A Pancake Recipe for Caregivers

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I must be careful that this post doesn’t turn in to an ode to pancakes, for my love of this breakfast dish runs deep. It conjures up images of slow Sunday mornings, of hot griddles and warm coffee, of swaying gently to music while cracking eggs and thinking about all the ways I could fill empty weekend days. They’ve always been a treat, and they might have been one of the first meals I learned to make. I remember standing on a chair in the kitchen and carefully dropping frozen blueberries in to the batter browning in a pan. My dad taught me to flip the pancakes only when the bubbles popped and did not refill.

The kind of pancakes I learned to make as a child were more of a dessert, if I’m really being honest with myself. But they don’t have to be. This recipe won’t make you want to lie around all day in your pyjamas; it will give you the energy needed to fulfil all of your caregiving duties! If you make a large batch of batter, you can store it in your fridge for a few days and make pancakes for a quick meal or an energising snack.

Buckwheat is high in protein and ranks low on the glycemic scale, which means it won’t cause the same blood sugar spikes you get with the run-of-the-mill pancake. It has even been shown to reduce high blood sugar and support heart and circulatory health! Swapping buckwheat for all-purpose flour will leave you with a denser, but still delicious, pancake. Substitute fresh fruit or nut butter for maple syrup, and you’ve got yourself a healthy breakfast!

Convinced? Try out the recipe below.

Buckwheat PancakeIngredients

  • 1 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¼ cups nut or dairy milk
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Butter, for the skillet

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Make the pancakes: in a medium mixing bowl, mix together the flour(s), sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a liquid measuring cup, measure out the milk. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract.
  2. All at once, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. The batter should have some small to medium lumps.
  3. Preheat your skillet over medium-low heat and brush with 1 ½ teaspoons of butter. Give the batter a light swirl with a spoon in case the buckwheat is starting to separate from the liquid. Using a ¼-cup measure, scoop the batter onto the warm skillet. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes until small bubbles form on the surface of the pancakes (you’ll know it’s ready to flip when about 1 inch of the perimeter is matte instead of glossy), and flip. Cook on the opposite sides for 1 to 2 minutes, or until golden brown.
  4. Transfer the cooked pancakes to a baking sheet and place in a preheated 200 degree Fahrenheit oven to keep warm. Repeat the process with the remaining batter, adding more butter when needed. Serve immediately.

 

 

 

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When You Resent Your Loved One

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It’s something that’s hard to talk about because it’s upsetting to even think about. You love your spouse, your mother and father, your sibling. You care about them deeply and want to do everything you can to support them. You feel a sense of responsibility, or duty, to take care of them.  So, why are you now feeling resentful of them?

Maybe you were once happy to take on the extra chores and errands, but something has changed in your life that is making it hard for you to meet their needs. Perhaps due to advancing dementia, or pain, or mental illness, they don’t say or do the nicest things to you, and it’s taking a toll. It could be that your relationship with your family member was never a good one, and now you feel that you have no choice but to take care of them. Maybe you feel that you are taking most of the load – that your family members or health care professionals are not doing all they could, and your frustration is escalating.

Resentment is a tough feeling to handle. If it’s not addressed, it can build and begin to interfere with your ability to care for your loved one, and for yourself.

You might be feeling ashamed of your feelings and beating yourself up for how you’re reacting to requests for help or to their tough emotions. Shame can prevent you from doing the one thing that could really help you to work through your feelings – talking to someone about your situation and getting support.

It is common for unpaid family caregivers to feel resentful of their loved ones. The pressure is great when you are caring for someone close to you who needs your attention. Although it might seem like some people handle all the stresses and responsibilities in their lives with the utmost grace and confidence – no one is perfect. If you’re reading this and you’ve been feeling ashamed or guilty for feeling resentful towards your care partner, take a deep breath, and forgive yourself. It’s okay to feel unpleasant emotions. The important thing is that once you recognise your feelings of resentment, you get help and support so it doesn’t linger too long, or get worse.

