BEST is pleased to welcome back BEST board member, caregiver, instructor and guest blogger, Maggie DePuye-Phillips. Today, she shares an early Thanksgiving message set to inspire. Enjoy and many thanks to Maggie!
The holidays are once again upon us… a time of celebrating thankfulness, joy and giving with family and friends. It can also be a time of being overwhelmed and stressed, doubly so for caregivers. Ironically, November is National Caregiver’s Month, perfectly synced with the month of commemorating gratitude.
BEST board member, caregiver and guest columnist, Maggie DePuye-Phillips is back with a interesting look at how humor can positively impact the lives of caregivers. Read on and prepare to smile!
Rx for Caregivers: Laughter
“Your sense of humor is one of the most powerful tools you have to make certain that your daily mood and emotional state support good health.”~ Paul E. McGhee, Ph.D.
With that said, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of humor in the world of caregiving. We all know that as caregivers, the stress of taking care of our loved ones is no laughing matter.
Fortunately, giggling is one of the most powerful reactions that can have a positive impact on one’s emotional and physical well-being.
Not only is laughing and finding humor in caregiving a great coping mechanism, it is also wonderful for your health, mentally and physically. Scientific studies have proven that laughter relieves stress, boosts the immune system, improves sleep, diffuses tension and even reduces pain. These are amazing benefits so why not view laughter as therapeutic medicine!
What exactly happens in your body when you laugh?
Blood vessels expand to increase blood flow; the level of immune cells and infection-fightingantibodies raises; your blood pressure lowers; pain relief occurs; and you experience the effects of aerobic exercises. Laughter also releases endorphins, which relaxes the body.
Goldie Hawn, an actress and an advocate for caregivers, shared her thoughts on how humor is helpful: “If we are happy, relaxed and curious, our brains open like a flower,” she adds. “Not only does this help us to remember and properly process information, but it also gives us the ability to handle stress.”
Personally, I strive to look for humor in all I do, especially during challenging situations as a caregiver. While the moment may be intense and nothing funny about it, I do reflect later to see how I can view it in a comical way. Doing that actually makes me feel better and improves my perspective on the outcome. I do not dare make fun of my loved one in any given tense moment he has encountered, but instead, I only look for how my behavior or my reaction can be perceived as funny. When the time is appropriate, I will then share my perspective with him, which allows him the opportunity to reflect and find the humor in his own actions.
This not only creates ownership of our actions or behavior, but mutual respect to poke fun at yourself and your loved one. And these will be the memorable moments you will treasure in your heart.
To incorporate laughter in your daily routine, there are many simple strategies to choose from; however, I will share just a few.
1) Designate some time with your loved one to share jokes or funny memories.
2) Watch funny videos from YouTube or comedy sitcoms and films.
3) Go to a comedy club or hang out with some friends who can bring you some hilarious relief.
4) Consider humor therapy, such as laughter yoga, a body mind approach to wellness.
5) Talk with other caregivers as they would be more likely to relate when exchanging stories.
It was Bob Hope who said, “I have seen what a laugh can do. It can transform almost unbearable tears into something bearable, even hopeful.”
For all you caregivers out there, here is your prescription: Laugh at least once a day. You will be grateful that you did.
Until next time, embrace each moment.
BEST Board Vice President, caregiver and guest blogger, Maggie DePuye-Phillips is back with another terrific installment of one of our featured blog columns, Caregiver’s Corner. Today, Maggie takes us on the road with a recap of the recent annual caregiver’s conference in the Puget Sound region as well as some great tips, information and resources.
Don’t go through life, grow through life.
Wow, what a profound quote and fitting for what I am about to share with you.
Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the annual “Challenges in Caregiving: Giving Care, Taking Care“ caregiver’s conference, sponsored by the DSHS Aging & Long-Term Support Administration, Pierce County Community Connections and Full Life. I always look forward to this conference as a way to recharge my batteries, be reminded of self-awareness for self-care and learn new strategies to become better at what I do as a caregiver.
And once again, this conference did not disappoint me.
The keynote speaker, one of my favorites, Wendy Lustbader, a well-respected social worker and an Affiliate Associate Professor at the University of Washington, School of Social Work, spoke about the importance of caring for the needs of the spirit when caregiving. Referencing two of the many books she wrote, “Taking care of Aging Patients” and “Life Gets Better,” she recounts several anecdotes of her encounters with clients she has worked with over the years of her career. She defines spirituality as having three “dances:” perspective, vulnerability and meaning/purpose.
