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

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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

 

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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.

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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: https://www.tarabrach.com/meditation-body-love/

A photo by Gaetano Cessati. unsplash.com/photos/b1v6dw7W0wc

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

3 Ways to Get Rid Of Holiday Stress

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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

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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

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

The Lazy Woman’s (and Man’s) Guide to Yoga: An Interview with Taylore Daniel

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Hi Taylore! Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us. We see your book, “The Lazy Woman’s Guide to Yoga”, as a wonderful resource for caregivers. Caregivers often struggle to find time for self-care. Your pose suggestions can be done anywhere, anytime. Not only does yoga help ease sore muscles, it can help caregivers feel better emotionally so they can support their loved ones and take care of themselves.

Can you tell us about what inspired you to write the book “The Lazy Woman’s Guide to Yoga?”

Well, there’s a lot of people who’d like to do yoga, but at the same time, yoga can feel intimidating and inconvenient. It usually involves a one-hour class outside the home. It involves floorwork, a change of clothes, a teacher, and poses that might feel strange or risky. So what inspired me to write this book was the desire to help people practice yoga in an easy, effortless way that fits their schedule, can be done sitting on a chair at home or out and about doing errands… no floorwork, special attire or teacher required.

How has yoga changed your life?

Yoga has been a part of my life since I was a child, when I took my mom’s Hatha Yoga book off the shelf and began going through it page by page, copying the poses. Throughout my life, there’s been times I’ve practiced yoga regularly. And other times, not. When it’s a regular part of my life, I feel strong, my joints are supple, I feel energetic and grounded. When I fail to practice, I begin to feel creaky, puffy and a little sluggish. There’s a direct relationship between yoga and quality of life, and the older I get the more direct this relationship becomes. 

Could you recommend a pose that helps give people energy first thing in the morning?

A fabulous energizing move in the morning is what I call “flying.” Simply put, raise and lower your arms at your sides, as if you were a bird. Moving our arms above our head pumps blood and oxygen to our brain, increasing alertness and clarity. As well, it loosens up and revitalizes the arms, shoulders and back, and gets the spinal fluid flowing through our body and lubricating our joints. Not to mention, this flowing move feels absolutely wonderful. (And it can even be done while you’re watching television or reading email.)

How about one for winding down in the evening?

A great way to wind down in the evening is with the breath. When we exhale longer than we inhale, our entire nervous system begins to calm. Inhaling slowly to a count of 2, and exhaling to a count of 4, you will almost instantly sense your shoulders relaxing, the muscles of your jaw and forehead becoming softer, your mind quieting. Feel the breath reach right down into the belly and your whole body will begin to relax.

I love the chapter in your book on tapping! It’s not something I’ve heard about often when reading about yoga. What would you say to someone who’s hesitant about trying it?

Using our fingertips, the palm of our hand, or a loose fist to gently and softly tap our limbs, our backs, our stomach or any other part of our body is a safe and effective practice that releases physical tension and knots. Try it right now, and see how it feels. It’s effortless and can be done anywhere, whether it’s behind the wheel of your car or waiting in a line up. Tapping also brings fresh oxygen and blood to the skin, so has the effect of giving us a lift.

An inevitable part of the caregiving journey is grief. Are there any yoga or tapping exercises that are especially good for coping with loss or changes of a loved one? 

As well as releasing physical tensions and knots, tapping relieves emotional stresses like grief, loss and anxiety. One effective tapping exercise is to, first of all, identify where the feeling of grief is located in your body. Is it your throat? Chest? Stomach? Once you’ve located where in your body the feeling sits, softly tap that spot with the pads of your fingers. You’ll find this simple exercise emotionally soothing, calming and nurturing.

Finally, what would you say to someone who tells you, “Yoga is not for me.”

When someone says, “Yoga isn’t for me,” I get it. There can be a sense of insurmountable obstacles with any new practice, including yoga. “Where will I find the time?” “What if I can’t sit on the floor in lotus position?” “What if I don’t live near a yoga studio?”

The main reason I wrote “The Lazy Woman’s (and Man’s) Guide to Yoga” is to make yoga so effortless and convenient that anyone can practice it, whether there’s time issues, mobility issues, or motivation issues. The key is to simply begin where you’re at, taking a moment here and there, seated comfortably or standing, at home or in the midst of running errands. The benefits from even a few seconds of yoga throughout your day are immeasurable.

Do you have anything else to add?

Thanks so much Cassandra for your great questions! They were thoughtful and practical, and I really appreciate you taking the time to ask.

Thank you so much, Taylore!

 

Taylore Daniel is a yoga teacher and personal trainer. “The Lazy Woman’s Guide to Yoga” and “The Lazy Man’s Guide to Yoga” are at Amazon.ca/com, Banyen Books, and other Vancouver bookshops. www.tayloredaniel.com

The Lazy Woman’s Guide to Yoga” and “The Lazy Man’s Guide to Yoga” is at Amazon.ca/com, Banyen Books, and other local Vancouver bookshops. Visit Taylore at www.tayloredaniel.com

 

 

Mental Health First Aid Course

What follows is a review of a course I took from CMHA (Canadian Mental Health Association) this month.

Mental Health First Aid is described as : “providing comfort and assistance to a person experiencing a mental health issue or crisis until the person gets professional help or the crisis is resolved.”

There is a great need for this as: “In Canada one person in five will experience some problem with their mental health in the course of a year and… one person in three  will experience a mental health problem in their lifetime.”

A  Mental Health Commission of Canada study estimates mental health problems cost the economy $50 billion in the cost of direct services and lost productivity in 2011.

Added to this is the fact that mental illness most likely strikes people during their most productive years (25 yrs to 44 yrs).

The course, which takes two full days, covers:

  1. Substance-related disorders
  2. Mood-related disorders
  3. Anxiety and trauma-related disorders
  4. Psychotic disorders

And what of the future of mental health?

By 2020, WHO (World Health Organization) anticipates that depression will be the leading cause of disability for all ages and sexes in developed countries.

As there are 8.1 million caregivers in Canada (1 in 4 Canadians), the stress they endure is likely to have a major impact on mental health, so courses like these are essential.

All the more reason to practice good self-care.  Stay tuned for blog posts on resilience, and also some very cool mental health websites coming out of Australia.

Calm Pond