Oct 31, 2013

Our thoughts Define Us

"For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he . . . . " Proverbs 23:7

Even in the Old Testament we find the advice that we are what we think.  We create our lives based on our thoughts.  Do we think people are out to get us?  If we do, that what is more likely to happen to us.  That does not mean that we skip like Pollyanna naively through life.  But, we can expect people to be good to us, and they usually will be.  We cannot control all of our thoughts, but we can direct them to the positive.  We can look for and notice the good in our lives.  We can appreciate the positive aspects of our life and the people who share it.  We can focus on the good, or we can mire ourselves around in the negative.  I have found myself lately thinking with gratitude about the life I have had with the person who now receives my care.  Whether we notice the good or the bad in our lives is our choice.  What do you choose?

Oct 30, 2013

Intensive Care and Dementia?

"75% of patients leave intensive care with some type of dementia." NBC News

Despite age, people who are in intensive care can leave with permanent damage to their brains, caused by being sedated, from infections, and from medications. Sobering news and something to consider if any of us needs to go to the hospital for surgery or accidents.  Hospitals are trying to prevent this after the study came out, but sedating people less and getting them up and walking sooner.  But, this is something for us to consider if the person for whom we provide care or we ourselves end up in the hospital.  Part of being a caregiver is watching for and preventing any potential further damage.   

Oct 29, 2013

Blessings Within Challenges

"I have never felt a pain that didn't bear a blessing." Gene Knudson Hoffman

Of course, that does not mean that the challenge or painful event is the blessing.  Joseph Campbell says that challenges are a part of life and that we must accept that.  I agree.  To believe that we will not have challenges, that everything will go our way, is to set ourselves up for disappointment.  But, within those challenges, we can find gifts of insight.  With caregiving, I have found that it has been good for me to find balance between meeting his needs and my own.  I have seen people do the opposites:  either abandoning the person who needs caregiving or devoting their whole life to caregiving and giving up their own health.  There is a middle way, and that middle way is meeting our own needs while also helping the care receiver meet his or hers. 

Oct 28, 2013

Ways to Be Happy

These tips are taken from a Mayo Clinic newsletter and are intended for people who are dealing with cancer, but I don't think it matters what illness one is dealing with -- finding ways to be happy is critical.

  • Focus on the positive. Think about the good things that are happening at the moment.
  • Spend quality time with the ones you love. Go for a walk with someone you enjoy, make a phone call and laugh with a friend, go to a movie, or arrange a lunch outing to get your mind back on the things that matter most.
  • Reflect on who you are. What makes you unique and special? This well help with your sense of purpose and belonging.
  • Remain present in each moment. Take time to feel, see the beauty around you, breathe deeply and enjoy life.
  • Oct 27, 2013

    Gratitude is Powerful

    Expressing and receiving gratitude and appreciation in your relationships can help ensure a strong and meaningful bond." a study in Emotion

    It is important to me to be appreciative.  Abraham says that appreciation is at the highest vibrational level of the emotions, along with joy and freedom.  Not only in relationships, but in all situations I try to see what there is to be thankful for.  It is a very powerful way to live.  We are healthier in our minds and bodies when we are approaching life from the point of view of gratitude.  Today I am grateful that I got all the tasks on my 'to-do' list done, I enjoyed time with the person for whom I provide care and bought him the things he wants for his personal care, and I enjoyed the wonderful weather this fall has brought.  What are you grateful for today?

    Oct 26, 2013

    Caregiving Stressors

    "Caregiving may include activities that range from emotional support and companionship to activities of daily living, such as personal hygiene and health care needs.  Caregivers often take on other tasks, including managing finances, scheduling health care related appointments, helping children with educational needs and doing daily chores such as grocery shopping, cooking laundry and home maintenance.  To avoid being overwhelmed by the responsibilities of caregiving, it is important to balance the demands in your life." Mayo Clinic literature

    So, how does one balance all of those responsibilities?  One thing that helps is to be aware of the additional stressors in our lives now.  These stressors include:  additional demands and responsibilities, adjustments to our own lifestyle and future plans, routine and unexpected frustrations in the daily life a caregiver, and the personal loss and grief that led to us becoming a caregiver.  We need to address these stressors.  It is NOT selfish to focus on our own needs and desires. 

