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.

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!!

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?

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.

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.

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.

Letting Go of Worry

These thoughts kind of hit home for me today.. hopefully tomorrow will be better.

An excerpt from the book:

The Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie

What if we knew for certain that everything we’re worried about today will work out fine?

What if . . . we had a guarantee that the problem bothering us would be worked out in the most perfect way, and at the best possible time? Furthermore, what if we knew that three years from now we’d be grateful for that problem, and its solution?

What if . . . we knew that even our worst fear would work out for the best?

What if . . . we had a guarantee that everything that’s happening, and has happened, in our life was meant to be, planned just for us, and in our best interest?

What if . . . we had a guarantee that the people we love are experiencing exactly what they need in order to become who they’re intended to become? Further, what if we had a guarantee that others can be responsible for themselves, and we don’t have to control or take responsibility for them?

What if . . . we knew the future was going to be good, and we would have an abundance of resources and guidance to handle whatever comes our way?

What if . . . we knew everything was okay, and we didn’t have to worry about a thing? What would we do then?

We’d be free to let go and enjoy life.

Today, I will know that I don’t have to worry about anything. If I do worry, I will do it with the understanding that I am choosing to worry, and it is not necessary.

30 Day Workout Challenge

I am challenging myself to 30 days of exercise consecutively. That’s right, you read correctly! I can’t believe that I’m actually stating this out loud myself. But… here goes! This exercise regime will consist of anything, any kind of exercise to just get moving that can be done at the gym, at home or outside since the weather is still nice (well when we’re not floating away from the monsoon rainstorms we’ve been having lately here in NY). Also keep in mind you don’t need to have a gym membership to participate in some form of exercise.  How many of us have memberships we don’t use? I can definitely raise my hand. So I also wanted to lift restrictions from having to go to the gym. I saw an article from Time Magazine on how “Just 15 minutes of exercise a day may add years to your life”. I also felt inspired by a tweet from Judge Hatchett about participating in a 30 day exercise challenge. Exercise can help reduce risks associated with heart disease, diabetes and other health related illnesses that you may be susceptible to due to hereditary predispositions or poor health habits. Not only does exercise help you build strength, it also can help reduce the risks of developing cancer. So if doing some form of exercise daily can help you reduce the risks of all these things, why not do them? I constantly ask myself this question. I know that it’s good for me and I should do it. What’s holding me back? Excuses! Yes I said it! I fully admit it!

I know that I’m not as strong as I used to be and I wanted to get myself back on track to being in shape. Although different things have happened during the course of my life over the last couple years that caused me to get off track, I can acknowledge that these are just a whole bunch of excuses laden with procrastination and other fears coupled with laziness. The credo for all procrastinators is “I’ll start tomorrow”. Members of procrastinators anonymous please stand up! Research has shown that it takes 21 days to develop a habit. I want to try to push myself to go beyond the 21 days to 30 days of exercise. I see it as an opportunity to get a jump start on renewing my exercise habits.

As a caregiver, we often make a whole bunch of excuses about why we can’t take care of ourselves, so this is something that I want to do that is important to me that will allow me to be able to take care of myself. Exercise helps me to gain clarity, sharpen my mind, get centered and it has some great health benefits. Some of these benefits include improving my cardiovascular capacity and endurance, improving circulation, reducing the effects of stress, and also it helps me to purify and cleanse my system. I also benefit from a faster metabolism, which will help me burn more calories (By the way, I am not counting calories at all, but it’s nice to know that I’m burning them even when I am at rest 🙂 ). I also noticed in the past after doing some kind of exercise, even after a short while, that I have more energy! Who doesn’t need more energy? Having more energy will enable me to be able to participate and handle the daily activities and responsibilities of my regular life, which also includes all the stresses associated with caregiving, which I think is very important.

My Goal:

For this entire 30 day period, I will try to do some type of exercise each day whether it’s pushups, crunches, squats, lunges or something lengthy and more strengthening as a yoga class or Pilates, a cardio class, weight training with free weight or machines, bike riding, tennis, jogging, or doing some kind of walking for an extended period of time. I hope to do some type of exercise on a daily basis just to get my mind and body in alignment and focused.

Stay tuned for more!

Are you a caregiver?

Have you done any of the following?

  • Guiding your mom in paying her monthly bills
  • Cleaning your grandfather’s house
  • Taking your neighbor grocery shopping
  • Helping your husband get dressed every morning
  • Cooking dinner for your dad
  • Checking-in with your aunt with a daily phone call
  • Managing your grandmother’s medication regime of 8 pills taken throughout the day and a daily shot of insulin

Or doing a million and one other things to help someone who can’t manage to do all the things one must do on their own then…  You are a caregiver!

The informal caregiver

Caregivers come in all forms. You may be a caregiver and not know it. It starts off slowly as you help with errands such as going to the grocery store, shopping trips, a run to the bank or sometimes dropping off a meal. Perhaps you stop by now and again to help clean the home of an elderly relative, neighbor, or friend. You become the friendly face that shows that touch of kindness that often is needed by that person.

Who is the Caregiver?

Caregivers basically help others with everyday tasks ranging from grocery shopping or driving someone to a medical appointment to taking care of someone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Caregivers are husbands, wives, partners, daughters, sons, other relatives, friends, neighbors, a grandparent caring for a grandchild, parents caring for a child with special needs, a teenager helping his parents care for his grandfather, and others. A caregiver is anyone who is helping someone they care about – maybe its an older person who has chronic health conditions or an adult with a disability — with everyday tasks of living. It doesn’t matter what it is, how frequently it is done or how long it takes to do it; if they live with the person they are helping, live in the same neighborhood, live in a nearby city or across the country.

A caregiver provides the help because they want to, because they feel a sense of obligation and responsibility. They care about the person and want to do what they can to help.

Research shows that caregivers need to take care of themselves first so they can remain healthy and able to continue their caregiving roles.

Put on your oxygen mask

If this is you, know that even though all that you do may not be always appreciated, you need to know that you are doing a great thing and stay encouraged. Seek out resources, ask for help and recognize that you need to take time to take care of yourself.

If you have ever been on an airplane, the crew has instructed you – in case of emergency- to put on your oxygen mask before helping other. The same logic applies to caregiving- you can only help someone else if you are well enough to do so. You need rest, proper nutrition, exercise and socialization.

Because you do so much, you must remember to take care of you!