Author Archives: Colleen Davis

Emergency Prep for Caregivers

Like a lot of caregivers, I spent most of yesterday doing #emergency prep. Some things had to be done advance, like stocking the bed pads and the adult wipes. I also did a lot of  cooking. But there are many tasks you can’t do until you’re in the middle of a crisis event like #Winter Storm Jonas.

Emergency Prep for Caregivers

Our original forecast called for 5-8 inches of snow. The weather man was wrong and in the end we got about 13 inches in our part of the Poconos. Though I’ve always tried to follow the guidelines for emergency prep, snow storms present a special challenge. So much of the situation is out of our control. Last week I filled the pantry and made sure we had my mom’s medical supplies. But we’re always in danger of losing power because we live in the woods. Heavy snow can break trees and damage the electrical lines. Once we lose power, we also lose water, because ours is pumped up from a deep well.

I need water to keep hands clean, wash dishes, and maintain sanitary conditions with someone who is incontinent. The last item is a big challenge if you don’t have running water. We have bottles of hand sanitizer and lots of wipes. But a faucet brimming with  hot water is hard to live without. I had to line the bathtub with large buckets and fill them all with water — just in case. Fortunately, we didn’t have to use them.

I’m also fortunate that we have good neighbors. Our house is in a remote place but the few people who live near us really help each other. One neighbor knocked on my door yesterday morning and said, “Meals on Wheels?” She brought us home made potato salad and a smile. Those smiles are worth a mint. After 24 hours of lifting my mom, clearing snow, and stoking the coal fire, I felt like a worn out wagon wheel. No aides could get to our house until this morning because our lane hadn’t been plowed.

Thank goodness the sun came out today. The snow looks a lot more friendly when those bright rays light it up. Many places got way more snow than we did and the safety challenges vary with geography. I hope all of you made it through the storm safely. Tell us your experience and please share if you have any good ideas about preparing for emergencies.

Caregiver, Heal Thyself!

“Caregiver, Heal Thyself!”…. it’s at twist on the biblical adage and my motto for 2016. We are the first line of defense for our loved ones. But too often we get injured or run down and fail to care for our health.

Caregiver Heal Thyself

Warm winter = thin ice

In 2015, I suffered a dislocated shoulder, chronic lower back strain, and plenty of wrist pain. Early in the year I got a mysterious skin infection which went away after I was treated with anti-biotics. My doctor suspected that I contracted MRSA from my mom. He didn’t reveal his theory until it healed because he knew I would panic. After the infection disappeared, he explained that many older people who have spent time in a hospital, residential care, a rehabilitation center, or a nursing home will carry the MRSA bacteria. They can bring it home and transmit it through skin-to-skin contact. My little scar still reminds me of this extremely painful episode.

If we stay aware of our health problems, we can do more about them. For years I’ve used yoga as a tool for healing muscular pain as soon as I notice it. I have a subscription to an online service called YogaGlo.  I’m not sure this would work for #caregivers who have never taken a #yoga class. However, if you have a yoga studio nearby, you can get some basic instruction first. Yoga is a tremendous aid for maintaining your health. YogaGlo costs $18 a month and can use the service from a computer, iPad, or smart phone — or all three. If you get your TV reception through a ROKU box like I do, you can also watch it on your TV. Cable subscriptions and satellites are too expensive. Since we rarely have time to watch TV, we like ROKU much better.

Online exercise channels are great for caregivers, especially if your loved one needs 24 hour care like my mom does. When you’re feeling worn down, you can choose a session to start healing a specific body part without ever leaving the house. My online yoga classes are as short as 5 minutes — or as long as two hours. I try to do a 20 minute class before I lift my mom out of bed in the morning. It makes me much more limber and it warms up my shoulder before I stress it again.

I don’t know why we get so careless with our health. Most of us know the terrible statistics about caregiver illnesses. These items, quoted from Caregiver.org should scare you a little:

  • Caregivers suffer from increased rates of physical ailments (including acid reflux, headaches, and pain/aching), increased tendency to develop serious illness, and have high levels of obesity and bodily pain.
  • Studies demonstrate that caregivers have diminished immune response, which leads to frequent infection and increased risk of cancers.
  • Caregivers exhibit exaggerated cardiovascular responses to stressful conditions which put them at greater risk than non-caregivers for the development of cardiovascular syndromes such as high blood pressure or heart disease.

I can’t bear to mention any more. We know this job is hard and we know it hurts. But we must remind ourselves that we also have choices about how we treat our bodies. Make 2016 the year when you make #caregiver health a priority.