For readers of our blog that are family caregivers, we have an idea for 2014 we would like to share with you. We know that your role as caregiver for someone you love creates considerable stress for you every day. The job is physically exhausting and emotionally challenging. As we head in to a New Year instead of making New Year’s resolutions you probably won’t have time to keep, consider adopting one little word.
The One Little Word Project was created seven years ago by author Ali Edwards. Edwards felt that by adopting one simple word for the year, she would be able to keep her life centered. Her word would give her focus as she went about her daily life. Her project has taken on a life of its own and been widely adopted by individuals ranging from physicians and nurses to emergency services workers.
In lieu of a making a list of resolutions this New Year’s Eve, pick one word that summarizes your goal for 2014. Own that word throughout all of the year. If you are feeling overwhelmed by your caregiver duties or sad about the change in health you see in your loved one, focus on your word.
How can you get started?
Think about what you hope for in 2014.
- Are you trying to be grateful for each day you have with an elderly loved one and live in the moment? Maybe your word could be PURPOSEFUL.
- Struggling to convince yourself that good enough will do as you juggle all of your roles in life? Try adopting ACCEPTANCE as your word in 2014.
- Trying to let go of worrying too much about things you can’t control? Make your word BELIEVE.
Get the idea? Think about your struggles and your hopes and pick a word. If you keep this up year after year, your word may begin to find you.
We’d love to hear from some of you who adopt a word! Please share your journey with us next year…
Family caregivers have a stressful and demanding role. Largely made up of women who work at least part-time and who care for children of their own, the demands on their time are often impossible to manage. While a support group seems like the obvious choice to helping them to better cope, finding the time to attend a meeting may create even more stress. Online caregiver support groups can be a solution.
Why are support groups helpful to caregivers and what sites offer online forums?
The Mayo Clinic tackled the first of these two questions. They found that:
- Sharing feelings with those who are walking their same path is by far the biggest advantage. The moral support and understanding peer groups offer can help relieve guilt, fear and anxiety that often accompany caregiving.
- Online support groups offer the advantage of anonymity. It gives caregivers an outlet for talking honestly about their feelings. If a caregiver is feeling guilty for snapping at a loved one with dementia when they ask the same question over and over and over, they will no doubt find people in the group who have had that experience.
- Online communities allow participants to join in when they can. That is a huge advantage for overwhelmed caregivers. They can jump online at midnight after their loved one has fallen asleep or over lunch at their desk.
How can a caregiver find an online support groups?
There are a variety of organizations that help to connect family caregivers with an online support group that meets their unique needs. Here are just a few to consider:
If you are Michigan caregiver and you prefer an in-person support group, we invite you to contact the Heritage Senior Community nearest you for more information.
The holidays can be tough on our waistline. Health experts say that the average American gains from ten to twelve pounds between Thanksgiving and the New Year. For older adults with a health condition like high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes, that amount of weight gain can spell trouble.
How can you enjoy the season’s festivities without packing on the pounds?
Here are few tips to help you separate foods that are naughty from those that are nice:
- Choose lean poultry and seafood over beef when you have a choice of entrees.
- Sweet potatoes are high in fiber and a great alternative to fat laden mashed potatoes and gravy.
- Cranberries are a power food rich in antioxidants and fiber.
- Always go for the leafy greens like spinach, romaine and kale. They are full of fiber and vitamins ranging from A – K.
- Pumpkin pie is a much better choice for dessert than pecan pie in terms of fat, fiber and vitamin A.
- Wines and wine spritzers are much better than drinks made with liqueurs.
- Skip the eggnog and spiced cider and instead order hot cocoa.
- If you are heading for the fresh vegies, choose hummus to dip them in not ranch or dill dips that are usually made with sour cream.
- If you can’t resist the bowl of nuts, choose almonds, cashews, pistachios or walnuts over pecans and macadamia nuts.
Also make sure that you don’t overlook the basics of a healthy lifestyle just because you are busy enjoying the holiday season. It is a dangerous mistake older adults often make. Be sure you remember to:
- Drink 8 to 10 glasses of water each day
- Get 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week
- Take your blood pressure as often as recommended by your physician
- Limit your alcohol consumption
- Monitor blood-sugar levels as directed
- Take all medications as prescribed
What is the hardest healthy lifestyle choice for you to maintain during the holidays? Is it food selections? Exercise? Monitoring blood pressure or blood-sugar?
If a parent, grandparent or older adult you love lives in a senior living community, finding a holiday gift for them might feel like a test of your imagination. Most residents of an assisted living community have limited space and have much of what they need provided. Gifts that are often appreciated by residents tend to be those that are focused on family, friends and hobbies.
Here are a few suggestions we’ve found to be popular among our residents:
- Making Memories. Scrapbooks, photo albums and videos that can be watched and looked at over and over are some of the most beloved gifts. You could even pull together what you need to make a scrapbook and bring it to your loved one so you can create it together after the holidays.
- Gift Cards. Sometimes older adults in an independent or assisted living community live on a tight budget. Affording extras like the hair salon or lunch out in the community can be tough. Gift cards can allow them to indulge in something they normally wouldn’t be able to afford.
- Back to nature. Almost everyone loves nature. For older adults who might have a little difficulty getting around, a well-placed bird feeder on or near their window can bring nature to them. Don’t forget the bird seed!
- Cards and Games. Group game times are a popular part of the activities programs in senior living communities. Purchasing a new game that can be played with neighbors will likely be a hit!
- Flower of the month club. If you are looking for a way to brighten up your loved one’s life all year long, consider signing up for a monthly floral delivery. If you select seasonal flowers, the cost will be more affordable.
- A Nintendo Wii. It isn’t just for kids! The Nintendo Wii has become very popular with seniors. It is a fun activity to do with friends and a great form of exercise.
We hope we’ve given you some good ideas to make holiday shopping for the older adult you love a little easier. If you have some suggestions we’ve overlooked, we would love to hear them. Please share them!
Making a trip home for the holidays is something most adult children look forward to every year. But for adult children of an aging loved one, the visit sometimes proves quite shocking. An older parent that they thought was managing well on their own really isn’t. Panicked adult children aren’t really sure if the changes they see in a parent are cause for alarm or a normal part of aging.
If you are making the trip home to visit the senior in your life this holiday season, these are 9 warning signs you can look for:
- Has there been a change in their personal appearance? That could include poor hygiene, disheveled clothing or a failure to maintain their usual grooming practices.
- Do they appear to have gained or lost a lot of weight without trying?
- How is their disposition? Have they dropped out of social groups? Are they no longer taking part in hobbies they have always enjoyed? Do they seem suspicious or grumpy?
- Does their mental status seem to have declined? Are they able to answer questions you ask them? Do they ask you the same question multiple times? Can they carry on a conversation with you?
- Can you tell if their sleep habits have changed? Do you hear them roaming the halls during the night? Are they sleeping during the day or for longer than is typical for them?
- What condition is their house in? Do you notice odors? Overflowing trash cans? Foods that are past their expiration date still in the refrigerator?
- Do they seem to be taking their medications appropriately? You can check by looking at the date and quantity on the prescription’s label and comparing it with how many pills are left in the bottle.
- Is the phone ringing with calls from creditors or collection agencies? Do you find bills stacked up unopened?
- Are their belongings getting lost and then turning up in unusual places?
Their primary care physician should be the first stop if you answered YES to more than one or two of these questions. Adult children often leap to the conclusion that their loved one has Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, there are other illnesses that can mimic dementia. Some can be easily remedied. But early intervention is usually the key to slowing or reversing the progression of an illness or disease.