How to Stay Connected with Your Long Distance Aging Parent

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A guest post written by Family Caregiver Sarah Allen

Staying Connected with Mom

My mother has taken care of me for most of my life. Now she is struggling with the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease, and I know it is my time to step up to the plate and return the favor.

Rather than continuously visit nursing homes, rehabilitation centers and try to pay for a home aid ourselves, we moved her in with my family and I take care of her.

My sister Emily lives out of town, but is constantly looking for ways to keep in touch because she can’t see my mom every day. With so many families in our situation, most know it is hard to keep in touch with loved ones we can’t see often. Here are some ways that you can stay close to loved ones.

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Minimize Caregiver Overwhelm by Taking One Day at a Time

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For many family caregivers, the future is just too uncertain. Questions with no specific answers and abundant worries race through our heads. Questions like:

Will we have enough money to take care of our loved ones?

Will I have enough energy to make it through the day?

Will my loved one remember who I am?

Why has all of this responsibility been given to me?

How long will the demands of caregiving last?

What will people think of me if I don’t visit today?

All of these questions trigger other questions and we can find ourselves stressed out and overwhelmed over all these uncertainties.

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Caregiver Spotlight – Carole Brecht

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I like to regularly feature one-on-one conversations with a family Caregiver from either my Happy Healthy Caregiver Facebook Group or the Happy Healthy Caregiver Community. I call each of these recorded conversations a ‘Caregiver Spotlight’. I started these because each caregiver journey is unique and I know every time I talk to another caregiver I learn something new and I leave that conversation knowing I’m not alone and feel encouraged by others.

Meet Creative Family Caregiver – Carole Brecht

Carole Brecht’s first exposure to family caregiving occurred when she had just closed her art gallery and was planning to secure a job in her industry. Her dad worked full-time and her mom had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Carole had the time to step up as the daughter to help, not even knowing what a Caregiver was, nor hearing the word Caregiver until the end of her journey. She just knew her mom needed assistance with daily tasks and transportation and advocacy at her doctor appointments. Like many of us, Carole had no formal training in caregiving and learned as she went. Her caregiving journey with her mom lasted  several years until her mom passed away two years ago. During this time, Carole didn’t have a support system. She felt caregiving was a lonely, isolating journey that caused her to withdraw. Carole is currently her father’s Caregiver.

Caregiving took Carole down a path she didn’t anticipate. Her personal experiences inspired her to explore two positive, creative outlets: Zentangle art and writing.

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5 Calorie-Free Holiday Treats that Will Keep You in Good Health

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A guest post written by Lorna Scott, The Caregiver’s Lighthouse

It is a pleasure to be here today and a huge bundle of thanks to Elizabeth for inviting me to share with you some ideas and strategies to help you get through the holiday season without having to dig deep for willpower to say no to every yummy looking holiday treat.

Beware of the Holiday Sugar Monster

I’m not sure how the last two months of the year became most famous for all the sugar filled food that you find on every corner in every store. In Canada, it starts even earlier with Thanksgiving in October. Soon it’s Halloween, American Thanksgiving and before you blink an eye you are rolling into the rush of Christmas. There’s no time to catch your breath in between pumpkin pie, Halloween kisses and candy canes. How can anyone expect to get through the relentless bombardment of “eat this treat and be happy” messages?

This can be especially true for family caregivers. Really, what is easier than grabbing a leftover Halloween goodie or candy cane to give you a boost of energy? Sounds good and you might even feel great for a few minutes. And then the fatigue and fogginess returns quickly, and often is worse than before. So you grab another treat, the same thing happens, and you grab more, and soon, you have been sucked into the grasp of the sugar monster.

I know how easy this is to do because I just lived through it. For some reason I caved into that cycle this week. I have a sweet tooth and while I’ve never sworn off all sweets forever, I am usually very careful about giving in to the sugar cycle. I know it takes me off course in every aspect of my life, hurts my body and adds weight I’ve just worked hard to release. It’s insidious, and I gave in to it.

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Embracing and feeling your emotions and fears is healthy

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It’s not realistic to think that you can be happy all the time.

We live in a culture where we tend to stuff our emotions and fears. We’re busy. We don’t take time to feel and process our emotions and fears.

Lately, I’ve been trying to become more in tune to my inner voice. I think she has been talking to me all of my life and I just tend not to really hear her anymore – she became background noise. Sometimes she’s my number one fan pushing me to try new things and take the next step toward my goals but other times I catch her doubting me or comparing me to others and holding me back.

