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Alicia's thoughts, tips and tactics for caregivers

Put Your Mind to the Test 

It is no secret that doing crossword puzzles or brain teasers help keep our brains active and healthy, and medical research has actually shown that when people keep their brains active their thinking skills are less likely to decline. 

Luckily, we are living in a time where people of all ages are becoming more tech savvy, downloading and using applications on a tablet or a smart device.  Among the millions of applications that can be helpful for caregivers (for organization, emergency information, sharing tasks etc etc) there are many great brain fitness apps as well. 

“Lumosity” and “CogniFit” are among the thousands of brain stimulating apps that are geared towards improving cognitive abilities with puzzles focusing on memory, attention and problem solving.  

This is a fun way for your loved one, and yourself, to break a mental sweat every day! 

Healthy Helpings 

March is National Nutrition Month, which is a perfect time to think about your loved one and your own nutrition and eating habits. Whether your loved one has a health condition which requires them to follow a specific diet or not, it is good to understand and follow a healthy guideline. The National Institute on Aging shared these helpful tips to get people of any age started:

Eat many different colors and types of vegetables and fruits.
Make sure at least half of your grains are whole grains.
Eat only small amounts of solid fats and foods with added sugars. Limit saturated fat (found mostly in foods that come from animals).
Eat “good” (poly- and monounsaturated) fats, like those found in seeds, nuts, avocados, and fatty fish like salmon. Any fats added in cooking should come from olive, canola, corn, or vegetable oil.
Eat seafood twice a week. Small fish, like sardines or trout, or farm-raised fish (check the label) contain less mercury than large fish, like tuna. Mercury can be harmful.

You can also visit our page, Meals and Nutrition Programs, here on Caregiving MetroWest to learn more about meals offered in your community or receiving a nutrition assessment for education or counseling. 

Plant Food for Thought 

Is your loved one someone who used to, or still does, enjoy gardening? They may not be able to get out and dig in the garden anymore but having a plant inside to care for may being some of the same wonderful benefits. 

Not only are plants aesthetically pleasing and it is said they can purify the air in our homes; they can also bring a sense of responsibility, independence and control to an elder who lives alone or is in need of a companion that doesn’t take much effort to care for. 

So for these benefits and more perhaps your loved one will get great satisfaction in the addition of a new house plant! 

Don't Forget to Breathe

We all need a reminder sometimes to just breathe, so here is today's.

Breathe slowly in through your nose and slowly out through your mouth. Breathe from your abdomen and deeply to get all of the fresh oxygen you can. Try to find even 30 seconds throughout your day to breathe. Count this as “me time."

Why are these small breathing sessions so helpful? Because your body has a relaxation response and the fresh oxygen will bring your nervous system back into balance and your body and mind back into a state of equilibrium.

In short, a break like this can reset you and help you to take on the day or a difficult moment. 

Cooking under Pressure

I saw this title somewhere and had to share it! I also wanted to share a quick easy breakfast idea that has gotten a lot of buzz lately and I think it is perfect for caregivers themselves or to make for your loved one. It is, of course, overnight oats!

For overnight oats you simply put the ingredients into a jar or bowl, mix, cover and put in the fridge overnight. In the morning a healthy, delicious breakfast is waiting for you. Enjoy cold or warm. Here’s a classic recipe for overnight oats:

⅓ cup plain Greek yogurt
½ cup (heaping) rolled oats
⅔ cup unsweetened milk of choice
1 tablespoon chia seeds or ground flaxmeal
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
0-2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup

Memory Cafe

Have you heard of memory cafés? They are popping up all over the place and are giving caregivers and their loved ones a place to go to connect with others and enjoy some time ... together. I have recently heard great feedback from caregivers who have attended a memory café near them and thought I should share. 

Caregiving MetroWest has a recent blog about some changes to a few memory cafés in this area (find it here) with a great quote from Pleasantries owner and director Tammy Pozerycki, as she describes her Café as “a time to step out of the daily routine, leave the disease at the door, and enjoy a positive experience in a supportive environment. The afternoon will consist of entertainment, conversation, music, arts, games, refreshments, and most importantly, laughter.” 

Find the memory café list for our area on the Support Group page. 

