The Gentle Art of Saying No

These helpful tips on the art of saying no came from : ’Hiding in the Bathroom: An Introvert’s Roadmap to Getting Out There (when you’d rather stay home)’, by Morra Aarons-Mele (2017).

  1. In order to succeed at setting boundaries, you need to learn to say no.
  2. One of the author’s colleagues said that she imagines her fondest mentors and what they would counsel her to do.
  3. Another suggestion: Say : ‘Thanks so much, let me sleep on it and I’ll get back to you first thing tomorrow.’ I call this the ‘delay technique’, and it does buy you some time.
  4. Practice saying your noes, and have a few ready-made responses.
  5. Practice tuning into your gut feelings about the issue.

Of all the above techniques, my personal favourite is #3.

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Oh, and if you do say no, you have the perfect right to change your mind.

Hope this helps,

Calm Pond

How do you tune into your gut feelings when it comes to boundaries? We always appreciate hearing from our readers!

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How to Work through Worries

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If you are an unpaid family caregiver, you will worry. You will worry about your loved one’s health and your ability to cope with life’s curve balls that will most certainly come your way. You’ll worry about signs and symptoms that don’t yet have names, about doctor’s appointments and surgeries and moves. Worrying is a part of the caregiving journey. Sometimes it can even be helpful! Feeling worry can push you to create game plans for tough situations or to find more resources and information to support yourself and your loved one. The trouble, of course, is when worry dominates your thoughts. You might find that you’re having trouble sleeping, that you’re forgetting things more often than not, or that you’re having a hard time being present because you’re constantly thinking about what is or could go wrong. Worrying will be a part of your caregiving journey, but it does not have to consume you. Read on for some ways to work through this difficult emotion.

GO FOR A WALK | If a wave of worry has washed over you and you can’t shake it, go for a walk. When worry takes over, it can be hard to think clearly. Relaxing your nervous system will help you to regulate your emotions and get some perspective.

PRACTICE PMR | Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) is an amazing way to focus your mind on your body instead of your thoughts. Read this post for the how-to!

CONNECT | Have you noticed that this advice is in every post on difficult emotions? Talking about your emotions is one of the fastest ways to work through difficulties. When we’re alone with our thoughts, they can swirl around our heads and leave us feeling stuck. Talking to a therapist or fellow caregiver can help you to get perspective on your worries, and perhaps give you some tools to tackle them.

POSTPONE WORRYING | Realizing that you can control when you feel worried can be incredibly empowering. The next time you start to feel worried about something, tell yourself that you will address the worry in your next “worry time.” The key to making this work is to schedule a time for worrying, and to have a practice in place to help you work through the concerns. Journaling for 20 minutes before you go to bed, talking to a therapist or counsellor at a weekly or monthly appointment, or writing a list after you eat your lunch can help you to designate an appropriate time to work through your concerns, allowing you to be more present with your loved one.

CREATE DISTINCTION: SOLVABLE/UNSOLVABLE WORRIES | If your worry is solvable, you should be able to take action right away. For example, if you are planning a vacation with your family and you’re worried about what will happen to your parent while you’re away, you can take action to find them respite care overnight if they need it, or look in to grocery delivery services, house cleaning, etc. If your worry is unsolvable, there will be no corresponding action. These are worries that you might feel if you’re worried about how your husband’s cancer will progress, or if their forgetful symptoms will result in a dementia diagnosis. “Worrying is often a way we try to predict what the future has in store-a way to prevent unpleasant surprises and control the outcome. The problem is, it doesn’t work. Thinking about all the things that could go wrong doesn’t make life any more predictable,” says Lawrence Robinson. “To stop worrying, tackle your need for certainty and immediate answers.”

How do you cope with worry? We’d love to learn from you in our comments. 

