For Adults, Coloring Invites Creativity And Brings Comfort

Barbara King

In 1982, anthropologist Adrienne Zihlman, now professor emerita at the University of California, Santa Cruz, published The Human Evolution Coloring Book. Students of biological anthropology were invited to learn about DNA, genes, monkeys and apes — and the fossils, tools and evolutionary relationships of our human ancestors — by coloring in pages rife with factual information presented visually, as well as in words.

A Ph.D. candidate back then, I had never encountered such an object before, with its mix of a children’s activity, as I then thought coloring to be, and an adult student’s science material. I learned from Zihlman’s presentation. Side-by-side skeletal comparisons of the australopithecine “Lucy” and a modern chimpanzee in one case, and robust (large-boned, thick-jawed) and gracile (more slender) australopithecines in another, helped me visualize facts and concepts. I didn’t color in the pictures, though. That seemed, well, just a little bit juvenile to me.

Now, 33 years later, I’ve joined the ranks of adult colorers. We represent a wide range of artistic abilities, including what could, in my case, kindly be called “minimal.” Some of us may prefer the science genre, perhaps marine biology; others steeped in theGame of Thrones novels or show await a coloring book by George R.R. Martin scheduled to be released in the fall. (Given what I hear of the show’s plot, you can bet this coloring book is for adults.)

As for me, I have joined with those delighted by the flowers, birds and beetles inJoanna Basford’s best-selling The Secret Garden, which I first learned about at NPR.

Adult coloring is surging in popularity, and I’ve wondered why. Sure, it is engaging, relaxing and helps combat stress — and who doesn’t in our too-hectic lives need more of that terrific trio? Yet I can experience those things from my primary leisure activity, reading fiction. What coloring offers that reading does not is explained aptly by clinical psychologist Kimberly Wulfert for EverydayHealth.com:

“In coloring, you’ve got this physical sensation of the tool you’re using touching on the paper. You also have the feeling in your hands and fingers holding this tool, and moving in different rhythms as you fill in the space,” she says, adding that “you’re being mindful, and when you move in a rhythmic fashion for an extended period of time, that becomes a meditation.”

For me, after a day of writing and reading nonfiction for work, then reading a novel for pleasure, coloring brings a different kind of sensual engagement, one that perhaps echoes the embodied pleasures found in creative cooking, gardening and carpentry. But even that isn’t the full story.

Basford’s two coloring books (The Enchanted Forest is the other) are so popular that a long wait to obtain one is now commonplace. I waited for two months for The Secret Garden.

While I was waiting, my personal world shifted suddenly. On April 17, my mother died. Just in February, I had written admiringly of her enthusiasm for reading science books even while struggling with vascular dementia. Is it possible to say that an 88-year-old woman with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) died unexpectedly? Yes, I think so. On that Friday, I visited with her in the afternoon, saw her fatigue, and tucked her into bed. She expressed no physical complaints, and we parted lovingly at 4 p.m. with every expectation of another visit soon. By 7 p.m., she had died.

I’m grateful that my mother died in her bed, peacefully. And, yet, my grief is still fresh.

Perhaps coloring for me, right now, offers something more than the benefits I’ve already described. Maybe it offers me the very mix I wasn’t able to value in my 20s: the combination of remembering the comforts of being a child while incorporating the creativity of an adult.

Most evenings, I take out my pencils, savor the shades I choose — golden yellow, jade green, peach — and start coloring.

Raleigh Geriatric Care Management, Raleigh, NC  www.rgcmgmt.com

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Considerations for Caregivers

By Arthur N. Gottlieb

Caregiving is not for everyone. Remember, it’s not about you. If the relationship is too emotionally charged or patience is not your best virtue, find someone else to take over the primary role of caregiver.

It is important to reflect upon your motivations for being a caregiver and to make an honest assessment of your limitations.

As a caregiver you may at times feel powerless and sad. But an experience laden with difficulty may also provide opportunities to strengthen relationships with loved ones, and for the development of one’s own personal and spiritual growth.

