It Was Just A Little Heart Attack

Last Friday, 2/3,  I stumbled upon a National Go Red Day event at Macy’s Herald Square. I  was glad that I got to participate because it made me realize how we often neglect taking care of ourselves because we are taking care of others.

Did you know that heart disease is silent, hidden and deadly?

It is the #1 killer of  women!

More women die of heart disease than all forms of cancer combined!

Ladies learn your family history and change your bad habits before it’s too late!  Raise your awareness!

At the event, they featured the debut of this film short outlining the atypical warning signs of a heart attack in women such as neck, jaw, or arm pain, and fatigue and shortness of breath with activity.  The video paints a picture of symptoms in a light-hearted way, but it is definitely is not a light-hearted matter.

Check out the video and please share your thoughts.

Please pass along to any women that you know and care about!

For more warning signs of a heart attack and stroke click here.

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Top 4 Questions You Need to Ask Yourself

It’s Super Bowl Sunday! What are you doing today? Are you going to take part in the festivities centered on camaraderie and the sport?

Before you do indulge for the day, take some time to reflect on the past week. Perhaps this is something you can do each Sunday. You’ll develop strong resilient muscles and will be able to go about the days in your week on purpose and be able to handle anything that comes up.  

Try not to be bound by worry and fear. This often paralyzes us from taking action on important things that we need to face. Avoiding things, people, circumstances, and events do not change what’s presently happening.

So in order to prepare yourself for the upcoming week ask yourself the following questions about the prior week:

  1. What went well?
  2. What could have gone better?
  3. What was within your control? What wasn’t?
  4. How can the coming week be even better?

Despite the challenges we face daily, weekly and over the long term, we must continue to work towards bringing our lives into a sense of balance and positivity. Our days go the way we choose to perceive them!

Have a wonderful Sunday!

Oh by the way Go Big Blue!!

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Achieving a Level of Acceptance

"Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced." - James Baldwin

It can be tough to sit back and watch your loved one’s health deteriorate. On a daily basis you watch their struggles and observe how the strong person that used to take care of you now needs you to take care of them. There needs to be a level of acceptance. You may at first feel some type of loneliness or some type of distress as you wonder how you will deal with this situation. You may even be angry. That anger may manifest itself as anger with God for allowing this to happen and making this situation come up at the most inconvenient time in your life. Questions like why now? Why me? Why them? Often surface. Then you may not want to deal with it so you sit in a period of denial forcing you to gloss over the situation because you truly don’t want to believe that this is real. However there comes a time where you can no longer function in a level of denial and you have to step up to the plate and make some hard decisions. You must step in and become the primary decision maker for others rather than just yourself.  

I know I began to wonder what gave me the authority to now have to be head of someone else’s life. Why do I now have to adorn this responsibility? I’m just getting the hang of being responsible for myself. It’s as if you were thrust into a fire pit and not having the ability to put out the fire because you have no water and the air is dry. At some point you must take a deep breath and then let go and begin to organize. Just remember to take one step at a time. I’ve made it through. I expect challenges to come. However, with careful planning and mental and emotional preparation you can get through this too. You may need to seek the support of others in similar situations; you need to seek outside connections. Don’t isolate yourself. Remember to set aside time for yourself. A little bit of solo time and time spent with others away from the situation goes a long way.

You may need to sit down and think of some ways that you can achieve a level of acceptance. Redirect your negative thoughts and energy toward something positive.

Please share: What have you done that helps you to keep going?

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Dealing with Stress

Here are some strategies to deal with stress: 

  1. Identify what is causing you stress: What is the source? Try to pinpoint what is bothering you.
  2. Recognize what you can change: Change what you can if you can identify a solution.  If not seek to change your response.
  3. Reduce the intensity of your reactions: Reassess the situation. Are you overreacting? Walk away if the situation is too intense. Return when you feel calm. Resolve not to let situations get you over excited.
  4. Re-examine your attitudes and priorities: Are you taking on too much? Can something be delegated to someone else? Learn to say no. You are not a superhero. Make yourself a priority.
  5. Get organized: Identify when you are best productive.  Take some down time. Get some rest. Be a more effective manager of your time.
  6. Develop emotional support and use them: Open up and reach out to others. Try not to hold things inside. Set up a support system. Reach out to friends. Cultivate relationships with people and family. Seek emotional support from counselors, religious advisors or maybe join a support group.
  7. Let it out. : Let all your emotions out. Don’t hold it in! That release may be what you may need. If you feel like laughing, crying, or screaming… do it! Be selective about where you release these emotions but create an outlet where you can do so. Perhaps you can start to write in a journal.
  8. Ask for help: Don’t feel like it is burden to share your need with others. You will never know what resources will be helpful to you if you don’t ask. Identify some tasks and make your request.
  9. Relaxation techniques: Listen to some soothing music. Take 5 minutes to breathe deeply.  Utilize breaths in counts of 4 breaths as you inhale and then exhale. You will feel a difference!
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Are you stressed?

