Stefania Shaffer, Profile

844-389-6832

Blog

Do You Know Why Hildy Had a Good Death?

How Did Hildy Get Her Good Death?

imgres-2A good death is not far from a storybook ending. It’s a real term hospice nurses will share with you when you are fraught with worry over what is about to happen to your parent as the dying process begins. The way it was explained to me is that a good death occurs when the person has tied up all of his or her loose ends and can exit this world feeling—well, unencumbered.

This means relationships have been mended where needed. There is a sense of peace that finances are in order. Attics have been cleared, items of sentimental value have been designated and everyone is on the same page with your wishes to be carried out beyond your demise.

Hildy is my neighbor. Was my neighbor. She just died. She was the very first person I had over for tea when I moved into this neighborhood a few years ago, something we continued to do, and luckily for me, something we were able to do for the last time at her house two weeks before she passed away.

I am sad she is no longer here, but I am so impressed by how well she planned her exit. Her adult children are clearing out her house right now without any turmoil over who gets what because Hildy had it all spelled out.

We can all have a good death like Hildy by following these steps:

1) Put your financial and medical wishes in a trust, and will. Assign who will be in charge of your medical decisions if you become incapacitated.

2) Have a family conference laying out your plans for the house, property, burial, and where to place your precious little dog. Hildy had already arranged for her best friend to keep her pet.

3) Keep your list of active accounts to be paid and accountant’s contact information in an accessible file. Also keep the recent IRS filings in this same drawer.

4) Share the important information of where your bank accounts are held. Do you have CDs, or safe deposit boxes? What are the contents, where are the keys? Who has legal access?

5) Be sure your address book is updated and reach out to your far away friends to recall fond memories. Is there a current email for everyone?

6) Hildy no longer worked, but she had her pension details and contact information. She also had the Social Security phone number listed.

My favorite memories of Hildy are seeing her drive everywhere with her little dog, frequently stopping in the middle of the street to talk to me from her car while hastily waving horn-honkers to just go around.

She showed up for me at my book signing event downtown years ago, even after just getting the bad news from her doctor. She had a generous spirit. She had a quick wit. She thought I was going places and I loved her encouragement because I am motherless and she liked to mother.

Hildy did something right. From raising two children who obviously love her and each other, to making sure she would be getting the good death she planned so that she truly can rest in peace.

 

 

 

 

 

Why Do Teachers Love Bill and Melinda Gates?

Nobody Knows How to Appreciate Teachers Like Gates Ed Foundation

IMG_9050

I have been lucky enough to experience one of the most exceptional conferences I’ve ever attended where I delivered the closing keynote to nearly 500 educators through the Gates Ed Foundation, known as ECET2.

My message was meant to inspire new and veteran teachers alike, with a reminder that “for that one kid, you might be the single best part of their day.” If you have 15-minutes and 1 hanky, it’s worth sharing and bears repeating, “On the path to success, there is always a teacher to thank.”Gates Conference-Stefania Shaffer Keynote But, here is why this conference inspired me.

Imagine you are an educator. Middle school teacher. Let’s say you’ve been at it for fifteen years and let’s even go so far as to say that you still love your job. You are me. I am thrilled to be here. But, there have been times when I have needed support; call it Teacher Appreciation, call it a morale boost, call it a post-it note with five little words that read, “Best scores we’ve ever had!” (I am still floating off that last one from years ago).

If you don’t know ECET2, I’m here to tell you that you are in for the treat of your educational career. The name says it all: Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers. But it means more when you discover that the names Bill and Melinda Gates are behind sponsoring this national conference cultivating teacher leaders.

The Gates Ed Foundation will more than soothe your tired, aching soul and remind you of the reasons why you went into teaching in the first place. This conference will turbo charge your creativity for how you walk the walk in and out of the classroom. Are you that true leader on campus whose spirit never dims? Is your positive role modeling emulated by others? Has your can-do attitude for affecting change been considered– well, infectious? Then you deserve the nomination to attend this invitation-only national event. Here, teacher leaders learn how to build up their own community. If you’re really lucky, there is already a regional convening in your own area because someone attending the national brought it back to your hometown.

If you ever wanted to know what it could feel like to be Charlie in the Chocolate Factory, this is that golden ticket. This is not a curriculum conference to learn more about Common Core. This is a conference where like-minded dynamics are shared in trust tables with other teachers from around the country.