Spend some time reflecting on why you feel the way that you do. When you feel resentful of a person or a of a situation, you might think that all of the unpleasant emotions you’re experiencing are a direct result of that person and their actions. In other words, you blame them for your uncomfortable feelings. This way of thinking can be an emotional trap because it makes you feel like there is nothing you can do to change things. Resentment can be overwhelming, so try to break things in to smaller chunks. Take a good look at why you’re feeling the way you are.

Is it a specific behaviour that’s upsetting you? Is your loved one’s actions or words triggering a painful memory? What needs of yours are not being met? What could you do, or who could you ask for help, to make sure your needs are being met? 

Some people have developed the skills needed for self-reflection, and others might need some support. Consider connecting with a counsellor or therapist to work through your emotions and identify what’s causing the resentment.

Everyone needs to feel supported and heard. Make time in your week, or month, to connect with a caregiver support group, or another gathering of people that make you feel heard. You might find that those uncomfortable feelings you’re experiencing are not so uncommon, and better yet, you could find new ways to work through them.

 

Cassandra Van Dyck

 

Finding playfulness

“Today, make time to play.”  ― Na’ama Yehuda

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When your husband or wife has an ongoing health condition like Parkinsons or memory loss, they likely need your help every day with practical things as well as emotional support. In this role you’re faced with a fair bit of responsibility, and the realities of a loved one’s illness can be emotionally taxing. Because of the constant demands on your time and energy, it’s vital that you find ways to keep yourself healthy. Your methods can be creative!  At first glance, being playful might seem trivial in the face of a stressful situation- yet the benefits of laughter and lightness are many. Seeing the lighter side of life doesn’t mean you’re ignoring the difficult reality you’re in- it simply allows you to be human, and to decompress a bit of tension.  I invite you to experience how playfulness can relieve stress, boost your mood, AND increase your energy levels!

Here is your playfulness homework: 

Make a movie date with a good friend, and dress up in clothes from the movie’s theme. You might be a 1920’s flapper in a gorgeous hat, or a baseball player with a catcher’s mitt! Have fun with it, and laugh the night away, either at the movie theater or your own house.

Eat dessert with a child, and savor every bite. Let yourself get messy, and enjoy being fully in the moment. I suggest starting with ice cream!

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Wear a colourful scarf, pair of pants, or shoes. Enjoy feeling bright and cheery, and the compliments and smiles you’re likely to get from others. You could even respond to compliments by saying, “I feel like a million bucks!”

When your loved one is having a grumpy day, say humorous lines to yourself  in the next room or while driving, to help you let go of any frustration build-up. A few examples to start with:  “Too fab for that negativity”; “Stop global whining”; “Bad vibes, move along!”.
Find a harmless phrase that makes you smile.

-Karyn

10 Ways to Survive Pet Loss

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In the days, weeks, and months that follow losing a cherished pet, you may feel a huge hole inside.  Grief can make it hard to think and plan.  Here are some survival tips that might help (courtesy of Moira Anderson Allen (2001)

  1. Eat something (preferably something that makes you feel good.)
  2. Cry (take a day off, maybe?)
  3. Find something to do ( it helps you recognize that while grief is part of your life, it isn’t the sum total of your life.)
  4. Count your blessings (remind yourself of some of the good things you still have.)
  5. Reflect on things that don’t involve your pet (the skills you have, the things you enjoy: like taking long walks or a warm bath.)
  6. Cuddle something furry (another pet or a stuffed animal)
  7. Avoid irrevocable decisions (don’t do anything you can’t undo, resist throwing out all your pet’s toys, get them away, out of sight, you might want to incorporate them into a memorial later on)
  8. Replace negative imagery (Replace the images of the ‘last’ moments with your pet with images of your pet arriving on the ‘other side’, if you believe in an afterlife)
  9. Be honest with yourself (you will heal and it will take time)
  10. Make a decision to work through grief (sometimes, time doesn’t ‘heal all wounds’, as the saying goes. Accept your grief, make peace with it.)

For more information on how to heal from pet loss, see pet loss net

Calm Pond (who speaks from one who has been there)

Poetry to uplift your mind

With running around to health appointments, making meals, and frequent checks on a loved one’s safety, you might be exhausted by the end of a typical week.  Including some creative time in your day can be truly refreshing. Reading poetry, colouring with pencil crayons, or listening to music gives your brain a rest from all that hard work.

