Archive for the ‘ Sweets ’ Category

I had the good fortune of meeting former family caregiver Margaret Sheehan quite serendipitously. She happened to attend a Caregiver Workshop at AGE of Central Texas in Austin and left a copy of her new book with Rob Faubion, Marketing and Outreach Manager.  He was nice enough (and clever enough to see a great opportunity to bring a bit of inspiration and support to the family caregivers in Caregiving Cafe’s support group) to tell me about her book.  I contacted Margaret and we met to discuss her caregiving experience, along with her sister Helen and her husband John.  All 3 had worked together to support Margaret’s and Helen’s parents – a lovely symphony of efforts that would be ideal to see in every family.

Thank you, Margaret, for sharing your insights with us.  I hope family caregivers put her tips to good use, as they will help to make the caregiving path more bearable. She is living proof that they worked!

For caregiving support, information, resources and caregiver workshops in the greater Austin area, please contact AGE of Central Texas.














How Hard Could It Be?  A Caregiver’s Story           by Margaret Sheehan


Your story – how did caregiving begin?  How long did you do it?  What conditions were you managing?

PART 1:  Caregiving began with a medical emergency, so there was no advance preparation or training.  Mom had a 50/50 chance of surviving serious complications from a standard surgical procedure to remove a benign brain tumor from behind the base of her nose.  Inevitable swelling of the brain made the doctor question whether she would survive or be herself after recovery.  No family members lived close to my parents at their retirement home.  I took a plane to be with Dad and spent six weeks helping him with driving, paperwork, shopping, emotional support and providing updates to family.

In addition, I buffered Mom’s experience in the hospital.  After all the tubes had been removed Mom still needed help with eating, staying oriented to the present and minimizing her concerns about Dad.  After my sister was able to stay longer with our parents I returned home.  My sister stayed another six weeks helping them transition from hospital care to home health care.

Medical personnel ultimately considered Mom a little miracle because she eventually recovered her speech, her personality, and her ability to walk.  Mom had no memory of my time with her.  After I returned home I wrote her a detailed letter telling her all about it.

PART 2:  Three years later I relocated close to my parents and orbited them like a planet.  For sixteen years I lived separately but near to them.  That caregiving experience gradually evolved from mutual care to an uneven role where my parents saw me as their primary caregiver responsible for increased decision-making and oversight of their care.  Then for four more years they lived with me and I became their full-time primary caregiver with help from aides and finally Hospice until their deaths at ages 93 and 95.

Dad suffered TIAs, small cumulative strokes that made speech difficult and left him with mild dementia and sundowner’s syndrome (at night he experienced another world and became more active).  Dad also had a catheter for about three years, a tendency toward constipation, age-related diabetes, failing eyesight, and minor difficulty walking due to childhood polio.

Mom was surprisingly healthy during those years, although in the past she’d had a mastectomy for breast cancer.  Her brain surgery only left her with a tendency to blurt out comments she might have self-screened before the procedure.  Overall she remained sweet, friendly and reserved.  She had bunion surgery, a minor procedure on her eyelids and two problems with her heart that made surgery impractical.

She often worked easy crossword puzzles until they became too difficult as her sight weakened.  But she was able to enjoy television – old-time shows that she never minded repeating.  She had normal age-related memory lapses such as increased difficulty identifying people on the Christmas mailing list.  As her memory diminished she grew quieter and smiled rather than partake in conversations around her.

Overall, I think they both were comfortable and happy.  They weren’t thrilled with aging but they did so with grace.  For example, at the appropriate time they each made the decision on their own to stop driving.


How did you approach this new role?

I jumped in, ready or not, here I come!  How hard could it be?  I intended to learn as I went.  At the beginning of the book I described a time when I accidentally ended up lying on the floor with Dad sitting, squatting on top of me, straddling me.  I felt that after we resolved that fiasco we could deal with anything, come what may.


What 3 things helped you cope/manage caregiving?

Trust in God, family, and good health.










What would you say to new and to existing caregivers now?

Take care of yourselves.  Make that a priority so you can be effective with what you are trying to do.  Seek the professional help that you need.  And communicate, communicate, communicate – with concerned others and with the person for whom you are caring.  Never presume that because you go through something together you each have the same understanding of what is happening.


How do you cope with loss during and after caregiving?

During caregiving I coped with loss through humor.  We laughed a lot.  It gave us the illusion of control, and acceptance about our lack of control.