You will immediately bond as you realize that despite your geographic distance, you are all in the same boat and this reassurance will produce a Professional Learning Network…or a sisterhood, or a brotherhood. You have time to talk about issues in education that are thwarting your progress and navigate your way through solutions. You will find your Tribe!

You will be served glorious gourmet food in all its abundance, on par with any fancy cruise line. And when you are done with that meal, you will walk through the halls to your next breakout session passing coffee service tables with gorgeous desserts that you can grab as you go. In a few short hours, your next meal awaits. This is not your cold deli sandwich, potato chip conference. The Gates Foundation showers teachers with enormous gratitude for a job well done. Melinda Gates said it herself, “Nobody knows teaching like teachers.”

I believe nobody knows how to appreciate teachers like Bill and Melinda Gates. To get a real sense of what teachers experienced at the national ECET2 conference, here is a quick clip of what teachers took away. ECET2-Seattle 2015 For even more motivation before you open those August doors and say hello to a new crop of kids, here is what my precious colleagues who each delivered other riveting keynotes throughout the days had to say.

Mary Kenzer realized she could be an English teacher after being responsible for training high school kids at the grocery store Krogers where she had worked for decades. Mary Kenzer Keynote.

Lauren Maucere not only leads the charge for Deaf students, she teaches them how to advocate for themselves. Lauren Maucere Keynote 

Finally, William Anderson inspires teachers to reach back to their past experiences as students and teach like their futures depend on it. William Anderson Keynote

If you love a teacher, please share this blog and view these unforgettable keynotes. Sometimes all we need as teachers to do this work is to know that we are not alone and to remember the reasons why we followed our hearts into the classroom in the first place.

 

 

 

 

 

What are the Challenges of Caring for an Elderly Parent?

widerAre you feeling alone and stressed in the challenges of caring for an elderly parent? KQED/Forum panel presents solutions.

Yes, it was stressful to care for my 85-year-old mother for the last years of her life, which turned out to be five good (and not-so-good) ones.

Yes, it was also joyful since, upon my arrival, she was still healthy, buoyant and alert—merely falling unpredictably. The fear of what a broken hip would mean to the care I was able to provide scared me, but I should have been more worried about the other cognitive disease beginning to show warning signs—onset dementia would be the way her story would end.

And in the end, it was my privilege to help her through the final stage of her life with dignity, LOVE, and peace between us. Storybook? Hardly.

Initially, what she needed was help around the house. What the house needed was a gut job. The job that awaited for me at this, my childhood home, left my jaw hanging open for the entire five years I spent searching for and sleuthing through eighty-five boxes of financial statements and records that I had collected from under beds and mail tucked into shoeboxes lining bookshelves.

Better to have done the hard labor here myself rather than hire it out from a clean sweep company because I found assets that a stranger would never have recognized.

Yes, managing the health of a senior, and their decades old home is stressful. But you will be grateful you did the work knowing you were able to provide the end of life quality your parent wanted. I was lucky in that my job was not beyond what I could learn—and through some deep breathing exercises—not beyond my stress levels. (I teach 7th grade for a living, so I have had many, many years to practice cool, calm, and collected under pressure!). What if you’re not so lucky?

The pleasure was all mine this week when I appeared on Michael Krasny’s Forum with two other guests providing views on how family caregivers can find support for themselves. These are two more resources I wish I had known about when I took on the role of caring for my elderly mother. For a LIVE listen of the show, here is the podcast KQED/Forum with Michael Krasny.

Here are the support numbers you need if you are feeling alone and stressed in the role of caregiving for a family member.

Family Caregiver Alliance was established to be of support to the relative who is providing the care. If you feel frustrated, tired, or you need a break for the weekend, their counselors and volunteers will come to your aid— Family Caregiver Alliance services.

I was so tired. It never occurred to me that caring for a plus-one exponentially compounds your busy-ness not by 2, but what feels more like 200! Let’s say all you need is someone to take Mom to another doctor appointment, the kind you might not be required to attend, but how will she get there without you because she doesn’t drive? Make this call to Family Caregiver Alliance.

Maybe all you need is someone to do meal prep, laundry, and clean the house while you lay sick in bed with the flu. Make this call. Their time is free to the family caregiver, graciously funded through a foundational grant.

