Category Archives: Caring for Self

Create Happiness in your Senior Years

Happiness in seniorsWe are all aware of the truths that seem to point to loneliness and depression in Senior Citizens, and how, as family members and caregivers we should be on the lookout for indicators that our loved ones may be struggling.

However, a growing shift has made itself apparent in our time as more and more senior citizens are choosing to live their ‘golden years’ out in experiences.  Happiness is more strongly associated with meaningful experiences than the accumulation of possessions. The iconic American Dream to own a home, have 2.5 children, a nice car, and a sizeable nest egg appeals for inherent reasons, but the ability to continue to make memories with either a spouse, family members, or friends is a growing trend in the lives of many seniors today.

Experiences can be as simple as taking the grandchildren to the beach, or traveling to an unexplored (for them) location.  If your loved one has the ability to get out on their own, let them.  Try not to be concerned about their ability to drive ‘that far’ on their own.  Perhaps they want to experience something new.  While the natural response is to say, not at your age, allow them the ability to do that thing, and perhaps even go with them.

One study shows that when people perceived they had less time left, they found greater happiness in ordinary experiences than younger individuals who perceived they had significant amounts of time ahead of them and who found greater happiness in the extraordinary.

The truth is, the older we get, we do gain more wisdom. We have learned that life experience gives you perspective. You know the downs don’t last, and the ups don’t last.   As a result, experiences, or those things that make us happy, begin to shift also.

Encourage them to go out and live life, and perhaps any loneliness or depression you were seeing will begin to disappear.  Being active at any age, and especially in seniors, is proven to have a positive effect on our mood and our health.

Let them enjoy the moment, and enjoy it with them.

 

Taking Care of Your Skin

AA015010As we age, our skin starts to show fine lines, discoloration, and loss of elasticity yet we seek to have a healthy appearance no matter how old we are.  While some skin-care tactics such as the use of sunscreen and moisturizers are important at every age, our approach to skin care needs to adapt to ensure that skin stays healthy and youthful-looking as long as possible.

Here are a few skin care tips every woman should know.

It’s not about your age – it’s how well you care for your skin.

As we grow older, our skin cells tend to renew more slowly and retain less moisture. Taking care of your skin throughout your life through the use of moisturizer, exfoliation and sunblock can help your skin stay healthier and more youthful.

It’s also never too late to start taking better care of your skin. Look for products that contain firming ingredients that will help stimulate collagen production, antioxidants to help protect against free radical damage, and smoothing ingredients to encourage cell renewal.

Styles change over the years so your skin care products should also change.

The moisturizer you used in your 20’s is not the one you should use in your 50’s. Baby boomers should look for skin care and makeup products specifically designed to address signs of aging such as wrinkles nd fine lines. Daily sunscreen use of 30 SPF or higher will help reduce discoloration.

Update your diet to include the nutrients that your skin needs.

Good nutrition is important throughout your entire life but as we age, it’s important to maintain a healthy diet to maintain and improve your skin’s appearance.  Vitamins A, C and D are vital for skin health, and topical applications of A and C are also good for the skin.  Also, be sure to drink lots of water to avoid dehydration and loss of moisture.

Update your makeup routine.

Use natural foundations that reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and pores. As skin matures, a “less is more” approach is often more flattering. Visit a make-up counter for a consultation with an expert that can help you achieve a natural, healthy look as too much makeup can amplify the look of wrinkles.

Preparing To Live To Be 100

The longer you live the more money you will have to spend, or conversely, the more money you should start saving now to prepare for living into your 100s. Modern medicine and the fact that many diseases and illnesses are able to be caught and even corrected early means that many of us are living longer, and in many cases, healthier lives.

