Tag Archives: families

Holiday Traditions…Accepting Change and Transition

or christmas cooking and kitchen utensils on wooden table, top view

I love traditions, especially holiday traditions.  Being from a large Italian/Norwegian family food played a big part in these traditions.  We didn’t just make a few dozen Christmas cookies.  We made hundreds and hundreds of cookies.  The Friday after Thanksgiving was when the season’s serious cookie baking kicked off.

My mom and I would gather the old family recipe cards, many which were already decades old by that time.  We’d gather our shopping list, pull the tins (that were only used for Christmas cookies), clear the kitchen table and enthusiastically start the month long activity of creating sugary, buttery, nutty, chocolaty, almondy, gingery, cinamonny wonders.

My dad was only allowed the burned or “seconds” cookies, which he looked forward to at least one or two from each batch.  Other than that, the cookies were layered in tins and frozen, and not to be touched until Christmas eve.

As our family evolved, kids married and moved away,  Christmas gatherings were no longer always in the high double digits.  But for some reason, even when I too was married and starting my family, there was always the sense that it wasn’t Christmas without truckloads of cookies being lovingly created.  As the years past, I had to get a grip on the fact that 600 cookies was not necessary for a family of four, even with many plates for friends, shut-ins and church  events.

Traditions are certainly important.  They remind us who we are and they give us an identity and purpose in this big crazy world.  Accepting that traditions can evolve is also very important, or it can lead to feelings of disappointment and sadness.

How can we keep traditions alive while adjusting to changes in life, circumstances, and the people with whom we share these life memories?

Here are some suggestions that I came to grips with as my own parents aged and as physical and cognitive decline made us look at holidays at what was important.

  • Accept that change is a part of life, and be open to trying something new and different.  Wow, this was tough for me, but when I did – guess what?  It made me feel free.  Instead of a small shipload of cookies, I was happy to bake just my very very favorites.  In doing so, I freed myself up to enjoy other things during the Christmas season that I enjoyed.
  • Decide what is important and make that a priority, but know you may have to scale back.  Attending Christmas church services and festivals was and always will be at the core of my joy during the season.  As my mom’s Parkinson’s disease progressed, it became difficult to get out, so we chose just a few simple services and concerts that were more manageable and enjoyable for both of us.
  • Big is not always best.  In fact, I can say with conviction that in the years I’ve shared this with caregivers, it is almost a universal fact that if we focus on quality, quieter visits, it becomes much more enjoyable that large boisterous crowds.  We think that is a gift, but in actuality, most older adults begin to feel very overwhelmed and anxious is this environment.  So instead of ALL the family, set aside small bits of time to enjoy your loved one with conversation, touch and just the joy of presence… that is preserving the moment.
  • Accept last minute plan adjustments.  Illness, disability, cognitive decline or any other number of circumstances may mean that a holiday plan may need to be canceled or changed.  This is called life, and if we accept it with grace, it will be less stressful on caregivers, families and your loved ones.  Sometimes these unexpected changes are actually blessings in disguise for accepting what may be a new normal.

It has been 10 years since my mother’s passing, and while I hold these traditions near and dear, I have also been able adopt new traditions with my family that make life all that much richer.  My hope is that you may do the same.

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

www.AGEucate.com

 

 

 

The Art of Caregiving – Can it be Mastered?

Artist and blogger Phil Davies say the reason most frustrated artist stay frustrated is that they don’t know how to practice their drawing and painting skills.  Each time they draw or paint a picture, they just hope it turns out better than the last one.  If we approach caregiving skills as an art, the question then is can it be mastered?

Davis says art is supposed to be a rewarding hobby, when most of time one is stressing over every pencil mark and brushstroke, desperate not to make a mistake.  Could it be that many artists don’t have the skills, techniques and confidence to enjoy what they are doing?

Like artists, caregivers need to break down the big, difficult skills into smaller building blocks.  The problem is that very few caregivers (or artists) do this.  Depending on your current skill level of caregiving, whether you are a professional or family member – you want to practice with smaller building blocks first.

Artists must first learn the art of color mixing.

Additive mixing is used  to produce a wide range of colors using only three primary colors additive mixing of colors is unintuitive as it does not correspond to the mixing of physical substances (such as paint) which would correspond to subtractive mixing. For instance, one can additively mix yellow and blue by shining yellow light together with blue light, which will result in not green but a white light. As in this example, one should always have the mixture of light in mind when considering additive color mixing as it is the only situation where it occurs. Despite being unintuitive, it is conceptually simpler than subtractive mixing. Two beams of light that are superimposed correspond to additive mixing.

By convention, the three primary colors in additive mixing are red, green, and blue. In the absence of color or, when no colors are showing, the result is black. If all three primary colors are showing, the result is white. When red and green combine, the result is yellow. When red and blue combine, the result is magenta. When blue and green combine, the result is cyan.

Like color mixing, caregivers blend many skills (that first must be learned) so that the outcome is a well blended hue of providing safety, security, trust and enhanced quality of life.  In order to achieve this, it takes dedicated practice –  understanding and accepting that mistakes will be make along the way.   There are so many variables to the art of caregiving that when blended together can result in a beautiful (not perfect!)  care partner relationship, healthy care receiver and empowered care giver.  Like art, it’s a work in progress.  Can it be mastered?

