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Caregiver stress.  Family caregivers know it well.

Fawne Hansen – who describes herself as “a health coach specializing in stress-related conditions … focusing recently on the stress experienced by caregivers” – has graciously contributed this post.  Her comprehensive article offers a simple and concise definition of “caregiver” as well as sources and symptoms of stress, and tips for family caregivers, their families and carees to better deal with it.

Thank you, Fawne, for making the message clear: family caregivers must take care of themselves.



by Fawne Hansen

[Republished with permission from the author.]

Caregivers are those that care for others because they either can’t care for themselves or need assistance to carry out everyday tasks. Caregivers are often related to the people they are caring for, and the person being cared for is frequently a cherished loved one.

The job of caregiving, while a worthwhile and rewarding endeavor, is fraught with stress and requires an incredible amount of patience and understanding.

Sometimes loved ones suffer from memory loss or have lost some physical ability. Sometimes they have medical issues that need to be tended to daily. They can require help with daily essentials such as cooking, cleaning, bathing, or using the toilet, while others may require the administration of medicine and transportation to and from the doctor. Some require round-the-clock care, giving little rest to their caretakers.

Unfortunately, stress among caregivers is extremely common. Caregivers often try to do everything by themselves, which eventually leaves them worn out and unable to fully attend to everything they are expected to do. Furthermore, ignoring the symptoms of stress can affect physical and mental health and lead to burnout, and make it impossible for the caregiver to continue caring for their loved one.

Here are the sections in this article:
Who Are Caregivers?
What Are The Sources Of Caregiver Stress?
The Symptoms Of Caregiver Stress
Tips For Overcoming Caregiver Stress
Putting It All Together



Caregivers are likely to be related to the person needing care. Over 65% of older people with long-term care needs, for example, rely exclusively on family and friends to provide that care. Women provide the majority of the care. There are many that work on an informal basis so accurate numbers are hard to come by, but caregivers are thought to be anywhere from 59 to 75% female. The average caregiver is about 46 years old, married, and works outside the home.



Sources of caregiver stress include money worries and difficult decisions


The reasons caregivers experience stress are as different as the caregivers themselves. Most experience several different stressors at the same time. However, some of the most common complaints are:


Caregivers often get little time to themselves and few breaks. Every moment of their day is occupied in some kind of work. Some work full or part time in addition to their caregiving duties, and even their sleep time may be interrupted with the needs of the elderly or disabled person. While respite care is available, it is often economically out of reach for most caregivers, as well as far from where they live. Friends and family may help occasionally, but respite care is not regular or all that dependable.


Caregivers often have to divide their attention between the loved one, a spouse, children, children and friends. This is rarely accomplished without someone feeling left out and resentful. Married caregivers may find it difficult to find “alone time” with their partner, especially if the person being cared for lives with the couple. A simple movie night might be fraught with difficulty because no one wants to leave mom home alone, for example. All couples need that time they dedicate exclusively to their relationship. Furthermore, caregivers seldom have the time it takes to nurture friendships. Single people rarely find the time to date, and even if they could, few would understand the demands placed on the caregiver’s shoulders.


When caring for a parent or older person, caregivers often relate that it’s difficult to reverse the child/parent dynamic. Adult children are reluctant to become their parent’s parent, and find it difficult to know where the line is between the safety and well-being of an aging parent and that parent’s right to make decisions for themselves. Furthermore, it may be difficult for the one being cared for to accept that someone has to help them go to the bathroom or assist them while bathing, a job they may have helped the caregiver do at one time.


Sometimes the person being cared for bears little resemblance to the person the caregiver may have known in the past. It’s hard to reconcile that mom was once a gentle soul and is now demanding and harsh, or that a husband who was once quiet makes his dissatisfaction known often after a stroke. People who are growing old, who have dementia, who have had a stroke or have been involved in an accident may have a different personality than they once did.


There’s usually very little economic support for caregivers, and many are forced to provide their own money toward the caregiving efforts, particularly if the loved on is living in the same home as the caregiver. A recent study by showed that 34% of caregivers are contributing $300 or more each month out of their own pocket for expenses related to care for their loved one. Furthermore, there is lost time from work, diminished earning ability, and reduced Social Security benefits when the caregiver retires. Seniors who get Social Security may experience reduced benefits due to free room and board. However, caregivers may be able to claim the loved one as a dependent if they provide more than 50% of their expenses for things such as food, housing, and medical supplies. Other startling statistics: 33% of women who are caregivers will decrease their work hours as a result of their caregiving activities, 29% pass up job promotions or training opportunities, 22% take a leave of absence, 20% switch from full time to part time employment, 16% quit their jobs entirely, and 13% retire early.


No one enjoys making some of the terrible, unthinkable decisions thrust upon caregivers from time to time. Sometimes the person being cared for has medical needs beyond the caregiver’s abilities, they may become unmanageable because they have become violent or abusive, or they may need end-of-life care. None of these situations are easy, and all require a great deal of thought and often a good measure of tears.



Depression is a common complaint of stressed-out caregivers


Caregivers experience higher levels of mental and physical health problems than most people. While men and women tend to take on different roles in the caregiving process, both men and women suffer from much the same symptoms of stress.


Stress can bring on anything from a general feeling of temporary unhappiness at life, all the way to clinically diagnosable depression that requires treatment. It is one of the most common complaints among caregivers. Depression breaks the spirit and leaves caregivers unable to fulfill their responsibilities. The mental health impact is largely determined by the number of hours people are engaged in caregiving activities. One study, for example, found that middle-aged women who were engaged for 36 hours or more a week in the care of their spouse were 6 times more likely to suffer mental health consequences, and those engaged in caring for parents were twice as likely to suffer mental health consequences as a result of caregiving.