You are invited to soothe your frazzled mind with some words from Hafiz, a delightful Persian poet from ancient times. Get a glass of  water with fresh lemon, or your favourite tea- and sit back.  Unwind.
I hope some of these quotes inspire you … and give you a chance to pause and breathe.

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“Here soar Not with wings But with your moving hands and feet
And sweating brows –  Standing by your Beloved’s side
Reaching out to comfort this world with your cup of solace
Drawn from your vast reservoir of truth.”

― شمس الدین محمد حافظ /   Shams-al-Din Mohammad Hafez,  The Subject Tonight Is Love: 60 Wild and Sweet Poems of Hafiz

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“Your heart and my heart are very, very old friends”.

“What one heart can do for another heart- is there any beauty in the world that can match this?”

West Vancouver library and North Van City Library both carry several Hafiz books translated into English, such as: The Gift, The subject tonight is love, I heard God laughing: poems of hope and joy.
https://westvanlibrary.bibliocommons.com
http://www.nvcl.ca/

-Karyn

 

 

 

Creating safety and connection: Memory Care Villages

When you think of a beloved parent, Aunt and Uncle, or spouse- it is natural to want their final years of life to be filled with comfort, friendship, and belonging. In the event of a dementia diagnosis, it can be challenging to figure out how to create positive experiences for a loved one; to allow them to live as happily as possible.

The Netherlands are a leader in providing safe, dignified living choices for those living with cognitive impairment. In the Netherlands there are a number of dementia care villages, and Within these communities are shops, grocery stores, apartments, parks, and anything else you would expect to find in a normal community”. Residents have chosen to live in these communities, which allow for ideal amounts of freedom and normalcy in routine; while having support available. People live in housing units of 6-8 apartments, and registered nurses and care aides provide assistance and support while residents move about their daily lives in an environment of dignity and choice. Hogeway, the example shared here- is a secure community. The staff takes care of everything from cooking meals and planning activities to assisting with bathing, personal care and administering medications. Even the individuals staffing the various village “businesses” are trained in dementia care, to help those with Alzheimer’s go about their day. https://www.alzheimers.net/2013-08-07/dementia-village/

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The benefits as I see them:

  1. Aging in place. The Village option is close to what goes on in regular life, and allows people to stay involved in community life. This helps boost self-esteem as well!
  2. Feeling less stigmatized. Given the opportunity to run errands, walk around the village freely, and make choices about recreational activities gives residents a sense of control and purpose, with less feelings of being “labelled” as impaired.
  3. Personalized care. With care staff being responsible for the routines of a smaller number of residents, there is more opportunity to know residents extremely well, which creates a warm and caring environment.
    The concept has been hugely successful, and residents of the Netherlands who choose to make Hogeway their home seem to be happier: behavioural issues—often a major problem with Alzheimer’s patients—are fairly low due to the freedom they enjoy, the sense of purpose they have in their lives, and reminiscence therapy.

There is work being done to create Memory Care villages in the Lower Mainland, with Langley’s Dementia Village being built right now. This site will be home to 78 residents, and is set to open in 2019. Providence Health also reportedly has plans underway to open a larger Village in Vancouver, in a few years. Read more at: http://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/canadas-first-dementia-village-to-open-in-langley-next-year

Dementia Villages seem to be a brilliant way to nurture quality of life in a way that is respectful and person-centered.
How would you feel about your spouse or parent living in a Village?

-Karyn

The Dwindling: An Interview With Janet Dunnett

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Tell our readers a little about your journey to writing this book.  What prompted you to start?

When my caregiving years ended in 2011, I thought I wanted to get back to my life-interrupted. But I moped, I fiddled, and I knew I was in a stall. People said I was grieving. I knew it was more than that. Those old goals belonged to a version of myself that was gone. Caregiving had transformed me. It was Judi, my twin and co-caregiver (daughter on deck while I was daughter at a distance) who could feel my malaise and offer a way out.  “You are a writer,” she said, “And you have a story. So tell it. Writing a book is your new normal.”  So I began.

