Posts Tagged ‘Caregiver’

Rest and Renewal for Caregivers, in Only 10 Minutes!

In 2011, I wrote a blog post about the importance of regularly taking time away from caregiving, often referred to as “respite.”

 

At that time, I suggested that in every day, we should have a respite of at least 10 minutes or so, and in every week we should plan for an hour away, if at all possible.

 

Increasing stretches of time call for more time away… in a perfect world!

 

In the years since that post, I’ve had the privilege of presenting workshops about how to structure a mini-retreat, and I’ve continued to talk with care partners about how this method of respite works for them.

 

I’ve also learned from the latest brain science that even very small breaks, when given our full attention, can have a significant positive impact on our health and well-being!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/alicepopkorn/3059251051/

by AlicePopkorn via Flickr

 

Jennifer Louden’s “Woman’s Retreat Book: A Guide to Restoring, Rediscovering and Reawakening Your True Self –In a Moment, An Hour, Or a Weekend,” helps us think about what we hope to get from our retreat, and how to create one that will really work.

 

She reminds us that you don’t have to have a lot of time or money, nor do you have to actually leave town (or even the house) for a break to refresh and renew your mind, body, and spirit.

 

This is good news for care partners!

 

The basic elements for a retreat include the opening, the retreat itself, and the closing.

 

The opening of the retreat includes an act or ritual to indicate that you are stepping away from your usual day, and entering into a sacred or special space.

 

It might include a prayer or other reading, getting up from your desk, going to a corner of your home suitable for quiet contemplation, or ringing a bell.

 

Once inside this retreat space, which Ms. Louden calls the retreat container, you engage in an activity you’ve planned, and which fulfills or contributes to your intention for the retreat.  If you’re feeling stressed, you’ll want to connect with a feeling of relaxation.  If you’re tired, you may want to do something that will energize you!

 

This could be a few moments of silence, mindfully listening to your breath.  It could be taking out your journal to write some lines about how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking, at that very moment. If you like to draw, your retreat space could hold some art supplies for you to play with.

 

Perhaps 10 minutes of wild dancing will provide an energy (or attitude) adjustment.  I used to do this with my daughters at the end of the school day, and we found it vented all sorts of cranky energy, and made us laugh.  Really hard.

 

Ideally, a retreat will connect with all of the senses, so consider doing something for the body (breathe, stretch, or handle a cool, smooth stone); for the sense of smell (fresh flowers, cinnamon, eucalyptus, a vanilla or pine scented candle); your sense of hearing (the gentle tinkling of a bell, music, or silence); and vision (have something pleasant to look at).

 

The closing is often a mirror or reversal of the opening ceremony.

 

If you started with a bell, end the same way.  If you lit a candle, blow it out.  You are signaling the end of this special time, even when it’s only been ten minutes, and a return to routine.

 

These simple steps bring our awareness to a mental and physical space where we can renew our energies, manage stress, and keep fit for the Elder care journey.

 

Jennifer Louden’s book is a true treasure trove of ideas, providing important information on how to prepare for a retreat of any length, how to create emotional and physical containers for your experience, and consider what to do (and not do!) on your retreat.

 

You’ll want to have your own copy of this book; you can purchase it now on the Crossroads Counseling Bookstore by clicking HERE.

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How do you rest and renew yourself?  What works best for you?

What will you try today?

Leave your comments and share your experience with others!

 

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Lisa Kendall is a geriatric social worker with a private counseling and consulting practice.  She teaches, trains, and facilitates a variety of different retreats. 

Are You Happy to Break the Good Dishes? (or… “Eat the Cherry First!”)

 

I recently splurged on a set of adorable Moroccan tea glasses, something to remind me of my favorite Philadelphia restaurant and the great meals I’ve shared there with my Sweety.

When one of them broke this week, I was surprised to find myself feeling happy about it, even satisfied.

Was that a strange response?  Maybe, but here’s my thinking on it.

Like many people, I’ve had a tendency to set aside the “good dishes” (or fancy paper napkins, or special blouse), saving them for a special occasion.

Doing this means those precious items are rarely used and enjoyed, and more than once, waiting has meant that what was special has become ruined for some reason.

In the past few years I’ve developed a philosophy of using the things I love, even when it means risking wear, tear, and ultimately the end of the object.

It feels like I’m no longer depriving myself, and every day is graced with little reminders of the things that give me joy: a special color or pattern, the glimmer of crystal, wonderful memories.

I used to be a person who saved the cherry on a sundae for last.

Now I eat it right away, and I’m not above asking for two cherries!