Ms. Lustbader went on to explain that when it comes to our loved one’s own spirituality, we are to speak in their verbiage (God, Lord, etc…) as a way to “be” with him/her. To gain perspective, receive and listen to connect your loved one with his/her own spirituality. Furthermore, recognize your loved one’s vulnerability and redefine their purpose in life by making changes to the environment, which in turn will uplift his/her spirits and help see that life does get better, even at the end.
So, with that, I have been enlightened and inspired to not only look within, but stay true to my own spirit, and be more conscientious when I am caring for my loved one and help his spirit take flight! After all, every act of kindness grows the spirit and strengthens the soul!
At last, summer is here! I am really excited because I now have taken up another “hobby!” Gardening! We created five raised garden beds in our backyard and planted a variety of vegetables and fruit several weeks ago. I am now seeing the fruits of our labor as sprouts have come through the soil and some of the starters have flowers on them. I am up at the crack of dawn and out the door, watering the beds and my flowers.
Surprisingly, although it’ added work to my daily routine as a caregiver, I truly look forward to this time. Gardening is truly a place where I find myself when I need to lose myself. Gardening also grows the spirit!
And along with summer, comes travel plans, which can put additional stress on the caregiver when making preparations. From my caregiver toolkit, here are some tips to follow:
1. Plan early! When you put in careful thought into your planning, you are more apt to guarantee a successful trip!
2. Be aware of your loved one’s strengths and limitations to determine whether he/she can manage the trip. It does not make sense to take someone to a crowded place if he is likely to become antsy or has challenges being around many people. Too much stimuli can also be frustrating for your loved one so keep that in mind when planning various places to visit such as museums or entertainment parks.
3. The duration of your trip is another factor to consider. Prolonged travel may be disruptive to the loved one when structure and routine is important to his/her well-being.
4. Take into consideration how you will be getting there and where you will be staying. Remember, many airlines and lodging facilities offer accommodations for travelers with disabilities so take advantage of their services. It will make it a lot easier on you and your loved one when little or no stress is present.
5. Lastly, plan activities that will benefit both you and your loved one. Be flexible with change, keep your sense of humor and laugh at all the situations that may happen. In turn, they become precious memories of your travels together.
Information & Resources
Looking for some caregiver education or support for family caregivers? Check out this resource, here.
July 20th-July 26th: 8th Annual Brain Injury Camping Experience at Lake Skookum, Eastern Washington, sponsored by TBI Survivor Network. For more information, click here.
August 9th-15th: BEST Camp at Dash Point State Park in Western Washington, sponsored by BEST. Check it out, here.
Here are a couple new books on caregiving that you may want to read over the summer:
“The Mindful Caregiver: Finding Ease in the Caregiving Journey by Nancy KrisemanHope for the Caregiver: Encouraging Words to Strengthen Your Spirit” by Peter Rosenberger
Whether it is gardening, traveling, camping or just enjoying the warmth of the sunny days ahead this summer, remember to keep your spirit alive by feeding it with light, energy and love. Let me leave you with this:
Kind hearts are the garden, kind thoughts are the roots, kind words are the blossoms, kind deeds are the fruits.
For caregivers, connections are critical.
While connections to resources, information and various forms of support are important, connecting with other caregivers who share a similar experience is life-changing.
That’s what Natasha Pietila was looking for.
Twenty-five years ago, when Pietila was baby, her father acquired a brain injury due to a cerebral aneurysm hemorrhage. Her mother became her father’s primary caregiver. As Pietila grew up, she also grew into the role of a caregiver, too, assisting her mother provide for her father’s care and well-being.
Here is Pietila’s take on what she and her mother faced as caregivers, which is unfortunately, a common experience for those who care for people who have a brain injury.
“Because we struggled to locate supportive services for my father or a community of caregivers, we’ve experienced isolation, exhaustion and frustration. Brain injury can be difficult to explain to those whose lives have not been affected by it and because my father’s brain injury is of the ‘invisible’ nature, our roles as caregivers are also ‘invisible.’”
Upon moving to Seattle in 2013, Pietila sought out a caregiver support group; more specifically, one for caregivers for people with brain injury.
She quickly found out that one did not exist.
When she tried other groups outside of the brain injury community, it was hard for her to connect because the other caregivers had not experienced brain injury.
She decided to action.
“I moved to Seattle in Fall of 2013 and wanted to find other people who ‘got it’ and I discovered that there weren’t any support groups in Seattle just for caregivers for people with brain injuries. Knowing how important it is to have a separate, safe space, in which one doesn’t have to censor feelings, experiences and questions, I decided to create the space that I needed. I was given a lot of encouragement and support by other caregivers and professionals in the community, who assured me that there were many caregivers in need of similar support and connection; this encouragement served as fuel for organizing our first support group meeting.”