If you’re hoping to live to be 100, how will you make certain you can afford it? The time is now to look at your finances and prepare for a secure financial life in your Golden Years. Here are some steps you can take to make sure you don’t outlive your money:

  • Take stock of your spending. Scrutinize your spending for the next 30 days. Track where you’re spending and where you might be able to cut back and put that money into a savings account. It may be easier, and paint a more accurate picture, if you analyze three months’ worth of spending and take an average.
  • Talk with your CPA to get a snapshot of the amount of money you may need into retirement. Many individuals believe they will spend less money once they’re retired because they won’t have the expenses for food or commuting and other out of pocket expenses; what they don’t plan for is the money spent on hobbies or travel or leisure, now that you have leisure time. You may also see an increase in your family food budget because you’ll be eating more meals at home than in the past.
  • Save as much money, as often as you can. Check on your investments and, depending on your age, invest either more robustly or conservatively. Your financial adviser is your best point of contact for your investment planning.
  • Take a look at your lifestyle. Are there items you will want to do once you retire that you don’t now? How much will they cost? Are there activities you do now that you won’t once you retire? How much do they cost? If you plan to travel or take up a new hobby you will want to calculate those costs so you can budget for them. You don’t want to look at retirement as “sitting around the house with nothing to do” time you want to enjoy your Golden Years and pursue hobbies and activities you perhaps didn’t have time for while you were working and raising a family.
  • Will you be able to afford to live in your own home? Will you need to downsize or even make arrangements to live in a retirement community? What will that cost? Will it make sense for you to invest in long-term care insurance? Talk with a trusted advisor before you make any decisions on this purchase.
  • Get your paperwork in order. Don’t wait until you need a power of attorney or a healthcare proxy or a will – by the time you need it, it will be too late. Talk with your attorney and your family and get these papers drawn up early so they are in place in the event of a health emergency when you can’t speak for yourself. While it may be a bit morbid, you may want to put your funeral arrangements in writing and even get them planned so that your family won’t have to wonder at what your wishes would have been.
  • Pay off as much of your debt as possible. It’s best to not have to worry about credit card debt or loans with high interest rates, especially when retirement is drawing near and when your income will likely be lower than it was when you were working.

Taking steps to prepare for living to be 100-years-old is best done when you’re younger and in good health!

The Beatitudes and a Prayer for Caregivers from the Catholic Herald

Beatitudes for Caregivers

Blessed are those who sleep poorly because they’re worried about their loved one or because their loved one wakes in the middle of the night and needs help, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn because their loved one, though still alive, is slipping away because of dementia, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek who force themselves to speak up and speak out to make sure their loved one receives the help he or she needs, for they will inherit the land.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for answers to why this is happening to their loved one and how much longer it will go on, for they will be satisfied.

Blessed are those who show mercy, kindness and compassion to their loved one, for they will be shown mercy, kindness and compassion.

Blessed are those who keep clean a loved one who is physically or mentally unable to keep himself or herself clean, for they will see God.

Blessed are those who help their loved one find moments of peace, for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are misunderstood, not appreciated and taken for granted in their role as caregiver, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you whose caregiving efforts are unjustly criticized — or who are falsely accused of not caring about others — because of your love for your care-receiver and your love for God, who has asked you to help his beloved son or daughter.

Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.

A Caregiver’s Prayer

Heavenly Father, help me better understand and believe I can do what you ask me to do.

Forgive me for the times, even now, when I question your judgment.

As I go about the many daily tasks of caregiving, give me energy.

As I watch my loved one oh-so-slowly walk across the room, give me strength.

As I answer his/her repeated question just one more time, give me patience.

As I look for solutions to whatever is the most recent concern, give me wisdom.

As I reminisce with him/her about the “good old days,” give me a moment of laughter.

As I get to know my loved one in a new way, seeing both his or her strength and frailty, give me joy.

As I sit beside my loved one’s bed waiting for his or her pain medication to take effect, give me comfort.

Lighten my burden, answer my prayer, and give me the strength to do what so often seems impossible. Give me a quiet place to rest when I need it and a quieting of my anxieties when I’m there.

Change my attitude from a tired, frustrated and angry caregiver to the loving and compassionate one I want to be.

Remain my constant companion as I face the challenges of caregiving, and when my job is through and it’s time for me to let go, help me remember that he or she is leaving my loving arms to enter your eternal embrace. Amen.

From Catholic Herald.

 

Prepare Now For Caregiving Tasks For The Holidays

It may seem like it’s too early to begin thinking about the holidays, but once October hits the months tend to become a blur. If you’re a caregiver that is in charge of caring for your own family, holding down a job and caring for sick or elderly parents, planning and preparation is crucial to an enjoyable holiday for all involved.

