How to Stay Energized in the Heat



The lower mainland is in the midst of a heatwave, and some of you may really be feeling the heat. Seniors and those with compromised immune systems are particularly vulnerable to high temperatures, but even if you don’t fall in to either of those categories, you might be noticing your energy levels have dipped in recent days. Drinking water is the best and fastest way to stay hydrated, but sometimes you might need a little something extra to give you energy throughout the day.

You might have seen commercials for energy drinks that encourage you to replenish your electrolytes after sweating, but do you know what electrolytes are? I will be the first to admit that I had no idea. “Potassium, sodium, and chloride are the three most important electrolytes. Other biggies include magnesium, calcium, and phosphate. These micronutrients are all salts that form ions in water and are capable of conducting electricity, meaning they actually have an electric charge,” explains Brigid Titgemeier. If you’re drinking water regularly, eating balanced meals, and getting moderate amounts of exercise, you should be getting more than enough electrolytes in your diet to stay hydrated. If, however, you experience muscle spasms, headaches, or digestive upset, you might need to supplement your water with electroytes to bring your body back in to balance.

Commercial energy drinks are full of sugar. If you’re a high-performance athlete, they might help you, but if you’re like the majority of the population, you’ll likely be better off with a healthy alternative. If you’re experiencing headaches or digestive upset in the heat, try these natural electrolyte restoring drinks. *

Please note: if symptoms persist, pay a visit to your family doctor. 


“Natural coconut water contains five key electrolytes: sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. Coconut water is packed with potassium, more than found in one banana or 15 sport drinks,” says Sports Nutritionist, Kyle Levers. Just make sure to check your labels when purchasing coconut water in stores. You want to only read “coconut water” in the list of ingredients.


Carley Mendes wrote this recipe for laboring mamas, but it would work just as well for someone who is electrolyte depleted. Click here for the recipe.


Cassandra Van Dyck


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?


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.

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

How to Prevent Slips, Trips and Falls


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


Dementia Care Workshop Highlights

Early this year, I attended a workshop (‘Dementia Tips Caregivers Need to Know’) presented by Karen Tyrell of Dementia Solutions

Tyrell provides online training, guidance, and emotional support.

Did you know? 1 million Canadians are affected by dementia.

1 in 11 Canadians over age 65 have Alzheimer’s Dementia

This statistic increases to 1 in 3 in those over age 85

Half a million Canadians are living with Dementia

However, every dementia journey is different, says Tyrell. The following are some symptoms of dementia:

  • memory impairment (especially short-term memory)
  • thinking impairment
  • judgement problems (such as wearing inappropriate clothing, or bad decision-making)
  • communication problems (words not understood)
  • personality changes

What exactly is the ‘science’ of dementia?

Alzheimer’s dementia was discovered by Dr. Alzheimer 100 years ago. It is characterized by plaques and tangles in the brain. A good analogy is that AD acts like a computer virus, it starts in the hippocampus (area of the brain used for memory).

People with AD can have difficulty performing daily tasks, for example, they can make mistakes driving. They can move into a different era.  They can also have difficulty recognizing people and objects.

Want to know more about the stages of AD and some more of the signs?

Stay tuned to my next AD post in May…

Calm Pond

Tips on Managing Worry Without Medication

peaceful scene

The following tips come from the book “Worry: Hope and Help for a Common Condition” by Edward Hallowell (2002)

  1. Get the facts-base worry on reality.
  2. Exercise at least every other day.
  3. Analyze the problem and take corrective action.
  4. Ask for advice.
  5. Pray or meditate.
  6. Add structure to your life when you need it! (A basket for your house keys.)
  7. Turn off your doom and gloom generator.
  8. Don’t watch too much TV or read too many newspapers or magazines.
  9. Maintain a reserve cash fund.
  10. Make a will.
  11. Learn how to give up a worry (appeal to your higher power).
  12. Take a holiday or mini-break.
  13. Sing, recite a nursery rhyme, or the alphabet
  14. Read.
  15. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
  16. Remember that nothing lasts forever, even worry.

Hope this helps!

Calm Pond

Routines and Reminders for People Living with Dementia


Humans are creatures of habit. We love and crave routines, even when we don’t think we do. Following at least a loose routine can anchor you in the moment and keep you focused and grounded. “When you regulate your daily actions, you deactivate your ‘fight or flight’ instincts because you’re no longer confronting the unknown,” says Psychology Today. For people living with dementia, reducing fear and increasing feelings of safety is crucial. Creating and maintaining a routine for your loved one may make a big difference in their quality of life and could help with managing their emotions.