Pietila is now the founder of the Brain Injury Caregiver Alliance of Seattle. The group has been meeting since March of 2014. Pietila is grateful and appreciative of being able to share and learn from other caregivers in the brain injury community. It’s a collaborative approach that aims to build community for, and with, other caregivers.
“The Brain Injury Caregiver Alliance of Seattle seeks to create an inclusive, supportive and resourceful community of caregivers, sealing up the gaps in our community, through which caregivers often fall,” says Pietila. “Available information about support for caregivers frequently boils down to: ‘take better care of yourself,’ which can feel dismissive because it doesn’t acknowledge or address the many time, financial and emotional barriers to self-care that caregivers often face.
In our group, we seek to identify barriers and realistic solutions to self-care, collect, provide, and advocate for resources, and make our group accessible and available to all caregivers for people with brain injuries.”
The group meets on the fourth Wednesday of the month at 6 p.m.in room 221 at the Good Shepard Center located at 4649 Sunnyside in the Wallingford community of Seattle, Washington. Light refreshments are provided.
“We are inviting speakers to our meetings, who can provide information and resources needed by our members,” shares Pietila. “With the understanding that mindfulness practices and physical activity are key components of self-care, but that those can be difficult to locate or finance, we are planning to bring a yoga workshop to our members. Additionally, one of our members created a fantastic blog that houses resources and caregiver reflections.”
As the group continues to grow, what does Pietila see for the future? Pietila and her fellow caregivers are eager to expand their reach into the community and be at the ready as a resource for the medical community and other community members.
“We would like to explore ways to reach more caregivers, collect group member approved resources, provide caregiver respite and connect with allies in the community (like) medical providers, educators, police officers, social workers and more. I am also planning on assisting with a caregiver specific table at the (Washington State) TBI Conference for 2016.”
Pietila continues, “Given the increasing attention to brain injury in the research and medical community and by the media, this is an exciting time to be working towards expanding resources for the brain injury community.
I would like to see and participate in dialogue around revamping the medical community’s approach to brain injury, to include critical dialogue around caregiver support, barriers to information, the negative impact of isolation and the need for more long-term wraparound support options. Brain injury doesn’t just affect the person with the brain injury, but rather the whole community in a ripple-effect and so post-injury, it is the community as a whole that needs healing.”
One of our BEST guest bloggers is back!
BEST team member, instructor/facilitator and caregiver, Maggie DePuye-Phillips, brings us a very special “Caregiver’s Corner” column. As it is Brain Injury Awareness Month, DePuye-Phillips brings insight and wisdom to an important part of brain injury awareness: caregivers. Caregivers are the unsung heroes of the awareness movement, and at BEST, we honor caregivers this month and every month.
In light of Brain Injury Awareness Month, it is only fitting to briefly share my thoughts on the significant role caregivers have in the lives of individuals with brain injury. One of my favorite scenery icons along the coastlines is the lighthouse and I love what it represents. Lighthouses have been depicted as symbols of strength, dedication, stability,guidance, protection and peace. Others reference them as beacons of light and hope. As caregivers, I’d like to think of that we are those beacons. Equipped with knowledge, compassion and patience, we serve as guides while our loved ones navigate their journeys.
We caregivers are the lighthouse keepers, always determined to maintain that beacon of light to help our loved ones weather any storm. We constantly monitor their high and low tides and steer them to safe harbor to anchor during times of turmoil. We work tirelessly to ensure that our beam of light continues to shine to inspire our loved ones feelings of hope and salvation through rough waters and calm seas.
Although we celebrate during this month the importance of brain injury awareness, let’s be reminded that every day, our loved ones and their journeys are the reason we shine.
Information and Resources
Looking to get away? Need to recharge? Look no further! Caregifted is an organization that grants respite getaways for long-term caregivers. Click here for more information.
As a reminder, the Washington State TBI Conference 2015, will be held Monday, April 27 and Tuesday, April 28, at the Marriott Hotel, Seattle Airport. For more information about the conference, click here.
The annual caregiver conference, “Challenges in Caregiving: Giving Care, Taking Care,” sponsored by the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, will be held at the Tukwila Community Center, 12424 42nd Ave. S. in Tukwila from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information, call (360) 725-2544 or visit their website.
Here is a link to many books about caregiving, various disabilities and illness.
Last, but not least, here is another quote to enjoy. Until next time, remember to embrace each moment!
