Resize Text: A A A Telephone: (519) 954-2480 Login: Caregivers Families
Warm Embrace Logo
Follow us on: Facebook Logo Twitter Logo LinkedIn Logo
4 Ways to Achieve Well-being

What is "well-being"? 

Well-being is all about having a positive outlook on life, maintaining a purpose despite stress or loss, having a realistic sense of control over one’s life, and having a strong sense of self. These conditions are not constant but instead fluctuate constantly. It is possible to achieve a sense of well-being even amidst declining health.

 

young lady watching a hazy sunset

 

But how is well-being achieved?

 

Some practical ways to achieve well-being would be eating well, exercising, drinking less alcohol, not smoking, and stimulating your mind. But there are also other ways to achieve well-being!

 

1. Being Optimistic

Optimism is about taking “the sourest lemon life has to offer and then turning it into something resembling lemonade.” Optimism is often associated with happiness or with a positive person but it is much more than that! Practicing optimism has shown to build resiliency, increase goal achievement and increase overall well-being.

2. Being Grateful 

Dr. Peter Naus – an advocate for positive views on ageing – says to be sure to “count what you have, and not what you lack,” and by doing so you are one step closer to achieving well-being. Gratitude impacts well-being positively because it has shown to reduce anxiety and increase positive emotions. It is a powerful experience to count what you already have rather than focusing on what you don’t have!

 

3. Seeking Adventure

Believe it or not, old-age can be a time for adventure. In the midst of an adventure, you can discover new insights and experiences!  Simply having a vision and a dream can inspire you to experience new adventures – big or small – these memories will hold value, novelty and positive emotions. Dr. Naus encourages us to live well at every stage of life and remember that it is never too late for a change! 

 

4. Sharing Wisdom

Sharing wisdom creates a sense of purpose and meaning for many retired seniors! Wisdom is developed over time as you gain insight, practice good judgment and most of all live through varying experiences.

 

elderly lady wearing a floral blouse and glasses

 

There are pervasive negative connotations throughout Canadian society regarding ageing. There is a strong market for “anti-ageing” products and services, but the term alone is problematic. By deeming a product or service “anti-ageing” it is suggestive that there is an inherent problem with ageing.

 

However, the wisest group in Canadian society is our ageing population! As wisdom is passed down to younger generations, the experience of ageing becomes purposeful and meaningful. Even though abilities may change, health may fluctuate and losses may occur, prioritizing your personal well-being can truly lead to you living your best life.  

 

Seniors are valued for the wisdom they can share with others. They are living proof that ageing is not synonymous with being sick and helpless. Instead, old age can be a time for deep fulfillment and pleasure, a time for personal well-being! 

view all comments (1) add a comment
Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

Springing Forward!

It’s almost that time of year again—time to change the clocks!

 

The springtime change has a hopeful element to it; the days get longer and you have more daylight to enjoy in the evening hours.  It almost feels like you can measure the increased daylight every day!  It signals that spring is truly on its way.

 

There is one big challenge first though.  That’s the loss of one hour!  For most of us, that means the loss of an hour of sleep.

 

Blue clock on a wall

 

It would seem as though losing one hour of sleep shouldn’t be that detrimental. Surely we can handle one less hour of sleep.  And yet, statistics indicate that losing one hour of sleep does impact us, and not for the better.   It’s a well-known fact that there is a higher incident rate of automobile collisions on the Monday following the spring time change. Some studies have indicated an increased risk of heart attack too!  

 

If losing one hour of sleep can cause us to drive poorly and increase our risk of heart attack, what does it do for someone with dementia who may not understand what is happening with the time change?

 

Adjusting to the time change is essentially like dealing with jet lag. While it is only a one-hour difference, it is enough to throw us out of whack for a few days as we slowly adjust. Our bodies are finely tuned mechanisms that follow a very careful circadian rhythm.  When that rhythm is interrupted, it takes us a while to get back on track.  If that much adjustment is needed for those of us who can cognitively understand the time change, how much more difficult is it for someone with dementia who cannot tell time?

