The elderly and their adult children

I’m an adult children of my two 80-something parents.  As such, I have a dual role: at times, I am a leader: taking charge, delegating, coordinating.  At other times, I’m still their little girl, or at least, they see it that way.  It can make for some pretty interesting (and challenging!) moments.

Are you also an adult child?  Here’s some facts and ideas I found from Eric Digests:

https://www.ericdigests.org/pre-925/adult.htm

The population of what they call the ‘oldest-old’ (85 years+) is rising.  Adult children provide about a quarter of the care to elderly fathers and a third of the care to elderly mothers.  Traditionally, it has always been up to adult children to care for their parents, indeed, in some cultures, children are seen as a kind of old age insurance.  Adult children provide direct assistance to activities of daily living and also coordinate and monitor services.  The ‘baby boomer’ population is becoming older, and this group tend to have fewer children to care for them.  Caregivers are at times, under a great deal of strain.  Some suffer from the emotional burden of care and tire out.  Support groups play a large role in helping the caregivers deal with stress.  As recently announced by our Prime Minister, caregiving is a tremendously valued social resource.

As a an adult child, I often remind myself of the gratitude I feel towards my parents who cared for me as best they could and provided me with opportunities.  I see caregiving as an act of ‘giving back’.  Yes, it can be stressful, but also, it can be very rewarding. I savour the special moments I have with my parents (I call them my ‘hummingbird’ moments). One day I will look back and remember this time, and know that I made a difference in the lives of two very special people.

Perhaps you feel the same way?

Calm Pond

 

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You’re not alone in those bouts of depression

Feelings of discouragement or despair are not uncommon for family caregivers.
Witnessing the decline of your loved one can be an intensely uncomfortable and sad process for even the most capable and resourceful of people.  It becomes a mental burden when constantly thinking about the nature of your parents’ or spouse’s changing condition, while wondering how you’ll manage to keep them as healthy, comfortable, and dignified as possible. There have likely been some significant changes in your relationship with this person, and your Dad or husband may no longer be a steady source of friendship, support, and inspiration as they once were. The ongoing mental strain that comes with being in this challenging situation- the sadness, worry, guilt, or uncertainty about the future, accompanied by a personal habit of overdoing the negative thinking, can lead to bouts of depression in caregivers. The experience of depression may not be a locked-in mental health diagnosis for you; it is more likely your body’s response to the many challenges and sorrows you have encountered in your caring role.

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This post is a brief look at how depression is quite a common experience for caregivers- and to let you know you’re not “crazy” or “unskilled”  in some way.
You’re definitely not alone. It is understandable that, given the long list of tasks you’re responsible for, some of the time you might feel utterly exhausted, down and blue. It is important to keep track of when you’re feeling depressed, so you can tell how often, and for what length of time you’re feeling this way. Keeping track of how persistent your symptoms are will help you gauge when it’s time to reach out for help from a trusted professional.

Feed your curiosity.
Try being curious about what depression could feel like in your body and mind. You might be surprised as to how it shows up- when you think you’re simply feeling tired or ill at ease, there may be a number of mental and physical signs that point to a bout of depression.

A few signs of depression:

Mentally
 ‘I’m a failure’
‘I’m no good’
‘This is my fault’
‘Things will never get better’

Physically
tired all the time
sick and run down
headaches and muscle pains
churning gut

Symptom list sourced from :https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/depression/signs-and-symptoms

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Ways to lift your mood

Make a plan to get outside. Even on the dreary, rainy days it’s good to breathe some fresh air into your lungs. The presence of natural light and looking at gardens and trees is incredibly mood boosting.

Be compassionate with yourself. Acknowledge that you’re having a hard day or week. Tell a friend about it or write it down, and after a few minutes of expressing your feelings, focus on another activity that gives you positive energy.

Create a meal plan for the week. Think about foods that are simple to prepare, and tasty meals that will give you good nutrients without feeling too fussy to pull off.

Tickle your funny bone.  Spend 15 minutes watching your favourite comedian, or call a friend that makes you laugh. Read funny jokes and cartoons in the paper.  Laughter recharges both the physical and mental energy, and releases tension you may not realize you’ve been carrying.

 

If you find yourself feeling depressed on a regular basis, I encourage you to get some extra support. A little help can go a long way, and having a trustworthy, kind, and consistent professional or loved one who is there for you can make a ton of difference.

