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Grateful for What You DON’T Have

Take care of the baby peacockTime to Give Thanks — to Others Who Care for Others

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?

Caregiving and Caregivers: We Are They, and They Are Us

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?

  • Constant worries about a loved one (in addition to usual worries);
  • Time demands that stretch the imagination and laws of physics;
  • Medical and other financial stresses that bombard daily;
  • Weariness caused by lack of sleep, high stress, and reduced freedom to exercise;
  • Unsupportive input from others who tell caregivers how to do a better caregiving job, but they aren’t actually doing the work.

What can you do to give a caregiver a break? Glad you asked! Plus you can win $$$ Click To Tweet

Perform a Random Act of Kindness

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

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How to Handle Weight Gain When You Suffer Loss

How to Handle Weight Gain When You Suffer Loss

White flowerWhite flowerWhite flowerDear 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)Exercisers vs non-Exerciserspicmonkey_image Exercisers vs non-Exercisers

First, Deal with Your Diet

  1. Get back to your (implied) healthier eating habits asap. To reduce pounds you have to focus more on calories in (food and drink) than out (exercise and movement). (Yes, we know the UK measures in pounds, just like we crazy North Americans across the pond). While exercise will help keep any lost pounds off, diet is what will jump start your weight loss in the first place.
  2. Try to eat at home as much as possible using ingredients instead of processed food that comes in packages.
  3. Start your day with breakfast, maybe right after you help your mom back to bed. Not knowing more about your eating habits makes it tough to give specific advice, but the above changes will start to whittle that waistline towards the worry-free zone.

Starlights at RanchStarlights at RanchStarlights at RanchStarlights at RanchStarlights at RanchSecond, Sleep More

  1. Find time to get more sleep. Whether you nap or adjust your nighttime sleeping schedule, you need to snooze between 7-8 hours per night in order to avoid more weight gain and to help drop what you’ve already put on. Doesn’t that seem counterintuitive AND too good to be true? In general, people who get fewer than 6 hours’ daily sleep tend to eat more as they are awake more. And hormones that regulate appetite are thrown into disarray with the sleep-deprived. Take a look at our post, 3 Stealth Saboteurs of Your Weight Loss to help you prioritize guilt-free naps or going back to bed briefly after breakfast. (That’s a lot of Bs in a row, right?)Meditating woman - artwork
  2. According to research from the University of Michigan, an extra hour of sleep each night can help you drop 14 pounds per year. Reading our past posts on the subject of sleep and stress (such as Do This if You Want to Get Fit, Lose Weight, Live Longer, and Destress) should not put you to sleep, however.
  3. If you cannot nap or extend your nighttime restoration hours, engage in short, daily bouts of mindfulness, meditation, or guided visualization. If you enter “Meditation” in our search bar you will find several posts on ways and whys to get started.

Third, Move to Manage Your Middle

  1. Doing a side plank on the Ranch bridgeFinally we get to our favorite part–Movement!! When you are sitting with your Mom/Mum, don’t sit! Stand, walk in place, go down the stairs then back up then back down then back up whenever you check on her. This last suggestion will take only an extra few minutes, especially if you add some speed to this action. Then you will also get some High Intensity Interval Training benefits (mentioned in Best Workouts to Burn Fat for Women Over 50).
  2. Doing a side plank on the Ranch bridgeKnowing how hard it is to get moving when tired, can you work in some strength training exercise early in the day? Early morning exercisers tend to be more consistent and successful with reaching their goals. Maybe some mornings you snatch a few more minutes of sleep after helping your mom go the bathroom; other mornings you do some lunges, push-ups, squats, and side- or knee-planks (easier on your back) before the day zaps your energy. Once you start moving more you will actually find your energy levels going up.
  3. If you watch tv with your mom, use the commercials as time to move. Walk in place; press yourself from from your chair, standing then sitting a few times; lie down and whip out a few ab exercises. If you know you are committing to just a few minutes during the ads you may be more able to find the energy to get restarted.
  4. When you are feeling particularly fatigued, ask yourself what the LEAST activity you could muster up is. Even a little bit of movement will propel you towards success. And a little success begets a little more success.
  5. As well, take a look at past posts of ours that offer solutions to the fat attracting combo of stress, eating habits gone awry, loss, insufficient sleep, and minimal movement.

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.

TransformAging posterANNOUNCEMENTS: For more on restarting your fitness program, keep your eyes, ears, and mind open for our upcoming webinar, TransformAging. Coming in late May, handpicked experts in midlife wellness for women will offer practical solutions and the most relevant answers to popular questions on how to age better than any prior generation! Hosted by us at no cost to you!

Doing a side plank on the Ranch bridgeTransformAging 1

Webinar attendees will also be the first to get the details on our first ever, brand new, fit-tastic workout program specifically designed for women over 50 who want to (re)start active lives.

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It’s National Family Caregivers Month. Are You a Caregiver?

Alexandra Williams, MA

Prepare to Care for caregivers bookletIt’s National Family Caregivers Month. As I’m a caregiver, I jumped at the chance to partner with Midlife Boulevard to bring you this important public service information about it (say that to yourself in a Walter Cronkite voice).

 

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.

AARP - Juggling Work and Caregiving booklet

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:

Prepare to Care (Caregiving Planning Guide for Families)
12 Resources Every Caregiver Should Know About
Free eBook: Juggling Work and Caregiving
10 Tips for Caregivers During the Holidays

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.

