Category Archives: Support for Caregivers

Posts mention resources and suggestions that can help caregivers stay healthy.

The Weight of Weather — How does it affect your care plan?

You’ve probably heard that the East Coast has been smacked with severe snow storms. If you live in a warm place, you may be picturing stranded cars and ice dams. But if you’re also caring for someone with dementia, you probably realize that slippery roads are just a sliver of the weight that weather adds to care.

Between the Pond and the Woods

Frozen turkeys

For the past five weeks, I’ve had to run to the drugstore whenever the roads were clear to make sure we didn’t run out of essential stuff. We need a constant supply of wipes, medications, sanitary gloves, and Depends. People who’ve never done this work can snicker all they want. But carrying four economy sized bags of adult diapers to the car makes you a much stronger person (in MANY ways).

One of my biggest problems has been injury prevention. I hurt my shoulder back in June and have almost healed it several times. But every time it snows, I have to shovel a double wide wheelchair path so my mom can get to her medical transit bus. In a good week, I do this once and my shoulder has a few days to recover. But when the snows arrive back to back, I’m out there slinging all the time. In fact, this morning my lower back asked for a legal separation.

In the lulls between storms I must race to the supermarket, too. My tiny mom has a tremendous appetite. Applesauce — loved by babies and old folks alike — is something we stockpile. Same for sweet potatoes and fish. I can roast these things into soft nutritious meals my mother loves. Weather can’t get between me and her food supply.

Then of course there are the heating issues. I resolve this by lugging buckets to fill our coal burner every day. Last Thursday morning, it was 12 degrees below zero when I started making breakfast. Of the seven days in the week, the mercury dipped below zero at least five times. Mom just looks at me and laughs when I tell her the temperature. As long as the house stays warm, she’s content.

I ask myself to be strong every day. I do yoga to knead the aches and pains out of my joints. And I meditate to help me focus on what’s good in this situation. I’m lucky that I have the kind of job that allows me to care for my mom at home. And I’m grateful every day that my mother’s impairments haven’t soured her disposition. I know many others who must care for family members who are agitated or violent. We have been spared this. We are lucky.

So, as I finish this explanation of our challenges, I’m wondering how the weather gets in the way of your care plans. Does the drought in California keep you from washing bedclothes? How about the humidity down south? Does it affect your loved one’s temperament? It seems like it will be winter here for a long time to come, so please send a note to share what’s happening everywhere else.

Better Caregiving Using this Important Tool: Breathe to Win

This entry marks the first in a series of posts on strange, but effective, caregiver strategies I’ve discovered during my mom’s illness.

Between the Pond and the Woods

Some of these ideas may be more or less relevant, depending on which stage of the disease you’re facing. But my intention is to start with really basic ideas that can be used in different ways throughout the caregiving journey. Here’s the First Weird Tip: Learn to Breathe Strategically.

Let’s face it. We all have to breathe. But breathing techniques are also used in physical training to improve athletic performance. If you’ve ever tried lifting weights, martial arts, yoga, or even calisthenics, you may have learned that you can control your breath to give yourself a physical advantage. I’m not an athlete, but I’ve taken yoga classes for a large part of my adult life. During the early stages of my mother’s dementia, I realized that I could use yoga breathing techniques to help Mom through delusions and panic attacks.

When she was having a troubling episode, one thing that seemed to help her was a gentle, but firm, hug and the steady sound of my breath in her ear. If I could calm myself and breathe slowly with my nose near her, the sound of my steady respiration helped Mom regulate her own breathing and bring herself back from the summit of panic.

No doctor ever suggested this to me. I just stumbled on the technique by accident when I noticed that my focused breath brought some measure of peace to us in chaotic moments. Now I use my breath in different situations to calm us both down and deal with whatever crisis is underway.

The technique is simple. When there is nothing crazy happening in your life, practice counting while you breathe. See if you can get yourself to breathe evenly — inhale for three counts, exhale for three. Keep the rhythm going for a minute or two, just to get used to this habit. After you practice it for a while in times of peace, you’ll be ready to use it when a tempest breaks loose. Think of it as a kind of “time out” that will help both of you get your bearings.

You can use counted breath to do many other things that I’ll discuss in future posts. Let me know if it works for you when you’re faced with a problem. I’d also like to hear from you if you have special tricks you’d like to share with other readers. I’ll feature the best suggestions here over the next few months.