The Importance of Taking a Breath: How to Combat Caregiver Stress

Remember to take your own oxygen first! #caregiver #quote

Caregiver Stress? Take a Breath.

In almost every work place in the country, employees are given the periodic opportunity to step away from their work related tasks. The traditional work day begins at 8 am and ends at 5 pm, lunch breaks are granted and no one would think twice about a co-worker stepping away for a few minutes to stretch their legs, use the restroom, or grab a quick snack. In the culture of Corporate America, it is encouraged that staff take brief diversions from their task at hand to keep them focused and on track. These moments of respite are not always so easy to come by, however, if you find yourself in the position of caring for a loved one. With our senior population growing at such an exponential rate, more adults are finding themselves in the position of caring for an aging or ill parent and suffering from caregiver stress. Our parents worked hard to protect and provide for us, so it is our duty to care for them as they age, right? Perhaps. But it is vitally important for everyone involved that the caregiver nurture their own needs, step away at times, and ultimately take a break every once in a while. Leeza Gibbons writes in her book Take Your Oxygen First that “When you neglect your own physical, emotional, and spiritual needs, you cannot possibly give effective care to a loved one.” She compares the situation of caregiving to that of being on an airplane, in a dire situation, with oxygen mask ready for use. It is our instinct to put the needs of our loved ones first, thus handing them the proverbial oxygen mask. But what happens if you don’t get the oxygen that you need? Everyone involved is in worse shape as a result.

Combat Caregiver Stress

Gibbons recommends a program called the “Three E’s: Education, Energy and Empowerment.” She stresses that caregivers arm themselves with knowledge, keep their personal energy intact by eating right, exercising and maintaining personal interests, and stay emotionally empowered by accepting their new reality and letting go of guilt and anger. She has created the 10 Commandments of Caregiving and suggests that the following concepts can help caregivers provide the best care. 1) Take your oxygen first. 2) Never assume anything. 3) Have family conferences regularly to communicate family roles, expectations and give updates. 4) Do not socially isolate yourself. 5) Never take anything personally. 6) Always have a contingency plan. 7) Ignore shame and stigma. 8) Take advantage of community resources. 9) Honor your memories. 10) Keep your sense of humor intact. By keeping these 10 guidelines in mind throughout your journey of caregiving and by honoring yourself, you will be able to provide the best care for your loved one. Caregivers must always take a moment to breathe, to take their oxygen first. Doing so will benefit everyone involved in a caregiving situation.

Win a copy of Take Your Oxygen First!

Home Helpers is giving away a copy of the book that inspired this post—go to our Facebook Page and Like, Share or Comment on the post below in order to enter the raffle!

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Home Helpers Caregiver of the 2nd Quarter Winner!

Calm and Collected: How a Caregiver’s Patient Nature Earned Him Quarterly Honor


Chris Alexander cared for his father for 7 years before becoming a professional caregiver with Home HelpersAt the age of 52, needing a caregiver is rarely a consideration taken into account. But for Harry, who is fighting brain cancer, the need for help is a daily reality. As one who does not ask for much assistance, hiring a caregiver was not something that Harry was eager to accept. So, Home Helpers of Hinsdale found the perfect match for Harry: someone who could be a caregiver and a friend. Chris Alexander was placed with Harry and the two of them spend every weekday together. They are close enough in age to be brothers, share an affinity for dogs and are avid fans of the Chicago Red Sox.

Chris Alexander started with Home Helpers in October 2013 after his father passed away. He had spent seven years caring for his father and wanted to continue caring for people in need. “I felt compelled to apply at Home Helpers,” Chris says. Being placed as the caregiver for Harry has allowed Jackie, Harry’s wife, to focus on work and other household responsibilities. Chris goes above and beyond by helping take care of Harry’s two dogs, and he even pitched in by helping to move their daughter to and from college.  “I can’t imagine running the house without Chris,” Jackie says. “He is a fantastic guy.”

Chris helps Harry with his daily errands, takes him to his physical therapy appointments and accompanies him at outings. Many of these activities include Harry’s beloved dogs as well. Chris understands the importance of Harry maintaining an active lifestyle and keeping up with his interests. “The more he gets out, the better it is for him,” says Chris. He realizes that some days are good and others are not so good, and that this is part of both his job and his life. It is this calm demeanor and laid-back outlook that may have helped save Harry’s life in one instance. While recently shopping together, Harry suffered a seizure. Chris knew exactly how to handle the situation and who to call for emergency help.