    Oct 25, 2013

    Walking and Being Present

    "Match your steps to your breath to pull yourself back to the present moment." Michele Stanten

    In order to keep your mind from wandering when you are walking, Michele Stanten suggests that for 4-8 steps you inhale and then you exhale for the same number of steps.  This would be an easy way to stay present.  On my walk today I was present enjoying the beautiful colors of the fall foliage, and then I would notice that I was thinking of the many things I have to do.  Our human minds tend to return to tasks, planning or worry.  Anything we can do to keep our minds present and not in redundant thinking benefits us in our bodies. 

    Oct 24, 2013

    Caregiver Self Care

    "Nearly 49 million Americans provide care to older, chronically ill or disabled adults." National Alliance for Caregiving

    Self care for the caregiver is absolutely critical.  If we do not take care of ourselves, the disease of the person for whom we provide care will kill us too.

    Ways to arrange self care:
    Share the care.  Arrange with family or pay someone to come in to provide services.
    Stay informed.  We are better advocates for the care receiver when we are informed.
    Be healthy ourselves.  Keep your own medical appointments.  Get enough sleep, eat well, exercise.
    Have support.  Either join a support group or have friends and family who support you emotionally.
    Stay connected.  Make sure you continue to have social connections.
    Take time for yourself.  Really.  Take time to have fun, be relaxed, enjoy life. 

    Oct 23, 2013

    Different Types of Dementia

    "Dementia is a word that encompasses many conditions, all of which have in common a deterioration of mental functioning." Dr. Donohue

    Some characteristics of the various types of dementia include memory loss (although this is not the most prominent feature in most people with Lewy Bodies Dementia), an inability to solve simple problems like balancing a checkbook, becoming lost in familiar places, struggling to express oneself with the right words, the incapacity to deal with unexpected situations.  Personality changes are very common.  Alzheimer's disease is the leading cause of dementia, followed by Lewy Bodies Dementia.  Other types of dementia include Pick's Disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, frontotemporal dementia, vascular dementia, and others.  Each of these dementias has as a characteristic deterioration of cognitive functioning, but that deterioration may look very different from person to person.   

    Oct 22, 2013

    Lewy Bodies Dementia

    "Men are more likely than women to be affected by Dementia with Lewy Bodies.  The age of onset usually is between 50 and 70, but people as young as 20 and as old as 90 have developed the disease." Mayo Clinic literature

    I continue to be amazed that so few people understand what Lewy Bodies Dementia -- or Dementia with Lewy Bodies, is like.  Even professionals will say to me, well, he probably has short-term memory problems, doesn't he?  No.  Not really.  Neither short or long-term memory difficulties are particularly typical of DLB (Dementia with Lewy Bodies).  What is typical incudes:  problems with comprehension, motor movement, judgment, impulse control, significant variations in lucidity, visual hallucinations, delusions, difficulty expressing oneself and understanding language, inability to solve problems, loss of insight.  People who do not understand the characteristics of DLB can be misled into thinking there is not a significant problem with cognition because the person with DLB remembers who they are.  There is much more to effective cognition than remembering who a person is.  We who are caregivers for someone with DLB seem to need to continue to educate others, and to help others not minimize the challenges faced by the person with DLB.

    Oct 21, 2013

    Changing Tires

    As a caregiver for someone with dementia, you probably do a lot of driving.  Driving the person to appointments, driving for groceries and other items.  Something that all people should be able to do in an emergency is change a tire.  My car is relatively new with good tires, but, still, I have had 3 flat tires in the last couple years -- all when I was alone.  Most women do not have the strength to get the lug nuts off the tire that have been put on with a power tool, but with my most recent flat tire (in my own driveway), it occurred to me that all I needed was more leverage on the tire wrench.  I dismantled a pipe from our greenhouse frame, and it worked perfectly over the end of the tire wrench and gave me enough leverage to remove the lug nuts easily.  I am not advocating that we change our own tires.  I had called a service to come change the tire for me, but they had not arrived after some time -- so I changed it myself.  A good thing to know how to do in an emergency.

    Oct 20, 2013

    Five Components of Health

    "Most people think that diet and exercise are the key components to staying healthy, but there really are five components to maintaining your health long term." Dr. Eric Kuyper

    Dr. Kuyper suggests the following five things:

    1.  Healthy thoughts.  This one I agree is crucial to good health.  Research indicates that most of our thoughts are negative or redundant.  We can train our minds to have more positive thoughts.
    2.  Balanced nervous system:  He suggests that since the nervous system is responsible for the body's functioning and health, that we can think with kindness toward our nervous system for maintaining body health.
    3.  Quality nutrition.  Food is fuel, and we benefit from eating foods that give us adequate energy. 
    4.  Regular exercise.  He suggests that there is not one exercise that is the perfect solution, but, instead, that movement of the body IS the solution. 
    5.  Toxin elimination.  We can avoid taking in some toxins by watching what we eat, and we can make sure we have good bowel habits.  