Happy New Year

As the New Year approaches it is a great time to start thinking about some new goals or resolutions that you might want to achieve (or give up) in 2017. If you’re looking for some ideas you have come to the right place, here are a few thoughts:

-Hold a family meeting
-Hire someone or ask a family member for help
-Give yourself a break
-Give up negative self-talk
-Sign up for the gym or a yoga class
-Start a journal
-Join a support group
-Check the Wellness Wall more often (wink wink)

Get as specific as you like but remember to choose something that is for YOU, is reachable, and start small to work up to a bigger accomplishment. 

Wishing you strength and love in 2017 

Bundle Up 

Today seems appropriate for the topic of Cold Weather Safety considering the temperature high is 16 degrees. If you are lucky enough to have lived in this region in past winters you may be familiar with the hazards of the frigid temperatures, snow, and seasonal depression that can accompany it all. 

There are several things to remember when approaching the cold weather months, especially if you are caring for a loved one who is elderly. But regardless of age you should be prepared for a safe winter. 

In January 2015 Douglas Flynn did a Q&A with Judith Boyko, MBA, MS, RN, CEO of Century Health Systems. The blog titled Caregiving Chronicles Q&A: Winter safety tips and advice for caregivers and their loved ones is a great place to find safety topics such as keeping your home warm, addressing outdoor hazards, the flu shot, stocking up on food and seasonal depression tips. 

There are also many places to find cold weather resources such as fuel assistance. Find more information on our Additional Resources page or talk to your Caregiver Specialist about other assistance programs that may be available in you or your loved one's area. 

Stay warm! 

Light up the Holidays 

The holiday season can be a joyous time of year. But sometimes it can also pack on more stress, resentment or emotional hardship. As a caregiver, you give all year, how could you possibly give even more during the holiday season? 

I wanted to share a tip from the AARP holiday tips page that I found very enlightening:

“Acknowledge all your emotions, including fears, frustrations and sadness, during the holidays. All those emotions are perfectly normal. Try to stay mindful, concentrating on what you are doing in any given moment, rather than letting your mind wander to your ever-growing to-do list. Stay focused on the positives: Think about what you can accomplish instead of what you can't; celebrate what your loved ones can do, rather than mourning what they can no longer participate in; revel in the holiday joys you will experience, instead of missing those you'll bypass; appreciate the help you are receiving rather than resenting those who aren't supportive. Negative thinking actually activates your body's stress response, so steer your mind elsewhere when you start down the slippery slope of negative thinking.”

Other fantastic holiday tips for caregivers from AARP found on this page include starting new traditions, keeping up with self-care and more. 

Happy Veterans Day

Caring for a veteran? That is amazing! On behalf of myself and the Family Caregiver Support Program at BayPath Elder Services, thank them. And then thank yourself for us, for caring for them. 

Do you know there are services out there for veterans? Such as Adult day health centers, in home care, and respite care. As I was clicking around on the Veterans Affairs website I came across the caregiver pages and found loads of information around services they offer and support they provide. Including their support helpline for caregivers where you can not only find emotional support as you care for your loved one but it is also a great place to call with questions or for resources. 

Visit the VA caregiver support pages, you might just find something new. 

Live Healthy 

Become, or encourage a loved one to be, more active in your own health care by learning more about programs and workshops offered by the Healthy Living Center of Excellence

Educational programs such as “Better Choices, Better Health” help participants reduce their pain and anxiety and manage symptoms.

Other programs, including a Healthy Eating workshop, Matter of Balance, which helps reduce the risk and fear of falls, and Chronic Disease Self-Management, could be a great place for you and/or a loved one to be active in your health and learn more about living healthy and being proactive.  

Perfect for the caregiver is Powerful Tools for Caregivers and Tai Chi for Healthy Aging. 

Click here to find the list of all programs. 

Journal it 

"Journaling" can be your 10 minute break at the end of, or in the middle of, each day. Writing down your thoughts, feelings, and emotions can be an outlet that releases stressful thoughts or feelings from your head and onto paper. 

Find a journal that’s dedicated to your personal writings. If you have trouble finding the right words, try to start with a simple thought about your day. Write messy. Write neat. Write just one word, a sentence or multiple paragraphs. Just write. 

Reflecting on your journal entries later, if you wish, can show how much you are actually doing and also give you a sense of accomplishment if the problem at the time has been resolved or emotions have been conquered. 

For an extra relaxation boost try deep breathing exercises while you write! 

