If you’re a caregiver for someone with dementia, chances are you know the value of a good night’s sleep. Sleep plays a crucial role in our physical, mental, and emotional health, and quality sleep plays a huge role in quality care. Unfortunately, poor sleeping patterns are common amongst those with dementia, as well as family caregivers. Changes triggered by old age and dementia can make sleeping more difficult for those with memory disorders, while the stress and burdens of care can make a full night’s sleep rare for family caregivers.
While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to sleeping issues — especially when dementia is involved, — small changes can make a big impact on the quality of sleep enjoyed by those with dementia and their care providers. If you’re finding quality sleep is a problem for your loved one or yourself, here are some of the adjustments you might want to consider making:
Improving Sleep for Those with Dementia
Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia can throw up a number of roadblocks to quality sleep. Dementia can be disruptive to a person’s circadian rhythms, the natural cycle that the body uses to understand when it should be asleep and when it should be awake. Many people with dementia also suffer from Sundowner’s Syndrome, meaning they become more agitated and anxious in the evening. Additionally, seniors with dementia are also likely to suffer from poor sleep quality, which is common in old age.
As a caregiver, you can take steps to regulate your loved one’s sleeping schedule, reduce Sundowner’s-related agitation, and improve you loved one’s overall quality of sleep. These steps include:
Encourage a regular sleeping routine, including going to sleep at the same time each evening and waking up at the same time every morning. This will ensure minimal disruption to your loved one’s circadian rhythms.
Have your loved one spend time outdoors during the day or in an area with lots of indirect natural light. Sunlight is one of the best ways to regulate circadian rhythms, sending signals to the brain about when is best to be awake and when to go to sleep.
Take your loved one for walks during the day and find other ways to encourage light physical activity. Physical activity tires people out and lets the body know that it needs sleep in order to recharge.
Have your loved one avoid screens and other forms of stimulation before going to bed. Screens can disrupt circadian rhythms, while exciting TV shows or activities can induce Sundowner’s related agitation and anxiety.
Ensure that your loved one has a dark and quiet space for sleeping at night. Try to avoid any possible noises or disruptions that could wake your loved one, such as activity from other family members who are up late at night. Also try to avoid strange shapes or harsh shadows that could distress your loved one if they wake up at night.
Getting Enough Sleep as a Caregiver
People with dementia aren’t the only ones whose sleep is impacted by a memory disorder. As a family caregiver, you will typically wake up before your loved one and go to bed at a later time, meaning you often get less sleep than your parent or grandparent. It can also be tempting to stay up late and try to accomplish the things you couldn’t do during the day while providing care. In other cases, you might find yourself so stressed each night that you struggle to close your eyes.
By not getting enough sleep, you can easily put yourself at risk for caregiver burnout. It should come as no surprise that lack of sleep is one of the biggest signs of caregiver stress. And when you suffer from burnout, you put yourself and your loved one in an unwinnable position.
The good news is you can use the same steps — following a routine, getting sunlight and exercise, avoiding screens, and creating a comfortable sleeping space — to help yourself develop healthy sleep patterns. You might also want to take steps like practicing meditation (to reduce stress) and reducing your caffeine intake.
If you find that your sleeping problems are because you’re over-stretching yourself, you might consider professional dementia care. A few hours of professional dementia care for your loved one each week can give you the time you need to tend to other areas of your life. This means you’ll have a chance to accomplish other work, see friends, spend time with family, or take time for yourself. Even four to six hours of care once a week can be enough to make falling asleep easier at night.
If you think dementia care services may be right for your loved one, contact your local Visiting Angels office today to learn more about services available in your area.
Stress is bad for our physical and mental health. It has been linked to several leading causes of death, including heart disease and mood disorders, such as depression. Now new research suggests that the actual number of stressful experiences we encounter can have dramatic consequences for the health of our brains. In all, 27 events were… (more…)
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
After a long week of barely any rest, it’s tempting to want to stay in bed all weekend, but is it possible to catch up on hours of missed sleep? Unfortunately, most research and experts say no. Sleep debt, like credit card debt, is a real thing, except with sleep, you can’t pay off your debt… (more…)
WASHINGTON – When the Food and Drug Administration declared that KIND bars – that sticky fusion of fruit, nuts, chocolate, and other treats – couldn’t use the word “healthy” on its wrappers in 2015, the KIND company took offense. It filed a petition objecting to the standards the agency used when considering fat content and asked… (more…)
March is National Nutrition Month. First established by Eat Right, by the Academy of Nutrition And Dietetics, National Nutrition Month is a time to reflect upon our eating habits, and whether we’ve been fuelling our bodies with the right stuff – or cramming a couple Pop Tarts in our mouths before our shifts each morning. If… (more…)
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…)
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 maybe 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 daywill 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 isa list of foods for healthy, happy weight gain, along with some snack ideas and meal recipes.
Eat three full meals a day
Snack during the in-between hours, and have a snack before bed
Increase portion sizes
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 smokedsalmon and cream cheese
Unsalted nuts mixed with dried fruits such as apricot, mango, and raisins
Whole–milk 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 whole–grain 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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The 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.
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.
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.
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.”
The 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.
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.
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.
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.
“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).
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
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.
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?
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%.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
So 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.
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:
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:
Remain 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.
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.