If, indeed, you have the worst suspicions about the lack of care a senior is receiving in their own home because they are being subjected to cruelty, hostility by a family member who is not cut out for the role of “loving, patient caregiver” then there is another number to call. This one is for APS, not unlike CPS, this is for Adults who are being abused verbally, financially, sexually, or allowed to live in their filth and waste, or being denied their medications. This is not the time when you should hesitate.

We advocate for our children. We need to advocate for the care of our seniors as well— Adult Protective Services contact. Hopefully, you will never come across a reason to make this call. But, surprisingly, violence and abuse against elders mostly occurs from the family caregiver in charge of their well-being. Statistics are staggering. The job is daunting. If you have bitten off more than you can chew, or the health of a parent or loved one has declined beyond what is manageable, there is no shame in saying this role is bigger than me. Get support. Make the call.

Finally, there were two listeners whose stories still resonate with me.

Amanda, was trying to figure out how she could give the best care for her father who sustained a traumatic brain injury. She was hoping to keep him at home where he wanted to be, but the scope of all the care required was beyond her skill set. Family Caregiver Alliance can counsel her about options available in her area. She can continue guilt-free knowing she did everything she could—the best help she can provide now is changing to a professional care facility.

The last listener sent an email—a dramatic and very sad, yet common theme—read just as the show was wrapping up.

Charlie wrote that he cared for his mother even when his siblings were cruel to him and not present for her. He misses his mother very much and the loss of relationship with his siblings compounds his grief.

I so wanted to empathize with Charlie, but alas, the show was over. Charlie, please know you are not alone. Many families suffer the unraveling when death and money are at play—even families that do not have fractured dynamics to begin with.

Email me if I can be of any support. My condolences to you. Grief takes the time it takes to heal—and hospices nurses say it takes even longer for the one who was on the front lines in their caregiving role.

Do you know the realities in caring for an elderly parent?

widerWOCM host Bulldog asks, “What are the 9 Realities in a nutshell?”

You’ve answered the call to come home and care for your elderly parent until the very end. These 9 Realities will answer your next question, “Now what?” In case you want to hear it LIVE, here is the link to my interview on the Bulldog Show.

Reality 1- The House is a Wreck, Inside and Out. Being there is most important for the adult child to assess the safety of the home, and the wellness of your parent.

Reality 2- Fiercely Independent but Can’t Cook, Drive, or Bathe. There is a lot a senior can do to put up pretenses that everything is fine. There are criteria for making sure your elder is not suffering from neglect.

Reality 3- Getting Your Physical Home and Your Financial House in Order. Purging vs. preserving memories, and how to set up a filing system for finances that are in desperate need of organizing. These are motivating pages that have readers squaring away their own homes today.

Reality 4- Managing Health–Both Medical and Financial– is a Second Full-Time Job. Knowing what medication your parent takes, along with dosages, is critical for every doctor appointment. How to create a prescription chart for doctors and ease of renewals is covered in this chapter.

Reality 5- When Your Home and Your Parent Begin Falling Apart, Get Prepared. Warning signs that your parent is at the beginning of the end can no longer be ignored. And such is life, when everything is going downhill, the decades old home is also in decline. Know where your assets are held. Expenses are coming.

Reality 6- A Birth Allows us Nine Months to Prepare; Death Has No Timeline; Act with Urgency in All You Do. A death march will take its toll on the caregiver. While you nervously watch your parent wrestle against an illness, this begins your gut-wrenching experience, as if everything leading up wasn’t hard enough.

Reality 7- The Critical Role Bowel Movements and Bed Sores Will Play in the End. Going home….it’s all she longed for. Straddling two worlds as patients get ready to cross over leaves them busily preparing before they feel ready to be un-entwined from this life. The secret of what she saw on the other side was never revealed. But I now know what death looks like in the final weeks, days, and hours.

Reality 8- A Preplanned Funeral Is a Gift to Your Family; Binders, and Lots of Them, Are an Executor Trustee’s Gift. The funeral playbook and how to establish a binder system for Communications, Estate Assets, and Legal Documents will make this your indispensable guide.

Reality 9- Do Everything You Can To Self-Sooth, but Include Grief Counseling; You Need It More Than You Think. Compartmentalizing grief seems the easier route. When the crying jag ends, we think we’re over the loss. This is not true for the frontline caregiver for whom it will take years to process the experience.