 

Someone with advanced dementia may not be able to tell time anymore. Some days, it may seem as if they don’t have much routine if they are waking at odd hours and sleeping during the day. But even if their routine has shifted from what it was years ago, they still have an internal sense of the passing of time. Suddenly missing an hour throws off that internal sense, and it can feel disorienting and confusing.

 

Sleep is critical for brain functioning in all people, and especially so for those with dementia.  The brain needs a chance to recover and it is during sleep that memory is encoded. When someone’s brain is impacted by a disease that impairs memory, they may require extra sleep to encode even minimal memory.  Sleep is essential, and losing an hour of sleep can have an enormous impact on how someone functions. 

 

a bed

 

As much as possible, try to adjust bedtime and waking time in advance of the time change to make it a more gradual adjustment rather than a one-hour change overnight.  On the eve of the time change and the subsequent nights, ensure that your loved one still receives their usual allotment of sleep, even if it means going to bed a bit earlier or getting up a bit later.

 

When caring for someone with moderate or advanced dementia, just knowing what to expect can make a difference.  Recognize that the time change is just like dealing with jet-lag and it will be an adjustment for your loved one. Expect that they may exhibit some unusual behaviour or feel agitated and anxious the week following the time change.

 

Prepare as much as possible by making the adjustment gradual. And remember, these adjustments will be helpful not only for your loved one but also for you!

add a comment
Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

Speeding Up Spring

Are you experiencing a case of cabin fever?

Don’t be discouraged and let the cabin fever get to you—instead, speed up spring!

 

One of the best ways to bring spring to you is to start your gardening early—indoors! Rather than waiting on mother nature to cooperate for a display of spring colours, get things started yourself by forcing bulbs.

 

Indoor gardening is a very accessible way to garden. There is no need to bend over or kneel on the hard ground. Bulbs require very little maintenance or effort. Indoor gardening is a great way to connect with an elderly loved one’s passion and hobby without being overwhelming or too physically demanding. It can also be a great intergenerational activity, drawing children and grandparents—or even great grandparents—together over a common task.

 

Forcing bulbs indoors mimic the outdoor environment that causes a bulb to grow and bloom. Unlike large, potted house plants, bulbs do not need big pots. A small, shallow dish is sufficient. Many bulbs are easily forced using only water and pebbles, rather than soil, resulting in much easier clean up when gardening indoors. It is also more fun to watch the roots develop and see the bulb change as it grows. New growth development is exciting to see—at any age!

 

new plants growing

 

Using your shallow container, fill it half full of pebbles or marbles, then place the bulbs on top of the pebble layer. Gently fill the rest of the container with pebbles or marbles to secure the bulbs in place, but do not completely bury the bulbs. Put enough water in the dish so that the water touches the bottom of the bulb, but do not submerge the bulb in water or it will begin to rot.

 

The step that is most often overlooked when forcing bulbs is the chilling step. Your freshly “planted” bulbs need to be chilled in a cellar or in the fridge to mimic the winter season. Some bulbs only need a few days of chilling, and others need a much more extended chilling period of several weeks. Be sure to check the specifications on the bulbs that you purchase.

 

NOTE: Please do NOT store bulbs in an elderly person’s fridge. If that person has dementia or mild cognitive impairment, the bulbs (or pebbles) could be mistaken for other produce. Likewise, if your loved one has impaired vision, the bulbs could appear similar to onions. Senses such as taste and smell become dulled for many people as they age; the smell or bitter taste that might alert you to food being harmful may not alert an elderly loved one.

 

When roots begin to show you will know that your bulbs are ready to begin their growth cycle and it is time to remove them from the chilling stage. With roots now showing, your bulbs are ready to be moved into warmth and sunlight. You need to introduce them to sunlight slowly, just the way that the spring sunlight is soft at first and then gradually gets warmer. Place your bulbs in a cooler area of your home, away from direct sunlight. When your plants begin to grow and the stems take on a healthy green colour, then it is time to move them to a sunny windowsill to watch the beauty unfold!

