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How to Give The Best Care To Others

Jan 18, 2022

How to Give The Best Care To Others

Hello everyone,

My name is Christa Ovenell, and since 2018 I’ve been a funeral director by trade, an end-of-life doula and a licensed Willow EOL Educator™. And like many of you, I’m a caregiver. 

On November 23, 2021, one day after I had given my notice at a safe, secure, and mostly happy job so that I could finally pursue my goal of becoming a leader in the death-education field, I got a call I had been dreading for a few years. My mother had fallen. She was being transported to the hospital by ambulance.

I want to tell you how having already explored the reality of my own mortality was a huge help in me caring for my mom over the last 6 weeks. 

Facing Unwelcome Realities

Even though I had been expecting a call like this for a very long time, and I have way more knowledge than most about what to do, I was immediately overwhelmed. The likelihood of elders surviving the fall is not usually in question, but their chance of living longer than a year after their fall is drastically lowered. And then there is the question of what support they will need, whether and if they will be able to return to their home, and how they will be cared for if they can’t care for themselves.

Making decisions for someone who can’t reliably make her own was something that weighed on me every day. Even as a fluent English-speaker, and a planner with advanced degrees, I could barely navigate the complexities of the medical system my octogenarian, and cognitively-impaired mother was thrust into. I had all the legal paperwork I needed to be able to speak for my mother when she couldn’t, but every minute of her stay in hospital and subsequent discharge to a new living arrangement felt like a fight every step of the way.

Exploring the reality of my own mortality helped get me through this.

My history with Willow goes back almost to its inception, and when Reena and Michelle rolled out the Willow EOL Educator™ Program last May, I was the first to sign up. Willow Workshops™ I attended before and since joining the program gave me the framework I needed to help get me through what was one of the most difficult periods in recent years. 

By being a part of the Willow EOL Educator™ Program, I learned about gaps in common advanced-care planning tools and forged friendships and new collaborative relationships with other education and planning professionals doing important work in serious-illness planning. I was surrounded by people offering me support and guidance. 

As a result, my mom and I did a great job of determining what mattered most to her in a very short amount of time, and we certainly know who matters to her. Because even though we all have, and live by, a set of core values, most of us don’t make a habit of knowing and articulating what they may be. My work with Willow kept me grounded and focused all along the way. My mom is now safe in what I hope she will one day think of as her new “home”.

And on the bright side, I have never been more clear on what my values and wishes are for my own care, if—and most likely when—I face a similar situation in the future. And I’ve discovered through this whole ordeal that one of my core values is gratitude.

Thanks for reading,

With love,

Christa

PS: Effective immediately, Michelle is taking at least 6 months away from Willow. As many of you know, for longer than Willow has been in existence, Michelle has been caring for her elderly parents who live with dementia, both of whom are now palliative. This cumulative stress and grief along with parenting, entrepreneurship and other challenges have led her to make this difficult and important choice. I know that you wish her well while she takes this time to focus on who and what matter most. In the meantime, Karen Hendrickson and Christa Ovenell have stepped up to support me in leading Willow and as lead facilitators for the Willow EOL Educator™ Program.

Join the Willow EOL Educator™ Program Now.

The next learning cycle of the Willow EOL Educator™ Program begins January 21st! Registration is open now.

Work with a licensed Willow EOL Educator™

Find a licensed Willow EOL Educator™ to help you with your end-of-life planning needs and inquiries.

Attend a Willow Workshop™

Everyone welcome!

Check out Willow events page for information about a variety of Willow Workshops™ coming up in January and February.

What about you?

How has exploring the reality of your own mortality helped you as a caregiver?

Please start or join the discussion below!