Happy Valentine’s Day

At age 12, my mother found herself sick in bed. While resting, she created a beautiful embroidery, on which was written the following:

‘If all mankind would live in mutual love,

The world would resemble that above.’

May you live in peace and mutual love this Valentine’s,

Calm Pond

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Working With Worry: Part I by Calm Pond

In Part I of this post, I will be reporting on my explorations reading ‘The Worry Workbook : CBT Skills to Overcome Worry and Anxiety by Facing the Fear of Uncertainty’ by Melisa Robichaud and Kirstin Buhr (New Harbinger, 2018). In this timely book, Robichaud and Buhr provide people who worry with a lot of real tools for overcoming anxiety. They start by outlining the difference between fear and anxiety: Fear is, for example, spotting a rattlesnake in my line of vision (protective); anxiety is, rather, consistent rumination about stressors in my environment, and, especially, feelings of doubt or uncertainty about my ability to cope with these stressors.

Supposing you feel worried a lot lately: what can you do? Well, you can start by assessing the degree of your anxiety by taking a quiz, such as the Beck Anxiety Inventory found at:

https://www.beckinstitute.org/beck-inventory-and-scales

Interestingly, Buhr is Directing Psychologist at the North Shore Stress and Anxiety Clinic, right in our backyard!

This is a very helpful resource for people who suffer from anxiety, and can be found at:

http://www.nssac.ca

I might then set a goal for how I will cope with my anxiety, but a SMART goal:

S-Specific

M-Measurable

A-Attainable

R-Relevant

T-Timely

For example, I could set a goal to go for a walk every week, because exercise is a very effective treatment for anxiety. I’d have to narrow it down to a set time, day of the week, and duration.

I could also use the FFF approach to dealing with anxiety, which stands for:

F-Face it

F-Fix it

F-Forget it

Through a range of behavioral experiments (this is where I test out a new behavior) I eventually realize that I can, in fact, cope with the ‘slings and arrows’ life throws at me.
I could, for example, change a very common safety behavior such as checking locks. I could allow myself to check the locks only twice, and, when I do so, really focus, so that later on I will remember that I did, in fact, check them.
Behavioral experiments easily lend themselves to all sorts of compulsive behaviors. Just be prepared, if you read this book, to invest a sizable amount of time completing exercises. Also, remember that the book is an adjunct, and not a substitute for, professional help, if that is what you think you need. I haven’t finished the book yet. I’m taking it slow and not rushing it because that is how I think I will get the most out of it.

As the French say: ‘Bon Courage!’ (which means: ‘Have Courage!’)

Calm Pond

The Sibling Relationship When Caring for Aging Parents

Do you share the caregiving role with a sibling? Sharing the care of your loved one can be incredibly helpful, but it can also be challenging. Read this blog post from our archives to learn some tips about sharing the caregiving role.

North Van Caregivers

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Witnessing a parent’s health decline is difficult as adult children come to terms with the idea that the relationship with their mother or father is changing. If you are currently caring for an aging parent, you may be experiencing this sense of anticipatory loss. Your siblings can be a source of support since they are experiencing these same emotions alongside you. However, the emotional impact of caregiving can also cause friction among your brothers and sisters. If you feel you are often in conflict with your siblings while caregiving for your aging parents, know that you are not alone.

The Caregiving Role

Caregiving for an aging parent is a multifaceted job that involves the financial, legal, physical and emotional well-being of your mother or father. You may encounter many different opinions between your siblings on what decisions need to be made, which can lead to confusion about what people will…

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2 Minute Pick-Me-Up

Recently I was in a yoga class and the instructor invited us to conclude the practice with a loving-kindness meditation. We were asked to place our hands our on heart and close our eyes. Then she said the following:

May I be happy
May I be radiantly healthy
May I continue to grow and change
May I feel loved and supported

A few tears rolled down my cheeks and I breathed deeply. I realized in that moment that it is not often that I take the time to wish myself well. It felt good, and I left the class feeling softer.

So, today I invite you, caregivers, to do the same. Take two minutes for yourself. Sit somewhere comfortable and say those words out loud to yourself. Now, how do you feel?

Cassandra Van Dyck

When forgiveness becomes key

Caring for your parents is not always easy, and it can become all the more complicated and challenging if you hold any feelings of resentment or disappointment towards them because of how you were treated in childhood. This post gives caregivers some suggestions for navigating and coping with this type of situation.

