Making Time for Self-Care

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“I have come to believe that caring for myself is not self indulgent. Caring for myself is an act of survival.” – Audre Lorde

It may seem almost too obvious to even state: caring for a loved one takes a huge amount of energy, time, and resources. Your care partner’s health and well-being likely takes up much of your thoughts and might leave you wondering what happened to old friends or hobbies. Although acceptance of where you’re at is helpful for your emotional well-being, it is also important that you pursue some of those passions and stay in touch with your friends. Connecting socially and doing what lights you up is a way to practice self-care, and as we know by now, practising self-care is crucial if you wish to be able to care for your loved one long term.

Today, I offer you a challenge. First, I want you to think of one friend that always makes you feel good, and get in touch with them. Send an email, or call them up on the phone. Even if you don’t feel that you have time to meet with them in person, take 10 minutes to write to them or speak with them on the phone. Second, think of something you do that lights you up. For some it could be painting, for others it might be hiking or swimming. Look at your calendar, and make a plan to do that activity for at least an hour sometime in the next two weeks. Once you’ve planned it out – stick to it.

We’d love to hear from you once you’ve completed one or two of these challenges. What were the barriers to taking time for self-care? How did you feel after? If you regularly take time to see friends or to do the things you love, how do you make time?

 

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The Power Of Music

Some thoughts on the power of music from the archives.

North Van Caregivers

Whether or not we actively search for and listen to songs, sing, or play an instrument, music plays a big role in our lives. It’s played at graduations, birthday parties, weddings and anniversaries. It’s in our cars, in busy downtown streets and can even be heard through other people’s headsets or through open car windows. It could be argued that it is almost impossible to live life without having music associated with memories. Some of those memories might be happy – the song that was playing when you were first kissed or the lullaby that was sang to put you to sleep when you were little. Others might be sad. A man once shared with me that he is unable to listen to Amazing Grace without crying because he had heard it at so many people’s funerals.

For those living with dementia, listening to and participating in musical activities can…

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The Sibling Relationship When Caring for Aging Parents

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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 agree upon. In addition, if your siblings have questions about the estate or their inheritance, this can have place pressure on the caregiver who is managing the financial and legal affairs of the parent.

The sibling relationship is an important factor in the care of aging parents. For one, siblings need to make key decisions and communicate their  feelings and opinions in terms of their

parent’s care. Combined with the emotional process of accepting their parent’s declining health, you may observe that your brothers or sisters may be attempting to resolve long-buried feelings with the family or may be unintentionally inciting sibling rivalries by falling into old family patterns.

Family Roles and Patterns

A major complication of the sibling caregiving relationship is that childhood roles within the family re-emerge. Family members can view the adult siblings with the same labels that they acquired—perhaps unfairly—as children. Birth order and gender may also influence these sibling dynamics. For example, if you were the highly-responsible child in the family and are now handling your parent’s care, your siblings may feel that you have everything covered with your aging parent, and not know how to help. Just as you would want to be acknowledged for the person you are today, rather than how you were characterized in the past, it is necessary to acknowledge that these labels may have a damaging effect on the sibling relationship. A question to ask yourself in your communications with family members is whether your feelings or opinions are based on the present situation or are remnants of the past relationship. Be mindful that you are offering space for your siblings to contribute in the way they can.

Relationship with the Parent in Care

Your siblings have a different relationship with your parent than you do therfore they may have different needs in caring for your parent. If your sibling has resentments towards your parent that are coming up at this emotional time, resist judging them for their feelings as we all have our own individual process of letting go. It may be helpful to reframe how the siblings views the role at hand. Express your own need for assistance and ask for their support in your role as primary caregiver, if they cannot offer this to your parent.

In another common scenario, your parent may have helped resolve any disagreements among your siblings. Now with your parent unable to intervene, your siblings might need to devise new communication and conflict management strategies.

Communication

Effective communication is important to ensure trust and transparency between your brothers and sisters. Your siblings can provide helpful input in the decisions you face as the primary caregiver. Regular and consistent communication with your family members (especially those that live out of town) can alleviate tension between siblings. Some primary caregivers may send regular email updates to siblings, or make use the apps such as Tyze now available for managing the care of a loved one. Communication can also motivate people to contribute and ensures that each family member is on the same page with the care of your parent.