Are you saving something for a special occasion?  Today is special!  Life is short and we should embrace every moment for the blessing and gift that it is.

http://www.powerfinish.com/powerpoint-templates.htmlOpen those Christmas presents and enjoy them – now that’s a resolution you can live with!

 

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Lisa Kendall is an expert in Elder Care and self-care for all members of the care partner team.

We wish you much Joy and many Blessings in the coming year!

lisa@lisakendallcounseling.com

Sorrow and Joy in the Season of Light

I am thinking a lot in this season about loved ones who have passed, and in particular about my daughter, Diane, who died almost 17 years ago in a car accident.

Through much of the year I am able to stay busy with meaningful work and beloved Diane Graduationfamily, but there is a bittersweet aura around the winter holidays that forces me to look at my loss and care for my broken heart.

I know others are grieving too.  Perhaps you’ve lost a parent, sibling, or child, or know someone who has.  Most of us have lost friends.  Perhaps you are caring for a loved one whose illness triggers feelings akin to grief.

While we encourage people to celebrate the joys around them, hold fast to memories, and embrace what is present in our ill loved ones’ lives, this is a time to also honor those who have gone before and those who love them.

Every year I remind folks about the Worldwide Candle Lighting hosted by The Compassionate Friends, an organization that offers peer support groups for bereaved parents, siblings, and grandparents.

The Compassionate Friends group in Binghamton, NY probably saved my life after Diane’s accident.

I encourage you to visit their website at www.compassionatefriends.org, and to participate with me in lighting a candle for our children who have died.

http://www.compassionatefriends.org/News_Events/Special-Events/Worldwide_Candle_Lighting.aspxThis annual ceremony starts at 7 p.m. on the second Sunday evening in December, and by lighting a candle in your time zone, wherever you are, we create a wave of light that ripples around the world for 24 hours.

This year’s Candle Lighting is on Sunday, December 8th.

Thank you to all who have supported me with their encouragement, prayers, and good wishes.

Thank you to all who are doing the hard work of caring for ill loved ones.

It helps to know we do not walk alone.

Celebrating Thanksgiving with Loved Ones who Live with Dementia

Thanksgiving is a very special American holiday that carries many memories and not a little nostalgia for the past.

I remember riding in our family car with my sisters to visit Grandparents for Thanksgiving, and singing “Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go!”  It’s a warm memory, infused with laughter and excitement.

Memories are at the heart of this holiday, which is focused on gratitude.

This year for Thanksgiving, you may want to consider a shift in your traditional way of looking at your Loved One who is living with dementia, and the ways they contribute to your family.

Consider your Elder’s strengths, and the gifts they offer, and actively express your Gratitude for them.

Instead of just remembering with sadness the grand meals your Elder used to make, be sure to experience gratitude for the memories, the recipes, and the ways your Loved One contributes to this years’ experience.  It will give her great pleasure to “teach” her favorite dishes to the younger set, and to help at whatever level she can and in a way that ensures success.

Autumn Tree SunsetInstead of focusing on illness, have the family create a list of gifts your Elder has given over the years and continues to give.  For example, a grandchild might write “I am grateful for the way Grandma has helped me with college, and for her encouragement in my studies.”

Share this list with the Elder in a packet of notes, so she can refer back to them.  This will make the moment last!

Focus on Laughter; it’s the greatest gift we can share among family and friends.

Consider a smaller group to cut down on noise and confusion for your Loved One.  Your Elder’s strength might now be to enjoy more intimate gatherings.

Provide a place for the Elder to step back and rest whenever she feels the need.  This might be a comfortable room where she can nap, or a second living space, such as a family room or den, located away from the bustle of dinner preparations or rowdy football games.

Remember the other care partners in your Elder’s life, and show your gratitude for them.  A card of thanks is a valuable gift to home health aides or the neighbor who keeps the walks cleared in the winter.

Stimulate memories and conversations by starting a story with, “I remember when we (did such and such…) It was always fun to be with the cousins,” instead of asking the Elder “do you remember…?”  The former is more likely to generate shared stories, while the latter can lead to frustration and increased confusion.

Seat your Elder next to someone who knows them well and is patient and kind.  They can watch for needs the Elder may have difficulty expressing, such as “pass the rolls, please!” or “may I be excused from the table.”  They can slow the conversation down so the Elder can participate.  Sometimes a little more time is all that’s needed.

Perhaps different family members can take turns attending closely to Grandmother or Grandfather, 30 minutes or an hour at a time.  This ensures that no one feels left out of that rowdy football game!

Some family holidays are day-long affairs.  Is this what works best for your older Loved One now, or should she come for the part of the day that is most meaningful and manageable for her?