After caregiving it was a comfort to me to have done all that I could.  Toward the end of my book I described taking my unfinished business after my parents’ deaths to my church’s sacrament of reconciliation.  I confessed my sense of fault over what I had done and what I had failed to do.  For my penance that blessed elderly visiting priest with an Irish brogue told me to return to my pew and to say six times, “All is forgiven.”  I hope to give a similar sense of peace to people dealing with caregiving decisions.

Now, I still talk to my parents.  I know they weren’t comfortable with their disabilities in their final years.  I’m grateful they were able to have the last sacrament.  I’m glad to think of them as having peace.


How did you deal with the changes in roles and relationships with your parents?

I just accepted the gradual changes that occurred.  I never challenged, deflected, or questioned this.  If they could have acted differently, I know they would have.

One day my Mom greeted me at their door as I was in the habit of visiting them after work.  She said, “Daddy threw up blood in his (TV) chair and is lying down in the bedroom.”  In the past Mom would have called the doctor rather than wait for me.  After that I knew I could not take for granted what they would do.


Did you seek and accept support from family, friends and community?  Did you have to wrestle with the idea that you “should” do things on your own?

Family did not live close, but when they visited I tried to point them to things that they could do.  This was good for all of us.  Caregivers have to let go of trying to do everything, especially when others want to be involved too.  But people who don’t live close usually arrive two steps behind no matter how well you’ve tried to communicate with them before their visit.  They have to catch themselves up and may need time to do so.  They will probably need your help to know what to do when they’re ready.

Also I asked one of my brothers to help me fund a regular housecleaner for our parents and he was glad to do so.  Later my parents attempted to live in an independent/assisted living facility.  It did not work out for them and I discussed that in my book — but that’s well worth considering.


How did your parents cope and manage their role as patient & caree?  What did you do to support them emotionally?

They worried about burdening me.  From the beginning we acknowledged that we were supporting each other.  I had just gone through a divorce when I moved near to them.

For many years I sought out activities that I enjoyed such as career studies, involvement in Community Theater, church choir and for awhile singing voice lessons.  I kept myself happy so they worried less about me.

To support them emotionally I just kept up with them and affirmed what they could and could not do.  I accepted them as they were.  I offered another pair of eyes and helped them to set boundaries.  For example, we gradually limited out-of-state travel to care for my father’s older sister. We helped settle her into a local nursing home.


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What prompted you to write a book and how did you get started?

I had started journaling during the years when Dad and I had precious conversations in the middle of the night due to his sundowner’s syndrome.  At the time I did not want to forget those talks.  After sharing those notes with family members, I expanded them into a book.

I wrote the book because I thought I could help others by talking about caregiving experiences that took me by surprise.  Many aspects of caregiving had taken me by surprise!  I thought maybe I could help others feel better prepared for caregiving than I had been.

For me personally, the book project also became a healthy avenue for closure.  It became a tribute to my parents.


What did you do to take care of yourself?

I got as much sleep as I could.  I let other family members help me as much as they were comfortable.  I laughed often.  I used myself as a barometer and checked anger to make sure it didn’t get out of hand.  When I found myself getting angry at family or my parents, it was a clue that I needed to make a change – usually to seek another level of professional help.


What do you think would be an effective vehicle to spread information about caregiving resources?

Your Caregiving Café is a wonderful service on the internet.  I am a dinosaur about this media, but it’s much needed.  I’m also impressed with the networking efforts of AGE of Central Texas.  To spread information about such resources, I suggest reaching out to parish nurses and ask them to inform people via their church bulletins.  In the Catholic Church, it might also be useful to talk to personnel at the diocesan level and ask how best to inform others.  There is a very good diocesan monthly newspaper.


Anything else you want to say to family caregivers or to family & friends?

I don’t believe I could say too many nice things about Hospice!  These professionals were wonderful to us in my parents’ final year.  It’s not giving up for a caregiver to involve Hospice when your doctor agrees it’s time.  And death doesn’t have to be absolutely imminent to receive excellent help.  Hospice care is another positive step toward making sure your loved ones are cared for in the best way possible.

Finally, do all you do with love.  That’s what gives you strength and endurance.  Love is what brings you a lasting memory with comfort and peace.



How Hard Could It Be? A Caregiver’s Story           Available on    Amazon  or  Barnes & Noble

About the author

Margaret Sheehan earned a master’s degree in theology from Loyola University, Chicago, Illinois.  She has worked in university and business contexts as a typist editor, and organizer.  For seven years Sheehan worked in Catholic parishes as director of religious education and facilitator of special events.