A family meeting can help establish new patterns and build trust with your siblings for your abilities to care for your parent. If needed, a counselor or psychologist can help facilitate your family meeting to ensure turn-taking in talking and guide the process towards a productive outcome.

Be aware that each sibling is processing the emotional situation of their parent relationship at their own speed and to the best of their abilities. You can help to create a better connection with your family by providing positive feedback when siblings help, listening intently to what your siblings say, and by clarifying issues as soon as they arise. This does not mean that you have to compromise your own feelings in the relationship; rather, you have a duty to express yourself in an honest and non-accusatory way that. If in the end, your siblings are still not responding to your efforts, it may be time to step back and recognize their limitations in caregiving. At times, you may have to take on the role without any assistance of family members. If this is your situation, reach out for the support of the caregiving community to ensure your own needs are being met.

Come by and borrow these library resources:

  • Caring for your Parents: The Complete Family Guide (Book) by Hugh Delehanty and Elinor Ginzler
  • Family Meeting: A Media-Based Approach to Planning Care for Family Elders (DVD) by Sheri Hartman and David Kleber
  • Online: Handling the Sibling Relationship (Podcast), http://archcare.ecarediary.com/CommentRadioShow.aspx?id=215

 

By Lindsay Kwan

*Adapted from the July/August 2016 Family Caregivers’ Grapevine

When It’s Hard to Feel Grateful

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When you are in the throes of your caregiving journey and stress is at an all-time high, it can feel impossible to express or feel gratitude. A lack of sleep, nourishing food, and self-care can wreak havoc on your nervous system. You might feel like there’s a dark cloud hanging over your days that’s hard to get out from.

When someone close to your heart is struggling, it can feel very uncomfortable to give yourself permission to feel gratitude. You might think, “How can I be happy when this person I care about so much is not?” Although it’s challenging, being able to tap in to gratitude, even if it is for the smallest joys in your days, is crucial if to maintaining a sense of well-being. Gratitude allows you to be present in whatever moment you’re in. It can give you strength, and even hope.

Remember that you do not have to have a complicated gratitude practice, and that you do not have to be grateful for everything. Life is not perfect, and bad things do happen. It’s okay to be upset about them and to know that you can safely express those feelings. Feeling and expressing gratitude is not about trampling out the not so great emotions, it’s about bringing your attention to the good things that may not be so apparent when you’re struggling.

If you’re struggling to feel gratitude, start with the smallest thing possible that made even the slightest difference to your day. Here are a few ideas:

a warm mug of coffee or tea first thing in the morning

a glass of cool water when you’re on a hot day

stepping in to a hot shower 

the person who held the door for you and your loved one the other day

putting on pyjamas when they’ve just come out of the dryer

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They are just small things, but when you start to pay attention to their occurrences, they become powerful.

Try writing down three things you’re grateful for in the morning, and three things at night before going to sleep. Continue this practice for just one week, and see what sort of difference it makes in your mood.

Please remember that if you’re continuing to struggle and feel like you can’t pull yourself out, reach out to a professional for help. The caregiving journey can be a hard one, and support can make all the difference. 

 

Cassandra Van Dyck

 

 

Dementia Tips Caregivers Need: Part Two

Last month I posted my notes on a Dementia Education workshop I attended hosted by Karen Tyrell (Lower Mainland Dementia Educator). Here is the previous post:  https://northvancaregivers.wordpress.com/2018/04/12/dementia-care-workshop-highlights/

I now turn to the mains stages of AD, which are:

  1. Mild/Early 2-4 years (doing just fine)
  2. Moderate/Middle 2-10 years (middle stage more difficult-family stressed)
  3. Late 1-3 years

To date, 1 million Canadians are affected by Alzheimer’s Disease.

