Category Archives: Family Caregiver

Honoring a Loved One with Trees for Change

In celebration of Earth Day, I want to share an organization that I recently became acquainted with that is supporting the efforts of saving our National Forests.  Trees for Change is a wonderful option for honoring a loved one or pet.

According to Trees for Change, the U.S. National Forests cover 8.5 percent of the United States, providing roughly 190 million acres of woodlands that serve as the home to many species of animals. These lands belong to all of us and are meant to help preserve the environment for future generations.

Sometimes, areas of U.S. National Forests need our help. When wildfires rip through them, wildlife becomes displaced, and the forests are badly scorched. Replanting trees can help to regrow these areas in order to ensure that they can one day become homes for wildlife again and places where families can explore and discover the beauty of nature.

Trees for a Change is a service that lets you do good while giving gifts to people who matter in your life. We make it possible for you to pay to have a tree or a grove of trees planted in honor of a loved one, friend, customer or employee or in memory of a deceased person or pet. Their tree gifts cost less than the average bouquet of flowers, and they make a big difference for U.S. National Forest lands.

Here’s how it works:

  • You purchase the tree gift of your choice using their secure online checkout system.
  • They send out the gift to you or the recipient of your present.
  • A tree or a group of trees is planted in an area of a U.S. Forest that’s been damaged by fire.
  • Information about where the tree is located and photos of it are posted online.
  • The recipient of your gift can go online and learn about the tree. They can even use a map to find it and plan a trip to visit it!

In the age of simplicity, I think Trees for Change is a meaningful gift for both receiver and giver.  I certainly know I’ll be supporting this great mission with a tree to honor loved ones in my life.

Happy Earth Day!

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate Training Institute and a passionate advocate for older adults and those who serve them.  

 

 

Nature Deficit Disorder and Nursing Home Residents

April 22 is Earth Day. A perfect time to reflect on how nursing home residents may suffer nature deficit disorder. Our world has become increasingly high-tech, consequently our connection to nature has diminished. I’ve often heard this associated with our kids but I see it in senior care, too.

Author Richard Louv coined the term “nature deficit disorder” in his popular book, Last Child in the Woods. Children experience anxiety, depression and poor attention span when they don’t spend time outdoors.

Training senior caregivers takes me to nursing homes all around the country. It’s striking how little exposure long-stay resident have to nature. The kind that gets us dirty and we get our feet and hands in soil, water, leaves. Sounds of wild birds and wind.

Nature pre-schools create playgrounds out of logs, sand, ponds, trees, rather than playground equipment made from metal and plastic. I visited one in Michigan and it warmed my heart to see kids outdoors playing like I remember doing. Running and getting all sweaty and making mud pies! I believe we are hard-wired as humans to be connected to nature. It feeds our souls, no matter if we are 10 or 100.

In elders, nature can promote  physical, mental, and social health of older adults. One study points out “that their roots, identity and good memories were closely linked to … a life lived in nature and the outdoor environment.”

Above all, anytime we have a chance to share nature with an elder, let’s do it.  We’ll all be better for it!

Share an experience of connecting an elder with nature.

Ann Catlin is a team member of AGE-u-cate Training Institute.

I Just WISH I Could UNDERSTAND what Mom is going through…

blackboard against red barn wood

Understanding someone with dementia is not easy.  What are they thinking?  How are they feeling?  Why are they acting the way they do?  These are fundamental questions that perplex professionals and quite simply leave families feeling confused, angry, guilty and helpless.

I have been a family caregiver and moved into the aging and dementia training space to help older adults and the growing numbers of families and professionals who are serving them.  Because I experienced for myself the helplessness that caregivers feel, I can relate well to family members who feel isolated, lost and desperately seeking answers.   Because I was a family member seeking help I know how little was out there 20 years ago.  Guess what?  There is still not enough support out there for families.  We’ve come a long way, but because the numbers of caregivers have swelled so quickly, this will remain a huge challenge in the years to come. Educating, supporting and providing resources for family members who are caring for aging adults, especially those who are living with dementia, is all of our jobs.

Short of a soapbox moment,  we need to get back to basics when it comes to dementia education.  We need to provide powerful, effective and feasible means to deliver education that will help professionals and families in understanding someone with dementia.  We must start with a foundational tool.

Our partner providers, those in elder care communities, home care, hospice, hospitals, community-based organizations, and others are consistently sharing with me their challenges – how to help families who are most often in crisis when they seek their services.   My discussions with leaders across the spectrum of care share a common theme.  Most, and I venture to say that is over 90% of families who are caring for someone with dementia, are in crisis when they transition to home care, an elder care community or reach out to a community-based agency for help. This is an alarming number of people who are exhausted, experiencing caregiver burnout –  physically, emotionally and spiritually, and dealing with overwhelming guilt, anger and hopelessness.