Media Appearances

iStock_000018717043Small

Did You Know that Many Adult Children Caring for an Elderly Parent Have Very Similar Stories to Tell? Listen in to what callers had to share.

San Francisco/KTVU-Bay Area People with Lisa Yokota KTVU podcast

San Francisco/KGO-The Ronn Owens Show

San Francisco/KQED-Forum with Michael Krasny KQED podcast

Seattle, WA/KISW-Conversations with Lizz Sommars podcast

Ocean City, MD/WOCM FM 98.1- Bulldog Show podcast

Abilene, TX/KXYL-FM 102.3- Going Home with Mark Cope 

Omaha, NE/KMA 960- Dean and Don Show

Albuquerque, NM/KDAZ- Birga and Dan Show

Waterbury, CT/WATR- Larry Rifkin Talk of the Town

Burlington, IA/KBUR- Steve Hexom Morning Show

Milwaukee, WI/WBEV- The Idea Exchange with Brenda Murphy

Bristol County, VA/Tri-Cities, TN/WFHG- Barbara McFaddin Show

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Were you a KGO caller during the Ronn Owens show about “9 Realities of Caring for an Elderly Parent”?

iStock_000018717043SmallDid you get your KGO question answered on the Ronn Owens show about “9 Realities of Caring for an Elderly Parent”?

If you missed this radio show, here is the link for my interview on KGO NewsTalk 810: http://tinyurl.com/mnvwpve 

Yesterday was an exciting day for me as the guest author on the Ronn Owens show. He has been the voice of SF Bay Area news for 39 years and his callers are loyal listeners. Their questions were intelligent and all included a sense of urgency wondering what we will all be faced with soon enough, “What to do when Mom or Dad can no longer care for themselves?”

I have received emails since the show that I will share here in case any other readers have the same situation. If you are aware of any other resources, please do reply to this blog so we can post your answer within. Additionally, I want to add a couple thoughts for callers who did make it on air, since radio moves so fast and my answers are limited before the next commercial break.

The first caller asked, “What can we do about the in-law who lives in a remote area with no family around?”

Answer: One of the biggest problems facing seniors is isolation. Their social circle is diminishing. They may be outliving their friends. They may not drive anymore and need to depend on others for rides to activities. As a senior ages, doctors’ visits increase. Even for a relatively healthy senior, there are many rotations for regular blood work, hearing checks, eye appointments (especially if macular degeneration is diagnosed), bone density tests (especially if falls are a pattern). Ailments progressing to specialists will only add to the constant running back and forth to doctors that becomes part of a routine in senior care management.

Does the remote area offer a good hospital, or would you need to drive two hours to get to the medical facility that would be treating the problem? If there are no relatives nearby, is there a good neighbor who is close enough to regularly check-in, or to notice the newspaper hadn’t been picked up in a couple of days. If your answer is no, and I honestly do not recommend putting the job of caring for your elderly relative onto a friend because of all that is involved, can you consider relocating to move in with your in-law? If a secure job would be lost, then have the hard conversation within the family, including the senior, of moving her into your home. Remaining with her own loved ones is less scary than moving into an assisted living facility, and a lot less isolating.

If you are raising children at home, you are part of the sandwich generation that is caring simultaneously for elderly parents while raising kids. That is a double whammy. There will be strain, but in the end, the privilege of caring for your elderly parent and knowing you did everything possible to keep her safe, healthy and happy will certainly help you sleep better at night.

An email I received after the show asked, “What can I do to help my alcoholic mother who refuses to leave her home, but cannot be alone because she keeps falling?”

Answer: This makes everything about caring for a senior doubly hard. An alcoholic in a fit of rage is not dissimilar to the Alzheimer’s patient who is throwing things and cursing at loved ones. Check Al-Anon in your area http://www.al-anonsf.org/ since they offer support to the family and loved ones of the alcoholic. They may even have suggestions as to how someone can spell you on your mom’s most difficult days. The email goes on to say how desperately son and wife need a break but are afraid to leave her. I know there are agencies http://www.seniorsathome.org/ that offer companionship to seniors on an hourly, daily, or weekly basis. They will not distribute medications, but can oversee that the senior has taken her pills if the dosage is already set aside in a cup. They will never be allowed to do any injections, so diabetics requiring help with insulin shots will not be a good fit for their services. Sleuth carefully. This is not a resource I have used. Are there any friends, neighbors, or church members who can get on a rotation of visiting so you can take the break you desperately seek and most definitely deserve?