Speaking of “meaning,” a guideline to help you decide what and how much to do for the holiday should be to ask what is meaningful for you, your Elder, and your family.  Stretching yourself to do extra cleaning or make everything from scratch might leave you feeling too tired to enjoy the gathering.

Where can you cut back on work, or delegate tasks, while keeping the most meaningful parts of your time together intact?  Is there a ritual your family does for Thanksgiving that you want to honor?  Figure out how your Elder can participate easily.

For example, a family who has always had each member read a verse or passage at the table might shift the custom to showcase the teens or the younger kids.  If your Elder’s reading is good, but recall is poor, she may be OK with reading something rather than reciting from memory.

What ideas do YOU have for enjoying Thanksgiving with your family, and for adapting to the needs of a Loved One who is living with dementia?

Please share your comments below, and have a Blessed Holiday.

The Most Powerful Tool You Can Use in Caring for a Loved One Living with Alzheimer’s

Dementia of any kind, including Alzheimer’s disease, can be very frustrating for families or professionals who are trying to provide care.

Early in the disease, people living with dementia might have difficulty finding the word they mean to use, or forget names of close friends and dates of important events.

As the disease progresses, it may become even more difficult to express feelings or make needs known to others.  People who have trouble expressing themselves become frustrated and even angry.

It’s easy to make two mistakes when this happens:

First, we might assume that the use of the wrong name or incorrect date means that the person has forgotten their loved one or the event.  In reality, they may know who and what they’re trying to discuss, but the correct word doesn’t come to them.

We’ve all had this happen, haven’t we?

Second, we may see angry behavior as coming from the disease, as opposed to a very natural frustration at not being understood.

http://astore.amazon.com/lisakendallcounseling-amazon-store-20/detail/193252956X

 

Dr. Al Power’s book, “Dementia Beyond Drugs: Changing the Culture of Care,” talks about several different kinds of communication problems that can accompany dementia, and challenges us to change how we look at and deal with them.

You’ll want to take a look at his book, which focuses on care in residential settings such as nursing homes, as the principles apply to Elders who live anywhere.

 

Naomi Feil, a social worker who created “Validation Therapy,” teaches us to acknowledge the feeling that’s being expressed, rather than to take on the logic (or apparent illogic), of what the person who lives with dementia is saying to us.

This approach works well for routine communication as well as for those situations where someone appears to be delusional.

For example, when Mary says she wants to see her Mother, who has been dead for a long time, it does no good, and may do harm, to remind Mary that her mother has been dead for many years.

A more helpful approach is to acknowledge the feeling that is being expressed. 

If the person seems sad, you can say, “it sounds like you’re missing your Mom.  Could you tell me a little more about her?”

This approach honors the person and helps them feel heard and understood.  The invitation to talk more about the mother can lead to wonderful stories, and help the Elder feel less alone.

You can learn about Naomi Feil’s approach at her website; just click HERE.

http://astore.amazon.com/lisakendallcounseling-amazon-store-20/detail/1572242701

An easy book to get you started with this technique is “Talking to Alzheimer’s: A Simple Way to Connect When You Visit with a Family Member or Friend,” by Claudia Strauss.  It’s a small book written for everyone, with easy to understand examples of what to say, and what not to say.

 

Truly hearing an Elder who lives with dementia is a powerful way to honor them and help them connect with you and ensure that all their needs, physical and emotional, can be met.

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Please be aware that if you purchase books from the above links, a small percentage of the cost will go to support this website.

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Be sure to leave your name and e-mail in the box at the top left of this page, so we can make sure you receive new blogs and updates about resources!  You will also receive my free report on “The Art & Science of Elder Care: 12 Tips to Help you Transform Your Caregiving.”

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Lisa Kendall is a clinical social worker and clinical gerontologist in private practice.  She teaches for the Ithaca College Gerontology Institute and is an Educator for The Eden Alternative.  Lisa speaks on Aging and Elder Care issues around the country. 

Holiday Caregiver Stress: Finding the Heart of the Season

http://www.flickr.com/photos/summerlovin/4171678797/

Photo by paulapaulac via Flickr

A lovely Elder I knew, (I’ll call her Mary), was really struggling with the care needs of her husband, who was living with a number of debilitating illnesses.  As the holidays approached, she became more and more anxious about how to manage the many tasks and roles she had already taken on, and wondered how to work Christmas into her “to do” list.

One of Mary’s traditions was to bake a special kind of cookie, one that took several hours and many steps.  That year, she just couldn’t face the chore.

When I asked her what the most meaningful part of this holiday tradition was for her, she didn’t hesitate to answer that it was spending time with her college-age grandsons.