 

flowers on a plate with exposed bulbs

 

In theory, any bulb can be forced to grow indoors, but some varieties are easier to force than others. Paperwhite narcissus grows well indoors and does not require a very long chilling period. They grow well in water and pebbles and are quite fragrant. Amaryllis are very easy to force and the blooms are giant and colourful. They grow so quickly that you can see growth daily.

 

The warmer the environment, the faster the amaryllis will grow. Once it blooms, it is best to move the plant to a cooler, shaded area for the blooms to last longer, as they can remain for up to a month.

 

Hyacinth and crocus can also be forced and take eight to ten weeks to grow. Although tulips are a favourite spring bloom, they are probably best enjoyed out in the garden as they can be trickier to force and require a long chilling period of sixteen weeks.

 

Enjoy your head start on spring by forcing your favourite bulbs indoors, and use this easy, timeless, and ageless activity to connect various members of your family. You will have spring beauty unfolding in your own living room—no matter how much snow remains on the ground outside!

add a comment
Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

Your Role in Creating an Inclusive Community

Inclusion is a hot topic and a very important one for our elderly population. It emphasizes the importance of inviting the active participation of all citizens, including our elderly population, into our social fabric. Our current social fabric has changed with the pandemic making it difficult for seniors to be active participants. It’s important we protect our elderly population by practicing social distancing and by wearing PPE, but we must also take next steps to protect their wellbeing.

 

Social Isolation and Loneliness 

 

Studies have found that social isolation and loneliness are major risk factors linked to increased blood pressure, heart disease, diminished immune system, depression, anxiety, and poor cognitive functioning. Social isolation has a profound impact on older adults' health and wellbeing!

 

The Canadian Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (CNPEA) has reported (before COVID-19) that:

  • Being socially isolated is a common affliction among older adults. More than 30% of Canadian seniors are at risk of becoming socially isolated.
  • Isolation and loneliness are as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
  • And, social isolation can put seniors at increased risk for elder abuse.

 

What can you do to help?

 

1. Welcome your elderly loved one into the online world

 

black and white photo of an elderly lady with glasses sitting on a bench using her cellphone

 

Don’t assume your elderly loved one can’t use a smartphone, tablet or computer, instead encourage them by writing out instructions so they can connect online with their friends and loved ones. They will pleasantly surprise you! When they get the hang of it pay attention to their feedback and advocate for technological improvements.

 

Technology is a powerful tool but it needs improvement to include everyone – not just the abled. It’s time for developers and creators to involve older adults and family caregivers in the creation process. There are millions of apps out there but the majority of them aren’t suited for the elderly. The first step, you can take is leaving reviews on google or the app store.

 

 

2. Advocate for an age-friendly community

 

Being age-friendly means that there are no barriers to accessing services in the community, regardless of age or ability. A city that is designed to include and be accessible for its elderly residents is automatically factoring in the needs of its younger population.

 

For example, if a community is accessible for someone using a walker or wheelchair, it is also accessible to a parent pushing a stroller. The examples that we think of quickly are usually about physical accommodation such as ramps, wider doorways, longer crosswalk signals, accessible parking etc. You can advocate by attending virtual town halls, writing emails to your local MP, and voting at the next municipal elections.

 

3. Challenge ageist stereotypes and bias

 

Dr. John Lewis, professor at the University of Waterloo, points out that currently, one-quarter of Waterloo Region’s population is age 55 plus. That number is only going to increase in the next few decades. It is not acceptable that there are ageist prejudices towards 1/4 of our population! If we want to have a community that is inclusive to all members, it needs to be designed to suit those who are age 55 and older.

 

Often, these issues relate directly to coping with ageism. Ageism is the stereotyping of and prejudices against someone because of their age. It might include automatically treating someone in a certain way, just because they appear to be a senior.

 

For example, assuming someone is hard of hearing because they have gray hair is an ageist stereotype. Another example is the way that professionals often speak about a senior to their family members, as though the senior is not even in the room! The conversation should be directed to the relevant person, regardless of age.