Finally, making sure all of those legal documents are in order will be critical if you are to ever have control over health decisions on her behalf or paying for medical bills because of a broken hip from a fall. Look into these four: 1)Will; 2)Trust; 3)Durable Power of Attorney for Health (the Advance Health Care directive; 4)Durable Power of Attorney for Finances. Without these in place, the court will be making the decisions for your mother, not you.

 

What three little words from critic Grady Harp reduced this author to happy tears? “I remember momma.”

Book reviewI remember momma…’9 Realities of Caring for an Elderly ParentOctober 1, 2013

By Grady Harp 

(This review appears as it was written in its entirety originally posted on amazon.com)

 

 

For those of a certain age group the three words of the title will recall hours of warm feelings absorbed from the media some years back. For some reason that show and the feelings it engendered come to mind when reading Stefania Shaffer’s classically wonderful book 9 REALITIES OF CARING FOR AN ELDERLY PARENT. Yes, there are many books available that teach readers the logistics of preparing a home for, feeding, clothing, nursing, arranging, signing DNR papers, the legalities for that final time in an elder’s life when life stops and business goes on. But the difference here is that this is a book about love, relationship, wildly humorous incidents, trying moments, the practical aspects of ushering a parent through the labyrinth of final months/weeks/days/hours that end in death. THAT is why this is a book that is a must read for everyone – whether parents have died already and now friends need the same support, or as a resource to share with people who are approaching this time in the lives when parents depart.

Shaffer happens to be a teacher (English Language Arts) and had a highly successful career in television advertising before that: in other words, she knows how to discuss (read `sell’) ideas to a reader and she has the gift to make that information into eloquent prose.

But praise gets us off the track of reviewing this book. In this indispensable volume Shaffer takes us through every step of caring for the progressively downhill sliding of a parent’s journey toward the end and she does it in a journal type fashion: she has been through all this with her own mother. She tells us from experience how to make the decisions no one wants to discuss until that last minute – how to `clean house’, make a home safe for the elderly, how to manage such things as baths, poops and pees, caring for minor (and major) injuries, how to find the right doctor, how to deal with meds, how to tolerate (be supportive) of live-in or visiting nurses, how to converse when so many synapses are missing in the parent’s communication processes, planning ahead for the inevitable (hospice/total home care), funeral, estate issues, keeping track of all the necessary information for posterity and legal reasons, etc.

But most of all this is how to cope with the gradual weakening and mentally distant parent, how to share love, how to stay close and enjoy each moment of the time left. In other words, how to continue the role of parent child love even when the roles are reversed. Stefania Shaffer did it and she warmly tells us how. Highly Recommended if not imperative reading! Grady Harp, October 13

Preface for 9 Realities of Caring for an Elderly Parent

9 Realities of Caring for an Elderly ParentPreface In Part

Dear Gentle Reader,

I imagine you are holding this book today for one of two reasons. Either you have been ignoring that nagging question of what will happen when Mom or Dad can no longer care for themselves. Or you are already at the front of it, or in the middle of it with one or both of your parents. If you have no idea what to expect, this is the book you need now. The guideposts herein will prepare you for what’s ahead. They are the nine realities every adult child should expect when coming home to care for an elderly parent until the very end.

If you are at the front, I am so sorry for the pain you are experiencing now and the pain and fear your beloved parent is experiencing too. I am just so sorry. It is quite unnatural for humans to be made to look on while the person you love, who always fixed things for you as a child, is looking at you now helplessly waiting as his or her life unravels.

This will be a gut-wrenching experience for you. I was in your shoes, but I didn’t know it. I only knew my mom was falling a lot, but she always managed to pick herself up, dust herself off, and keep her sense of humor intact. We were not on speaking terms when I got her phone call asking if I would come for a visit. I hadn’t seen her in several years, but by the time I finished that first weekend at her house, I knew she could no longer be alone and that I would be the one to fulfill her wish that she die in her own home whenever the time came.

My mind began racing with questions: How will I purge a home filled with decades of clutter while preserving childhood memories? How can I make her money last, and where are all of her assets? What is this filing system of hers that keeps mail tucked under beds and stuffed into shoeboxes on shelves? What legal documents are still not in place? Is she simply being forgetful, or are we dealing with the warning signs of something worse? What are her wishes to be carried out after her death? What will make her happiest today?