Looking at this activity from the perspective of what was most meaningful, Mary quickly realized that the heart of the event was spending time with those growing young men.

She knew that they enjoyed being with her, too, and confided that her hungry family wolfed down the treats and probably never gave a second thought to the amount of time and preparation she’d invested in baking.

It was easier for this Wise Elder to change how she managed the task once she’d identified what was most important and meaningful.  That year, she chose a much simpler recipe, and enjoyed her special time with the grandsons.  Mary had freed up precious time and energy for the other things she really wanted or needed to do.

What is the heart of this holiday season for you?  If you are feeling overwhelmed, prune away the things that don’t bring you joy.  Consider changing the way you do things so you can enjoy the holidays feeling more at peace and well-rested.

The SIDS Foundation has created a nifty chart that an help you identify what and how to include in your Holiday celebrations, what things you can change, and what things you might choose to let go this year.  Try it out below.

As you work with this information, consider that important question: what is meaningful?

And let me know if you made any changes, and how it’s going for you!

Holiday Stress Assessment for Caregivers

HOLIDAY JOB LIST Would the holidays be the same without it?  Is this something you want to do differently?  Do you do it out of habit, tradition,free choice, or obligation? Is it a one person job, or can it be shared?  Who is responsible for seeing that it gets done?  Do you like doing it?  Decorating the tree.                    Contributing to special funds.                    Baking holiday cookies. Exchanging holiday cookies.                    Making long lists of what needs to be done.                    Going to office or school parties.                    Making homemade holiday gifts.                    Sending holiday cards.                    Buying something special to wear for the holidays.                    Going to cocktail parties.                    Doing your holiday shopping.                    Seeing people you never see any other time of the year.                    Helping or encouraging your children to make some of their gifts.                    Having the house clean … clean!                    Decorating different rooms of your home.                    Providing “quiet-together” time for immediate family.                    Buying gifts for co-workers and teachers.                    Attending special or traditional church services.                    Attending special activities for children.                    Preparing special traditional foods.                   

©1995-1996-1997-1998-1999, SIDS Network, Inc. < http://sids-network.org >

All rights reserved. Permission to use, copy, and distribute this document, in whole or in part, for non-commercial use and without fee, is hereby granted, provided that this copyright, permission notice, and appropriate credit to the SIDS Network, Inc. be included in all copies.

 

Don’t wait! You can have a refreshing ‘Retreat’ today!

Mrs. Jenson is a full-time care partner for her husband, who has had a severe stroke. 

It’s very hard work, but she has some help in the home, as well as wonderfully supportive family, and she is able to get out for church and social activities.  Every so often, she takes trips with her community group, and there is an annual family vacation, too. 

Because she has health problems of her own and sleeps poorly, her children and grand-children encourage Mrs. J. to take even more time for herself, to take off for a weekend or more to really recharge, but Mrs. J. feels she just doesn’t want to do that and is uncomfortable with the pressure from her well-intended loved ones.

Part of my job is to encourage family care partners to get enough rest, so I want to hear more.

Mrs. Jenson teaches me something important when, together, we think through how she sees balancing her own need for rest and respite with her engagement as a care partner for her husband.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/baronsquirrel/106337895/sizes/m/in/photostream/

photo by baronsquirrel via flickr

What we come up with is a kind of formula that is already mostly in place in the Jenson household.  It looks like this:

  • Every day, take a brief, but pleasurable, respite (10 minutes)
  • In every week, schedule an hour or two away (special lunch with a friend, quiet time at a museum, a walk, etc.)
  • Every month, take a full day for yourself
  • In every quarter (every three months), set aside a truly special weekend for rest and renewal
  • Annually, be sure to schedule a week for vacation!

These guidelines will look different for everyone, but could work in some way or other for all of us, whether we are caring for an ill loved one, trying to manage work/life balance, or manage our own stress and wellness.

The main point Mrs. Jenson wanted to get across to her children was that she didn’t need to leave her home or take a long stretch of time to feel refreshed. 

I think this is a common myth, and one that keeps us from taking advantage of everyday opportunities to find a “little calm center” in our otherwise too-busy world.

I will be facilitating a workshop on how to create a mini-retreat on Monday, July 18th at Lifelong in Ithaca; I hope you’ll join us to learn more and to share your own wisdom about this!

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Finding Rest and Renewal:

How to Create a Mini-Retreat to Soothe Your Spirit, Ease Your Body, and Calm Your Mind

A Retreat has been defined as “an act or process of withdrawing, especially from what is difficult, dangerous, or disagreeable;” or “a place of privacy or safety or refuge.”