About Visits
Focus on the quality of interactions with a loved one, not on the quantity.

Consistency and predictability of visitations are important, especially for the homebound.

Communication Skills
Learn the healer’s art of “bearing witness.” This means listening empathically and suppressing the urge to intervene with solutions.

When speaking to someone in bed or in a wheelchair, sit down or otherwise lower yourself so that you are at the same eye level as they are. This will distinguish you from others who remain standing, essentially looking and speaking down to them with the unspoken but inherent power differential this implies.

Choose your battles wisely. Attempting to address an irrational situation with rationality is generally futile, and will increase conflict with no resolution

The hearing impaired are often too prideful to admit that they haven’t heard most of what you just said, and are hopeful that they can eventually figure it out.

Those with mild cognitive impairment are still quite capable of comprehension, but the thought process may have slowed down a little. Be patient and speak slowly.

Restoring Dignity
Asking for a senior’s opinion about a non-provocative issue may offer them an opportunity to feel respected and still relevant.

At the dinner table when others are present, if a person needs to have their food cut for them, discreetly take the plate back into the kitchen and cut it there. This will add an unspoken but important element of dignity for those being cared for.

Residential and Financial Concerns
The attitudes and behaviors of many seniors are oftentimes driven by an unspoken fear of abandonment.

When parents do not feel that their children have made wise decisions for themselves, they are naturally hesitant to turn over financial control to them.

It was not uncommon for senior women to have deferred to their husbands’ judgment when choices were being made about financial and property issues. If now widowed, they may feel more comfortable acting in accordance with someone else’s say-so for important decision-making.

It may be illuminating to discover what memories a senior has of his or her own parent’s convalescence. What would they, as caregivers, have done differently? Had they promised themselves they would never go to a “nursing home”?

When a senior is facing the prospect of moving to a continuing care or assisted living community, speak to them about what they think this will be like. Many will have a stark vision of facilities from many years ago when options were relatively limited.

About Moodiness
Seniors will experience good days and bad days due to effects of pain, adjustment to medications and or emotional issues.

Seniors who seem short-tempered may be responding to the frustrating lack of control of not being able to think as quickly, and remember as well, as they once had.

Psychology of Seniors
Understand and be prepared to recognize the issues that trigger depression and anxiety for seniors.

Be sensitive to anniversary depressions. Birthdays, anniversaries, and major holidays evoke memories of those who have passed, and independence lost.

For most, losing control of physical functioning is difficult. Experiencing the steady loss of friends and relatives leads to sadness and isolation. For those with dementia, witnessing the gradual loss of one’s own self can be the ultimate loneliness.

If a senior is grieving the loss of a loved one they think died yesterday, even if that person actually died years ago, their grief will be as deep and painful as though it just happened.  This is legitimate suffering and must be handled with empathy.

Oftentimes, a parent will have a set of expectations of how they deserve to be treated by their children based on the sacrifices they made on behalf of their own parents. When children do not meet these expectations, resentment, depression and various forms of acting out behavior are the result.

Some seniors harbor lifelong prejudices that were carefully concealed. It can be quite distressing for a caregiver to discover that their parent has “all of a sudden” developed a shocking taste for racial bias. The gradual loss of mental functioning allows one to become “dis-inhibited”; thoughts, formerly suppressed due to social constraints, are now out in the open. This applies for latent sexual desires as well, especially for men.

Denial
If the person you are caring for continually puts off medical diagnosis, they are using the defense of denial in the service of their fear. If they are never diagnosed, then they never have to face the reality of being sick.

For Senior Men
More often than not, senior men went along with the social arrangements made by their wives. If a man becomes a widower, he may feel out of place socializing with others on his own. Additionally, since women outnumber men of this age group, a man may feel he is betraying the memory of his wife when engaging in social situations involving mostly women.

