Recent Caregiver Blogs

Posted: 3/16/2020 3:30:44 PM

Throw Away Your Excuses: Meditation is Good for You

While caregiving has its rewards and special moments, it can also be a source of stress and anxiety. The physical demands, emotional downturns, and impact on one’s personal life from caregiving can become overwhelming.

Caregivers need to be able to reach into their mental health toolbox and choose meditation as a way to cope.

Meditation means putting aside time to be alone, away from the hustle and bustle of your daily responsibilities. It is spending a few moments in quiet thought while positioned comfortably. It is ridding one’s mind of all worries and then focusing oneself on the present. Think of it as a way to reset, or temporarily break away from challenging tasks.

But sadly, for most caregivers, meditation is at the bottom of their to-do list, if included at all.

Here are some reasons why caregivers keep putting this stress reliever off, and why they really shouldn't:

1. “I don’t have time.”

Caregivers often say they don’t even have enough time to eat or socialize. How can they possibly spare some for meditation? We get it. That’s a great question!

You don't need hours to meditate. In fact, you can do meditation for as little as two minutes. If you can manage five to ten minutes per session, that’s even better!

For those wondering if just a few minutes of calm spent meditating actually works—yes, it definitely does!

Think of it as setting your timer back to zero before returning to your busy schedule, rather than carrying over your present burdens and adding to your challenges the next day.

Meditation is a process of unloading worrisome thoughts so that you can focus again, and helps you think positively and remind yourself what a beautiful person you are. Is that worth spending five minutes each day? The answer should be a definite “yes!”

2. “I don’t have a quiet place.”

If you are really serious about meditation, you’ll be able to find a quiet spot to sit comfortably. It doesn’t have to be a special place. It can be the bathroom, your car, somewhere outside, or simply your bed. It can be any place you can spend some uninterrupted time alone.

3. “I don’t know how.”

The good thing about meditation as a coping strategy is that you don’t need special training to do it.

One of the simplest ways to meditate is to close your eyes and be mindful of your breathing, while telling yourself that you feel relaxed in that moment. Add to the experience by playing some relaxing music and lighting scented candles. Easy, right?

You can also do visualization. Simply put, visualization is a daydream with the eyes closed. Think happy thoughts, such as being in a wonderful place, and savor the moment.

If your mind begins to wander or have nagging thoughts of all the day’s responsibilities, shoo the negative thoughts away and redirect yourself back to your peaceful imagery.

4. “I’d rather sleep.”

Adequate sleep is a precious thing. No one can contest that. But five minutes a day will hardly rob you of precious sleep.

In fact, having anxious thoughts throughout the day (that persist as you start to doze) leaves your brain running on autopilot, trying to solve problems all night. No wonder you wake up feeling like you haven’t slept at all!

Meditation before sleep gives your brain a process for shutting down to rest, so that you can start the next day refreshed and well-rested.

5. “I’ve tried it, but it doesn’t seem to work.”

First of all, it isn’t wise to put off meditation for this reason, because practice makes perfect! Second, you might have given up too soon without giving meditation a chance to benefit you. Do these simple checks before coming to this conclusion:

How long do you usually meditate each day?

Do you do it for at least two full minutes, uninterrupted?

Were you really able to clear your thoughts of the negative stuff before visualizing or doing mindfulness?

Do you do it regularly?

How long have you been practicing meditation?

Have you been conscious to proper technique while meditating?

Give yourself ample time and lots of practice, and soon you'll reap the benefits this practice promises.

Meditation is highly recommended for caregivers as a way to ease their everyday stress. If you are a caregiver and aren’t currently experiencing the benefits of meditation, then it is high time you do. Not only will this technique help you as a person, but it will also improve your working relationship with your patients and colleagues.


Posted: 2/24/2020 6:28:08 PM

What to Do if Your Older Client is Bored

They say “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” How true do you think that is? Could boredom be any more prevalent in the lives of retired seniors?

At retirement, a lot of things change. For one, older people may have more physical complaints and chronic diseases. They can lose energy quickly, move slower, and often have poor eyesight and hearing. Above all, they may not have much to do. Their children may have other immediate family members to care for and/or moved to another place and are not available for frequent visits.