It was a challenge. I had ten years of hoarded information that filled the room that had once been where my parents stayed on their respite visits to the Coast and now was my writing space. It was full of memory. The records of many care conferences covered a carpet stain that  recalled the incident of the collapsing commode. The visitors books we kept for years became the top of my year by year paper piles. On every wall space, a forest of sticky notes grew. It was a timeline to help me recover details of what and when. Names of specialists and other important people were pink, my flashbacks to troubled times were captured in fluorescent yellow, and those events that looking back seemed to be turning points were lime green. And so I pieced together the details of what had been a fog. Gradually in the first several months I as able to put order into the chaos of my references, and I felt lighter. The work was just starting though.  Early versions of the manuscript were heavy with sadness and even guilt. Had I done right by Mom and Dad? Then there were a few angry versions while I processed feelings around the support that did not come. Finally, my versions revealed the truth of a melange of darkness and light. I knew I was almost there. Coming to the final versions, I could see the arc of the story and how my narrative had much in common with the journeys of other caregivers I was meeting. “Yes” my early readers said, “I see my story in yours.” I knew I was done.

My darkest day was when my brother, hearing me describe my progress in a voice I recognized as passionate, said “No one will want to read that.”  One negative, a minute long conversation, was enough to snuff my zeal for months. Again, Judi came to my rescue. We talked through this block and realized that even a sibling quite disengaged from caregiving could control the narrative by quashing it. I began again, stronger now to criticism and aware of how denial would be a force to limit the interest in my book.  Finally, four years later, the manuscript was launched on Mother’s Day 2017. From that point, a new phase began. I had been a caregiver, then an author, and now I was becoming an advocate for quality in care at the edge of life. I was on a new uncharted path.

What aspect of caring for your parents did you find most challenging?

It is important to say that I was not a solo caregiver, like so many others are. My twin Judi and I were a team from our shared promise on the first day of the new millennium to the final funeral on a freezing January Calgary afternoon a decade later. Together we breezed past challenges that lay other caregivers low.

Like isolation. We were never lonely long. Judi always had my shoulder to cry on, and I never doubted her wise advice. Like the lack of structure to our days. With parents still insisting they needed minimal help, we spoke about caregiving as a project and invited them onto the team. We talked about management by results. It gave them dignity and control, and we communicated pretty well about shared goals, even if fewer could be attained as the dwindling years wore on. Still, framing our work this way helped deal with ambiguity and the no knowing when the caregiving would end.

Like the growing number of messy and intimate medical tasks. We twins egged each other on and spotted each other till we learned the routines and avoided the pitfalls like medication errors. When we didn’t know we turned to Google and she never let us down as so often the health care system did.

Like the revolving door between Emergency departments, acute care and back to home when there were no other options. Hospital visits were a breeze, and we never admitted that sometimes having a parent admitted was a kind of respite. “Go to Emergency” was the most often offered advice we received from professionals through the uncertainties of the dwindling. But we were the ninja daughters making the transitions look easy, and I felt sorry when I observed other haggard caregivers, bereft and bewildered by the patchwork of it all.

We were ninjas again each time we faced down the bullies of the health care world, especially those who used vague rules to excuse poor performance. I know many caregivers find system navigation and negotiation to be the greatest challenge of all, but our mantra was “patient centred care” and “nothing about us, without us” and we took it to the top if we had to. People saw the tough as nails twins but we knew better. It was all an act. But we listened to our mother’s advice, “fake it till you make it,” and it worked surprisingly often to achieve better care.

But our challenges lay on the shadow side of what appeared as competence. We endured nagging emotional challenges. Both Judi and walked a line between being hero caregivers on the one side and the dysfunctional duo on the other. Depending who you asked. In good times and tough times for our parents we were often enmeshed in unhealthy ways. We tried to build boundaries but we knew they were a fiction when the going got tough.