And much later I would be asking other questions. How can I make her comfortable? How much time do we have? How can I possibly say goodbye?

I wish someone had prepared me for what I experienced in this undertaking. I would have still said yes to the job, but I would have had a better idea of what the job entailed. Nobody says yes to firefighting, or nursing, or the FBI, or the army without asking a few questions upfront about what a typical day at work is like. Yes, it was stressful. Yes, it was also joyful. Yes, it was scary, and hard– absolutely the hardest bullet point I can now list under “work experience” on my resume. Yes, it was my privilege. Yes, I did it because I knew no one else could or would, and because I believed my father would have wanted to know his beloved wife of fifty-four years was not going to have to go it alone.

At the time, I had only the capacity of mind to imagine my mother and I would have fun every day until she would go to sleep one night with a smile on her face and simply not wake up the next morning. I could not conceive of it any other way. She was mobile, and alert, and I had never known her to be sick or hospitalized in my forty years. Within five years of my arrival home, she would die at my side.

Now that you are ready to go through it and you want a look–a gritty look–at the realities of caring for an elderly parent, this book will help you. Its nine chapters deal with the early topics like how to keep your parent safe in their own home to middle chapters revolving around waiting for death and the important role bowel movements and bedsores will play in the end. The final third of the book deals with the aftermath, including funeral arrangements that are predesigned, and managing as the executor trustee of the estate. Grief counseling for the adult orphan is the last chapter.

Designed to be an indispensable guide for all decision makers in your family, consider sharing this book with them so you will all be on the same page. 

A wise man once told me this would be a thankless job. No truer words were spoken.

Email me if you need moral support.

Available now on amazon.com/kindle.
Click here to buy the Kindle Version.

The Bully Teacher

The Bully Your Child Meets Might Not Be in the Hallways: Recognizing the Bully Teacher.

It is sad to say, but bullies do exist in the classroom, and not only peer to peer, but from teacher to student. It does not happen a lot, but I believe it exists on every campus. I have seen the bully teacher in full swing first hand, and I always have the same reaction: tears in my eyes, shame for not being able to do more to make it stop. The first time I saw a child ripped to shreds by a teacher, I was also a child unable to help.

The next vivid memory I have is from my early teaching years. My principal recommended I visit as many classes as possible to get a feel for classroom management, and other tips I might pick up to make me the best possible teacher. I was absolutely floored when a few minutes after I walked into a veteran teacher’s room, the biggest kid in class was being taken to task.

He was told to stand against the back wall, where all eyes were cast upon him. For his lack of wanting to participate in a class discussion about the reading, he was verbally abused for several minutes. It did not take much to bring this oversized child to tears as he quickly swiped his face with the back of his hand while he tried to take his punishment like a man. 

I could not believe my eyes. I left in tears that gushed down my face faster than I could catch them with the back of my hand. There was absolutely nothing that child did to bring on this teacher’s wrath, and there was nothing this child could have done to defend himself.

This moment was forever cemented in my mind, and led me to later develop some memorable characters in my first book Heroes Don’t Always Wear Capes, realistic fiction that covers the best and worst of what teaching has to offer among educators from a student’s point of view.

This is not the last time I witness the bully teacher putting a kid up against a wall, until tears come trickling down his face. A respected colleague surprised me when her door flung open during sixth period one afternoon.

She screamed at the top of her lungs for several minutes until this boy was sobbing. I had to close my classroom door, hoping to give him some privacy from his peers in my class, and to hopefully drown out the drama. As I returned to the front of the room to face my students, several of them had tears in their eyes, and I lost it once again.

It is human nature to feel compassion for those in need of our help. To watch someone suffer tugs at our heart. It took a few minutes before we could compose ourselves and carry on as if nothing was happening outside of our door.

The bully teacher provides lessons all right—lessons in humiliation, degradation, and destruction of one’s self-esteem.

I am now a veteran teacher in a better position to speak up when I see wrongdoing, even to address the teacher directly. This takes guts because, likely, the bully teacher is also a bully to colleagues.

The bully teacher hides behind tenure, and fraternizes with union leaders. The bully teacher intimidates administrators and parents who might worry that there will be more retaliation against their child in class. After all, grades are important.