Anxiety could arguably be a part of depression. It encompasses different emotions, however, which include feelings of worry, unease, nervousness and angst about what the future holds for both the caregiver and the one being cared for. It may even manifest itself as an inability to sleep. Caregivers may worry about their ability to adequately care for their loved ones. They may also worry about their own health, because they are likely to neglect their own needs. Taking care of someone else, especially those at the end of their lives, may cause caregivers to reflect on their own mortality. All of these symptoms are normal, yet caregivers should seek professional help, since constant anxiety can cause deeper and more serious problems if left untreated.


When caregivers are overworked and exhausted, or feeling unappreciated, frustrated or powerless they may become moody, irritable, hostile or short-tempered, or just want to be left alone. However, it’s unlikely that the caregiver has the luxury of being left alone to regain their emotional strength. Constant irritability can be bad for the caregiver and the person being cared for, since caregiving requires a Herculean amount of patience. The caregiver may begin to experience physical problems such as headaches and poor digestion, and may begin to snap at others, including the loved one, other members of the family, doctors, or service providers.


Denial, an element in the process of grief, is also a sign of caregiver stress. The caregiver may deny how ill the individual being cared for actually is, or may believe they will get better. They may deny that more professional help is needed when they can no longer care for the loved one adequately.


Social withdrawal is also a sign of depression, but is a little easier to recognize than some of the other symptoms. Caregivers who once enjoyed social interaction may begin to avoid it. Invitations to family dinners or neighborhood barbeques may be left unanswered or refused, and even posts on social media like Facebook may diminish as the caregiver pulls more and more inside themselves. A number of factors may contribute to this: social interactions require effort, and the caregiver may simply be too exhausted; friends and family may stop visiting; and the person being cared for may behave unpredictably and make social interactions awkward.


Researchers have found that 1 in 3 caregivers provide care for others while being in poor health themselves. 25% of female caregivers suffer health problems as a direct result of their caregiving, and they are twice as likely to suffer from coronary heart disease as their non-caregiving counterparts.



Building a support network is a great way to reduce caregiver stress


One of the biggest sources of stress is the inability to escape caregiving responsibilities. Although many caregivers attempt to go it alone, they can be better caregivers if they utilize all available support services. There are several resources available that may offer help, and caregivers should not feel reluctant to ask for it even if it seems uncomfortable at first.

If anyone, such as friends and family, has mentioned they will help the caregiver when needed, those names should be put on a list and utilized from time to time. Needs should be stated very specifically. “I need you to watch mom for 2 hours on Tuesday, what time slot is convenient for you?” is much more likely to get a positive response than “I need someone to come watch mom next week,” because the need and the time commitment is clearly defined.

Calling on fellow church members may yield results, but don’t discount people of other denominations. Call first on people of the church or group to which the loved one belongs, but certain church groups look for ways to show support to people of their community in general, believing it to be a reflection on God. Services can range from mowing the lawn to doing grocery shopping.

Home health care is another option. People will come into the home and provide whatever services the caregiver needs, such as cooking, light housekeeping, and even respite care. Although this kind of care usually costs money, costs may vary according to the services needed. There are even some free programs out there. Military personnel can sometimes enroll in programs such as the Exceptional Family Member Program, which offers free respite care for a special-needs family member. Some caregiver support groups provide services on a sliding fee scale.

Adult day care is also an option. Nationally, adult day care ranges from $40 to $100 per day, averaging about $61, according to the National Adult Day Services Association. Some Medicare or private insurance plans cover adult day care under certain circumstances. The one being cared for may also get a great benefit from this as well, since many day care centers provide social activities, meals, and health-related services.

For caregivers who are married and/or have children, stress develops when there doesn’t seem to be enough time or attention to give to everyone who seems to need it. The most effective way to get family buy-in is to seek some consensus. When everyone feels like they are being listened to, the caregiver will likely find more cooperation. Husbands and wives who cooperate form a much more effective support team for an aging parent or special-needs child. Also, remember that not every request from the person being cared for needs to be made the number one priority.

Exercise like yoga can release endorphins and reduce the effects of stress


It may seem counter intuitive to say that caregivers need to engage in exercise when they are taxed to the limit as it is and may suffer from exhaustion. However exercise releases endorphins that can help make caregivers feel better. This doesn’t mean joining a gym – caregivers have precious little time to engage in traveling back and forth – but they may be able to fit in a brisk 10-minute walk while the one being cared for is napping. Even when providing care, caregivers can sneak in a little exercise by gardening or following along with a short exercise video. Equipment such as treadmills or weights may allow the caregivers to get in some exercise, and maybe even encourage the ones being cared for to get some exercise too if they are physically able.

Along with getting a little exercise, caregivers should be sure they eat well, because this helps boost endurance and energy. They should try to avoid large, calorie-rich meals that leave them feeling sluggish and sleepy. Instead, eating many small meals of high protein foods along with fruits and vegetables is a better way to sustain energy throughout the day. Drinking plenty of water not only keeps the caregiver hydrated but can flush out toxins, helping the caregiver avoid illness.