It all came at a cost. Compassion fatigue was our clear and present danger. I saw one role as daughter at a distance as thumb in the dike against Judi’s dammed up frustration as daughter on deck. There was no solution other than Judi. Lines ups were so long for care that even the wait for assessment was months. Mom would have none of it anyway. “My home would be fine if only I had a bath lift,” Mom would say, and bingo…another wild goose chase job got added to the to do list. “Put your own mask on first” I would advise, knowing what Judi’s answer would be. “what mask?” It became our private gallows humour.

I believe these emotional challenges of caregiving are widely experienced though they are hardly ever admitted let alone addressed. And  And there’s no quick fix. That’s why caregiver support groups are so   helpful. They offer perspective.  And just being able to speak of fears out loud and say “I’m sick to death of it all,” without feeling judged, is chicken soup for the caregiver soul.

What helped you when you were caring for your parents?

Respite is of key importance for caregivers. I had Judi’s back on that so that she could pull away from the front line while I took charge. We cherished the few times when our spouses stepped in, allowing Judi and I to get away together. It was win win. I believed our parents benefited from seeing different faces, and might have better appreciated what Judi and I were doing without fanfare. Better yet, our family could see what caregiving meant in new detail. No one ever offered to “stay on” once we returned. But we got respect as well as respite.

Were there unexpected rewards?

Everyone’s benefit package as caregiver is different, I think. But I was surprised by joy so often that I knew that being with Mom and Dad through their dwindling was cause for gratitude. A friend working in the hospice put it well. He called caring and being cared for a dance. Each had a role and faced challenges to learn the steps. Just as the caregiver needs courage and patience in the dance, being the vulnerable one, accepting care, sacrificing control, is challenge too. When everyone is in step, there are unexpected rewards. Learning how to be cared for is important for the caregiver. The dance is a dress rehearsal for our own dwindling time.

One other thing I know for sure. A dwindler is like an onion. That brittle skin, and those tough outer layers give no hint of the sweetness that lies inside. To get to it, you have to peel back the layers and let them go. If the caregiver stays dedicated to the role, that tenderness is experienced as a new version of love. At least that was my unexpected gift.  It’s not to be missed!

If you were to give advice to a family caregiver, what would you tell them?

I think we all need to see the caregiving time as  is part of the life cycle. We need to get used to its presence in our society and learn how everyone can flourish. Caregivers can help move this dial by asking for help. One in four of us at any point in time is a caregiver, a million British Columbians. Many more are recovering and moving on as wiser people to the needs around. The caregiver tribe is huge. So my advice is as simple as it is not easy. Take the caregiving as part of your life journey and embrace it, acknowledging the problems but cheering for what is being done well by the health care system.

But how can we do this? Caregiving is uncharted territory after all. I say no. Being a parent with little kids was scary and consuming and hard. But our focus was not on the troubles we were having. We took delight in what joy we found and learned all the ways to make lemonade. Alas, at the other end of the life span, there is less support, and there’s anticipatory grief, not anticipation of bright futures. Still, I am thinking that with a commitment to push for change while acknowledging what is going right, we might rediscover feelings like empathy and compassion for the vulnerable. Seeing the light coming through the cracks takes practice. But we do have models in our own experience that might help us not just survive caregiving, but thrive in it.

You have mentioned in interviews that writing was a way to cope when you were caring for your parents. Can you offer tips for caregivers wishing to use writing as a coping tool?

Don’t just wish to write. Do it!

I used little coil notebooks that fit into my purse and went with me everywhere, along that a pen that worked. My book was private. It was not a journal, not a diary but a place for my stray ideas and insight. I wrote out what  was nagging at me too. I didn’t need spell check. I didn’t even expect sense in my jottings. I did expect them to add to my clarity though. Those notebooks delivered.  When it was time to “really” write, there was this suitcase full of feelings. So my crutch living the caregiving journey became my inspiration as I wrote about it.

Is there anything else youd like to add?

Here’s what I’ve learned on my caregiving journey.