What steps can you take now prior to the busyness of the holiday season so that you can enjoy both the holiday and time with your friends and family? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Make certain your aging relative is healthy before the holidays roll around. Do they need to get a flu shot or an annual check-up? Schedule those before the season picks up. Ask their primary care doctor about the medications they are on and whether they’re still up to date with everything they’re taking.
  • Know all that you can about how the stress of the holiday might impact your loved one. If your mom or dad has been recently widowed, the holidays could be a painful time for them. Be cognizant of that fact. Understand what other medical conditions they might have that could make it difficult for them around the holidays – dementia could mean they could be fearful in situations in which they aren’t accustomed to.
  • If your relatives will be traveling for the holidays, be aware that their home medical alert system with LifeFone can travel with them. You need only contact LifeFone to let them know the new location and the duration of the stay. Having their personal medical device with them when they travel is a great idea.

Caring for yourself during the holidays is as important, if not more so, than caring for the health of your aging parents. What can you do to make certain you’re healthy? Here are some tips:

  • Have a check up with your family physician and get a flu shot if necessary.
  • Make certain you take time to eat healthy meals, even if you’re on the run with errands. Pack healthy take along snacks and prepare meals at home so you’re not tempted by fast food.
  • If you can’t make it to the gym, get a piece of exercise equipment for your home that you are sure to use. Whether it’s a treadmill or a DVD of exercise routines, staying fit, healthy and active will help you deal with the holiday madness to come!
  • Take time to enjoy those holiday traditions that are solely yours and those that are part of your extended family. If you need to excuse yourself for an afternoon to work on holiday crochet projects or to do some scrapbooking or to simply wander the malls by yourself, you need to make time for yourself – your mental health will thank you.
  • Connect with other caregivers and ask how they handle holiday and family and caregiving. Caregiving can be stressful during the best of times during the year but for many of us, the holidays add additional pressure. Talking to someone in your same situation can be more than beneficial.
  • Don’t forget to ask your aging relatives what they’d like to do for the holidays. Do they have a special tradition that they’d like to incorporate? Try to make that happen so that the holidays are as memorable for everyone as they can be.

Start today, putting your holiday plans in place, whether it’s looking at a calendar and determining who will be cooking the holiday meals and when the more pre-planning you do, the more enjoyable the months ahead will be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

November Marks National Caregivers Month: Are You A Caregiver?

Whether you’re caring for an aging parent or helping a family member or spouse who’s going through cancer treatments or recuperating from an accident, the role of caregiver has many different faces. November has been designated National Caregivers Month and it’s a time to take note of those individuals – and it may be yourself – who give of their time and make a commitment to help care for a family member or friend.

Understanding what care giving means

For many people giving care means helping an individual cope with daily needs. Those needs could range from preparing meals, cleaning the house, running errands or taking them to a doctor, helping them get dressed or helping with physical or occupational therapy treatments. Caregiving could also mean making sure that medications are taken, that blood sugar levels are monitored or that personal hygiene is maintained. The role of caregiver could even simply mean “being there for them” as they navigate the emotional roller coaster that could come with limited mobility or the uncertainty of treatment and its outcome.

Being thrust into the role of caregiver may mean you need to put your own emotions and needs aside. It’s also easy for many caregivers to neglect caring for themselves and eventually experience burnout and stress from the role they’ve taken on; it can lead to depression and anxiety.

Caregivers need to learn to take care of themselves first and foremost so they can be an effective caregiver. What steps can you take to make certain you are both mentally and emotionally healthy and able to continue in your role?

Here are some ideas you can incorporate into your daily routine:

  • Acknowledge your feelings. You’re “allowed” to feel anger, guilt or frustration. Your feelings are your own and need to be addressed. It’s all right to feel these feelings as caregiving can be an exhausting and sometimes seemingly thankless task. Unless someone is in that role, they will not understand what you’re going through. If that’s the case, you should connect with other caregivers so you can share your feelings.
  • Keep track of your feelings because if you’re overcome with a sense of sadness that lingers you may be depressed and should talk with a doctor. Feeling angry with yourself for your lack of patience with the person for whom you’re caring or with family members that aren’t helping out are extremely natural. You should look to the cause of the anger and address it: is it stress, fear, the need for more support?