Here are some tips supporting your loved one with a routine:

USE THE GOLDEN RULE | Treat others as you would want to be treated. You know your loved one well. Really watch them, and try to think about what they need to enrich their life. How would you like to be treated if you were in their position? This perspective can help you create a routine that works for them, and encourage you to change it as needed. The Alzheimer’s Association says it’s important to consider the following:

  • The person’s likes, dislikes, strengths, abilities and interests
  • How the person used to structure his or her day
  • What times of day the person functions best
  • Ample time for meals, bathing and dressing
  • Regular times for waking up and going to bed (especially helpful if the person with dementia experiences sleep issues or sundowning)

CREATE A PERSONAL CARE ROUTINE AND PROVIDE CUES | For example, it may help your loved one to know that when they awake in the morning, they use the bathroom, brush their teeth, and change their clothes. Depending on how advanced their dementia is, they may need additional cues, such as a toothbrush on the counter or clothes for the day laid out the night before. If your loved one is struggling, you could try breaking the tasks in to chunks to make each step more manageable. “…she may find it easier to continue dressing herself if you put the clothes out for her in the order that she needs to put them on. Or you could pass her the next garment, holding it out ready to grasp at the right place, or encourage her to put her shirt on over her head before you straighten it down for her,” says the Alzheimer Society.

PLAN ACTIVITIES | Again, it’s important to follow their lead. Have you noticed that new activities make them anxious? Alternatively, do they get bored and restless at a certain time of day? These cues might lead you to make adjustments, which could mean trying a new activity or environment, or cutting back on something you’re already doing.

How do you support your loved one with routine? We’d love to hear from you in our comments!


Cassandra Van Dyck



Navigating Vancouver’s Housing Crisis With Your Loved One: Some Resources


If you live in Vancouver or anywhere in the lower mainland, it will be no secret to you that we are experiencing a housing crisis. If you have not managed to find a way to own a home or condo, you could be struggling in the rental market. Rents are rising and housing is becoming increasingly challenging to find.

All of this adds to the stress that caregivers can feel when trying to find a home for their loved one. It used to be far more common for loved ones to live with their younger family members when they could no longer live on their own. Although this of course comes with challenges of its own, the growing concern is that this option is no longer available to huge numbers of families in the lower mainland because they do not have room in their small homes to house their loved ones. If you’re left with no other option but to find your loved one a home to live in that is not your own, you must face the housing and rental crisis all over again! To say that securing safe and comfortable housing for your loved one can be challenging is a gross understatement. 

Although there are common concerns such as cost of housing and availability/location, everyone’s situation differs based on what resources they have access to. You might be lucky enough to have room in your home for your loved one, and the capacity to care for them. Maybe if you don’t, you have a family member who does. Your loved one may have set aside some money earlier in their life to prepare for a time when they would need support with housing, which will help you greatly. They might be open to different housing options – such as independent living or moving further from the city. As you can see, there are many possibilities!

It’s common to feel overwhelmed by the current situation and (lack of) options. However, there are resources to access and it is possible to find solutions. Arguably, the most important tool you need is the knowledge of resources and the ability to navigate and access them. Don’t give up hope!

If you are struggling to find housing in Vancouver or the lower mainland for your loved one, here are some resources and suggestions.

Seniors One Stop | NSCR’s Seniors One Stop Information program can provide help for seniors looking for housing. Staff and volunteers can assist with identifying options, such as subsidized housing and financial benefits.

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 subsidize rents for eligible BC residents who are age 60 or over and who pay rent for their homes.” Try out the online calculator for an estimate of how much your loved one could receive. If you believe they are eligible, you can fill out an application online.

BC Housing | BC Housing has a breadth of resources for people struggling to find housing. Their website is structured to allow users to describe their current situation and then lists resources according to their needs.

The Cooperative Housing Association of BC | Wait lists for Vancouver co-operative housing are currently long, but it might not hurt to put your loved one’s name on a list to keep the option of low-cost housing open.

Assisted Living | The above options are helpful for loved ones who can still live independently, but what do you do if you need somewhere for your loved one to live where they can access support with every day tasks, such as hygiene and grocery shopping? Assisted Living facilities can be costly, but there are options if finances are tight.

There are so many facets to this conversation. What concerns you the most? What has helped? We’d love to hear from you, learn from you, and answer your questions.


