Advice for Overcoming Caregiver Guilt and Finding Peace

May 22, 2017

Caring for our loved onesCaregiver guilt is normal. Here’s advice for how to handle it in a healthy, positive way so both you and your senior loved one can enjoy spending time together.

It’s amazing that, amidst a population who does so much for others, you will find so much guilt. We’re talking about the family caregiver community who give and give until they become exhausted and burned out. Sometimes even putting their own health in jeopardy. Then they feel guilty for being so overwhelmed.

Why Does Caregiver Guilt Exist?

But why in the world would someone who has, quite literally, rearranged their life in order to take care of a senior loved one, feel guilty?

Common reasons for caregiver guilt include:

  • feeling that they’re not spending enough time with other members of the family
  • feeling angry about their senior loved one’s overwhelming amount of needs
  • sometimes it’s even their senior loved one’s unmet expectations that fuel the guilt

Caregivers often catch themselves thinking they should be doing more. And since there’s no benchmark for knowing what constitutes ‘enough,’ those feelings can be hard to reason away. Whatever the origin of the guilt is, the person feeling it is probably spread too thin. That’s according to the folks at WebMD, who interviewed psychologists on this very topic.

Where Does This Guilt Come From?

The stress you encounter every day as a caregiver – especially if you’re the primary caregiver – can sap your energy, your calmness, your sense of balance and, if you’re not careful, your mental health. And when you’re stressed out and feeling pulled in different directions, guilt has a funny of creeping in and taking hold.

All these feelings, left unchecked, can lead to depression.

See where this is going?

Before you find yourself heading down the road to depression, take steps to deal with your guilt. Learning what coping strategies work for you will help you overcome feelings of guilt and move on to a healthier life.

Overcoming Caregiver Guilt

Here’s what to know.

1. Be Warned: Guilt is Your Wake-Up Call!

The first step is to understand that caregiver guilt is normal. Lots of people who share your role feel guilty, in fact. But they learn how to handle it before it becomes a destructive force.

For starters, they recognize guilt as a warning sign. They acknowledge it, understanding that it’s normal. They also recognize that it’s something to be dealt with head-on.

2. Remove Caregiver Guilt from the Equation

Just by reading this far, you’ve already taken a huge step towards handling your caregiver guilt. You understand it. And by understanding where guilt comes from and that you’re not alone in feeling it, you can begin to find peace.

Now it’s time to be proactive and take steps to eradicate your guilt. Here are a few things to work on towards that end:

  • Find a network to help you. Delegate some of your responsibilities so you have time and energy for yourself. If you’re truly overwhelmed and can’t find support, an assisted living community might be an option. Even if it is only for a short-term respite stay.
  • Replace guilt with something positive. For all those moments when you feel guilt creeping in, give yourself a mini time-out. Do 10 minutes of meditation, take a walk around the block, or just go out for coffee or some quick window shopping. The idea is to restore yourself, not wear yourself down by feeling guilty.
  • Recognize that you can’t control everything. It can help to understand what’s totally out of your control, so you can stop feeling guilty about it.
  • Find a caregiver support group. Yes, they do exist. You can find one online or explore those in your local community.

 

A Legacy of Supporting Caregivers

 At Legacy Senior Living, we know a lot about caregiving and strive to nurture the caregiving community we’ve built over the years. If you found this information to be helpful, be sure to bookmark our blog and stop back often!

7 Things You Can Do That May Cut Your Risk for Dementia

May 15, 2017

Tips on Cutting Your Risk for DimentiaScience is finding out every day that there are things we can do that may help cut the risk of dementia later in life. Here are 7 changes you can make right now.

 

As the country ages, it’s hard not to think about the looming risk of dementia. Luckily, the scientific community is doing its best to help by conducting research on lifestyle changes that may reduce that risk. Here are seven of them you can start working on today.

