I highly recommend this excellent tool for sanity and survival as a caregiver. It ranks 5 stars on the sanity saver scale :) Please share it with all your family and friends!
Hello all you fabulous caregivers! I've not written in a while, distracted by so many other things they are too numerous to mention. But, I have something truly wonderful and helpful to share with you. I discovered a new app for computer, smartphone and tablet that is soooooooo helpful in reducing stress and creating a calm, relaxed soothing inner peace. It's called, simply, CALM. You can download a free version (on Google play or the Apple App store) and have immediate access to guidance in quieting your thoughts, breathing deeply to still your emotions, and improving your quality of sleep -- and life! There is a more expanded version available for $4.99 a month/year subscription. You can also go to the website and use it on your desktop computer. Check it out at Calm.com. https://calm.com
I highly recommend this excellent tool for sanity and survival as a caregiver. It ranks 5 stars on the sanity saver scale :) Please share it with all your family and friends!
Because so many caregivers are also dealing with issues of depression, and about two thirds of caregivers are women, when this book came to my attention I felt a deep desire to share it with everyone who might find it of benefit. Even though it is focused specifically toward women, I believe men can find wisdom and answers here as well.
The book is titled, "A Mind of Your Own" by Kelly Brogan, MD. If you would like more information, please visit her page at Amazon, here: amzn.to/2eyamrT
As a caregiver educator, yoga student and teacher, I was intrigued by a UCLA research study last month. It concluded that a simple, low-cost yoga program can enhance coping and quality of life for caregivers. ~Angela Lunde, author of the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer's Blog
I was really delighted to see that Angela Lunde, who writes an excellent Alzheimer's blog for caregivers at the Mayo Clinic endorsed a study that I've known about for quite some time. In fact, I wrote a blog post about it in March of 2012, which I am re-posting here in its entirety, since it still very much applies:
Stress, Meditation and Self-Help, Oh My!
I just posted a link on the resource page for a new study at UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior which had very promising results on a small group of caregivers. They showed marked improvements in both cognitive function and lower levels of depression after using Kirtan Kriya yoga meditation for a 12-minute daily session over an 8 week period.
The control group used only soft, relaxing music, without the chanting meditation, and showed significantly less of a result. This is pretty amazing that it's possible to have a strong positive impact in 12 minutes a day with something that is basically free and easy to do. I'm intrigued by this, since I have been a student of yoga and meditation for many years. Yet, while I was in the midst of the worst stress of the caregiving role, I strangely abandoned those precious tools which would have helped to keep me in balance. Why? Self-sabotage? Perhaps. Burnout? Quite likely. When you find yourself in a prolonged, stressful situation the choices you make may not be rational because of the combined effects of fatigue, depression, ill health, frustration and guilt. The toxic mix of emotions can undermine even the strongest psyche, wearing it down like flowing water wears rock over time. Think, Grand Canyon, here. Caregiving stress is very similar in that it happens gradually, over a period of time, and you might not notice that your coping skills are deteriorating -- or, worse, you might notice and still not be able to make a good decision to rectify the situation. It's that sense of powerlessness, helplessness in the face of the situation, that is so significant and the point at which this entire website/blog is directed.
If you find yourself in that "hanging-on-at-the-end-of-your-rope" place, and seriously considering letting go as an option, this lifeline is for YOU! I am putting together a series of short video meditations just for caregivers, so that you will have some guidance to do your daily 12-minute work toward finding balance, calm, and even your own inner peace again! Stay tuned.