What can you do to address your feelings?

  • Ask for help. If you don’t ask, friends and family may simply assume you’re carrying on just fine and may not consider the stress you’re under.
  • Understand that your feelings are natural.
  • Focus on those tasks which make sense during the day. If you simply don’t have time to mow the lawn or deep clean the bathroom, let it go or hire someone to do it for you. Look to those tasks that you don’t want to do or can’t do and reach out for help. Ask for help with shopping, running errands or cooking meals.
  • Take time for yourself. Ask for a day off and then do something you enjoy. Whether it’s visiting a museum, going for a walk or just taking a few hours to sit in a coffee shop and relax, you need to practice self care.
  • Don’t feel guilty asking for help. Unless someone is in your shoes, they cannot understand how difficult (and yes, rewarding) caregiving can be.

Caregivers provide a much-needed level of support for family members but in many cases they “toil in obscurity” because unless you reach out, not many people will understand that you need assistance. Even the individual you’re caring for may not be as appreciative as you’d imagine they “should” be, but you need to keep in mind that he or she is struggling to cope with the changes in their life that has lead them to need a caregiver. Working together and working with family and friends can make your role as a caregiver rewarding and fulfilling.

 

 

 

What Are Shingles? Are There Precautions I Can Take To Avoid It?

If you ask your physician he will explain that shingles is a disease related to chicken pox and individuals that had chicken pox at some point in their lives are more prone to developing a case of shingles. The virus that causes chicken pox is also responsible for shingles. In many individuals, the virus for shingles is dormant and resides in clusters of nerve tissue. The affliction typically affects the elderly.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, “one out of every three people in America will develop shingles.” Other statistics released point to the fact that individuals aged 60 or older have a 50 percent chance of contracting shingles. A shingles vaccine is on the market and adults who had chicken pox should receive the vaccine. While shingles is not typically fatal, the disease causes intense pain and that can impact quality of life. Some of the symptoms to look for include:

  • Headache
  • Body aches
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Numbness in an area which leads to a feeling of burning pain and tingling
  • A rash which usually comes after the sensation of pain. The rash usually manifests on the stomach area
  • Fluid-filled blisters

Can You Prevent Shingles?

The shingles vaccine, administered one time, can help prevent the virus. Individuals 50-years-old or older who have had chicken pox should receive the vaccine. The virus can be transmitted if you come in contact with someone who has “active lesions.” If you have never had chicken pox, you can catch it from someone who has shingles; however, you cannot catch shingles.

Individuals should avoid the shingles vaccine if they’ve had an allergic reaction to neomycin or other ingredients in the vaccine. Those with immune deficiencies or undergoing cancer treatments or certain prescription drugs could cause an interaction with the drug. It’s always best to check with your doctor prior to getting vaccinated.

To prevent transmission of the shingles virus it’s crucial that those with the shingles blisters keep them covered and you need to avoid direct contact with the blisters. Frequent hand washing, not scratching or touching the blisters will also help prevent transmission. Once the blisters have healed, the Centers for Disease Control explains, they are no longer contagious.

While there are treatments for shingles and medications that can lessen the pain, it is best to avoid catching. The vaccines have been shown to reduce the risk of shingles by more than 50 percent.

 

 

 

Caring for Caregiver during National Family Caregivers Month and Beyond

Even though November has been designated as National Family Caregivers month, taking care of the caregiver is something that needs to be front-of-mind year ‘round.  Because caregivers can typically be juggling so many items – work, family obligations and their aging parents – equipping the seniors’ home with a medical alert system can offer the caregiver peace of mind beyond compare.