  1. Caregivers are experts whether they acknowledge it or not.
  2. Caregivers have a unique part to play in the circle of care. They are the ones who are 24/7 and never reassigned. They see the trends over time. They know what normal looks like. They have the voice and can take the perspective that the cared-for might have lost. They are the love glue that binds care plans without soul to the return to or preservation of well being that is everyone’s goal.
  3. Yet caregivers do not get recognition, respect or support beyond the barest manipulative minimum.
  4. Caregivers are invisible. They even find it hard sometimes to identify themselves as caregivers. Sadly, invisible things don’t get recognized, respected and supported.
  5. The culture around caregiving at the edge of life needs to change. That begins with the avalanche of stories to build awareness and point to the opportunities and holes.
  6. Tell your story.

The Ultimate Comfort Food : One-Pot Macaroni and Cheese

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Think comfort food: ice cream, French fries, mashed potatoes, food that makes you feel good. According to a recent article in ‘The Atlantic’s, ‘Why Comfort Food Comforts’ , ‘Adults, when under severe emotional stress, turn to what could be called ‘comfort food’- food associated with the security of childhood, like mother’s poached egg or famous chicken soup.’ (‘Palm Beach Post,’ 1966).

So here it is, a recipe for One-Pot Macaroni and Cheese:

Ingredients:

115 g pancetta diced (bacon is okay instead)

1 tsp. dry mustard

1 tsp. chili powder

3 cups chicken broth

2 cups milk

2 1/4 cups elbow macaroni

1/4 cups mascarponi cheese

2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

In a large pot or deep skillet over medium-high heat, brown the pancetta (or bacon). Add the spices and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the broth and milk. Bring to a boil and add the macaroni. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently for about 18 minutes or until the pasta is tender.

Remove from heat and stir in the cheeses. Season with salt and pepper (to your taste).

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Bon Appetit!

Calm pond

What Now? After Your Loved One Has Passed

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Many parts of your caregiving journey will inevitably involve grief. Grief over changes in your loved one, grief over what shifts in routines and responsibilities, and grief over loss. When your caregiving journey has been long, it can be especially challenging to adjust to life after your loved one has passed. Caregivers are often left with the looming question: “what now?” When so much of your time and energy has been spent caring for your loved one, what does life look like now that they’ve passed?

Be gentle with yourself. As with other parts of your caregiving journey, it is crucial to be gentle with yourself during this time. You might be feeling a host emotions – from sadness and fear to frustration and guilt. Everyone experiences loss in different ways, and your emotions will depend greatly on what your relationship with your loved one looked like. Allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling, and try to resist the urge to dampen uncomfortable feelings.

Connect. Spending some time alone to reflect and regroup is important, but spending too much time alone can be detrimental to your well-being. Consider connecting with a grief support group or a counsellor to talk about this transition and to work through your emotions. Both resources can help with big transitions – you do not need to be struggling in a big way to take advantage of these options! If your loved one was connected to a palliative program, such as Every Day Counts, one-on-one counselling may be available to you free of charge. Spending time with family and friends who make you smile and laugh is also important. Reach out to anyone that makes you feel good – even those who you’ve lost touch with! Chances are, they’ll be very happy to hear from you.

Get involved. Is there something you’ve been thinking about doing for years, but have felt you didn’t have the time? Now is a great time to do that thing that lights you up. Maybe it’s as lavish as taking a trip you’ve been dreaming of, or as simple as taking a pottery course or even just picking up a few books from the library and taking the time to read them. Whatever it is, make it a priority to do that thing now.

 

Cassandra Van Dyck

Mindful Monday no. 67 – Generosity

Today we’re featuring a post from last February by Linsday Kwan. What better day to be reminded of how practising generousity can impact our lives in such wonderful ways?

North Van Caregivers

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“Generosity is another quality which, like patience, letting go, non-judging, and trust, provides a solid foundation for mindfulness practice.”

– Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go There You Are

Caregiving is a generous act in itself. Invite generosity into your mindfulness practice this week to notice how it makes you feel.

When we are generous, we offer freely and without expectations of a return:

We may offer a compliment to help elevate someone`s sense of worth.

We may offer time to connect to someone who is lonely.

We may offer to take someone out to lunch in order to show our love for them.

We may offer understanding when someone is in need of support.

We may offer support by donating or volunteering our favourite causes or organizations.

We may offer our time as caregivers to our loved ones so that their well-being is improved.

What I have found in my…

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