Many of us know we need time away, but are unsure of where, how, or when to create effective Retreats.  In this hands-on workshop, participants will learn how to structure personal mini-Retreats that last from ten minutes to a full day, select meaningful activities, and comfortably transition out of the Retreat, taking powerful and lasting lessons into daily life.  Further resources for planning your Retreat are included.

This workshop is intended for both experienced and new retreatants, and is especially designed for those who are seeking better balance and well-being in their lives.

Register for (1823) Finding Rest and Renewal: How to Create a Mini-Retreat to Soothe… ($10 fee) at Lifelong

by clicking HERE or call Jillian Pendleton for more information at (607) 273-1511 

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Are you a member of Lifelong??  Join today!!

www.tclifelong.org

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Lisa Kendall has worked for over thirty years as a health and wellness educator and mental health counselor, and has led retreats for a variety of groups.  Lisa maintains a private therapy practice specializing in women’s health, aging & caregiving, chronic illness, stress, depression, work/life balance, and grief. 

“Share Your Wishes” for Advance Health Care in the New Year

This is one New Year’s resolution you must make and keep, without delay! 

Everyone over the age of 18 should plan ahead for their medical care, and consider who will speak for them if they can not speak for themselves. 

It’s not enough to have a signed Health Care Proxy form (in some states, this may be called a Power of Attorney for Health Care); many people sign the forms then misplace them, or never have the important conversations with loved ones that give guidance about values and preferences.

“Sharing Your Wishes” is a comprehensive approach that can walk you through four steps that will ensure that your loved ones understand your health care choices.  

The steps in this approach include:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/25422151@N04/4078233716/sizes/m/in/photostream/

Photo by Sicamp via Flickr

1. Think about what is important to you and how you want to receive care

2. Select a person to speak for you if you are unable to speak for yourself

3. Talk about your health care wishes

4. Put your choices in writing

The form itself is easy to complete and doesn’t require a notary or lawyer.  It can be difficult to talk about these issues, though, especially if you or a loved one is dealing with a chronic or serious illness. 

The Sharing Your Wishes website has easy-to-use materials and videos that fully explain each step and support you and your loved ones in having these important conversations. 

Many counties in Central and Western New York have local Sharing Your Wishes Coalitions where more materials and support can be found; their names and phone numbers are listed on the website. 

If you are outside the area, contact your local Bar Association or Area Agency on Aging for more information.

Please visit the Sharing Your Wishes website at www.sharingyourwishes.org for more information about this important topic today.  Make sure you and all the adults in your life have appointed a Health Care Agent, and have started to have these important conversations with your loved ones and with your health care providers. 

P.S. Don’t hesitate to consult with a counselor if you need more support; dealing with chronic or terminal illness is very stressful and you don’t have to deal with it alone.

Peace and Wellness to you and yours in the New Year!

Lisa Kendall is a licensed clinical social worker with a private practice in Ithaca, New York.  She is a trainer for the Tompkins County Sharing Your Wishes Coalition. 

Sharing Your Wishes is sponsored by the Community Health Foundation of Western & Central New York. 

A Radical Alternative to New Year’s Resolutions: for Caregivers & the Rest of Us!

You've seen the lists. Maybe you've made one yourself, or are thinking about it. Eat better... Exercise more... Organize the house... If you're anything like me, there is a strange mathematical formula that applies to efficiency in one's daily life. Here's how I think it works: Read the rest of this entry »

The True Heart of Caregiving

I stumbled onto a music video this morning that really spoke to everything I’ve loved about working with Elders and their care partners for the last 28 years.  It was so sweet and so beautifully done, I had to sit down and find a way to share it with you.

This story shows with great poignancy the deep connections that often form between Elders and those who care for them, and how both benefit from the relationship. 

Genuine, loving care is both given and received in this tender relationship! 

Loneliness, helplessness, and boredom, the three plagues of Elderhood described by Dr. Bill Thomas, co-founder of the Eden Alternative, are vanquished for both the Elder and the young man in this lovely story.

I wasn’t able to embed the video here, but I believe it is worth your visit away from my site to see Brett Eldredge’s music video, “Raymond” at youtube. 

Just grab a few tissues, click HERE, and come back to comment on your reactions to the video.   You can also visit Brett Eldredge’s website – this talented young man is raising awareness about Alzheimer’s disease.

Thanks for spending some time with me today; please visit again!

Lisa Kendall is a clinical social worker and clinical social work gerontologist in private practice in Ithaca, NY.  She is an Eden at Home Educator committed to changing the culture of care for Elders and their care partners.  Learn more about Eden at Home and the Eden Alternative at www.edenalt.org

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