North Van Caregivers

Resentful. Disappointed. Angry.  Irritated.
Some of these words might describe how you feel about one or both of your parents. Perhaps Mum and Dad were neglectful of your needs in childhood, or even downright abusive on an emotional or physical level. You might have felt disregarded or diminished by their communication with you.  It may also be that childhood was a largely positive time for you, and during adulthood you encountered major conflict with your parents.  Feeling angry, resentful or disappointed with your Mum and Dad can make the caregiving role even more complicated. The issue of having negative emotions towards parents is one to be brought into the open, as it’s more common for family caregivers than you may realize.
When Dad suddenly needs help in managing his daily routines because of memory loss, you are likely to feel challenged by stepping into this supportive role. That is completely…

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Emotional First-Aid for Caregivers (EFAC): Self-Care

Over the past few years, “self-care” has become a sort of buzz word that some caregivers may roll their eyes at. Beauty companies and spas use the term regularly in their advertising, in hopes of coaxing tired clients to buy their products of pay for their services. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with treating yourself to a new lipstick or a massage – sometimes it can be just what you need to brighten your day. The problem is that self-care is often associated with spending money or as something that only those lucky enough to “have time” can do. This belief can prevent caregivers from making the time to practice self-care, which really is just that: taking care of yourself.

You’ve heard it before: “You cannot serve from an empty vessel.” Making sure that you can filling your own cup first will help you to be a better caregiver, parent, partner, or friend. How you fill your cup will be different for everyone, and it’s important to tune in to what makes you feel grounded, healthy and happy.

For myself, I know that I need to practice four different aspects of self-care in order to care for my loved ones with a clear head and heart. If you’re unsure of what you need, this may give you some ideas:

Exercise. I need to sweat, increase my heart rate and use my muscles 2-3 times a week. Currently, I hike, practice yoga, and get to the gym for circuit training. When I’m not exercising regularly, I feel lethargic, unmotivated, and stiff.

Sleep. I need 7-8 hours of quality sleep to feel my best. When I don’t sleep well, I am irritable, unfocused, overly emotional, and tend to consume more sugar and caffeine, which likely doesn’t help my other symptoms!

Connection. I must connect with someone at least once a week who knows me well. This can be a phone conversation, or even an email. The important part is that I’m able to really talk about how I’m doing and feel heard. When I don’t connect with someone on this deeper level, I feel lonely.

Creativity. It’s not a stretch to say that I’m a creative person. I write, play the guitar and sing, and have recently been experimenting with all things textile related (knitting, weaving, sewing, and natural dying). I need time in my week to explore these passions, even if it’s just an hour or two. When I don’t take the time, I feel listless.

As mentioned, these four acts of self-care are what I need to feel good, but they might look quite different for you. It should also be noted that I do not always exercise 2-3 times a week, sleep 7-8 hours a night, connect with someone who knows me well or make time to practice my passions. What I have learned, however, is to ask myself why when I’m feeling lethargic, or irritable, lonely, or listless. The answer is usually that I have not been making the time to practice self-care. I know then to ensure I fit these important things in. Sometimes this means cancelling plans or asking someone else to help out, and that can be hard. If I start beating myself up over not being able to do everything I thought I could, I take a deep breath and practice self-compassion. I remind myself that self-care is not selfish – that it’s quite the opposite. Taking care of ourselves first is what enables us to take care of one another.

How do you practice self-care? We’d love to hear from you in our comments!

Cassandra Van Dyck

Navigating Healthcare Services

When we ask caregivers what could make their caregiving journeys easier, assistance with navigating healthcare services is one of the most common responses we hear. Caregivers want to know what services are available, what’s suitable for their loved one, how these services work together, and when the best time to access them is. Essentially, they want to know how to use healthcare services to best support their loved one.

It sounds like a simple request, but navigating healthcare services can be challenging. The good news is there are lots of services out there to support your loved one, and the bad news is that sometimes you might not know about them, or if or when they’re appropriate for your spouse’s health needs. These questions can leave a lot of caregivers feeling frustrated, uncertain, and lost.

So, what can you do to ease the challenges of navigating health care services? While there’s no bullet proof answer, we have some suggestions that can greatly help.

  1. Make a list. When a question pops in to your mind, write it down, and take it with you to your loved one’s next doctor’s appointment. Write down the answers during the appointments so you don’t forget and you’re able to refer to what you’ve learned after. Doctor’s appointments can be so rushed, and it’s very common for people to leave wishing they’d asked about something that slipped their mind. Making and keeping a list can be very helpful to prevent this from happening.
  2. Do some research. Find out about the roles that different healthcare providers play so that you’re better able to direct your questions to the most helpful person. If someone has suggested an alternative therapy or some extra help such as a overnight respite or physiotherapy, spend some time reading about how those services work, and write down your questions.
  3. Ask questions. Spend some time with your loved one discussing their concerns and queries and yours, and then be prepared to ask questions. If you’re considering accessing respite services, there will likely be facility tours available to you and your care partner. If you’re connecting with a new health care provider, an intake appointment is a great time to ask any questions you might have about how their services will work with others your spouse is currently accessing. Make sure to also ask the pharmacist any questions you might have about medication interactions or potential side effects from a new prescription.