1. Hit the Gym (or the sidewalk)

In 2013, a long-term study on the health habits of over 2,200 men published its results after 35 years of data. One of the findings was that regular exercise reduced the risk of dementia in their subjects. Following a healthy lifestyle in general may be a huge determining factor in your risk of dementia, but regular exercise, as this study revealed, is a crucial piece of the puzzle.

2. Hit the Books

Even if you never considered yourself a bookworm, taking up activities that challenge your intellectual side may help ward off mental decline. A study published in JAMA Neurology showed that not only does staying mentally active help in this regard, but the sooner in life you start the better.

Luckily, intellectual enrichment comes in many forms. So most people have no trouble finding something they enjoy that also challenges the mind. Playing music counts, for example. So does socializing, believe it or not. Anything that brings out your creative side is helpful too, like painting or drawing. Reading can really do the trick since it opens up a world of learning that’s hard to replicate by any other means.

3. Fire Up the Keurig

You don’t have to own a Keurig to ward off dementia, but they do say caffeine consumption may reduce the risk of dementia. While experts all have slightly different recommendations, the most common consensus seems to be drinking two cups of coffee a day might help prevent dementia. Talk with your physician for their take on caffeine, especially if you have any type of cardiac disease.

4. Take a Vacation (or a Break or a Short Breather)

We all know that stress does horrible things to the mind and the body, but now there’s evidence that it may also be linked to dementia. A long-term study in Sweden found that, of the women in their study, those who experienced higher levels of stress were more likely to have developed dementia later in life.

So take all the necessary precautions to keep your stress levels down, whether it’s taking big vacations from time to time or allowing for tiny breaks at work to take a few deep breaths.

5. Eat to Please Your Heart

There are several reasons to eat well, and now you have one more to add to the list. Eating to keep your heart in top shape may protect your brain, too. Try a Mediterranean diet consisting of:

  • very little red meat
  • lots of fruits
  • vegetables
  • whole grains
  • fish
  • olive oil nuts
  • low-fat or fat-free dairy products

6. Be Social

Making friends and keeping them might be another good way to ward off mental decline. The stronger your social network, the better off you will be, say researchers. They’re not entirely sure why friends help, though it could be that they help you better manage stress which might allow you avoid depression.

7. Seek Treatment for Depression

Speaking of depression, scientists may have found a link between depression and dementia. So if you or a senior loved one is battling depression, seek treatment now. You may be doing your future self a very big favor.

Learn more about dementia by checking back here often. We will routinely share what we learn about memory-related diseases right here on our blog.

If an older adult you love has dementia, know that our memory care program is nationally acclaimed. We’re proud to serve families whose lives have been touched by Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Call us to learn more today!

5 Ways to Live Your Best Life in Retirement

May 10, 2017

Looking forward to a good lifeEveryone looks forward to retirement, but not everyone is prepared for it. Here’s what it takes to really be happy once it finally comes.

 

If polls have any truth to them, you can look forward to feeling happier once you reach retirement age.

The folks at Gallup-Healthways study happiness full time, and every year they produce what’s called a “Well-Being Index.” The data from 2016 shows that older Americans aren’t just happier than the rest of the population, they also report significantly higher rates of overall well-being.

Not quite sure you’re convinced? 

In celebration of Older Americans Month, and to highlight this year’s theme of “Age Out Loud”, here are five ways to help move the dial in the right direction and live your best life in retirement.

1. Stay Physically Active

Well-being, according to Gallup-Healthways, has many ingredients, which fall into these five categories:

  1. Purpose
  2. Social
  3. Financial
  4. Community
  5. Physical

The component which presented the biggest obstacle to well-being, according to the research, was the Physical category. It’s vital that you do everything you can to maintain good health. One way to stay healthy is to stay active.

2. Find Purpose

Worrying about whether you’ll be happy during retirement is a relatively new concern, historically speaking. Up until the late 1800s – and much later in some parts of the world – the idea simply didn’t exist. If you were alive, there was work to be done, which usually meant working the family farm.