I believe that caregivers can gain enormous confidence with exceptional training, continued education and the will to keep learning.   Caregiving, like art, is an every changing range of color and feelings, and for that I would say our mastery is in the journey.  Like artists, if this approach is practiced, it will transform quality!

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate® Training Institute and a passionate advocate for older adults and those that serve them.  Pam seeks to empower professional and family caregivers, faith communities and organizations in better understanding older adult and caregiver needs. 

www.AGEucate.com

 

Boomers Optimistic about Their Future – Until They Need Care

A survey form the National Council on Aging, UnitedHealthcare and USA Today concluded that most Boomers are optimistic about their future.  That is until you ask them about needing help as they age.  When it comes to the issues surrounding who will provide caregiving when they no longer are able, optimism turns to fear.

The Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI), a New York-based nonprofit that supports the home care industry, has created a new campaign to address and solve the chronic shortage of health care workers in the United States.
The “60 Caregiver Issues” campaign points out the country needs five million caregivers in the next seven years in order to keep pace with the growing demand from a rapidly aging society. The first issue briefing, The Future of Long-Term Care, lists eight signs the shortage in paid caregivers is getting worse. Those signs are:

  1. The population of older adults in the U.S. continues to rapidly age, igniting demand for long-term services and supports.
  2. A sizable growth in elders and people with disabilities means a growing demand for paid caregivers: home health aides, nursing assistants and personal care aides.
  3. The primary labor pool for direct care workers isn’t keeping pace with national trends, raising concerns about the broad appeal of this occupation.
  4. Direct care workers are leaving the occupation in droves.
  5. The workforce shortage in paid caregivers might be affecting areas of the country differently.
  6. Policymakers, long-term care providers and the general public are hampered by the lack of available data and research on the direct care workforce.
  7. Home care providers and other long-term care entities cite the workforce shortage as a top concern for delivering quality care.
  8. The shortage in workers extends beyond long-term care—and is garnering public attention.

Now let’s look at the state of family caregivers.  A report by the Public Policy Institute (2013) researched the statistics for family caregivers, who provide the majority of long-term services and supports (LTSS).

The Caregiver Support Ratio is defined as the number of potential family caregivers (mostly adult children) aged 45 – 64 for each person aged 80 and older – those most likely to need LTSS.  The caregiver support ratio is used to estimate the availability of family caregivers during the next few decades.

In 2010, the caregiver support ratio was more than 7 potential caregivers for every person in the high-risk years of 80-plus.

In 2030, the ratio is projected to decline sharply to 4 to 1;  and is expected to further fall to less than 3 to 1 in 2050.

Steep rising demand as the population rapidly ages, combined with professional caregiver shortages and shrinking families requires more than policy action.  Every stakeholder (and that takes in to account ALL of us) must take it upon themselves to be better educated on aging issues, plan for their future and make healthy aging a priority.   Just as healthcare has created the need for us to be our own advocates for our health,  we must certainly take this same position with decisions that we make as we age and may eventually need care.

http://www.nahc.org/NAHCReport/nr170213_1/

www.AGEucate.com

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate® Training Institute and passionate advocate for older adults and those that care for them.  

What’s all the Talk about Mindfulness for Caregivers?

Call it awareness, attention, focus, presence, or vigilance. It’s proving to be a powerful and effective practice in coping with stress.  Caregiving can easily top the charts on stress, especially for caregivers of elders with chronic illness and dementia.  Mindfulness for caregivers means learning to live in the moment, accept the reality of a situation, and filter out distractions.

Mindfulness is not necessarily about a constant state of meditation, or practicing yoga, although these are both proven tools in helping one to better cope with life’s challenges.

We can practice mindfulness by sharpening our focus.  In our Compassionate Touch® training, we call this centering.  For a caregiver it might be deep breathing or focused meditation before entering the room when an older adult is agitated, confused or combative.  Learning to leave your other worries at the door will help to focus on how you can help the person you are caring for.  You have, for that moment, stepped into their world.  By being engrossed in that person and the present situation, there is a higher probability you will have a heightened sense of empathy and understanding, thus be able to tap into tools that will improve care.

By practicing mindfulness in caregiving, the benefits go far beyond improving care.  The stress reduction benefits the caregiver as much or more than the care receiver.  When this happens, everyone wins! Like anything else, mindfulness must be practiced.  Nothing becomes second nature until it is put into regular use.  If deep breathing exercises  works, then practice this throughout the day.  Journal the difference in how you are able to handle situations.  If brief moments of meditation work, try these… but do it every day and many times a day.

Centering ourselves through mindfulness allows us to accept that we are most often not in control, which is often a huge challenge for care partners.  We want so much to make our loved ones happy and healthy again, but this is sometimes not possible – certainly not all the time.  In a world that is always on full speed, with soaring expectations, sometimes the most valuable gift we can give our loved one is this:

“Smile, breathe and go slowly.” — Thich Nhat Hanh

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate® Training Institute.  Passionate about creating transformative change for older adults and those that care for them,  Pam is honored to work in the field of caregiver education and training and lead the AGE-u-cate team who are changing lives with innovative programs for family and professional caregivers. 

www.AGEucate.com