 

Age is just a number. There are stories online of incredible seniors thriving in their 80s and even 90s! For example, Gladys Burrill at the age of 86 completed her first Honolulu Marathon. She was also a world traveller, a licensed pilot, an avid hiker and a prolific gardener. Read stories online and share them on social media to challenge ageism and other stereotypes. 

 

4. Respect and include those with Dementia

 

black and white portrait of an elderly man with glasses

 

In addition to physical challenges, some people experience cognitive changes. These people deserve the same level of respect and inclusion as all other members of society. Brenda Hounam, dementia advocate and spokesperson, highly advises communicating about dementia itself. Rather than hiding her challenges with dementia, she has decided to be very public and make others aware of her disease.

 

Hounam suggests that people “open the doors for communication—just ask”. She feels that it is much better to ask for clarification and to communicate clearly with someone who has dementia; do not just make assumptions. She asks that people do more than just listen; she wants people to truly hear and validate what she is saying. Hounam’s overarching message is that “we are all unique, and we all have something to contribute until the last breath.”

 

Being inclusive and respectful of all citizens—regardless of age, ability, or illness—better allows us to fully acknowledge and appreciate the contributions of all members of society.

 

5. Encourage community and support

 

Your elderly loved one is socially distancing but they don't have to be socially isolated! Reach out to your loved one regularly by chatting on phone or by setting up a safely distanced date. If you can't visit them in person, try contacting an organization for support. At Warm Embrace Elder Care, there are wonderful caregivers who can safely visit your elderly loved one! Our caregivers wear PPE and encourage proper nutrition, physical exercise and mental stimulation.

 

During this pandemic, social distancing has become a safety protocol but it shouldn't have to coincide with social isolating. Let's take the necessary steps together to protect our elderly population. If you have questions or comments, write a comment below or contact us!

add a comment
Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

10 Life Choices You Can Make to Protect Your Heart

February is all about hearts. . . but not just the cupid and chocolate kind of hearts. It’s also heart awareness month as the Heart and Stroke Foundation promotes heart health and disease prevention.

 

Did you know that every seven minutes someone in Canada dies from heart disease or stroke? And 32% of all deaths are attributed to heart disease or stroke? With heart disease this rampant, it is bound to affect you personally through someone that you know.

 

Here are the Top 10 healthy living choices you can make to help prevent heart disease

 

1. If you smoke, become smoke-free.

 

2. Be aware of your cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels and keep them in the healthy range.

 

a person walking upstairs

 

3. Engage in regular physical activity for a minimum of 150 minutes weekly– choose activities you find fun so you’ll stick with them. Bouts of 10 minutes of exercise at a time count toward your 150 weekly minutes.

 

Research conducted by Dr. Poulin with women over 65 demonstrated that active women have 10% lower blood pressure and 10% higher brain function on cognitive tests. The active women were engaged in aerobic activity, such as walking, for at least 150 minutes per week.

 

4. Achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Weight loss of 5-10% of your current weight can have significant health benefits.

 

5. Consume at least five servings of vegetables and fruits per day by including vegetables with every meal and fruit for dessert. Boomers are notorious for failing to eat enough fruit and veggies; 80% of all boomers do not eat the recommended five veggies daily.

 

6. Develop and maintain personal relationships to help reduce any stress that can lead to unhealthy habits such as overeating and lack of physical activity.

 

7. Choose lean meat, fish, poultry and meat alternatives such as beans along with low-fat milk.

 

a healthy salmon sandwich

 

8. Include a small amount of soft non-hydrogenated margarine, vegetable oils and nuts each day.

 

9. Make at least half of your grain products whole grain each day.

 

10. Choose foods that are lower in sodium and limit the amount of salt you add in cooking or at the table. Begin using fresh herbs or spices to flavour your food, rather than depending on salt.