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4 Health and Fitness Strategies for Losing and Winning

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

Evil statues, K and A in Thailand

Always professional, especially when supporting a good cause!

Recently Alexandra and I served as hosts for the AARP’s Care4YouToo Contest, designed to help caregivers focus on their own health and fitness. Participants from the AARP caregiving community revealed a lot about winning and losing! On the losing side — they reported losing weight and bad habits. On the winning side — not only did 7 people win prizes, but also participants exhibited winning behaviors that helped them become healthier and happier.

Caregivers have a particularly challenging task taking care of their own health. (More on this subject with solutions at this post on Caregiving and Exercise. Click to read.) Yet, as this contest revealed, they do find ways to help themselves as they help others.

What can we learn from their experiences that could help improve your health and well-being? Whether you wish to gain energy, drop fat, make healthier food choices, reduce stress, cut the need for medications, improve mood, sleep better — to name just a few goals – see whether the following advice works for you too.

1. Recognize that small steps lead to big changesSmall Steps; BIg Changes

As many baby boomers already know, caregiving itself is so overwhelming that tackling huge, unspecified goals such as “getting fit,” or “”eating better” are doomed as they become one more big item on the neverending “to do” list. Contest participants reported that small changes led to success. Some of their small steps?

  • Cutting portion sizes by a third
  • Walking in place while watching tv
  • Taking extra trips up and down the stairs to get in cardio and strength training
  • Going to bed half an hour earlier
  • Reducing coffee intake from 4 to 2 cups per day
  • Extending daily walks by 5 minutes
  • Wearing a fitness device to track movement
  • Connecting with at least one positive person — whether in person, on the phone, or online
  • Swapping out one soda for a glass of water

As one caregiver in the AARP caregiving community pointedly said: “even the smallest changes or the smallest actions done repeatedly will, over time, make measurable progress.  I am applying this to everything that is ‘out of control’, the mail, magazines, newspapers, clippings, laundry, grocery shopping, yardwork, housework, demands on my time.”

2. Acknowledge the positive changes and actions you have taken

Keep in mind that caregivers are among the most time pressed, life stressed, energy depressed group. (Oooh, do you like what I did with that sentence?) Nevertheless they were able to find and celebrate small successes. Being aware of progress, no matter how minor, inspired them to to continue with their efforts.. When the going got tough, the tough got going – with self-praise, a plan, a refocus on what they had managed to achieve.  So focus on what you have accomplished, rather than on how far you still have to go or temporary setbacks.

Khalil Gibran quote at Rancho la Puerta

“Our life is determined by the attitude we bring to it.” Kahlil Gibran

3. Use setbacks and bad situations as inspiration to shift in a healthier direction

Bad news often serves as a catalyst for change. Ideally you won’t have to face adversity to be inspired to make behavior changes for the better, as the following people reported.

  • “A few years back I weighed in at 225 lbs. Favorite food was a buffet! Found out I had Diabetes. (Made a lot of positive changes to my diet and movement habits).  All this happened in about 9 months. So it really is very simple to do…I did not say easy…just simple. Feeling like a million bucks.  Worth it.”
  • “Since my triglycerides were high on my last lab test, I quit drinking pop.    I am trying to drink a glass of water before my meals; especially lunch and dinner.”
  • “I would like to ELIMINATE at least half of the prescription medications I take . I have Lupus, Hypertension, and a Vitamin D Deficiency…including Cholesterol issues…I figure a lot of my issues could be solved with a MAJOR DIETARY CHANGE!  Cut out the butter, fried foods, and sweets. I’m intelligent and still got some of my ‘girly looks’…so I WILL improvise and find a way to make my diet SATISFYING. Utilizing the AARP TOOLS and CALCULATORS should make this diet overhaul an ENJOYABLE AND REWARDING CHALLENGE!.   WISH ME SUCCESS.”
Team Interval at Bacara

Both “I” and a “T” for Team are in “Community”  Go Team! Go!

4. Use the power of a community

Those who made positive and permanent changes tended to share their successes, challenges, and goals. They reached out for support when they needed it. They congratulated others who overcame pitfalls or reached milestones. They listed their own achievements.

  • “I just started volunteering.” It’s a win-win situation.”
  • “Help! Something needs to motivate me to begin regular exercise.  Caregiving is making me gain weight. Any advice?’
  • “Good for You! Happy that you can do Yoga. I can meditate, but I cannot do Yoga.”

Whether your support group involves two friends, your entire family, a bunch of work buddies, online strangers, a Facebook group (such as the ones we belong to on Facebook. Email us or add a comment if you want us to invite you into any of our online midlife women communities), or a structured event such as the AARP Care4TouToo contest, your odds of succeeding improve when you progress with others.

To paraphrase one of the winners of the AARP Care4YouToo contest, these strategies may not be easy, but they are simple. You CAN do it! Ask your community and they’ll tell you.

Read this post for more strategies on how to improve your health and lose weight when you have heavy demands on your time, emotions, energy, and resources.

Then book us to speak at your events: (805) 403-4338 or email info@funandfit.org.

Improve your move when you go to our YouTube channel for short videos that will improve your active aging adventure! Have you subscribed yet to our blog? Please follow us on google+Alexandra and +Kymberly, on Twitter: AlexandraFunFit and KymberlyFunFit and Instagram: KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit.