Coping with Loss during the Holidays

holiday griefThe Hallmark movies always conclude with some type of Christmas miracle and joy for the characters in the story, however; in real life many people are experiencing unimaginable grief and loss during this holiday season. The journey of grief seems to become heightened during the holidays many times by the desire to experience those Hallmark moments of peace and joy. For many they put on a happy face and push forward through the season not feeling very holly or jolly but not wanting to burden others with their overwhelming feelings of sadness.

Though it may not seem possible to some there are ways to enjoy the holidays while experiencing the grief.

  • Acknowledge the loss: it is unrealistic to think that you can go to events with family and friends and not recognize that someone is missing or that due to unforeseen circumstances things in life have changed. This does not mean dwell on the loss; just acknowledge the challenges of moving forward in spite of the loss.
  • Tell people what you need: firmly, yet lovingly make others aware of what you need from them. Whether it’s a listening ear, some time to yourself or the distraction of going to a holiday event, being upfront about your needs will assist other in understanding how they can support you through the season.
  • Give yourself permission to say “no”: you don’t have to attend every event, party or program you may be invited to.
  • Give yourself permission to have fun without feeling guilty: when struggling with a significant loss we can sometimes get so caught up in our sadness that we actually feel bad when we are enjoying ourselves. Experiencing laughter and joy this season, in spite of the loss is good not only for your emotional health but your physical health as well.
  • Take care of yourself FIRST: grief takes a lot out of us emotionally, mentally and physically so make sure you are taking time to eat, rest and play.

For those who want to support someone who is coping with loss I share the following story: I received a call Thanksgiving morning from my best friend and neighbor, Heidy asking if she could come down and talk for a few minutes. Upon her arrival she tearfully shared how sad she was that her dad, who passed away a few months back, would not be around to celebrate the holidays.

My response was to listen, share how sorry I was that her dad died and let her know that I loved her and was here any time she needed me. I didn’t try to talk her out of her grief. I didn’t try to cheer her up. I just made myself available. Most of the time that what someone really needs is to have a friend who cares and is willing to listen (and give hugs if needed).

Blog note: Keep in mind that the experience of loss can also include the pain of losing a job, home, relationship or physical abilities.

For more support and resources visit

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November is National Caregivers Month

According to a study by the National Alliance for Caregiving in 2015, an estimated 43.5 million adults in the United States, provide unpaid care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member or friend during any given year and spend an average of 20 hours per week providing care for their loved one.

Highlights of Today’s Caregivers

  • 82% care for one person who is likely either living with the caregiver or living within 20 minutes of the caregiver.
  • 60% of caregivers are female. The typical caregiver is a 49-year-old female caring for a 69-year-old female relative, most likely her mother.
  • 40% of caregivers are male.
  • 34% of caregivers have a full-time job, while 25% work part-time. Caregivers who work do so for 34.7 hours per week on average.
  • Caregivers have been caring for 4 years on average, spending 24.4 hours per week helping with activities like bathing, dressing, housework, and managing finances.
  • 32% provide at least 21 hours of care a week, on average providing 62.2 hours of care weekly.
  • 38% of caregivers report high emotional stress from the demands of caregiving.

(Statistics provided by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP: Caregiving in the U.S. 2015)

Caring for a loved one is very stressful.  Caregivers need support, but most do not know how where to find it or how to ask for it.  This can lead to loneliness and depression.

If you are a caregiver, create a support system.

  • Check for local caregiver support groups
  • Ask people in your close circle for help
  • Make taking care of yourself a priority

If you know someone who is caring for a loved one, call, text or send them a special card in the mail to let them know that you are thinking of them or offer help if you can (i.e. staying with the loved one while the caregiver goes to a support group).  Sometimes, they just need to know that someone is thinking of them and little gestures can make a big difference.