Crowded street









The US is home to 65.7 million family caregivers [Family Caregiver Alliance: Selected Caregiver Statistics] and yet, one cannot single them out.  They look like everyone else: they have no obviously distinguishing features that set them apart from “regular” non-caregiving people. They blend into all sorts of crowds – at work, among friends, at Church or Temple, at the grocery store – seldom revealing any clues about their “other” life.

What exactly is a family caregiver?

A family caregiver is anyone who is responsible for the care of a loved one who is advanced in age, chronically ill or disabled.  The caregiver could be a spouse, parent, child, sibling, relative or friend.  While people are likely to assume this great responsibility as a “relative” or as a “friend,” they also become “family caregivers.” Acknowledging this additional role is important because many resources that exist to help and to support “family caregivers” may go unnoticed by those who do not see themselves as such.  Their work, then, can become overwhelming, which in time can lead to stress, exhaustion or poor health.

Family caregivers become advocates for their loved ones. They are their carees’ voice when they can no longer speak for themselves.  Seeing themselves in this light, family caregivers can more confidently discuss treatment options or concerns with medical professionals.  There is no doubt about whether it is appropriate to ask questions or to mention observations.  It is a family caregiver’s duty to speak up!


Are you a caregiver?













What does a family caregiver do?

Everything and anything!  But not all at once!

When I stepped into the role of long-distance caregiver, I initially did a lot of researching about:

  • my father’s illness (multiple myeloma, renal failure)
  • treatments  (renal & cancer diets)
  • services (transportation, dialysis centers, home delivery of medications & groceries)
  • home care services
  • support for my mother (she had become Dad’s family caregiver)
  • rehab facilities (what they offered, how to pick a good one)

My brother and sister visited Dad in the hospital and rehab facility, helped him with grooming and personal hygiene when he became too weak to walk, and fed him.

Our mother took daily notes about all procedures, painful episodes, medications, treatments, observations and activities.  She remained at his side for the last 2 months of his life, keeping him comfortable, voicing concerns when she saw that he was not doing well and insisting on additional monitoring when his condition warranted it. She was a “family caregiver” in its true form without ever hearing the term.

When my husband became disabled, I used what I had learned from Dad’s experience.  I did my research once again and found ways to accommodate him so that he remained as self-sufficient as was safely possible.  This included finding appropriate furniture, electronic devices, utensils, foods, pill dispensers, mobility aids (canes, crutches, wheelchair and ramp), pillows, etc.

Dealing with paperwork was a new challenge.  Drawing a Will, Advanced Directives, Medical and Durable Powers of Attorney, finding the right health insurance plan, filling out forms for COBRA, for Social Security, for his Disability Insurance, and then providing yearly updates consumed quite a bit of time.  It was time well spent, however, as we ended up with great coverage and all agencies were very helpful when I asked for guidance. Medicare and Medicare Part D were another challenge that took time to comprehend.  I continually requested explanations and clarification (many many times) until I understood what the plans offered, and then selected the one that would cover the services that my husband needed then and in the foreseeable future.  I decided from the very beginning that if I was going to perform a “job” that I had never done before, I was going to educate myself by asking those who know about it.  This would not only make my job easier, but it would enable me to make informed decisions so that I could provide better care to my husband.

As his illness progressed, I looked for resources that could help him.  These included house calls by doctors and phlebotomists who would do blood work at home.  I even found out that Texas’ Department of Public Safety will come to your home to take a picture and to issue a Texas ID card in lieu of a driver’s license!  I also began organizing my husband’s 25 daily pills in a pillbox, cutting food into bite-sized pieces, picking up medications at the pharmacy and generally trying to keep him as comfortable as possible given his 24/7 pain.











Keeping track of medical records, doctors’ appointments, nurse visits, medical bills, prescription refills and medication approvals required organization and monitoring.  Journaling observations on the progression of the illness, the success of the medications and treatments, the emotional wellbeing of my husband, and making note of research findings and new FDA approvals of medications that could be discussed with the doctor serves to document events that may prove useful to the doctors in the future.

Then, there is the non-caregiving side of a family caregiver’s responsibilities.  These are tasks that were once done by the loved ones who now need care and can no longer do.  They include paying bills, errands, cleaning house, chores, lawn work, home repairs, driving kids or teens to and fro, volunteering, etc.  Let’s not forget that about half of all family caregivers in the US are employed.  While the tasks increase, the hours in the day become short.  This is when family and friends can offer help and when family caregivers need to graciously accept that help.  Not only will the result be a grateful caregiver, but the caree will derive the ultimate benefit of having a compassionate and strong caregiver by his/her side longer!