But now, thanks to longer life expectancy and dramatic changes in technology, retirement is the start of a whole new chapter in life. Whether it’s traveling or sipping cocktails in the back yard, there’s no end to leisure activities you now have time to enjoy.

But those aging farm workers of the 1800s had something valuable that many retiring Boomers may not feel: a sense of purpose. They were needed, and feeling needed is a major part of your sense of well-being.

Finding a purpose can mean so many different things to different people so there’s some self-reflection involved here. Maybe you want to volunteer, or maybe you will play a big role in raising your grandchildren. Whatever form it takes, be sure to be proactive early on in your retirement and find purpose.

3. Seek Fulfillment in the Community

Rather than viewing life after retirement as a winding-down phase, like their predecessors did, Boomers seem to be seeking an elevated experience. Like ‘purpose’, fulfillment can take many forms. One that’s generally agreed upon as being helpful for well-being is seeking fulfillment within a community.

Once you retire you may have to work at seeking out new communities. You won’t have that sense of belonging that you may have felt at work, so finding new groups to belong to is crucial to happiness in retirement. Whether it’s hobbies that involve other people or joining a gym, find what you enjoy and use it to develop a sense of community in your life. Even if you plan on retiring in a rural area, there are communities to seek out in the form of all kinds of clubs and social organizations you can be a part of.

4. Pay Attention to Finances

They say money can’t buy happiness, but a predictable income will make all the difference in your feelings of contentment and peace of mind during retirement. A consequence of living longer is that we all have a much longer retirement to fund.

Sometimes the problem is we don’t even know how much we’ll need. In fact, 81 percent of Americans report they have no clue how much they’ll need! If you’re among this group, or if you know you haven’t saved enough, either start tightening your belt or talk to a financial advisor who can help ensure you are on track for a comfortable retirement.

5. Be Open to New Things

Finally, if there’s one piece of advice for retiring Boomers, it’s to keep an open mind about everything. For the generation that elevated the art of self-awareness and being open to change, it shouldn’t be all that difficult!

Being open to change is good for your brain cells – and may even ward off dementia. But beyond that, it can help you adopt new ways of doing things that increase your happiness in each one of the five categories of well-being, mentioned earlier.

At Legacy Senior Living, we support ‘Aging Out Loud’ and helping people live their best years during retirement. Stop by a visit to learn more!

Creating a Purposeful Day with Adults with Alzheimer’s

April 24, 2017

Caring for Parents with Alzheimer's

Everyone benefits from a sense of purpose, but for adults with Alzheimer’s disease, it’s especially important. Here’s why, plus some advice for planning a purposeful day.

 

There are times in life when anyone can lose sight of their sense of purpose. It often happens when we encounter especially traumatic hurdles or life transitions, such as unemployment, divorce, loss of someone important, or retirement. Very often, one way out of a state of hopelessness is to find new purpose in life. The key is to discover new activities that make us feel whole and purposeful again.

But for someone who’s suffering from the effects Alzheimer’s disease, that sense of purpose is elusive and fleeting, if it comes at all. Those who care for someone with this disease quickly learn that scheduling daily activities which provide a sense of purpose is vital to the overall well-being of their loved one.

Creating a Sense of Purpose for a Person with Alzheimer’s Disease

Everyone, no matter what their health status, benefits from a sense of purpose. There have even been studies showing that purposefulness brings protective health benefits, especially in seniors. And it’s not just that it makes us happy to feel useful- it’s the meaningful work that keeps us healthy longer.

So it stands to reason that purposefulness can benefit someone with Alzheimer’s disease or any other dementia-related condition, for that matter. With this in mind, here’s some guidance on creating a purposeful day for an adult who has Alzheimer’s disease.