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Keys to Caring for Yourself

Image result for self care quotes

It‘s one thing to gear up for a short-term crisis. But it takes different skills to provide care over a longer period of time. You’ll be more successful if you learn to take care of yourself, starting immediately. Some things to remember:

  • You cannot be perfect
  • You have a right to all of your emotions (See FCA Fact Sheet Emotional Side of Caregiving.)
  • Depression is the most common emotion of long-term caregivers
  • Set realistic expectations—for yourself and your loved one
  • Learn about the disease and what you can expect
  • Learn the skills you need to care for the care receiver and which ones you are or are not able to perform
  • Learn to say “no” to things you cannot do
  • Learn to accept help from others
  • Build resilience
  • Identify your button-pushers/stressors
  • Identify your coping skills
  • Remember the big three for successful coping:
    • Eat right—good nutrition as opposed to stress-snacking. Limit alcohol and other drugs
    • Exercise—it may be hard to find time but it’s the best cure for depression and increases your endorphins (“good” coping hormones)
    • Sleep—7-8 hours is hard to get, but essential. Admit when you are experiencing burnout and get help

Most importantly, remember that taking care of yourself is as important as taking care of someone else.    

For more support visit the Family Caregiver Alliance/National Center on Caregiving @

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The Grief Journey

Grief 1

Many people I’ve spoken with about grief think that there is a “time of mourning”. This would suggest a beginning as well as an end. I believe that grief is a journey that has no end date, it simply changes over time. There are many different stages of this journey, however; grieving a loss doesn’t come to some sort of end during our lifetime it merely changes as time travels forward.

Over the last decade as our family experienced several deaths, both expected and unexpected. I observed the reactions of family and friends to these losses. Based on these observations I created 4 grief reaction categories.

  • Action Heroes: these are the “get it done” grievers who spring into action, coordinating, communicating and arranging, as if being in constant motion will keep them from the painful reality of the loss.
  • Lamenters: these grievers bemoan their grief and cannot have any conversation without bringing awareness to their loss, focusing mostly on their guilt and regrets associated with the loss.
  • Frozen Stiffs: almost paralyzed by the loss they cannot be in action, nor can they bemoan their loss. They usually have a somewhat blank effect and are unable to make any decisions, even simple ones.
  • Disconnects: this category of mourners literally detach themselves emotionally from the situation and functions in a “business as usual” atmosphere.

Clearly, there is no right or wrong way to react to tragedy and, for those of us trying to support our grieving friends and family, we should keep in mind that grief is more of a marathon than a sprint.

Suggestions on how to help others in the days, weeks and years that pass after a loss.

  • Stay connected: reach out to those who are grieving especially during the year following the loss. Recognize important dates (birthdays/ anniversaries) of the person who is gone.
  • Give them permission to have fun: Sometimes we need to give others permission to laugh in spite of their loss. However; don’t push them too much to get out and have fun, they will need to do this in their own time. There will be times when they will want to and other times when they will not.
  • Sometimes there are no words and that is OK! You don’t always need to have something to say, sometimes just showing up and sitting with them can be enough.
  • Help them in finding support from professionals such as a grief counselor or Pastor. Offer to make the call to a counselor/Pastor for them. Though grief is a journey, some people can get stuck in the overwhelming feeling of their loss and need professional help to move them forward.

I’m sure there are many more ideas to support to those around us who are grieving so please feel free to post your ideas.

For more resources visit: Caregiver Life

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The Growing Silent Crisis: Working Caregivers Crying Out For Help

At a time when private enterprises are trying to increase productivity, reduce costs and enhance the quality of their products or services there is a growing crisis in corporations today that is preventing them from achieving their corporate goals. Few companies realize the implications working caregivers have on their internal costs and their bottom line. Still fewer companies even know where to look for these hidden costs. Only one in seventy midsize to larger companies knows how to address this issue.

