Lifting patients, safely

Lifting patients, safely

Caregivers are at risk for back injuries. That’s a fact.

People who’ve never done it might imagine caregiving is holding hands, making soup, and saying reassuring things. If only! Caregiving can be incredibly physically demanding.

Getting someone in and out of bed when they can’t assist you is a tough job and can be dangerous for both of you if you don’t know how to do it! Here are some videos with instructions on how to avoid injuring yourself or the person you’re caring for.


Here’s how to prop someone up in bed

How to change the sheets with someone in bed

Changing the diaper of an adult while they’re in bed

How to get someone out of bed

Tips on safely transferring someone from bed to a chair to the car

And if you’re feeling sore, here are a few stretches to help you get back up and running.

Instant Health Benefits of Routine Activity for Seniors

Instant Health Benefits of Routine Activity for Seniors

Staying active fortunately doesn’t have to mean hitting the gym every day. Activities for seniors, from volunteering to swimming, moderate hiking, even simply getting out of the house to grab lunch with a friend can have immediate health benefits. Caregivers looking to optimize their loved one’s overall physical and mental health will be thrilled by these tangible benefits of routine activity:

  1. Physical Wellness: In addition to promoting a strong immune and digestive system, regular exercise in old age can help fight illnesses like heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, dementia, Alzheimer’s, and colon cancer to name a few. Is the person your care for experiencing minor back or knee pain? Staying active with low-impact physical fitness helps stretch your spine, reduce muscle inflammation and improve circulation, which in turn, can alleviate aches and pains. The benefits of physical activity far outweigh the risks for older people, but if you are concerned about injury, consult your doctor and encourage your loved one to start with gentler physical activities like daily walks, yoga, tai chi, or water aerobics.

 

  1. Positive Attitude: Both exercise and socializing with friends triggers an endorphin release in the brain, promoting self-confidence and overall happiness as well as reducing feelings of sadness and anxiety. Volunteering in the community is a great way for seniors to stay active and is also proven to help people feel more socially connected, combatting feelings of loneliness and isolation that can often accompany old age. If the person you care for is feeling depressed, angry or generally grumpy, striking up a routine of some type of activity daily, like a 20-minute walk, or a stretching session to a playlist of their favorite songs, both gives them something to look forward to as well as promotes endorphin production.

 

  1. Mental Clarity: For seniors, “staying active” doesn’t just refer to the body, but the brain too. Routine activities should include those which stimulate positive brain function, thus enhancing critical thinking and preventing cognitive decline. Solving puzzles or playing thinking games regularly, like Sudoku, Chess or Scrabble, encourages your loved one to multi-task, and use creativity, problem-solving skills and memory. Stave off dementia, memory loss, and Alzheimer’s with physical exercise too, which boosts blood flow to the brain and has been shown to promote cell growth.

 

  1. Better Sleep: Getting out, exercising regularly, and staying active can help your loved one fall asleep faster, get a better night’s sleep, and wake up more rested and alert. Better sleep then cyclically feeds into a desire to be more active as well as promotes better brain function. As a caregiver, are you concerned about your loved one falling? Exercise and healthy amounts of sleep can boost your loved one’s mobility, coordination, and balance which means reducing their risk of falling. A win-win!

 

  1. Sense of Security: When it comes to routine activity and providing a sense of structure and security for your loved one, “routine” is the key word. For caregivers and those they care for, following a daily set schedule that involves some type of physical activity is paramount. Taking meds at the same time each day, exercising and eating meals around the same time each day, and waking up and going to bed around the same time each day help people, especially the elderly, feel less stressed and sleep better.

 

For caregivers, the resources to help your elderly parent, grandparent or friend whom you care for aren’t always in abundance. Daily activities might require transportation you can’t provide, or time you simply don’t have because of a job or other obligations. Prioritizing regular exercise and activity that so greatly benefits senior citizens is easier with the help of other family members or friends who are willing to pitch in.

Consider organizing a care calendar where your loved one’s support network can sign up to transport them to the local senior center for tai chi class, to take them out for a walk, or to bring lunch over and do puzzles together. Online coordination tools like CaringBridge and SignUp.com provide free online signups and calendars for you to organize help. And local agencies and caregiver networks may offer free transportation or daytime activities for your elderly loved one as well. Do your research and don’t forget, keeping your favorite senior active will effectively make life better for them and you!


Jessica Hegg

Juicing’s Health Claims Not Backed By Science

Juicing’s Health Claims Not Backed By Science

Juicing has become one of the most popular modern health trends, boasting an ability to detox the body while boosting immunity and aiding digestion. But is juicing really better for you than eating whole fruits and vegetables? According to science, it’s probably worse. The American College of Cardiology’s Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease Council analyzed a number… (more…)

Podcasts to help you get to sleep

Podcasts to help you get to sleep

Getting to sleep when you’re dealing with the stress and anxiety of caregiving — and anticipating your next interruption — is no easy feat.

Luckily, there are podcasts to help you slip back into slumber. Here are a few I’ve tried and found helpful.

Sleep With Me: A sleep inducing podcast

This collection of meandering monotone monologues is just like that history teacher who you couldn’t stay awake for. It’s a sure bet.

Game of Drones: The Game of Thrones sleep aid

Another project by the same folks as Sleep With Me, but for Game of Thrones fans. You might not believe GoT could be so boring, but he’ll prove you wrong and help you get a good night’s rest.

Deep Energy: Music for sleep, meditation & relaxation

If you want something without words, this is the answer.

The Daily Meditation Podcasts

These meditations aren’t specifically designed to help you fall asleep, but they do the trick for me. They’ve also been helpful in making my every day life a little smoother.

The Great Detectives of Old Time Radio

I sometimes find that these old time radio detective stories keep me awake with suspense, so tread with caution.

Orvis Fly Fishing Guide

My grandfather’s instructions had a knack for putting me to sleep, so this one works wonders for me.

On Being

This interview podcast may not quite put you to sleep, but it’s relaxing and informative.

The danger of dehydration: what caregivers should know

The danger of dehydration: what caregivers should know

It’s astounding how many adults are chronically dehydrated.

Drinking enough water helps your body work better and helps you feel better. It helps your metabolism work better and improves your concentration.

Staying hydrated becomes more important as we age. Dehydration is one of the top 10 reasons for hospitalizations among the elderly!

If you’re taking care of a senior, be sure to encourage them to get enough fluids every day.

Boost your water consumption

It’s easy to have a glass of water on your desk at work or your table at home, ready to go whenever you’re feeling thirsty. You can also make it a habit to drink a glass of before each meal.

If you’re not a fan of the taste of regular water, you can drink decaffeinated teas or fruit infusions.

Some foods are packed with water: like juicy fruits and warm soups.

Infographics used with permission from Waterlogic.

Healthy holiday treats

Healthy holiday treats

The holidays are a time for indulgence, but not all of us are at liberty to indulge.

Don’t skip the holiday fun! Try one of these healthier options to celebrate the holidays.

Snowman porridge

Porridge plus blueberries, chocolate chips, and strawberries. Or whatever you have at hand. Get creative!

chia pudding and kiwi christmas breakfast

Chia pudding with kiwi

Chia pudding is easy to make ahead of time. You can make it with regular milk or any sort of non-dairy milk, like soy, almond, or hemp. Add some kiwi puree and slices to add some Christmas flair.

crackers with avocado, tomato, and basil

Avocado and tomato bites

Smash some avocado, smoosh it on a cracker, and top it with a cherry tomato slice and herbs. These hors d’ors are super simple and delicious!

sourdough bread with avocado and veggies

Christmas toasts

Toast whatever bread you like, smash some avocado on top, and toss it with whatever tasty bites seem festive to you.

