Everybody needs somebody

For anyone, including older adults, that sense of connection is crucial. According to the magazine ‘Mind over Matter’ (put out by the Women’s Brain Health Initiative) “loneliness increases the risk of dementia in older adults by as much as 64%”

That said, human beings also require solitude or what is often called: ‘me time’ or ‘alone time’.  The point is to have a balance : some ‘in’ time, some ‘out’ time–and not all one or the other.

You will find that as a caregiver (see ‘Caregiver’s Guide for Canadians’ by Rick Lauber, published by Self-Counsel Press) you must forego some of your social obligations, in favor of precious time alone. Obviously though, not to the point of isolating yourself.

Here are two quotes I’ve gleaned on the subject of loneliness and that need for connection:

“We need other human beings in order to be human” Desmond Tutu

“Oak trees just grow stronger, Rivers grow wilder every day, Old people just grow lonesome, Waiting for someone to say: ‘Hello in there, hello.'”

John Prine in : ‘Lessons from a Caregiver’ by Laurel A. Wicks (book review forthcoming).

Who was it that said: ‘Only connect.’? The name escapes me, if you know it, post a comment.

Here’s a toast to your health and well-being!

Calm Pond

3 More Tips for A Good Night’s Sleep


We’ve written about sleep a few times before on the blog – and for good reason! So many people struggle to get a good night’s sleep and the lack of rest can wreak havoc on our ability to thrive. We’ve done some searching and have found more tips to help you get the zzz’s you need. Read our past posts here, here and here.

Eat a banana. “sometimes—especially mid-sleep wakeups—the simplicity of eating half of a banana will fill my belly and relax me right back into a peaceful and calm sleep due to their generous amounts of magnesium, potassium, and tryptophan content.  This is a relaxing blend with tryptophan converting into serotonin and melatonin (the brain’s key calming hormones).” – Free & Native

Legs Up The Wall. “This is an excellent pose for grounding at the end of a long summer day. It is a simple yet deeply restorative posture. Often times, if we’re not getting adequate sleep going to bed can increase anxiety because we’re so worried about not sleeping. Taking five or ten minutes to put your legs up the wall can make a huge difference. Learn more about this healing pose and all of its incredible benefits (from promoting sleep to increasing beauty).” – Ashley Neese

Worry intentionally during a specific “anxious hour. “Many caregivers have difficulty falling or staying asleep because they have a head full of worries about their loved one’s care. Rather than worrying at night when it’s time for sleep, you can purposely worry at more convenient times during the day. Set an hour during the early evening to write down a to-do list as well as all the concerns that are troubling you. Then put the writing away in a drawer until the next morning. This simple action may have the effect of depositing your anxieties for the night, helping you relax and fall asleep.” – Barry J. Jacobs

Getting Through Crisis Situations

When you face a crisis situation, you are really too upset to do proper CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy).   Instead, what you need to do is ground yourself first:

Notice 5 things you can see, 5 things you can hear, 5 things you can touch or feel against your skin.

Next, take a few slow, deep breaths.

You can say a coping statement, some phrase that helps you get through tough situations.  Write your coping statement on a 3 X 5 card and keep it with you.  Some examples of coping statements are:

‘This is upsetting, but I can stand what I don’t like.’

‘I can’t change what happened, so I’m not going to let it get to me.’

Or try: ‘I know this is hard, but this too shall pass.’

Finally, say to yourself: The crisis I have to deal with is (fill in the blank). The feelings I’m having are A, B, C. The thoughts I’m having are D, E, F. And the actions I can take to deal with the crisis are G, H, I.

(Adapted from: ‘The Happiness Trap’, by Russ  Harris, 2008.)

As the French say: ‘bon courage!’ (Roughly translated as: ‘May you be courageous’)

Calm Pond

PS You can also try something simple to distract yourself such as reciting the alphabet or some familiar children’s nursery rhyme.


Depression and Seniors: Signs to Look Out For and How to Get Help


Depression is not a normal part of aging, yet it effects a great deal of seniors. Although statistics report a large number of people suffering, most do not seek treatment. There are many reasons for this. Depression may present differently in the elderly than in younger adults and can also be overlooked because of the prevalence of other health concerns, sleep problems, lifestyle, or grief.

When is it depression?

You may suspect depression in a loved one if:

they have lost interest in activities they used to enjoy

they express feelings of hopelessness or helplessness

they have a lack of motivation or energy

they have lost weight/interest in eating

These symptoms may also be present with certain health conditions or when a loved one is grieving. While you can’t diagnose the person you’re worried about, you can look for signs, ask them questions about what they’re going through, support them, and get support.