 

Cassandra Van Dyck

3rd Annual Caregiver Expo

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If you’ve been on the fence about visiting the 3rd Annual Caregiver Expo this Saturday, we hope that this post will sway you to pop by – if only for a little while! Expect to be greeted with warm smiles and a lively atmosphere. Booths from local services and resources will be set up so you can explore at your leisure. Presentations will run throughout the day. Come by to catch your favourite speaker talk, or stay for the long haul! Join us to connect, learn, and to celebrate the incredible role you play in a loved one’s life. 

Presentation Schedule

9:15- 9:30AM
Laughter Yoga
John Wallstrom

Laughter Yoga involves guided exercises that are lighthearted and easy to follow. Laughter strengthens the immune system, releases feel-good endorphins and lowers blood pressure. Come and have a laugh with us!

9:30 -10:00AM
Family communication and the power of boundaries
Jodie MacDonald

With a focus on somatic awareness and breathwork, this talk will help caregivers navigate the complexities of family dynamics and sibling relationships, learning to separate their own needs from the needs of others, through boundary practice and insight into habitual patterns of relating.

10:15- 10:45
The Rollercoaster of Grief
Robin Rivers

Grieving the loss of a loved one or anticipating the loss can be challenging, no matter how long you have been in a caring role. Learn about ideas to help you on your grief journey and resources that are available in the community.

11:00- 11:30
Re-filling your Cup: Preventing Caregiver Burnout
Karyn Davies

Join us in learning to recognize what activities give you energy, and which ones drain your mental, emotional and physical energy reserves.  Become aware of the major signs of burnout, while considering how you can re-fill your own reservoirs of hope and strength.

11:45- 12:35 (50 minute keynote)
Energy to Care: the science of how to balance self-care with giving
Dr. Maia Love

How do you care for yourself as you help a loved one through a health crisis? Learn key tools and skills to support your own health and wellness as you care for others; understand the wellness science to lift your energy and recharge your mind.

1:00- 1:30PM

  1. 1. Inspiring your best quality of life: The Everyday Counts Program
    Jane Jordan (15 minutes)

Learn about the Every Day Counts Program, a free support program for individuals living with a life-limiting illness. The program offers access to services and supports that are designed to enhance quality of life and are available whenever individuals feel they need them.

  1. All Ready to Go
    Stephen Garrett (15 minutes)

Learn about accessible and affordable options for pre-planning a loved one’s funeral arrangements. Having a plan can greatly reduce stress for family members during a time of loss.

1:45- 2:15
Qi Gong to boost your energy
Caroline MacGillvray

Together we’ll practice some accessible, fun Qi Gong exercises. Qi Gong is designed to help you let go of stress and tension, energize your body and mind, and create feelings of peace.

2:30- 3:00
The importance of having a Power of Attorney and Representation Agreement
Jackie Morris

This presentation will focus on two important legal documents, a Power of Attorney and a Representation Agreement, what they do and the pros and cons of alternatives.

How to Work through Anger

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When someone is asked to think of a difficult emotion, anger might be the first one to come to mind. Anger doesn’t feel great in our bodies. It might make our throat tighten, our palms sweat, and our hearts race. Unleashing anger might feel good momentarily because you’re letting go of pent-up energy, but it can have extremely damaging effects if not let out in a healthy way. Angry words can hurt people – angry actions even more so.

It’s okay to feel angry. Really – it is. Anger is your body and mind’s way of signalling that something is not right and that you need to pay attention to what’s wrong right now. 

The trick is being able to tap in to your intuition so you can work through the anger and address what’s causing it. Anger is a secondary emotion; it is always caused by something else. When you can identify what’s causing it, you can begin to work through and let go of anger.

Think of a movie you love with a very angry main character. There’s probably a catalyst moment in the film where the actor sprints down the street in the rain, gets in to a physical or verbal fight, or enacts some sort of revenge on the person or people they’re angry with. Now, what does that person do after they’ve lashed out? 9 times out of 10, they cry. The anger needed to be released so they could address the underlying emotion that was causing them to be so angry: sadness, jealousy, frustration, etc.