It Starts with What You Already Know

Finding purpose can be as simple as drawing upon what your loved has always enjoyed. Did he or she love animals? Magazines with cute pictures of four-legged friends are surprisingly soothing and delightful. Sometimes people enjoy cutting out the pictures and making a collage or simply pinning them onto a bulletin board. This is only an example, though. Use this concept to tailor an activity for your loved one based on his or her interests and lifestyle.

Be Sensitive to Their Cognitive Level

Remember: there are different levels of cognition as the disease progresses. Don’t create activities that are too difficult or rely too heavily on memory skills. On the other hand, it’s equally important not to schedule activities that your loved one might find insulting. If the magazine activity from above is too childish, consider watching funny movies or YouTube videos of cute animals together. Goodness knows, there are enough of them out there!

Dole Out Chores, but Don’t Judge

Helping with basic tasks is an obvious way to bring purpose, but don’t be too harsh if the results are less than optimal. The idea is to promote a sense of purpose, not enlist a household worker.

If the dishes aren’t quite clean after your loved one finishes with them, simply rinse them off later without saying anything. The important thing is that your family member feels useful.

Purposeful Tasks Can Help Minimize Unsafe Wandering

Finally, there’s an added benefit to helping someone with Alzheimer’s disease find purpose in their day. It’s actually a matter of safety, too.

In their recommendations for dementia care practices, the Alzheimer’s Association suggests that engaging your loved one in activities is a way of reducing wandering. If you’re familiar with the disease, you already know that wandering a major safety concern. While it’s nearly impossible to prevent this symptom of dementia, it is possible to prepare for it and to minimize the frequency.

The key point here is that by taking a holistic approach to Alzheimer’s care, caregivers can help maintain a safe, healthy environment for loved ones who are suffering from the disease’s effects. We all need purpose in our lives and finding ways to create meaning in your own life can help guide how you create a purposeful day for someone with Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s Care and Support at Legacy Senior Living

Want to learn more about care for someone with Alzheimer’s? We have nationally recognized memory care programs staffed by knowledgeable and compassionate professionals. Our therapy programs, including The Purposeful Day, are nationally acclaimed and can help your loved one live to his or her fullest potential.

Each day, we focus on providing “A Purposeful Day” for our residents.  Our caring staff is trained to value each resident and to recognize the different histories, current desires, and needs.  A Purposeful Day focuses of four types of non-drug therapy – Reminisce Therapy, Trusted Voice Therapy, Time and Place Therapy, and Music Therapy. Call us to learn more today!

Gardening for Your Health: Easy Ways for Seniors to Keep Growing

April 17, 2017

Gardening on a hill

Growing your own vegetables or flowers can be one of the great joys of life. But for seniors who love gardening, the tasks involved can become challenging. Whether it’s handling large bags of potting soil or keeping up with the weeds, some of the activities of gardening can make older adults feel like they’ve taken on too much with this year’s crop.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Making Gardening Enjoyable for Seniors

Seniors don’t have to give up gardening just because they can no longer lift 40-pound bags of soil or bend down to pull all the weeds. There are lots of things caregivers like you can do to support an older gardener.

From planning the garden to finding the right tools, you can help your loved one enjoy his or her hobby for years to come. And the health benefits are clear. Gardening helps your senior loved one stay fit.

Here are some tips for making gardening a little less burdensome and a little more enjoyable for the older gardeners in your life.

1. Plan the Layout of the Garden

Gardening experts advise carefully planning out the layout of a senior’s garden to minimize the work it takes to care for plants. The number one way to do this is to group similar plants together. Plants that need a lot of water, for example, should all be located in the same area to make watering time easier. Another example: plants that need a lot of attention (i.e. deadheading or frequent harvesting) should be grown next to one another so if your loved one is kneeling down, they can reach all the plants at once.

Consider Raised Beds or Container Gardening

Raised beds offer the benefit of removing the “stooping” factor from gardening. Seniors with low back pain will especially appreciate them. When the plants are at waist level, everything gets easier: planting, tending, weeding, and harvesting.