Religion and Spirituality
It is important to understand what a person’s religious or spiritual beliefs are. Does he or she believe in an afterlife? Are they concerned over what is in store for them when their mortal life ends? Are they disillusioned  or angry with God?

Restore and Maintain Balance
It is essential for you, as a caregiver, to leave time for your own introspection and emotional balance. Engage in activities that serve to cleanse toxins and stress from the body and spirit.

Engage the help of others when necessary to de-stress and achieve perspective.

Rest and relaxation are critical in order to prevent “caregiver burnout.”

Raleigh Geriatric Care Management Aging Life Care Professional  www.rgcmgmt.com

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Geriatric Care Manager—>Aging Life Care Professional

WHAT IS AN AGING LIFE CARE PROFESSIONAL?

An Aging Life Care Professional, also known as a geriatric care manager, is a health and human services specialist who acts as a guide and advocate for families who are caring for older relatives or disabled adults. The Aging Life Care Professional is educated and experienced in any of several fields related to aging life care / care management, including, but not limited to nursing, gerontology, social work, or psychology, with a specialized focus on issues related to aging and elder care.

The Aging Life Care Professional assists clients in attaining their maximum functional potential. The individual’s independence is encouraged, while safety and security concerns are also addressed. Aging Life Care Professionals are able to address a broad range of issues related to the well-being of their client. They also have extensive knowledge about the costs, quality, and availability of resources in their communities.

Aging Life Care Professionals become the “coach” and families or clients the “team captain,” giving families the time to focus on relationships rather than the stress. In Raleigh, Durham, and surrounding area, contact Raleigh Geriatric Care Management, an Aging Life Care member.


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The Sandwich Generation

By Kathleen Bogolea, MS

Since the adoption of the National Family Caregiver Support Program in late 2000, there have been numerous news articles and points of interests written about the family caregiver and their many different roles within the family and the community. Roughly, it is estimated that American families provide 80 to 90 percent of all in-home long term care services for their aging family members, disabled adult children and other loved ones.  These services may include assistance with activities of daily living (ADL’s), medical services coordination, medical supervision, administration of medications and assistance with financial, legal, spiritual and emotional concerns.  These services are priceless and the family caregivers that provide them often go unrecognized and over utilized which can lead to great stress for the family caregiver.  In contrast, if these same services were to be provided by our national health care system, it would be estimated at approximately 250 billion dollars per year.

Recently, and of particular interest, there is a new buzz around a subset of caregivers known as the  “Sandwich Generation”.  These are caregivers who find themselves squeezed in between caring for younger loved ones such as children, and their elder parents or other elder family members.  While the Sandwich Generation is not a new form of family caregiving, these caregivers are receiving a long overdue peaking of interest within American society.

Currently, the typical American Sandwich Generation Caregiver is in her mid-forties, married, employed and cares for her family and an elderly parent, usually her mother. With this said, it is important to note that there are more and more men that find themselves in a caregiving role and even squeezed in between the generations.  It is also important to note that there is an ever-growing segment of family and sandwich generation caregivers that live in rural communities. Unlike caregivers living in urban and industrial areas, rural caregivers may find themselves removed from readily available and professionally organized supportive services and care networks.  They may also find themselves not only carrying the normal burdens that are associated with providing care for a loved one, but also they may be faced with challenges such as geographic barriers to resources and isolation from other caregivers, family members or informal supports.  This lack of service availability, care networks, and isolation from other caregivers and family members can add to caregiver stress, burnout, and depression. 

The demanding role of being a caregiver spreads across all racial, gender, age and ethnic boundaries.  Some of the common stressors that affect both urban and rural sandwich generation caregivers are:

  • How do I split my time between my children/family and my elder loved one?

  • How much of my time is too much time in each caregiving role?

  • How do you find the time for my marriage?

  • How do you find the time for myself?

  • How do I keep the generational peace between my kids and my elder loved one?

  • How do I find the resources that I need for my self and my loved one?

  • How do I combat my feelings of isolation?