    5 Steps to a Healthier You

    "Most people think that diet and exercise are the key components to staying healthy, but there really are five components to maintaining your health long term." Dr. Eric Kuyper

    Dr. Kuyper suggests the following five things:

    1.  Healthy thoughts.  This one I agree is crucial to good health.  Research indicates that most of our thoughts are negative or redundant.  We can train our minds to have more positive thoughts.
    2.  Balanced nervous system:  He suggests that since the nervous system is responsible for the body's functioning and health, that we can think with kindness toward our nervous system for maintaining body health.
    3.  Quality nutrition.  Food is fuel, and we benefit from eating foods that give us adequate energy. 
    4.  Regular exercise.  He suggests that there is not one exercise that is the perfect solution, but, instead, that movement of the body IS the solution. 
    5.  Toxin elimination.  We can avoid taking in some toxins by watching what we eat, and we can make sure we have good bowel habits. 

    Oct 19, 2013

    Home Maintenance

    "No matter where you live or with whom, something in your home is going to need to be repaired at some point." Jenna Mann

    Jenna Mann gives some tips to people who need to maintain a home, and we who are caregivers may have depended on the care receiver for some of those tasks in the past.  One Jenna suggests we can do ourselves:
    Replacing the furnace filter.  First look at the filter now in your furnace for size, and go to the hardware store to purchase a new one.  I always buy two, so that I can change it again without a trip to the store.

    Oct 18, 2013

    Having Fun

    "A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men." Roald Dahl

    Humor and fun are so good for the body and the soul.  I was recently waiting for a public bathroom to become available, and I began to dance.  I realized that I was just purely enjoying being with myself, so much so that I was dancing.  There was a recent YouTube that went viral of a woman standing at a bus stop dancing to her own music in her headset.  I did not have a headset or music, but I don't think you need music to dance.  I heard Eckhart Tolle once say that instead of being irritable about standing in line waiting, one can consider spending the time just enjoying oneself.  Great advice.  The same amount of time will pass.  Do you want to spend it enjoying yourself, or being irritable at having to wait?

    Oct 17, 2013

    Dwelling in the Present Moment

    "Breathing in, I calm my body.  Breathing out, I smile.  Dwelling in the present moment - I know this is a wonderful moment." Thich Nhat Hanh

    A very simple meditation.  Breathe in.  Breathe out.  Be aware of the present moment.  Not the list of things you have to do, or the conversation you had last night, or the presentation you have to prepare.  Just the present moment.  That is where the breath is.  That is where life is.  Relax into the present moment.  That is also where health is.

    Oct 16, 2013

    Time to Reflect

    "Why should I not sit, every morning of my life, on the hillside, looking into the shining world?" Mary Oliver

    I love Mary Oliver's poetry.  Perhaps each of us can think of many reasons we cannot sit every morning on the hillside looking at the shining world.  Inclement weather was one of the things that popped into my mind; and, of course, there is the long list of things caregivers have to do.  But, perhaps Oliver's meaning can be on a level that is not literal.  What if we have the attitude of the world being shining?  What if we take time every day to enjoy the life we have been given?  Buddhist wisdom tells us that it is rare that we were born into this lifetime as human -- let us then appreciate that gift.  Rather than finding things wrong with our lives; let us find things that are right.

    Oct 15, 2013

    The "to-do" List

    "Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is a nobler art of leaving things undone." Lin Yutang

    An odd way of looking at things, if you - like me - often have a 'to-do' list that I am trying to complete.  We who are caregivers have so much to do.  Handling the responsibilities in our own lives, while also handling life's necessities for the care receiver.  Perhaps the thought of leaving anything undone is unsettling, but perhaps it would be good -- especially for those of us who are caregivers and who manage so many things in a given day.  What could you cheerfully leave undone for today? 

    Oct 14, 2013


    "Having lots of ways to connect is important especially during midlife." Irene S. Levine, PhD

    According to Levine there are many perks from friendship.  A study at PLOS Medicine indicates being socially active increases our survival from disease by 50%.  Having good friends increases levels of progesterone, a hormone linked to lowered stress.  People who have 10 or more friends they socialize with have better mental health than those who have fewer friendships.  Friends who have common values, such as eating well and exercising, can help us maintain our own healthy lifestyle.  Do you have an adequate number of good friends in your life?