What have I learned from caregiving?

When my beloved father passed away on April 3, 2008, life became clear and simple for me.  His passing highlighted the truly important things that we can easily fail to appreciate as we rush through our hectic agendas. Life is about people.  Give them love and attention while we are all on this Earth.  Like “The Living Years” by Mike and the Mechanics says, “It’s too late when you die… I just wish I could have told him in the living years.”  My cousin asked why people wait for funerals to gather. Let’s show the persons who are dear to us that they are dear to us!  Actions, indeed, speak louder than words!












In caregiving, spending time with our loved ones is as important as carrying out all the required tasks. Spending time on ourselves – to nurture our own interests, to take good care of our physical and emotional wellbeing, to maintain the lines of communication open among relatives and friends – is imperative if we are to continue “giving freely” without resentment [Wendy Lustbader] and providing compassionate, effective care to our caree.

Caregiving has made me mindful of:

  • Appreciation for the love and support that I have received from friends and relatives
  • Gratitude for being able to take care of my husband – it just as easily could have been me with CRPS
  • Positivity and resilience, which have given me the courage to move forward past seemingly unsurmountable obstacles
  • Faith, which has reassured me that solutions await for me even when I cannot yet see them
  • The admirable strength of other family caregivers inspires me to continue on my caregiving path as an advocate for my carees, but also for family caregivers. They deserve recognition and support from the community for the work that they do. Who else provides free care 24/7?

In November, we “celebrate” Family Caregiver Awareness. Personally, I celebrate Family Caregivers! It is important to support them by offering to help with tasks, by visiting or calling, by giving them a day off. Family caregivers may not ask for help or may say that they don’t need it. But it benefits everyone, including their loved ones, to keep caregivers healthy, motivated and strong so that they are able to continue on their caregiving journey without needing a caregiver themselves.  On any given day, any of us could become a family caregiver or be in need of one.  It is up to all of us to support each other.


AGE of Central Texas

One of the ways that I have learned about the needs of family caregivers is through volunteering at AGE’s Caregiver Information and Resources Center for the past year.  I have taken many requests for help and resources, and seen first-hand how the services they provide help family caregivers and seniors.  I have also attended their Caregiver’s Circle support group, where caregivers share their days and lean on each other for encouragement.

AGE provides family caregivers with support on many levels:

* Adult Day Health Center – where seniors can socialize and spend the day in a safe and stimulating environment while they give their caregivers a break

* Early Memory Loss Program – activities for seniors & their caregivers

* H.E.L.P. – Health Equipment Lending Program lends free health equipment for as long as necessary

* Computer Lab – computer classes for seniors by seniors

* Caregiver’s Circle – support group for family caregivers

* CaregiverU – free evidence-based workshops for family caregivers

From one family caregiver to another, I encourage you to use the caregiving resources that are available to help you and to take care of yourself as diligently as you care for your loved ones.


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


Most of us have played doctor as a child.  When we continue to do it as adults, it could pave the way for unnecessary worry or failure to treat something serious. As family caregivers, we can make use of the tremendous amount of information and resources that come to us via the internet.  However, we must be selective with the information on which we rely.

Sandy Getzky’s article below discusses the dangers of self-diagnosing or making a diagnosis when you are not a doctor.  Thank you, Sandy, for the tips.



The Problem With Diagnosing Health Issues Yourself

With a ton of medical websites available on the Internet, it’s tempting to look up your symptoms and try to determine what’s ailing you. Whether you’re worried about frequent headaches, a growth you’ve recently noticed or a bad case of toenail fungus, making a beeline for the nearest search engine might seem like the best way to figure out what’s going on with your body. If you choose to take this approach, proceed with caution. There are quite a few problems associated with doing a self-diagnosis via the Internet.


Visiting Questionable Websites

Not all medical websites are created equal. There are definitely reliable ones available, such as hospital websites, medical university websites and the websites of professional medical organizations, but there are also plenty of unreliable ones. Stay away from websites that provide medical information that hasn’t been written or verified by medical professionals. The information you find on these sites can be far from accurate and could even be potentially dangerous. Stick to reputable websites, but don’t rely on these for a diagnosis either. Your best bet is to discuss your health issues with your doctor.