Back to the present, I realize that I never completed the video meditations for caregivers, and so there is no time like this moment to get that done. I hope to get my own version of the Kirtan Kriya posted shortly and will give you the link here on the blog. I purchased a copy from the Alzheimer's Research and Prevention site and have used it, but to my musician's ears, it has some definite flaws (yes, I am getting over my perfectionism. Just give me another decade or two and I should have it mastered). I also purchased their Alzheimer's Prevention Toolkit, which introduces the 4 Pillars of Alzheimer's Prevention(TM) which focuses on diet and brain-specific nutrients, exercise for mind & body, stress management and spiritual/psychological well-being. There is a very thorough up-to-date white paper available for download at the site below: For more information or to purchase, go to www.AlzheimersPrevention.org or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org
Link for white paper:
I am simply amazed that this type of yoga meditation can produce verifiable results in only 12-minutes a day over an 8-week period. I think you will find the white paper quite enlightening in terms of current research. The information presented there is well-documented. These practices are something that virtually anyone can do, and as Angela Lunde points out, very low cost. They may pay very high dividends indeed if they can prevent or significantly postpone Alzheimer's Disease or help to improve cognitive skills. Frankly, I see no downside in trying them, if you feel the motivation. The possible benefit is life-changing.
I have written often of the benefits of meditation, particularly when combined with music as a guided meditation experience. Now there is increasing evidence from mainstream medical research of what has been understood for thousands of years by wise teachers of many traditions: meditation is great for people!
The truly excellent thing about meditation is that anyone can do it, pretty much anywhere. It is easy, free (or very inexpensive if you choose to buy CDs or download guided versions), is proven as effective as pharmaceutical aids in reducing depression and stress, and has no side effects other than an increased sense of well-being and peacefulness. Click here to see the research done at Johns Hopkins investigating meditation as anti-depressant. What's not to love about that? The Mayo Clinic also published a newsletter article titled "Meditation: A simple, fast way to reduce stress" which gives an great overview of the subject .
Various forms of meditation have been taught, mostly in eastern cultures, and the practice has been growing by leaps and bounds in the west over the past thirty years or so. There have been a number of pioneeers in bringing the practice of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MSBR) to the west, including Jon Kabat-Zinn who founded the Stress Reduction Clinic and Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. His clinic was featured on the public television series Healing and the Mind with Bill Moyers in 1993. Meditation has such incredible benefits that I believe everyone can find some help by practicing it. In my own experience as a caregiver, meditation and music, combined with fervent and frequent prayer, saved my sanity when it was hanging by a thread. I find it compelling that the list of benefits meditation offers so exactly corresponds to symptoms many (or most) caregivers experience. The only mystery to me is why more caregivers don't use this incredible tool for balance and strength. Which is why I am making it my mission to get this information out to those who need it through this website & blog, by writing, speaking, teaching, and otherwise promoting it. How often is there a perfect solution to so many of our everyday stresses just waiting for us to sit down and get quiet long enough to find its gifts?
If you'd like to explore the ideas and resources for meditation, please visit my Meditation and Music page on this site and also take a look at the ideas for Self-care and Caregiver Resource Store. I will also be publishing a book which further details resources and tools for caregivers: Sanity Savers for Caregivers at the End of Their Rope. You can add your name for an announcement of publication, which is targeted for March 2014. If you would like to read a chapter from the book about the uses of music and meditation, click here. I encourage you to explore the idea of various forms of meditation and find what appeals to you personally. In my 17 years of caregiving, music and meditation were the brightest jewels in the caregiver crown. Try it out. You have nothing to lose and so very much to gain!
Are you a family caregiver at the end of your proverbial rope? If the answer is yes, hang on and read on! You have options:
1. You can tie a knot in the end of the rope and hang on for dear life in hopes that some miraculous rescue will occur before your strength gives out and you fall into the abyss of overwhelm, frustration and caregiver burnout below. (I don’t recommend this option, since, in my experience miraculous rescuers are few and I usually go for a more proactive option, anyway. Plus, if you fall and hit the rocks below, it really hurts!)
2. You can tie a noose with the rope and figuratively hang yourself, in essence, giving up your own precious life by giving in to negativity, depression, and despair. By giving up, you shift all responsibility for caregiving to someone else and abdicate your role. (I certainly don’t recommend this option, since I believe whole-heartedly in Life with a capital “L” and that love has amazing powers to heal and keep us whole! But you would be surprised how many people choose this)
3. You can swing on the rope trying to clear the canyon of caregiver destruction beneath you and get on solid ground. (This is a marginally better choice than #1 or #2, but still doesn’t work for me)
4. You can use the rope to make a hammock of support beneath you – a place you can relax, rest and renew your strength, inner resources, and commitment to the caregiving journey. Eventually, your rope hammock can become a rope bridge allowing you to safely navigate across the caregiver chasm and keep your life and sanity in the process. (Now, I admit I am biased, but this is the one I would choose.)
This post is an excerpt from my soon-to-be-published ebook, which provides practical tips and gentle self-care and self-nurturing techniques to make life less of a struggle and more of a loving learning experience. If you are tired of struggling and dangling your way through the uncertainties of caregiving, please sign up to receive a release notice when Sanity Savers: For Caregivers at the End of Their Rope is published. Find support for a more balanced, healthy, life-enhancing approach to giving care – a hopeful, positive way that includes you along with your care-receiver.
A young lady confidently walked around the room while leading and explaining stress management to an audience with a raised glass of water. Everyone knew she was going to ask the ultimate question, 'half empty or half full?'... She fooled them all .... "How heavy is this glass of water?" she inquired with a smile.
Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. To 20 oz.
She replied , "The absolute weight doesn't matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, that's not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my right arm.
If I hold it for a day, you'll have to call an ambulance. In each case it's the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes." She continued, "and that's the way it is with stress. If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, as the burden becomes increasingly heavy, we won't be able to carry on."
"As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again. When we're refreshed, we can carry on with the burden - holding stress longer and better each time practiced.
So, as early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down. Don't carry them through the evening and into the night... Pick them up tomorrow. For caregivers, this lesson is especially important. You need to put down the "glass of water" and rest.
1 * Accept the fact that some days you're the pigeon, and some days you're the statue!
2 * Always keep your words soft and sweet, just in case you have to eat them.
3 * Always read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.
4 * Drive carefully... It's not only cars that can be recalled by their Maker.
5 * If you can't be kind, at least have the decency to be vague.
6 * If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.
7 * It may be that your sole purpose in life is simply to serve as a warning to others.
8 * Never buy a car you can't push.
9 * Never put both feet in your mouth at the same time, because then you won't have a leg to stand on.
10 * Nobody cares if you can't dance well. Just get up and dance.
11 * Since it's the early worm that gets eaten by the bird, sleep late.
12 * The second mouse gets the cheese.
13 * When everything's coming your way, you're in the wrong lane.
14 * Birthdays are good for you. The more you have, the longer you live.
16 * Some mistakes are too much fun to make only once.
17 * We could learn a lot from crayons. Some are sharp, some are pretty and some are dull. Some have weird names and all are different colors, but they all have to live in the same box.
18 * A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.
19 * Have an awesome day and know that someone has thought about you today.
AND MOST IMPORTANTLY
20 *Save the earth..... It's the only planet with chocolate!* I THINK !!!!
"You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give." ~Kahlil Gibran
Caregiver's Self-Care Comfort Kit
Caregivers are, by their very definition giving people. They do give of themselves, sometimes for many years, faithfully supporting their care-receiver. It turns out that most caregiving roles are more a marathon than a short sprint, so one has to be prepared with the strength and stamina to continue. Quite often caregivers find themselves battling their own chronic stress, burnout, depression, health problems, relationship challenges, and other negatives to quality of life. It is, therefore, of the utmost importance to find ways to reduce the stress, relax, disengage for a time of respite and renewal. I've spoken of this many times in the past year, even giving recommendations to create a Caregiver Comfort Drawer for those emergencies when you need a little extra TLC.
However, in the previous posts, I didn't include a photo of the kinds of things I was recommending, and a photo is, as the saying goes, worth a thousand words. So, today, I am giving you a glimpse into my own self-care comfort kit, a photo tour, and a list of the types of things I included that worked for me. I realized, especially toward the end of my mother's life, that this comfort kit needed to be mobile, rather than in a drawer at home. That way, my visits to Mom could include pampering for us both.
I hope you will find the suggestions helpful and that some of them will resonate with you. Please do find something to help you deal with the stress levels. It is not being self-indulgent to do so -- it may save your sanity, and perhaps even your very life!
Here is a list of items my comfort kit contains, by category:
Oil Lady Aromatherapy Good Medicine Tin, which includes 5 essential oils, pure organic jojoba to blend them, a lavender mist bottle, and instructions on how to use them in various ways, such as in a diffuser, in the shower/bath, in self-massage, hand massage, etc. These are simply wonderful in all kinds of situations, to calm & balance oneself and reduce stress. I give them my highest recommendation. They also sell a Sweet Sleep Kit with the lavender mist, and lavender oil, along with natural tranquilizer oil, which is great for those nights when sleep eludes you or your care-receiver. I also have a diffuser in my kit. Mine uses tea light candles, so must be attended at all times, but there are electric ones as well which can be set to low temperatures.
In addition to the above, I also included Stimulator Oil and Balancer Oil blends from Oil Lady. I love them for myself and my Mom. Aura Cacia makes two great body creams that have become favorites -- Lavender and Patchouli/Orange are now my standards for moisturizing and make a pleasant bedtime ritual. And, I use some of their bath products when I want a special, relaxing treat. For more aromatherapy suggestions, visit my page: Aromatherapy
Books & Music:
For relaxation, I use a guided meditation called Gateway to Peace by Max Highstein. It is soothing music and words which takes you on a 12 minute journey of renewal. Great stress reducer!
I also use Jon Kabat-Zinn's CD, Mindfulness for Beginners to learn mindfulness meditation. And, as a companion to that, the book Everything is Your Teacher, based on Kabat-Zinn's book, Full Catastrophe Living, offers great insights. I love Wayne Dyer's book Being in Balance which is quite helpful, and can be read in small increments if time is in short supply.
There are many other books and recordings, and I find it most functional to put the music and meditations on an iPod for easy use and storage of a bunch of favorites. I bought an iHome speaker dock for it, which is rechargeable and has its own case for easy portability. That way, others, such as your care-receiver, can listen to, if you wish. I cannot emphasize to you enough the amazing power that music has to affect your mood and sense of well-being. It is a wonderful tool, for both you and your loved one, so please do make use of it in the ways you find most healing and helpful.
A small journal/Gratitude journal
Stationary and envelopes
Colored pens, pencils, sketch pad
Healthy snacks and not-so-healthy emergency chocolate (dark, of course, so I don't feel quite so guilty)
You can get very creative with your comfort kit -- after all it is for YOU, so whatever speaks to your heart and soothes your soul is perfectly valid. I also advise using humor wherever possible and in whatever form you can find. It really will help keep life on the lighter side to have some laughter)
As if caregiving isn't complicated and stressful enough, life tends to throw emergencies into the mix, to challenge us even further. You know what I mean -- the random hurricane, flood or fire. These are tough to cope with in the best of times when you are strong, able-bodied and have your health. When you are caring for someone who does not meet these criteria, the emergencies of life can threaten to swamp you in both figurative and literal ways. There are some things that you can do to minimize the confusion and heightened stress that such an emergency brings. Here are a few ideas to help you cope:
1. Plan Ahead. This sounds simple, but takes thought, time and energy. It is vitally important to the outcome of a potential emergency situation. I suggest creating a portable, easily accessible Emergency Book. I used a large zippered three ring binder with pockets and a handle (available in office supply stores). This one book contains all vital information including insurance policies, health records, legal documents, current list of prescriptions & supplements for the care receiver, insurance cards, contact information for health care providers, friends & family. Because we live in a hurricane prone area, I also have a separate hurricane/disaster preparedness book, which is kept in the same location as the Emergency Book. The benefits of preparing these ahead of time are clear & dramatic when you need them in a hurry. You can grab it and go to any doctor's appointment, hospital emergency room, or mandatory evacuation shelter, for instance, and have everything you need all in one place. I included Medicare and insurance cards, copy of power of attorney and health surrogate papers, Living Will, etc., so there would be no question of authority. I also put together a "Hospital Overnight Bag", with all of the necessary items for care and comfort and kept this with the Emergency Book. You can vary the plan according to your specific needs, but the more comprehensive, the better. I kept the actual prescription bottles in the bag, since I used daily pill dispensers to give the medications. That way, if there were any questions, I had the original containers to rely upon.
