeper, accountant, chef, chauffeur, nurse, clothes and dishwasher, and much more. The rest of the world doesn’t see the countless hours spent making sure the things like cracker packets and juice bottles are stored in a way he can easily open them with limited mobility.

Over the years, I’ve written many times about my experiences in helping to care for my parents. But people I meet always seem to be shocked how much we have to do that no one ever sees. So, when you see someone out in public dealing with something like this, just remember how hard it is and open a door for them or be patient when they’re sorting groceries for two households at the checkout. We appreciate it.

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is available as a podcast at MyGreeneRadio.com.

Hope in a world of tragedy.

In Health, Holiday, Opinion, psychology, Religion, Senior Lifestyle, sociology, Uncategorized on December 30, 2016 at 10:46 am

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGOHope – A small word that carries a great deal of weight. Hope inspires people, gives them purpose, direction, even courage. For some, hope is all they have to motivate them.

If you look up hope in a dictionary its synonyms include: aspiration, desire, wish, expectation, ambition, aim, goal, plan, and so on. But I’m not entirely convinced that these are accurate. In my mind, hope is not a simple thought or expectation, but one of the most powerful of all emotions.

Yes, hope is an emotion. It has no medical or biological origin. It is a complete figment of the heart, which can move the mind and body to do incredible things. Unlike other aspirational emotions, I believe that hope requires the additional element of faith.

The type of faith depends strongly on the individual. It could be faith in God or some other supernatural belief. It could be faith in one’s own character and accomplishments. For me, faith in the integrity, loyalty and support of others is what fuels my hope. If hope is to have weight, faith must be unwavering and consistent.

Action is also needed in the equation in order to move you towards your goal. You can’t just sit idly by and dream of something, you must act. You “hope” your child will be accepted to a good school. So you do things to support that hope by helping her along the way providing, music lessons, math camp, whatever supports the end goal.

Hope without action is merely a wish, void of substance or direction. A wish is fine if you’re throwing a penny into a fountain, but hope is usually focused around a mindset of action.

Sometimes, people still have hope for things over which they have no control. A great many people hoped the 2016 U.S. presidential election would have turned out differently.

Others hope the new president will do all of the things he says he will and meet their hopes for America. Either way, it’s all about your perspective – and that’s often the very nature of hope.

In hope, as in life, perspective is everything. Your hopes are dependent upon your life view. You hope for things that will improve or enhance the lives of yourself and those closest to you. Hope also requires time.

Action is rarely instantaneous, so time is required for hope to be a motivator. That’s hard sometimes, particularly if someone is in dire need. When we hope a sick family member will recover, we have to be patient while the treatments are applied.

Also, we generally “hope” for things to turn out for the best. Our anticipation may grow because of hope. Good news about a potential raise or promotion at work can build hope. It’s not often that hope is associated with something negative.

But again, hope is nothing without faith and action. If you are someone who generally sits idly by praying that God or someone else will fix your problem, I’m afraid you’re in for a big disappointment. You have to take steps towards what you want – even if it doesn’t feel you have much control over it.

With so much tragedy in the world – wars, mass shootings, and xenophobic politicians – how can you find hope? If I had the answer to questions like that, the Dalai Lama would have some competition or his job.

The fact is that we should have hope despite tragedy. Keeping our hope alive is what gives purpose to human beings in perilous circumstances. No matter how well off someone might seem to be in position, finances, love, work, whatever, we all have hopes for something.

Hope isn’t as much about answers but more about questions. What do you want out of life? Have you done anything to move towards getting those things? Are you making a plan to get there?

It’s been said that hope is the desire for something with the expectation of getting it. Well, as I’ve pointed out, I don’t believe it’s quite so simple. If it were, hope wouldn’t be such a powerful influence on human existence.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. 

 

Resolving for a better new year.

In Education, Health, Holiday, Opinion, psychology, Uncategorized on December 22, 2016 at 11:55 pm

img_3313Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

 

 

 

DIH LOGOWell, the holidays are upon us once more and 2016 is nearing an end. It’s safe to say that the past year has certainly been filled with remarkable change. What did 2016 mean to you? Was it an end or a beginning? Did you experience triumph or tragedy?

If you’re like most, it was a mixture of both. Sometimes it’s hard to discern the difference. What some see as catastrophe, others view as a success. It really depends on your perspective. Of course, the New Year is always a good time to make a change for the better in your own life.

But be aware that most statistics show that only around 46 percent of resolutions continue past six months. At the same time, people who set a goal based on a resolution are 10 percent more likely to succeed than those who do not.

However you do it, in order to change your life for the better you have to get up and take the first step. And, sometimes attitude is everything where life changes are concerned.

You have to stay positive, dismiss the naysayers and keep motivated and moving forward. So, whether you start because of a resolution or just because you think now is a good time, your potential success or failure rests largely with your motivation.

Additionally, remember that you can’t force someone else to change either. If they want a different life, they have to take the steps toward that end.

For example, suppose Lisa is dating Mike and she’s having a tough time because he is addicted to role-playing games. Lisa wants to eventually marry Mike, but she cannot handle the gaming.

Lisa believes, however, that she can change him, help him to see the error of his ways. She believes that she can set a resolution to reform him with love – or a rolling pin (just kidding, she doesn’t bake – she actually uses a frying pan).

Mike is never going to change because someone else wants him to do so. If he wants to quit playing he will have to do it for his own reasons. I am certainly no psychologist, but I do know that for any New Year’s resolution to be successful, the desire to change has to come from within.

I may be wrong, but I think the motivation for change at the start of a new year comes from a deep desire in all of us for a fresh start. Most people want to strive for something better, no matter what our situation. Of course, there are still people out there who simply don’t care and are either complacent or resigned.

For some, the new year offers an opportunity to get “it” right – whatever your particular “it” happens to be at the time. In any case, it’s up to you to make those choices and follow through. If you don’t, you have no one to blame but yourself.

You can get things moving by creating a list of the things you want to accomplish in the coming year. For the record, I’d leave out a lottery jackpot and focus on more realistic expectations, like finishing your education or pursuing a career change.

Then figure out what it takes to reach those milestones and make a plan to get there (the “make a plan” part is pretty important). You will likely have a great deal of work to do and, for some at least, a long-term goal may require multiple short-term steps. Be patient, work hard and stay focused.

Incidentally, staying focused may indeed be the biggest challenge you face. The aforementioned plan is vital. Lay it out, be consistent, stick to it one step at a time, rather than trying to do everything all at once, and you can be successful.

A New Year’s resolution can be either a step towards improving your life or it can be a fruitless, frustrating endeavor that causes you stress and worry. It all depends on how committed you are to the kind of change you want in your life. However you do it, the choice rests with you.

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Listen to the Deer In Headlines podcast free at MyGreeneRadio.com.