Making Yourself Sick With Worry

You might have heard about the tendency of first-year medical students to fall into the trap of self-diagnosing themselves once they start learning about all kinds of diseases and disorders. You could end up in that same trap after looking up information on health issues online. Keep in mind that even if you’re experiencing one or two symptoms that also happen to be signs of a serious illness, it doesn’t mean you have it. Many symptoms can be caused by a wide range of minor and major health conditions. Your doctor can run tests and rule out those more serious possible causes.


Not Getting Medical Help When You Need It

After reading about the potential causes of your current health issue, you might decide that it’s really nothing to worry about and you don’t really need to see the doctor. This can be dangerous, depending on what your symptoms are. Ignoring a suspicious mole or not getting checked for those recurring headaches could mean big trouble down the road. You could have an underlying condition that you won’t be able to diagnose on your own, and it might be one that requires treatment before it gets worse. When in doubt, always see your doctor for a professional diagnosis.



About the author

The author Sandy Getzky is an associate editor at ProveMyMeds, a public health and education startup focused on producing helpful resources concerning the treatment of common ailments.



May this year bring you good health & joy to share with those around you!

Here is a New Year’s Resolution that is well worth the effort:  Visit your loved ones living in nursing homes, assisted living or home alone.

Ryan Hughes, from Methodist Homes (MHA) in the United Kingdom, shares some practical tips to help family members make time spent with loved ones a memorable one.  Seniors living anywhere would benefit from a well-timed visit.  Why not make it a new tradition this year?

Thank you, Ryan, for contributing this article!




How Frequently Should We Visit Our Elderly Relatives In Care?

How often should family members of elderly nursing home residents visit their friends and loved ones? While there is no one answer to the question, you should do your best to make sure that your friend or loved one feels appreciated and loved. The last thing that anyone wants to feel is alone or as if he or she is a burden to everyone.

Make The Time Count

Whether you stop by once a day or once a week, you should make the time count. When you see an elderly person who means a lot to you, it is important to have time to watch a television show, play cards or take a walk around the building. While it may seem like a quick visit to you, your friend or family member has been waiting for this visit since you left visited.

Your Family Knows That You Are Busy

If you have a parent or grandparent in an assisted living facility, you shouldn’t feel obligated to spend every free moment in that facility. Your friend or parent knows that you are busy and have a life of your own to attend to. Those who can’t make time to make personal visits on a regular basis can make up for it by writing letters or calling on the phone. Teaching your parent or friend how to use the Internet can make it easier to stay in touch through social media or using software such as Skype.

Ask For Permission To Leave The Facility

You should understand that you can arrange to take residents out of the facility for an extended period of time. A trip to a show, to the park or to a meal in a nice restaurant can be a welcome change of pace for someone who is cooped up in a room or a single building all day. If you are feel bad leaving someone who means so much to you in a nursing home, you can look for a home that organizes group outings on a regular basis. This removes the burden of being the sole provider of entertainment to an elderly family member.

Understand That Being There Is What Matters Most

Loneliness is one of the worst emotions that a human can feel. As we age, we start to lose our friends and loved ones to old age and illness. Those who live longer than their peers may not have anyone to sit with and talk to about the weather or politics. Simply being there to have a conversation or merely sit in the room together is all that anyone wants from those who are the closest people left to them.

Get To Know When It Is Most Convenient To Visit

The times when you can visit may not be convenient to your elderly relative. It may be that your mother likes to take a nap in the afternoon or is excessively tired due to a medication that she has to take. In some cases, you may not be able to visit as often as you want to due to these factors. If your relative has a roommate, you may be limited to certain visiting hours out of respect to others in the facility.

The Visits Are Important For Yourself As Well

Visiting your relatives on a regular basis is important for yourself as well. You never know when your last chance to talk to your dad will be or when your grandfather may not recognize you or your voice anymore. Although it may feel awkward or inconvenient to make time for those in a nursing home, you will hate yourself even more if you don’t make time for those who always made time for you in the past.

Nursing homes are not always the most uplifting places to be. However, you have to be there for your family members in their time of need. Those who are recovering from a surgery, battling an illness or don’t have a lot of friends left need their family members to be there for them in their time of need. Whether you can get to the facility once a day, once a week or once a month, do your best to be there whenever you can.


About the author

Ryan Hughes, from Methodist Homes (MHA), is a freelance author who enjoys writing about healthy living, tips on elderly care, and general care advice.


It’s that wonderful time of the year!  For some family members who live with less-than-ideal health or for their caregivers, however, the holidays can bring additional stress and frustrations.  While most people seem to be enjoying the holidays, this can be a difficult time to find any merriment when challenges appear unsurmountable.

