Snow Days

Remember the excitement you felt as a kid when you got a snow day?!  Your imagination snow-day-games-425a-102909went 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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Choose your Attitude – You are in Control

I love this story.  I’m not sure who wrote it, but I do know it is always inspiring when I get in the way of my own joy.

A 92-year-old, petite, well-poised and proud man, who is fully dressed each morning by eight o’clock, with his hair fashionably combed and shaved perfectly, even though he is legally blind, moved to a nursing home today. His wife of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary.

After  many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, he smiled sweetly when told his room was ready. As he maneuvered his walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of his tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on his window.  “I love it,” he stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy.

“Mr. Jones, you haven’t seen the room; just wait.” “That doesn’t have anything to do with it” he replied. “Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn’t depend on how the furniture is  arranged … it’s how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it. It’s a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful  for the ones that do.  Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open, I’ll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I’ve stored away.. Just for this time in my life. Old age is like a bank account. You withdraw from what you’ve put in. So, my advice to you would be to deposit a lot of happiness in the bank  account of memories! Thank you for your part in filling my Memory Bank. I am still depositing.”

He went on to say:

Remember the five simple rules to be happy:

1. Free your heart from hatred.

2. Free your mind from worries.

3. Live simply.

4. Give more.

5. Expect less.

You have a choice EVERY day – choose happiness, joy and love!

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Dealing with the “Negative Nancie’s” in our lives

I love the new terms this generation uses for certain things especially things like, “You’re such a Debbie Downer” or “Negative Nancy.” I just laugh every time I hear one of those comments.

What’s not funny is having to live with someone who is just that!

Whether it is a spouse, friend, family member or coworkers, it is always a challenge to remain positive in a negative society. Maybe it’s an elderly parent or loved one who may never have been negative their whole life and now that they are getting older or may even be experiencing some stage of dementia that may be altering their perception of things, it’s still so difficult being on the other side of these folks who continually drain you of your own hope and outlook in life.

Negative people tend to leave others around them drained, tired and lethargic. No matter what you say, they always seem to find a way to counter with a negative opinion. When they face a problem, they soak themselves in the issue rather than deal with it constructively. They adopt a self-victimizing mindset, complaining about whatever happens.

Even when you try to change the topic to something positive, they have a way to turn it into something negative. They are constantly fixated with the doom and gloom of (their) life. The old “somebody’s done me wrong” song. Everything is black; there is no white. In the event there is some element of positivity that enters their spectrum, they are quick to excuse that as a one-off encounter or see the dark side behind that.

To negative people, life just sucks. They remain in a “victim” mentality.

HOW DO WE RESPOND?

Here are a few things you can do when dealing with a negative, aging parent or loved one:

Allow them to express their negativity. The elderly often feel like their opinions and thoughts don’t matter. If you allow them to have their say without any retort, that will likely be the key that allows them to soften a bit.  You may not agree with what they have to say, but realizing that it isn’t a personal attack against you can alleviate a load of stress.

Here are a few more:

  • Practice being patient. Because they can’t do things on their own, they feel inclined to tell you exactly how to do it. Your position is that it will get done, regardless. Their position is that it won’t be done right unless you do it they way–the way they would’ve done it. Sometimes letting it go in one ear and out the other works here, and sometimes it doesn’t. In those instances where you feel ready to explode, it’s best to take a break, step outside for a few minutes and take deep, calming breaths. When you’ve cleared your mind, you can go back in with renewed energy and complete the task.
  • Smile often. It’s hard to smile during a time when you feel your efforts are in vain. Tuning out the negativity and thinking about a funny joke or something humorous your children have done can produce a genuine smile. This often works to stop the criticism and alleviate tension. When your parent sees you smiling, tell them the joke or story you were thinking about and have a good laugh together.
  • Go in with gusto! When you have mentally prepared yourself not to be stressed, you will be able to have more patience to deal with your parent. Go in talking about anything or everything. Talking about other things with you takes their mind off the bitterness and helplessness they feel. Ask what their opinions on different topics are. Ask them questions. Ask them to tell you stories about their life. This makes them feel useful, and gives them a feeling that they have something important to contribute.
  • Sometimes it is necessary to get away for a few days. Ask a close family member or a friend to take over for you for a few days. Take this time to spend with others or by yourself doing what you want to do. Take in a couple of movies and escape into fantasy for a while. Getting away every so often will give you a renewed sense of hope and allow you more patience to deal with your parents for another week or two.