  • Guilt, Guilt and more Guilt for not having enough time to accomplish all that “should” be doing. 

To counter act some of these stressors, here are some caregiver tips that may help sandwich generation caregivers along the way:

Hold A Family Meeting
At this meeting, discuss the many different caregiving tasks that need to be accomplished each day or week.  Set a task list for family members to complete each day/week.  Set mutual expectations of how the many tasks of caregiving will be accomplished.  Caregiving is often a one-person show but it does not need to be if you have family support.  The family meeting also allows for family members to participate and share in the valuable gift of caregiving and this can be very rewarding.

Communication
Encourage children and elders to communicate with one another.  During the family meeting, make sure that all family members have a chance to talk about their thoughts and feelings.

Ask For Assistance
Make a point of picking up the telephone and spending time calling resources such as your local Area Agency on Aging, a hospital social worker, a physician or church. The Internet can also be a wonder resource finding tool.  Never be afraid to ask for assistance when you need to, you may be surprised at who has been waiting to help you.

Take Time To Care For Yourself
Too often I meet caregivers who are run down and even sick because they have not taken time to care for themselves.  Sure, no one can take care of your loved ones as well as you do but you must care for yourself if you want to continue to care for your loved one.  This is not an act of selfishness, it is actually an act of great giving.

Take time every day to “check-in” with yourself, even if it is only 10 minutes.  This should be your protected time.  Enjoy this time by reading, listening to music, exercising or whatever you like to do.

  • Remember to laugh at the funny things in life.

  • Take time to be “in” your marriage.

  • Listen to your body. If your body is telling you to slow down, or that something is not right, seek medical advice.  Too often we do not listen to our bodies no matter how loudly they may be talking to us.

Every caregiver and caregiving situation is unique but there are always common factors which bridge these situations and caregivers together.  It is easy to become lost in the caregiving that you are providing but remember that support can come from many different sources and in many different ways.  For those of you who are squeezed in the sandwich generation please know that you are not alone and that assistance is often only a telephone call or internet site away. 

Raleigh Geriatric Care Management, Aging Life Care Association Member. 

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Are You the Middle of a Triple Decker Sandwich?

Kathy Birkett, Senior Care Corner

Many baby boomers have grown to think of themselves as part of what has been termed the “sandwich generation”, caring for their aging parents or grandparents and their children at the same time. Calling that simply a sandwich overlooks a very important part of the equation, unfortunately the same part many boomers overlook — yourself.

Sharing information about the Triple Decker Sandwich Generation is an attempt to get boomer caregivers to realize the portion of the sandwich in the middle needs care as well. So often we find family caregivers putting their own needs on hold to address the sometime overwhelming needs of their children and senior loved ones.

No one in the multiple layers of the sandwich benefit when a caregiver ignores her or his own needs to focus totally on the needs of others. For some reason, though, we have been taught to feel like we’re being selfish when we think of ourselves. Just the opposite is true however.  When we take time to take care of ourselves, we put ourselves in a better position to give our best to others.

What happens when you shove your needs aside for too long? There are many reports of stress related disease and depression among boomer caregivers. Certainly being the middle “deck” of the sandwich can contribute to that. Focusing on the health care needs of others but ignoring your own can have serious consequences, especially for those entering a time in their lives where medical visits should be growing more – rather than less – frequent.

Being a Caregiver to Yourself

Taking care of that middle deck of the sandwich doesn’t mean simply looking after yourself, but those aspects of your life that are also necessary to your well being.

  • caring for a relationship with a spouse, partner or friends who help complete your life
  • putting appropriate focus on the job that provides the income needed to support the other aspects of your life (and hopefully some fulfillment)
  • hobbies, sports or other activities that let you get away from the rest of your life for a while
  • anything other aspect of your life that is important to you and allows you to decompress

The first step in caring for the middle deck of your family sandwich is to recognize that you and your needs are important and need to be met. Take some time for yourself and think about those needs putting plans in place to address them, just as you do to meet the needs of your children and senior loved ones for whom you care.

