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May 18, 2022 25 mins

After 15 years of caring for her mother, Nadine Roberts Cornish discovered her calling to support other caregivers on the journey of caring for a chronically ill loved one. That is why she founded “The Caregivers Guardian,” dedicated to supporting, guiding, and advocating for family caregivers. Nadine touches on the challenges and stigmas surrounding the role of being a caregiver, as well as the physical and emotional tolls this commitment can have on the body. She promotes movement, meditation, and mindfulness to prioritize the importance of self-care to be the best caregiver possible. 

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
Hi everyone. I'm Holly Robinson, pete, actor, author, advocate, do
it All mom, and I'm also a caregiver. And this
is care Walks, a podcast from my Heart Radio and
VOLTI in Arthritis Pain Gael. It's a show for family
caregivers who give everything to everyone and need to make

(00:21):
time for themselves through movement. Every episode is designed for
you to walk as you listen, so just think of
me and my guests as your weekly walking buddies. We'll
hear stories from caregivers and gain tips and insights from
health experts and advocates who know how important it is
to take care of yourself and manage joint pain due
to arthritis that often accompanies being a caregiver. Welcome to

(00:49):
our very first episode of care Walks. Everyone. I'm so
glad you're here and I'm so excited to be here
with you. You may not know this about me, but
my own journey as a family caregiver started when I
was just nineteen years old. My father, Matt Robinson, who
some of you may remember originated the role of Gordon
on Sesame Street, was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. I love

(01:13):
my dad so much so when I was a freshman
in college and his health started to deteriorate. The choice
was very clear to me while I was in school.
I chose to also be my dad's primary caregiver. It
was not an easy road, and I took care of
him for twenty pretty challenging years, but I will never
regret being able to spend that time with my dad.

(01:34):
It gave us the chance to repair some of the
issues we had in our relationship, and I was able
to see him in a totally different light. And it
was just such an important and influential time in my life.
I only wish a show like care Walks was around then.
There was so much I didn't know when I was
starting my caregiving journey with my dad. I felt so
lost at the start. So my goal is to make

(01:57):
sure this podcast makes you feel a little less alone
in your caregiving journey and gives you some valuable resources
to help you also take care of yourself. Now, a
couple of things to note about our show. As I
mentioned earlier, this show is meant for you to take
a walk as you listen, So right now you're listening
to the full version of this episode, which means you'll

(02:18):
get a decent walk in if you're moving with us
the whole time. But if you don't have time for
a full walk today, then go check out our bridged
version of the same episode. It's like cliff Notes for podcasts,
so no matter how much time you have, you won't
miss out on a great conversation. All right, now that
that's settled, let's dig into this episode today. We're talking

(02:41):
about taking care of ourselves when we're taking care of others.
How do you make yourself a priority in it all?
You know, I think this is honestly the hardest thing
about being a caregiver. You give, and you give so much,
and everyone relies on you to take care of things,
and then when it comes to taking time for you
can almost feel selfish. But the reality is self care

(03:04):
is so important when you're a family caregiver. You cannot
feel from an empty cup. Remember that you cannot run
yourself into the ground and be the best version of
yourself for the people you love. Taking time to care
for yourself and do things that are good for your health,
like taking a walk, will make you that much better
at everything you do for others. To help us better

(03:27):
understand the importance of self care for caregivers. I'm gonna
chat with Nadine Robert's Cornish later. Nadine is the founder
of The Caregiver's Guardian, and she's gonna help us get
over the idea that we need to always put others
first and give us advice on easy ways to start
taking care of our needs. But before we get into
today's conversation, let's begin our walk every week. I'm going

(03:55):
to help you start your walk with a mindfulness exercise,
So let's get started. First off, celebrate yourself and your
body for showing up today and finding time to get
active when you're a caregiver. I know it can be
really tough, but it is so important, and I want
you to keep telling yourself this every time a thought

(04:16):
pops up, reminding you of other things that you have
to get done today. So when you have a moment,
take a breath, a deep breath in through your nose
and let that air fill your lungs. Feel the sensation
of your stomach and your chest rising with your breath,

(04:38):
and now breathe out through your mouth and let everything
in your body relax as you release that air. Self
care is what lets us refuel to be the best
version of ourselves. Now, I want you to find a
good pace to settle into for the rest of the show.