If the caregiving job is a 24-hour, 7-days-a-week occupation, sleep may be difficult to come by, yet it is essential for the stamina and thinking ability needed when facing with the challenges of caregiving. Because someone being cared for may still need assistance during the night, such as help going to the bathroom or the administration of medication, a caregiver’s sleep may be interrupted. There are things caregivers can do to help them go to sleep quickly and feel more relaxed upon awakening.

Getting enough sleep is a great way to combat anxiety


The first key to a good night’s sleep is creating at least a half hour of downtime before bed. The primary caregiver may be able to enlist other family members to take over then so the caregiver can unwind. Developing a sleep routine helps; going to bed and getting up at the same time everyday keeps everything on schedule. Be sure bedrooms are conducive to sleep – the room should be dark, cool, and quiet. Avoiding alcohol and caffeine encourages more restful sleep. Caregivers should not discount the power nap – if the one being cared for is napping, caregivers should consider napping at the same time.

It’s essential that caregivers care for their emotional, spiritual selves as well, since caring for a loved one requires a great deal of inner strength and can be emotionally taxing. Caregivers tend to ignore their own emotions (or worse, let them build up), which only adds to their feelings of frustration and stress. Some caregivers find relief by talking to a trusted friend, a counselor or a spiritual advisor. Others find peace by participating in religious activities and prayer. Those who aren’t religious may still find calm in meditation or breathing exercises designed to sooth the mind and spirit. Visualizing a calm, peaceful place is helpful to some caregivers.

Connecting with other people is extremely important. Most caregivers feel socially isolated and disconnected with the world as their tasks become all-consuming. If possible, the caregiver should arrange to get out for a day or even just an evening with friends. If that kind of connection isn’t possible, joining a support group may help because caregivers can connect with people who are in similar situations. Support groups don’t have to meet in person. There are online support groups where fellow caregivers can exchange information and offer positive and encouraging words. Social media sites may be helpful to caregivers who want to keep up with friends but don’t have the luxury of getting out very often.

Humor has an amazing ability to alleviate stress. Watching a funny movie, telling funny stories or reminiscing about happy times, reading the comics, or just finding humor in everyday ridiculousness actually changes brain chemistry. Many caregivers operate in “stress response,” a state where high levels of stress hormones enter the bloodstream. Laughter subdues the stress response, allowing for a more relaxed feeling. Long term benefits include increased immunity to illness, pain relief, and better ability to cope with the demands at hand.



While stressful, the job of caregiving has many rewards. Studies show that because of caregivers, many elderly or special-needs people would require institutionalization, either in a nursing home or special care facility. Because the person being cared for is usually home when there is a caregiver present, families have the opportunity to enjoy the loved one, to share family history, to renew bonds and to gain from their wisdom.

Rewards aside, caregiving is still a stressful and demanding job. Learning to mitigate the stress helps caregivers maintain the vigor, attitude and stamina required to take on this role. The demands of the job are unlikely to change, so utilizing stress-reduction techniques keeps the stress from becoming overwhelming and unmanageable.

Caregivers must learn that taking care of themselves allows them to take care of others, and by doing so they can continue to care for, love, learn from and enjoy the people in their charge.




About the author

Fawne Hansen is an author and wellness coach specializing in the treatment of chronic stress and adrenal fatigue. You can contact her through


September is Prostate Cancer Awareness month.

In an effort to spread awareness of prostate cancer as well as resources and support for prostate cancer patients and family caregivers, I have highlighted some key points from Us TOO International.

BLOG UsToo-Logo3








Us TOO International is a non-profit organization whose mission is to help men and their families make informed decisions about prostate cancer detection and treatment through support, education and advocacy.”

Furthermore, “Us TOO International Prostate Cancer Education & Support Network is a … prostate cancer education and support network of 325 support group chapters worldwide, providing men and their families with free information, materials and peer-to-peer support so they can make informed choices on detection, treatment options and coping with ongoing survivorship. The organization was founded in 1990 by five men who had been treated for prostate cancer.”


According to UsTOO International [], “prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States.” [Overview & Statistics]  Yet many families are unfamiliar with this disease, which usually begins to show serious symptoms once it is in its advanced stages.  In addition, some of prostate cancer’s symptoms mirror those of other diseases, so it is not always correctly diagnosed early.  This is when education about this illness proves beneficial, not only to men, but to their families as well.  Cancer of any sort touches far more individuals than the patient alone.


The signs and symptoms of prostate cancer may include [from Us TOO]:

  • Pelvic pain
  • Frequent need for urination 
  • Difficult or painful urination 
  • Blood in the urine 
  • Painful ejaculation 
  • Loss of appetite and weight 
  • Bone pain


Because certain groups of people are more prone to getting prostate cancer, knowing what the risks are and discussing them with the doctor can improve the chances of early detection and early treatment.

Risk Factors for Prostate Cancer

*  African-American men get prostate cancer about 60% more than white males & have double the mortality.

*  If a man has a father or brother with prostate cancer, his chances of getting the disease are 2 times greater.

*  Men over 45 have an increased risk, although prostate cancer is found mostly in men aged 55 or older.  The average age of diagnosis is 70.

*  Obesity increases a man’s chance of dying from prostate cancer by about 1/3.

*  1 in 6 men is at a lifetime risk of getting prostate cancer.

*  High-fat diets may increase the chances of getting prostate cancer.

*  Prostate cancer is the #1 cancer diagnosis in US men today.