First things first.. what is stress? It is the body’s response to the demands that are made on it. Chemicals are released into the blood when the body reacts to what is going on around them that is stressful. We experience stress in times of danger and the body responds by releasing these chemicals which give you more energy and strength. During these times, stress can be quite helpful. What we must be on the look out  for relates to if your stress is the result of a response to an emotional event and there’s no outlet to release this extra energy.

We need to look out for  bad stress.  Did you know that millions of Americans suffer from stress each year?

  • Stress can contribute to heart disease, high blood pressure, and strokes.
  • You are more likely to catch colds.
  • Stress can lead to alcoholism, obesity, drug addiction, cigarette use, depression, and other harmful behaviors
  • 3 out of 4 people suffer from high levels of stress at least twice a month .
  • ¼ of all drugs prescribed in the United States go to the treatment of stress.

Up to 50% of primary caregivers experience significant psychological stress. This can lead to serious health and psychological problems. Be aware of certain symptoms:

Denial                  Anger               Social Withdrawal

Anxiety                      Depression           Exhaustion         Sleeplessness

Irritability        Lack of Concentration          Health Problems

I know at different stages I’ve felt or experienced all of these symptoms. I now know that they were a result of the undue stress that I was under.

What can you do to minimize the pressures you may be feeling?

Engage in self care. Self care is the act of engaging in your own personal health care maintenance.  Make an effort to take care of yourself spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally. Do nice things for yourself and realize that it is important that you put yourself first. Relinquish the need to feel guilty about putting your needs ahead of others. Realize that by not taking care of yourself you will not survive. Often times chronic and acute illnesses have roots tied to the stress in our lives.  Taking care of yourself is not a selfish act. It is necessary for your well being.

Attached please find the following Stress Management Plan that I received from a stress management workshop for caregivers. It will help you identify what stresses you out and help you pay attention to how you feel when you are stressed. Take note of things that you can do to help you relax. The more you reduce your stress the better you will feel and your quality of life will greatly improve!

 

 

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A State of Consciousness

"Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Are you conscious of the life that you are living now?

I was watching Oprah’s Life Class and she featured a show that reflected on being “present in your life”. It first aired in 2008. There was a woman named Brenda, who was a mother of two and a school principal. Her husband normally carried both kids to daycare and school, but that morning he asked his wife to drop off their 2 year old toddler, Cecelia, at the daycare facility. It was the first day of school for Brenda. As a principal, one can only imagine the crazy hectic pace that is expected on the first day of school where a swarm of teachers, students, and parents are scurrying around as they began the new school year. What do you think was going on in Brenda’s mind? She was under a lot of pressure to not only get herself and her kids ready in the morning, but to also prep an entire school for its opening. She stopped to buy some donuts for the teachers because it was too early to drop Cecelia off at the daycare center. The child was quietly sleeping in her car seat in the back of her car. Brenda drove to her school and continued on her day functioning on autopilot. It was business as usual, or so she thought.

As I watched the recount of this story, I felt a pit drop in my stomach. Did they neglect to add a detail? I think they did; but no they did not! Brenda continued on with her day. Yes we did not hear of that one key step… that one necessary task that she needed to complete for that day. She never dropped her daughter off at the daycare center. She forgot and left her daughter in the hot car all day. To her dismay, by the time Brenda got word from a school friend who noticed that her daughter was still in the car, it was way too late. Unfortunately this was a tragic end to this story. I wish I could tell you it ended otherwise, but I can’t.

You are probably wondering, “What does this have to do with me?”  Yes I said it, because I know what you are thinking.  It’s ok to have those thoughts. I do not take it personally.

How many of us continue on our day in an unconscious state of being? Are you really aware of what’s going on around you or are you constantly rushing from task to task or obligation to obligation?  As caregivers, we are often decision makers who are under a considerable amount of pressure being responsible for the care of a loved one. Some of these situations can be very serious and critical on top of our own daily responsibilities. We often go without sleep, tend to become overwhelmed with worry about situations that are out of our control, and put our lives and dreams on hold. These sacrifices can often wreak havoc on our very own health and well being.  Guess what? You don’t even have to be a caregiver to suffer from the “superwoman” or superman” complex.  Do you constantly try to take care of everyone or try do everything all the time?

WAKE UP! Take a conscious look at your life.

