Snow Days and Caregiving

Remember the excitement you felt as a kid when you got a snow day?! Your imagination101_0378 (2013_08_25 00_18_56 UTC) went wild as you fantasized of the snow fort you would make next to your perfect snow man.

Unfortunately as we age, snow days become less exciting and more of an inconvenience. Making sure your car starts, getting someone to look after the kids (who are overjoyed at staying home from school), keeping the house warm without breaking the bank, trying to get to work without getting into an accident with the jerk in the SUV going way too fast for conditions.

If you have an elderly family member that you care for, the weather causes an even bigger issue as they are at greater risk in snowy conditions and freezing temperatures.
Here are some tips to assist your elderly loved one during the winter season:

  • Set up grocery or (better yet) pre-made meals delivery service – this will make sure your loved one has the food they need on a regular basis and will
  • Hire a service or young neighbors to shovel or snow blow your family member’s driveway and sidewalks if there’s a storm.
  • Make sure their furnace is in working and turned on – Have a service come out to check the furnace (before there’s an issue) to make sure it’s in working order.
  • Connect with your loved ones neighbors – exchange information with them so that if you’re not able to get your loved one you can contact them to check in on them.
  • Ask neighbors if they would mind checking the mail every few days – this will enable your family member to stay inside and avoid the possibility of falling and breaking a hip on the ice.
  • Put a list of emergency numbers on their refrigerator – include non-emergency police, fire, immediate relatives and neighbors.
  • Create an emergency plan – if you are unable to get to your loved one during a severe winter storm, create a plan that includes who will check in on your loved one during the storm, where they will go in case of a power outage and who will be in charge of coordinating and implementing the plan.
  • Encourage fluid intake. – Heating a home can cause the house to become dry and cause dehydration. Pick up some bottled water to keep in their fridge. Remind them that sugary drinks, caffeine, and alcohol act as diuretics so interchanging those fluids with water is important.
  • Encourage them to wear layers and avoid going outside if at all possible. – If they must go outside wearing rubber soled boots/shoes for traction, as well as utilizing an adaptive device such as a 3 prong cane for support is helpful.

Regularly check in on elderly relatives, friends and neighbors in person if possible. If you live far away, contact another relative, neighbor or someone from their local church/synagogue who can stop by and check on them.

For more support visit CaregiverLife.com

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Break up with Fear

I recently heard this wonderful song by Francesca Battistelli called “The Break Up Song”, where she breaks up with fear.

Here are some of the song lyrics:

Sick and tired of being sick and tired
Had as much of you as I can take
I’m so done, so over being afraid

Fear, you don’t own me
There ain’t no room in this story
And I ain’t got time for you
Telling me what I’m not
Like you know me well guess what?
I know who I am
I know I’m strong, brave
And I am free
Got my own identity
So fear, you will never be welcome here

For anyone hearing these lyrics, they would be powerful. For me, as a family caregiver they are also insightful.  It’s easy to have faith when things are going well.  When the test results are good or the treatment seems to be keeping the illness at bay.  However, when the results are not as good as hoped for or a new issue is found or the cancer has spread, it can become a little more difficult to live by faith as opposed to fear and dread for the future.

As a Christian I attempt to live daily in faith. Faith that God will heal my mom’s cancer, keep my family safe from harm and bring friends out of the chains of addiction. However, it’s not always as easy to live into when the doctor visit brings bad news or the call comes in that a friend has passed due to addiction.

The Good News is that there is hope.  Even when my faith grows weary, I have others that I can lean on for support and who will pray for me and my family when I am too weary to pray because current circumstances feel overwhelming. There is a hope and peace that surpass all human understanding.  That hope comes from a loving God who sent His son to walk among us and die so that we may be renewed in Him.

As Francesca sings in her song If We’re Honest:

Bring your brokenness, and I’ll bring mine
‘Cause love can heal what hurt divides
And mercy’s waiting on the other side.

So, tell fear to take a hike and hold onto hope.  Surround yourself with those who will lift you up and encourage you.  And if you don’t know Jesus, seek Him.  Here is a resource to help you connect https://www.exploregod.com/

To hear Francesca Battistelli Breakup Song click below

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Keep Your Eyes Open this Holiday Season

Many elderly are able to mask declining health throughout the year because they are able to keep a fairly steady routine. During the holidays, when schedules are more erratic, family caregivers may be able to detect signs of physical and mental decline in their aging loved ones. Knowing what to look for is crucial.

Physical changes including balance issues, decreased strength as well as lack of attention to personal hygiene and appearance can be a sign that there is a potential problem.