Back to basics in dementia education is greatly needed.  A tool that allows a family and professional to experience what their loved one is struggling with, and to then have someone to talk to that can walk them through the “why” of it all is enormously beneficial.  It’s experiential training at its core.  Stepping into their world for just a moment to allow caregivers to understand mom, or dad, husband, wife, resident or client is HUGE.

Quality education does not have to be complex.  In fact, simple, effective and feasible should be in the mind of everyone who leads education and training.  The next questions should be asked – is this providing a tool?  We need applicable tools that we can walk away with and immediately make changes in how we care for another person.  And these tools should not only improve the quality of life of the person we are caring for but reduce caregivers stress and make their jobs as care partners easier and more rewarding.

In short, we need strong foundational tools that are proven,  successful and work for everyone – from care providers, to their staff and to the families and residents/patients/clients they serve.

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate Training Institute and a passionate advocate for older adults and those who serve them.  She is the creator of the Dementia Live® Simulation and Empowerment Experience being embraced by caregivers worldwide.

 

 

 

When to Say Yes and How to Say No – Creating Healthy Boundaries

Caregivers are a unique group of people.  Naturally nurturing and compassionate, such empathetic traits can also lead to complex challenges.  Creating healthy boundaries is especially tough when you are the type of person that wants to help.  Learning when to say yes and how to say no is essential for caregivers to stay physically, emotionally and spiritually healthy.

Before I jump into my tips, tools, and suggestions, I’d like to share a story.   It relates to boundary setting and caregivers who merely do too much for their well-being.  For the sake of anonymity, I’ll refer to this person as Susan, whom I met with over the course of several years while facilitating a caregiver support group many years ago.  Susan’s mom, Jean, lived in her own home about 20 miles from Susan.  Jean’s husband had passed away five years earlier, and Jean never dealt with her grief and worked through the healing process. Her husband’s death left Jean depressed and angry.  She no longer socialized with friends and extended family, was not keeping up with responsibilities of home ownership, and was not addressing  her  health issues.  Jean was showing signs of cognitive decline.

Susan, who was her primary caregiver, had a demanding job which required some travel and many hours. She had talked to her mom many times about moving to a senior community, where she would not have the responsibilities of keeping up her house and would once again be able to enjoy the company of others.  Jean would not hear of it.

Instead, Jean relied solely on Susan to take care of home repairs and expected Susan to visit during the week and spend almost every Saturday with her.  Susan’s marriage was suffering, as her husband felt as if her mom had taken over their life.

Susan loved her mother but knew that she was collapsing from the weight of being everything to her. She knew that as long as her mom refused to move into a care community, that the situation was only going to become more overwhelming.

When we discussed boundaries, Susan broke down in tears.  She had read about the importance of creating healthy boundaries in relationships, and especially when one is caregiving for an older adult.  She didn’t know how to solve the problems she had with her mother.

Creating healthy boundaries allow us to take care of ourselves first so that we can enjoy healthy relationships with others.  When caregiving, it is especially important to step back and ask the following questions regularly:

  •  When I say “yes” to something that has been asked of me, how does it make me feel?  In other words, is saying yes causing stress or feelings of anxiety? If so, this is a sign that perhaps you are saying ‘yes’ to requests that you should be instead learning how to say ‘no’.
  • By saying ‘yes,’ what are you giving up? Is it time away from others that you love or maybe time away from being with yourself doing such things as reading, meeting with friends, exercising or other activities that you find joy in doing?
  • Does a “yes” put me in a position of having to choose between people whom I love and care for and does it make me feel conflicted?
  • What would happen if I say NO? Think about the consequences (or choices) that would have to be made?  Are you willing to lovingly say ‘no’ even though it may cause hurt feelings?  (I hope the answer to that is a YES!)

Creating healthy boundaries is not easy, and in fact, may cause hurt feelings.  It’s also essential to preserving your health and well-being. Caregivers cannot be all things to all people, no matter what the circumstance.  Moreover, if you continually say ‘yes’ when you want to say ‘no’ it will inevitably lead to enormous resentment with the person for whom you are caring.

During our time together, Susan did help her mom through the move to a senior care community.  Her mom wasn’t happy and continually played with Susan’s emotions by making her feel guilty for not being there as often and saying that she hated the food and they she hadn’t made friends.  Surprisingly (or not so!) when Susan talked with the staff, they told Jean seemed to enjoy many activities and ate at almost every meal. They did not see an unhappy resident.

With coaching, Susan was able to lose some of her guilt, spend more time with her husband, and learned to set boundaries when her mother tried to break down the fence.  After a fairly rough three months, Jean has acclimated to her new home, Susan and her husband have taken a trip, and Susan even learned how to set boundaries with her job!

Creating healthy boundaries is not easy, but it is essential and will be one of the best gifts you can give yourself and those whom you love.

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate® Training Institute and a passionate advocate for older adults and those who serve them.  She is the creator of the internationally recognized Dementia Live® simulation and empathy training program;  pam@ageucate.com