You can also try this fun edible menorah project for Hanukah.

baked apples for hanukah

Baked apples

Regular baked apples are pretty unhealthy, but this variation is a little more nice and a little less vice.

Don’t let dysphagia keep you from cooking

Don’t let dysphagia keep you from cooking

The moment of diagnosis is emotional when the diagnosis is dysphagia or swallowing disorder. It is a big challenge for caregivers. When a person has a swallowing disorder, suddenly, from that moment forward, it’s all puree. For the newly diagnosed, this is an emergency. The whole family, patient and caregiver, are in a new moment. They must respond.

I was my mother’s principal caregiver for five years. When she was diagnosed with dysphagia, as the result of dementia, I was on my own. I approached this task as a journalist. I researched the available cookbooks and found them wanting in practical advice, the how to do it. I researched the foods available commercially and found them to be poor examples of nutritional healing.

I interviewed professionals in all the relevant fields, from physicians to dietitians and speech language pathologists to nurses and nurses’ aides. I got an editorial review from a top dysphagia care expert.

Essential Puree: The A to Z Guidebook — This is the volume that I wish I had when my mother got the diagnosis.

Essential Puree aids in the transition, takes away the moment of confusion and even fear. This is for helping the caregiver shoulder the responsibility of feeding, whether the caregiver is a family member or a professional caregiver, whether the patient is at home in a home healthcare situation or in a healthcare facility. Nutrition for the Elderly is important, and it is vastly overlooked.

Essential Puree marries the art of fine food with the science of puree. Just because the form of the diet changes, does not mean you have to give up flavor. I teach the biggest secret to the art of puree. The sauce is the medium of flavor.

This volume takes the reader from the moment of diagnosis step by step through the setting up and running of a puree kitchen. It is fast, easy, organized and smart. The pantry, the freezer, the fridge, food storage and labeling. The book celebrates clean eating and nutritional healing. It is all about flavor, flavor, flavor.

This book includes 67 family recipes for classic American comfort foods done in a healthy manner. The recipes and their variations have been handed down for generations.

I also include a section called The Science of Puree, with information about the National Dysphagia Diet, Instant Thickeners for food and for beverages. This was contributed by the dysphagia care expert, Laura Michael, a member of the board of the national Foundation of Swallowing Disorders. I tested the best kitchen appliances for simplifying the labor or food preparation, storage and cleanup.

Patient and caregiver may try free recipes, posted in my Blog at the Essential Puree website.

I offer a Free Download, Shake, Rattle and Roll, for creating three nutritionally dense shakes, ready in a flash.

These are classic American shakes, the Miami shake, the Memphis Shake and the Motown Shake. Better-tasting than anything you could buy off the shelf, with no white sugar, preservatives or chemicals. Check out the e-book.

Essential Puree is available in print and eBook editions on the website, and at Amazon and other online sources.

 


Diane Wolff has been published in “The New York Times, ” “The New York Times Book Review, ” and the “Chicago Tribune”, among others, for her work on China and Tibet.

I do this work in my mother’s memory, that what I created for her may be of benefit to others.

I have recently done a dessert tasting at the New York charity God’s Love We Deliver, and I do lecture demonstrations at the stroke centers of Bayfront Medical and Fawcett, here in Port Charlotte, Florida, where I live.

Rise above the fear of falling

Rise above the fear of falling

When a child, teenager or younger adult falls, usually they’re able to pick themselves up from the ground and carry on as normal. When an elderly person suffers a fall, it is far more likely to have serious consequences. In our elder years, our co-ordination and perception diminishes, which naturally makes older people more prone to falling. Indeed, a third of all elderly adults will suffer a fall every year, and an older person who falls is twice as likely to do so repeatedly.

Falls in the elderly aren’t solely down to their physique. In many cases, their homes are not adequately equipped to minimize the risk of falling. Staircases might not have handrails, or they might have broken or uneven steps. There could be unsecured rugs on floors, as well as children’s toys which haven’t been safely put away.  These are health hazards for people of all ages and the danger is amplified when you have an elderly person in the home who may not recognize these hazards so readily.

We have a duty of care to take all reasonably foreseeable steps to remove any fall hazards within the home if an elderly person is resident. We should also encourage our elders to go for regular medical check-ups so that a healthcare professional can make a judgement on the scale of the person’s risk of falling.

For ways in which you can immediately remove fall hazards in your home, check out this infographic from Home Healthcare Adaptations in Ireland.

rise above the fear of falling


Michael Leavy is the Managing Director of Home Healthcare Adaptations, an Irish provider of household adaptations for the elderly. The company aims to promote independent living within the home by installing modifications such as stairlifts, wheelchair ramps and walk-in showers.

Savor Health helps cancer survivors heal through nutrition

Savor Health helps cancer survivors heal through nutrition

When Susan Bratton watched helplessly as her close friend succumbed to a brain tumor, she knew what she had to do–launch Savor Health.

Savor Health offers nutritional counseling, curates nutrition research, and provides home-delivered meals to people from first diagnosis to survivorship.

Bratton spent 20 years as a healthcare investment banker on Wall Street before considering this venture. “I left my job in 2010,” she said. “But, I had to delay the official launch of Savor Health because my father was diagnosed with cancer. He made a remarkable recovery.” Her company has since made remarkable growth by addressing the shortcomings of the medical community.

“The medical community’s answer to weight loss while treating cancer was to eat anything with high calories,” Bratton said. “They said ‘eat what you want’.” But, she realized that proper nutrition improves cancer issues like side effects of cancer treatments.

Bratton said she saw a big change since her company was launched in that nutrition really does matter. Bratton predicts further expansion of Savor Health into the diabetic market.

“Ninety percent of the people we serve are caregivers, not patients,” Bratton said, explaining that patients are so tired with treatments; it’s left to the caregiver to plan meals. “Savor Health is a tremendous resource for caregivers,” she said.

Bratton said Savor Health has helped many people survive cancer through nutrition counseling and planning. “We had someone who underwent cancer treatments who is now a survivor. He believes our meals helped him,” she said. “He sends us photos of his puppies. We consider him part of the Savor Health family.”

An elderly woman was being taken care of by her husband until he started developing health complications of his own, Bratton said. Their daughter, who is a busy career woman, contacted Savor Health to help in delivering meals and in counseling.

During diagnosis and treatment, more people need home-delivered meals, but as they become survivors, they stay for ongoing counseling relying less on home-delivery service because they know how to plan menus, according to Bratton.

“Our mission is to help cancer survivors and their caregivers by getting nutrition off their plate when caring for themselves or their loved ones,” Bratton said.

6 important things caregivers should do for themselves

6 important things caregivers should do for themselves

As a caregiver, caring for yourself is one of the most important and at the same time, one of the most often ignored things. Only when you are physically fit and healthy, then you can take care of someone else.

Caregiving is not easy; it can be an emotional roller coaster. Caregivers are often at increased risk of depression and excessive use of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. Caring for someone or a family member demonstrates pure love and commitment and can be a very rewarding personal experience, but at the same time, factors like exhaustion, worry, inadequate resources and continuous care demands can be enormously stressful.