I understand it can really be a drag and drain the life out of you if you allow their negativity to bring you down (believe me, I understand). But we must not allow their responses, words or actions to pull us in to their negative world.

The question is – “How do we continue to maintain our hope and sanity in the midst of negativity?”

Now mostly, I just laugh it off because it has become a habit or learned behavior on their part. I will not give in to that negative pattern and allow it to divert my course, even for a moment! I challenge you to do the same.

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This Job Sucks (and other Important Caregiving Information)

Help sign - this job sucksWhile making visiting with a friend who just lost his sister, he shared how difficult it was for him especially as she had chosen him (above her parents, children and other siblings) to be her Power of Attorney (POA). His sister had been in end stage cancer and he had to make some very difficult decisions about her care at the end. Having spoken with her at length about what she did and did not want done to prolong her life he followed her wishes and made decisions accordingly, which meant not approving a procedure that would have been very painful and would have done little to change the outcome.

Those who have never had to make potentially life/death decisions cannot imagine the strength it takes to make these types of choices, even if it is following the directions of your loved one to the letter.

As I have shared in my speaking and blogging, choosing a POA (and making sure it is the right person for the job) is imperative. (See FYI about POA). However, being named as the “chosen one” has its burdens as well.

Here are just a few:

  • You may question why you were picked
  • Others may question why you were picked, thinking they would have been a better choice.
  • Knowing the right time/situation to step in to help someone in making difficult health-care decisions.
  • Having the strength to make difficult decisions IN SPITE OF your emotions and/or the emotions of other family members.
  • Having the courage to make difficult decisions IN SPITE OF the criticism of those around you.

Sounds daunting but have heart there is hope.

Here are some steps that you can encourage the person who has deemed you the “chosen one” to take once they have made their decision

  • Have a very direct and serious conversation about what they want/don’t want in certain situations. Use the “what if” blog as a starting point.
  • Ask them to write down in DETAIL what they would or would not want if certain situations were to arise (helpful tool – 5 wishes)
  • Ask them to share their decision to choose you with other family members (nothing worse than someone else thinking they are in charge only to realize they were not the “chosen one”), as well as share that their wishes are written down in detail and you are to follow their instructions.
  • Make sure that everyone in the family understands that this was their decision and that this is not about “favorites”, it is about who THEY FEEL is able to manage the care in the fashion requested by the assignee.

Important point!!

**Just because someone asks you to be his or her power-of-attorney does not mean you have to say “yes”.

You must be willing and able to follow their wishes IN SPITE OF your own thoughts, feelings or emotional connection and have thick skin and an unwavering spirit to face the potential hostile response/criticism that may come from other family members. If you do not think you can do that, you should be honest with them and graciously decline and share the reasons.

For more support/resources visit: CaregiverLife.com

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A New You for the New Year!

“If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.” 2013-Top-10-Web-Sites-for-New-Year-ResolutionThomas Jefferson

As a new year rolls in many will set “resolutions” for the upcoming year.  Some will involve weight loss; career changes, financial planning, and the list could go on and on…

Resolution isn’t the only thing needed to create a new way of living.

You can resolve to change habits and adjust attitude however; if you continue to live your life as you have, you will continue to get what you have gotten. In life, everything is in continuous motion and therefore constantly changing. From day-to-day and sometimes minute to minute things can change. The key is in altering your reaction to change, and be willing to take risks.

Viewing change as something that will always be, instead of something you are fighting against, can lead to opportunities to live into a new way of being both inwardly and outwardly.

Questions to Consider:

  • How have I been reacting to the flow of changes in my life?
  • What is my usual pattern of reaction to change?
  • How does my reaction affect those around me (family, friends, husband, and kids)?
  • How does my reaction to change affect my overall health?
  • What can I do differently that will create a new way of being?

Take time this New Year to address reactions that diminish your capacity to make a difference in your life and the lives of those around you will make for a healthier and more power-filled year and life.

Happy New Year!

For more resources visit: CaregiverLife.com

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Holiday love for the caregiver in your life – Guest Post

Family caregivers are the hardest working people you’ll ever know. They’ve given up their freedom and free time to tend to the needs of their husband, wife, mother, sister, child or even a stranger due to an illness, disability or injury. They are under constant stress, often working full-time jobs and losing sleep to help someone in need.