 

Starting and sticking to new habits can be difficult - especially when done alone. However, you don't have to do it alone! We are fabulous caregivers who will encourage and guide you - or your elderly loved one – in staying on track. Your heart health is important, it’s never too late to introduce new living choices, start today!

view all comments (1) add a comment
Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

Safety Tips for Winter Walking

One of the best ways to avoid the winter blues is to get out and be active while enjoying some of the beauty of winter. Winter walking is great for physical activity as well as providing relief from cabin fever. Winter walking must be taken seriously though and approached carefully.

 

Over 12,000 Ontarians land in the hospital each year from falling on the ice. Half of these falls occur in January or February—apparently the two most slippery months of the year. One-third of those falls happened to people who were age 60-79 and resulted in an average hospital stay of 7.6 days.

 

 

What you might not expect to find out, is that another one-third of those falls happened to people who were 40–59 years old, and their average hospital stay was 3.6 days. Fall prevention, especially in the winter, is not just an issue that affects the elderly. Winter safety is important for any Canadian who is willing to venture out into the cold!


Here are some basic safety tips to keep you and your loved ones safe this winter.
 

Footwear: good quality winter boots are essential! They need to be waterproof and insulated, have a thick and non-slip tread, have low and wide heels, and be light in weight.
 

Ice grippers: you can attach ice grippers to the bottoms of your boots for added grip on hard-packed snow and ice. Warning: the grippers are terribly slippery on smooth surfaces like tile, stone, or ceramic. You should always be seated when attaching the ice grippers to the bottom of your boots.
 

Hip Protector: wear a hip protector when walking outdoors. A hip protector is a lightweight belt or pants that have shields to guard the hips to give you added protection should a fall occur.


Carry sand: carry a small bag of grit, sand, salt, cat litter—in your pocket or purse so that if you must cross a particularly icy section you can sprinkle some grit first.

 

Cane or Urban Poles: use a cane, a set of Urban Poles, or ski poles to help with balance. Attach an ice pick to the end of your cane or poles for added stability.

 

Buddy System: walk with a friend or family member. Canadian winters are unpredictable and for your safety, you should always walk with another person. Let others know which route you will be taking and when you expect to be home again. 

 

Resort to the Indoors: in the truly Canadian winter storms, exercise indoors. Utilize an indoor walking track where there will be no ice or snow for you to battle.

 

Triple Vitality: enroll in the one-on-one exercise program offered by Warm Embrace Elder Care—right in the comfort of your own home! You can remain safe and warm at home while still maintaining your fitness and mobility.


Have a safe and happy winter!

view all comments (1) add a comment
Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

4 Survival Tips for all Family Caregivers

 

When you think of family caregiving which words come to mind? 

 

 

Burden

Stressful

Sad

Depressing

Exhausting

Frustrating

Honour/devotion

Meaningful

Blessing

Joyful

Humour

Fulfilling

   

 

What creates the difference between the first column experience and the second column?  How can family caregiving be both frustrating but joyful, a burden and a blessing?

 

Here are 4 survival tips to take your family caregiving experience away from the first column and into the second column.

 

 

1. Take care of yourself

 

It may sound trite, but self-care is crucial.  If you don’t care for yourself, you’ll have nothing left over to give to anyone else.  You need to allow yourself time to refuel. How you re-energize will be unique to you; there is no right or wrong answer.  Maybe you exercise, or take a warm bath, or play an instrument, or read a book.  It doesn’t matter what you choose to do; it matters that you take time for yourself and prioritize your own self-care.

 

tea cup, book and blanket on couch

 

2. Allow yourself to be "off-duty"

 

It is not reasonable to expect yourself—or anyone else for that matter—to work or be on-call 24/7. And yet, when in the midst of family caregiving, people often hold themselves to an unrealistic standard of doing it all, all of the time. You need time when you are not “on-call”.

 

This includes elderly spouses who have assumed the caregiver role and who live together. It can be tough for the caregiving partner to feel “off-duty” when they are at home together with their partner who requires care. Respite care is critical to help both halves of a couple remain healthy—both physically and mentally. 

 

Feeling “off-duty” also applies to family members who are receiving constant phone calls from their elderly loved ones.  They need time when they can turn off the ringer and not field any phone calls—a timeframe when they are “off-duty” from repeated calls.

