Category Archives: Caring for Self

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

4 Reasons Seniors Avoid Purchasing a Medical Alert System

Given all the benefits associated with owning a medical alert system, it would seem only logical that the elderly and their caregivers would welcome the acquisition of such a life-changing system. Designed to provide peace of mind and improve the quality of life of its users, med alert systems ensure help is available 24/7 at the touch of a button.

When it comes to actually making the purchase, however, some seniors become apprehensive, citing the following common reasons for their trepidation:

  1. They believe they cannot afford a med alert system. Living on a fixed budget, many seniors do not have the funds to spare on any added expenses. However, medical alert systems like LifeFone,offer their services for $24.95 a month, less than a dollar a day. Continue reading

4 Reasons Seniors Avoid Purchasing a Medical Alert System

Given all the benefits associated with owning a medical alert system, it would seem only logical that the elderly and their caregivers would welcome the acquisition of such a life-changing system. Designed to provide peace of mind and improve the quality of life of its users, med alert systems ensure help is available 24/7 at the touch of a button.

When it comes to actually making the purchase, however, some seniors become apprehensive, citing the following common reasons for their trepidation:

  1. They believe they cannot afford a med alert system. Living on a fixed budget, many seniors do not have the funds to spare on any added expenses. However, medical alert systems like LifeFone,offer their services for $24.95 a month, less than a dollar a day. Continue reading

Laughing Your Way to Better Health

When it comes to caregiving, laughter is the best medicine, literally. According to a study by cardiologists at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, laughter may help prevent heart disease. Not only that, laughter may help people maintain their mental health especially those faced with difficult life situations i.e. being a caregiver for a chronically ill, elderly or disabled loved one.

Caregiving is an all-consuming occupation, there are few breaks and the stress that accompanies the position can be overwhelming. Seeing the humor in otherwise difficult situations lessens the tension and makes the job increasingly more rewarding and manageable. Continue reading

Stress: A Caregiver’s Worst Nightmare

The tumultuous joy of being a caregiver often manifests itself in the form of stress, a pressure cooker that when left unattended threatens havoc. Taking a toll on your physical well-being, stress does not go unnoticed on your body, often taking years off your lifespan.

When you are experiencing stress, everything suffers: your heart, your immune system, your digestive processes, just to name a few. Continue reading

Stress: A Caregiver’s Worst Nightmare

The tumultuous joy of being a caregiver often manifests itself in the form of stress, a pressure cooker that when left unattended threatens havoc. Taking a toll on your physical well-being, stress does not go unnoticed on your body, often taking years off your lifespan.

When you are experiencing stress, everything suffers: your heart, your immune system, your digestive processes, just to name a few. Continue reading

4 Steps for Surviving Life After Caregiving

After a tumultuous journey riddled with ups and downs, the path of a caregiver eventually comes to an end. While many anticipate the possibilities for their life post-caregiving, the actuality is that the chronic stress associated with caregiving doesn’t end when your caregiving duties do and most are unprepared for this time. After devoting your life to the care of a loved one over the course of a few years, you may find it is now impossible to live the life you led pre-caregiving both socially and professionally.

Caregiving takes a major toll on one’s professional life, and often derails it all together. Re-entering the job market after an extended lapse can be extremely difficult and overwhelming. Many find that the business world has radically changed in their absence, on top of the fact that they are entering a dilapidated job market.

Don’t let the fact that you are homebound and financially strapped deter you. There are important steps caregivers can take to keep themselves current and active for life after caregiving.

  1. Stay Connected: Caregivers often feel socially isolated. During your time as a caregiver don’t put yourself at a disadvantage by avoiding social networking sites. Staying connected with others via Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc. will
    Twitter logo initial

    Image via Wikipedia

    immensely help your professional networking opportunities. Staying up to date with current trends, and remaining informed on the current job market are crucial to your success, make social networking a priority in your life.

  2. Own your Caregiving Role: Being a caregiver broadens your skill set and equips you with desirable and employable traits. Following your role as a caregiver, you will have sharpened your negotiating skills, strengthened your managerial skills and become an expert in technical jargon in the fields of medicine, law and finance. When you begin interviewing again, stress the skills you developed and honed in your caregiving role.
  3. Regain Your Confidence: Being a caregiver is draining and caregivers face burnouts. Post-caregiving devote time to yourself: catch up on sleep, exercise, make time to reconnect with friends and make healthier food choices. Once you start taking time for yourself you will feel more at ease putting yourself out there in the job market.
  4. Consider New Fields:  Use your experience as a homebound caregiver to explore new fields or look into start-up opportunities that can be conducted from your home. Explore the plethora of affordable online courses that are crafted to fit around your schedule. If you are worried the prospect of getting your old job back is going to be an uphill battle, consider immersing yourself in a new venture.

Regaining your life post-caregiving will not be an easy task, it will take some readjusting. Use your time as a caregiver to explore the endless opportunities available to you on the Internet, and you will find your home feels like an arena full of ideas, networking and opportunities. Most importantly, don’t give up hope, the right opportunity awaits.

Leave Ho-Hum Holidays Behind – A Caregiver’s Holiday Checklist

You’ve decked the halls, hung the stockings and prepared the holiday guest list! So why do you still feel so overwhelmed and stressed? The home run stretch between Thanksgiving and New Years often feels more like a marathon for caregivers. While this time of year is stressful for everyone as their lives revolve around shopping for presents, baking and organizing holiday excursions, it is particularly menacing for those with the added pressure of caring for a loved one.

 Being a full time caregiver is more taxing than almost any other full time job. When your days are packed with the necessities of caring for someone else all day, squeezing in the holiday activities becomes a little more hectic.