How do you care for yourself and your needs when it already feels like there are too few hours in each day? Can you substitute technology for some of the effort you put in already? There are a growing numbers of devices and programs that bright people have developed to meet the needs of people like you. There might just be an app for that!

In order to fully care for yourself to care for your family, you have to give yourself permission to put yourself in the sandwich instead of on the side of the plate. Some days will be harder than others to find time for your needs, but don’t give up. You will feel stronger when you have met your needs and be more able to be a loving and competent caregiver to the rest of the sandwich layers in your life.

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Caregiver Burnout

By Dr. M. Ross Seligson

Being able to cope with the strains and stresses of being a Caregiver is part of the art of Caregiving In order to remain healthy so that we can continue to be Caregivers, we must be able to see our own limitations and learn to care for ourselves as well as others.

It is important for all of us to make the effort to recognize the signs of burnout, In order to do this we must be honest and willing to hear feedback from those around us. This is especially important for those caring for family or friends. Too often Caregivers who are not closely associated with the healthcare profession get overlooked and lost in the commotion of medical emergencies and procedures. Otherwise close friends begin to grow distant, and eventually the Caregiver is alone without a support structure. We must allow those who do care for us, who are interested enough to say something, to tell us about our behavior, a noticed decrease in energy or mood changes.

Burnout isn’t like a cold. You don’t always notice it when you are in its clutches. Very much like Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, the symptoms of burnout can begin surfacing months after a traumatic episode. The following are symptoms we might notice in ourselves, or others might say they see in us. Think about what is being said, and consider the possibility of burnout.

  • Feelings of depression.
  • A sense of ongoing and constant fatigue.
  • Decreasing interest in work.
  • Decrease in work production.
  • Withdrawal from social contacts.
  • Increase in use of stimulants and alcohol.
  • Increasing fear of death.
  • Change in eating patterns.
  • Feelings of helplessness.

Strategies to ward off or cope with burnout are important. To counteract burnout, the following specific strategies are recommended

  • Participate in a support network.
  • Consult with professionals to explore burnout issues.
  • Attend a support group to receive feedback and coping strategies.
  • Vary the focus of caregiving responsibilities if possible (rotate responsibilities with family members).
  • Exercise daily and maintain a healthy diet.
  • Establish “quiet time” for meditation.
  • Get a weekly massage
  • Stay involved in hobbies.

By acknowledging the reality that being a Caregiver is filled with stress and anxiety, and understanding the potential for burnout, Caregivers can be forewarned and guard against this debilitating condition. As much as it is said, it can still not be said too often, the best way to be an effective Caregiver is to take care of yourself.

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Coping with Depression: Signs You Might be in Trouble

When caregivers take on the responsibility of caring for a loved one, we expect our lives to change. What is unexpected, and often goes unnoticed, is the forfeiting of our own well-being in order to become a primary caregiver.

Ask yourself the following questions. If you answer, “Yes,” to any of them, you need assistance. Support groups, your loved one’s social worker, your physician, counseling or therapeutic centers and a number of other community resources can help you in providing greater balance between your caregiving responsibilities and your well-being.

  • Have you stopped communicating with friends you had before you became a caregiver?

  • Do you lack time to participate in activities that make you feel good?

  • Is your caregiving role negatively affecting your personal relationships?

  • Have you failed to have a check-up lately or find you do not follow the doctor’s recommendation for you own health?

  • Does your loved one need, but not have, a monitoring device?

  • Has your loved one become abusive towards you?

  • Have you noticed you are becoming verbally, physically or emotionally abusive to your loved one?

  • Are you drinking or taking drugs to cope with stress or distress?

  • Has your sleeping pattern changed since becoming a caregiver?

  • Do you feel you are not getting enough sleep?

  • Do you refuse to let others assist you, or give your respite, for fear something will happen if you leave you loved one in another’s care?

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