Don’t let a tragedy that could have been prevented be the conscious wakeup call that you need! Seek ways to slow down and realize that you can’t do it all. Ask for help. Say no sometimes. Get some rest. Take yourself out. Call a friend just to shoot the breeze. It all doesn’t have to be done today. Doing some of these things will help you be a part of life instead of life passing you by. I know that Brenda wishes she could go back in time and change what happened on that dreadful day. Her baby was sound asleep; she made no noise; she did not cry. Don’t let busyness, overwhelming responsibilities, and stress keep you from being present in the moment of where you currently are.

This very second, you can wake up and become conscious of the life that you are living. ~ Oprah Winfrey.

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The Shrinking Senior

Why do seniors, as they age, seem to all of a sudden they feel like they have no power? It seems like their confidence is gone. It is something that seems to irritate me because I am watching someone, who during my life, moved with confidence and authority that is now seeming to shrink down in their seat. I’ve witnessed this behavior from my parents.

Why it is that they choose not speak up? I’ve observed this increased tendency to shrink back and to not ask for what they need. They tend to wait for me to speak on their behalf. Why do they do that? However, when it comes to me, they feel comfortable enough to make requests and at times extreme demands of me and my time and expect me to jump at their beck and call. I can only speculate that the reason for shrinking back relates to feelings of inadequacy. Perhaps they feel like they are not a whole person anymore and feel helpless and defenseless because they have to be dependent on other people to take care of them. So, to me, it seems that they feel the need to stay quiet or act timid because they feel like they don’t want to be a bother to anyone even if they are being paid to tend to their needs. From my observation, it appears that their voice is lost and is often stifled because of feelings of a loss of their inner power.

How do you deal with this? I suggest encouraging them to be an active participant in their own care. Of course I recommend this only if your loved one has the capacity to do so. My parents are generally limited by their physical ailments so they can actively give direction and communicate what they need. If they are receiving care in the home, empower them to make their own decisions and ask them to make their own requests. I’ve tried to step back to some degree and encourage them to make their own requests. I feel it is important for my parents to feel comfortable to assert themselves. I also have found that it helps me to feel comfortable that they will be ok when I’m not around and it lets me know that they’ll be able to handle themselves. It is definitely something as a caregiver that one needs to be comfortable with.

Have you encountered this? What steps have you taken to handle this type of situation?

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To correct or not to correct?

When dealing with home health aides don’t be afraid to give effective feedback. We all can benefit from constructive direction. However, I believe how that direction is delivered affects how it will be received and the eventual outcome. When you witness a situation that is not what you expect, the best thing to do is to confront it head on. Confrontation is something that I don’t usually like to do.  I often don’t like having to approach someone about their performance, especially if they know what their responsibilities are.  Sometimes if you don’t say anything, just expect that it will probably never get done.  You as the caregiver will end up holding on to these things and it will build up inside of you and the next minor thing that happens may set you off. If you do go off, just know that a really uncomfortable situation will arise.  Be mindful of the human nature of some individuals. You don’t want anyone to feel as though they have to act out toward you or your loved ones in a spiteful manner. Approaching someone with a level of mutual respect while asserting and exercising your authority goes a long way and can make a situation easier to deal with. I’ve found that it is better to deal with the problem in that moment and then move on. To ease the likelihood for any tension, consider approaching the confrontation in a diplomatic way.

The main thing is to realize that everyone has their own way of handling situations and doing things. The task may not get done exactly how you would do it.  You will, however, have to let some things go. As long as the aide is taking good care of your loved one, the best thing to do is to allow room for a compromise.

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Different Types of Aides

I’ve had experience dealing with a variety of aides over the past couple of years. I now realize that common sense is not so common and it’s something that I’ve taken for granted.   I find that people have been exposed to different things and have different experience levels.

After interacting with quite a few aides, I have found that many fall within these categories:

1. “ I really just don’t know.”  – This person just arrived here from someplace else so they are not familiar with the customs and the things that are available here.

2.  “They are just really that dense.” – In this situation some people just need to be told what to do at every instant. This is fine if you like to micromanage; however it’s not ideal if you can’t be around to supervise every moment.

3. “They are just lazy.” – This person doesn’t want to do what’s asked of them so they pretend that they don’t understand or do much and they slack off and wait for you to say something to them. However, we all know that they’ve been trained to do the basic personal and household care for the patient and know to refer to the ever popular “care plan” provided by the visiting nurse from the Agency.

4.  “The good worker.” – They are willing to work hard and operate from the heart by paying attention to what the patient needs and operate as they would do for themselves in their own home. There may be some additional training needed here, but once they get on a regular routine they do just fine and some will go the extra mile for the patient.