The same goes for container gardening. Containers can be placed anywhere in the garden, on the patio or even indoors if your loved one can’t always get outside.

Another alternative for gardening with back pain is to use the Juice Plus+® Tower Garden. The Tower Garden is an innovative vertical aeroponic gardening system that uses only water, no dirt. Each Legacy facility utilizes the Juice Plus+® Tower Garden and have had positive results.

Choose the Right Plants

Another way to minimize the work involved with gardening is to choose low-maintenance plants. Less frequent watering, fertilizing, and weeding means less work. Choosing pest-resistant plants will also cut down on maintenance.

Look Into Gardening Tools & Technology That Can Help

A few products and tools that can make gardening more senior-friendly include:

  1. Drip irrigation systems. Before you protest about the expense, it may help to know that modern systems are very affordable. There are setup costs, of course, but the value to your senior loved one means it will more than pay for itself. After all, dragging a heavy garden hose around the garden is tiresome and difficult for anyone, no matter what age they might be.
  2. Garden Wheels. Ditch the wheelbarrow. A garden cart can help your loved one tote his or her tools and materials around the garden. The cart can be pushed or pulled with minimal physical effort, unlike a wheelbarrow which requires some lifting.
  3. Time-Release fertilizer. If you’re using raised beds or containers, the best way to feed your plants is by simply inserting time-released fertilizer pellets into the soil. They allow you to simply “set and forget”.
  4. Polymer Crystals. This idea is similar to the fertilizer pellets. These crystals release water to plant roots over time, removing some of the hassles of regular watering.

 

Active Lifestyles at Legacy Senior Living

If your senior loved one is enjoying an active lifestyle where gardening plays a role, he or she may be interested in independent living options.

Residents who live in independent living communities can enjoy their hobbies and an active lifestyle without the burden and stress of traditional home ownership. And gardeners can still enjoy their favorite hobby in our raised beds and tower gardens!

If you’d like to know more, we’d be happy to answer your questions. Call us or find us online to schedule a private tour!

Survival Tips for the New Family Caregiver

April 10, 2017

Special days with parents

For America’s new parents, there’s a vast amount of information out there to help them adjust to their new lives as caregivers of a newborn. From books on “what to expect when you’re expecting”, advice on how to balance child rearing and work, how to respond to the various ailments that babies get, and what to do when you need to ask your boss for flexible hours so you can manage daycare drop-off or pickup, there’s just no end to the guidance and advice that’s available.

But for new family caregivers of aging parents, there are far fewer resources. What America understands about the challenges faced by new parents is light years beyond what’s understood about becoming a caregiver for a senior loved one. Many of us, until we’re faced with these complex issues ourselves, rarely stop to think about what’s involved.

Survival Tips for Caregivers of Senior Loved Ones

So, what does it take to manage life as a new family caregiver? We’ve gathered some advice from people who’ve been there and faced those challenges.

Here are their top three tips and some advice about what it took for them to adjust their lives in order to provide care for a senior loved one.

1. Don’t Lose Yourself in the Caregiving Role

When you start sacrificing in order to care for someone, it’s important to know where to draw the line. Give up too much of what makes you “you” and you’re in danger of losing yourself in the chaos of managing care for your loved one.

Caregivers who carve out time for themselves, no matter how far they’ve stretched their schedules to do so, find that they’re more equipped to tackle the challenges brought on by the caregiving role. In other words, a little “me time” can actually increase your capacity for giving your time to others.

2. Admit That You Can’t Do it Alone

Even if you were to quit your job, give up hobbies, and stop traveling in order to take care of a senior loved one, you’d still need relief from time to time. Accepting help with caregiver responsibilities as well as your own tasks means you’re less likely to burn out, suffer fatigue, or encounter a health crisis of your own.

