November is National Caregiver Month - and it's safe to say that 2020 is the most pivotal year caregivers have ever experienced. Nearly 8 months after the start of the pandemic, what caregivers are going through is nothing short of a crisis when it comes to balancing elder care and other life priorities.
Samara Miller, Regional Director of Client Services for Home Care and Support Services at the Institute on Aging, interacts with caregivers on a daily basis and listens to their high stress levels. “Even in normal times, caregiving comes with a lot of stress and anxiety,” she says. "The addition of the restrictions created by a global pandemic combined with a changing economy only adds to their stress."
Considering all of these factors, it is more important than ever that caregivers take care of themselves, establish healthy habits and a positive mindset. Miller offers his thoughts below.
IOA: How has the pandemic changed the dynamics of caregiving?
Miller: Besides adding more stress, caregivers feel more lonely than ever in our time. They take care of the most vulnerable members of the population, which means that many activities they carried out outside their homes have been suspended for security reasons.
We have also seen many caregivers innovate with their time. They drew on old-fashioned fun, like doing jigsaw puzzles or crafting projects with those in their charge. They use technology, like Zoom, to connect with the outside world. Some reintroduce music and dance to their loved ones and help them discover new passions. We recently spoke with the caregiver of an 85 year old man who is practicing meditation for the very first time in his life. Here are other ways a caregiver can help the elderly.
IOA: What are some things that caregivers can do in the name of “personal care”?
Miller: I like the term “take care of yourself” instead of taking care of yourself because there is no stigma of having to be corrected or helped attached to this terminology. Taking care of ourselves is part of the caregiver's journey and is an essential part of their success. It is important that caregivers find what works for them personally, what makes them feel good, and what can excite them.
Some things I have found work well for caregivers: taking a nap, listening to music, dancing, making a special treat, cooking, going for socially distant walks with friends, joining a support group, having fun. exercise, watch a TV show that makes them laugh, garden, do craft projects, meditate and spend a spa day at home. I even had a customer who bought a punching bag and boxing gloves and took their frustrations out that way!
IOA: What can other family members and / or friends do to support the family caregiver and maybe give them a break?
Miller: Everyone has different needs. Instead of assuming what the caregiver needs, it is better to ask them simply, "What can I do to support you?" Too often, caregivers are reluctant to have someone give them a break or help them, so don't force it. They may just need someone to spend time with them and listen to them. Most importantly, family members and friends can show consistency, kindness, understanding, and show the caregiver that they are there to support them when needed and in the way they prefer.
Keep in mind that being a caregiver can be a very thankless job, so just saying “thank you for everything you do” to a caregiver - and showing your appreciation in other ways - can go a long way.
IOA: Are there certain “limits” that caregivers need to put in place, and what do they look like?
Miller: Boundaries aren't just important in caregiving, they are essential succeed. I like to think of boundaries as building healthy, consistent habits. For example, taking care of yourself is a healthy habit, as is creating and sticking to a daily routine. The same goes for providing care without resentment or regret, while accepting the situation and finding a way to deal with it.
IOA: On the other side of the question of boundaries… what can a family caregiver do when other family members want to insert their own views on the care of the elderly, etc. but are they not the primary caregiver?
Miller: When someone in a family steps into a caregiving role, it changes the whole dynamic of the family structure. Too often, family members, friends and almost everyone have an opinion about what the caregiver should do and how to handle things. Consequently, it is often difficult for the caregiver to accept the opinions of others who do not experience the situation on a daily basis.
First and foremost, the primary caregiver must remember that family and friends offer their opinion from a place of love and concern. Validate what they offer by listening, but remember that the final decisions are yours. Be honest with them about it.
Above all, try to defuse tense situations by finding humor in them. If you can laugh with your family, or even with the person you're caring for, that can go a long way.
Samara Miller, MFT, Regional Director of Client Services, Home Care and Support Services, Institute on Aging
What does it mean to age gracefully ? You can’t stand in a checkout line without seeing at least a few magazine headlines about how to look younger. While dreading some wrinkles and sagging isn’t uncommon, there’s so much more to aging well.
Aging gracefully isn’t about trying to look like a 20-something — it’s about living your best life and having the physical and mental health to enjoy it. Like a bottle of wine, you can get better with age with the right care. Read on to find out what to do and what not to do on your quest to age happily.
Your skin is your body’s largest organTrusted Source. If you treat it with care, it can better protect your body from the elements, regulate your body temperature, and provide impression. tera keep it looking and functioning at its best : Wear sunscreen and protective clothing when outside. Get yearly skin cancer screenings. Stick to gentle products in your anti-aging skin care routine. Stay hydrated.