The closest thing a company associates with the cost of caregiving to the company is the absenteeism reports. Even in cases where absenteeism is recorded, the relationship between the numbers of days missed by workers and the reason for the number of days is not clearly established. Absenteeism may be the most obvious cost to the workforce, but it is not the only cost or the most expensive cost. Other factors such as attrition, loss of good workers, increased health insurance coverage, overtime, and constant recruitment of new workers also cost the company and the workers.

The number of caregivers in the workforce has increased threefold in the last five years and will continue to increase in the next ten years. What we are seeing today is only the beginning and unless companies begin to help their working caregivers they themselves will not be able to keep their competitive advantage in the global economy. This is no longer a problem that affects only women in the workforce or lower income workers, but is a problem that exists at the CEO level as well as the lower administrative levels of the company echelon. This is a problem that also affects working men, and young and older workers alike. For years the problem has been handled by the mid level managers who have used leniency in granting permission for workers to leave early, come late, refuse to work overtime and while the managers have done their best to help good workers balance jobs and work the poor workers have been left alone to tackle the problem. For years the problem has been handled silently by the working caregiver who has given up promotions, careers, training opportunities to provide care to a family member. But these individual solutions are no longer appropriate or recommended.

The first sign of relief for working caregivers came with the passage of the Family Leave Act which allows workers to take time off to care for a frail family member. This law helps working caregivers by guaranteeing their jobs while they take unpaid leave to care for the family member. But it does nothing to educate, facilitate, support and provide the necessary assistance to working caregivers after the crisis situation ends. It does nothing for the company which loses a valuable worker on a temporary basis and is replaced by a not so experienced worker. Many working caregivers have forfeited this unpaid leave option because of the unbearable financial burden giving up a paycheck represents to them and even though they needed the time off they were not able to afford it. Many working caregivers are not even aware of the law that protect them from losing their jobs.

Many working caregivers have given up a job at a financial cost to be borne by them alone for years to come. Financial costs in the form of a lower pension or no pension at all, lower social security at the time of retirement and the loss of a job at a time in their lives when finding another job becomes almost impossible.
We have reached a point in the road that something should be done. On one hand government can pass a law to financially support the Family Leave Act by mandating that employers with more than 50 workers offer at least a portion of the time off with pay. California is the first state in the nation that has passed such a law. On the other hand, companies are requesting that the Mandates of the Family Leave Act be weakened in the form of less time off or plain dismissal. This is not going to solve the core problem, on the contrary, it will produce more absenteeism, loss of good workers and increases in health care coverage resulting from higher health claims by working caregivers.

The solution from the point of view of the working caregivers and from the financial perspective of the company is one and the same. That mutually beneficial solution is for companies to include in their benefit package a working caregiver assistance program. Those companies that have done it have achieved a higher degree of worker satisfaction, reduced attrition of good workers, have increased the quality of their products and services and kept the loyalty and goodwill of their workforce. For working caregivers this has been the answer to their prayers. They no longer have to miss work, come late, leave early, be on an infinite number of phone calls or spend their entire working day worried about mother, father, or husband at home.

In my years helping working caregivers have found that a successful caregiver support program goes beyond information and provides intervention, services and ongoing support tailored to the needs of each individual caregiver. I have also found that if corporations see this as an imposition, not as a quality control measure, they will never make the investment in the program. It is up to us caregivers to make the corporate world aware of our needs and to support efforts that will alleviate our ongoing burden. Contact your human resource department and find out what they offer in terms of working caregivers, and if they don’t, let them know that assistance exists to support corporations to deal with this challenging and growing crisis.

For corporations to maintain their competitive advantage in the global market they need dedicated and experience workers willing to give 120% to their jobs this is achievable is they now that corporations are willing to help with their family caregiving responsibilities. The rewards are there for companies that provide assistance to the working caregivers. This is an investment that at the end will save money and generate goodwill for all. (taken from an article written by Gema G. Hernandez, D.P.A.)

For more information on Education and Resources for Working Caregivers go to:
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Don’t Get Scammed!