If your client resides in a home or facility, the new environment, the unfamiliar routine, and the “less-than-friendly” people can cause a lot of stress. They often cannot do the things they love, and can feel they have lost their sense of purpose. Their situation can be not just frustrating, but boring.

If you are a caregiver and you see that your older client is uncooperative, disruptive, or constantly making excuses to avoid joining activities, or worse, they are frequently eloping, you have to be extra creative in keeping them active and busy.

FIRST, KNOW YOUR CLIENT AND THEIR PREFERENCES. Genuinely care about what your client wants and make conversation with them. Some clients are shy, but it does not mean that they are immobile. Ask them what they love to do. Let them talk about previous hobbies and how they make friends. Although the structure of activities in a home or facility can be the same for everyone, the approach may be unique for each client.

MAKE STRUCTURED ACTIVITIES A LITTLE MORE SPECIAL FOR THEM. Give them a reason to stand up and go, perhaps by letting them bring their favorite picture frame or photo album.

MAKE PLANS WITH YOUR CLIENT. Planning gives clients something to look forward to. How about a surprise party for a roommate or relative who is going to visit? With this strategy, you engage not only their physical body but also their minds, which can make them want to socialize.

ORGANIZE CLUBS ACCORDING TO HOBBIES. You will need the cooperation and approval of the rest of the staff for this, but your efforts would not be in vain. Sewing clubs, book clubs, scrapbooking clubs…anything goes as long as their health allows it!

WALK WITH THEM. This is the introvert's perfect activity. Walking with clients is great exercise for them. A walk provides a quiet distraction that takes them away from their routine for a few minutes. It will also be a good time to connect with your client so they can talk about how they feel.

INTRODUCE THE INTERNET IF YOUR CILENT IS STILL UNFAMILIAR WITH IT. The internet is a modern photo and video gallery. Since older people often enjoy visiting their relatives and reminiscing, the virtual way of doing so might be just the trick to lighten their mood.

IF YOUR CLIENT’S CONDITION ALLOWS IT, LET THEM TEACH. Elders are a source of great knowledge. Their years of experience put them at the expert level of many things. Other than stimulating their minds, it can encourage a sense of purpose by helping them feel like a productive part of society.

Over the coming years, it is already expected that healthcare will become more welcoming to older people who will need special attention to keep them active, healthy, and happy. Caregivers must be prepared for this period by working passionately to make it the best part of their career.


Posted: 2/14/2020 8:28:16 PM

Death and Dying: A Caregiver’s Good-bye

Death and dying are a part of human life. But those who provide care just see it more often. As a family caregiver, you may have a loved one who is sick or disabled. Or you might be a caregiver in a facility or hospice setting taking care of older people and very ill patients. Whatever the setting, caregivers are faced with the possibility of someone dying in their care, and that feeling is just horrible. You feel a knot in your stomach, and pain in your heart.

When a caregiver is faced with the reality of a loss of a loved one, it is one of the hardest moments of one’s life. Grief does not even start when the person has passed. It could well be experienced at the discovery of a terminal illness. It could cause feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and loss of control for both the patient and the caregiver.

How can the caregiver continue to provide care and say good-bye at the same time?

1. ACCEPT THAT DEATH WILL HAPPEN. Unless the caregiver admits to themselves that the death of the patient is near, they would not be able to prepare themselves fully for what is about to happen. Knowing that the patient may go at any time will also help the caregiver realize their own feelings.

2. ACKNOWLEDGE LOSSES AS THEY COME. During the final days of the patient’s life, the caregiver may notice that the patient's health condition will become poorer by the day. The confusion, inability to eat, loss of bodily functions, the increased sleepiness, and difficulty breathing are common during their final hours. It is the caregiver’s responsibility to make the patient as comfortable as possible.

3. CONVEY YOUR PRESENCE. Just being there beside a dying patient could mean so much to them. It makes them feel that they are not alone and that somebody is always there ready to help.

4. COMMUNICATE AS MUCH AS YOU CAN. If you are a family caregiver, reminisce about the good days. This will give the patient a sense that they lived a good life and that they have achieved many great things. It’s okay to talk about death. Openness to the idea of dying helps the patient prepare and decide on the details of their remaining life.