Get a Grip

Have a loved one with arthritis or other troubles causing difficulty with their grasp? There are several at home hacks to try and make things a little easier. For instance did you know you can put rubber bands around a drinking cup for a better grip? Or a sponge hair roller around any thin object with a handle (fork or toothbrush)? And even using Velcro ribbon to stabilize grip on a hair brush. 

These hacks and more can be found HERE through care connections aarp family caregiver site. Take a look and see what other every day household problems can be solved with a little DIY! 

Wanna “Hang”?
Calling all young caregivers- I just came across a great online support resource for the busy, younger caregiver. This “Google Hangout” is for caregivers under the age of 40 who are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or related disease.

Created by Hilarity for Charity, these caregivers are able to find support in navigating the world of Alzheimer’s or Dementia while working, raising families, attending school or developing careers. What a fantastic support option! 

Get connected here! 

Chicken Soup for the Caregiver 

Looking for your next book to get lost in? A Place for Mom put together a great list of family caregiver books. Find tops such as spousal caregiving, sandwich generation, sibling complications, love, sacrifice and bonding, and my favorite, humor and laugh therapy. 

Remember, reading can be a great stress reliever!  

  • “Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.”
    ― Margaret Mead, anthropologist and author

Who Has Your Back?

Every caregiver should think about what their backup plan is if an unfortunate event occurs and you are no long able to care for your loved one. Will the person who is taking over for you know everything? Not just medical history and medication list but your loved one’s likes/dislikes, routines, wishes.

To start, identify all options for backup help - family members, friends, neighbors, home care agencies - and put together a written out plan, however this works best for you. Below is a great tool created by the caregiver specialist at HESSCO, Sarah Foss, that allows the caregiver to identify two backup caregivers and list out all information. And don’t forget, your local caregiver specialist can help you identify options for backup as well as creating the care plan document! Back up Care Plan (pdf)

Go Green for Energy 

Being a caregiver takes a lot of ENERGY! If you haven’t already, it’s a great idea to join the Green Smoothie bandwagon. Smoothies are a quick easy way to pack in nutrients and energy on the go- and are certainly refreshing in this summer heat! 

Here is your green smoothie 101


Brain Health

I was asked yesterday the question “Are there studies that show keeping a person with Alzheimer’s mentally and physically active is beneficial?" Of course I believe this to be true for many reasons but I set out to find the studies. 

In an article on WedMD I found a great snippet that states: “When people keep their minds active, their thinking skills are less likely to decline, medical research shows. So games, puzzles, and other types of brain training may help slow memory loss and other mental problems."

And another from an Alzheimer's Project articlePhysical exercise and mental stimulation is one of the greatest gifts you can give your loved one throughout this process. Picking a simple task or hobby specific to your loved one’s needs and interests is very important to an Alzheimer’s patient.”

I hope sharing this with that caregiver helped her feel positive about her (sometimes tough) efforts to keep her mother with Alzheimer’s as active as possible both mentally and physically. 

Here are a few other articles about the benefits of physical and mental health in older adults from the website:

 - We can help stay mentally active
 - Stay physically active

Celebrate Independence! 

As Independence Day approaches it’s a great reminder to encourage independence with your loved one. If you are caring for someone who is able to take small walks, fold the laundry, make a meal, or simply decide what to eat for dinner one night (among so many other things), let them know to keep up the good work! 

Due to time restraints, frustration and many other things it is easy for a caregiver to start doing tasks “for” their loved one rather than “with” their loved one. Being independent with even the smallest of tasks will promote physical, mental, social and emotional health. 

I hope everyone has a wonderful Independence Day!  

"Summer Vacation ... What’s That?"

As a caregiver a summer vacation may seem like an overwhelming or impossible plan. Who will take care of your loved one? What happens if they have a fall? It is important to remember that not taking time away from your caregiving responsibilities can lead to caregiver burnout and stress.

Aging Life Care Association has four tips to help make sure your loved one is safe while you are away, including in-home caregivers, technology resources, and respite facilities. Check it out here! And as always, talk with your Caregiver Specialist about finding these resources to help! 

Can’t get away? A “staycation” is just as relaxing. Plan a few day trips or plan to do NOTHING! 

Happy Friday! 