Holding on to anger or releasing it in ways that are harmful to yourself or others can be hugely detrimental to our well-being. When we feel angry, our adrenal glands produce cortisol (aka “the stress hormone”). This can help us greatly if we are, say, being attacked by a bear and need to defend ourselves. The trouble comes when cortisol is being released in to our bodies constantly. High cortisol levels have been connected to sleep disturbances, weight gain, mood swings and depression, and more.

So, what do you do when you’re angry? Your response will depend on a number of factors: who you’re with, where you are, your overall emotional state, and how equipped you are to deal with what you’re feeling. Here are a few over arching tips for dealing with anger:

RELEASE | The first thing to do when you’re feeling angry is to figure out the best way to release it so you can work through what’s causing it. This is a good time to tap in to those self-care tools you have available – but they may need to be tweaked depending on what you need. You know yourself best! What helps you let go? For some, it’s screaming in to a pillow. Others go for brisk walks or runs, dance with abandon to a favourite song, or swim laps at the pool. You could also call a safe person to vent or write all of your emotions down in a journal that no one will read. It’s important to note that if you’re with the person who’s making you angry, going for a run or writing in a journal might not be available to you. Take some calming, deep breaths if you can, or consider just walking away or telling the person you’re with that you need some time to yourself.

ADDRESS WHAT’S CAUSING THE ANGER | Did your loved one say something that made you want to explode? Did a doctor tell you you’ll have to wait even longer for a referral? This is a great time to use “I feel” statements. Take a deep breath, and let them know how you’re feeling. This prevents the other person from becoming defensive, and can help them to address your needs. Read more about “I feel” statements here. If you’re alone and notice you’re feeling angry, or that you have been feeling that way for awhile, really take some time to think about what’s causing it. Often, it’s that you’re sad or frustrated at a situation you don’t have control over, or feel that you don’t have control over. You could be grieving changes in a loved one, or feeling frustrated because so much is being asked of you.

MAKE A PLAN | If your anger is in response to a particular event, addressing why you’re feeling the way that you are with the person or people involved can help prevent it from happening again. If, however, your anger is due to underlying or lingering issues, it’s time to make a plan to help prevent you from reaching a breaking point again. For example, maybe you’ve realised that you’re feeling angry because a lot is being asked of you and you have not had a break. If this is the case, look in to respite, or create a plan with family members to delegate responsibilities.

Managing anger is a complex process, and you do not have to do it alone! Remember to reach out to a caregiver support program, counsellor, or therapist if you’re needing some more support.

What do you do to manage anger? We’d love to hear and learn from you! 

 

Cassandra Van Dyck

 

A Mindful Path to Resilience

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“Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” – Nelson Mandela

Resilience is the capacity to bounce back quickly from hardships. You might know some people who seem to be more resilient than others. When their loved one fell ill, they brainstormed ways to get them support. They stayed positive and found ways to laugh with their spouse. Other people in your life might come to mind that seem to have less resilience. Their care partner’s diagnosis made them anxious or depressed, and they disconnected from social activities. Maybe you’ve noticed that these people have a demonstrated a pattern of how they respond to adversity. Although a person’s ability to respond with resilience may be predictable, it is not something that someone simply “has” or “does not have.” Resilience can be developed, and it can falter.

One of the best ways to build resilience or to recover from adversity it to practice mindfulness. “A recent study highlighting the link between mindfulness and resilience found that: “Mindful people … can better cope with difficult thoughts and emotions without becoming overwhelmed or shutting down (emotionally).” Pausing and observing the mind may (help us) resist getting stuck in our story and as a result empower us to move forward,” says Carly Hauck. “Most of life’s stressors are subjective and with mindfulness (seeing things as they are in this present moment), we have the ability to respond with wisdom vs. react in a harmful way.”