As many as 44 million people in America provide unpaid care and support to older adults who are terminally ill or disabled. Regardless of age, gender, race and ethnicity, caregivers report problems attending to their own health and well-being while managing caregiving responsibilities. They often report:

  • lack of sleep
  • poor diet
  • failure to exercise
  • failure to stay in bed when ill
  • postponement of or failure to make medical appointments for themselves

Remember, when your needs are taken care of, the person you care for will benefit, too. It is crucial that caregivers take steps to take care of themselves. Here are some tips for caregivers to care for themselves while taking care of others.

Move daily and exercise for at least 10 minutes

This may annoy you because you don’t have the time or the energy to exercise every day or it may be next to impossible with all the work, but the truth is that your body needs to move for at least ten minutes every day. Exercising for just 10 minutes a day will improve your physical health, energy levels, and mental health as well. Take a walk, do a bit of yoga, or simply take the stairs instead of the elevator. The more movement you can include into your daily doings, the better the results are for your health and overall well-being.

Eat right

Some concerned friends, family, and neighbors may think they are helping you by loading your refrigerator with all sorts of high-calorie goodies like cakes and cookies. But stocking up on unhealthy food is anything but helpful for you—or your patient’s—health. Instead, ask friends and well-wishers to bring healthy and nutritious meals that you can freeze and heat up in the future. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables, add good fats into your diet, and stick with lean proteins. Increase your water intake, too. You can also look for other healthy options like fresh food-delivery services or cooked foods from local supermarkets if you don’t have time to cook.

Get sufficient sleep

Sleep is extremely important for the brain and body. While it’s important to get as much sleep as you can overnight, don’t miss out the opportunity of naps during day time. There is no denying the fact that caregiving can be very exhausting and in order to give good care you need to take naps when you can. The daily chores can wait, but if it’s urgent, take a 15 minute power nap, while you are waiting for the dryer to stop. It’s important to take advantage of little recharging moments each day. Remember to keep your bedroom cool, dark and comfortable so that you can get as much sleep as possible. If you have trouble falling asleep, take some chamomile tea at night to help.

Visit Nature

Simply going outside and enjoying natural beauty, whether it’s a park or the mountains or a beach, can refresh you enough so that you can stay focused, calm and more centered. And if you are one of those caregivers who have pets around, try spending time with them regularly. Spending time with pets can do wonders for stress management and mental health.

Treat yourself

Taking time for themselves is something that caregivers often neglect. Consider taking a break and have another caregiver spend some time with your loved one. Everyone needs to recharge and take time out for themselves. This practice can help you get refreshed and rejuvenated, when you come back as a caregiver again. It’s important to take some time out for small luxuries. It doesn’t have to be big, and it doesn’t have to take more than an hour, but you do need to find ways to enjoy a tiny bit of me time. So go out for a drink or coffee, get a pedicure or haircut and read a book that you left in between, see a romantic-comedy movie or have dinner out with a friend. Find exciting ways for activities that can lift your spirits and take you away from your tight routine.

Remember your aim

Spare a moment to think about your values and why you have chosen to be a caregiver. This will help you stay on track and won’t let you deviate from your aim when the daily routine seems like it’s too much to handle. According to a book by Dr. Julia Mayer, a renowned clinical psychologist, she highlights that ‘often it allows you to think, how you will feel exactly five years from now?’ Down the memory lane, you will probably think that even though caregiving was tough, exhausting and challenging you were glad that you did it. It’s good for caregivers to practice mindfulness exercises at least once a day to try combat stressful feelings.

Conclusion

You are not being self-centered, if you are focusing on your own needs and desires when you are a caregiver. In fact, it’s an important part of the job. You are responsible for your self-care as well as the person you care for. Focus on some of the self-care practices like stress reduction techniques, e.g. meditation, yoga, and prayers, pleasant activities such as swimming, reading a book or taking a warm bath, to perform the job with mental and physical ease.


Alma Causey is a blogger by choice.  She loves to discover the world around her. She likes to share her discoveries, experiences and express herself through her blogs.

Find her on Twitter: @Almacausey

Don’t take weight gain lightly: Healthy foods to help you put on the pounds and boost your strength

Don’t take weight gain lightly: Healthy foods to help you put on the pounds and boost your strength

My elderly father’s most recent directive from his trusted physician was quite simply, “Gain weight, Ed!,” but for all the woes we hear about the trails of trying to lose weight, we don’t often realize that for some, gaining weight can be a real struggle.

Being too thin, especially for senior citizens, or anyone battling an illness, can put further strain on our system and make us feel weak, tired, cold, or frail. Weight loss can also impact our muscle mass, and maintaining some muscle in general, and particularly as we age, is instrumental in maintaining our mobility, strength, and in turn, our health.

While the road to weight gain is quite logical – we need to take in more daily calories than we burn – the practice can be challenging, especially if it involves changing our diet or eating patterns. Still, it can be done, it can be fun, and foods must be healthy to be truly effective.

Here is a list of foods for healthy, happy weight gain, along with some snack ideas and meal recipes.

 

Tips:

  1. Eat three full meals a day
  2. Snack during the in-between hours, and have a snack before bed
  3. Increase portion sizes

 

Caprese salad with mozzarella, tomatoes

Snack ideas:

  • Half a whole grain bagel with peanut or almond butter (add banana for additional texture and flavor)
  • Half a whole grain bagel with smoked salmon, or smoked salmon and cream cheese
  • Unsalted nuts mixed with dried fruits such as apricot, mango, and raisins
  • Wholemilk yogurt with flax seeds, hemp seeds, nuts or granola (be mindful of the sugar content of granolas, as they can be high)
  • Guacamole and flax seed chips (or just slices of avocado by themselves)
  • Cheese and wholegrain crackers
  • A bowl of small mozzarella balls and cherry tomatoes drizzled with olive oil
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • One-egg omelet with grated parmesan
  • Cornbread or banana bread (these can easily be made from store-bought mixes, or from scratch)
  • Unsalted or lightly salted popcorn with or without real butter (throw a tab in and mix it up)

 

avocado toast

 

Recipe ideas

1. Avocado Open Sandwich on Toast

Prep time: 3 minutes
Ingredients: Two slices of multigrain bread, one avocado and a little lime juice.
Recipe: Toast the bread. Peel and stone the avocado. Coarsely slice it and in a small bowl crush it down with a squeeze of lime juice, sea salt and mayo. Don’t try and form a puree as this should still be coarse and chunky.

 

2. Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie

Use this recipe, but swap in ground turkey for beef, and sweet potatoes or yams for regular potatoes.