As a family caregiver for a man with prostate cancer, it is necessary to be proactive.  Us TOO International recommends:

*  Learn about the disease and its treatments

*  “Be there” for your caree, be a good listener, be understanding

*  Be your loved one’s advocate:

—  accompany him to his doctor’s visits (if he agrees)

—  ask questions about the illness, medications, side effects

—  help him adhere to his usual routine as much as possible, including activities, exercise and social life

—  encourage healthy eating and rest

—  adjust to the new lifestyle and treatments as prostate cancer runs its course

—  find support: for your loved one and for yourself

*  Take care of yourself!


It is important for both patient and family caregiver to face their situation “as is” so that they may focus on finding the appropriate solutions that will help them to move forward with their “new normal.”  Adjusting to a new lifestyle involves being receptive to changes, accepting them and taking advantage of the resources that organizations like Us TOO International provide.


Wearever, maker of washable incontinence underwear, has partnered with Us TOO International to raise awareness of prostate cancer during September.  Details of how you can help to raise funds so that Us TOO can further support its community of people living with prostate cancer follow.


BLOG Weareverlogo





Support Us TOO International with Wearever Purchases this September, Prostate Cancer Awareness Month!

A portion of proceeds from select sales of Wearever undergarments will benefit prostate cancer nonprofit Us TOO International this September. Wearever is partnering with Us TOO International to raise               money in support of prostate cancer awareness, education and support networks for patients and their families.

Throughout the month of September, 10 percent of proceeds from the Wearever men’s underwear line will be donated back to Us TOO International. This includes all sizes, styles, colors and purchases in singles, three-packs and six-packs from the Wearever Men’s Incontinence Underwear line. To learn more and purchase products to support Us TOO International, visit



(DISCLOSURE:  Wearever provided me with a garment for review.  The family caregiver and caree who used it were pleased with the product and would add it to his wardrobe.  Her husband found it comfortable and laundering was easy.  I am happy to share useful resources with family caregivers in order to make their tasks more manageable.)

Images: Us TOO   Wearever


One of the key ingredients to successfully managing caregiving is to get organized.  If your desk looks remotely like the one below, it is time to implement a way to keep your paperwork in order.  Not only will ridding yourself of the unsightly clutter result in a more inviting place to do your work, but you will also reduce the stress associated with not ever being able to find anything when you need it!

Austin Brandt, from, which has medical release forms to help patients obtain their own health records, provides some useful tips to get your caree’s health records in order.  Thank you, Austin!












How to Organize your Medical Records

Here in the US there’s a movement taking root that is all about “patient engagement.” Many people have different definitions of what this means exactly, but The Society for Participatory Medicine defines this new approach in healthcare as:

“…a model of cooperative health care that seeks to achieve active involvement by patients, professionals, caregivers, and others across the continuum of care on all issues related to an individual’s health.”

For the 90,000,000 US adults who care for a sick or elderly family member1, this just describes another day in the life. When you’re responsible for a loved one’s health, you’re constantly involved with Primary-Care Physicians, home health aids, post-acute facilities, specialists, and more. According to Dr. Wayne Giles, Director of the Division of Population Health at the CDC, a typical Medicare beneficiary receives care from 2 different Primary-Care Providers, 5 different specialists, between 4 different healthcare organizations2. And that’s just the average; individuals with 5 or more chronic conditions see up to 16 different physicians during any given time. That’s a whole lot of different doctors to try and coordinate between.

So when it comes to organizing a loved one’s medical records, a basic tenant of the patient engagement movement, caregivers have their work cut out for them. Here are two different strategies you can use to organize the medical records you have:

Go old-school, use a 3-ring binder

Despite all of the press about Electronic Medical Records, most physicians still provide patient medical records strictly on paper. This makes a simple 3-ring binder a great choice for organizing your loved one’s records. There’s one basic guideline you should follow, though, to maximize the usefulness and efficiency of your binder.

Whatever you do, you must resist the urge to create a separate binder for each individual physician. This would make sense on the surface, but all you’re doing is making it more difficult for each physician to provide coordinated care. Instead, split up one single binder into sections based on different types of health information. Medical records differ between patients, but the basic sections to expect are:

  • Lab results
  • Vital signs
  • Demographics
  • Doctors notes
  • History & Physical
  • Medications
  • Medical history
  • Referrals to specialists
  • Radiological images
  • Follow up instructions

By organizing your binder into different sections based on type of health information, your loved one’s full and comprehensive health record is easily read by any one physician.

Use an electronic Personal Health Record

There are many, many, many options available for organizing medical records electronically. Too many to even possibly list. There are three different types of PHR to consider though.

  1. Physician-based PHR. Among many other things, Obamacare is forcing physicians to offer what are called “patient portals.” One very popular example is Epic’s MyChart. These are basically websites operated by the physician or hospital that gives you basic access to your medical records at their specific facility. These types of PHRs are convenient and free, but are very limited in usefulness if you’re a caregiver dealing with many different healthcare organizations. Physician-based PHRs suffer from a “walled-garden” problem.
  1. Insurance-based PHRNot to be outdone by physicians, most major carriers of insurance have some sort of electronic PHR available to their subscribers. This includes Aetna, Cigna, UnitedHealth, and others. These overcome the “walled-garden” problem since they are not tied to any one physician or hospital. The problem is that they really tend to lack in features. Insurance companies are not in the business of creating beautiful, usable software (compared to Google, Apple, and others). What they lack in usability, they try to make up in convenience. You already have a relationship with your insurance companies so it’s easy to get signed up with their PHR.
  1. Independent PHROutside of the usual healthcare organizations, there are dozens of different independent companies all trying to win you over as a PHR customer. Some of them are paid, most of them free. One of the most popular options right now is Microsoft’s HealthVault. It’s relatively easy to upload and organize your paper medical records, and since it’s made from Microsoft, you know they’re trustworthy. The best part is that if you already use a Microsoft product like Hotmail, then you already have an account and can sign right in. You can even manage multiple family members from your one account.