(04:59):
And as you do that, I'm going to share my
conversation with our guest, Nadine Robert's Cornish, and together we're
going to keep you company and learn more about how
we can take better care of ourselves as we care
for others. Today, I'm joined by Nadine Robert's Cornish, the
founder of The Caregiver's Guardian LLC. She founded the organization

(05:23):
after her own experience of being a caregiver to her
mother for fifteen years. Nadine discusses her story in her
book Tears in My Gumbo, The Caregiver's Recipe for Resilience. Nadine,
Welcome to care Walks. Thank you so m Tally. It's
great to see you, great to be here. Yes, I
love the title of your book, Tears in My Gumbo.

(05:48):
Can you tell us a little bit about what your
experience as a caregiver has been like? Absolutely so. My
personal experience of fifteen years caring for my mom was
the experience of a lifetime one. It was an opportunity
for me to give back to the person who gave
me life right, but it was probably the most challenging

(06:11):
and difficult experience I have ever encountered. And as a result,
my fifteen year experience caring for my mom, it literally
prepared me and set me up for the work that
I was placed here to do. And um so it's
been a heck of a journey. It's been now almost
twenty five years of supporting caregivers across the country and

(06:34):
helping caregivers recognize that they must, in fact make themselves
the number one priority in their lives. What I tell
all of all of my caregivers is that, um none
of us choose this path, and we're having to wear
hats or step into a role that we didn't see coming,
and in some instances we did see it coming, but

(06:56):
we still weren't ready for it. And is the most
transformative journey you're ever gonna travel. And I know you
know what I mean. So many caregivers we expect, we
really expect the journey to be as we anticipate it,
or we expect that who we are and how we

(07:19):
show up is good enough, but it really requires us
to change who we are. It does, and you're never
really prepared for how that manifests itself. Now just kind
of have to go with the flow. And that's one
of the hardest parts, at least for me. What what
would you say caregiving means to you? What does that

(07:40):
term mean? So what's interesting is that probably for my
first six or seven years of caregiving, I didn't see
myself as a caregiver. I certainly didn't think I was
wearing the caregiver's hat. I was a devoted daughter doing
the best I could for the best mom in the world.
It probably took a good six or seven years before

(08:03):
I really recognized that term as being applicable to me.
One I thought I was too young and too cute
to be a caregiver, okay, and so I wasn't really
ready or willing to embrace that title. But when I
really came to understand what it was that I was doing,
especially from an advocacy perspective, I was my mother's number

(08:26):
one advocate. And when I think I was more willing
to embrace that than I was the term caregiving because
of the stigma associated with a wait caregiving and uh,
the fact that I just really didn't see myself as
a caregiver until my mother suffered a stroke and then

(08:49):
I began the twenty four seven journey of caring for
her around the clock. Then I begin to feel and
identify as a caregiver. You mentioned the stigma of caregiving.
I'd like to talk a little bit about that and
what actually is that and how has that evolved over

(09:09):
the years. Well, a lot of people, especially professional women,
don't want to associate with the term caregiving because they
feel like it could have an impact on their professional life,
their career, the trajectory of that career, and so we
reject those things that we don't want to self identify with.

(09:32):
And many of the caregivers that I've worked with over
the years have rejected the term and they will say,
I'm a care partner. They will say, you know, look,
I take care of my loved one, but I don't
wear the caregiver hat or I don't identify as a caregiver.
The unfortunate part about that is that when you don't

(09:52):
identify as a caregiver, you oftentimes will close the door
to resources that are available to you, very necessary resources
that will support you through the journey, that will afford
you the opportunity to do the best possible job of
caring for your loved one as you navigate the journey, Nadine,

(10:15):
what do you wish you knew before becoming a caregiver?
What would have helped you on your journey? That is
a great question. I wish I had known that saying
yes to the caregiving journey meant that I was I
would would be required to change in such a way

(10:38):
that I would be able to grow and to meet
the demand of the journey. And that meant that means
giving up some of the things that I thought were
so important to me, being willing to do that so
that I could change and find and meet a better
version of myself. I had this idea that my life

(11:03):
was set in terms of what it was that I
was doing professionally. I had met my husband, and I
was pretty good, and I didn't need any new scenario.
I didn't need a new episode. I was really feeling
good about where I was. And the need to change

(11:26):
means that when life changes, you have to be willing
to change as well. You don't get to to play
the same old recording. You have to learn. You have
to be open to the idea of learning and uh
and doing things that you never thought you'd ever do.