If you already have a mindfulness practice…

 …you might find that it goes out the window when you’re faced with difficult occurrences in life. Your mind might feel flooded with fear and sadness and you could feel lost. Responding to hardship with resilience does not have to be a simultaneous occurrence. If you have recently been given some hard-to-handle news, give yourself some time to grieve and process. When you feel that enough time has passed, return to your mindfulness practice. Set a time in stone for meditation or a walk. Put distractions away while you’re walking to your car or the bus stop so you can connect with your surroundings. Reach out to a mindfulness or meditation group and attend weekly or monthly meetings. You have the tools available to you, so now it’s time to use them.

If you have never practiced mindfulness…

…it’s okay! The amazing thing about mindfulness is that you do not have to study for months or years to access its benefits. You can start right now, where you are, with what you have. Are you ready to try? Carly Hauck shares a meditation for tapping in to mindfulness to build resilience.

Come into a comfortable and supported seated posture. Begin to bring your awareness inside and slow down the rhythm of your breathing. Acknowledge any event that happened today or this week that was difficult. Select a moderately difficult experience. It is important that we practice with something moderately challenging vs. the most challenging. Bring your awareness to what happened, thoughts, feelings, and let your heart begin to open as you breathe in and out. Turn towards the moderate difficulty with compassion and acceptance.

Repeat these phrases in whatever order or frequency that feels comfortable to you.

May I be kind to myself.
May I find peace and healing.
I am doing the best that I can in this moment.
May I accept and find ease with things just as they are.

Often, when life is difficult, we can be overly critical and hard on ourselves, but compassion, not criticism, facilitates greater resiliency at home and work. […]

With compassion, we can turn toward the difficult thoughts and emotions and then get back on track with our next wise move.

Remember our three ways to build resilience that we wrote about in October: cry, connect, and practice self-care. That second tip is especially important. Call a trusted friend or family member, a counsellor or therapist, or come to a caregiver Network Group.

What have you done to build resilience? We’d love to hear and learn from you. 

 

Cassandra Van Dyck

 

3 ways to practice gratitude

Life can draw our attention in several different directions, and with all that is to be done day-to-day, there may be little room left for sitting to enjoy the moment.
The busyness and ongoing strain involved with caregiving for a spouse, parent or family member can be the cause of major stress, burnout, and more hectic days than you would prefer. In the midst of responding to all that asks for your time and energy, I invite you to make gratitude a regular part of your routine. Focusing on what makes you feel happy, energized, and peaceful really does help in keeping your brain and body healthy.
Beautifully, a gratitude practice doesn’t have to take very long and can fit into your life however you choose.

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Here are a few ideas to get you started-

  1. When you go for a walk, say “thank you” or “You help me feel calm and happy” out loud to the trees and flowers. You can start by saying thanks in your head if that is more comfortable. Pick any positive phrase that you like!

2.  Keep a gratitude jar in your home, and write down 3 things every day that you are glad to have in your life. You can do this in the morning to start the day with an inspiring focus, or at night as you unwind from the day.

3.  Put on your favourite music, whether that be instrumental songs or music with an uplifting beat. Dance around your living room for 5 minutes, focusing on what made you feel safe, happy or loved that day.

This gem of a website shares a whole list of book ideas on gratefulness: https://gratefulness.org/resource/books-related-to-gratitude/

We would love to hear about your current gratitude practice! Feel free to share what has been inspiring for you.

-Karyn

How to Work through Shame

fear-299679_640We recently talked about the ways that guilt can either provoke you to make changes in your life, or manifest as stress if not addressed. Guilt, while challenging to process, can be a motivating tool. Shame, on the other hand, is a different monster.

I used to think of shame and guilt as interchangeable terms, but they’re really quite different. The easiest way the difference has been explained to me is as follows:

Guilt is when you think you’ve done something bad.

Shame is when you think you are bad.

When an emotion is separate from our identity, it can be easier to experience and work through. For example, when we feel sad over the loss of someone we love, though the pain may be immense, we don’t often think that we are a “sad person” because of the grief we’re experiencing. Shame is different. It can wash over us, putting a shadow on everything we do or say. Shame can make it hard to enjoy the things we used to enjoy and make us doubt our every action. Making decisions from this place can feel impossible because shame can make us feel like we’re doing everything wrong. Shame traps us in what can feel like an endless loop of self-loathing. Shame can feel like an endless loop of self-loathing because the pressure of it on our being prevents us from doing what we really need to do to feel better: it stops us from reaching out.