Recipe: Simply Recipes

 

3. Stir-fry Chicken (and shrimp) with Cashews (or Peanuts) over Brown Rice

Recipe: Belly Full

 

4. Chocolate, Banana, Peanut Butter Protein Shake

Scroll down in the link for the recipe and directions, and add shredded coconut if you like

Recipe: A Sweet Peach

 

sardines are nutritious and full of calories to help gain and maintain weight

Foods to buy and eat

  1. Salmon (steaks, fillets, cured)
  2. Tuna steaks or fillets
  3. Fresh sardines (Whole Foods sometimes has the whole fish at the fish counter for pretty cheap and you can cook them and I think even eat the bones).
  4. Lean chicken meat or ground turkey without additives
  5. Any fish, but fishes high in omega-3 such as salmon, lake trout and mackerel are best.
  6. Unsalted nuts
  7. Avocado/guacamole
  8. Oatmeal (adding ground flaxseed or chia seeds to oatmeal, yogurt, shakes or whatever is great)
  9. Sweet potatoes or yams
  10. Peanut or almond butter
  11. Olive oil or some butter
  12. Dried figs or apricots (without added sugar)
  13. Brown rice/quinoa with beans (black/kidney/pinto/lentil) or some kind of protein mixed in or on the side
  14. Elbows or spaghetti (good to add a protein like chicken/salmon/even a tuna casserole would be good)
  15. Breads with no added sugar/whole grain bagels
  16. Cheese
  17. Yogurt (full fat), add fruit, nuts, flax seeds to taste
  18. Eggs
  19. Fresh vegetables (leafy greens) and
  20. Fruits (bananas, berries, figs, etc.)
  21. Spiru-Tein powder in chocolate or vanilla (add to fruit smoothies)
  22. Vega all-in-one nutritional shake (both are sold at Whole Foods)
  23. Dark chocolate
  24. Shredded coconut (add to yogurt and smoothies)
6 Natural Remedies for Hypertension That Caregivers Need to Know

6 Natural Remedies for Hypertension That Caregivers Need to Know

Blausen.com staff. "Blausen gallery 2014". Wikiversity Journal of Medicine. DOI:10.15347/wjm/2014.010.

Blausen.com staff. “Blausen gallery 2014”. Wikiversity Journal of Medicine. DOI:10.15347/wjm/2014.010.

High blood pressure is a serious problem in modern America. Different sources give different figures, but everyone agrees that high blood pressure is widespread and far too common in the western world. There are many drugs that medical professionals like to prescribe to lower blood pressure. Most of these drugs are fairly effective, but many have serious side effects.

Thankfully, there are several proven natural remedies for high blood pressure that actually work. 

Remedy #1: Basil

Most people already consume a small amount of basil on a regular basis, especially if they eat Italian food. This amount of basil certainly won’t hurt, but it’s not really enough to return your readings into a healthy blood pressure range. A supplement, however, could have a noticeable effect. Conversely, you could simply add a great deal of basil to your diet. It goes well in a salad or pretty much any Italian dish.

Natural Remedy #2: Cinnamon

Many people find cinnamon delicious, even more so than basil. It’s quite easy to add it to your diet, and it does actually work. Cinnamon is often consumed in cereal, oatmeal, and increasingly in coffee. However, it can spice up many dishes that people wouldn’t think of. Cinnamon can intensify the flavor of stir-fries, curries, and stews.

Natural Remedy #3: Cardamom  

While you almost certainly have heard of basil and cinnamon, you probably haven’t heard of cardamom. Cardamom is a seasoning that is very common in the cuisine of India and other South East Asian cultures. Cardamom has been proven to be one of the most effective natural remedies for high blood pressure. There aren’t many cardamom supplements on the market, but the seasoning can be added to many foods with tasty results. It’s most often seen in spice rubs, stews, soups, and even pastries.

Natural Remedy #4: Flaxseed

Flaxseed has a high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids, which are best known for being the healthiest ingredient in fish oil. Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial to the body in many ways, including lowering blood pressure. It does this in several ways, including lowering serum cholesterol, increasing glucose tolerance, and functioning as an antioxidant. It is possible to purchase a variety of different products that contain flaxseed, but the most effective way to consume flaxseed is to buy it ground and add it to your food. It is virtually tasteless, so it can be added to almost anything. It should be stored in the freezer to keep it as fresh and potent as possible.

Natural Remedy #5: Garlic

Many people are aware of garlic’s ability to lower blood pressure. However, you might not know that garlic actually lowers blood pressure by causing blood vessels to dilate, or expand. This allows blood to flow without restriction, which means blood pressure is lower. Many people don’t like the taste of garlic, but roasting it reduces the pungency. Alternatively, you can take it as a supplement.

Natural Remedy #6: Ginger

Similar to garlic, ginger causes vasodilation. This process lowers blood pressure, as described above. As with some of the other herbs on this list, it is commonly used in Asian cuisines. However, it is quite versatile. It can be used in pastries or even mixed drinks. Many people like to put it in their tea.


Always consult your doctor before making significant changes to your diet. Talk to your doctor before discontinuing or changing any medications.

If you liked this article, check out Vive Health’s blog here.

Cooking for your loved one

Cooking for your loved one

Although I’m not a professional chef, I was a food writer for the original Rochester Magazine, (when it started years ago in my hometown of Rochester, Minnesota), learned basic and advanced cooking techniques, and created many original recipes. I’ve made airy soufflés, gallons of soup, tossed a dizzying array of salads, baked French baguettes, turned our kitchen into a biscotti factory, produced thousands of cookies, made egg roll wrappers, flipped countless burgers, prepared a wedding dinner for seventy, roasted a Christmas prime rib as long as a log, entertained my physician husband’s patients, and made cookbooks for family members.

These experiences have been a culinary journey, and I have enjoyed every moment of it—even the recipe failures.

I’m a “made-from-scratch” cook, an approach that halted abruptly in 2013 when my husband’s aorta dissected. After three emergency operations, two months in the hospital, and six months in a nursing home for therapy, my husband John was released to my care. His dismissal was a nutrition wake-up call. For eight months I had been eating on the run. Instead of eating complete meals, I snacked and made poor food choices. Much as I hate to admit it, I often ate standing up due to time constraints. I visited my husband three times a day, at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and there was little time for anything else.

Your caregiving experiences may be similar to mine. After rushing to prepare food, using too many high-salt mixes, and eating too many frozen meals, many of them high in salt, you may yearn for something homemade…After months of poor nutrition, I knew it was time to return to eating healthy, balanced meals…I learned that the approach to cooking by a caregiver requires taking a lot of things into consideration that we didn’t have to think about before, including:

  • physicians’ recommendations and prescriptions
  • foods that inhibit or cancel effects of medication
  • medication management (including dosage times)
  • loved one’s daily routine
  • loved one’s appetite
  • food likes and dislikes
  • amount of daily physical activity
  • caregiving budget (including food)
  • food intolerances and allergies

Challenging as my scenario was, these changes were possible, and I was willing to make them for my husband and me. I deserved balanced, nutritious meals as much as John, and getting back to normal would be comforting…This caregiver’s cookbook is the result of my experience in providing nutritious meals for John and myself…

When I was writing these recipes I tried to imagine your caregiving day, the schedule you keep, and your time-management strategies. I tried to imagine the care receiver too—a child with chronic disease, an ill husband or wife, or a grandparent in failing health. Every meal you prepare can exemplify the love you feel. Fixing meals for a loved one is more than providing fuel for the body; it’s a demonstration of love. You can reduce salt and fat, monitor sugar, and avoid food additives, food coloring, and preservatives with unpronounceable names. Best of all, you can tailor the recipes to your loved one’s needs.


This is an excerpt from the Preface of The Family Caregiver’s Cookbook: Easy-Fix Recipes for Busy Caregivers, slated for October release. The 300-page book is already on Amazon and available for pre-order.

The Key to Fitness

The Key to Fitness

It’s 5:30pm, the end of a hectic workday and you are looking forward to going to your gym to take a 6 P.M. exercise class.  But just as you are about to walk out the door, your boss informs you that you must complete and important project so that it’s ready first thing in the morning.

If it’s not one thing, it’s another that continually prevents you from maintaining a consistent exercise routine.  The real issue here is not that you have to work late.  The issue is that you have become totally dependent upon an outside source to achieve fitness.