Fortunately, Elizabeth Reed offers some tips in her article below to help people find a little bit of holiday cheer.

Thank you, Elizabeth, for lifting our spirits this holiday season!



Raising Spirits During the Holidays


The holiday season is full of cheer and togetherness, or at least, it’s supposed to be. Too many people seem to find themselves in a down mood during one of the most festive times of the year. Instead of being full of joy and hope, they tend to dwell on sadness and despair. However, there are ways that you can help those who need a lifting of their spirits in order to enjoy the holiday season. These could include:

1. Volunteering – For many, being a volunteer can be an uplifting experience. You are putting your own time aside in order to help someone else have a better life. The feeling that comes with this kind of assistance can be habit forming as you can physically see the difference you’ve made in someone’s life. At the very least, it will take your mind off of your own problems as those who are worse off remind of what you do have instead of what you don’t.

2. Be Sociable – One of the biggest reasons of such despair during the holiday season spawns from being alone. Even hermits appreciate human interaction every once in a while. Although you don’t want to force someone to be sociable, as it could have adverse effects, merely being in the presence of others having a good time can be therapeutic as well as contagious. It takes less effort to be happy than it does to be otherwise. Parties, gatherings, pageants and more can be a great place to expose someone to this joyful existence.

3. The Perfect Gift – While the young are more into their Xbox systems, computers and smartphones, the perfect gift could be something that reminds someone of happier times from his/her past. A retouched family portrait, a lost ring or necklace, perhaps even a toy from years past could be enough to bring a smile on someone’s face. It’s not the price of the present that is the concern, but the meaning behind the gift. It’s too easy to walk into a department store and assume someone will like that sweater hanging on the rack. It’s a whole different experience to give someone something that was thought of as long gone.

4. The List – Many families list things in their lives that they are thankful for during the holidays. By comprising a list of things that you have, you can have a greater appreciation for life in general. The objective behind this exercise is to demonstrate that although some things are missing from life, there are others that make it worthwhile. It’s not about material possessions, but more of what influence you have on others and vice-verse. Life is all about experiences and dwelling on what is missing from life hinders creating more experiences and connections.

5. A Christmas Movie – Everyone has a holiday movie that lifts his/her spirits during the season. Whether it is a classical tale or a more current production, there are movies that fit all kinds of tastes for the holidays. Although some people may have non-traditional ideas of holiday entertainment, it’s all about the feeling they get when watching a certain movie during the certain time of year. It involves the memories of surrounding situations and lifestyles.

Some people are more difficult than others when it comes to cheering up. However, everyone has that special place in his/her heart that can be opened. It just may take a bit of effort in order to fit the pieces together.


Author Bio:

Elizabeth Reed is a freelance writer and a resident blogger at She particularly enjoys writing about parenting, childcare, health and wellness. In addition, she is an expert consultant on issues related to household management and kids.


The human spirit never ceases to amaze me!  The essence of compassion that moves us to action is one of the driving forces that turns a person into a family caregiver.  Without giving the situation a second thought, many family caregivers volunteer to take on the multitude of responsibilities that go along with taking care of someone.  Slowly but surely, new issues arise that need to be addressed: dispensing medications appropriately, health insurance coverage for certain procedures or treatments, the cause of new symptoms, when to call the doctor, special diets, which exercises are all right for your caree to do, etc.

Just as important are ways for both caregiver and caree to see beyond the medical condition.  No matter how dire a situation may be, we must maintain a sense of dignity and compassion.  A person is much more than his or her body.  Our being needs to be nurtured as well.

How can a family caregiver show kindness in a tangible way?  And how does one continue to do so long-term?














Author Elaine Wilkes gives caregivers “101 Awesome Things to Do for Someone Who’s Sick”  She graciously shared her eBook with me in an effort to help family caregivers think of ways to make their time with their loved ones more rewarding.  She provides “meaningful…proven suggestions that have helped or brightened someone’s life.”

I loved her eBook and all the creative ideas presented! From “stay[ing] in the now” to enjoy this very moment – sometimes, tomorrow is uncertain – to reminiscing with favorite songs to “adopt[ing] a Granny and Send[ing] Flowers, too,” the eBook is full of sweet and touching stories and tips to make caregiving days more pleasant.