-Karyn

The ‘Accidental Tourist’ in France

When I was younger I read a great book called ‘The Accidental Tourist’, so inspired by the book I decided to do some armchair travelling…and here is what I found:

La Cite du Vin, Bordeaux, France

http://www.laciteduvin.com/en

Admission: 20 Euros

(includes Permanent Tour visit, tasting of a world wine in the Belvedere, and interactive guide) In the Belvedere, you will discover a 360 degree view of Bordeaux whilst tasting a glass of world wine.

Consult Rail Europe for fast trains (in France, called “TGV”) from Paris to Bordeaux.

https://www.raileurope.com/popular-routes/paris-to-bordeaux.html

The rail journey from the Montparnasse train station takes about 3 hours.  Bordeaux, known for its fine wines, is the capital of the Aquitaine region.

Happy travels!

Calm Pond

 

 

Managing the Cost Of Caregiving

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The financial cost of caring for a loved one is a topic that can cause a lot of stress, worry, and fear.

Several situations can arise that may cause financial strain. Your loved one might have been employed and can no longer work, or perhaps you’re not able to work as much as you used to. Grocery costs can mound, as can the price of gas and parking to get to appointments. Your loved one might need medical equipment that is not covered by health insurance, or it might be recommended that they see specialists whom you also do not have coverage for. The cost of medication can be burdensome. If you are already on a limited income, these stresses can increase.

If you are a caregiver, you are probably familiar with with the financial concerns listed above. Much is not in your power, but there are ways to ease financial stress. Read on for some tips from our Resource Guide for Family Caregivers.

Look in to federal government services. | You might qualify for more assistance than you think, so it’s always advised to do your research. Have you heard of the Guaranteed Income Supplement or Allowance? The Guaranteed Income Supplement provides a monthly non-taxable benefit to Old Age Security (OAS) recipients who have a low income and are living in Canada. You qualify if you are a legal resident of Canada, you are receiving OAS, and your annual income is lower than the maximum annual income. The Allowance benefit is available if you are aged 60-64 and your spouse receives OAS. Visit http://www.servicecanada.gc.ca for more information.

Know your available tax deductions and credits. | Additional financial support is available through a variety of income tax deductions and credits, such as Caregiver Tax Credits, which allows you to claim money for maintaining a dwelling where both you and a dependant live. Also look in to the Infirm Dependent Deduction, Disability Tax Credit, Medical Expenses Credit, Age Credit, Spousal Credit, Equivalent to Spouse Credit, Dependent Disability Credit, and BC Sales Tax Credit. Talk to an income tax professiona if one is available to you, or consider visiting a free Income Tax Clinic, which are available for single people whose income does not exceed $25,000 or for couples whose combined income does not exceed $30,000 per year.

Apply for BC PharmaCare. | BC residents with active Medical Services Plan of BC (MSP) coverage are eligible for coverage. Click here to look in to your options.

Apply for Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters (SAFER) | The Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters (SAFER) program helps make rents affordable for BC seniors with low to moderate incomes. SAFER provides monthly cash payments to subsidise rents for eligible BC residents who are age 60 or over and who pay rent for their homes. For more information and to apply, click here. 

If you are struggling financially to care for your loved one, remember to reach out for help. It may feel hopeless sometimes, but there are options, organizations, and people who are able to help.

 

Cassandra Van Dyck

 

 

 

How to Diffuse Frustration

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Frustration is a frustrating emotion.

When you get caught in a wave of it, it can feel hard to break free. You might feel stuck, and that feeling could cause more frustration. If left unchecked, you might lose sight of why you felt frustrated in the first place, which makes it very hard to work through your emotions.

Frustration is a primary emotion, which means that it is an emotion often expressed as other emotions, such as anger. If you can take some time to diffuse frustration before it’s expressed as anger, you have a better chance of communicating more effectively with your family, co-workers, friends, or loved one.

The next time you’re feeling frustrated, try following the steps below to diffuse and work through the challenging emotion.