You are the one responsible for establishing and maintaining your own fitness program.  If your goal is to exercise three to four times a week, and you’re absent more than you attend those classes, you might want to ask yourself the following question: Can I go to a gym consistently, week after week, with my current lifestyle?

If you are not sure, you might want to take a pen and paper and write down what a typical day is like in your life.  Some things to take into consideration:
  • Can you break away from your caregiving responsibilities long enough to attend a fitness class?
  • Do you travel?
  • Do you have children to tend to at the end of your workday?
  • Do you work long hours?
  • Do you have a lengthy commute to and from work every day?
  • Do you have certain orthopedic constraints or a certain medical condition that would prevent you from working out on a regular basis?
IF you answered “Yes” to any of the above questions and you belong to a health club or gym, chances are you are not as fit as you can be.

One of the biggest misconceptions about exercising at home is that you need a lot of space and a lot of expensive machinery to get fit.  All you really need, however, are some basic pieces of athletic equipment.  If you have a home gym, you can always fit exercise into your schedule.  You will be able to avoid most interruptions and you won’t have to wait for a machine.

Another big advantage of exercising at home is that you can hire a trainer, who will design a workout program for you that is safe, efficient, and effective.  Most people exercise incorrectly or tend to overdo it a bit (especially in the beginning) and, as a result, injure themselves.  According to the most up-to-date data on fitness and injuries, nearly half of the people who take exercise classes will suffer a chronic, lifelong injury.

Many people do not exercise at home because they lack one important ingredient: motivation.  How can you build up enough motivation to exercise on your own?  The first thing you need to do is to get some knowledgeable advice from someone in the fitness field, someone who teaches exercise for a living.  But even that is not enough.  This expert should teach with a philosophy that will properly educate and motivate you, one that will eventually allow you to exercise on your own, while he or she is not there with you.

Let’s face it, if you have only 30 to 40 minutes, three or four times a week to devote to fitness, you need to get the most out of that limited time, and you must make it a habit to be consistent with your workouts.  If you don’t, you will never become truly fit and you’ll always be playing catch-up with your fitness regimens.

So, if you are starting an exercise program, or have been trying to maintain an exercise program and have failed to notice any improvement in your energy level, physical state or the way you look or feel, perhaps it’s time to bring exercise into your home.

Have a question on weight loss and/or exercise?  Please email: edward@thecaregiverspace.org or visit: http://www.exude.com

Rubbish research

Rubbish research

There is a major problem with medical research. And this is apart from ghost writing, dubious analysis, suppression of negative findings and conflicts of interest. The biggest problem is that much medical research is meaningless rubbish!

How can I say that? Well let’s consider some of the breakthroughs in the last week or so. 

The latest findings are; that short stature is associated with heart disease, that being overweight in middle age reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s and that living at higher altitude is linked to lower rates of ADHD but higher rates of depression and suicide.

In addition to this coffee has been found to both increase the risk of cancer of the bladder whilst reducing the risk of cancer of the liver.

Really?

What can we make of this? Heart disease has numerous contributing factors. The height of an individual has no impact on any of these. Maybe taller people are more likely to exercise. But this has not been shown. Maybe there are some genetic connections between stature and heart disease. This has also not been shown.

All that was found was a statistical correlation.

The same applies to the dementia and ADHD studies. If you crunch enough numbers you can come up with a “statistically” significant finding. The bar for this significance is set very low too – at 5% probability of being due to chance. In other words these findings immediately have a one in 20 chance of not being valid.

But here is the real point.

Correlation does not mean causation. The sheer fact that two things may occur at the same time or that they may be found in the same person does NOT mean that one causes the other. To establish cause one needs a mechanism that can be demonstrated on multiple occasions in both the lab and the real world.

All these studies lack this. If a separate group of people were studied it is likely that an opposite result would be found. This is the case in dementia where previously it was found that being over weight was a risk factor.

This is critical. Very often you will see news stories in health talking about links or associations. This means the study has found a statistical correlation. This is absolutely meaningless unless a causal mechanism exists.

It is possible to draw statistical correlation between certain illnesses and being born under a particular star sign. This has actually been done – to prove the point. You could find links between diabetes and which is your favourite TV program. You could find association between cancer and the color of the car you drive.

All would have absolutely no meaning.

As for the coffee studies? Well it joins all the other foods where there are an equal number of studies showing an increased and decreased risk of cancer.

These observational studies are of little value. It raises the question as to why they get done and who pays for them? Anyone with ideas is invited to put them in the comments box.

We already know that 80% of chronic illness is a function of lack of exercise, a diet high in processed and sugary foods, stress, excess alcohol and smoking. We don’t need more research to tell whether our height (which is not something we can change) has any effect, which of course it does not.

So stick with the basic eight pillars of health. You can safely ignore the latest health finding. It is almost certainly meaningless. And if by chance it has some meaning, then rather than disappearing by the next day, you will hear about it again sometime.

Injury reduction techniques

Injury reduction techniques

During times of stress or loss we can be at increased risk for injuries and setbacks. One goal of Body Aware Grieving is to avoid creating new problems while we learn to recover from any current difficulties.

There are many ways problems can become multiplied when we are upset. During strong emotions it is harder to think clearly and move with care which can lead to avoidable accidents, especially while driving. Stress can also weaken our immune system which leaves us more prone to becoming sick. Upsetting times also tend to increase challenges with various forms of addiction like drug, alcohol or eating disorders. It is not our intention to judge anyone’s behavior or choices, we only care about increasing our ability to sustain and improve health.

There are many circumstances when we need to take especially good care of ourselves. After experiencing a trauma, hearing bad news, the first days, weeks or months following a death of a loved one, romantic break up other major life change. Other problems can be more chronic and long-term like financial struggle, care giving for a friend or family member, dealing with poor health, depression, or struggling with physical changes due to aging.

The following Injury Reduction Techniques are intended for any situation when physical and/or mental function is impaired. Please see which ones most suit your current needs and situation. Feel free to ask any questions or make comments in the section below!

Ways to evaluate ones current situation and begin to organize effective care.

Body Aware Grieving Basic Self-Care Questions

System for evaluating one’s current level of physical, mental and emotional function.

Wellness 100

Learn to reduce frustrations by adding a moment of pleasure to accepting what one can not change.

 Going Belly Up

Choosing to separate important parts of the day with short, refreshing breaks.

Transition ’10’

Creating balance with the difficult times in life by savoring enjoyable ones.

Don’t Miss Bliss

– See more at: http://www.bodyawaregrieving.com/injury-reduction-techniques/#sthash.oOLqSY3i.dpuf

The missing connection between cancer survivorship and nutrition

The missing connection between cancer survivorship and nutrition

there are 13.7 million caregiver survivorsThe American Cancer Society estimates that there are 13.7 million cancer survivors in the US today. Now, CANCER, their peer-reviewed journal, shows that this vulnerable population isn’t getting the nutrition it needs.

The research team was led by Fang Fang Zhang, MD, PhD, of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. The team analyzed the diets of over 1,500 adults participating in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 1999 to 2010.

Cancer survivors had low dietary intakes of vitamins D, E, potassium, and calcium. They were consuming more saturated fat and sodium than recommended. Few Americans consume the recommended number of fruits and vegetables and cancer survivors meet the recommendations at an even lower rate.

Breast cancer survivors had the best nutritional habits, while lung cancer survivors were more likely to have a poor diet. Breast cancer patients who eat 5+ servings of fruit and vegetables a day and had 30 minutes of exercise 6 days a week had a significantly higher 10-year survival rate than those who did not.

