It’s gratitude time, but not how you expect. The focus at Thanksgiving is usually on appreciating and giving thanks for what we have. This post looks at what you perhaps DON’T have. Stay with me as I explain.
Now that your children are older, do you enjoy having your schedule, time, and flexibility back? Is your life now one of more ease with fewer responsibilities? Do you find your energy lifting as you carve out a wee bit more “me” time?
Well fuggetaboutit if you are a caregiver! For the 40 million unpaid caregivers in the US, a moment of downtime, without demands or responsibilities is an elusive memory.
Many caregivers are boomer women, often sandwiched between the needs of their parents and their own kids. My sister is a prime example. She cares for her 19 year old special-needs son and orchestrates care for her husband who suffered several strokes this past year. What don’t you have that people like my sister and the women listed below do?
Yup! Happy Thanksgiving, which comes at the end of National Family Caregivers month. In honor of the many caregivers in our nation, the Ad Council and AARP ask for your support of the Random Acts of Kindness initiative. No, they’re not asking for funds, but for kindness – the kind that makes you feel good, while helping lift another. What can you do to give a caregiver a break? Glad you asked!
One other thing — read the following stories and random acts of kindness suggestions from women who have been in the trenches. Click on the title of each listed post. You’ll be inspired, uplifted, amazed, and — as is perfect for the season — grateful. For what your life does and does not have. And for who and what it does![listly id=”uaO” layout=”gallery” per_page=”25″ show_item_tabs=”false” show_item_filter=”false” show_list_headline=”false” show_list_badges=”false”]
Looking for more insight into the lives, success strategies, and ways caregivers can stay healthy themselves? Perhaps you are also a caregiver deserving a kind deed! Then take a look at these posts from our site.
ACTION: Click on the links and listly posts above. Comment on the listly stories. Perform a random act of kindness for those who caregive. Let others know you are aware and care!
This is a sponsored post on behalf of Element Associates and Midlife Boulevard.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Dear Alexandra and Kymberly: I just lost my husband, Julian to cancer. Due to all the hospital appointments, my eating habits also got lost! I have put on a lot of weight, but feel so tired and lethargic I can’t get into the mood to do exercise. I have damage to my neck, knees, and lower back (due to a fall) plus my midriff and waist have become “large” and I have lost my waistline. At 69 years young this is depressing me. I am also worried about a “ledge” at the bottom of my tummy and scared it will be “resting” on the top of my legs when I sit down!!!
As well, I look after my 96 year young Mum, who has no balance anymore due to cancer and other problems. So she is only able very slowly to get from one room to another downstairs. I get to bed about 1:30am once my Mum’s medication kicks in and she falls asleep. She usually wakes me about 7am to go to the toilet, then goes back to bed until 10:00. (She is in a hospital bed in my living room so isn’t able to get up by herself). I have been looking after my Mum for 3 years and my husband for the last 2 and half, so have had little sleep etc. which may be the reason I feel tired. Since Julian died, I am still running around for Mum, but not doing the right things to lose the “middle” weight.
I need all the help I can get!! I appreciate other people’s input so have included my name. Kindest regards, Patricia of Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom
Dear Patricia: Wow! Talk about the perfect storm for changes to your body, mood, and energy levels! We’re amazed and honored you have time to write to us for advice. Fortunately, we have some practical suggestions that may help you and other widows, post menopausal women, and caregivers gain energy and lose weight. (Check out what we told caregivers who wrote to us with similar concerns: A Workout Plan to Lose Weight When You Are a Caregiver)
If you have a weensy bit more time and energy, then click over go to our YouTube Channel where you can find exercises just right for your goals and capabilities.
Let us know how you fare and feel free to comment below, especially once others share their tips and support. We offer our condolences on your husband’s death.
If you’re like most people, your mental image of a caregiver is of middle-aged women taking care of elderly parents. For me, only half of that is true. I’m middle-aged (or early Renaissance; medieval if you’re one of my boys). But I’m not caring for my parents; I’m now caring for someone who is only 57 and had a stroke in late September.
Without going into a pity party about what that means, especially when it’s completely unexpected, and therefore not planned for, I’ll just say that dealing with it has been made easier because I’ve accepted help.
It’s against my nature to ask for help. I’ve spent over 30 years in the health and fitness industry, helping others. I got an advanced degree in systemic counseling so I could help others. It’s more comfortable for me to give help than to receive it. Which probably makes me just like everybody else. Yet don’t we all immediately rush to help whenever someone we care about needs it? Heck, most of us rush to help complete strangers, and we don’t care about them. Until we do. Because we share the human trait of compassion.
According to AARP, more than 42 million U.S. caregivers provide an estimated $450 billion worth of unpaid care to relatives and friends. That’s a lot of compassion. Speaking from experience, I know this can be highly stressful. AARP reports that caregivers are also at higher risk for immunosuppression, cardiovascular disease, premature aging, and to top it off, financial problems. I know that after the initial stress and chaos of the stroke, I ended up with bronchitis. The financial problems are real too, even with supplemental disability insurance and full medical coverage.