  • When you pick them up or dropping them off take note of their home: is it unusually disorganized or unclean?
  • Are they having trouble getting in and out of the car or chairs at a relative’s home?
  • Are they unsteady when having to go up or down stairs?
  • Are they dressing in more casual clothes than they would have in past years, wearing items that are easier to put on such as sweat-clothes or seasonally inappropriate clothing?
  • Do their clothes have stains on them or an odor as if worn numerous times and not washed?
  • Is their hair unkempt, especially women who would usually have their hair done for special occasions?
  • Is there a change in their physical odor due to lack of attention to their personal hygiene?

Mental changes including lack of usual interpersonal skills or inappropriate responses to questions, as well as uncharacteristic silence can be a sign that something has changed.

  • When driving them to or from a holiday gathering were they ready when you arrived?
  • Did they seem agitated or distracted?
  • Are they struggling to keep up with conversation or staying quiet when they would normally share their opinion or insight?
  • Are they able to appropriately answer direct questions?
  • Are they unable to make simple decisions or asking others to make decisions for them?
  • Do they become easily agitated over seemingly small issues or challenges?
  • Are they able to appropriately name or identify family and friends?

Other pro-active observations:

  • Look in the refrigerator to make sure they have a sufficient amount of groceries as well as look for potentially expired items.
  • Check prescription bottles to see if they have been refilled, note if they were all filled at the same or multiple pharmacies.

You’ve identified some areas of change – now what?

Take action!

  • Talk to your family member about scheduling an appointment with their physician and tell them you want to go along. If you are met with resistance be firm but loving in your desire to accompany them.
  • In preparation for the appointment, make a list of all medications taken by your loved one and research the potential side effects, as well as consult with a pharmacist about possible interactions.
  • Sit down ahead of time with your loved one and create a written list of questions for the doctor and bring the list with to the appointment.
  • Make sure all of your questions are answered during the appointment.

Be an advocate for your aging loved ones by being pro-actively aware of changes and assisting them in finding resources that can assist them in maintaining an optimal level of independence.

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Grief, Loss and the Holidays

The 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 CaregiverLife.com

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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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Be Prepared to Wait

During the last few years I’ve spent in more than my fair share of time waiting in a loved one’s hospital room.   As a result, I’ve become somewhat of an expert in the waiting experience.   Instead of hording this knowledge I figured it would be beneficial to share.

Tips

  • Dress comfortably – wear loose-fitting clothes and comfortable shoes to optimize your comfort in the hospital room chairs.
  • Connect with the staff –stop by the nurse’s station when you first arrive.  Ask what time they think the doctor might make rounds, or if they already have what did they say.  Check in with them from time to time to see if there are any updates.  Let them know if you have to leave the room for any reason, like going to the cafeteria for a bite to eat, and give them your cell phone number in case the doctor should arrive on the unit just after you stepped off.
  • Bring something to pass the time – bringing a book to read (or puzzle book); downloading games on your phone can help fill the wait time.  Make sure to bring the charger for your phone or computer just in case your battery starts to drain.
  • Be prepared to spend the day – sometimes things go exactly as planned and you get to speak with doctors shortly after you arrive and/or any scheduled tests are done in a timely manner, however; more often than not, there are unforeseen circumstances that can delay tests and push back doctor rounds. My aunt had a specialist who liked to do rounds at 9pm.  Sometimes I was at the hospital for 12 hours waiting to speak to all of her doctors.
  • Make sure the kids are taken care of – schedule others to drop off/pick up your kids from school or extra-curricular activities.
  • Protect your back – bringing a small pillow for your back can ease the pressure caused by uncomfortable chairs.
  • Stay hydrated and nourished – a small cooler bag with water/soda and snacks will help you keep your energy up and keep you from spending unwanted cash in the hospital cafeteria.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions – We often forget that the doctor works for us and will be billing for their time.  Write down your questions and make sure you ask all of them.
  • Take notes – Jotting down important information can help you recall things that were said later.  Don’t be embarrassed to write things down.  A lot of information is coming at you and it is important for you to remember what has been said.  Ask them to repeat the information and/or spell names of medications, tests and diagnoses.  A
  • Ask them to explain – if you don’t understand something that is said, tell them.  You are not expected to know medical jargon or what every test is for.  Ask them the reasoning why they are running certain tests, what they expect to find out from the test and how quickly you will be able to get the results of those tests.
  • Create a mass information system – whether through Twitter/ Facebook, bulk email/text, let others know ahead of time which method of communication you will be utilizing to keep others updated.  This will keep you from having to make multiple phone calls to share the same information.

When someone is in the hospital it can be nerve-racking.  Being pro-active about filling your wait time and communication methods can ease some of the stress.

 

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Be Dementia Friendly – An Infographic! — Be Dementia Friendly: Where Safe Communities Are All The Buzz!

via Be Dementia Friendly – An Infographic! — Be Dementia Friendly: Where Safe Communities Are All The Buzz!

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