Act 2: You're On!

How to Flourish with Grace as a Family Caregiver with Tanya Straker

June 13, 2022 Kate & Rhonda Season 2 Episode 3
Act 2: You're On!
How to Flourish with Grace as a Family Caregiver with Tanya Straker
Show Notes Transcript

How much of your Act Two is spent taking care of someone else? Your children, your parents, a senior someone, how are you managing this role? Not well? Well, you have come to the right podcast and are about to hear of a book Tanya has written that might ease this challenging journey. How are you taking care of yourself and the many other demands in your life while you're being a caregiver? Today, our next guest is going to join us in the conversation about how to navigate our best lives while taking on that role.

Meet Tanya Straker. She is on a mission as a family caregiver advocate, author and speaker; she wants to change how we think about and support the millions of women and men providing care for family, friends and neighbors. As a family caregiver and life strategist, she wants every family caregiver of a chronically ill adult to have what she had an extraordinary, life-affirming, transformative caregiving experience. For 20 plus years as a coach, trainer and hospital administrator. Tanya has indulged her passion for innovation and helping individuals and teams grow and achieve away from the distractions of her job, she became her own life coach applying all the tools of her profession to better her and her mother's lives. Tanya is also the author of 6 Life Hacks for Family Caregivers: Be your own coach and beat burnout.

Highlights Include:
“And it's really coming to understand and accept that role and be and feel empowered in that role. That's where you, that's how you beat the burnout is, is really aligning the comprehensiveness of that role. And the fact that you've done all these other things in your life, you can do this, right, I got this, you have to get to that point where you realize, yeah, I can do all the things I've done in my life, I can handle this. And I can do it in a way that is energizing for myself and for my care receiver.”

“...what is it that moved me from being exhausted and resentful that I was playing this role that my brothers are living in another state calling me saying you can do this? Okay, fine. I have to do this. Right. So I'm resentful and not feeling that I'm necessarily doing the job well. What moved me to feeling that I was living the best possible life I ever could and helped me deal with the fact that I wasn't bringing in an income. I wasn't contributing to my own retirement, right. My whole entire life trajectory had changed. What are those things? And I said, I need to write a book about it. I need to talk about the mindset that allowed me to have a different experience, because that's what's not being talked about - this incredible, emotionally rich experience.”

“I'm not suggesting in this book that these things don't happen. I'm not suggesting that I didn't ever feel sad. But what I am saying is that by putting wellbeing at the center of everything, no matter what came up, that was what was going to have to ground the day it was going to have to ground the experience it was going to have to ground, my life or else what was I going to say about having left my professional life to be to be doing this right? The message of the book is your life is not on hold. Your life is not on hold.”

For more information on Tanya:
Website: https://www.careyearsacademy.com/user/tanya/
Buy her book on Amazon at:  6 Life Hacks for Family Caregivers: Be your own coach and beat burnout.

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Rhonda: Welcome to Act 2:

You're On! Join Us Weekly at our studio roundtable. As Rhonda

Kate:

and Kate invite spectacular guests to weigh in on staying vibrant and healthy.

Rhonda:

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Kate:

Summon your courage superstar and step into the limelight. So grab a coffee

Rhonda:

or a martini

Kate:

and let's set the stage for a grand entrance. It's Act Two.

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You're on.

Rhonda:

Greetings friends. Welcome to Act 2: You're On! My name is Rhonda Garvin Conway and I have the pleasure of podcasting today with my co host,

Kate:

Kate Leavey here and we are also joined by our talented producer Cathy Carswell,

Rhonda:

How much of your Act Two is spent taking care of someone else

Kate:

So much!

Rhonda:

Your your children, your parents, a senior someone, how are you managing this role?

Kate:

Not well? No, I think I need this podcast and I need this book. Sorry, I won't interrupt anymore. I just felt like you were talking to me.