NSCR’s Caregiver Support Program is offering a free workshop all about Navigating Healthcare Services on Wednesday, January 16th 2019 from 1:30-3PM at Silver Harbour Activity Centre (144 22nd Street, N. Vancouver). The workshop will cover: home and community care, adult day programs, mental health services, residential care options, palliative care services, and preventing caregiver burnout. If you’d like to learn more about navigating the healthcare system, this is a wonderful opportunity. To register or ask questions, email Karyn: karyn.davies@nscr.bc.ca

What has helped you when it comes to navigating healthcare services with your care partner? We’d love to read your tips in our comments!

Cassandra Van Dyck

Gifts Of the Season

We’ve talked a lot on the blog about the challenges caregivers face during the holiday season: the pressure to meet expectations from family members, the struggles of including your loved one in traditions, and the grief that can wash over you when you realize that the holidays look quite different from what they once were. The beginning of January can be a time of reflection and anticipation for the coming year, and it’s important to recognise all of the beauty in your life as well as the challenges.

This is an invitation to look back on what may have been a challenging holiday season and instead of focusing on what you overcame, acknowledge the moments that made you smile or feel peaceful. Perhaps your family found a creative way of including your spouse or parent in family traditions, or you were able to connect with your loved one by talking about memories from past holidays. Maybe you shared a nourishing meal with friends or had the chance to see the joy experienced by children at the end of December.

Take some time over the next few days to sit down and make a list: what made you smile over the holidays? What nurtured you? After writing your list, reflect on how you feel now, and how you might be able to acknowledge the moments of beauty that inevitably pop up in the coming year.

What were some cherished moments from your holiday season? We’d love to hear from you in our comments.

Cassandra Van Dyck

2 Minute Pick-Me-Up for Caregivers: Triangle Breathing

Are you feeling a bit overwhelmed after a hectic holiday season? Take a few minutes for yourself today, and try out this triangle breathing meditation. Just a few moments to practice mindfulness can shift your mindset from frantic to calm.

North Van Caregivers

 

When you’re a caregiver, sometimes making time just to read a blog post can feel overwhelming. That’s why we’ve created a new series: The 2 Minute Pick-Me-Up, with the intention of providing caregivers with a brief break to collect their thoughts or gain some inspiration, in two minutes or less.

Today we leave you with a triangle breathing exercise. Follow the unfolding triangles, breathing in when it unfolds, and out when it closes. Just one minute of meditation can drastically change your mood.

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Grief during special occasions

When grief surfaces, it is often a powerful force. I liken it to an ocean wave that has an intensity as it rises up, and causes a spray as it comes rolling down.  
This time of year can be unsettling in a certain way. While you may love Christmastime or enjoy celebrating Chanukah, so many emotions surround the holiday season. You may be feeling sad, regretful, or lonely because your parents have memory loss and cannot enter into the festivities as they used to. Your wife or husband may have limited mobility due to Parkinsons or cancer treatments. Many times when loved ones have health challenges and you are their main support person, you will feel a sense of significant loss during Christmastime. Now it is all up to you to organize gifts, meals, and special time together, and it makes sense that loneliness is felt. This is a very real experience.

Other special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, Thanksgiving, and summer vacations can also feel uncomfortable when you are grieving the changes in an important relationship. When your spouse or parent is not able to give as much support and companionship to you, it is like having your anchor removed from under the boat. Losing an anchor is a vulnerable thing to have happen. While you may not be in the habit of sharing the more vulnerable thoughts and feelings with family and friends, I encourage you to try at least one of these ideas.

Honor your memories. Enjoy some apple cider with a trusted friend, and share your memories of Christmastime over the years. Afterwards, write these memories down, and include as many details as you can, engaging the 5 senses of touch, smell, sight, taste, and sound. This can be a good way to honor your special memories, and to capture little pieces of your family history as well.

Create a new ritual. Think of something small that makes you feel inspired, such as making a mulled spice mix to give as gifts; or hanging white lights to make your home extra cozy. This could also include saying yes to a dinner invitation with some lovely people in your life.

Practice kindness.
When feelings of grief come up, let them be there. Tune into what you’re feeling, and give yourself some time to really feel it. When you’re ready, do something kind for yourself- choose something that is relaxing or energizing, depending what you need in the moment.
Relaxing ideas: Take a bath with Epsom salts. Light candles and listen to soothing music. Unwind with some gentle stretches.
Energizing ideas: Go for a 20-minute walk. Call a friend that makes you laugh. Watch a funny movie.

Wishing you times of peacefulness and connection, as you navigate the challenging terrain of living with loss. Know that you are not alone in your journey.

Karyn