BREATHE | Acknowledge that you’re feeling frustrated and pause, wherever you are. Even if you’re in the middle of a conversation or sitting in traffic. Name the emotion, and take a deep breath in, and out. Breathe all your air to expand your belly as big as it will stretch, then blow the air out forcefully through your lips. If you’re able to, let out a loud sigh. Do what grounds you. For some it is deep breathing, for others it is a walk in the forest, playing music, or exerting some energy exercising.

REFLECT | Now it’s time to figure out why you’re feeling frustrated. There might be several reasons, and that’s okay. Talk yourself through the layers that have built up to make you feel this way. Chances are, you have a lot on your plate. Did you say yes to something you didn’t want to? Are you feeling unsupported? Are you waiting for answers about your loved one’s condition? You can’t solve it all at once, but identifying the source of frustration can help you to come up with a plan to address it.

REACH OUT | Now that you’ve identified where your frustration is coming from, it’s time to get support. What kind of support you will need depends on your unique situation. Maybe you need so carve out some time for self-care, or perhaps you have not been getting enough sleep and need to take some steps to ensure you get a good night’s rest. If you’re feeling that you need some help caring for your loved one, you might need to talk to their support team and ask them to help out. Sometimes what you need might just be to connect with other caregivers who are experiencing similar situations. Talking, sharing, and connecting can do wonders to help manage frustration.

What steps do you take to diffuse frustration? We’d love to hear from you in our comments!

 

Cassandra Van Dyck

3 Ways to Sneak More Vegetables In to Your Diet

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I don’t know about you, but eating a well-rounded diet during this time of year is a struggle for me. The fresh fruits and vegetables available over the last two seasons are starting to dwindle and it feels like there are treats offered at every turn.

While there’s nothing wrong with indulging, it’s important to eat a balanced diet to ensure you’re supporting your energy levels and encouraging your body to get a good night’s rest. Eating enough vegetables is a great way to support your health.

The Canada Food Guide suggests the following:

  • Eat at least one dark green and one orange vegetable each day.
  • Go for dark green vegetables such as broccoli, romaine lettuce, and spinach.
  • Go for orange vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and winter squash.
  • Choose vegetables and fruit prepared with little or no added fat, sugar or salt.
  • Enjoy vegetables steamed, baked or stir-fried instead of deep fried.
  • Have vegetables and fruit more often than juice.

Great advice, right? And we’ve probably heard it before! Incorporating those foods in to our days can be challenging. Here are three suggestions for getting your fill of vegetables.

Make a smoothie | One of the easiest ways to fill up on vegetables is to blend them in to a smoothie. Aim for low sugar smoothies if you can to support blood sugar levels. Try a base of steamed then frozen cauliflower, or avocado and coconut milk. Here are some recipe suggestions: Califlower Blueberry Smoothie and 4 Bananaless Smoothies

Make one meal a day a salad | Choose one meal a day and make an elaborate salad. Try grating carrots and beets, roasting yams and adding whatever greens you have on hand. If you often don’t feel full after eating a salad, add nuts and seeds, a boiled egg, or half an avocado.

Make soup | ‘Tis the season! Try this (my favourite!) recipe for vegetable-packed Emerald Soup.

 

Cassandra Van Dyck

 

 

A Simple Meditation for A Good Night’s Rest

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We’ve talked a lot on the blog about the importance of a good night’s rest. Sleeping well can help give you resilience and energy for your caregiving journey. Getting a good night’s rest does not always come easily, so it’s helpful to have some tricks in your toolbox if you’re struggling.

Practicing meditation can help relax your body and mind so you can drift off in to dreamland with ease. After you’re comfortable in bed, put on some headphones and try this guided meditation.

How to Let Go

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“Some of us think that holding on is what makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go.” – Herman Hesse

What does it mean to let go?

Depending on where you’re at in your caregiving journey, the idea might seem appealing, terrifying, or impossible.

If you’re grieving the loss of a loved one, letting go can look like reaching a place where you’re able to focus more on your own life and less on the life you once led as a caregiver. If you’re new to your caregiving role, letting go might mean relinquishing some control over how you wish things could be, and accepting that they are the way they are.

Letting go evokes feelings of acceptance and freedom. It’s a release of pain, fear, anger, or stress. It brings your mind out of the past or future and in to the present. It allows others to support you because you are letting go of the need to control your situation.