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Diet and exercise are important, sleep also. Common behaviors and changes are:

  • Repeated questions
  • Denial (of AD, dementia)
  • Difficulties doing daily activities, such as forgot how to use microwave
  • Increased anxiety
  • Increased agitation
  • Aggression (verbal or physical)
  • Wandering, pacing
  • Paranoia and misperceptions
  • Losing things

Here are some tips on how to manage:

  • Try to keep the peace, validation of the feelings they are experiencing
  • Time outs
  • Say: ‘I can see you’re frustrated, angry’

I hope this helps.  My father has early dementia, and life is certainly a challenge. Probably the most helpful tip of Karen’s is to keep the peace, at least for me.
Also, time outs and time away help a lot. Here is Karen’s website: www.DementiaSolutions.ca

All my best to you in your caregiving journey,

Calm Pond

Staying connected & keeping isolation at bay

At all ages in life, feeling connected is vital to our well-being. Whether you’re an introverted person who recharges with quiet time and space to pursue solo activities, or more of an extroverted personality that gets energy and inspiration through being with others- having strong, loving connections with friends and family is a major contributor to feeling healthy, fulfilled, and able to deal with stresses that come along.
Caregivers are at risk of becoming isolated. Given all the time and energy that goes into helping a spouse or parent with practical tasks, you may have lost touch with good friends, hobbies, and events you used to take part in. When does being less involved start to become isolation?

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Self check-in questions to consider

Do I speak to a close friend at least once a month?

When I’m sad or upset, is there someone I can rely on for support?

Do I avoid seeing other people for weeks at a time?

Am I feeling lonely?

Have I given up most of my hobbies and passions – or all of them- for my caring role?

You might be realizing you’ve gotten a bit isolated. It can sneak up on you! Take a breath.

Ways to re-connect

Make a list of activities that bring you joy, inspiration, or peacefulness. Pick one you can reintroduce into your schedule, even if it’s 30 minutes once a week.

Invite a good friend to make a regular coffee date, and stick to the plan as much as possible.

Make community life part of your routine. Go out somewhere every day, like the library or local walking trails, and say hi to at least one person you encounter.

Speak to your counsellor or spiritual support person, and share what you’ve been going through.

See if any of the books on this list are of interest. The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle is available in our Caregiver resource library. https://www.onlinepsychologydegree.info/top-10-self-help-books-about-loneliness/

Today, may you feel a sense of belonging- to yourself and others.
-Karyn

How to Prevent Slips, Trips and Falls

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Everyone will have falls at some point in their life. Children fall all the time, usually with little (or no) consequence. The dangers of falling increase with age. They are “the leading cause of injury-related hospitalizations among Canadian seniors, and between 20% and 30% of seniors fall each year,” says a report from the Public Health Agency of Canada. Falls can lead to injury, which can result in hospitalization, decreased mobility, and even complications like pneumonia or death. It is crucial to do everything you can to prevent yourself and your loved one from falling as you age.

Here are some tips to prevent you or your loved one from experiencing a fall:

EXERCISE | Exercise may be the single most important thing that you can do to prevent a fall. Physiotherapist Barbara Adams says she can predict falls months ahead of time in seniors, based on their balance, speed of walking, and distance of steps. Get out for walks, even if it’s just a short one, at least once a day. Squat! Try just standing up and sitting down when you’re on the couch or at the kitchen table, then repeat the exercise multiple times. When you start to feel comfortable with that exercise, try it with just the aid of the back of a chair, and then finally without any assistance. This exercise will strengthen your back, legs, core, and buttocks – all of which help you to increase balance.

TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR | Make sure you understand the side effects of any medications you’re on. Some can decrease balance or cause dizziness, putting you at greater risk of a fall. Your doctor can also help you assess any other health issues that could put you at risk, such as issues with vision.

WEAR PROPER FOOTWEAR | What your mother told you is still true! Wear proper footwear – always. Make sure you are as sturdy as you can be, and change your shoes based on the weather. Consider strap-on ice grips for the winter months, and make sure your summer sandals don’t shift on your feet too much.

REMOVE HAZARDS | Do a thorough walk-through of your house and look for any hazards. Is there a rug that you or other people often trip over? Are you comfortable on the stairs? How do you feel when you get in and out of the shower? Assess the risks and make changes.

USE EQUIPMENT | If you think that some extra equipment in your home could help you, such as a bar next to the toilet, a stool in the bathtub, etc., talk to your doctor. Make sure to explain the barriers you’re having to feeling safe in your home, or when you’re out in public, so your doctor can adequately recommend supports. Some pharmacies such as Davies offers equipment rentals.