In addition to Harry’s family expressing their gratitude and satisfaction with Chris’ services, Care Manager Michelle Pantoja is pleased with him as part of the Home Helpers of Hinsdale staff. “Chris is so patient and easygoing,” Pantoja says. “His laid back nature is good for his client.”

Congratulations to Chris Alexander for earning the award of Home Helpers Caregiver of the 2nd Quarter!

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How You Can Help with Aging Independently

How You Can Help with Aging Independently

5 Ways You Can Help with Aging Independently — Home Helpers

What if when you wake up tomorrow morning, you suddenly cannot carry your laundry down the stairs or step safely into the shower? You know you have a long list of stuff you want to do this week, but for some reason, you can only remember half of it. Out of nowhere, you’re having a very hard time walking outside to get your mail. This would certainly be a daunting experience for any normal, healthy person. But for many elderly people, these circumstances are realities and are just a few of the many daily tasks that are difficult to do. Although some activities of daily living might become burdensome or unsafe for a senior, it does not necessarily mean that it’s time to start researching alternative living facilities. By taking proper precautions and providing the best support, we can help our aging loved ones remain independent, aging in place where they feel comfortable and familiar- at home.

A recent AARP study found that 85% of all Americans over the age of 65 state that they would like to stay at home, aging independently. Being able to age at home though is just one of the factors that keep seniors independent. As we age, we do not lose our interests or our feelings of self-worth. We want to stay connected to our friends and family, enjoy our hobbies and passions, maintain normal physical activity and stay healthy. It is essential to have something to look forward to and a reason to get out of bed in the morning. By providing the means for seniors to keep their sense of self and independence intact, we are helping them to live longer and happier lives.

How can I help facilitate aging independently?

Some ways that you can help foster senior independence are:

1)      Perform a home safety check to ensure that the major causes of falls and fires in the home are eliminated.

2)      Bring your loved one on a weekend outing to a museum, play, concert or sporting event. If that is too much for them, watch one on TV with them.

3)       Visit daily, or have others make a trip to see your loved one. A neighbor, church member, grandchild, or family friend can quickly perk up their day.

4)      Go grocery shopping together. Have your loved one write out a list and pick out the items. You can bag and unload them.

5)      Teach your loved one new technology such as quiz apps on the iPad to keep them entertained and stimulated. Apps like Lumosity, Vismory, and Jeopardy are popular choices among the senior demographic and will help to sharpen memory and increase attention skills.

These are just a few ideas that you can use facilitate aging independently for your loved one.

Gertrude Stein quote — Home Helpers Home Care blog

Happiness and meaning are linked to one another and although “meaning” is different for everyone, wanting a sense of purpose is universal. Try to do things with your elderly family member rather than for them. Things might be tougher to do as we age, but we still want to participate in the tasks we’re used to performing. It is discouraging to have someone barge in and take over something that we are used to doing ourselves, our way. We cannot stop the process of aging but we can make it more pleasant for our loved ones by helping them to maintain as much dignity and independence as possible.

“We are always the same age inside.”- Gertrude Stein

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Purpose Doesn’t Retire

Read: "Purpose Doesn't Retire" — Home Helpers Home Care Blog

Purpose Doesn’t Retire

I recently attended a briefing by one of the country’s largest health care delivery systems. The main message of the briefing was that “purpose doesn’t retire.” As we age we don’t expect to give up our ability to contribute. As I reflected on the message, it really reconfirmed my personal experiences with my parents and grandparents that the best gift I could give them is purpose and time.

No matter what age we are, we all want to feel useful. We also want the ability to enjoy spending time with those we love. Seniors are no different and it is important that we, as their loved ones, provide them both of these things. Whether their purpose is to serve in their community, volunteer for an organization they are passionate about, or take on endeavors they dreamed about doing when they were younger, they must be given the opportunity to do these things. Maybe your aging loved one wants to write a book or become a photographer? They all have the right to pursue their passion and it’s up to us to help them do just that.

As our loved ones age and begin to be challenged with their activities of daily living, it does not diminish their desire to contribute. They want to contribute in ways that are important to them and continue to have interactions with family, friends, and participate in activities and organizations that they value. They want to be independent and matter in the lives of those they love.