How you choose to organize your loved one’s medical records is a matter of personal preference. The most important thing is that you just do it. Trying to manage your loved one’s health without a set of organized medical records is like wandering around with a blindfold. Use one of the method above to set out on a new course.

1 Caregiver population statistics

2 Dr. Giles Indiana Primary Care Symposium Presentation

About the Author:

Austin is a Health IT expert specializing in patient access. He has implemented Electronic Medical Record systems in hundreds of physician practices as well as in some of the largest hospitals in the United States. In 2013 he co-founded Chasm Health LLC which operates, a service that collects customers’ full medical history for a low-fixed price. Austin strongly believes that engaging ordinary people and helping them take control of their own health will significantly improve the US healthcare system in the 21st century.


Incontinence can be managed.  Addressing it is the first step in improving a situation that is often ignored or misdiagnosed.

Thank you, Martha June Whitman, geriatric health writer and former caregiver, for sharing your expertise and providing ways to better manage incontinence.



Helping A Senior Make Lifestyle Changes to Manage Incontinence


Incontinence is a symptom that affects around 20 million people in the United States alone. Given the more personal and rather embarrassing nature of incontinence, it is often not reported until it becomes a serious problem. If you know anyone that suffers from incontinence, whether fecal or urinary, it is essential that he/she see a doctor immediately and see if it is just a sign of a much bigger condition.


Many seniors experience troubles with incontinence with or without a serious condition causing it. Bladder irritation, swollen prostate, certain medications, or just natural aging of the bladder muscle can bring about a few incidents. In most cases, fecal incontinence is a symptom of something much more serious, but both fecal and urinary incontinence can be managed by practicing healthy habits. If you know an elder who seems to be suffering from troubles with incontinence, approach him/her about it in a subtle and respectful manner. Ask how long it’s been going on and make sure he/she consults a doctor to rule out anything more serious.


Once a doctor has been consulted and any necessary treatment is underway, there are a few particular healthy practices they can do to get a better handle on the symptoms:


Form a Healthy Diet Plan

To make the symptoms more manageable, have the elder eat three solid meals a day with nothing in between. Have him/her eat at least 10 grams of fiber at each meal through a combination of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. This will encourage bowel movements and help him/her stay regular enough that to plan a restroom visit right after every meal and have less worry that an unexpected incident will occur later. Cut out any alcoholic or caffeinated beverages from his/her diet as well as anything with a high amount of fructose corn syrup (soda). These liquids irritate the bladder and should be avoided entirely if possible.


Wear Protective Underwear Until The Symptoms are Under Control

Wearing incontinence briefs or incontinence pads is nothing to be ashamed of. Think of it as wearing a bandage on a wound: it’s there for a medical purpose to make life more manageable for you. Those who are disabled are highly encouraged to not only wear incontinence underwear but to have a bed pan nearby in case they suddenly feel the urge but are unable to get to the restroom in good time.


Monitor Any Medications You Might Be Taking

Many people come to find out that their troubles with incontinence were largely the result of overmedication for other symptoms. Always make sure they take the directed amount of meds. If their symptoms of incontinence started after they started taking certain meds, have them consult the doctor again and see if there are any alternatives prescriptions that won’t result in such inconvenient side effects.



In many cases, urinary incontinence can be managed by regularly doing kegel exercises or anything that exercises the pelvic muscles. Some people swear by yoga, some say kegels alone can do the trick, some improve with simple stretching. The bladder is a muscle and like any other muscle it can be exercised. Have them talk to a doctor and see what exercises might help them.


About the author:

Martha June Whitman is a geriatric health writer and former caregiver that loves sharing her knowledge and experiences to help seniors live life to the fullest.


Please see two new LBD symptom checklists to help LBD patients, their caregivers and healthcare professionals.


New Checklists Aid in Lewy Body Dementia (LBD) Symptom Reporting        

(Atlanta, GA) – August 21, 2013 – The Lewy Body Dementia Association (LBDA) announced today the launch of new resources for physicians and their patients. LBDA created two new LBD symptom checklists; an abbreviated checklist to assist in the reporting of LBD diagnostic symptoms and a more comprehensive checklist to help people already diagnosed with LBD or their caregivers to report new or concerning LBD symptoms as the disease progresses. The checklists are now available for unlimited free download by healthcare professionals and the general public.

Lewy body dementia (LBD) is a relentlessly progressive brain disease that affects thinking, movement, behavior or mood and sleep. Although LBD is lesser known than Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, LBD is not a rare disorder, and affects an estimated 1.3 million Americans.

Diagnosing LBD can be challenging, even for specialists. Early LBD symptoms may resemble similar symptoms in brain diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. And LBD symptoms vary in time of onset, combination and severity, making no two cases exactly alike. Early diagnosis and a comprehensive treatment approach can maximize the quality of life for the person with LBD and their caregiver. Getting an early diagnosis of LBD is also very important, as people with LBD react differently to certain medications, sometimes severely so, than people with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.

Click here to download the Diagnostic Symptoms Checklist
This checklist is specifically designed to aid in reporting those symptoms which are involved in diagnosing dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), the most undiagnosed form of Lewy body dementia.