“Empathy is the antidote to shame. Vulnerability is going to be that path.” – Brene Brown

Consider this your invitation to get a little vulnerable. I know, it’s scary. It’s really scary. Remember to practice self-compassion. If you’re experiencing shame, know that you are not alone. It is not who you are. It is time to reach out and get some support for what you’re going through, so it does not manifest in to other issues, such as depression or anxiety. Maybe there’s someone in your life that you feel entirely safe with that would be a good person to speak with. If not, or if you would click to speak with someone entirely unbiased, reach out to a counsellor or therapist. Speaking with someone about what you’re experiencing, though it can be hard, will help you to work through what you’re holding on to so you can start tapping in to your self-compassion.

If finances are a barrier for you to get support, there are options available. Caregiver support programs are a great place to start, but there are also groups and counsellors covered by the medical services plan available. If you live on the North Shore, try The Hope Centre or Family Services North Shore.

 

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

Incapacity Planning: The documents you did not know you needed

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Almost everyone has heard of an understands the general purpose of a will. It dictates how you transfer assets when you die; it allows parents to appoint guardians for their minor children when they die, it sets out the extent of the powers you want your representative to have when making decisions for you after you have died. The common thread – a will allows you to make decisions when you have died. A will therefore only operates from the time of death. A question that many people do not consider:

How do I make decisions when I am no longer capable of acting for myself during my lifetime?

What is a Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that gives you the opportunity to appoint someone (an agent) in advance to help you make legal and financial decisions on your behalf if you were ever unable to do so yourself. The powers that are granted in a POA are incredibly broad and range from dealing with your day-to-day banking to selling your house.

Why is a Power of Attorney important?

Consider the following scenario:

An adult child is caring for their elderly parent who has dementia. The dementia however, has began to progress to the point where the parent no longer recognizes loved ones and the parent requires continuous care that can only be obtained through a care facility. The adult child cannot afford to pay for the care through their own finances and looks to the finances of the parent. However, the parent’s bank accounts are all in their own individual name and the banks will not allow the adult child access to the money. The parent’s home where he/she is currently living is also registered in the parent’s name alone and the land title office will not allow the home to be transferred without the parent’s authorization and signature.

In the above scenario, if the parent had a POA appointing the adult child in a power of attorney when they did not have dementia or possibly when the dementia was still in the early stages, the adult child would have been able to access the bank accounts/ sell the home in order to pay for the parent’s care. It is likely that the adult child in this case would have to apply to court for a court order – called a committeeship – giving them the authorization to access bank accounts and to sell the house.

A committeeship application takes roughly three months to obtain and will usually cost anywhere between $4,000 and $10,000 to obtain (depending on lawyer fees). In the meantime, the adult child will continue to incur the cost of paying for the care out of their own pocket; a situation that the parent likely did not want for their child.

The above scenario is one that estate planning professionals and health care practitioners see too often. What could have been dealt with via a properly drafted POA will now require an expensive and time-consuming court process. Once you have had the conversation with the adult and the adult has decided that they do want a POA, they then must decide what type of POA they would like.

Enduring and Springing Powers of Attorney

There are two types of POAs.

Enduring Powers of Attorney: A POA that is active at all times and does not require the adult granting the power to be incapable of making their own decisions/incapable of managing their finances. For example, even if the adult was away on holiday or simply did not want to leave their home, the appointed person could go to the bank to deal with their day-to-day banking.

Springing Powers of Attorney: A POA that only comes into effect when medical professionals perform an assessment and determines that the adult is no longer capable of making their own decisions/incapable of managing their finances.

Why an enduring power of attorney?