"You don't stop laughing because you grow old.You grow old because you stop laughing."
- Michael Pritchard,
Youth motivator/comedian/author

"In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years."
- Abraham Lincoln

What You Otter Know about Personalities

Today I went to a great presentation at the Residence at Valley Farm in Ashland titled “Life is a Zoo: Understanding Personalities to Facilitate Communication in Health Care,” and it opened my eyes to new ways to talk to others who have different personalities than myself. And how that can help or hurt the conversation/connection. 

It made me think about how difficult it can be for you, as caregivers, to work with other family members or your loved one when you have different personality traits. But understanding the importance and needs of each personality is helpful.

The presentation organized personalities into four groups, each represented by a different animal: Lions - independent, in control, decision makers; Otters - creative, fun loving, energetic; Golden retrievers - sensitive, loyal, calm; Beavers - factual, persistent, detailed.

A Golden Retriever may need more sensitivity from you on tough subjects whereas an Otter may need a more upbeat discussion to get your point across. And of course, make sure you give choices and options for Lions to make their own decisions if they are still able to!  

For more information on this topic and learn new communication tactics for different personalities call me, or the caregiver specialist in your area. 

Spring has Sprung

May is here! And I have finally been thinking about spring, more specifically, spring cleaning! 

Now is the time to clean out that medicine cabinet and refrigerator or replace batteries in smoke detectors! As a caregiver you are probably doing these tasks not only for yourself but for your loved one as well. I found some great TIPS for cleaning and organizing with your loved one which also has a link to senior safety hazards. 

And don’t forget to “spring clean” in other areas of your life as well! Write out and organize those appointments, refresh your routine - what’s working? What’s not working? And of course, find out where in your busy schedule you can add in breaks for yourself!

Non-Pharmacological interventions

I think sometimes, with all of the doctor’s visits, tests, screenings and medications, we forget the impact of engagements, connections and emotions on a person living with dementia and their quality of life. 

This past week I helped facilitate an event at the Marlborough Senior Center put together by the MetroWest Alzheimer’s Partnership on Non- Pharmacological Memory Care with speaker and author Joshua Freitas. Joshua spoke about his book “The Dementia Concept” and talked about how through music, touch and even colors there are ways to create more supportive living environments and connections that may sustain cognitive functioning. 

A simple touch or smile, knowing the color that can help a person feel safe or increase appetite, listening to music than can spark memories, all can have such positive outcomes for someone with memory loss. Here is the link to Joshua’s book “The Dementia Concept” and your Caregiver Specialist is also available to discuss these methods further!

The Tough Decisions about Long Term Care
When a family is making a long term care decision for a loved one, the cost can be overwhelming. The emotional cost that is. It is not easy for some to think about these decisions for their loved one. Will they be safe? Will they be happy? Am I making the right choice for them? Will they, or other family members, agree?

As the caregiver, you have the best insight as to the safety and needs of your loved one and you should not feel bad if the care that is being provided at home is not enough any longer. Needs change and it can be increasingly difficult to care for your loved one and for yourself.

Talk to your Caregiver Specialist for support around these decisions or when trying to decide if long term care may be the right choice for you and your loved one. Also, you can be connected to many people who are able to work with families who may not agree on these tough decisions or to agencies that can work with you to find the right long term care fit for your loved one. 

At Home Yoga/Meditation

Taking a “timeout” for yourself when you are a caregiver is not an easy task. But finding just 10 minutes a day for some yoga or meditation can be very beneficial for a person’s overall well being.

People are not always conscious of the massive amount of tension they hold in their body and it is said that a small amount of yoga can:

- Reduce stress and help depression
- Improve sleep quality
- Enhance respiratory function.

Yoga or meditation can be done at home. Here is an article about a study correlating caregiving and yoga/meditation. Also, here is video for at home yoga that may help you get started! 

Remember to make time for yourself, your loved one depends on it! 

Stress and Anxiety Reduction

We may think the typical stress reduction techniques are cliché or we just don’t have time to spend on deep breathing or exercising. But the truth is, these things do help!

Even a small “break” from a stressful situation (such as caregiving!) can help reset your body and give you more energy, positive feelings and lower stress.

The biggest issue I see for stress management is caregivers who don’t have the time as they are caring for a loved one 24/7 or trying to balance work, family and caregiving all at once. Who has time to go to the gym five times a week or take a nap during the day?

Think about the small techniques first. Deep breathing can take only 30 seconds and can help ground you at a stressful time. Listening to music can help you take your mind away even for just a moment.