How do you let go? Here are a few tips:

Take inventory. | If you know that you need to let go, then you know you are holding on to something that isn’t serving you. Take some time to reflect on how you’re doing and what is in the way of feeling you better. Try not to rush yourself. Becoming a caregiver or losing a loved one is a journey, and deciding to let go of emotions is not an easy decision.

Get support. | Join a network group, talk to a friend or family member, reach out to a professional counsellor or therapist. We were never meant to do it all alone, and it is so much easier to work through difficult emotions when you have support.

Every day, do one thing that lights you up. | Practicing self-care and doing one thing every day that makes you happy can remind your body and mind that there are feelings other than the heavy ones that you want to let go of. Dance in your living room, visit your local swimming pool, or sing along to your favourite song. Grab on to the small pleasures in life that bring you joy.

 

Cassandra Van Dyck

 

Respite is essential for your health

My definition of respite: Time away from regular caregiving duties that gives you a much deserved break, and helps you regain strength.

 

It is normal for a caregiver to have LOTS on their mind. Lists of phone calls they need to make; upcoming appointments for a loved one; worries about house maintenance or finances; the busyness of preparing meals and keeping the house organized.
All of this can be stressful and tiring, even when you are supporting a parent or spouse out of a sincere desire to be there for them … even when you truly love this person and feel positive about your ability to manage all that needs to be done.

Whether your care partner lives with you or elsewhere, it’s essential that you sometimes get a break. For your mental well-being and peace of mind, it is helpful to have your loved one looked after by professional care staff for a few days every so often.
Booking them into overnight respite allows you to focus on other parts of your life, such as following your own career dreams, spending time with friends, going to doctor’s appointments and tending to your own health, or simply having a bit of time to unwind and not respond to someone else’s needs.

 

“To be self-nurturing is to have the courage to pay attention to your needs”
-Alan Wolfelt

 

4 positive effects of accessing respite:
Permission.
You are giving yourself permission to be off-duty for a couple days. This is a healthy choice to make. Your system will have a chance to slow down and relax a little bit, without being on high alert towards the other person’s care needs. You are not selfish for needing some time away- you are choosing to act in a loving way towards yourself.

What do I need permission to do right now?

Re-discovery.
This is an opportunity for you to re-connect with activities you enjoy doing. You may have become too tired or stretched for time, and lost track of what makes you feel energized and happy. Take this chance to remember who YOU are, without the caretaking role.
What makes you smile?  Think about an activity you can you re-introduce into your life a couple times per week, even for 10 minutes.

Simplicity.
While you may have many sweet, meaningful or lighthearted moments with your spouse or parent during a usual week, you likely have some frustrating or exhausting ones as well. When you book the time off, you regain simplicity in daily routines, living your days according to what you want or need to be doing- if even for a short while.
I
 invite you to notice whether your schedule is feeling too hectic. Think of 1 task you can delegate that will make your life less strenuous.

Change of scene.
Even though your family member might not be thrilled to try respite out, they’re likely to have lots of great experiences. They will probably make some connections with staff or residents of the facility. This can really boost one’s self-esteem and enliven the spirits. There will be social events on the go, such as afternoon tea or happy hour. Groups of residents will gather to talk about current events, or listen to live music that gets their feet tapping. A few days around other people can be a marvelous antidote to isolation and loneliness.
For details on overnight respite options in North and West Vancouver, call or stop by our office at Capilano Mall, suite 201. We have brochures on local care facilities (both public and private options), recreation programs, and meal delivery services. Our staff and volunteers are happy to chat it through, and seeing a friendly face doesn’t hurt either!    www.nscr.bc.ca

Some people feel guilty when they book their family member into overnight respite. This emotion is one that can be lessened or worked through with the support of good friends, a therapist, or a bit of self-inspired reading.
Here are a few books and articles to get you started:

Escaping Toxic Guilt: Five Proven Steps to Free Yourself from Guilt for Good! -Susan Carrell

Emotional Blackmail: When the People in your life use fear, obligation, and guilt to manipulate you.   -Susan Forward

Graduating from guilt: Six steps to overcome guilt and reclaim your life.
-Holly Michelle Eckert.

Toxic Guilt, Healthy Guilt By Margaret Paul, Ph.D. http://www.selfgrowth.com/articles/MargaretPaul13.html

 

Enjoy the break! In my view, you completely deserve it.
-Karyn