Some caregivers report that cultivating helpers in the community is important. Of course they rely on family members, but they also looked beyond their inner circle and considered others who cared about their loved one and who could help out in their own ways. It may be as simple as having the neighbor stop by once in a while or having an old friend visit from time to time. It all adds up to relief for you.

3. Master the Art of Becoming Organized

If you’re not already, learn how to become a more organized person. Most caregivers are stretched so thinly they can’t spare much time for anything but the essentials of getting by. Do yourself a favor and figure out how to plan and organize your days and weeks. The added benefit: you’ll have more time for yourself as well.

And caregiving can be a paper-heavy nightmare. Unless you stay organized and on top of things, it can quickly get ahead of you. When that happens, you risk taking on a whole new bucket of problems like unfilled prescriptions, insurance issues, financial mistakes, and other issues that stem from being unorganized with your paperwork.

If you’re a new family caregiver, life may seem overwhelming for you at times. Just remember, there are rewards to be found in your new role, too. Give yourself and your loved one time to adjust, and with a little help, you’ll soon find your groove.

More Resources from Legacy Senior Living

Looking for more advice? Check out our Aging Resources page. And don’t forget, we’re always on call to answer your questions about caring for a senior loved one. Call or email us any time!

Welcome to Our New Blog!

March 31, 2017

Aging Well with LegacyHello there! If we haven’t met before, welcome to Legacy Senior Living. We’re guessing you’re someone who’s like us: interested in improving the lives of seniors.

Whether you’re a senior yourself or a caregiver, you’ll discover answers to your most pressing questions, insightful articles that will awaken your knowledge about important topics, and fun posts that simply entertain.

All this information is created especially for seniors and caregivers.  We take a thoughtful, modern approach to how people age and the different ways we’ll manage our lives after retirement.

We’re So Excited to Share This with You

You’ll find more serious pieces later this month, but for now, we just wanted to introduce the blog and say how excited we are to have you here. It’s a true privilege for us to share the knowledge we’ve accumulated over the years of working with people like you. And, since we’ve been at this for decades, we hope you may even learn a little by reading the posts to come in the months ahead.

A New Way to Look at Aging and Senior Care

This blog takes a modern approach to senior care because we are changing perceptions of aging … for the better. The boomer generation is paving the way for tremendous changes in how we live our lives. Now, more than ever, seniors and their caregivers have choices. More options in healthcare, lifestyle, community, and the resources available mean better living for everyone.

Topics That Matter to You

We’re excited to begin sharing our ideas and discoveries with you. From healthy eating to the latest findings on dementia and surprising new ways to maintain satisfying work, it’s all going to be here in this new blog, created just for you.

We’ll discuss areas of interest like:

Join us on a regular basis and you’ll find fresh new articles every week.

Want a sneak peak?

Here’s what you can look forward to just this month:

  • Survival Tips for the New Family Caregiver
  • Creating a Purposeful Day with Adults with Alzheimer’s
  • Gardening for Your Health: Easy Ways for Seniors to Keep Growing

You’ll also be able to keep current with national events that matter to you and your loved ones. For example, May is Older Americans Month. How will that affect you? We’ll visit that topic in May, so stay tuned!

A Final Word Until Next Time

We’re writing this post so we have a permanent “Hello!” on our blog. We know that every week, more seniors and their caregivers will be joining us for the first time. They’re wondering where to start. And why a senior care blog matters.

Most people arrive here with a similar set of questions:

  • How can I live a life that’s fulfilling, enjoyable, safe, affordable, and sustainable as I or someone I love ages?
  • What resources are available to me as I or someone I love gets older?
  • What issues are people like me having, and how do they solve these issues?

These are all great questions, and we can’t wait to get started on exploring the answers with you.

We hope you’ll make our new blog a regular part of your week. Stick around, and we promise to deliver fresh content that’s relevant, informed, exciting, and written just for you. So, welcome! We’re so glad you’re here!

And in the meantime, if you have any questions at all about senior care, please call us at (423) 478-8071 or if you prefer, email us your questions!