This one is another cliché but I am going to say it anyway … don’t sweat the small stuff! Try to learn how to let things go that can be let go. Start small, then work your way up to bigger stress management techniques! 

Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

Do you or anyone you know care for a grandchild? You are just as much a Caregiver as someone caring for a parent, sibling, or friend.

Caring for a grandchild can be rewarding and overwhelming, and like caring for any loved one there is a lot of information, resources and support out there for grandparents that you may not know about.

We have recently launched the new Grandparents raising Grandchildren page here on our website that can help!

Your local Caregiver Specialist can connect you and guide you through these resources and offer support along the way.

Check out the new page and learn more!

New Year’s Resolutions

A new year brings new things we all want to try and accomplish, change, or add to our lives. As a caregiver, take the time to think about something you can do for YOU this year!

How about:
- Attend a support group
- Finish a book
- Plan a spring activity for you and your loved one
- Prepare meals
- Sign up for the gym and go three times a week

Need help accomplishing these goals or coming up with different ideas? Talk to your local Caregiver Specialist about services available and work on an action plan for you!

Winter Weather Tips

The winter weather is upon us! Stay prepared and informed about common health hazards for older adults in the winter months.

Here are a few tips for winter safety:

- Watch out for ice
- Stay warm
- Protect your skin
- Keep your spirits high
- Be prepared for an emergency

Follow this link to more information about these tips found on the Protected Tomorrows site as well as resources here on such as fuel assistance programs and meals on wheels.

Also check through the Caregiving Chronicles blog archive for information on winter weather tips, home modifications and winter maintenance and preventing falls, among other timely topics.

Celebrate Caregivers This Month and Always!

November is National Family Caregivers Month! Progressive Care Partners has a great list of 10 ideas on how others can celebrate Caregivers this month!

As a caregiver you should absolutely celebrate yourself and all of your hard work this month by taking a break, asking for some help to get that break, get lost in a book or TV program, or just go for a walk everyday (before the snow comes!).

Whatever you do, here’s to YOU, caregivers! Thank you for all of your dedication and love put forth every day.

Remember the Veterans in Your Life

Being a veteran means living day to day life as a hero in disguise. And these heroes may walk among us today as our parents, our grandparents, our neighbors, or even you, the caregiver!

As we celebrate Veterans Day on November 11 it would be so wonderful to do something for or with a veteran. Perhaps find a Veterans ceremony locally by calling the Veterans Affairs Office in your area, listen to patriotic music, ask your loved one to tell you stories from their experiences, etc.

Also, remember that as a veteran or a caregiver of a veteran, there are benefits and programs you may qualify for. Check out our page on veterans resources for more information.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Veterans Day! 

  • During National Family Caregivers Month, we rededicate ourselves to making sure our selfless caregivers have the support they need to maintain their own well-being and that of those they love. One of the best measures of a country is how it treats its older citizens and  people living with disabilities, and my Administration is dedicated to lifting up their lives and ensuring those who care for them get the support and recognition they deserve.

    -- President Barack Obama, in his 2015 Presidential Proclamation declaring November National Family Caregivers Month

Long Distance Caregiving

Even if you do not live in the same area as your loved one you can still be caring for them from afar. Doing this is not always easy as you are not close by for check ins, you might not know the area and what is available for community resources, etc. Utilize your local Caregiver Specialist who can be there to help guide you through the options that may be available. 

Here’s a list of things to think about when you do visit to be prepared for, how is each task getting complete: 
-Meals and self-care
-Shopping, errands and household chores
-Medications and doctor’s appointments
-Money management and paying bills
-Driving and transportation
-Social activities
-Mental or emotional health 

Balancing Caregiving, Family and Work

Caring for a loved one is a lot of work. Now add in other family members that you are caring for and a full-time job. You may feel tugged in different directions and feel as though you can’t give 100 percent anywhere. 

Along with utilizing community resources and/or getting others involved to help, you could talk to your employer about what is available for you as an employee. A few things to ask about: Employee Assistance Program, Small Necessities Leave and the new Massachusetts Sick Leave Law.

As always, take care of yourself. You cannot care for others if you are not healthy!

Accept your feelings

Caregiving can bring on a lot of feelings and emotions. For most it is difficult to admit they feel angry, fearful, overwhelmed or anxious. These emotions and feelings do not mean you are a bad person or that you don’t care for your loved one.