We have this urge to be perfect, instead of recognizing we are enough. Social media doesn’t help. Facebook and Instagram show individual’s highlight reels of sweet family moments, beautiful bodies, happy relationships, and gourmet meals. Deep down we have to know that these individuals have struggles, insecurities, bad habits, and imperfections. We’re all human!

I don’t eat perfectly all the time. I get frustrated with my progress. I have a list of repetitive fears. I yell at my kids, and I can shut out or stuff my true feelings. (more…)

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The power of protein and where to find good sources of it

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Are you eating enough protein?

Wouldn’t it be great if we had a energy gauge on our body that told us what we were required to eat for optimal health?

When we are required to to fill up our cars with gas, our little label from the manufacturer even tells us what type of gas we need to make our vehicles work effectively. Our human bodies, who also need fuel to work effectively (especially when caregiving), are so complex! To think that the food we eat doesn’t have an impact on our mood, energy, and overall physical health would be an oversight.

Protein is definitely a requirement for our diet. While we often get too many mixed messages from the health and wellness community, I haven’t seen anything that has said we don’t need protein in our diet.

Technically, our bodies need protein to build and repair our cells. I personally find that when I eat ample amounts of protein, I have more willpower to resist unhealthy snack options probably because it takes longer to digest these foods allowing me to feel fuller longer. I also feel like my energy level is more stable.  (more…)

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Organization Tips to help a Family Caregiver Manage a Crisis

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As family caregivers, we have to be ready for the unexpected. Organization will help you be ready because a caregiving crisis is always lurking. Unlike the children many of us care or cared for that eventually become more independent as they age, our aging parents we may be caring for are moving in the opposite direction, doing less physically and potentially remembering less mentally, eventually becoming completely dependent on us.

A caregiving crisis may be a trip to the emergency room but it could also be that urgent frustrating call from your loved one like they can’t make a donation online to the republican committee, they have no more diet ginger ale, they can’t get into their Facebook account, they completely ran out of disposable underwear or the Wifi isn’t working ( can you tell these have all been crisis of the day ’emergencies’ for me?!). After all we are often our caree’s primary shopper, tech support, and contact with the outside world. (more…)

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Self-care daily habits that are doable, energizing, and uplifting

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I believe many family caregivers think of self-care as a weekend retreat, a night out with the girls or a relaxing day at the spa. Those activities do sound and are amazing! However, self-care can be a collection of tiny little daily habits that allow you to nurture and energize yourself.

In this post, I want to focus in on those daily self-care habits. The little things that you do or could do to take better care of you.

Does anything come to mind?

If you got a decent night’s sleep last night, that’s a good start. If you ate an energizing healthy breakfast this morning, you are starting to seize your day.

Wouldn’t be great to have some little self-care breadcrumbs sprinkled throughout your day for you to savor?

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How Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) help family caregivers

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If you are a working caregiver, your company may offer an EAP – an Employee Assistance Program. Many employers offer this benefit because they realize that you have many demands and stresses put on you outside of your work life that impact your job and it’s in everyone’s best interest if they help you cope.

However, like me, you may have overlooked your EAP.

I went to a lunch-n-learn at my company that outlined all the benefits an EAP has and I was blown away. I kept repeating in my head as the speaker was talking ‘I wish I knew about all of this a couple years ago!’

I left the session and went immediately to a couple family caregivers I know at work to share what I learned so that they could take advantage of some of these resources or at least be made aware of their existence.

EAP is one of those widespread benefits that is ‘out there’ and I think people think about the obvious use – counseling for them self – the employee. But even when I was picking up more and more caregiving responsibilities and completely overwhelmed I didn’t consider that EAP was for me.

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Creating a Deliberate Vision for Your Life

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Expert Interview – Karen Habra Smyth

Karen not only wants to aspire and achieve health and happiness goals for herself and her family – she wants you to adopt a deliberate vision for your life, too. Karen and her business partner Jodi offer products and resources to help everyone, including family caregivers, create the vision for their life that they deserve.

Surprising many that knew her, Karen Habra Smyth resigned from her corporate job about 10 years ago. She was trying to start her family with her husband Michael, she wasn’t feeling fulfilled by her career at that time and she wanted to grab the reigns to influence the outcome she desired.

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