 The holidays also lead caregivers to reexamine their role as a caregiver. Holiday time typically means family time, so other members of the family get to see how the care receiver is being cared for, which  may lead to feelings of inadequacy or a need for reevaluation.

 Being a caregiver also means routines – the holidays often put a damper in your day-to-day schedule, making routines less routine or in some cases obsolete.

 While the stress that the holidays bring is inevitable, feeling as though you cannot survive them is not. With a few simple strategies this holiday season, caregivers can relax a little more and enjoy the eggnog.

  1.  Find a way to unwind/destress: Take time out of everyday to set aside for you. Listen to your favorite holiday carols or meditate – anything that helps you take your mind off of daily stressors.
  2. Get your holiday calendar in order: Make sure you mark down all upcoming gatherings and get togethers so you aren’t scatterbrained when something arises. Set due dates for all the things you need to accomplish – when do you need to have the holiday cookies baked by? When do the holiday cards and presents need to be in the mail?
  3. Maintain immediate family holiday traditions: Neglecting your immediate family during the holidays only adds to the stress and guilt you are undergoing. Set aside time to be in the moment with your family – you need this as much as they do.
  4. Support group, Support group, Support group: While you need to maintain a support group all year round, now is the time to rein in the troops. Don’t be bashful in asking for help and distributing the responsibility – you should not be in this alone.
  5. Let the holidays unravel as they come: While your holiday calendar will keep you clear-headed on where you are going next, it will not guarantee those get togethers will go according to plan. Nothing is perfect and remaining flexible and open to change is imperative. While the holidays may not go according to how you envisioned them, going with the flow will make things more enjoyable while saving you from disappointment and guilt.

Survival tips for the Sandwich Generation

Here are some things that can help you stay sane through all the nonsense life brings.

  1. Alone time is crucial – Taking a break from everyday life is important. Spending a little time each day focused on you can really make a difference in the overall stress level of everyday life. Trying getting up a little earlier and enjoying fresh juice while reading your favorite magazine. Or after a long day of work, unwind by taking your dog on a walk. The gym is another excellent place to unwind if you can find a cardio machine away from all the noise. Put on your head phones and walk a few miles, unwinding your mind from the days’ struggles.
  2. Family Support – As with most things in life, if you don’t have your family supporting your decisions it probably won’t go over well. Finding support and comfort within your family ties helps to make sense of the crazy stuff that happens every day. Rely on your spouse and kids to help your through your problems and create a time and place to discuss family dynamics on a routine basis. This will help solve a lot of at home issues while also bringing the family closer, building a better relationship between all parties involved.
  3. Faith – Everyone has their own definition and experience of faith.  What faith brings is a sense of commitment, fellowship and an overall feeling of comfort and security knowing that you have something to rely on other than the tangible factors in this world. If praying or meditation helps you throughout the day, do it. Increase the amount of time you spend on your faith and you will see it reciprocated in your everyday life.
  4. Employment Benefits – When it comes to today’s corporate policies, they have changed from years past. If you have added stress from taking care of a sick or again parent, many companies will provide some sort of leniency in order to provide for your loved ones needs. If you feel stressed about missing work to take your sick mother to her doctor’s appointment, just ask. You may be surprised at the new policies!
  5. Professional Assistance – When concerns do arise because of taking care of a sick loved one, or in general, don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor or other professionals about your problem. Expressing yourself helps not only you, but everyone around you understand what is going on and how they can help make your life easier

The overall goal is to survive! Remember that having a positive attitude and not stressing over the small stuff in life will help. Eventually, everyone needs help in life and equipping yourself with quality relationships will provide balance as you care for yourself and all those around you.

It’s Never Too Late to Improve Health

With the average life expectancy constantly on the rise, maintaining one’s health later in life is becoming more important than ever. Taking measures now to improve the elderlys’ health will aid in preventing chronic disease and restoring vigor. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition outlines the following steps every elderly person should undertake to restore or maintain their health.

Body Changes with Aging

As people age they naturally undergo fundamental changes in their body composition. Elderly lose lean body mass, which consists primarily of muscle and bone, and they gain weight with age as their metabolic rate is reduced.  However, there are steps that can be taken to slow the effects of aging and even reverse these consequences. The elderly should consume high quality protein and whole grains with complex carbohydrates and high fiber, saturated fat should be limited. Watching one’s dietary intake is extremely important with the elderly as they have an increased risk of gaining excess weight, which can lead to additional health problems. 

Obesity plays a damaging effect on one’s health and aids in the development of several diseases in older adults.  Obesity can lead to elevated blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and certain forms of cancer. Treating an elderly individual’s obesity provides great benefits to those with a high risk of cardiovascular disease, those with osteoarthritis and individuals with respiratory problems. However, extreme weight loss may be due to a progressive or preexisting disease, and many elderly people tend to lose weight prior to their death.

Exercise

Making exercise a daily part of life for the elderly is is important to their health. Regular physical activity decreases body weight, total body fat and body mass index while increasing muscle and bone mass. The three main areas the elderly should focus on are:

  1. Cardiovascular
  2. Weight-lifting small amounts of weight
  3. Flexibility through stretching

Combining these exercises will improve movement, mobility, balance and posture. As posture deteriorates it becomes increasingly more difficult to breath and losing ones balance may lead to an increase risk of falling. Exercise needs to become a way of life for the elderly, just as their diet becomes a part of their lifestyle.

Cancer Prevention

Diet, nutrition and lifestyle contribute to the development of cancer in 1/3 of all cases. The risk of cancer is reduced in the elderly who abide by healthy nutritional recommendations. It is never too late for elderly adults to make lifestyle changes through diet and exercise to aid in preventing cancer and living an overall healthier lifestyle.