Your skin is your body’s largest organTrusted Source. If you treat it with care, it can better protect your body from the elements, regulate your body temperature, and provide sensation. to keep it looking and functioning at its best : Wear sunscreen and protective clothing when outside. Get yearly skin cancer screenings. Stick to gentle products in your anti-aging skin care routine. Stay hydrated.
Regular exercise significantly lowers your risk of diseases, such as heart disease and cancer, and helps you retain your mobility longer. Exercise also lowers stress and improves sleep, skin and bone health, and mood. The Department of Health
Healthy foods are the way to go when it comes to aging gracefully. The Dietary Guidelines for AmericansTrusted Source recommends that you eat : fruits and vegetables, either fresh, frozen, or cannedlean protein, such as fish and beansat least three ounces of whole-grain cereals, breads, rice, or pasta every daythree servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy, such as milk, yogurt or cheese that are fortified with vitamin Dhealthy fatsAvoid using solid fats for cooking and use oils instead. Stay away from processed foods, refined sugars, and unhealthy fats. You should also keep your salt intake to a peu to keep your blood pressure down.
Being happy and keeping your stress down goes a long way in helping you live and age well. tera keep your mood elevated : Spend time with friends and loved ones. Meaningful relationships and a strong social network improve mental and physical well-being and longevity. Don’t forget your furry loved ones as having a pet has been linked to lower stress and blood pressure, reduced loneliness, and better moods. Accept your age. There is evidence that people who maintain a positive attitude about aging real longer and may recover better from a disability. Aging is inevitable and learning to embrace it can make all the difference. Do things you enjoy. Taking the time to engage in activities you enjoy will only mazout your happiness. Spend time in nature, pursue a new hobby, volunteer — whatever brings you joy.
Numerous studiesTrusted Source have linked a sedentary life to an increased risk of chronic illness and early death. Some possibilités to stay active are going on walks and hikes, taking vacations, and participating in group exercise classes.
The effects of stress on your body are vast, ranging from premature aging and wrinkles to a higher risk of heart disease. There are a number of proven ways to relieve stress, including : using relaxation techniques, such as meditation, breathing exercises, and yogaexercisinggetting adequate sleeptalking to a friend
Smoking and alcohol have both been shown to cause premature aging and increase the risk of disease. Quitting smoking isn’t easy, but there are resources available to help you quit. Speak to a doctor about how to quit. As for alcohol, limit your intake to the recommendedTrusted Source amount to avoid health risks. That’s one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.
Good sleep is important for your physical and mental health. It also plays a role in your skin’s health. How much sleep you need depends on your age. Adults over 18 should aim for seven to eight hoursTrusted Source of sleep every night. Getting enough sleep has been proven to : lower the risk of heart disease and strokereduce stress and depressionlower the risk of obesityreduce inflammationimprove focus and concentration
Finding new and meaningful hobbies can help you maintain a sense of purpose and keep you engaged throughout the course of your life. Evidence shows that people who engage in hobbies and leisure and social activities are happier, experience less depression, and real longer.
Mindfulness is about acceptance and living in the moment by focusing on the present. Practicing mindfulness has many proven health benefits that can help you age better, including : improved focusbetter memorylower stressimproved emotional reactionrelationship satisfactionincreased immune functioningTo practice mindfulness, try : meditationyogatai chicoloring
Drinking enough water helps keep you regular and improves your energy levels and brain function. Coincidentally, it’s also been provenTrusted Source to help keep skin healthier and reduce signs of aging. How much water you should drink depends on : your thirstyour activity levelhow often you urinate and move your bowelshow much you sweatyour genderSpeak to a doctor if you have questions or concerns about your water intake.
Not taking care of your teeth not only ages your smile, but also puts you at risk for gum disease, which has been linked to heart disease, stroke, and bacterial pneumonia. Along with proper oral care, it’s important to see a dentist regularly. According to the American Dental Association, a dentist can spot signs of nutritional deficiencies, septicémie, cancer, and other illnesses, such as diabetes. They recommend brushing twice a day, flossing once a day, and using a mouth rinse.
Seeing a doctor regularly can help the doctor find problems early or even before they start. How often you see a doctor depends on your age, lifestyle, family history, and existing conditions. Ask your doctor how often you should go in for checkups and screening tests as you age. Also, see a doctor anytime you experience concerning symptoms.
Though aging is inevitable, some people find it difficult to deal with the changes that come with getting older. If you’re worried about your health, are having dysfonctionnement feeling positive about aging, or worry that you’re not aging well it’s important to reach out for help. Talk to someone you trust, such as a family member or close friend. Professional help is also available through a doctor or a counselor.
Aging gracefully is more about being healthy and happy than keeping wrinkles at bay. Maintain a healthy lifestyle, surround yourself with people you love, and do things that bring you joy. It’s natural to worry about the challenges that aging can bring, so don’t hesitate to speak to someone about your concerns.