More importantly, as we age we want the gift of time. Time to spend with friends, family and loved ones. Time to enjoy our passions. Time to stay connected. It is important for seniors to maintain an active role in the familial relationship and stay involved in social networks. It is important for us to give them the time to do so.

Organizations like Home Helpers play a part in achieving purpose and time for loved ones. We support a stronger Health Care system that integrates acute care services and long-term care services to achieve the best home care outcome for the client and the family.

Our goal is simple: to allow our loved ones the opportunity to explore a purpose driven life and support them by spending our time with them.

There really is no greater gift than that.

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Top 8 Tips to Protect Seniors from Financial Abuse

Read: Top 8 Tips To Prevent Elder Financial Abuse — Home Helpers Blog

Top 8 Tips to Protect Seniors from Financial Abuse

Elder financial abuse is something every family should be aware of and discussing with their loved ones. At Home Helpers, we are committed to bringing awareness to the issue of elder financial abuse.

According to the Investor Protection Trust, one of five people age 65 or older have been financially scammed or swindled.  Furthermore, with the unprecedented growth of the older population over the next decade, the problem of financial exploitation is only expected to get worse.

Sadly, the perpetrators are often those in a position of trust. Offenders take many forms: they can be family members, trusted advisers, neighbors, or friends. These culprits are people who seek out vulnerable seniors, could have costly habits (such as drugs or gambling), or are deceptive and unfair business people. Touting special offers, promises of great returns on investments, stories of hardship and other tactics, these predatory criminals take advantage of trust, confusion, loneliness and/or disability in order to make their money.

Here are our top 8 tips to help seniors protect themselves against financial abuse:

1.  Acknowledge risk

Women aged 75 and older and people with cognitive impairments are twice as likely to fall victim to scams. However, elder financial abuse is an “Equal Opportunity Crime” and everyone is at risk.

2. Monitor and protect 

If something seems incorrect on a bank or credit card statement, dispute the charge. Keep your credit cards, checks, valuables and personal information protected in a safe place.

3. Collect your change 

If someone runs an errand for you, it is reasonable to expect that change be returned. Even if its a small amount, it is still your money. Ask for your change.

4. Act rationally, not emotionally

If someone spins a tale of hardship  (e.g., lost job, house in foreclosure, past due notices) and requests money from you, we recommend verifying the story first. Then, wait a couple of days to decide if you are in a position to help.

5. Pay your own bills

If a family member says he/she needs money to pay the mortgage or gas/electric, ask to see the past due notice. Make a check out the creditor for the amount due rather than giving your loved one cash.

6. Write a contract

If you choose to help someone financially, draft a simple agreement that spells out your expectations for repayment: time period, interest, etc. If that same person comes back a second time without repaying the amount previously borrowed… see number seven:

7. Have the confidence to say NO!

If someone asks you for your hard-earned money, know that you have the right to say no. Their financial hardship is not your problem and there are other options they can consider such as taking out a loan or making lifestyle changes to reduce expenses.

8. Get a Second Opinion

An impartial third party could offer an objective point of view. Do not be ashamed or embarrassed if you have been swindled or scammed. Because of the humiliation that results in being victim to this crime, few incidents are reported.

If you suspect someone is being financially abused, contact the Adult Protective Services in your state or county, or consult the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse.

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Honoring Our Fallen Soldiers on Memorial Day

Read: Honoring Our Fallen Soldiers on Memorial Day — Home Helpers Blog

Memorial Day

This Memorial Day weekend, families and friends will gather for good food and good times at cookouts, parades and festivals held annually across the nation. Amidst burgers and baked beans, music and fireworks, stories will be shared and memories will be made.

This festive three-day weekend holds a special place in the hearts of many Americans, including myself. I come from a long line of family that has proudly served to defend our nation’s freedom and independence in times of combat. My Dad served in World War II, and my uncles and cousins served in Korea and Vietnam. Sadly, one of my cousins lost his life serving in Vietnam while carrying out our country’s mission. Every Memorial Day, I’m reminded of the immeasurable sacrifices my loved ones and others have made and continue to make every day on our behalf.

So this weekend, as you enjoy one another’s company, as well as grilled hot dogs, potato salad and strawberry lemonade, take a minute to reflect on the history and true meaning of Memorial Day – a day of remembrance and respect to all the men and women who protect our freedom and serve as a powerful inspiration to us all.

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