How Grocery Delivery Services Can Help Caregivers

How many hours out of your week would you say that you spend planning meals and cooking for yourself and your loved one? The whole process can take up a lot of mental space, and getting to the grocery store to pick up what you need may sometimes be more than you can handle. Grocery delivery provides an opportunity to ease the stress of sitting in traffic, loading up a cart, waiting in lineups and carrying everything in to your home.

Fortunately, we now live in a time and a place where you can access several online grocery delivery services. Here is an invitation for you: decide that for one week, instead of doing a big grocery shop or stopping multiple times a week at the store, spend an hour or so planning out your main meals for the week. As you plan, write down the ingredients you need on a piece of paper. Go online, choose your grocery delivery service, and order what you need. At the end of the week, observe how you feel. Did it ease stress? Did you spend less time thinking about what to eat? Did you save money by planning ahead? If any of the above are true, you may be on a new, easier grocery shopping path!

Here are some grocery delivery services to consider if you live on the North Shore:

Thrifty Foods

Walmart

Chef’s Plate

Stong’s Market

Save-On Foods

Spud

Have you tried using a grocery delivery service? We’d love to hear about your experience!

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How Light Therapy Can Help Caregivers

Fortunately, Spring is just around the corner. Unfortunately, as many West Coast dwellers know all too well, it does not mean the end of overcast days.
If you know that you suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), or you’re simply aware that you feel down during the cold, dark months, you may benefit from a light therapy box.

Light Therapy Boxes deliver a bright light that mimics outdoor light, and has been shown to boost moods and energy when people sit near them. They have been used to treat depression, SAD, sleep disorders, and even dementia. So, how can they help caregivers?

Caregivers often experience low-moods and sleep deprivation, and light therapy may help with these challenges. Try starting flipping on a light therapy box first thing in the morning and writing in a journal, reading, or meditating for 30 minutes before getting out of bed. If you can carve out some time in the early afternoon, have your lunch or some tea next to your light.

If you are curious about trying a light therapy box, the best thing to do first is consult your doctor. Certain conditions, such as bi-polar disorder, may require specific guidelines for use, and your doctor will be able to advise you if it’s appropriate for you or your care partner. Make sure that when you’re purchasing a light therapy box, you are buying one that is 10,000 lux or above to reap the therapeutic effects.

Have you tried using a light therapy box? We’d love to hear about your experience!

Cassandra Van Dyck

Navigating Healthcare Services

When we ask caregivers what could make their caregiving journeys easier, assistance with navigating healthcare services is one of the most common responses we hear. Caregivers want to know what services are available, what’s suitable for their loved one, how these services work together, and when the best time to access them is. Essentially, they want to know how to use healthcare services to best support their loved one.

It sounds like a simple request, but navigating healthcare services can be challenging. The good news is there are lots of services out there to support your loved one, and the bad news is that sometimes you might not know about them, or if or when they’re appropriate for your spouse’s health needs. These questions can leave a lot of caregivers feeling frustrated, uncertain, and lost.

So, what can you do to ease the challenges of navigating health care services? While there’s no bullet proof answer, we have some suggestions that can greatly help.

  1. Make a list. When a question pops in to your mind, write it down, and take it with you to your loved one’s next doctor’s appointment. Write down the answers during the appointments so you don’t forget and you’re able to refer to what you’ve learned after. Doctor’s appointments can be so rushed, and it’s very common for people to leave wishing they’d asked about something that slipped their mind. Making and keeping a list can be very helpful to prevent this from happening.
  2. Do some research. Find out about the roles that different healthcare providers play so that you’re better able to direct your questions to the most helpful person. If someone has suggested an alternative therapy or some extra help such as a overnight respite or physiotherapy, spend some time reading about how those services work, and write down your questions.
  3. Ask questions. Spend some time with your loved one discussing their concerns and queries and yours, and then be prepared to ask questions. If you’re considering accessing respite services, there will likely be facility tours available to you and your care partner. If you’re connecting with a new health care provider, an intake appointment is a great time to ask any questions you might have about how their services will work with others your spouse is currently accessing. Make sure to also ask the pharmacist any questions you might have about medication interactions or potential side effects from a new prescription.

NSCR’s Caregiver Support Program is offering a free workshop all about Navigating Healthcare Services on Wednesday, January 16th 2019 from 1:30-3PM at Silver Harbour Activity Centre (144 22nd Street, N. Vancouver). The workshop will cover: home and community care, adult day programs, mental health services, residential care options, palliative care services, and preventing caregiver burnout. If you’d like to learn more about navigating the healthcare system, this is a wonderful opportunity. To register or ask questions, email Karyn: karyn.davies@nscr.bc.ca

What has helped you when it comes to navigating healthcare services with your care partner? We’d love to read your tips in our comments!

Cassandra Van Dyck

Resource Review: Caregiver Chat Forums

It is so common these days for us to turn to the internet when we have questions about something, and it’s becoming increasingly common to get support from online communities when we need it as well. Chances are, you’ve been invited in to at least one Facebook discussion group about anything from dogs to knitting. Connecting with people online who share interests or life challenges can be comforting, and for some it can feel like a lifeline.