I am here to tell you this is normal. It is normal to feel angry at things you cannot change or things that have changed in your life that you may not have wanted to. It is normal to feel resentment towards family members who may not take on or understand the caregiving responsibilities that you do. It is normal to feel fearful or anxious about the future and options.

Having a healthy outlet to talk about these feelings is important. Try to find someone who you don’t feel would “judge” or make you feel guilty. I, personally, work with a lot of caregivers who need to hear that it is OK to feel these things and that you are not a terrible caregiver, you are human.

For more information or Caregiver Support, contact me at (508) 573-7239. 

Online Support 

Don’t have the time or ability to get out of the house and attend a support group? Don't worry, support is offered in so many places, perhaps some you haven’t even thought about! 

I suggested to a caregiver this week to seek out a support group and of course she asked, “How am I going to do that when I have to be home with my father?” We looked around and actually found some amazing online support groups that you can access from inside your home!

I started by simply Googling “online support for caregivers” and found a few great places. But my favorite was, which has different groups you can join such as caring for a spouse, caring for a parent, caring for someone with Alzheimer's/ Diabetes/Parkinson's/Cancer and more!

So, if you find yourself not able to get out but needing some support (which all caregivers should have!) check out or another online support group.

Elders and Driving 

Having to give up your license is never an easy transition. For elders who may not understand the reasons why this happens it can be a confusing time where it seems like their independence is being taken away.

I have been researching this a lot lately as I recently worked with a caregiver whose 72-year-old father did not understand why his license had not been renewed. He felt like his independence was being taken from him and this made him very agitated and angry.

While it may not always be easy to explain this to someone, it all comes down to safety. Perhaps explaining how much you care for your loved one and want him or her safe (from other drivers as well) may help ease this transition.

Also, as a caregiver, how do you know when it is time for a loved one to turn in their keys before something bad happens?  Here are a few links to some driving safety information:

- When should Elders Stop Driving
- Caregiving Chronicles Q&A: Dealing with the difficult decision about when it is no longer safe to drive
- Upcoming Adults and Driving free seminar 

  • “Each day, courageous individuals step forward to help care for family members in need, their quiet acts of selflessness and sacrifice telling a story of love and devotion. Across our country, parents and children, siblings and spouses, friends and neighbors heroically give of themselves to support those in their lives affected by illness, injury, or disability. During National Family Caregivers Month, we salute the people who play difficult and exhausting roles, and we recommit to lifting up these Americans as they care for their loved ones while protecting their dignity and individuality.”

    -- President Barack Obama, in his Presidential Proclamation declaring November National Family Caregivers Month in 2014

Summer Safety 

Summer time can be a time for outdoor fun in the sun and a better time than the winter to get our loved ones out enjoying the fresh air and the outdoors. Unfortunately, the heat and sun can be dangerous if precautions are not taken. Here are a few tips and reminders for summer safety for your loved ones and you! 

- Stay Hydrated! Especially when going outdoors.

- Check in! Make sure someone is available to check in on your loved ones on especially hot days.

- Know the signs! Look for dry, flushed skin or changes in behaviors. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, call a doctor right away!

"Elderly individuals have a harder time knowing when they are dehydrated and their bodies have more difficulty regulating their temperatures," said Dr. Ronan Factora of the Cleveland Clinic in a Summer Safety Tips article that has more summer tips for caregivers. "As a result, they are more prone to heat stroke."

Also check out our own Caregiving Chronicles blog for a Q&A on the subject of summer safety tips for caregivers for more advice.

The lighter side of Caregiving

Caregiving is hard- hold on to the humor when possible to lighten a situation or ease tension. Here is a great spot for a caregiving humor break! 
Caregiver Humor- Pinterest 

Thoughts on 'young' caregiving 

When we think of “caregivers” we typically think of adults taking care of elderly parents or loved ones. I know from my professional experience this scenario is the most common. But, what do you do if you are in your late 20s or early 30s and suddenly find yourself caring for your parents or another loved one? How is this different? How do you get support? 

I don’t believe that depending on your age caregiving is any “easier” or “harder,” but at different points in a person’s life it seems to become more "acceptable" to the caregiver. I do believe that a lot of the same wellness is important for caregivers of any age, including finding support and finding information and resources available. 

This topic of younger caregivers came to my attention by a co-worker and friend who has recently, at age 30, found herself caring for both of her parents while still trying to maintain her own life. Visit our new page on the site called “Advice for Young Caregivers” for some insight and advice on this growing topic, written personally by a Baypath employee. 