Rhonda:

Well, I think this is a question for all of us. And it definitely is a question I'm asking myself. How am I taking care of myself? Or how are you taking care of yourself and the many other demands in your life while you're being a caregiver. Today, Our next guest is going to join us in the conversation about how to navigate our best lives while taking on that role. Meet Tanya Straker, she is on a mission as a family caregiver advocate, author and speaker she wants to change how we think about and support the millions of women and men providing care for family, friends and neighbors As a family caregiver life strategist. She wants every family caregiver of a chronically ill adult to have what she had an extraordinary, life-affirming, transformative caregiving experience. For 20 plus years as a coach, trainer and hospital administrator Tanya has indulged her passion for innovation and helping individuals and teams grow and achieve away from the distractions of her job, she became her own life coach applying all the tools of her profession to better her and her mother's lives. Tanya is also the author of six life hacks for family caregivers. Be your own coach and beat burnout. Welcome to the show. Tanya,

Kate:

welcome you. Thank

Tanya:

you. Thank you. Thank you for that wonderful introduction.

Rhonda:

Well, we're so thrilled you're here. And we think this is a timely conversation because it's act two you're on. And often what that means is it's time to help those around us who might be in need. But we'd like to start by hearing about your story. Tanya, if we could get a little bit more into this. And you mentioned these things in your book, which we're going to talk about later on in the podcast, but you recount becoming a full time total care family giver for your mother - was something you did not just because you were a good daughter, but because you were exhausted to continue in your own career. Let's start there.

Tanya:

So I took a job in New York City, I was living in Georgia at the time, and I got a call from a headhunter. And it was to come back to New York, to work in hospitals to oversee learning and development. And I thought this is great, I'll be able to help my mom. And I'll, you know, I thought I would help her, you know, do some grocery shopping and I would drive her places. And instead I got back to New York took the job back to New York and recognized that she was much further in her cognitive decline than I ever imagined it because people with dementia have a real are really able to be on the phone. And like they know that they have to really to communicate that they're doing well. They know how when to really put it on. But when I got home when I got to New York and started this job and realized that she was really impacted byand I thought, Oh my - What am I? What am I - I can't- My first thought was I can't do this. But of course for the next six years. I did it. Don't know that I did it Well, but I did it to the best of my ability. I will say that. So that's how my caregiving life started in a way that I had not anticipated. And very often, we are thrust into the role in ways that we aren't that we don't expect. So I think that was what I experienced was my unique, but normal way of moving into the role.

Rhonda:

When that happened for you. Tanya, were you able to share your experience with someone? Did you process or bounce ideas off one another? Were there other family members or friends like you made these noticings about your mom and you realized you had to pivot? Who did you rely on as to how to proceed?

Tanya:

Well, I was fortunate my brother, my niece and my brother's wife are all physician's assistants and doctors. So they they had an understanding of what it was was ahead in terms of the medical piece, what they didn't understand and what I really had a hard time sharing with anybody, were all the other pieces that went around it. Because we talk we use the language caregiving. I say it's care management, and it is relationship management. caregiving for me is that time when I used to get to sit in front of the television with her and watch Jeopardy, that was caregiving, that was companionship, figuring out doctor's visits, the fiduciary pieces, do I have the right? Do I have the right? Power of Attorney? Am I, you know, am I saying the right thing? Am I doing the right thing? Is it okay to let her go on the street by herself? She really doesn't want me with her. When can I let her go by herself? When do I have to? When must I hire someone so I have my brothers to, to bounce it off of, but it's when you're the primary family caregiver, one of the things you have to understand is that the decisions are yours. And so you can bounce these things off of other people, but you really have to have make those decisions yourself. And it's really coming to understand and accept that role and be and feel empowered in that role. That's where you that's how you beat the burnout is, is really aligning the comprehensiveness of that role. And the fact that you've done all these other things in your life, you can do this, right, I got this, you have to get to that point where you where you realize, yeah, I can I all the things I've done in my life, I can handle this. And I can do it in a way that is is energizing for myself and for my care receiver.