2. Create a family plan of action. This is similar to number 1, but inclusive of your whole family. You already have contact information in the Emergency Book, but you need a plan of evacuation, what to do if you are separated, a pre-arranged meeting location away from your home, or other similar plan. There are online tools available for this purpose, and many social networking sites are now used to maintain contact and update others as to your status. However, if a storm were to cause widespread power and cell service outages, this would not be a viable means of communication. If your loved one requires care in a special needs shelter, for example, that must be arranged in advance. Also, remember to consider your pets in your planning. Just having the plan in writing, agreed upon by family members and neighbors (if you wish) and knowing what you would do in an emergency can bring tremendous peace of mind when an emergency arises.
3. Maintain a sense of normalcy as much as possible for as long as possible. It's very important for an already vulnerable adult (or child with special needs) to feel calmness and protection from their caregiver. One major mistake, easily made, is to leave the TV on with reports of storm projections and damage. That just ratchets up the tension and uncertainty and will eventually produce a sense of panic in those who are susceptible. It's better to quietly and calmly follow your plan in making preparations to evacuate (in the case of a storm or fire). Try to keep your own sense of equilibrium by using soft, calming music, aromatherapy, and deep breathing. They really do work, even, and perhaps especially in times of crisis.
I came across this excellent website with webinars, videos, and articles to support the caregiver. The one that caught my attention is titled, "Caring for Yourself During Caregiving" and it has a wealth of information and helpful ideas. These are not new, but need to be reiterated often due to the extreme importance of these tools for overall health and well-being of caregivers of all kinds. Please do take time to look over the ideas mentioned and begin to incorporate them into your life today, if you have not already. If you are wondering why you are seeing this so often, it's because of what I call the 'superwoman syndrome' (applies to male caregivers as well, but superperson sounds contrived). That is what happens to many caregivers (guilty, myself!) who think that they can manage their lives, families, work, caregiving, and anything else that plops onto their plate, with unfailing strength, ease, and unflagging good humor and wisdom. Well, I'm here to tell you, you can't. It's just that simple. Caregiving wears on a person's infrastructure, energy, mental resources, and spirit like water on rock -- eventually, the water wins and wears down the rock. It's a fact of nature and physics, so you'd better develop your own individual protection plan before that happens. Really. I would not lead you astray. You might even find that doing some of the recommend solutions might be fun and may rekindle your enthusiasm for life and love. You'll never know unless you give them a try.
One of the most debilitating injuries a caregiver can face is a back injury. You are already under great stress in taking good care of your loved one, and it often involves lifting, turning, moving, or supporting them in transit (not to mention lifting equipment such as a wheelchair, walker, etc.) in and out of vehicles or transfers from bed to chair or shower. In light of this, it makes perfect sense to strengthen your back as much as possible and protect it against injury. Yoga is one of the most useful practices for this particular need. And it has excellent side benefits of relaxation, stress relief, and promoting a sense of wellbeing.
Many of the stretches and postures used in yoga can help to keep the back supple and strong. There are many excellent videos available if you just don't have time to spare for a class, or can't get coverage to be away for that time. (There really is no substitute for a good yoga teacher and class, but a video is certainly better than not protecting your back at all!!)
The video that I found most useful is one by Rodney Yee, entitled: Yoga for Back Care. It is available on DVD from Gaiam.com at the following link: Yoga for Back Care
There are also several other products you might find helpful. One is created by the Mayo Clinic, also available at Gaiam.com. Mayo Clinic Wellness Solutions for Back Pain
It is crucial to find a method of stress relief and body care that feels good, is right for you, and works -- so that you will be encouraged to keep doing it. For me, that is yoga. Try one of these, or some other yoga video or class, if that's more appealing. Just do something proactive today for your own health, wellness and stress relief.
Karen is a compassionate, enthusiastic student of life, who cared for her mother for 17 years. She brings her insights, compassion, experience and desire to share knowledge and healing to this ongoing conversation with others on the caregiving path. If you are caring for a parent, spouse, friend or other loved one this site offers sanity-saving tips, open-hearted self-care ideas, and an open forum for discussion, connection and sharing resources for the journey.