Invite conversations about fear, pain, or any unsaid feelings. If you are a family caregiver, it is the best time to revolve your bonding moments around the words, “I love you,” “I forgive you," and "Thank you." These words should not have to wait until the last minute because truly, no one knows the exact time that a person will die.

If the patient is in a coma, you may still speak with them, and encourage others to do so as well. Hearing is the last sense that will disappear in a dying patient.

5. RESPECT THE DYING PATIENT’S WISHES. As a person feels that their time to pass is near, they want to leave knowing that all their concerns are taken care of. It is a great way to say goodbye, helping the patient fulfill everything that they want to accomplish to leave a memorable legacy behind.

6. ACCEPT AND EXPRESS THE FEELING THAT GOES WITH GRIEF. It is hard to have bottled up emotions because unexpressed feelings will have physical and mental effects. Look for support groups and religious counseling if they would offer comfort.

Saying goodbye is never easy. If you feel depressed, remember that it is perfectly normal to have these feelings. Sadness is part of the grief. It only means that you have the compassion to feel the loss that will happen soon.


Posted: 2/3/2020 4:41:15 PM

Managing Daily Tasks: The Secret to Successful Caregiving

Whether you are a caregiver tending to the needs of your loved one at home, or personal aide working in a facility, you would know that this job is a serious and very demanding job. At most times, you would feel that there are just so many things to do on a given day and too little time to do them all. At the end of the day, you feel dead-tired.

At home, you may be juggling work, caregiving tasks, hospital visits, household chores, and family duties as a spouse and a parent. At a facility, you find yourself literally running from room to room, responding to call lights, and just when there's a pile of things to do, your resident just wants to use the toilet, and the whole process is taking more than half an hour. Having these frantic scenarios daily, you easily conclude that this will be your typical day as long as you remain a caregiver.

Well, not necessarily so.

Doing day-to-day management and getting organized are the keys to maintaining control over what happens in a day. Although caring for someone will have unexpected events happening from time to time, having some predictability and a system of doing daily activities will do a lot of good for your sanity. Here are some helpful tips for you:

- DETERMINE YOUR PRIORITIES. One technique to help you prioritize is making a list of things to do. Then for each item in your list, ask yourself: "Is it important?" and "Is it urgent?" Assign a rating for both questions, and if your to-do activity rates high in importance and urgency, it goes to the top of your priority list.

- CLUSTER ACTIVITIES. Do you have a scheduled visit to the doctor ? After the visit would be a great time to pick up supplies and groceries. If you are a caregiver at home, it would be good to have some sort of a cart that you can take around. If you are going to change linens, bring with you fresh linens and supplies, and a laundry basket for dirty sheets. In this manner, you save time going in and out of the room carrying heavy loads

- STOCK SUPPLIES IN BULK. Buying supplies at wholesale prices gives you two advantages; it is cheaper and saves you time-consuming trips to the grocery store. Assign a place for commonly used supplies in each area of the house. Say you usually use alcohol, wipes, and tissue in the bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and your car. Have a set in each of these areas to save you from having to get and return supplies from one source.

- REDUCE CLUTTER. “Clean as you go” just like how a professional chef comes up with a superb dish in no time and their kitchen table top is still looking pristine. Put covered waste baskets where you need them most. Throw away things that you don’t need.

- ESTABLISH ROUTINES. Routines may sound boring, but for caregivers, direct care workers, and the patient, it is necessary. Routines will give direction to your day and enable you to anticipate the care recipient’s needs. Of course, include recreational activities for both you and your loved one, so you don't feel like you’re missing out on the fun parts.

- MAKE A CALENDAR OF ACTIVITIES. This enables you to plan ahead and not be panicked by remembering at the last-minute that “today is a return visit day." It would also help to set up alarms and notifications on your mobile phone.

- PRACTICE MEDICATION MANAGEMENT. Have a journal that contains all the details of your loved one’s medication. You will need to bring this journal to every doctor visit. Utilize color-coded pill organizers for morning, noon, and night intakes. Make four sets of these to have a monthly supply organized. For long-term medications, order them in bulk and online if possible.