What do you do if you suspect your loved one is depressed?

Realising a loved one may be battling depression can be very hard for caregivers. You may feel frustrated or lost and unsure of how to help. Your care partner may be resistant to seeking help and might not want to talk about what they’re going through. So, what can you do?

Ask questions. 

You may be noticing some symptoms of depression, and you’ll want to ask some questions to get some clarity. These conversations can be tough. Try using phrases like, “When did you start feeling like this?” “What can I do to help?” Use active listening so your loved one knows they’re being heard.

Encourage your loved one to get help. 

It takes a lot of vulnerability to share with someone that you are feeling depressed, so your loved one may be reluctant to talk to a health care professional about what they’re going through. Let them know that you care about them and want to support them to get the help they need to feel better. Offer to make an appointment for them and join them for their first visit if you can. If your loved one knows you are willing to walk with them on your journey, they may feel more comfortable asking for help.

If you suspect your loved one is struggling with depression and they’re unwilling to get support, or if you suspect they may be suicidal, reach out for help. Talk to your doctor, or call The Crisis Centre: 1-800-SUICIDE

Supporting someone with depression can be overwhelming and cause stress for the caregiver. If you are caring for someone who may be depressed, make sure you are getting the support you need as well.

Cassandra Van Dyck




Is Your Loved One Safe To Drive? Ten Warning Signs


Here are 10 warning signs that might indicate that your loved one is no longer safe to drive. ( taken from: ‘Mind Over Matter’ A Woman’s Brain Health Initiative publication 2016)

  • getting lost in familiar territory
  • driving too slow or fast, or stopping for no reason
  • riding the brake, or confusing the brake and gas pedals
  • other drivers frequently honk their horns
  • damage (i.e  scrapes or dents) on the car or garage
  • difficulty with parking
  • failing to notice/obey traffic signs or signals
  • difficulty with turns, lane changes, or highway exits
  • incorrect signaling
  • near misses or accidents

As a caregiver, I have indeed spent some nervous moments in the car with a parent.  Monitoring the situation using these helpful warning signs helps a lot.

Safe driving everyone!

Calm Pond

Guest Post: Finding Balance Between Work and Caregiving

Mud pies in the back garden. Learning how to knit. Being driven to dance, choir, piano or school. Honing my green thumb. Helping me through university. Passing on the family history.

 These are just a handful of things I was blessed to experience with my grandparents over the years. I was fortunate to grow up with all four of them, and I always say – they raised me as much as my parents did. When I became an adult, I gained newfound respect for them; I began to know them as people.

Six years ago, in a full-time job and married, both grandmothers began facing serious health challenges. One was falling deeper into the complexities of dementia, and one had broken her hip – reducing her ability to get out and about the way she used to.
I wanted desperately to throw everything away and be a full-time granddaughter, but my head knew that work was both a financial necessity and ironically, a back door means of self-care for myself.

My mom, who was also still working full-time, said wisely “Work has a routine and ends but caregiving keeps going”.


Photo: Both of my grandmas

So how did we find a balance between caregiving and work?

There is no one answer, as each caregiving case has its own unique challenges. My advice is always to wholly explore and exhaust all options.

  • Cast your net wide! Do not be afraid to ask people for help; friends, coworkers, church members, etc.
  • Explore all subsidized supports: Home Support, Better at Home, adult day programs, Handy Dart, caregiver tax benefits, supportive housing, etc.
  • Explain your situation to your employer – communicating your challenges is key. Use your sick days, use your vacation time. If you have an Employee Assistance Program, talk to a professional from time to time.
  • Research financial alternatives to assist with caregiving; loans, lines of credit, etc.
  • Dig deep and practice self-care. Even if all that consists of is taking an extra 5 minutes to breathe before you get out of the car.
  • Remember the love. In 2016 I bid farewell to both grandmothers, aged 94 and 101 respectively. An interesting aspect of my grief is that I am remembering them not as frail and sick, as they were in their final days – but as they were before all of that. It was an absolute privilege to have them by my side for all thirty-seven of my years.

Kari Chambers has worked with Seniors for the past twelve years, at Collingwood Neighbourhood House; Tsleil-Waututh Nation; and currently with the BC Association of Community Response Networks. She is also a member of North Shore Community Resources’ Better at Home/North Shore Caregivers advisory board.