Click here to download the Comprehensive LBD Symptoms Checklist
This expanded checklist includes both symptoms required for the diagnosis of LBD and many other symptoms common in LBD that may appear as the disease progresses.

The Lewy Body Dementia Association The Lewy Body Dementia Association (LBDA) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness of the Lewy body dementias (LBD), supporting people with LBD, their families and caregivers, and promoting scientific advances. Through outreach, education and research, LBDA supports those affected by Lewy body dementias. To learn more about LBD and LBDA please visit




Emotions can run high in caregiving.  While a caregiver must exhibit compassion and empathy in the care provided, he or she must not allow feelings to interfere with appropriate and necessary care.

Ken Myers, expert on family safety and in-home care issues and owner of GoNannies, shares some insights on emotional distance in caregiving.

Thank you, Ken, for contributing this thought-provoking article.



Is Emotional Distance a Proper Way to Train Caregivers?

When it comes to the care of a person, emotions can play a prominent role in how the treatment unfolds. Those that are more apt to act on these emotions may have a lapse in judgment when it comes to certain aspects of that care. What they view as helpful may be detrimental to the care process. However, no one wants to be cared for by a mindless robot. Distancing yourself emotionally may make the person you’re caring for feel inadequate or unworthy of emotions from those around them.

Each situation is different and emotions can provide a positive and negative outcome. Some people may become attached to an elderly individual and could become emotionally distraught if they pass away. While it’s natural to feel this way, sometimes the experience causes these individuals to second guess their chosen career path. Is it possible to provide an excellent level of care by being void of emotional attachment?

1. The Career – For professional caregivers, the client may be nothing more than that. He or she is the method in which an individual receives a paycheck. As long as the care provided is sound and doesn’t put the client at risk, what else is there? From a professional standpoint, this could be the perfect situation. Without tying emotions into the process of providing care for a client, providers are able to do what needs to be done in order to ensure the care is precise.

2. Personal Interaction – Although many may welcome the emotional distance that some caregivers provide, the clients themselves could be at a disadvantage. Depending on the circumstance, the client may be in need of human companionship to facilitate a proper recovery or sustainable maintenance. By emotionally distancing yourself, you could be inadvertently demonstrating that he or she is alone and that no one is willing to sit by his or her side. Of course, this is greatly dependent on the situation of why they need to be cared for in the first place.

3. Efficiency – Those that can distance themselves follow instructions to the letter in order to facility his or her job description. Efficiency in caring tactics could be enforced without additional effort from those who view the client as merely a person that can’t care for themselves. At the end of the day, the caregiver can go about his or her business without concern for the client as the job was completed to specifications.

4. Judgments – Without the emotional attachment, judgments for providing care can be acted out to the exact specification. If a caregiver becomes too emotionally involved in the client, they could begin to experience lack in judgment for proper care based on what the client wishes or needs. However, emotional attachment has also been known to instill a more heightened sense of providing care in the individual to facilitate improved situations within the client’s life.

For the most part, emotional distance could become a proper way to train caregivers if the situation called for such. Curtailing your feelings while caring for an individual may make the person feel uncomfortable. Every situation is different and caregivers should be trained to make that distinction with each case. Some people don’t require added support, although it may be beneficial for the care of others.


About the Author: 

Ken Myers is an expert advisor on in-home care & related family safety issues to many websites and groups. He is a regular contributor to You can get in touch with him at


Caregivers are amazing people! Professional caregivers are a special group who choose to make a career of caring for others.  To recognize their dedication and compassion, Caregiverlist has organized a photo contest!  I am happy to spread the word and to encourage professional caregivers to submit their photo!


Caregiverlist Summer Photo Contest Awards Gift Certificates and T-Shirts


Share Your Photos and Be Entered to Win + Vote for the Winner


Caregivers provide much more than just assistance to seniors, often becoming the emotional support for their senior clients as they continue to confront the process of aging.


Caregiverlist, the career and training center for professional senior caregivers, announces a summer photo contest to honor professional caregivers.  Caregivers, Certified Nursing Aides, and Certified Home Health Aides may submit a photo of themselves with a senior client to the Caregiverlist Summer Photo Contest for Senior Caregivers. The contest starts Monday, July 8, 2013, and runs through Monday, July 29, 2013. Winners will be announced on Wednesday, July 31, 2013. The Caregiverlist Facebook page hosts the contest.


Contest winners will be chosen based on popularity via voting.  Caregiverlist will award $100, $50 and $25 Amazon gift cards to the top 3 voted pictures and free t-shirts to the runners-up.


Photo submissions that feature some creativity and uniqueness will bring competition to this contest. Caregiverlist expects that the caregivers, Certified Nursing Aides and Certified Home Health Aides who submit “fun” photos will gain more votes. Those who submit photos should share their photo across social networks and with friends and family to encourage more voting.


Caregivers may submit their photo on Facebook and vote for caregiver and senior photo submissions here.


Caregivers also may always submit a job application on Caregiverlist to be considered for part-time, full-time and live-in caregiving jobs and find online caregiver training.


Good luck!



I had the great opportunity to ask Joanne Gruszkos, head of the SpecialCareSM Program at Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), some questions about Easter Seal’s Sibling Study recently.  The study points out needs of sibling caregivers, which are essential in identifying and providing the appropriate services and support to help them.

Thank you to Ms. Gruszkos for discussing the Sibling Study and ways to serve patients, their caregivers and their families.