(11:47):
You mentioned becoming an advocate for your mother as you
took on the role of caregiving, But how did you
approach advocating for yourself at that time? How did you
find your own voice during a time. And that's just
it's very hard to speak up for yourself. This is
good because it's so necessary. I had an advantage with

(12:08):
a background in public health. I knew how to advocate
for my mother. What I didn't know was how to
step back, to take care of myself, to let other
people take charge so that I could recharge, so that
I could really do the necessary work on myself so

(12:29):
that I was ready. Oftentimes we get really, we get
it really twisted. We think that we were supposed to
give and give and give and do and do until
there is nothing left. And we also have this complex
around stopping to take care of ourselves, this guilt associated

(12:50):
for so many people, and this this warped idea that
self care, taking care of yourself is a selfish act,
when in fact it is mandatory. Yes, and my book
I talked about it not it being non negotiable. Yes,

(13:11):
you cannot take care of someone else if you are
not making yourself a priority in the program and if
you are not finding a way, and I don't really
subscribe so much to balance, because balance, to me is
the fallacy harmony. However possible, you can find harmony, and

(13:34):
creating harmony when you are caring for a loved one
is absolutely essential, and sometimes that means giving up on
the idea of who's supposed to support you along this journey.
A lot of us get really caught up in the
idea that our our siblings are supposed to help carry
the weight, and many times and many families that simply

(13:58):
isn't the case. But because the sibling isn't willing to
do it, we say no to everyone else in community
that would be willing to support us. And so really
releasing the idea of who it must be and accepting
whoever it is that shows up to support you and
the journey is essential. Who that is a word right there.

(14:22):
I have a brother and after my father passed, my
brother said to me, you know, wow, you know you
did a really good job taking care of him. I said,
it was really hard. I needed a lot of help.
And he said, well, why didn't you ask for it? Well,
I mean I didn't ask, But couldn't you see how
hard I was working? And you you, you didn't offer.

(14:44):
And so I'm always telling people who ask, you know,
ask for the help, because a lot of times we don't.
We think that somebody sees how hard we're working and
how stressed we are, and they're just supposed to step
up and out of the goodness of their heart do it.
But a lot of time they don't know how. And
he said, I thought you had it. You look like
you had everything. So it's interesting when you mentioned siblings.

(15:06):
That's the first thing I thought of, Oh, yeah, that's
so good. And I appreciate that he told told you that,
and you're sharing that with us because it is essential.
It's essential to ask for help, and in some instances
is necessary to demand help. Yes, demand my families. I say, hey,
it's your time or your resources that are needed. This responsibility,

(15:30):
especially as it pertains to siblings, should not fall on
the shoulders of one individual. It takes a community, takes
a village, It definitely definitely does. We'll be right back
with more from Nadine Robert's Cornish and now back to

(15:58):
my conversation with Nadine Robert's Cornish how do you recharge, Nadine?
How what do you What are your most vital self
care practices? Prayer and meditation? Now, good, good, good, talk
about that a little bit. If you don't have a
spiritual practice, if you don't even know what that is,
caregiving will demand that you seek it out. You You

(16:21):
have to tap into something larger than yourself in order
to adequately complete this assignment. And for me, that is prayer,
that is meditation, that is writing and journally. That is
my recharge. And that's a daily practice. That's not something
that's done on an occasional basis. It is a discipline,

(16:44):
a discipline around making sure that I'm recharging and I'm
filling my cup because caregiving will empty it every single day.
There will not be a drop left, Yes, it will.
And how important is movement as a part of your
own soccer? You talked about journaling and praying, meditation, but

(17:05):
how how important is movement And what are your favorite
ways to stay physically active? And movement is essential? I
am now knocking on the door sixty two and on
being active, being physically fit is really important to me.
Dancing is a regular part of my regiment. I love music.

(17:26):
I love moving my body. I can't necessarily do all
of the latest moves, but I can give it a
world right, I'll bet you can do most of them. Hey,
I give it a good try. That's for sure. Getting
to the gym, and when I can't get to the
gym walking, I'm a power walker. And cycling was something
that I never saw. I didn't never saw myself as

(17:49):
a cyclist. But during the summer months, I live in
beautiful Colorado and we have some of the best mountain
paths and trails in the country, and I take full
advantage of it. I'm a cyclist, so I move, I
move my body. It is absolutely essential. You know, you've
been very open about the challenges of caregiving and how

(18:10):
hard it can be to prioritize oneself. How do you
convince other caregivers to take time for themselves. So every Monday,
I talked to caregivers across the country, calling all caregivers
is the call that we hold at twelve noon Mountain
standard time, and we welcome caregivers from across the country
and we hold court around the necessity of self care

(18:36):
and why it is non negotiable and what it is
that a caregiver must do, especially for those who are
especially challenged with the idea of taking care of themselves.
In addition to that, we do consultations and coaching calls
specifically for caregivers around this issue because it is such