Nutrition isn’t just about extending the life of a cancer survivor, it’s about helping them live a better life. Susan Bratton, founder of Savor Health, explained how “Cancer treatment changes your body forever. Nutrition and exercise helps survivors feel like themselves again and keep long-term side effects under control.”

Graphic: Data is curated by HealthGrove.com and sourced from Cancer.gov, the National Cancer Institute and NIH.

Who’s providing nutrition information?

According to Dr. Zhang, “Oncology care providers can play critical roles in reinforcing the importance of a healthful diet, and can refer patients to registered dietitians who are experts in oncology care or to other reputable sources in order to improve survivors’ overall health.”

However, relatively few cancer survivors are referred to specialists in oncology nutrition.

After treatment is completed, oncologists no longer actively manage their patient’s care. Survivorship care plans are created to guide the patient’s primary care physician. “Survivorship care plans include a summary of the treatment a patient received, recommendations for ongoing care, and other information that will help primary care physicians and patients manage their health. They often lack specific dietary recommendations or input from a nutritionist,” clarified Elizabeth Chabner Thompson, a radiation oncologist.

eating 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day leads to a higher 10 year survival rateWhile oncology staff find survivorship care plans important, they can’t always find time to create them. Primary care physicians may not be familiar with issues specific to cancer survivorship, leaving them unable to provide the best follow-up care.

Studies indicate that there are huge obstacles to accessing medical records. This is changing, as tools like Prime pull electronic medical records into one place and put them within patient’s control.

Tyler Hayes explains, “Prime really came out of my helping some of my own family. The basic idea was just to relieve the huge amount of stress that was happening from not having the records. We were trying to get by just taking notes during appointments, which obviously didn’t work. We had medications in a notebook, on an Excel spreadsheet, and also in email…every day. So I made Prime for my family first, to put everyone on the same page.” Now Prime helps patients provide their doctors with their complete health history.

Patients and caregivers are increasingly put in charge of managing their own treatment. Even people who are eager to be empowered to manage care may lack the tools and support they require. Long-term effects of cancer treatment can affect the heart, lungs, eyes, bones, hormones, teeth and gums, and cause hearing loss. Some side effects take years to manifest and vary widely based on the specific types of treatment received.

What cancer nutrition guidelines exist?

Jessica Iannotta, a registered dietician and certified specialist in oncology nutrition, pointed out how “Patients are told to eat healthy, but aren’t told what that means. I work with Savor Health to help people understand what ‘healthy’ is by providing personal advice. We do all the research and help people apply it to their everyday life.”

eating healthy, exercising, and not smoking lead to a higher quality of life for cancer survivorsThe American Cancer Society and the American Institute for Cancer Research provide broad guidelines, but there’s little information on how to implement what may require dramatic lifestyle changes. Many organizations that support survivors and their families provide no information on nutrition.

Eating healthy and getting the recommended amount of moderate physical activity has been shown to reduce fatigue, depression, and other common issues faced by cancer survivors. Studies have found a strong positive correlation between lifestyle behavior changes (healthy nutrition, physical activity, and smoking cessation) and health-related quality of life.

When medical professionals aren’t providing comprehensive healthcare information, patients and their caregivers go online for more information. The story of Belle Gibson, who claimed to have cured herself of a malignant brain tumor through a special diet and positive thinking, serves as a cautionary tale that much of the information out there doesn’t stand up to scientific scrutiny. Jess Ainscough lost her battle with cancer after opting to follow a special diet in lieu of treatment.

The internet abounds with promises that various diets and natural remedies can cure cancer. There is currently no scientific evidence supporting this. Proper nutrition has been shown to strengthen people’s immune system, mitigate symptoms and side effects, and improve quality of life.

Food and family

Amir Ahuja, a psychiatrist in Modesto, CA, explains how nutrition can also empower caregivers, “It’s not unusual for people to prefer demonstrating how they feel, instead of talking about it. Helping someone eat healthy is one way they can show that they care.”

Bob Harrison, who cared for his wife Annie, didn’t have any problem talking about his feelings for her. His care for her brought them closer and for him preparing healthy food was an act of love. He was surprised by how cancer changed his wife’s diet, saying “The healthy Annie always fixed us nutritious meals. Cancer changed her to a comfort food diet. Maybe because living a very healthy lifestyle did not save her from cancer.”

Nutrition can be empowering for the patient as well. After having seen loved ones battle cancer, Susan Bratton understands how “So much of surviving cancer means giving up control. Nutrition is one way that patients can regain control over their health and their lives.”

Cancer treatment doesn’t end when someone is labelled a survivor. Medical advances have turned cancer into a chronic condition. Harriet Hodgson, a family caregiver and author of 35 books, explains “With medication and specialized care, chronic disease may stabilize for months or years. However, the word chronic implies that the disease will worsen. Since you can’t predict your loved one’s decline, or how long she or he will live, you can’t settle into a new normal.”

Life may not return to normal after cancer, but that doesn’t stop people from leading the life they want. Elizabeth Chabner Thompson, who founded a company providing modern recovery products, understands what it takes, both as a doctor and from personal experience. “Getting proper nutrition is one way for cancer survivors to regain their strength after treatment and enjoy a better quality of life,” she advised. The tools for recovery go beyond medication, encompassing a wide range of support services.

Nutrition during and after treatment

Nutrition is critical during and after cancer treatment. The CDC suggests there is a link between obesity and lower survival rates for people with breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer. Diet and exercise have been shown to significantly reduce the decline in physical function among older, overweight, long-term cancer survivors.

Bob was so concerned about his wife’s nutritional needs that he spoke to her oncologist about it. He didn’t respond well, “he asked what I didn’t understand about dying and told me to feed her anything I could.”

Susan wasn’t surprised to hear that little in the way of nutritional guidance was provided, even during a cancer battle that lasted 29 months. “Few people get comprehensive nutrition support during cancer treatment. Almost no one is referred to a nutritionist after treatment, even though we know it leads to better outcomes,” she said.

Cancer treatment has widely known impacts on people’s ability to eat. Cancer forums are full of patients and caregivers sharing tips on how to tolerate food and minimize symptoms. It’s common for these symptoms to persist after treatment ends. The National Cancer Institute shares basic information on nutrition during treatment, but patients are still looking for more specific advice. Guidance on nutrition is no less critical after treatment ends.

Cancer nutrition resources

You can find detailed, evidence-based information on nutrition for cancer survivors at Savor Health and the American Cancer Society. You can read the full study by Dr. Zhang on the CANCER website (paid).

“Diet quality of cancer survivors and non-cancer individuals: Results from a national survey.” Fang Fang Zhang, Shanshan Liu, Esther John, Aviva Must, and Wendy Demark-Wahnefried. CANCER; Published Online: October 13, 2015 (DOI: 10.1002/cncr.29488).

You can’t firm fat!

What is the main difference between weight loss and toning? What are the most effective exercises for toning vs. weight loss? It’s all in the difference between aerobic exercise and anaerobic exercise.

PhysEd Fitness Tips

#18

If your goal is to trim down and lose mass in any part of your body, lifting heavy weights won’t give you the body you want. Lifting light weights however, will.

#21

Body type has nothing to do with how much fat or muscle your body possesses. It has nothing to do with whether you’re fat, thin, tall short or overweight, athletic, or nonathletic. It simply means that if you added weight or muscle, where on your body would that be most obvious?