Cassandra Van Dyck


Coping with sadness

When you’re on duty all of the time, making sure your spouse’s or aging parent’s needs are looked after, the reality may be that you’re often feeling exhausted and over-stretched. Being in a state of constant responsibility and vigilance can leave little room to acknowledge the sadness that is likely there beneath the surface.
Sadness. This can be an uncomfortable emotion to name and acknowledge, even with close friends and family; and a hard one to simply be with- yet feelings of sadness and sorrow are commonly felt by caregivers.

red stone heart

Why sadness can be present:
Shifting closeness.
You likely don’t feel connected with your loved one in exactly the same way as before. You probably miss the closeness of having honest conversations, relying on eachother for back-up, and enjoying simple activities together.

Feeling alone.
When you’re the main person in charge of a spouse or parent’s care, you’re at the helm of the ship, and that can feel downright lonely. Siblings, friends and family members may not fully understand what you’re going through, and won’t be able to offer kindness and support in the specific ways you need.

Loss of dreams.
When a loved one has a significant health issue, it becomes difficult or impossible to enliven the dreams and plans you shared. If you were looking forward to retirement together, it feels sad when instead you’re adjusting to this new reality after your husband or wife’s stroke or cancer diagnosis. If your career was in full swing, you may now be required to scale back the hours you’re working, or to give up a position you were excited about.

In the sadness, remember:

Let it be there. Allow yourself a portion of time every day or every week to simply feel your sadness, and to express it. You might write in a journal, sit and reflect, cry along with a heartfelt song, or watch a movie that you resonate with. Allow the melting away of any resistance you may have towards feelings of sadness.

Connect with your strength.  Feeling sad or sorrowful doesn’t make you a weak person. In fact, those who can acknowledge and express sadness demonstrate an inner strength through their willingness to take a closer look at their situation.  There is an authenticity in feeling as you feel, and not pushing yourself to pretend that everything is smooth and easy when in fact the journey is disheartening, brutally hard, and filled with grief.

Show kindness to yourself. Find one thing you can do every day that makes you feel grounded, loved, or glad in some way.  This act of kindness can be small, such as drinking your favourite tea from a mug that you like; playing a song every morning to get your energy going; or saying no to a friend’s request for extra help when you feel tired. Find your one thing. You are worthy of kindness!

For a guided meditation to surround you with loving presence, try listening to Tara Brach:

A photo by Gaetano Cessati.

Here’s to gentleness for self, in all of your experiences.

3 Ways to Get Rid Of Holiday Stress


As we’ve mentioned before, and as you probably already know, the holidays can be stressful for caregivers. Luckily, there are many ways to reduce and manage holiday-associated stress! Here are a few ideas taken from previous blog posts:

Consume mindfully.

Use one (or more!) of these 98 ways to practice self-care.

Do this guided loving kindness meditation. 

Bonus tip: Remember to reach out if you need to connect. NSCR is hosting one last group in 2017! Join us for our Walk & Talk on Monday, December 18th. Details here. 

How to Stay Calm Over the Holidays


It’s December 6th and the holiday season is well under way. How are you feeling?

This time of year can be nurturing, love-filled and warm. It can also be hectic, stressful, and sad. There’s a lot of pressure to attend events, buy presents, and make food. Balancing the stresses of the holidays with your caregiving role can be especially challenging.

Here are a few tips for staying calm over the holiday season:

SAY NO | Does agreeing to attend dinner at a friend’s house bring a lump to your throat? Politely decline. 

PRACTICE MINDFUL CONSUMPTION | One of the biggest causes of stress over the holiday season is the pressure to buy and give gifts. If you’re strapped financially, this pressure and stress can increase. Despite the incessant messages sent from media, the holidays should be about connecting and celebrating with family and friends, not about gifts. Consider talking to your family about skipping presents this year and sharing a meal instead. If your family feels compelled to give and receive gifts, try planning a “secret santa” so you only have to give and receive one present, with a capped dollar amount. You might find that your family is relieved to have a different option presented!

EAT CALMING FOODS | If you’re feeling frazzled and then consume a lot of sweets, heavy meals, and alcohol offered, you’re likely going to feel worse than you did before. Indulging in the fruits of the holiday season is great in healthy amounts, but remember to eat mindfully and support your system with nutritious, balanced meals.

CONNECT | Amidst the business of the holiday season, you might be feeling lonely or isolated if you’ve recently experienced loss, or if you’re spending most of your time caring for a loved one. As mentioned, I invite you to say no to events that don’t serve your spirit. Say yes to events that do. Pushing yourself a little out of your comfort zone and connecting with caregivers who understand and support your journey can make a big difference in how you view the holiday season. Tip: NSCR’s December Network Groups include a potluck! We’d love to see you there. 

How do you stay calm over the holidays? We’d love to hear from you!


Cassandra Van Dyck