(18:57):
a foreign concept unfortunately for so many caregivers women in
particularly to make themselves a priority. So that's one of
the first things that we teach our caregivers is we
teach them the concept of a color coded calendar and
to take whatever your favorite color is and make sure

(19:18):
that that favorite color shows up every single week. Schedule yourself,
make yourself a priority on your own calendar is the
first step in UH making time and creating time for self. Well,
I love the calendar idea. I think that's great. These
are things that when I was caregiving, as I started

(19:39):
caregiving at nineteen when my dad was diagnosed with Parkinson's
and I was young. Okay, I wasn't fifty seven like
I am now, so I didn't have to worry about
arthritis and my knees or any of that stuff. But
I never thought that I should stop to take care
of myself. My job was to take care of my dad,

(20:00):
and that's what I was gonna do, you know, and
so what what would you say that is the simplest
thing you would recommend to others to practice self care?
And how how do you help others find their self
care practices? Absolutely, we talk about separating who you are
from your caregiving responsibilities. And the first question we ask

(20:22):
is what is it that you love to do before
you became a caregiver, And so we start from there.
You know, what are the three things that you love
to do? Those things were important to you, then why
are they not important to you now? And oftentimes people realize, wow,

(20:43):
it's still important to me. I just don't make the
time for it. Yes, one of the things that tends
to go by the wayside as relationships. I used to
you know, take time and I would spend time with
my girls. Well, no, you don't have the time to
do that like you did, but certainly you could probably
find a day in the month where you're able to

(21:06):
have that girl's night out right, if that's important to you.
For some people, it's going to church. I would go
to church and that would give me such an uplifting
experience and I would feel so much better. And so
it's like, Okay, let's figure out how we can get
and find support for you so that you're able to

(21:27):
go to church, so that you're able to do that
thing that's most important to you. Could you maybe share
a mantra that caregivers can use to start or even
add to their mindfulness and meditation journey. One would be
caregiving is what I do, It is not who I am.

(21:49):
It's really important for the caregiver to separate themselves and
not to be so incredibly engulfed in the caregiving experience
that they confused the role of caregiving with their being. Oh,
I absolutely love that. I love that when you started

(22:09):
to really understand the importance of self care, How did
that practice change caregiving for you? Well, when you feel
better about yourself, you feel better about what you have
to do, you feel better about the um, the task
of caregiving. UM. You show up as a better version

(22:32):
of yourself. You're not quite as miserable, not quite as
grumpy or unhappy as you become when you don't make
self care priority. I was really fortunate and having my
husband as my monitor. He would constantly check in to say, Hey,

(22:52):
you're looking a little tired or more so than usual.
Your voice you know, there's a little edge to your voice.
You need the time out, right, go and take a
couple of hours, right, And so I was I was
fortunate to have that, and I really believe that was
absolutely a seed for me and the work that I do,
because I understand how important it is for the caregiver

(23:16):
to have that monitor, to have that support person who says,
you know, what, it's time for you to take a
time out. You have earned arrest. You need to take
a day, plan a couple of days, plan a weekend,
what have you? Right? And so as the caregiver's guardian,
that is very much what we do. What I do

(23:36):
every day with caregivers is that reminder, that monitor. Nadine
Robert's Cornish Thank you so much for being a part
of care Walks today. Your book tears in my gumbo.
The Caregiver's recipe for for resilience is out. Everybody should
get that. I really appreciate having this conversation with you today.

(23:58):
Thank you for being an amazing care giver. Thank you, Holly.
It's been great and I really appreciate all that you
are doing for caregivers across this country. Thank you so much.
I want to Thank Nadine again for being my guest today.
I really appreciated our conversation, touching on the stigmas of caregiving,

(24:21):
learning to prioritize your self care and being mindful of
burnout to avoid losing your identity and caregiving, I for
one fully relate to the struggles around making yourself a priority.
That's it for today's episode. Thank you once again to Nadine,
Robert's cornish and don't forget to come back next week
for another walk, where our guest Dr Amanda Nelson will

(24:43):
share how movement and physical activity can help us take
better care of ourselves and combat joint pain. And remember
keep walking and don't forget to take care of yourself too.
Care Walks is produce used by iHeart Radio in partnership
with volterin Arthritis Paine Gael and hosted by me Holly

(25:06):
Robinson Pete. Our executive producer is Molly Sosha. Our head
engineer is Matt Stillo. This episode was written and produced
by Sierra Kaiser, with special thanks to our partners at
g s K Platform, g s K, Weber, Shandwick and
Edelman
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