Happy Fourth of July!

There are many ways to adapt Fourth of July activities to meet your loved one’s needs. Eating hamburgers, potato salad and a patriotic dessert are some of the traditional ways to celebrate the Fourth with food. Being outside and grilling with family or friends is a great way to relax.

Whatever activities you are partaking in with your loved one make it a great lasting memory! And if you are hosting, perhaps your loved one can help with the prep work of cutting food or setting the table. If your plans involve staying in, maybe try to find some fireworks airing on television.

See the link below for a delicious, easy Fourth of July themed dessert! Hope everyone has a happy and safe holiday!

Jello Easy Patriotic Flag Dessert

Be in their world

Sometimes a person with Alzheimer’s may live in a different “reality” than yours at times. Your loved one may think a deceased relative is still alive or that they still work, drive or have young children. As long as their reality is not hurting anyone it is OK to “play along.” Doing this can make for a much calmer conversation and less anxiety for your loved one.

Understandably, like a caregiver I recently worked with, this can be hard for a caregiver who doesn’t want their loved one to be confused or lose touch with “reality.” But remember, correcting or arguing with someone with Alzheimer’s may cause increased confusion and anxiety whereas “going with the flow” of their world can be a greater experience for everyone.

Keep Meals Simple

Who has time to make big fancy meals anymore? Not caregivers! If you are cooking meals for a loved one, follow one rule: Keep it simple! There are many meals today that have minimal ingredients and only take 15 minutes or less. My example below is an Avocado Chicken Salad which can be whipped up in a short time and is delicious! Soups and slow cooker meals are also great alternatives to have leftovers for a few days. 

So try and find other simple meal ideas to keep you from spending too much time in the kitchen and more time caring for your loved one and yourself! Also, if possible, utilize the internet in finding quick and easy meals. Google is everyone’s friend, and now so are other social media sites such as Pinterest which has an “Easy dinner ideas for Caregivers” page.

Avocado Chicken Salad
2 cups shredded chicken (I used rotisserie chicken)
1 large avocado, cored & chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
*salt & pepper to taste
Directions: Add ingredients in a bowl and mash with a fork until well combined.

Encourage independence

Caregiving does not mean doing everything for your loved one. Be open to technologies and strategies that allow your family member to be as independent as possible. In fact, research indicates that keeping seniors physically, mentally, socially and emotionally engaged can help them retain better cognitive function. 

I saw a great example over at Pleasantries Adult Day Center, where one of the daily activities offered is folding towels from a laundry basket. Someone who enjoyed doing laundry or folding towels in their everyday life may experience a feeling of comfort or “normalcy” with such an activity. 

The best way to take care of a loved one is to take care of yourself

Too often I see caregivers who get “burned out” or so exhausted and overwhelmed that they do not keep up with their own health appointments. Often, this leads to the caregiver actually becoming sick and unable to care for their loved one any longer. Your health is just as important. Your loved one is counting on it! 

Don’t be in the dark about diagnosis, educate yourself!

Knowing about the conditions of your loved one will help you to understand certain behaviors, give you better communication skills, know what to ask at doctors’ appointments and know the signs and symptoms to be aware of. Do some research and come out from the dark!

  • “One person caring about another represents life’s greatest value.”

    – Jim Rohn, Author/
    Personal Achievement Philosopher

No matter how small, find some support

I recently met with a caregiver who was so busy with appointments and health concerns for her loved ones that she could not get started on her own needs just yet. When I call her to follow up and remind her how important her own needs really are, she told me “just talking to you makes me happier and gives me a break.”

She also said, “knowing someone cares is help enough.” Find someone to talk to. If you do not have a support system already, call your Caregiver Specialist! Other supports may be friends/family or local caregiver support groups.

Make time for Respite

What is respite? Respite is a short period of rest or relief from something difficult. Caregiving, while very rewarding, can be difficult and overwhelming. Taking time for yourself is very important to your own well-being. What is your favorite respite? Going for walks? Going to the movies? Reading? Whatever it may be that gives you a small mental break, involve it into your daily or weekly routine. Remember, take a break!

  • “Caring for our seniors is perhaps the greatest responsibility we have. Those who walked before us have given so much and made possible the life we all enjoy.”

    John Hoeven, Senior U.S. Senator from North Dakota

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