 

3. Enlist support before a crisis emerges

 

All too often people will say: “Dad won’t accept help from anyone else, so I have no choice!”  Then a crisis occurs and it is Dad who has no choice—he must accept help from another source because you, the family caregiver, are now experiencing your own health issue related to burnout.  Sure enough, Dad does accept the help, although it might have been a smoother introduction to care had it not been a crisis situation.

 

It will be a kinder transition for your father to accept outside support in a graduated care plan, rather than abruptly. With advance notice and the luxury of time, caregivers can be selected to match your father’s personality and preferences. In a crisis situation, you might have no choice but to get a caregiver—any caregiver—in place the same day.  A more ideal match could have been made with advance planning.

 

Best of all, your burnout can be prevented in the first place! It is far easier to prevent burnout by providing support early on than it is to recover after burnout has occurred. 

 

4. Protect family roles and relationships

 

Caregiving can upset the long-ingrained roles and family dynamics.  A husband who is suddenly thrust into the position of caring for his wife may feel ill-equipped for the role of the family caregiver. He doesn’t feel like a husband. . . he feels like a caregiver.  And she doesn’t feel like a wife. . . she feels like a patient. Their interaction as husband and wife has been interrupted and they begin to interact as patient and caregiver, which may start to stress their marriage.

 

couple holding hands

 

It is important that key family roles and relationships are preserved. That couple needs to continue to feel like a married couple.  A parent and child need to preserve their mother-son relationship.  It may be best to let certain elements be provided by a professional caregiver so the family relationships can remain intact. 

 

Family caregivers are SO important to the health and well-being of their loved ones.  It is crucial that their health and sanity are protected.  If the family caregiver burns out, then there are two people requiring care! 

 

The only way to survive family caregiving and find the positive is to take care of yourself, have time that you are "off-duty", get help in place before it's too late, and aim to protect family roles and relationships for as long as possible. 

add a comment
Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

Stress is a risk factor


Who doesn’t live with stress these days?!  There’s no such thing as a completely stress-free life, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  A certain amount of stress is necessary to get through life.  Many life events can produce stress—both positive events (getting married, having children, or retirement) and negative events (loss of a loved one or being laid off at work).


Stress is a risk factor for both heart disease and stroke. It is a two-fold risk—the state of being stressed, especially over a long period of time can result in higher cholesterol and increased blood pressure. Additionally, people who are highly stressed often turn to unhealthy habits to ease the stress (such as smoking, overeating, too much alcohol, etc.), which further increases the risk!  Stress is one of the controllable risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Reducing your stress also reduces your risk of heart disease and stroke.

 

How many symptoms of stress do you experience regularly?

 

women with red hair covering her face

 

Common symptoms include anxiety, headaches, stomach issues, depression, muscle aches, insomnia, weight gain, frequent colds or illness, low energy, agitation, etc. Does this list seem all too familiar?

 

For women who fit into the sandwich generation, a major stress factor can be the dual caregiving of raising children, while also providing care to ageing parents. Today’s healthcare system is increasingly difficult to navigate, and advocating for a loved one can become a full-time job!

 

In an effort to be the sole caregiver for their parents (while also maintaining all of their other commitments), today’s women are often placing their own health at risk by increasing their stress levels. Women are notorious for taking care of everyone else that they neglect their own needs. Receiving help with family caregiving can be an important component to reducing your stress. Completely eliminating stress is not an option.  Instead, we must focus on reducing our stress, and managing the stress that remains.

 

There are several ways to manage and reduce stress! 

 

someone reading and drinking tea

 

A few common tips include exercise (such as daily walks, cycling, yoga classes, etc.), meditation and prayer, engaging in a favourite hobby (such as reading, knitting, painting, etc.), and most of all, reaching out for support. 

 

Professional caregivers can provide hands-on help to your parents, freeing you to focus on your own health and wellness!