Caregivers provide help with in-home health care, errands, housekeeping and transporting senior family members to and from doctor visits. Because there are so many demands placed on caregivers, they are prone to suffer from anxiety, illness and depression. Regardless of whether your loved one is ill or simply is an aging arent who wants to age at home, it is a daunting task. Here are some steps to take to help take care of the caregiver:

  1.  Ask for help. Simply because the aging or ill care recipient is your family member doesn’t mean you have to do everything on your own. Look for volunteers to come to the house and help with weekly housekeeping or grocery shopping, take turns with a friend or another family member for taking the family member to doctor’s visits. See if there are outside activities in which your family members can become involved – events at senior centers for example.
  2. Build a network of support. While your siblings may not offer to help with caring for your aging parents, chances are they will offer help if you ask. If either of your senior parents suffers from any particular illness or disease, look into support groups. Talk to a local area agency on aging for support services that are provided. A support network can include equipping your loved ones home with a medical alert system, one of the best types of support systems as it gives the aging parent a way to have immediate access to medical care in the event of a medical emergency or a trip or fall. Having the medical alert pendants offers the caregiver the peace of mind in knowing that the systems are monitored 24/7.
  3. Take daily breaks. You need to take some time for yourself, even if it’s simply going to a coffee shop to relax and read a newspaper. Go out for lunch, take a walk in the park…take a break to recharge your batteries.
  4. Don’t neglect your own health. If you’re not feeling well you can’t be your best for anyone. See
    your doctor if you need help with your health. Take a day off if you’re not feeling well. Also talk with your doctor if the stress of caregiving is taking its toll.
  5. Look for resources. Many insurance providers or local aging agencies offer resources for individuals who are dealing with a senior loved one. Call your aging adults’ insurance provider and check on local resources.

Baby boomers are straddling the line between seeing their own children move out of the home but now being faced with taking care of their aging parents and it can be mentally and physically exhausting. Caregivers need to care for themselves as well as their loved ones.

Why Crying is Good for Your Health

As many caregivers are well aware, sometimes there really is no better outlet for your stress and frustrations than a good cry. Crying is cathartic, and as researchers have proven time and time again, crying is good for relieving stress, anxiety and other emotional build-ups.

Being a caregiver certainly provides you with countless opportunities to unleash some water works, and thankfully, a good sob is also good for your health. Bottling up emotional stress and keeping in tears can
have negative physical effects on the body, (including cardiovascular disease) so letting out a healthy cry now and again is nothing to be ashamed of, it is something to be embraced.

Since alleviated stress can damage certain areas of the brain, crying also has survival value. But in case you need more convincing that your tears are not in vain, allow the following reasons to influence your
attitude toward tears.

  1. Tears Remove Toxins: Research has proven that tears formed during stress or grief actually contain more toxic byproducts than those formed of irritation (i.e. when something gets into your eye). Tears serve as a natural chemical releaser.
  2. Crying  Removes Stress: Suppressing tears increases stress levels and contributes to diseases aggravated by stress, including high blood pressure, heart problems and peptic ulcers.
  3. Crying Can Elevate Mood: Crying reduces the body’s level of manganese, a mineral which affects mood including anxiety, nervousness, irritability etc., and is found in up to 30 times greater concentration in tears than in blood serum. Reducing your level of manganese elevates your mood.
  4. Tears Kill Bacteria: Tears serve as a chemical barrier to fight away infection. When our eyes secrete tears they are fighting off pathogens from entering the body, including all the germs we pick up from doorknobs, shopping carts and keyboards etc.
  5. Tears Help With Vision: The most basic function of tears is allowing us to see. Tears lubricate our eyeballs and eyelids and prevent dehydration of mucous membranes. Our eyes cannot function without proper lubrication, making tears absolutely vital to vision.

So the next time your emotions overtake you and feel the urge to let out some tears, don’t hold back. Being on the emotional roller coaster ride we call caregiving, should enable you to embrace your ups and downs no matter how low you drop.

The Decision that Saved Mary Ellen. By: Melissa Wise, RN

“Is this a medical emergency?”

The LifeFone operator was responding to a 2:17 am alert from 74-year old Mary Ellen Rhine. A few minutes before, Mary Ellen had stepped out of bed to get get a drink of water, and slipped on a stray sock that had been left on her bedroom floor.  She landed hard on her shoulder and then realized that her leg was also hurt.

Moving was going to be difficult, if not impossible. Through the pain, she pressed her pendant button to alert her medical alert service LifeFone to the problem. From a speaker attached to her wall she could hear the reply.”This is the LifeFone operator.  Are you hurt?” Continue reading