Widespread scams targeting bank customers nationwide. Use caution when discussing your personal information, especially bank accounts over the phone as you could be chatting with a scammer, disguised a bank employee.

Here are some ways you can outwit the scammer

Verify only your name and secret question.
Do not provide any additional account details. If they ask too many personal questions or ask for your full social security number, HANG UP!

Ask questions.
Asking questions like “When’s the last time I called you?” may prompt the fraudster to hang up.

Deny requests for a one-time passcode.
Most banks will never ask if they can text you a one-time passcode to verify your account. These scammers will.

Call your bank directly if something feels suspicious.
Tell the caller you need to call them back and ask for the number you can use.  DO NOT call that number until you look at your bank information from either your statements or their website and confirm that the numbers are the same.  I do this every time I get a call from any financial institution.

Better to be cautious than careless with your personal information. Stay safe out there!

Reference: Ally Bank

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This just in: CEO’s starting to see the need for increased wellness programs

I just recently ran across an article that stated employer’s are starting to see the need for increased wellness programs and that on the executive level.

It began with a survey that gauges employers’ attitudes and strategies on the different stages of implementing a wellness program and found that more senior-level executives are supporting the company’s wellness initiatives.

Here are the findings:

Senior management’s support of improving employee health jumped to 42% in 2010, compared with 6% in 2009, according to experts in Willis North America’s human capital practice.

In the survey, participants were asked to describe wellness program components, incentives, participation rates, vendor satisfaction and how program results are measured. The company polled 1,949 individuals and 71% of participants employed 500 or fewer workers.

While it is encouraging to see organizational support at the senior level significantly increasing, the survey [also] indicates a need to focus programs on increased employee engagement,” says Cheryl Mealey, national practice leader of wellness consulting, at Willis North America. “Senior management is really starting to embrace the idea that our health impacts how we work, and how we work impacts our health,” she adds.

Survey participants ranked “management support and a strong internal leader championing wellness within the organization” as the two most important factors in maintaining a successful wellness program. Other key factors cited to sustain a strong wellness program included marketing and communication efforts, setting specific goals and strategic planning.

The need for strategic planning is rising because of the rising health care costs associated with so many things such as caring for family members with disabilities, elder-care issues, etc. and the stress involved in daily work/life issues.

Meanwhile, Mealy advises employers to invest more resources in training to assist mid-level managers to better understand the link between health and productivity.

She goes on to say “Our survey findings show that only 5% of respondents offer such training. The relationship an employee has with his or her direct supervisor is of paramount importance, not only in relation to engagement and job satisfaction, but also to overall health and well-being.”

Also, “Organizations need to rethink their incentive and communication strategies and determine whether their approach is resulting in compliance with a series of defined tasks, or true engagement in health improvement and ultimately in the success of the business. Increasingly, we are seeing that the two go hand-in-hand,” Mealey adds.

Other key findings from the survey include:

  • One-third of employers did not agree that financial rewards should be used to encourage healthy lifestyles, a 15% increase over the 2009 survey results.
  • Nearly 45% of participants reported insufficient time or not enough staff as the most significant barrier to offering a wellness program, followed by budget constraints at 43%.
  • Fifty-three percent of employers indicated they had some type of wellness program. Of those with a wellness program, 57% describe their program as “basic.”
  • Seventy-eight percent of employers reviewed their health care cost trends prior to implementing a wellness program.
  • Only 28% of responding employers have a specific and defined strategy in place to improve employee engagement in the workplace. Of the organizations that have a formal strategy, 64% considered their work-site wellness program to be an important part of their overall employee engagement strategy.
  • About 38% of survey respondents indicated they did not have sufficient data to calculate ROI.

If these issues are considered from executive leaders within the corporations and businesses and strategic plans are put in place to address these issues before a crisis the return on investment is huge. Increased productivity and a healthier work environment become a win-win situation for all involved.

For more information on this subject and more on implementing wellness programs go to



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