Reducing stress is sometimes seen as a wish-list item. One day, you hope to be stress-free. You might be thinking your stress will evaporate “when the kids move out of the house” or “once I retire.” But that could be years from now! You can’t afford to put your own health in jeopardy for years, and just hope that the stress you experience is not leading to either heart disease or stroke. Stress is a preventable risk factor. Support your own health by reducing your stress levels starting today!


What is your favourite stress-reduction strategy?

add a comment
Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

Collecting versus Hoarding

Your parents recently moved into a retirement home and you were relieved they’d now have three proper meals per day. With your mother’s progressing dementia, she hadn’t been cooking for quite some time.

 

There's only one problem.

 

Your mom has been bringing her purse to the dining room where she stashes extra food!  She takes it back to their room and hides the food and you’ve been finding it in various states of science-experiment decay!

 

What is happening?

elderly woman's hands

 

In the past, this might have been called “hoarding”.  But

 “hoarding” has a negative connotation and is quite different than what is happening to your mom.  A more suitable term might be “collecting”.

 

Her new behaviour is not unusual and it makes sense when you consider what is happening in her brain. 

 

The drive or instinct to gather is a hard-wired human instinct.  Humans have been hunters and gatherers for millennia.  We have the instinct to gather food beyond what we immediately need to prepare for future hunger.

 

In modern society, most of us are blessed enough that we don’t have to worry about our next meal. With 24/7 grocery stores, we have access to food at any time.  But for your mother who has dementia, that option is not as viable.

 

First of all, she likely grew up in an era where stores were not open 24/7.  Secondly, she may feel particularly vulnerable that she has no way of accessing food at any given time—she likely cannot drive, she likely wouldn’t know how to get to the closest grocery store, she might not even have access to money to purchase food.  Her instinct to gather food that is available actually makes perfectly good sense.  She is gathering food because she doesn’t know where her next meal is coming from.

 

“But wait!” you say. “She has three full meals daily with access to a coffee bar that has muffins and cookies and fruit—she’s never left hungry. Of course, she knows where her next meal is coming from!”

 

Your response is perfectly logical.  Remember, though, that her brain’s ability to be logical is diminished.  If she has dementia, she may not remember yesterday clearly enough to remember that she did, indeed, receive three full meals.  She can’t use yesterday’s experience to reassure herself that she will likely receive three meals today.

From her perspective, she is suddenly in this new place that doesn’t yet feel familiar.

 

There is no kitchen that she can see. She doesn’t recall the delicious dinner she had last night. No wonder she is concerned about where her next meal is coming from!  On top of all that, one of the deeper portions of her brain—the Amygdala—continues to send out hunger-gathering instincts for self-preservation.

 

Instead of considering her behaviour to be "hoarding" and problematic, understand that she is doing her best to provide for herself and meet her most basic human needs. 

add a comment
Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

Surviving the Holidays when you’re grieving

For many people, the holidays can be hard enough as it is. But if you have lost a loved one in the past year(s), then this holiday season might be particularly difficult.

 

blue Christmas tree

This is the year to eliminate the stress of all those commitments.

 

Below are the top 5 strategies to help you survive this season.

1. AVOID COMMITMENTS

 

Decline invitations for events that aren't particularly meaningful for you personally. For invitations that you would like to accept, only make conditional acceptances—you will attend IF you are feeling well that day, and don't commit to bringing or contributing anything. 

 

Schedule personal time for yourself. You will need periods of personal rejuvenation to give you the strength to socialize. Grief is a roller-coaster and unfortunately, you cannot predict when you will feel like socializing, and when you would prefer to be alone. Grant yourself the freedom to make last-minute decisions based on how you are feeling at the moment, rather than feeling locked into any specific commitment.

 

2. REDUCE DECISION-MAKING

 

You may feel like you are in a fog; everything is cloudy. Even simple decisions have become laborious. The holiday season is full of decisions to be made. This year, offer yourself the relief of reducing as many of those decisions as possible. Ask a trusted loved one to help you with decisions, or remove yourself from stressful situations that require decision making.