I have found that the best way to deal with an aide coming to work in your home is to assess the situation at hand and have a guide and/or outline, if not written, in your mind of how you want things run in your home while you are there and especially when you aren’t able to be around.

Keys to a happier and more productive household:

If this aide will be permanently around, it’s best to outline the guidelines for your home and share your expectations upfront. Basically go through a few things and lay out the duties and responsibilities with the aide. Even if they do know what to do, don’t assume, I recommend that you still review these things to ensure that you are setting the stage and the expectation. If there is something that you don’t like that’s being done, I would advise that you provide constructive feedback by offering some praise such as you do such a great job with this and that etc., but I would like you to do xyz going forward. Give a solution or a suggestion that doesn’t tear down the person or make them feel like they did something terribly wrong, unless they did commit a major faux pas (in which case you need to contact the agency immediately.) I learned this technique from my Toastmasters club. It’s called the sandwich approach and it works well in a variety of situations.

As I’ve been dealing with this process, I’ve found that being straight forward and direct generally works.  I often try to approach things in a diplomatic way and try to share information along with a smile. I do not want to be a micromanager, because I feel that the aide knows duties and there shouldn’t be a need for me hover over them asking if they did this or that or took care of something. I’m also not opposed to providing friendly reminders for key things that are important. Sometimes that may need to be done until there is an established routine.

Are there any experiences that you’ve encountered? Please share your thoughts and tips.

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Developing Resilience

“I don’t measure a man’s success by how high he climbs but how high he bounces when he hits bottom.” – George S. Patton

Have you ever felt that your life is not your own? Are you constantly doing or being called to do something for someone else? Sometimes I feel like I want to change my name and assume an anonymous alias. Do you sometimes feel like you can’t catch a break and are always in the middle of some challenge just waiting for it to plateau… however, when you turn around there is something else you have to contend with? If these questions seem to fit you and you can answer any of them with a resounding “Yes!”…you must be a caregiver on the verge of burn out.

Lately I’ve been feeling overwhelmed myself. I am feeling tired of having this responsibility and I just want to put all of this aside. I try to maintain a positive attitude. However, when faced with a grouchy sick person who has otherwise been for the most part reasonable to get along with, turn around and flip the script and act with the most unpleasant behavior and attitude toward you and others………… you start to question a few things. Why am I doing this? Why do I have to put up with this? Why is God allowing this to happen? How can I continue to deal with this and move forward with the things that I want for my life? Will I be able to pursue what I want?

I was caught in one of these moments in the past week. My father decided to be angry with everyone – himself, me, my mother, and the aide. His behavior was inexcusable. There’s nothing like trying to remain pleasant with someone who is being stubborn and refuses to listen to reason. As for me, I tried to reason with the irrational. At that point, an otherwise reasonable man was facing a pivotal point in his life – the thought or realization that he may never walk again on his own and will probably always need someone’s help.

 At that moment, my Dad’s ability to be rational was severely compromised because his independence is slowly, “yet rapidly”, in his mind escaping him. My thought is why be mad at the world? Why be mad at me? I have endured so much with you…advocating on his behalf by talking to doctors, nurses, and all kinds of medical staff – so much so that I can say that I’ve been through a mini medical school boot camp. What did I do to you to be on the receiving end of this dialogue of dissatisfaction? I didn’t make you sick or cause certain things to go “wrong” with you.

I must stop here…..because I realize it’s not about me. It’s not even about what he said or what’s going on and how he even got there. I began to absorb his negative energy and started wondering what’s in it for me and how can I still pursue my goals.

One of the ways to develop a level of resiliency is to have something else to focus on. Have you buried a dream because  you don’t have the time to pursue it? One of my passions is writing and one of the reasons for starting this blog. Experts say write about what you know. This blog helps me to express myself through one of my passions!

I want you to remember that, whether or not you are a caregiver, having balance in your life is key and it is especially important to carve out some time for yourself. Do you have any desires and passions that lay dormant? These things can serve as an outlet and give you something else to focus on besides the person’s ailment and all the responsibility that comes along with being a caregiver. Pursue them!  You are feeding your spirit which will give you more energy to fulfill your dreams and desires along with your caregiving responsibilities. I recommend that you don’t forget about yourself during this time and process.

Joel Osteen said, “One way to tell if a dream is really from God is that the desire won’t go away. You may have had it for years, but you still can’t let it go. In fact, you may have tried to let it go, but it won’t let go of you.” I encourage you to reach out and search your heart for those dreams and desires that reside within you. These desires are there for a purpose and it is a disservice to yourself and others if you don’t pursue them.  This is how you bounce back. This is how you become resilient. This is how you can gain energy to keep going.

What have you done that helps you to bounce back? Are there dreams and desires that you’ve let go? Please share your thoughts.

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