Kate:

And that is not easy. And I love the distinguish distinction you've just made between the caregiving and the care management, that that is powerful. We can all know how to caregiver, but the care management, probably you are deeply informed by the work you've already done. And I think it's why this book is so it feels so important to me. First off, I'm obsessed with the title I love this. Six life hacks for family caregivers. Be your own coach and beat burnout. I mean, that says it all. And I, I absolutely need this book. But it says it you kind of know where it's leading you at but you're the wealth of your experience. And the fact that you want to share it with people is is compelling. But can you talk about your book a little bit? Why did you write it in what's the message

Tanya:

While I was in the role, right? You're just in it, right? You're... you're the frog in the pot, and it's heating up and you're doing everything. I'm doing the best work I've ever done in my life on my job, and it's exciting and wonderful and I am caring for, for my mom, well meaning friend sent me an article on Facebook. And it said, this really great article about the challenges of family caregiving, and that family caregivers need to self care. And this was the third time someone had shared this article with me. And I just got, I got a little angry and I thought, self care. Yes, I do eat well. I eat nutritionally dense food because I'm a health geek. And I do movement, and I exercise and I have my spiritual practice. And all of that is true. But those are not the things. So this is after my mother's second stroke when she was became incapacitated, and I had to do total care. Now I'm getting up at two o'clock in the morning, and I'm changing underpads And I'm I'm doing nursing, and I always tell him, sorry, I'm gonna get back to this. But I used to, I remember being like five years old and sitting on my cousin's lap, and he says, "So what do you want to be when you grow up?" And I said, I" want to be 35 things". And when I finished all 35 things, he says, "What about a nurse?" And I said, "No!" Nursing was never ever, ever on my...it was not a thought that I would ever be giving direct care if some people are drawn to it. I was not. I'm just terrified of it, actually. So I get this wonderful article. And I thought about what is it that moved me from being exhausted and resentful that I was playing this role that my brothers are living in another state calling me saying you can do this? Okay, fine. I have to do this. Right. So I'm resentful and not feeling that I'm necessarily doing the job well. What moved me to feeling that I was living the best possible life I ever could and helped me deal with the fact that I wasn't bringing in an income. I wasn't contributing to my own retirement, right. My whole entire life trajectory had changed. What are those things? And I said, I need to write a book about it. I need to I need to talk about the mindset that allowed me to have a different experience, because that's what's not be talked about this incredible, emotionally rich experience. And how did I take what did I Do so I have to write a book to talk about what I did.

Kate:

Yeah, well, we need the book and we need to talk about it. Because those of us who are...who are at that point, or were sandwiched in between caretaking of our elders and caretaking our children, we need the scoop, we need to know how do you get to that place of of energy? Because it is draining. I mean, it's just physically it's exhausting, but it's emotionally draining. How do you...how do you get to this positive? Like you have a real radiant light? For those of you who can't see this, you have such a, you have a real light about you? And I want to know, how do you how do you get that

Tanya:

What do they do? Well, I was I was my own coach, I light? treated myself as a client as I would in my own talk. So I gave up one identity as a professional. And I said, Okay, this is my new identity. And I gave myself my own title, I called myself a Master Caregiver. And I was like, I wonder what a master caregiver does. And so, I made a plan, strategic planning was a big part of what my professional work was. So I put my well being, my mother's well being, and our life together as what so are entwined lives we were going to be, you know, talk about mother and daughter, we were going to be this new iteration of mother and daughter. And so what did wellbeing look like, for me what it looked like for her on her trajectory for her own life? And then what did it look like for us together? And I kind of created a vision, I

said:

What does that look like? And both by putting well being at the center, it meant that I said, Well, this has to be lots of laughing. Alright, so I mean, you know, you have to handle the other pieces, right? You know, you have to do the financials. And you know, you have to do all those things. And they decided that there needs to be lots of laughing. And, you know, my mother who never ever sat in front of the television, because that was not her thing. I still have memories of when of the force she passed of her putting her in front of the YouTube with I Love Lucy reruns. And she would laugh out loud. And she would she was a phasic. So she couldn't speak and she had dementia. So who knows what was going on in her head. And she would be laughing so loud, she would, she would see me running around doing things and she pat the seat and she would tell me, come over here, laugh with me. And I'm like, great, but that was my intention. Like I I set out an intention that there would be laughter - there would be fun. Because there was already going to be all - I already knew about all the other stuff, the other tough decisions that I was gonna have to make the visit to the emergency room. The sitting all night, and over the being in the ambulance, the very first time she fainted on me, excuse me, episode of syncope, because that's what they call it. What is syncope? Who knew? Right? These things happen? You're all these things happen for the first time, you're in crisis. You're thinking, Oh, my gosh, how do I What do I do? I don't know how to handle this. I'm not suggesting in this book, that these things don't happen. I'm not suggesting that I didn't ever feel sad. But what I am saying is that by putting wellbeing at the center of everything, no matter what came up, that was what was going to have to ground the day it was going to have to ground the experience it was going to have to ground, my life or else what was I going to say about having left my professional life to be to be doing this right? The message of the book is your life is not on hold. Your life is not on hold. You are living and with the person is living with a chronic illness. I had been the legal guardian for my cousin, when she had a stroke at 103. And then I became her legal fiduciary this that and or until she was 107. And she passed and then when she had to go to the nursing home at 103, that left her baby sister at 99 at home. So I had to figure all of this out. I forget where I was going with with that story. But oh, I know I was saying that. So my mother has a stroke, a second stroke at 87. I don't know how long this is going to last. Right? I don't know if you caring for one person who has one at 103 and lives for four years. This could have been 10 years. So I really had to think about what was important. What did I want my life to feel like and had to have that really be what oriented? Some good decisions. I made some decisions I made that weren't that I look

back and go:

I wish I was smarter, brighter, knew more had listened more had understood more. But ultimately, I had a great experience and I think my mom did to the care givers that I paid caregivers had a good experience, we had a good experience. So and so we made it through a lot of difficult things, you know, more stories in the book about things that weren't working so well. But ultimately, this is what I this is how I get to look back on that experience. And this is what I get to take forward into my second act.

Rhonda:

So much empowerment in choosing the words we use. And I want to ask you a question about a couple of words. But just by renaming and giving yourself a title with that came acceptance and redefined who you were in the midst of all of that you bring up your identity. And that's key to how we feel about ourselves. I love that what a key ingredient to effecting one's mindset in in the journey as a Care Manager and Caregiver.

Tanya:

I love it. Thank you so much for that, because that's my that's part of my advocacy is to, to use that language, specifically that language. And that's why I talk about family caregivers, because that is the word that the that when the research is done every five years the national surveys have done, they call the unpaid family caregivers, the unpaid caregivers, family caregivers, as opposed to the paid health home health aides. I have never heard that word until after my mom had passed. So I had given myself my own identity. And thank you for recognizing that because I do think that is one of the things we need to do is. So when we have a friend who says, Oh, you're being such people would say, Oh, you're being such a great daughter. And I would think I don't want to be doing this. I'm not, you know, I'm not doing this because I want to be a great daughter. But because I am doing it, how am I going to make this a great experience. So yeah, I want people to appreciate that when their colleagues, their friends, their siblings are playing this role. There was so much more to it than they then then simply, you know, I'm you being a good daughter, you're you're making the meal and you're sitting down to dinner. It's a lot more than that.

Rhonda:

Though, it's very empowering family, caregiver advocate, family, caregiver life strategists. Another couple of terms that you use, would you explain those a little bit more, in addition to what you've already shared?

Tanya:

So as an advocate, it's just what we just talked about. It is me purposely using different language, and language that I found helpful in wanting to have more people in the world use these terms. And I was excited to find out that there's a task force is actually working with the federal government that is actually exploring you the use of this term, do we call it informal? Do we call it family and I was like, Great, I'm writing this in my book and other people, other caregivers are also out here, getting the message out. So this languaging and how we talk about things, of course, is one piece that I'm an advocate for there's a second piece that I'm a specific piece, and I'm really advocating for nationally, when a family caregiver has a care receiver in a in a in a care facility. And let's say they're there for two months, six months, it's it's an opportunity for family caregivers to get educated before they bring the person home. Now I understand that the care facilities are having enough trouble just caring for the people that they have while they're there. I really understand that it's not their role to try to help me figure out what to do when I get home. I think it's somebody's role. I think it's my role to help us figure out how to prepare people for the journey ahead. So that you're not might just a couple months ago, my care, one of my neighbors brought her husband home. And she thought that she was going to get up in the morning to help him be mobile, get him to take a shower, he get him to eat breakfast, get him set up for the day, then she was going to go do her remote job. She gets him home. And she's so flustered. That morning, one of my neighbors called me and said, "Can you go and be go be with her." And I like this whole idea that she was just going to come home and things are going to be like it was six months. And I thought that was six months for her to prepare. She brings him home. And she's she doesn't have a clue. So I'm really an advocate that we educate people. And I don't mean give them a PowerPoint and read it to them. I mean a chance to talk through what could this What could this look like? So I'm an advocate for that. And then I'm an advocate. Of course, on the emotional savvy side, every caregiver must know about the six stages of caregiving. That isn't my work. It's the work of Denise Brown. I didn't learn about it until after my mom passed and I thought this is what was missing. So I'm on a mission. I want every family caregiver to know about the six stages of caregiving and of course I talk about it in my book and other resources to make sure that everybody knows there's a lot that you can predict about the experience. So if I could have predicted that I was going to feel this way, why didn't somebody tell me? Well, I'm not worried about why nobody told me it is now my job to tell other people.

Kate:

And we need to hear I so appreciate you said the phrase that Well, basically, that you should strategize like it's your profession. And that does take forethought. They also love that phrase that you use that life is not on hold. Can you give us some examples of like, how did you caretake yourself through that period? How How did you keep your life sort of feeling like you were moving forward, even as you were intensely present for your mom.

Tanya:

So that's the life strategist piece, I would like other people to have my experience. So one of the ways was I from the second grade, I always wanted to have my own business, but had never had the courage to have my own business. I thought that's what other really smart, brilliant people did. And I always wanted to have a T shirt business. So I started my own brand, I did my research. So while I was caring for my mom, I created my own brand, Inner Me-tees. And the mother point of my brand is the message you send yourself is the only one that matters. So it's black on black, white on white. My very first message was I am enough. Every day I put on my I am enough t shirt, my eye is a tank top. So I each actually have one on so I wear it underneath things. And so I started my T shirt brand, I didn't sell a lot, it doesn't matter. I started my brand. And I sold my shirts. And I actually got to do something that I might never had done. Had I stayed in my job because I gave so much of my life to my job that might might never have done that. So my work is to work with family caregivers. There are a lot of resources to have you focus on all the things that aren't going well. How do you manage your stress? Well, I don't want to manage my stress, I don't want stress, you know, I would rather take the stress and pour it into something that really gets me excited. So I took those times a hack for myself, and I created a t shirt brand. And I want to help other family caregivers figure out like I've always wanted to feel healthy. I now feel like I have more energy than I've ever had. My story used to be my mother had so much energy, she could run - at 17, I thought she's running rings around me, I don't get it. I'm 17. And my mother is she's into politics. She's helping everybody in the neighborhood. She's feeding all the kids she's doing she was just one of these people. And so I decided that I wanted to have that conversation. And so I actually started work, even though as a health geek, I really pumped it up a bit in during this timeframe. So there's lots of wild caregiving in especially the way I was doing it, total caregiver, you know, actually doing somenursing tasks. Yes, it was taking up all my time, but it wasn't taking up all my time. And so that time that I did have for myself, what kind of thoughts were going through my head? And what was I going to do that was so exciting for me that it would actually get me to take action. So that's the life strategist. And so I am supporting family caregivers in saying in that little sliver of time they have for themselves? How can we make that work for you?

Rhonda:

Tanya, you've given us a lot to think about already. And this probably could be a three day workshop. And I bet there are going to be many opportunities out there for folks to connect with you in different ways. But for our purposes, this is where we shift into the Golden Nugget segment of our podcast where you can weigh in on what you think listeners might benefit from knowing or hearing about how to be successful in their next great act. What thoughts do you have for us, Tanya?