    Oct 13, 2013

    Preventing Breast Cancer

    "The fact is we've done a great job of increasing awareness of breast cancer, but prevention should be the goal for the next decade." Marc Hurlbert, PhD, director of Avon Foundation Breast Cancer Foundation

    So, how do we prevent breast cancer?  Good lifestyle habits help.  Exercise seems to change the way the body handles estrogen (U of Minnesota study).  Even a few hours a week can reduce our chances of developing breast cancer.  Over 30 studies indicate that women who exercise moderately to vigorously for 3-4 hours a week reduce their risk of developing breast cancer by 30-40% (study at U of North Carolina).  Women with higher levels of carotenoids -- micronutrients obtained from eating fruits and vegetables -- are less likely to develop breast cancer.  Berries, in particular, seem to help the body ward off breast cancer.  Preventative screenings, like mammograms, also are good practice to support our health. 

    Oct 12, 2013

    Giving Our Brains a Break

    "Most of us struggle to shut off the inner static long enough to complete a task, enjoy a conversation or write a single email.  Humans evolved this way -- to be productive and stay on high alert -- for a reason.  Survival.  The brain's limbic system is wired to scan for danger signals, always focusing on warding off what could happen."  Gail Saltz, MD

    So, what is the best way to give our brains a break from this constant scanning for danger?  Mindfulness, living in the present moment, relaxation, meditation, and forays into nature.  One person uses a timer.  She sets the timer for five minutes and focuses on the task at hand until the timer goes off.  Our brains need a break from the multitasking that most of us are very good at doing.  I use walks in nature.  As I walk I deliberately look at the scenery around me.  The fall colors are already appearing where I live, so that gives me variety and added pleasure. 


    Oct 11, 2013

    Power Snacks

    "Top trainers recommend these hunger-killing snacks."  Health magazine, October, 2013

    Sardines have loads of calcium and fish oil.  Greek yogurt with berries.  I would recommend that the Greek yogurt be plain, not with added sweeteners.  Greek yogurt has both protein and calcium, while berries have antioxidants to help our bodies eliminate toxins and remain healthy.  One trainer recommends a nutrition bar called, 22 Days Nutrition Bar, which I have never tried.  Almonds and apples deliver good fat, protein and fiber.  These snacks can be kept on hand and eaten without much preparation, which makes them even more attractive.

    Oct 10, 2013

    Longterm Weight Management

    "The people most successful at maintaining appropriate weight simply move more." Holly Wyatt, MD

    Even fidgeting can help with weight control, but for cardiovascular health and healthy bone structure, we need more vigorous exercise.  According to a recent study from Stanford, people who eat well and exercise have the most success at maintaining a good weight -- and being healthier overall.  This study recommends 60 minutes per day, which can be broken up into 10 minute segments.  Muscle burns twice as many calories as fat, so we also need to have resistance training -- which is using weights or one's own body to build muscle.  Mediterranean diets help to maintain weight.  These diets include lean protein, lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats - like olive oil.  It takes more energy to digest these types of food, which can help us burn 20% more calories just by what we eat.  As caregivers we may feel too busy to exercise and prepare the right kinds of foods, but I would challenge us:  can we really afford not to?! 

    Oct 9, 2013

    Late Night Snacking

    "8:00 p.m. is the time of day that cravings are most likely to strike."  Study cited in October Health magazine

    Instead of trying to resist these evening cravings, choose something healthy instead.  Air-popped popcorn or fruit and vegetables are a good choice.  My daughter introduced me to a ready-to-eat popcorn that is tasty, Skinny Pop, with just 39 calories per cup and no trans fats.  It is not as good as fresh, hot popcorn, but it is convenient and tasty.  I often have a small bowl in the evening.  I also might have a small handful of nuts.  A recent Danish study showed that people who ate 25% of their total calories from protein lost the most weight in a diet program, versus people who ate just 12% protein.  Good sources of protein are Greek yogurt, nuts, lentils and cooked salmon.

    Oct 8, 2013

    Avoiding Disease

    "We know that eating well, exercising and not smoking fend off illness, but don't forget the importance of sleep, managing stress and love." David Katz, MD

    Eating well, exercising and not smoking can fend off 80% of illnesses, according to Katz; but we also need to make sleep a priority.  Stress is inevitable, but we can learn to vent when we feel stress, and physical activity is one of the best ways to handle stress.  People with meaningful relationships are less likely to have heart attacks or cancer, and are more likely to recover if they do develop these diseases.  It is important for us to give love and receive love every day.  From where do you receive love? 