For more information on preventing falls, take a look at this handbook from Vancouver Coastal Health.

 

Cassandra Van Dyck

 

Resistance to Care

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While many of us are willing to help a family member or friend, sometimes that help is resisted or declined all together.  Everyone one has the right to refuse help, but it can be worrisome when there could be a risk of harm.

Resistance to help can have a number or causes. The family member who has up until now lived a lifetime of self sufficiency may find accepting help a blow to self esteem. They may worry about their ability to afford extra care or special equipment.

The following suggestions may help:

Have an open discussion. Ask if there are specific tasks that the person needs help with. Share your observations and thoughts about what kind of help they could use. For example, “ I notice you become short of breath when you work in the garden. How about if we found someone to do the heavy lifting for you?”

Share your concerns. You may say, “I would feel so much better if you had some help with the house work. I know it really tires you out.” Or, “I worry that you might fall. Would you be willing to use a walker when you do your errands?”

Supply information. Gather reading material that your family member can review  on their own time and at their own pace.

Don’t rush. In so many instances accepting help is like issuing a visible public statement that you have become less able. It may take a while to get used to the idea of using aids like wheelchairs or a hearing aids.

Seek reinforcements. If you are the only one making a suggestion, it may carry less weight than if others voice the same concern. Family meetings can be a good way to open discussion. Go along to doctors’ appointments and raise your concerns while you’re there; your worries may be eased or validated.

When someone we care about rejects what we think is best, we may have to take a second look at what we are asking and why. Is the person in danger? Have we explored all the alternatives? If the person is a competent adult, don’t they have a right to accept risk?

Our role as caregivers is to care and it can be distressing to stand by while a family member rejects the help we think they need. With a little creativity and patience we can hopefully arrive at a solution that’s acceptable to everyone.

 

By Josie Padro

3 Ways to Get a Peaceful Sleep In the Heat

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Summer has come a little earlier than expected on the west coast this year. While it makes the days beautiful (especially if you’re near the water), the heat can make getting a restful sleep more challenging – both for yourself and for your loved one. Unlike houses and apartments further east, most homes in Vancouver do not come equipped with air conditioning. North-facing homes may be especially effected by hot weather. We all know that we need a good night’s rest to be at our best, so what do we do when the weather makes it hard to wake up feeling ready to take on the day? Read on for a 3 tips to beat the heat and get some sleep that you may not have thought of before.

CREATE A CROSS BREEZE | The Greatist recommends working with the windows in your room and a fan to create a cross breeze. “Position a fan across from a window, so the wind from outside and the fan combine in a cooling cross breeze. Feeling fancy? Go buck-wild and set up multiple fans throughout the room to make the airflow even more boisterous.”

USE A HOT WATER BOTTLE…| …with cold water. This ensures use year-round, making this inexpensive product a worthwhile purchase.

BE MINDFUL OF YOUR SHEETS | Cotton is best. Linen sheets can be especially cooling. If you’re using any other material such as silk or polyester, it may be a good time to pack them up until the fall.

What do you do to stay cool in the heat? We’d love to hear from you!

 

Cassandra Van Dyck

The Gentle Art of Saying No

These helpful tips on the art of saying no came from : ’Hiding in the Bathroom: An Introvert’s Roadmap to Getting Out There (when you’d rather stay home)’, by Morra Aarons-Mele (2017).

  1. In order to succeed at setting boundaries, you need to learn to say no.
  2. One of the author’s colleagues said that she imagines her fondest mentors and what they would counsel her to do.
  3. Another suggestion: Say : ‘Thanks so much, let me sleep on it and I’ll get back to you first thing tomorrow.’ I call this the ‘delay technique’, and it does buy you some time.
  4. Practice saying your noes, and have a few ready-made responses.
  5. Practice tuning into your gut feelings about the issue.

Of all the above techniques, my personal favourite is #3.

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Oh, and if you do say no, you have the perfect right to change your mind.

Hope this helps,

Calm Pond

How do you tune into your gut feelings when it comes to boundaries? We always appreciate hearing from our readers!