The key is to help the care recipients feel like a person, not only like a patient.  Often, someone who will listen is all they want, a “friendly and familiar face amongst all that [hospital] sterility.”  Whenever possible, this can be achieved by bringing him or her some favorite pastimes. These could be video games for younger ones, movies or CD’s to while away the hours serenaded by some handsome crooner!  Using a laptop or other tech device, they could watch‘s thought provoking presentations or learn about a variety of topics like Humanities, Design, Business or Sports, among others, at  They could also stay in touch with family and friends using Facebook, Twitter or

The eBook offers many more great ideas to lighten up your caree’s spirit.  The magical thing about this is that your caregiving spirit soars, too!

I recommend Elaine Wilkes’ “101 Awesome Things to Do for Someone Who’s Sick” to all family caregivers and to all families.  You won’t run out of things to do for your loved ones, for sure!



About Elaine Wilkes

“Elaine has a Ph.D. in naturopathy (alternative medicine)-graduated with honors, a master’s degree in psychology and degrees in nutrition and communications. These all synergistically work together to help the body-mind-soul connection.”  Her eBook is the result of “wanting to do something to show we care, but many times we don’t know what.”


(Disclosure: Elaine Wilkes provided me with a copy of her eBook. The opinions expressed in this article are my own and believe that her book can help family caregivers make the most of their time with their loved ones.)


As we move through December and onto the beginning of a new year, I find myself looking at caregiving under a different light.  What if we viewed caregiving as a project, or, as Cindy Laverty suggested in her guest post, as a business?  Caregivers would tackle the many responsibilities in a methodical way, encouraging the help of others to carry out the tasks for which they are best suited or for which they have time.

Caregiving involves performing many tasks.  In order to effectively coordinate all of them, it is necessary to put into practice organizational skills, time management, clear communication (both verbal and written), the ability to prioritize and to re-direct your course of action at a moment’s notice.  Approaching caregiving with these tools in hand would certainly reduce the stresses and frustrations that come with the job.

What does a caregiver really need?

Repeatedly, the immediate answer has been time and hands-on help.  A day is simply not long enough to do all that needs to be done.  This is often the case in many other roles, so why should it be different for caregivers? Equally, when others “jobs” become too large for one person to complete successfully, other people usually get involved.  We hear about “team members” working in stores, about a sense of unity at Google, and about collaboration within a community toward a goal that benefits everyone (such as the “green” movement, recycling or helping the needy).  Couldn’t we see caregiving as a similar situation?

If caregivers and non-caregivers alike regarded caregiving as an opportunity to contribute to the care and well-being of our loved ones, the need for time and help would become a less urgent issue.  With more relatives and friends chipping in, family caregivers would then have time to take care of their own health, to incorporate some of their hobbies or interests into their routine, and to stay socially active.  All of these are important ingredients for the success of a family caregiver.

Just like people need certain nutrients to stay healthy and strong, so do family caregivers.



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What are a family caregiver’s “Minimum Daily Requirements”?

1.  Sleep – uninterrupted 6-7 hours each night.

2.  Nutritious meals – smaller, more frequent ones are ok.

3.  Physical activity – get up every 30-60 minutes; walk, dance, stretch, run, bike, exercise, yoga…just move about for 5 minutes minimum.  Aim for 30-60 minutes per day.

4.  Social time – call, email, Skype, Face Time, write lettrs to a friend or relative, post something on Facebook or on Twitter, invite someone to your home.

5.  A break from caregiving – get busy with a hobby or learn something new, read something of interest to you. The idea is for your brain to see something different beside what it does every day.  Short mental and emotional breaks refresh and motivate so you can continue performing well.

6.  Appreciation and gratitude – taking time to notice even the small and simple things can help us to see the good in the world when we are surrounded by suffering or negativity.  They can consume a caregiver and taint his/her outlook.  A cool breeze, the hush of a snowfall, a hug, sharing time with a special someone…Be mindful of them and the quiet joy they bring you.  “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” they say.  Don’t let it go unnoticed!



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7.  Positivity“The darkest hour is just before dawn,” The Mamas and The Papas sang.  Remember that while caregiving inevitably carries some negativity (after all, it’s not a good thing that caregiving is needed to begin with!), caregivers will do well by balancing it with a positive outlook.  As caregivers, we have to look very hard sometimes to find the smallest iota of good in our situation, but the smallest will do!  We must keep in mind that tomorrow, or the next hour, may bring something better.  This does not mean that caregivers will cure or fix their loved one’s ailments.  It means that they will find a way to comfort their caree’s and to show them kindness and respect.  It means that caregivers can feel proud of their efforts to care for another with dignity and compassion.