Easter Seals & Mass Mutual’s Sibling Study

“Twenty-three percent of adults are already the primary caregiver for their adult brother or sister with a disability and nearly one third expect to assume this role in the future. That’s why Easter Seals along with support from their national corporate partner Mass Mutual, conducted the Siblings Study – to call attention to the experiences of caregivers as well as the services and supports families need. By and large, most respondents convey their sibling with a disability had a positive and unique impact on their life – and even the lives of their own children. But, they have also experienced the very real, often challenging negative effects of caregiving as 30% of primary caregivers say they don’t get support— emotional, physical and financial help—from friends and family, while 60% wish they knew more about how to plan for their sibling’s care and finances.

“Easter Seals will use these findings to raise awareness of and advocate for the life-long services and supports families and caregivers desperately need—working to lessen disparities and bridge the gap for people living with developmental disabilities across the country.”


Caregiving Café Interview Responses from

Joanne Gruszkos, head of the SpecialCareSM Program, Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual)


1)  About 60% of caregivers “wish they knew more about how to plan for their sibling’s care and finances.”  Could financial institutions, such as MassMutual, partner with employers to offer their expertise via workshops to educate and to distribute information and resources to employees? Topics could include disability, caregiving, financial packages available to them now.  An ideal time for this would be when new hires select their insurance plans.


Yes, working more closely with employers is a topic MassMutual is exploring.  MassMutual can offer educational workshops for employees to help them better understand how to integrate their company benefits with the government programs that may be available to them.  MassMutual’s Special Care Planners/ChSNC’s could act as advisors to the HR managers and help new hires select their insurance plans.


2) What is the impact of caregiving for a sibling on the caregiver and on the family?  


Impact may vary, depending upon the relationship of the sibling to their brother or sister with the disability, as well as how prepared they were when they needed to step into the role.  In families where successor-guardian planning has not taken place, siblings may suddenly learn they are responsible for the care of their disabled siblings and not be prepared.  An added dimension is dependent on whether the sibling guardian has a family of their own to care for.  


3) The Sibling Study says that less than 1/3 of correspondents are involved in a support group, but about 1/2 would like to know more about local and online support groups.  What methods have you found to be effective in communicating with caregivers about the resources that are already in place for them?  Do you think that the media – television, radio, newspapers, the internet – can help to reach more caregiving families?


The demographic of the sibling guardian has not been addressed appropriately. Most non-profits that provide services to people with disabilities may have resources to help new guardians understand their roles and responsibilities, but in general, there is limited support.  The media can be helpful, but information must cover a wide range of topics and be offered by credible sources. In fact, we’ve found that word-of-mouth is most effective in this community. If social media influencers like you help us get the word out, the message is more likely to be received and trusted.


4)  How does the Special Care Program work?  How can families find information on it and where can they enroll?


SpecialCare is a program that offers information and specialists to help parents/caregivers plan for the financial future of their loved one in the event the parent/caregiver predeceases them.  Our goal is to educate parents on what steps to take to ensure the quality of care currently offered continues when the primary caregiver is no longer available.  Our advisors partner with the families medical and legal professionals to prepare a Life Care Plan for the person with the disability.


5As a family caregiver for my disabled husband and a long-distance caregiver for my mother, I found many similarities with sibling caregivers. Especially when it comes to finances, all caregivers would benefit from education in this area because you never know when illness or disability may strike.  Do you offer a program for aging parents or for people living with a chronic illness as well?


The SpecialCare program’s financial professionals help families find the resources in their local community as well as help identify various government and non-profit resources, information tailored to their specific needs and circumstances, no matter who the caregiver is caring for.  Financial education covers understanding the long-term costs of providing care, ensuring that the sibling’s individual and family finances are in order and to be cautious when handling finances for the person with the disability so that they do not get disqualified for any government benefits that may be available.


6) How can families prepare for the possibility of becoming a caregiver for a sibling or other relative in the future?  Would an under-30 year old do something different from a 55-year old caregiver?


Every person should have a financial plan in place to protect their own assets in the event they become disabled, no matter when the disability occurs.  Disability income insurance may help replace some of the lost income, if hurt or sick and unable to work. Long Term Care insurance protects assets, should a disability occur.  Caregivers, regardless of their ages, would manage the care for the persons with the disability, using whatever assets or benefits available.  The caregiver should access non-profit and government agencies for information on what’s available and how to access their services.  The age difference is only a factor when the 55-year old may have more life experience than the 30-year old and could be more knowledgeable about available resources.


7) What actions should a trustee or family caregiver take to oversee the sibling’s finances?


A Special Needs Trust should be created for the sibling with the disability to manage his or her finances.  Persons with disabilities should not hold more than $2,000 in assets in their own names, as they can be disqualified for government benefits.  


BONUS QUESTION:  Do you think it might be possible for family caregivers to get compensation for their work by creating a new type of health insurance policy or a financial package for caregiving?  (Not as part of a Long-Term Coverage policy, which most people don’t have.)


Long Term Care coverage offers compensation as part of the Home Health Care provision, as does Medicare and Medicaid.  Long Term Care insurance can be purchased as early as age 25.  



Mass Mutual

Easter Seals’ Siblings Study


How can family members and caregivers encourage their aging seniors to take advantage of technological advances?  You might start by practicing the tips below.

Thank you, Alan, for your insightful tips!


How Can Seniors Be Encouraged to Use New Technologies?

It often seems that advances in technologies are being made on a daily basis in modern times. Although most of them arouse little of our interest, many technological advances end up raising our living standards so long as we have the means to access them. Seniors are some of the individuals who have the most to gain from new technologies, but are also often some of the people most difficult to talk into using them.