 

Avoid shopping. Shopping is rife with decisions—from the moment you arrive at the mall and need to find a parking space to the point where you’re selecting a check-out lane, you are forced to make decisions that are exhausting. It's okay to take a year off from gift-giving. Selecting gifts (even when shopping online), can seem unbearably overwhelming. Maybe you’d like to give gifts at a different time during the year when you don’t feel as stressed. 

 

Even the small decisions add up. Decisions that seem inconsequential —which wrapping paper to use, where to string lights, red sprinkles or green—can begin to accumulate and feel overwhelming. By eliminating as many of these details as possible, you will be reserving your strength for the more important elements like seeing people who are important to you and allowing yourself to heal as you grieve.

 

The people who love you most will understand and they will likely be relieved to know that you are sparing yourself the stress of shopping and wrapping. They will feel honoured that you trust them to understand.

 

3. ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR EMOTIONS

 

This holiday season needs to be about you and the others most affected by your loss. Remember—it is okay to cry. It is okay to not be as merry or joyful as others around you. Acknowledge to yourself how you are truly feeling at a given moment, and grant yourself the freedom to react to those feelings in whatever way you need. 

 

Crying is allowed, even at happy moments. You will not ruin the holidays for anyone else by shedding tears. Smiling and laughing are also allowed. You may feel moments of joy or happiness; enjoy those moments and savour them. You don't need to feel guilty for having happy or sad moments.

 

You might discover that there are certain times of the day or week that are particularly difficult for you. Allow yourself the freedom to take that time as personal grieving time, and let others know that those times are challenging for you. Your feelings will fluctuate, and that is expected. Acknowledging those feelings and allowing yourself to experience the range of emotions will assist you in your journey of healing.

 

4. ENLIST THE HELP OF OTHERS


Enlist the help of others, both for holiday-specific tasks, and just daily living tasks. Delegate anything you can—grocery shopping, cleaning, running errands, cooking, etc. Others may offer to help, but they don’t know what to do specifically.

 

It may also be helpful to let others know how you are feeling so that they don’t inadvertently pressure you. Let others know about your preferences. Family and friends will not know if you prefer to do holidays exactly as you previously did, or if you want everything to be different. Either option is perfectly fine, just let others know what is best for you this year.

 

5. HONOUR YOUR LOVED ONE

 

It's important that you acknowledge the loved one who has passed away in a way that is meaningful to you. There are countless ways to do this, and they can be as unique as you and your connection to your loved one. Select something that is meaningful to you.

 

For instance, incorporate parts of traditions that were meaningful to your loved one—favourite foods or music or decorations. Create new traditions that include elements of your loved one’s personality or values. Light special candles, hang a meaningful ornament, play an important song, watch a favourite movie.

scrap book and polaroid pictures

 

If you’re ready, you might 

decide to look through photo albums, create a scrapbook, read/write letters, etc. Create something tangible in honour of your loved one—sew a quilt, paint, write poetry, carve wood, weld metal, blow glass, whatever your medium is you can create an expression of love.

 

Honouring your loved one may take many different forms and may change from year to year. The important part is that you and your family always know that your loved one was—and still is—a vital member of your family.

 

Grief is a journey. It is not a race. It cannot be fast-forwarded or skipped. Although you may be comforted in knowing that your loved one is in a better place, that does not take away your pain. Your grief demonstrates the love you had for that person, and the way you grieve will be unique—just like your relationship with that person was unique. Although the journey is difficult with many ups and downs, it is a healing process.

 

May you find peace and comfort this holiday season as you respect your own personal needs and honour the person you miss so dearly.

add a comment
Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

Contributors

Chloe Hamilton
97
April 12, 2021
show Chloe's posts
Lissette Mairena Wong
16
April 1, 2021
show Lissette's posts
Avery Hamilton
5
November 19, 2020
show Avery's posts

Latest Posts

Show All Recent Posts

Archive

Tags

Everything Dementia Long Term Care Homecare Retirement Home Alzheimer's Parkinson's Aging Elder Abuse Holiday Warm Stories Healthy Living Health Care Events Companionship Sandwich Generation Respite Care Independence Staying in your own home Parents Refusing Help Activities