Why You’d Access a Caregiver Chat Forum

When you are in the throes of your caregiving role, having someone to reach out to when you need to talk is crucial. Being able to unload your frustrations or sadness can help you work through what you’re going through, so you can take better care of yourself and be more present with your loved one. Finding the people to speak to, however, can be challenging. You might feel that it’s hard to speak with people in your life about caregiving who aren’t caregivers themselves, or perhaps you’re worried about talking to someone too much about what you’re going through. Time is also an obstacle. It can be easier to speak with someone quickly online when you need to vent or get some advice that it can be to get to a support group or call someone on the phone. Connecting with other caregivers in online chat forums can be a wonderful way to hear other people’s stories and perspectives, and also to unload what you’re going through and get comfort or advice. 

The Benefits

Online forums allow you to participate at your comfort level. You can simply browse the topics and read the suggestions, or you can post replies or a comment for feedback. Some forums allow you to be anonymous. You can connect with other caregivers who have no idea who you are, which might prevent bias from other participants. Forums that are not anonymous, such as any you’d find on Facebook, could help you to create deeper connections with other caregivers, which could lead to in-person meet-ups if it’s something you’re open to. 

The Risks

There are a few things to consider if you’re interested in participating in online chat forums. The first is that anything you write can live forever on the internet. Even if you are in a private group on Facebook and delete your posts, screen shots can be taken and shared with whoever the user wants to share them with. This is not meant to scare people away from using online chat forums, but it is a reminder to be mindful about what you post – whether it’s personal information about yourself and your family, or comments on another person’s posts. The second thing to think about, is that because of the anonymity (or assumed anonymity) of these groups, people will sometimes write things that may not be the most supportive or helpful, and could even be hurtful. People are also sharing their opinions and experiences, so keep in mind that while their experiences may have been true for them, the same experiences might effect you or your loved one in very different ways. For example, let’s say you ask a forum about how their loved one was effected by a certain medication. Someone might respond by saying, “It was awful! They were so sick and didn’t act like themselves. No one should ever be put on this medication.” Perhaps that post doesn’t get any other comments, so that is the only perspective you’re left with. You might now feel terrified about the medication your care partner has been prescribed, when before you only felt curious. What you don’t know, however, is how many other people have responded to the medication, or what else was going on for this particular person’s spouse when they started taking the medication. 

Chat Forum Suggestions

Facebook: Search for “Caregiver Support Group” in the search bar and you will get a number of group suggestions. You can request to be added, and see if the group’s a good fit for you. If at any time you don’t feel comfortable or feel the group is too large/small, you can simply leave the group and look for another. Note: You must be a Facebook user to use Facebook groups. 

Aging Care Caregiving Forum: This forum allows you to post questions anonymously. Other users can post replies. 

Caregiver Action Network: You must sign up for an account, but you can post anonymously to other caregivers. 

The Caregiver Space: Read articles from other caregivers, or join their Facebook conversation group. 

Do you participate in any caregiver online forums? What has the experience been like for you? We’d love to hear from you in our comments! 

Cassandra Van Dyck

Emotional First Aid for Caregivers: SOS Insomnia By Calm Pond

Emotional First aid

Lately I’ve been going through a period of insomnia, but it’s getting better, slowly. Rather than rely on pills, I took an online course on insomnia (cbt-i, see previous post https://northvancaregivers.wordpress.com/2018/07/11/my-summer-with-cbt-i/ ), and learned about something called a ‘sleep window’. A sleep window is the optimal time during which you will fall asleep. For me, this was 2:00 am. But what to do until then?
I began getting creative. A book I read (Jennifer Hallissy ‘The Write Start : A Guide to Nurturing Writing at Every Stage, From Scribbling to Forming Letters and Writing Stories’ 2010) had a recipe for playdough and I thought, why not? Here is the recipe:

No Fail Playdough

1 cup warm water
1 cup salt
2 Tbsp Cream of Tartar (look for it in the baking aisle)
2 Tbsp veg oil
Combine the above ingredients. Wait till mixture cools a bit. Mix in 2-3 cups of white flour (as much as you need to make a firm dough, but don’t add too much at once). You can divide the dough into balls and colour it with food colouring. Stores in a tightly covered container in the fridge for 6 months. Halve the recipe if you do not want such a large quantity of dough. It works just fine.
Bake your creations at 275 degrees F. The time they need to bake varies on size of creation.

bread-49599_1280

I found that as I kneaded the dough, I felt more relaxed. Karyn Davies of NSCR says this is due to the fact that as you knead, the left and right hemispheres of the brain harmonize. This is an intriguing idea. I did find that if I engaged in a creative activity, I felt more relaxed and did, eventually fall asleep.
It’s not the perfect cure but it sure beats staying up all night.
In conclusion, I came up with a little rhyme:
We all need to be needed,
We all need to knead.
May you sleep the sleep of the just tonight,