Many clients will ask why they would “give up control” of their finances while they are still fully capable of dealing with their own finances. There are three main reasons for doing so:

  • Convenience – even if you are not “incapacitated” by medical standards, you may still want some assistance in dealing with your everyday banking (e.g. the out-of-town scenario);
  • Capacity – Even though doctors may not be ready to say your are incapable of dealing with your finances, your family may be fully aware that you are no longer capable of doing so. The enduring POA allows your family to help you even before you are medically incapable; and
  • Continuity – if you trust the person to manage your finances for you when you are no longer capable and may not necessarily be able to monitor their actions, you should trust them to manage your finances for you while you are capable of monitoring their actions.

It is therefore important to have a conversation with anyone you care for regarding obtaining a POA even if they hesitate at first. Many adults – especially those in care – will be open to the idea once they are aware of the negative implications that can arise if they do not have one.

Additionally, the advice of professional should be sought in order to avoid some common pitfalls (e.g. not including the legal name of the adult as it is listed on the title of the home; not having the POA signed in accordance with the law). Speak with an experienced professional today to see what your options are.

Jeremy Wong is an estate planning lawyer at Westcoast Wills & Estates.  He routinely prepares wills, Powers of Attorney and Representation Agreements.  He also advises executors on probate and estate administration.

 

How to Find Happiness In Your Darkest Days

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“I just want to be happy.”

“I just want her/him/them to be happy.” 

These are sentences you’ve most likely spoken yourself, or heard someone else say. Happiness can feel like a goal we need to work towards, or an elusive resting place we can’t quite get back to. It can feel unattainable, or lost, or be ridden with emotions like guilt. Happiness, or the lack there of, can be a difficult emotion to manage because it’s often written or spoken about a feeling we need to achieve, or that it’s something we do or do not deserve to have.

Family Caregivers often have a complicated relationship with happiness. You might find yourself looking back on “happier times” and wishing they were more frequent today, or you could catch yourself thinking of the future when you’ll feel more happiness than you do today. You could experience guilt for feeling happy when your loved one is suffering, or resentment for thinking you’re not able to be happy because of your caregiving responsibilities.

So much that happens in our life, no matter how we shake it, is not within our control. What we can control, is how we react in the face of it all. That being said, no one is going to feel happy all the time. Hard things happen, and experiencing the highs and lows of those events help us to build resilience and shape our personalities. Learning how to tap in to and experience happiness when we’re not at our absolute best is a skill, and it can be practiced and learned.

You can’t control how your loved one’s health will be this afternoon any more than you can change the accident on the road that’s preventing you from getting to your doctor’s appointment on time. Here are some things you can do today to experience those desired, and deserved, happy feelings.

PRACTICE GRATITUDE | We talk about this a lot in our newsletter and on the blog because it truly is such a life-changing practice. “Where your mind goes energy flows,” said Ernest Holmes. When you focus on the negative, you’ll feel unhappy. When you focus on the positive, you’ll feel happier. At the end of last year I was gifted the idea of using the calendar pages of my day planner to record the best part of my day. Prompting my brain and heart to find that happy moment from even the worst of days can turn my mood around quite quickly, and looking back at a month of wonderful moments is uplifting.

PRACTICE MINDFULNESS | This is also something we talk about so often, and for good reason! Shifting your attention to the present moment can shake up your thoughts and move them away from fears about tomorrow, or regret from yesterday. Take a moment to do a grounding exercise where you are, right now. A trick I like to use when I catch my mind wandering away to a negative place is to immediately focus in on something I appreciate about the moment I’m in. It could be as simple as a comfortable sweater, or noticing that a couple is sharing a loving moment at a nearby table.

CONNECT | Meaningful relationships enrich our lives. They make us feel safe and heard, and those special people who really “get us” also make us laugh, which is a pretty big part of happiness, wouldn’t you say? Schedule time with people that make you feel good in the same way you would make a doctor’s appointment, or buy groceries. It is self-care, and it’s important! If you think you’d benefit from connecting with other caregivers, try out a network group.

 

Cassandra Van Dyck