Reasons For Seniors to Use New Technologies

Although this might seem a bit obvious, advances made in technologies help provide seniors with the same benefits as they do others. For example, a senior can use Bluetooth to use a phone without his or her hands, but so can their children and grandchildren. However, the convenience that new technologies can offer their users provides much greater benefits to seniors than other individuals because seniors tend to be more in need of such convenience in their lives. Returning once again to the Bluetooth, younger generations might find it mildly inconvenient but ultimately inconsequential to hold their cell phones up to their heads for hour-long conversations, but the same is not true for seniors with arthritis who are prone to experiencing shoulder pain from that kind of exertion.

Methods For Encouraging Seniors to Begin Using New Technologies

Although there is some truth to the common stereotype that seniors are less willing to adopt the latest technologies, the reasons behind that is much more complicated that simply seniors being inherently techno-phobic. In fact, most seniors are eager to begin using new technologies provided that those technologies are made available to them and the benefits of their usage pointed out to them.

Here are some examples of approaches and methods that can be used to convince seniors to begin using new technologies:

* Above all else, be considerate. Most people are not eager to experience new things and embrace unfamiliar concepts, particularly if those things are introduced to them in a condescending manner. Introducing new technologies to seniors while using a tone dripping with the derisive sentiment that these things should already be familiar to them is going to irritate, intimidate, and cause them to clam up. Of course, this does not mean that seniors need to be coddled as though stumbling infants, only that a reasonable degree of consideration for their circumstances be included in all attempt to introduce new technologies.

* As people age, most of them become less capable in a great many respects. Their bodies become frail and more prone to harm, their eyesight fades, and their minds often slow. As a result, new technologies must be adjusted to be as accessible to such seniors as possible if their adoption is to be encouraged. One example of a feature that can help seniors with fading eyesight begin using computers is screen magnification.

* Point out that new technologies can help seniors with their existing interests and hobbies. For example, if a senior enjoys playing card games, then a good way to get them to use the Internet is to point out online sites where players can meet to play and chat.



Author Byline

Alan Li is a business graduate and contributor to, who spends much of his time volunteering at various non-profit organizations. Part of his responsibilities as a volunteer involve helping to raise the quality of life for seniors in his community.




The stories below serve as a reminder that lots of good will and positivity are found every day everywhere.  Caregivers provide care through all sorts of circumstances, including unexpected adventures that require quick thinking and action.

Thank you to Nanny News Network for contributing these caregiving stories of loyalty and dedication.


9 Positive Nanny News Stories of 2012

Republished with permission








For every bad nanny story that is written, there are many great ones waiting to be told. While nannies come from diverse backgrounds and have various experiences, good nannies tend to have one thing in common: they are caretakers by nature. Whether it’s jetting around the world to accompany mom on a work trip, dedicating 40 years of their life to the same family, or saving their charge’s – or a stranger’s –  life, most nannies are willing to go above and beyond the call of duty in any situation.

While the media tends to focus most often on covering negative nanny stories, positive nanny stories do abound. Here are 9 positive nanny stories that have made the news so far in 2012:

Nanny Credited with Saving a Life – Chicago based nanny Emily Rogers put the CPR training, which she learned years before for a nanny job, to use as she is credited with helping to save Jorge Pedroso’s life.

Nanny Saves Charge from Carjacking – Nanny Kaitlyn McGrath safely escaped her work vehicle that was being carjacked with her one-year-old charge, Cash, in her arms. Cash is the son of ABC Extreme Makeover Weight Loss Edition trainer Chris Powell and his wife Heidi.  Both credited her with saving their child’s life.

A Nanny’s Role is Reversed  – Susane Lavinia Bowden served as a live-in nanny and housekeeper to the Hoare family for 40 years. Nanny Susane celebrates her 100th birthday living with her former employer as a member of their family. In her aging years her employer, turned friend, now cares for her.

The Norland Manny – Michael Kenny is the first male admitted to the world famous nanny training college, Norland College, to obtain an education degree. When he graduates he will be only the second male in history to graduate as a Norland Nanny from the 120-year-old college.

U.S. Soccer Fully Finances Nanny Services for Players and Coaches  – Members of the U.S. Woman’s Soccer Team bring their children on the road, thanks to U.S. Soccer and its commitment to establishing family-friendly policies. U.S. Soccer pays the salaries of the nannies so that players and coaches can focus on their families and their sport.

Childhood Nanny Given Ultimate Honor – Wonder where actress Tori Spelling got her daughter Hattie Margaret’s middle name from? She named her daughter after her own childhood nanny, perhaps one of the greatest honors a nanny could receive.

Nanny of the Year– Maryland based nanny Nikki Gribble was honored at the 2012 International Nanny Association Annual Conference as the association’s Nanny of the Year. This honor is awarded to nannies who exemplify who and what a nanny truly is.

Nanny Saves Boy from Jeep – Quick-acting nanny Cindy Gatson saved her four-year-old charge from being struck by an out of control Jeep that was barreling towards him. The boy’s mom credits his nanny with saving his life. The Jeep came within inches of where the boy was.

Book Dedicated to Nanny – While Chicago nanny Vivian Maier may not have made the news during her lifetime, she’s certainly making it in her death. A new book, Vivian Maier: Out of the Shadows chronicles her life through the pictures she took of herself and others.

While not every positive nanny story will make the news, the ones that do are likely an indication of the everyday heroes who provide loving and nurturing childcare to the children in their care.


Nanny News Network