    Oct 7, 2013

    Brain Boosters

    "94% of people volunteering said it improved their mood." survey by United Health Group and the Optum Institute

    According to the author of Your Best Brain Ever:  A Complete Guide and Workout, Cynthia R. Green, Ph.D., as we age we become less able to sustain our attention and remain nimble in our thinking.  She says that even 10 minutes a day doing certain things can improve these brain functions. 

    Ways to boost your brain functioning include:

    Wear your watch upside down.  This challenges the brain to process information in a new way.
    Play jacks.  This requires a person to stay focused and think quickly and nimbly.
    Doodle:  Because most of us use language so much, doing something that requires visual skills causes a different area of the brain to function. 

    Oct 6, 2013

    Yoga for Back Pain

    "A weekly yoga class with some additional practice decreased back pain and the need for medication." Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine

    If you, like me, are now helping the person with dementia get up out of chairs, then we would benefit from activities that protect our backs.  The above study is based on pain reduction, but I am more interested in preventing pain.  Yoga is one wonderful way.  Tai Chi is another.  Any way we can exercise and develop tone in our core muscles helps to support our backs.  Proper lifting is yet another way to prevent back problems.  I have been told by physical therapists that it is important to not lift and turn at the same time (a problem I have with snow shoveling).  When helping my care receiver out of a chair, I work with him, stand straight with feet at least hip-width apart, and lift with him helping by using at least one hand.  What works for you?

    Oct 5, 2013

    Vitamin D and Eczema

    "Scores of recent studies link getting enough vitamin D to eczema symptom improvement.  I recommend that my adult patients take 2,000 IU of vitamin D a day." Peter A. Lio, MD

    Recent studies also suggest that acupressure and acupuncture can distract the nervous system from the itch of eczema.  Hypnotherapy has also been proven in studies to help people with the pain and itching of eczema.  Massage with natural oils is also helpful, and Dr. Lio recommends sunflower seed oil.  These are ways not only to relax, but to benefit the skin.

    Oct 4, 2013

    Natural Remedies for Colds

    "Low humidity dries out nasal passages, making it harder to trap and eliminate the micro-bugs." Tieraona Low Dog, MD

    Tieraona Low Dog recommends using a humidifier, but make sure you keep the humidifier clean, so that it cannot harbor something like Legionnaire's Disease.  She adds five drops of oregano, eucalyptus or peppermint essential oils to the humidifier's reservoir to reduce germs and freshen air.  Steamy baths and showers help too.  Drip 10 drops of essential oil into the tub or onto a washcloth placed on the shower floor.  Breathe deeply.  She recommends peppermint oil to relieve headaches caused by congestion, eucalyptus as a decongestant, and oregano which she says is a proven antibacterial and fights sinus infections. 

    Oct 3, 2013

    Wi-Fi and Cell Phone Use

    "An increasing number of people claim to have health issues as a result of being in the presence of cell phones or Wi-Fi.  Electromagnetic sensitivity has been associated with a wide range of symptoms, including insomnia, headaches, fatigue, poor concentration, irregular heartbeat, and dizziness." Dr. Andrew Weil

    Dr. Weil suggests keeping cell phones, routers, and electrical appliances at a distance from people.  Use an earpiece and hold your cell phone away from your body when using it.  Keep routers out of the bedroom - because you spend the most time there - and place appliances at least a foot away from your bed. 

    Oct 2, 2013

    Feeling Emotions

    "Feel your emotions and in 90 seconds the feeling will dissipate." Mary Shields, PhD

    Mental health professionals have for a long time recommended feeling one's emotions; not stuffing them.  In many societies, feeling emotions are discouraged.  We are supposed to, "buck up", "just get over it", "act our age".  We get many directives recommending that we ignore our feelings.  Ignoring our feelings is a recipe for illness.  Feelings are normal.  It is important to feel them.  We do not need to act on them, and in many cases it is better if we do not, but it is so important to feel them.  And, as Mary Shields says, if we feel them for 90 seconds, they will be gone.  Let's try it.

    Oct 1, 2013

    Michael J Fox Show

    I just happened to catch the Michael J Fox show.  He plays a character with Parkinson's Disease, which, of course, he actually has.  It is a very courageous portrayal.  There is even humor; where someone wants his autograph for his relative who has Alzheimer's Disease -- to which Michael J. Fox replies that he has Parkinson's.  The other person says 'well, yeah, whatever.'  What an accurate depiction of the misunderstanding of dementia, Parkinson's and other neurological disorders by many people.  It is worth watching -- as it depicts to some degree what the person with the disease and his family face.