Tanya:

So my question that I orient my life about, which is probably come through already, in what we've already talked about is, how good do you want to feel? I asked myself that question. How good do I want to feel I want to feel good. I want to feel emotionally good emotionally, spiritually, but I don't even have to say all those other words. And so that's the question that I orient my life around. So when my friends would say, mate, we went to high school together into just the other day, my girlfriend said, Oh, my leg hurts. I guess this is not I said something. Oh, my leg. I'm just kind of limping. She says, oh, that's because you're getting old to know, you're getting old and my body is needing to adjust to something because I want to feel good. And so even if my leg is hurting, it doesn't mean I don't get to feel doesn't mean I don't get to laugh. It doesn't mean I don't get to figure out how to make it feel better. It doesn't mean I don't get to get up tomorrow and feel great. And I'm going to live every day of my life. That was my goal for my mom. She should live every day. I know she was in a lot of pain. She was in LA All those things were true, but how can I get as much laughter out of her and us singing together and things like that things we never did when we did not have the kind of mother daughter relationship, but it really helped me to ensure that that question about how I want to feel, is now grounded in my life. She's past, I've moved on to my next act. But that question is really now forefront. How can I you know, I want to feel good. So how can I feel better? I'm not feeling great right now, what can make me feel better two minutes from now? Because I always want to feel better than I'm feeling if I'm not feeling so great. And so that's my question. And we can keep doing that. We can do that till 99. So when my story about my cousin Vera, I met my cousin's at the hospital, something had happened. And I wanted to put them into a cab to go home. And OnSSI said to me, cab, I'll take the bus. She's 103 and would not let me put her in a cab because she knows how to get home. She says we will take the bus. Okay. I want that I want to live every day until I'm not living

Rhonda:

and honoring autonomy and agency and others and really trying to be cued in and listen, while also providing safety and dignity and respect.

Tanya:

Yes, yes. And having

Kate:

a resilient mindset, you know this, you have life hack in your, in your title to your book, you have that in, like your positive spirit, that it's how you spin it, or how you carry it and turning stress into purpose. Brilliant, that's a great way to take energy that could divert you in the wrong direction. And just say, How do I how do I use this to help myself help others? Tanya, you are a special lady. Thank you. So much good stuff that I feel is just so pertinent. It's so of the moment, we're coming to the end of our time together. But I wonder if I can ask you before we go, what's coming next for you,

Tanya:

I am working with other family caregivers to create more opportunities for business and social networking for family caregivers, more opportunities to just have coffee together. And of course, now the virtual world is now really stamped into our into our being. So it's not going to be so strange anymore to meet virtually. But I want caregivers to be able to meet, not to talk about the person we're caring for. There are lots of forms for that. Lots of opportunities for that. But how can we support each other in in those needs. So that's what I'm, that's what's next for me is working with other family caregivers to provide more opportunities for our colleagues to do just that. Yeah, so I think we'll talk to you now. So in my book, website, it's more ways to find out ways to, to connect socially.

Rhonda:

That's an awesome invitation for all of us. I think, in our Act 2 many of us are looking for opportunities to honor that within ourselves, and maybe offer support to others along the way. So Tanya, thank you, thank you for being the leader in this industry in your life mentor for us all. You do shine a light and this has been an enlightening conversation for sure.

Kate:

And I know that folks are gonna want to hear more about you and learn from your the work that you've done, this book, but just your resilient spirit and and I'll be going there as well to Tanya straker.com. And we should say a special thank you also to our talented and skilled producer behind the scenes. Kathy Carswell.

Rhonda:

And so it is left for me to say go forth, be brave, live well and do good because it's Abdu

Kate: Act 2:

You're On! was brought to you by act 2 Share our stage. You can find us at a2yo.com and also on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Rhonda:

Please download listen and subscribe. Wherever you find your podcast. You can support us using Patreon or buy us a coffee

Kate:

MMMM. I do like coffee.

Rhonda:

No no, you don't need any more caffeine gate. Buy us a coffee is a platform that folks can use to support entrepreneurs and artists like us

Kate:

so we can keep providing resources for the doers and dreamers to find connection, purpose and the skills needed to create a sustainable, fulfilling life to better serve the world. And also so we can buy more coffee.

Rhonda:

Oh Kate, thanks for listening everyone.