Schools are active in measures to stop bullying among students, but what can be done to stop the bully teacher?

It is first important to distinguish between a teacher that is strict and structured vs. a teacher that is promoting harm to the psychological well-being of your child. If you suspect the latter, ask to volunteer in your child’s class. No teacher wants another adult to witness them verbally abusing students.

Document your child’s reports of times when they feel abused by the teacher bully, and any witnesses who will support this claim. Bring your documentation to administrators, starting with the principal, then working your way up the chain of command if you are not satisfied with the results.

Know that in instances of abuse, victims are not made to sit with their abusers to negotiate an outcome. A child has no equal power at this table. It is the job of the parent to advocate for their child. 

Furthermore, I wonder why more schools don’t employ cameras in the classroom. Bill Gates recommends this idea in his Ted talk. I like it, too.

I wonder about several other measures, but since I have never seen them tried, there must be some good reason against them. I do understand there are false claims made by students who do not like a particular teacher, and this is why the rubber room approach to removing tenured teachers from the classroom who sit idle all day away from children, earning their full salary while being investigated is a controversial topic.

Again, the bully teacher does not make up the majority of teachers. But if you experience it as a student, it will impact your life adversely for the entire year—likely having repercussions for the rest of your life.

Blog question: How do we remove the bully teacher from the classroom?

You Are Not Alone In Caring for Your Elderly Parent, Help Is On The Way From AARP

searchAre You Lost In The Chaos of Caring For Mom Or Dad? Look No Further, AARP’s Resource Guide Is Just One Click Away.

Hindsight really is our best teacher. I only wish I had known then what I know now about caring for an elderly parent. I did a great job, but I ran myself ragged because I did not have any outside resources to inform or relieve me. I am on the tail end of the Baby Boom generation (born 1946-1964) so I have not yet had reason enough to peruse AARP’s website for myself. Therefore, I just didn’t know what they had to offer and how instrumental they could have been in answering the questions I had, and seeking support from others who were experiencing the same. I felt very much in it alone.

After my mother died, it wasn’t until much later when I started writing about caring for an elderly parent that I came across the new and improved AARP website in all of my research. The first article I read was from the CEO, A. Barry Rand and it was filled with heart as he connected to readers by sharing his personal experience of caring for his father during the last eight years of his life. He says, “It was one of the most difficult…rewarding and fulfilling experiences of my life.” I completely felt his pain as he recalled for all of us what a daunting job it is, full of challenges and rewards.

What Mr. Rand took away from his own experience of caring for an elderly parent has served a purpose in benefitting the other 45 million of us grappling with the issue of what to do when Mom or Dad can no longer care for themselves. His first mission was to revamp the AARP website to include resources and information in one spot where caregivers could be connected to experts and organizations easily. AARP launched the  Caregiving Resource Center in early 2013. After spending hours upon hours to get a sense of what it offers, I have several places wherein you will find invaluable information.

1) Blogs-I have found many useful questions answered and am starting to know the style of Bloggers and which authors I look forward to following. One of my favorite people no longer appears, but Sally Abrahms is relatable having been there done that, and Amy Goyer who currently cares for both of her parents, blogs  about weekly conversations she hosts with a group of professionals about the issue of the week. It is an easy forum to participate in, even just silently if you prefer to read the string of comments instead.

2) Prepare to Care Booklet- This is the godsend I wished I had access to when I was collecting all of the data I needed. I got it done, but I was figuring it out the hard way and reinventing the wheel. AARP has since created forms at the ready that you can print for free and fill out easily with samples to follow. Imagine knowing up front ways to get help paying for prescriptions, or where to plug into coalitions of caregiving in your area.

It will save you tremendous time to download the booklet that covers five easy steps so you can start having the conversation now, while everyone is still healthy. Get prepared with knowing what legal documents are still not in place. We are never guaranteed our number of tomorrows. Our lives are not going to slow down. You will be hit with the surprise that one of your parents has become ill, then what? Avoid regrets. Start your planning today. For more about my own experience, 9 Realities of Caring for an Elderly Parent: A Love Story of a Different Kind will be an essential companion for the adult child coming home to care for your elderly parent until the very end. It is a funny, compassionate, and daunting account slated for release August 2013. Available at www.amazon.com/kindle.

Blog question: Which AARP website resource have you found to be most helpful?