De-Stress In 1 Minute


Here are your instructions to de-stress in a minute:

  1. Close your door. Turn off your phone. Get comfortable.
  2. Lightly spray your favorite perfume or Eau de Toilette onto your wrists or inside your elbows.
  3. To add ambience, play your favorite music.  Alternatively, enjoy silence and disconnect completely.
  4. Close your eyes and slowly breathe in. Count to four. Count to four again as you breathe out, allowing your mind to clear. Let the scent soothe your soul and revitalize your spirit.
  5. After only a minute or two, you’re ready to go about your day feeling renewed.
  6. Remember to pause and breathe.  It only takes a minute to de-stress.

Enjoy your downtime!

Calm Pond

(Thanks to Crabtree & Evelyn for their suggestions.)

The North Van Caregivers Blog: A Year in Review


As we begin the new year, we’d like to say thank you to all the guest writers who contributed to our blog this year. These people are talented, local professionals, experts, and individuals who gave their time and knowledge to our caregiver community.

Thank you to:

We’d also like to thank our committed volunteer, Calm Pond, for the numerous posts she has contributed to our blog over the years. Her post, 9 Symptoms of Burnout, was our most viewed and liked post of the year!

Finally, a special thanks to you–our readers–for your comments, your feedback, and your dedication to our community in 2016



Grief during special occasions

The Christmas season can stir up powerful emotions for people. Whether you practice specific expressions of faith, or focus on spending time with family and friends; the month of December can bring up mixed emotions in relation to the year past. You may be regretful about conflict with a friend, or sad about those in your family or community that have passed away. It is often a time to reflect on the successes and joys as well as the hardships and sorrows of the year.

Family caregivers, you may be painfully aware of how your spouse or parent has changed this year. Seeing a loved one decline in their physical and mental abilities truly does tug on the heartstrings. These feelings of helplessness, sadness or worry are a form of grief-  a gap in the heart that notices how life is very different than it was before. Even though you may be able to function just fine in your daily routines, something doesn’t feel quite right when you are grieving.

For some caregivers, anxiety about the future looms large.  Others find it stressful or tiring to try and be “up” for the social occasions of the season. These are all understandable feelings, considering all you have been through.
I invite you to notice what you’re feeling right in this moment. Is your body signaling that it’s worn out? Is your chest feeling tight? Are your thoughts busy and worried? It is crucial to give yourself permission to STEP AWAY from activities that are too much for you. Adding to your existing responsibilities may cause you to go through burnout, and I  don’t want that.

You may ask , “How do I step away?”. I recommend a terrific article on saying “no” with more confidence and less emotional strain. This article is based on Marshall Rosenberg’s philosophy of Non-Violent Communication, where the aim is to convey that you care about the other person and their needs, AND that you sometimes need to say “no” to specific requests. Read Saying “No” without Saying “No” here: http://thefearlessheart.org/saying-no-without-saying-no/


Here are a few book ideas on coping with loss:
Please note that we have Leaves Falling gently in our resource library here at Capilano Mall in North Vancouver.

Denholm, Diana B. The Caregiver Wife’s Handbook: Caring for your Seriously Ill Husband, Caring for Yourself.

Berman, Claire. Caring For Yourself While Caring For Your Aging Parents: How to Help, How to Survive.

Bauer-Wu, Susan. Leaves Falling Gently: Living Fully with Serious and Life Limiting Illness through Mindfulness, Compassion and Connectedness.

May you treat yourself with kindness this season, no matter the kind of loss you may be experiencing.


10 Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep

8zuamnx1yhs-kari-shea (2).jpgHello Bloggers,

The average person needs 8-10 hours sleep a day, so how do you ensure you get a good night’s sleep?  Here are 10 tips that may help:

  1. Get out of bed at the same time every day. This sets the circadian rhythm.
  2. Nap for only 20 minutes, avoid naps initially.
  3. If you wake up groggy, you need to increase sleep time.
  4. Expose yourself to light in the morning, but avoid bright light before bed.
  5. Avoid exercising within 2 hours of going to bed.
  6. Avoid heavy evening meals.
  7. Avoid caffeine after 2 pm, or at the latest 5 pm (varies from person to person).
  8. Set up calming pre-bed ritual: bath, reading, calming music, herbal tea, meditation, stretching.
  9. Don’t keep a TV in your bedroom.
  10. Avoid electronics at least 1 hour before bed.

Hope these tips help. Sweet dreams everyone!

Calm Pond