Calm Pond

Visualizations: A Tool for Caregivers

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Years ago, during a counselling session, I was asked to imagine myself in a place that I felt completely at ease and safe. I pictured myself floating on Kalamalka Lake in the Okanagon, on a hot summer’s day near a beach that was steps away from my dad’s old home. Just thinking about it, I can feel the water on my skin, the hot sun on my face, and I can hear the wind rustling the branches of the willow tree that shaded the shoreline. Returning to this place in my mind is one of the tools I often use when I’m feeling anxious or stressed. I have other visualizations that are useful in different situations, too. When I feel nervous about speaking up about something that I don’t feel is right, I visualize a team of my most supportive friends and family standing behind me. If I’m feeling really stuck in a situation, I picture someone that has been through something similar, and I try to embody their strength, or humour, or candour.

Being able to use visualizations can be helpful on your caregiving journey, when there’s often so much uncertainty, grief, and stress. Visualizations can help caregivers to temporarily escape stress by imagining a more peaceful environment, or they can help you to picture a different way to get through a challenging situation.

Maybe you need to speak with a doctor about a concern you have, but you’re terrified to bring up the topic for fear of the response. You’re feeling scared and anxious. Those feelings are valid, and should not be pushed aside or dismissed, but if they’re stopping you from speaking with your doctor and getting the answers you need, you might need another way to handle the tough feelings that are coming up for you. Think of a time when you were scared and anxious about doing something, but you found some courage, and did it anyways. Now, take that energy and approach your doctor. If you can’t think of  an example, visualize someone that you know to be calm and resilient, and imagine yourself acting the same way.

There are numerous ways to use visualizations. If you’d like to learn more about how you can use them in your caregiving role, take a look at these resources:

Visualization and Guided Imagery Techniques for Stress Reduction

Take a Break: 3 Minute Visualization

Visualization Of Joy

Creating A Container for Grief  (scroll to the end for a visualization that helps work through grief) 

Representation Agreements: More than just Healthcare

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The advent of new medical technologies. The ability to preserve life. The changing views regarding euthanasia.  The above reflects the increasing importance of making sure that your wishes regarding your care are followed. The Representation Agreement is a document that gives you the opportunity to do just that – but what is a representation agreement?

A representation agreement is a legal document that allows you to appoint one or more people to manage your healthcare and your personal care only if you are no longer capable of managing these areas of your life on your own. For this document to come into effect, your incapacity will generally be determined through a medical assessment performed by your treating physician (i.e. while you still have the ability to make your own decisions, no one can override your own healthcare and personal care choices). 

Importantly, a representation agreement will sometimes contain your wishes for your end-of-life care which are legally binding on your representatives. This means that your representatives will have no choice but to follow your carefully chosen wishes that you have made in advance. At times, this can be a relief to your loved ones as it removes the onus of having to make a potentially difficult decision from them. Common end-of-life care wishes include: whether to resuscitate you where your death is imminent; whether to provide you with pain medication although it may hasten your death and whether to remove you from life support if it is the opinion of doctors that you are permanently unconscious. The following are common questions regarding representation agreements:

Common Question #1: What if I do not have a representation agreement?

Where a person is incapacitated and does not have a representation agreement, the law in British Columbia stipulates that medical professionals will contact a prioritized list of people – spouse, adult children, parents, siblings and eventually a close friend — until they find someone capable and available to consent to your healthcare. The person who is capable and available becomes the Temporary Substitute Decision-Maker (TSDM) of the incapacitated person and has the authority to make decisions on a case-by-case manner. The types of decisions the TSDM will be asked to make will range from whether they consent to minor surgery on your behalf to whether you should be kept alive by artificial means. 

Common Question #2: Why do I need a representation agreement if my next-of-kin makes healthcare decisions for me anyways?

The law draws a line between “healthcare” and “personal care”. While the former includes choices such as surgery, heroic measures, life-saving treatment and potentially euthanasia, the latter includes choices such as where you ultimately live, who you live with and what you eat. Importantly, only persons given authority under a representation agreement are permitted to make “personal care” decisions. Therefore, without a representation agreement, your loved ones could be placed in an array of difficult situations where they cannot make fundamental choices regarding your care.  For example, elderly parents may be placed in separate care facilities due to space restraints and without a representation agreement, their adult children may have to seek permission from social workers and medical administrators for permission to relocate them. Whereas, if the parents had named their children within a representation agreement, the children would then have complete control to choose where their parents live. 

A representation agreement can also give your representatives the right to access your medical and financial records. Without one, your loved ones may have a difficult time obtaining these crucial records that are pertinent to making decisions on your behalf. For example, it may give them limited access to your banking and tax information to determine whether you are eligible for admission into certain provincially managed care facilities.  

With its broad discretion to make both healthcare and personal care decisions, a representation agreement is a powerful tool that deals with much more than just healthcare. Speak with your estate planning/incapacity planning expert today to see if it is the right document for you. 

 

Wills-Lawyer    Jeremy Wong is an estate planning lawyer at Westcoast Wills & Estates.