8.  Humor – Family caregivers need a good dose daily! Remember those trying moments from our teen years or as a new parent?  Looking back, many of them are not as serious as they seemed when we were in the middle of the situation.  We may even laugh about them now!

9.  Perspective – Seeing things from our caree’s point of view.  This is crucial for family caregivers, because only then will they grasp what it’s like to live with their caree’s condition.  In order to do this, caregivers need to learn as much as they can about the illness.  Is your Senior’s combative reluctance to cooperate with a task pure defiance, or is it that he/she does not understand your instructions and is feeling confused and fearful?  If your caree has Dementia, chances are that he/she no longer comprehends your words even though he/she agrees with you.  (Teepa Snow Senior Gems)  Once caregivers understand the disease or disability better, he/she can find a way to deal with it.  The result will be a reduction in stress for both caregiver and caree!

10.  Relaxation – Another must-have for caregivers!  Once a schedule is set and work/tasks are organized, the daily agenda needs to include some down-time.  If you don’t schedule it, chances are you won’t have time for it. Even 10 minutes at a time several times a day will do a world of good for your physical and emotional wellness. Find ways to decompress herehere

11.  Support of family & friends – Knowing that you are not alone and that you can turn to them for help or just to vent makes the responsibility of caregiving somewhat lighter.  This is a very important daily requirement that, alone, can make or break a family caregiver.

If you are not already doing the above, try to add one to your agenda every couple of days.  Don’t stress if you cannot, but do make a concerted effort to include all of them sooner rather than later.  And if you read this and laugh because you see absolutely no way to add this to your day, then at least you’ve already done #8!



Caregiving is certainly a journey that presents many challenges, but it also provides plenty of opportunities to get to know a person better.  When they approach caring for a loved one as a partnership, family caregivers can look for ways to interact with their carees in creative and enjoyable ways.

Cheryl Swanson, a former caregiver, shares some tips to help family caregivers and carees share more gratifying days together.  Thank you, Cheryl!



5 Activities Every Caregiver Should do With a Senior


Research has shown that seniors who are physically and mentally active experience a higher quality of life and significantly better cognitive function. Caregivers should be encouraged to participate in recreational activities with their seniors. It can help both feel less isolated, more valued, and maybe even lead to prosperous friendship. Here are 5 particular activities every family caregiver can do with an elder to help them both find joy in their everyday lives.


1.  Mall Walking

There are many malls that have early hours specifically for walkers. For family caregivers, this can be the perfect time to get to know better the senior they are caring for as well as to get some exercise. This can be particularly beneficial if the elder uses a walking aid and doesn’t get much exercise. You, as the caregiver, can lend an arm and help him/her get active again.


2.  Card Games/Dominoes

Card games and dominoes are both fun activities that stimulate the mind. Playing a game or two with the senior every day will go a long way to keep dementia away. Don’t get cocky if you win the first few games though. Sometimes you encounter the cunning grandma who lets you think you’re ahead and takes you for all of your dimes.


3.  Ask Them To Share a Skill With You

Everyone has something he or she is good at. Seniors in particular tend to have lots of downtime and usually have mastered at least one skill that they take pride in. Allow them to share their skill with you. Learn their favorite recipe, to whittle wood, fish, sew, whatever they can do. Once you learn and see their happiness, you’ll truly see how thrilled they are knowing they passed something they love on to you.


4.  Go to a Show/Ball Game

Some seniors like baseball, some like theatre, some like watching people in the park. Make it a point to take them somewhere public where they can have a fun, relaxed time enjoying some live entertainment. I have rarely met a senior who didn’t enjoy going to a baseball game. The fact that you even thought to take them will make their week.


5.  Photo Album

Every senior loves talking about his or her loved ones. The best time to do this is when they are showing off photos in their family album. Ask them about their family and their fun experiences with them. If they have grandkids, ask them about each one individually. They can write a book with everything they’ll tell you about each one of them. As you get to know them better through their stories about their family, you will undoubtedly find new ways to relate to them.


Being a caregiver is a serious responsibility, but if approached in the right mind, it is an opportunity to bring out the extraordinary qualities in a person who, in one way or another, has the ability to influence your life for the better. Get to know the persons you care for better, learn from them, teach them. The worst thing you can do is passively care for someone who has a near lifetime of experience and knowledge to share with you.


About the author

Cheryl Swanson is a writer and former caregiver who loved going to baseball games and playing dominos with her grandmother as a kid. She writes for Justwalkers, a leading supplier of rollators and other walking aids for disabled seniors.


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!