- KEEP A BINDER OF THE PATIENT’S MEDICAL HISTORY AND DIAGNOSTIC TEST RESULTS. Put it in an accessible place. This technique will prevent you from rummaging through a pile of papers during an emergency.

Your ability to develop a system for doing things can help you make use of your time wisely and prevent burnout. In every situation, keep simplifying, organizing, and prioritizing. Soon all efforts will become good habits that will make your caregiving responsibility successful.


Posted: 1/17/2020 7:37:13 PM

Alzheimer's: A Glimpse into the Communication Challenges and Some Practical Ways to Connect

No amount of words can describe the feeling of living with someone who has Alzheimer’s disease. There is this realization that only one person is with the illness, but the whole family seemingly suffers with them.

A family who has a member with dementia will have to undergo many challenges, many adjustments, and a roller coaster of varying emotions. One of the most difficult parts of caring for a patient with Alzheimer's is communicating with them.

Here’s a glimpse of what conversing with a patient with Alzheimer's looks like:

They phone you many times a day asking you the same question every time. They don’t realize it was already the 22nd time to call.

They keep asking about relatives or friends who are already dead.

They are literally lost for words. They say, “The thing where I put my billfold and my phone in” instead of saying “My purse.”

They lose their train of thought. An Alzheimer’s patient will be in the middle of telling you a story, and then they suddenly stop because they have forgotten what they were telling you about, or have forgotten that they were talking to you.

Someone with Alzheimer’s may have difficulty organizing words in a logical manner. It may start as not knowing when to use the pronouns ‘he' or ‘she.'

They start cursing and shouting.

An Alzheimer’s patient may start speaking their native language. Your grandmother started speaking Spanish. She spoke Spanish as a child up until she was a teenager.

They make up new words and assign their own meaning to those words.

They cannot speak in full sentences, and they speak less often.

In the later stages, the patient would have lost their ability to understand language and then their ability to speak.

To communicate with your loved one who has dementia, your techniques should revolve around these three strategies: Respect, Simplify, Accommodate.

Respect

Do not argue with, criticize or correct the patient. Just listen and find their meaning.

Maintain eye-to-eye contact. This shows sincerity.

Speak to them at eye level. It helps the patient to not feel intimidated.

Do not touch an Alzheimer’s patient unnecessarily. Remember this especially if they don’t recognize you. You would not want a stranger to touch you either.

If they shout out of anger, let it pass. It’s never personal.

If an Alzheimer’s patient doesn't understand what you are saying, rephrase instead of repeat. If they did not understand you the first time, they probably wouldn't understand you the second time, unless you explain it in another way.

Do not talk about them within their hearing distance as if they are not there. Most importantly, do not talk negatively about them.

Mind your tone. As the saying goes, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” They may not understand what you are saying, but they would know if you are angry or irritated.

Be empathic. If you are frustrated, be patient and understand that they are probably experiencing frustration as well.

Give the patient time; time to comprehend you and time to respond. Do not interrupt them or finish a sentence for them, unless they ask you to.

Be patient. If they call you the 23rd time in a day, answer them briefly – each time. It is good to be thankful that they are still around to make that call.

Approach the patient where they can see you. Do not startle them.

Simplify

Speak slowly and clearly. The patient will respond better if they understand you.

Use short sentences and reduce complexity. Instead of saying, “What would you like to wear?” say “Would you like this blue shirt or this white blouse?” It should progress to just “blue shirt or white blouse?” and then to “Blue or white?” and then to “This or this?” (with you pointing at two choices) and then finally to “This blue shirt really looks good on you!” when the patient could not respond anymore.

Throw the pronouns away. They may have trouble understanding she, he, and it. Refer to the name of things or persons instead.

Remember to refer to other people by their first names.

Accommodate

If the patient insists on doing something, say ‘yes’ as long as they are kept safe. If they insist on sleeping on the floor, give them a mattress and some comfy pillows and blankets.

Be positive. Refrain from saying “Don’t do this.” Say, “Let’s do this instead.” (Don’t forget to appear excited).

Communicating with a loved one who has Alzheimer's can bring about frustrations and at times heartaches. But if you are able to connect with them in the right manner, your journey dealing with Alzheimer's disease as a family will be less bumpy and a lot more rewarding.