#30

Everyone, despite their age or current level of fitness can possess a fit and toned body if you’re willing to put the time and effort in and give 100%.

Top 4 reasons you’re not exercising — SOLVED

You told us why you’re not exercising everyday:

What’s keeping you from exercising and/or eating right every day?

Posted by The Caregiver Space on Friday, August 21, 2015

  • You don’t have any time.
  • You can’t imagine adding another thing to your daily routine.
  • You can barely leave the house to go grocery shopping.
  • You have a tight budget and big expenses.
  • You are tired of hearing to “take care of yourself.”

These are all valid reasons that prevent us, as caregivers, from staying fit. We get how time- and energy-consuming caregiving can be. But PhysEd for Caregivers is a fitness program designed AROUND these constraints.

“Life, right now, is going to get better for you. Everyone can include in proper fitness into their lifestyle, despite any constraint.”

– Edward Jackowski, PhysEd

 

Caregivers benefit from a bedtime routine

Caregivers benefit from a bedtime routine

Sleep experts recommend a bedtime routine – practices that get you to slow down, clear your mind, and prepare you for sleep. Before I became a caregiver I didn’t think about a bedtime routine very much. It was what it was. But becoming my mother’s caregiver, my twin grandchildren’s caregiver, and my husband’s caregiver, changed my thinking. I need sleep and have a nightly routine to promote it.

You may have a routine as well. However, if you don’t have a routine, it may be wise to establish one now. Having a bedtime routine will help you sleep better and wake up in the morning refreshed, energized, and ready for the day.

Sleep expert Dr. Brandon Peters suggests some routine steps in his article, “What Sleep Rituals Should Be Part of Your Bedtime Routine,” posted on the Sleep Disorders About.com website. Dr. Peters says a good night’s sleep depends on our behaviors, and a routine prepares us for sleep. “Think of things that individually make you feel sleepy,” he advises. Here are more suggestions for your bedtime routine.

  • Exercise during the day. Mayo Clinic, in a website article, “Lifestyle and Home Remedies,” recommends at least 20-30 minutes of physical activity per day. “Activity helps promote a good night’s sleep,” according to Mayo. Your activity may be a brisk walk, stretching exercises, or lifting weights.
  • Start to slow down. Though your TO DO list is long, and you have been rushing from one thing to the next, put on the brakes after dinner. Accept the fact that you didn’t get everything done. Continue with tasks that don’t require much thought, such as folding laundry.
  • Nix the television. Television programs, especially the news, can stick in your mind. Because my husband’s legs are paralyzed, watching television is one of his main activities. He is especially interested in the history of World War II, upsetting images to say the least. I asked him not to watch war programs after dinner and he complied with my request.
  • Reduce background noise. Peppy music may keep you going during the day, but it isn’t the best match for a good night’s sleep. If you still want to listen to music, choose something that is soothing. You may listen to classical music, for example, or hymns.
  • Turn off the computer. Like television, computer work can stick in your mind and keep you awake. I try to turn off the computer, but sometimes this is hard to do because of incoming emails from my publisher. So I leave the computer on and do other small jobs or read. Just before bed I check my incoming messages once more.
  • Take a warm bath. According to sleep experts, a warm bath can relax you and make you drowsy. Since I am not a bath person I don’t follow this tip. However, if a bath relaxes you, it may be just the thing you need.
  • Slow your mind. This is one of those things that is easy to say and hard to You can clear your mind with meditation, reading poetry, prayer, or a soothing book. Don’t start a murder mystery.
  • Adjust the thermostat. A cooler room promotes sleep, so turn down the heat or set the air conditioner at a cooler, comfortable temperature. Keep your loved one’s medications in mind. If your loved one takes medicine that makes her or him cold, adjust the thermostat accordingly.
  • Prepare your room. Close the curtains, shades, or blinds. Subtle background noise, rain sounds, or a running fan, may help drown out other noise, according to Mayo Clinic. The bedroom isn’t the place for a television, the clinic notes, and you should “avoid TV, computers, video games, smart phones or other screens just before bed.”

Your loved one needs a routine and so do you. Establishing a bedtime routine is a trial and error process. Delete the tips that don’t work for you, and focus on the ones that do. Getting a good night’s sleep changes your outlook on life. Busy caregiving days are easier when you are well-rested.

Stop Staring at the Ceiling: Tips to help calm an anxious mind at bedtime

Stop Staring at the Ceiling: Tips to help calm an anxious mind at bedtime

As a full time-caregiver, you may find that once it’s finally time for you to call it a day, you’re asleep before your head hits the pillow.  If that’s the case, you don’t need to read any further.

But if, like many, you find that on some nights, even though you’re exhausted, your mind keeps going and won’t let you fall asleep, you’re not alone. When your day is filled with caring for someone and your focus is on a constant stream of demands and tasks to be done, there may not be time left for worrying or dwelling on upsetting thoughts.  But when you’re finally alone in a quiet, dark room, those thoughts may finally have a chance to emerge, and linger.

Here a few ideas that may help keep anxiety and worrisome thoughts from robbing you of some hard-earned rest:

If you can manage it, a quick warm shower or bath can be calming, both physically and mentally.

It raises your body temperature and the natural fall back to your normal temp when you get out signals your body to sleep. Plus, water is symbolically cleansing, allowing you to close your eyes and imagine your worry washing or floating away and disappearing down the drain.

Try one-minute journaling.

Putting something, almost anything, down on paper each night in a notebook kept bedside has been shown to help put one’s mind at ease, without taking up too much rare and precious downtime.  If a worry keeps bouncing around in your thoughts, write it down in a sentence or two to get in on the paper and out of your head.  Alternatively, many folks this helpful: write one, just one, specific thing from the day which you are grateful for.  It can be as big as the support of a loving friend or as small as the comfort of a well-brewed cup of tea. You don’t have to come up with the thing you’re MOST grateful for, as long as it’s A thing. It needn’t be profound, and it’s ok to have some repeats over time, as long as you’re specific in whatever it is you’re grateful for that day.

Switch out the TV or computer for a book, recorded book or podcast.

Screens may seem like a good distraction, yet most of us have become so used to watching them while doing something else that our minds can have a way of drifting to the same unhappy thoughts we were hoping to avoid.  Reading creates more distraction by requiring more of our attention, and listening to a calm but engaging voice recording as can be found with many recorded books or podcasts of radio programs like This American Life (a personal favorite) has the benefit of allowing us to have the nurturing experience of closing our eyes and maybe even falling asleep while someone tells us a story.  If you’re using a digital recording you can often set a timer so that it shuts off on its own after 30 minutes or at the end of one episode, and you can always skip back the next night to wherever you drifted off the night before.

Follow some form of set routine before bed, even if it’s very short.

Doing the same sequence of activity each night helps train your brain to fall asleep more easily.  For example the tips above would combine to make a nice routine: take a quick shower; get in bed for one-minute journaling; fluff your pillow, turn on a podcast and turn off the light.  Or pick any simple routine that works for you.

Getting the Sleep You Need

Getting the Sleep You Need

Caregiving takes lots of energy. You need restful sleep in order to have this energy. That’s a given. But circumstances and worries may keep you from sleeping. Even if you go to bed early, you may toss and turn, keep looking your bedside clock, and worry if sleep will come. Instead of being your friend, sleep may be your enemy. I found this out the hard way.