Caregivers are prone to depression and stress-related illnesses, and they often neglect their own healthcare needs in order to care for someone else. They often feel overwhelmed, lonely, worried and tired. Self-care is important to the well-being of caregivers, but they often don’t know how or where to get it. The holidays are a great time to show the caregiver in your life that you care about him or her, and you understand their plight.

First, if you suspect that your caregiver friend is suffering from mental health issues related to caregiving, work with him or her and encourage them to get the help they need. Encourage him or her to see a doctor who may prescribe some anti-anxiety medication or stress-relief activities.  If they need to see a therapist, offer to sit with their charge while they go to appointments. Mental wellness is important so that he or she can continue to provide quality care for others, as well as live their own life of fulfillment.

Here are some gift ideas for the caregiver in your life:

  1. Time — Spend time with him or her. Often, they are isolated and just need someone to talk to and vent. Take him or her out for coffee and be a good friend. If they insist they can’t leave their person, bring over some lattes or a bottle of wine and visit.
  2. A day off — Respite is an important part of care. Giving the caregiver a break can make a world of difference. Offer to take over care for a day or two while he or she goes to do something fun, such as shopping, seeing a movie or going out-of-town.
  3. Clean the house — Offer to clean their house for them. You can do it yourself or pay for a cleaning service. Or, if they don’t live with the person they care for, offer to clean that person’s house so that the caregiver doesn’t have to worry about those chores.
  4. Give food — Whether you cook for them or you pay for the food, any day you don’t have to spend time in the kitchen is a break. Cook a nice casserole that can be frozen and then popped in the oven, or pay for dinner delivery. There are lots of delivery services that pick up takeout from restaurants and deliver them, and most of them offer gift certificates.
  5. Transportation — Driving someone around town to doctors’ appointments and therapy sessions can get expensive, especially when gas prices go up. Give him or her a gift card for gas for the car, or for a ride-sharing service. Helping him or her get around town will remove a bit of the burden of movement.
  6. A night out — A gift certificate for dinner and a movie for him or her and a friend can give a nice night of respite. But don’t just give the gift; offer to take over duties while the caregiver has his or her evening out. They can’t use the gift if they’re stuck at home because nobody is willing to help.
  7. Pampering — Give a massage, manicure, pedicure, spa visit or whatever you think he or she might enjoy. You can give a gift card (make sure to include a tip), or do it yourself, with that bottle of wine you brought over.

Remembering the hard work your caregiver is doing is essential to helping him or her through this time. They will feel better and thus give better care and have better health — thanks to your considerate gift.

Guest Blogger Beverly Nelson: Beverly Nelson is the creator of Stand Up For Caregivers, which aims to help protect and advocate for the health and well being of adult caregivers.  For more information visit standupforcaregiver.org

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It’s My Privilege

Me & Aunt Josie helping me during a book signing

I was recently watching the show The Middle.  In the show Frankie has to take care of her mother after a hospital stay.  What ensues is a lot of humor and chaos (much like real life caregiving).  After much frustration with her mother and lots of wearisome tears, her mother says “I’m so sorry you have to take care of me”, to which Frankie replies “it’s my privilege”.   She then shares how when she was a new mother, her mother would always show up to help her manage her small children and when she would apologize for all of the chaos her mother would simply respond “It’s my privilege”.

And so, goes the circle of life….

So many times, as I’ve supported family members in need of care, I have forgotten that it is a privilege to take care of others and that those I have cared for have been people who have always shown up for me.  I remember my Aunt Josie apologizing for having to rely on me so much, to which I would reply “if the roles were reversed, you would do it for me”.  Which I know she would have and had in the past.  About 10 years ago, I had a surgery which left me laid up at home for several weeks, my mom and aunt came over and made meals, tidied up my house and made sure I was taken care of during my recovery.

What the care recipients in my life failed to understand is that how they have shown up for me and those around them, is how I learned to show up for them and others in my life…by example. So, what are some takeaways?

  • Showing up to support and care for others is a choice
  • Taking care of those you love is a privilege
  • The way you show up for others is setting an example for those around you

Thank you for being the kind of person who shows up for others (even when it’s really hard).

 

 

 

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