But knowledge is power, and feeling more powerful and in control helps decrease stress (at least for me). And the extra support AARP offers through its community of experts and other caregivers at aarp.org/caregiving makes some of the chores easier. The detective work involved in figuring everything out was a depressing surprise, and I know that my sister will soon have this same issue with our mom. Trying to sort out paperwork when the only person who has the answers isn’t in a state to do so is crazy-making. Spending hours and hours on the phone and buried in paperwork, knowing that there should have been an easier way is exhausting.
That’s why I’m fully on board about the public service ads (PSAs) that AARP and the Ad Council have just launched that illustrate how the changing roles of parents and children can impact your life. I’m not caring for a parent, yet I have found these resources to be helpful, and recommend them to you:
As November is National Family Caregivers Month, why not help celebrate the more than 42 million people who are providing care? By “celebrate” I mean offer rides, provide respite care, bring a meal, do household chores, ask after both the person being cared for AND the caregiver, and understand when the caregiver is a bit grumpy or distracted or doesn’t send a quick thank-you note. And take advantage of these resources, because with demographics being what they are, you’ll probably be a caregiver one day too.
Special PSA from us: Walk. Move. Dance. Strength Train, Golf. Garden. Bicycle. Swim. Exercise keeps both your body and brain sharp and strong. If you don’t want someone else to have to care for you, then take care of yourself.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Alexandra: If you’re working full-time AND caring for your parents, it’s easy to see why you are exhausted. If I understand correctly, you are more frustrated by motivation and time issues; not a lack of information, right? So let’s look at some ways to reframe your motivation.
From the way you word your question, I gather you don’t like exercise too much (join 75-80% of the population). So forget about exercise – focus instead on what kind of MOVEMENT you enjoy. Do you like to walk, swim, dance, mow the lawn, bike ride, bowl; what? Anything that you do that is MORE than what you’re currently doing will help you be successful.
You also talk about feeling paralyzed, which triggers all kinds of things in my counseling brain, both literally and figuratively. It tells me you know what will happen to you if you DON’T change your habits, and that it’s overwhelming. I believe you are thinking in a 1-10 way. In other words, you are at 1 (I am not exercising, I have to lose 50 pounds & I have no time), and you can only think of 10 (I will be 50 pounds lighter). But you need to map out what 2, 3, 4 …. look like. If you have stairs at home or work, can you add 2 extra trips up and down each day? That could be step 2. Can you then make your food portions smaller and do 2 trips daily? Step 3. You don’t have to even contemplate intense, sweaty movement or weight lifting (this helps you burn extra calories even when you are NOT moving) until step 8 or 9. Write down your first few steps at least!
If your parents are ambulatory, can you walk around the block with them? Not only will it help slow their rate of mental decline, it will help keep YOUR brain healthier. (Read our post on the subject by clicking on the link). So when you are thinking, “I could get in a few minutes of exercise now, but…” remind yourself that those few minutes will not only help with your weight loss goal, but keep you alert as well.
You obviously don’t have any extra time in your day, so you might want to think of ways to change up some of your current routine. For example, how much of the day are you sitting, and when can you switch some of that out for standing or even pacing? If you spend a lot of time at work on the phone, you could be pacing while on calls. People who stay at a healthy weight tend to be fidgeters – can you add in some fidgeting? Another trick – every time you go to stand up or sit down, add in one extra sit-stand. You can add an extra 10,000 squats per year using this trick. Move stuff from convenient places to inconvenient spots. An example – I keep most of my food in a back pantry, which means I have to leave the kitchen quite a few times in order to get the ingredients I need to bake or cook. Put your phone across the room instead of near you so that you have to get up every time you need it. Anyway, you get the idea.
Even if you and your husband cannot get away from the house at the same time to be active together, he can still be a source of encouragement and support (nagging doesn’t count as support – I know; I’ve tried it). In our post about losing weight when you’re a caregiver, we talk about the importance of having a pal who is on your side.
Kymberly: Susan – With everything you have going on, no wonder taking on another “should duty” is exhausting. I agree with my sister about reframing. If you could shift from thinking of adding a fitness routine (yikes – another task in an overloaded life!) to seeing movement as a positive time for YOU and a break from responsibilities, you will have an easier, more successful time meeting your goals. For instance, if you or your parents watch tv evenings or weekends, would you find it helpful to perform stretches, yoga, or light jogging in place during ads? Near work, is there a park, interesting street, or a mall you can go to for your lunch break – even once or twice a week – where you can walk as you eat? As few as 5 minutes in nature has a calming effect; 10 minutes of cardio activity decreases stress levels, enhances energy, and assists brain activity so you will actually feel more awake; less fatigued.
Perhaps even more impactful and surprising is that you may need to sleep more to lose weight and minimize exhaustion. Caregivers are usually sleep deprived, which leads to higher stress levels and stimulated appetite. Our post on the role sleep, stress, and sugar play in weight management offers more insight.
Again, is your lunch time and place flexible enough that you could slide in a guilt-free 20 minute nap? Can you get to bed 20 minutes earlier? While sleeping may seem counter intuitive to getting more fit, it is possibly one of your key solutions.
Here’s to slotting in a bit more movement and ZZzzzzssssss for yourself! Let us know whether any of our suggestions get you moving in the direction you want.
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