A year ago my husband’s aorta dissected. Our house was only blocks away from the hospital, and I was able to get him to the Emergency Department in time. Just in time, for my husband was bleeding to death. Surgeons operated on him three times in a desperate attempt to save his life. The first two operations were a temporary “fix” and he continued to bleed internally.

The third operation saved his life, but my husband had a spinal stroke during the 13-hour operation, and it paralyzed his legs. After being hospitalized for eight months he was dismissed to my care. I am grateful for my caregiving experience. My mother had stroke-induced dementia and I was her family caregiver for nine years. In 2007 my twin grandchildren lost their mother and father in separate car crashes, and the court appointed us as their guardians. Suddenly we were GRGs – grandparents raising grandkids.

Now I was my husband’s caregiver and I needed sleep. While sleep problems are common, they are a problem I don’t need. The source of my sleep problem was easy to identify – my husband’s incontinence. Every morning I get up at 3 a.m. help him with self-catheterization. Sometimes the procedure goes quickly, and other times I may be up  for 45 minutes to an hour. Once I am fully awake it is hard to get back to sleep.

1950s television set with a blank screenSo I have my little tricks. Often I visualize a blank television screen and try to empty my mind. Reversing my thoughts is another trick. I think about the good things I have done in a day, such as making a delicious dinner, catching up on laundry, paying bills, and enjoying television with my husband. When I do this, I am taking a chance because switching thoughts takes mental effort, and this effort can keep me awake.

At 4:30 a.m. one morning I gave up and got up. You may have had similar experiences. Sleep is essential to quality caregiving and these suggestions from a Mayo Clinic website article, Sleep Tips: 7 Steps to Better Sleep, may help you. I have edited the tips and added some personal comments.

  • Have a sleep schedule. I try to go to bed at the same every night, between 9:30 and 10:00 p.m. Lately I’ve been striving for the earlier time to get enough sleep.
  • Watch what you eat. No spicy dinners for me. Though I like spicy food, I avoid eating it for dinner. Mayo Clinic says you should not go to bed “either hungry or stuffed.”
  • Watch what you drink. If I feel like coffee after dinner, I make coffee that is ¼ caffeinated. Avoiding alcoholic beverages is a wise decision because alcohol can wake you up later.
  • Create a ritual. Full-service hotels turn down bedding, and I do too. Right after dinner I turn back the bed covers and get out my pajamas, a time-saving tactic.
  • Buy comfortable bedding. For some reason, I feel cozy and snug the minute I get under my quilt. I also have comfortable pillows.

Though sleep experts have differing opinions about naps, taking a nap in the afternoon is the only way I can make up for the sleep I have lost. But I am careful to sleep for only an hour. I hope you get the sleep you need and have sweet dreams. If you have more suggestions for getting a good night’s sleep, please share them with other caregivers in the comments.


 

How to stretch your hamstrings to support your back

How to stretch your hamstrings to support your back

Ed Jackowski of Exude Fitness show us, in under five minutes, how to save ourselves a lot of pain and discomfort!

Legs Apart – Hamstrings Stretch:

Hamstring-stretch-1

Sit on the floor or bed with your legs as far apart as possible.  Bend forward as far as you can, moving your hands, palm down, towards your ankles.  Grasp your ankles (or the top of your socks) and gently pull your upper body into a comfortable stretch – and hold.

 

Legs Together – Hamstrings Stretch:

Hamstring-stretch-2Remain seated and extend your legs straight in front of you.  Gently, bend forward from the hips and reach towards your toes and hold.  You can hold this stretch holding your toes, or grab on to your socks.

 

 Tips of the Week:

1.  The wonderful thing about proper exercise is that after one year of exercising, the body reacts as if it has been exercising its entire life!

2.  What’s the most important factor to becoming & staying fit?  Consistency is the most important factor in becoming fit. Organize yourself to make time.

3.  If you’re looking to reduce size down below, beware; for certain body types, spinning, step classes and stair climbers can actually increase the size of your buttocks, thighs, and hips.


Please email Edward  if you have a question on weight loss and/or exercise, or visit his website: exude.com

5 delicious meals that are easy to swallow

5 delicious meals that are easy to swallow

So many of the people we care for have a hard time eating because of swallowing difficulties. One solution is to prepare meals that are especially moist and soft. Cooking for someone with dietary restrictions doesn’t have to be boring — here are 5 delicious recipes that are healthy and easy to swallow.

grilled sea bass with herbs

Photo by Alexpro9500

Moist and tender whole sea bass

Photo by Leo Gong

Roasted halibut with lime, papaya, and avocado salsa

Photo by Cooking Comfort Care

Turkey Tortellini Soup

Photo by Marissa of Get Off Your Tush and Cook

Sweet potato-kale hash topped with an Egg

Photo by Cara Anselmo, MS, RDN, CD

Vegan chocolate cheesecake

 

Thanks to Jessica Iannotta, MS, RD, CSO, CDN, for compiling these recipes.

Caregivers keeping it fresh

Caregivers keeping it fresh

Storing and labeling hacks for your fridge

Food safety is an especially important concern for cancer patients as cancer treatment can weaken the immune system.

Bacteria can easily grow when food is left undisturbed, exposed to the elements, or at a temperature between 40°F-140°F (also known as the “temperature danger zone”).  Therefore, safe food storage is one of the most important ways we can prevent food from being contaminated.

The most important thing you can do to prevent foodborne illness is to keep an organized kitchen. Pay attention to expiration dates and how long food is being stored. In your pantry, canned goods should be kept in good condition and stored in a cool, clean, and dry place. If cans are dented, leaking, bulging, rusted, or beyond their expiration date, discard immediately. High-acid canned foods (tomatoes, grapefruit, pineapples) can generally be stored in your pantry for 12-28 months, whereas low-acid canned foods (meat, poultry, fish, vegetables) can be stored for 2-5 years.

Food can be stored longer in your refrigerator or freezer, so make sure to periodically check both with an appliance thermometer to ensure they are at the appropriate temperature to prevent bacterial growth. Refrigerators should be kept at a temperature of 40°F or below and freezers should be kept at a temperature of 0°F or below. Leftovers and perishable food should not be left out at room temperature for more than two hours (or one hour if the outside temperature is 90°F or above).

When purchasing fresh poultry or meats, be sure to cook or freeze within two days.

Certain meats, like beef, veal, lamb, or pork, can be held for up to 5 days in a refrigerator until they need to be cooked or frozen. Make sure all meats and poultry are securely wrapped to inhibit their exposure to the outside environment as well as to prevent their juices from dripping onto and contaminating other foods. Raw meats and poultry can be double-wrapped in foil or plastic wrap.

Cooked leftovers should be consumed within four days of storage in the refrigerator (unless advised otherwise by your doctor). There are many labels available to download and print that can help you to keep track of when you are refrigerating or freezing foods – I like these free Martha Stewart labels. Simply write the contents of the package or container and circle the date you are freezing or refrigerating them on. This can help you to easily keep track of how long food is being kept and when it needs to be cooked or thrown out.

Storing food in the appropriate manner can also help prevent cross-contamination.

The following infographic highlights how you can easily revamp your refrigerator for optimal quality, freshness and safety:


Source: PartSelect.com

Meals to Heal

As Project Manager at Meals to Heal, Corinne Easterling assists in managing the blog and social media initiatives. She is a graduate in Nutrition and Food Studies from New York University and a part-time caregiver. She hopes to continue her education and become a Registered Dietitian to help people with serious diseases manage their nutritional needs.