When we do the best we can, we never know what miracle is wrought to our life, or in the life of another-–Helen Keller
At the Brain Energy Support Team (BEST), we are passionate about supporting caregivers and honor their hard work and dedication.
Today, we have a special post dedicated just for caregivers.
BEST Board Vice President, BEST guest blogger and caregiver, Maggie DePuye-Phillips, is back with her informative and inspirational “Caregiver’s Corner” column. Join Maggie as she offers resources, tips and support for caregivers. Additionally, BEST offers a free monthly support group onsite at the BEST Learning Center. See Maggie’s article for more details and how you can participate.
Ah, the start of another new year usually means time to set new goal. And for caregivers, this usually means more tasks to juggle.
Whether it is to lose weight, save money, spend more time with family, take on a new hobby or even improving your time management, they all involve some motivation to implement those goals. It is quite healthy to recharge every year, establishing new goals or resetting old ones; however, when you take on more than you can handle, defeat gets in the way.
Most often, lack of planning, knowledge or even organization can be the additional culprits that ultimately will lead you down that road of failure. Fortunately, there are resources out there that can help you tackle those tasks and accomplish your objectives, no matter how complicated they may seem. Once you get into a routine, there is bound to be some “wiggle room” to accomplish even some wild-haired goals you may have on your bucket list!
From my caregiver “toolkit,” here are some simple tips:
1. If organization of your home is one of your challenging tasks for 2015, I found a really neat website that offers de-cluttering strategies on a time-restraint budget. You will find a 52-week program that tackles ONE task per day, which takes no more than 15-20 minutes of your time. You can even receive daily emails of the respective tasks or print off weekly schedules; whatever works for you. So, what are you waiting for? Click HERE to learn more.
2. If saving money is one of your resolutions, there are many strategies to go about it. You may have read about or seen the 52-week money challenge (where you start w/$1 and double the amount every week, endingwith $1378 by December), but I have discovered a “better plan.” It’s called the “Pocket your Dollars” Challenge, a similar concept of the 52-week money challenge, but in the opposite direction. You start with the highest amount to save per week, which is $52, and decrease by a $1 every week so that by December, when the budget is tight with the holiday spending, you can still contribute to the challenge. Follow this LINK that explains more in detail.
3. If healthier eating or “releasing” weight is at the top of your list, but you are having a challenge starting and need some motivation, click HERE for an excellent resource. This website also has wonderful suggestions on meal planning, healthy recipes and exercise strategies! Just remember to make the time for you. Your body, mind and soul will thank you later!
As I mentioned in my last article, I have been reading the “The Caregiver Helpbook by Powerful Tools for Caregivers, Third Edition” (2013). In this amazing 21-chapter book, various topics are covered, including communication, stress management, mental health issues and the different roles of caregivers. One of my goals for 2015 is to read and complete one chapter every two weeks. I just completed the first chapter, “Taking Care of You, ” which covered managing self-care, setting goals, making action plans, seeking solutions and rewarding yourself. By keeping goals simple, realistic and specific, you learn to thrive as a caregiver. It was the perfect chapter to start the year!
Information & Resources
I come across many different websites that focus on caregiving. While researching on the topic of setting goals and organization, I discovered a phenomenal website that encompasses everything you can imagine about caregiving, covering various topics such as housing issues, legal matters, medical care and government resources. For assistance on organization, there is a section called “Checklists and Forms.” On this page, you will find many different forms you can use to better organize information for your caregiver role, including a caregiver’s log, a weekly medical chart, a sample filing system and a caregiver’s document organizer. Check it out, HERE.
BEST Caregiving Matters Support Group: 3rd Saturday every month from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. We will meet at the BEST Learning Center and light refreshments will be provided. There is no fee to attend and registration is not required. All are welcome.
2/21: Communicating Effectively in Challenging Situations
Participants will engage in a discussion of various communication styles and strategies of how to communicate appropriately in a variety of settings as a caregiver.
3/21: Learning from Our Emotions
Participants will have an opportunity to learn common emotions of caregiving such as grief, anxiety, anger, denial, resentment and guilt but share coping skills that brings hope and joy.
4/18: Making Tough Caregiving Decisions
Participants will be provided tools on how to make sound, compassionate decisions, especially when faced with challenging circumstances.
5/16: Long-Term Options
Information about long-term options such as assisted living, adult day-care, nursing homes and hiring in-home care as well as the importance of wills and estate planning will be provided.
This year’s conference will be held on Monday, April 27 and Tuesday, April 28, 2015 at the Marriott Hotel, SeattleAirport. If you are interested in attending, a limited number of scholarsships are available to individuals with brain injury and unpaid caregivers. You must apply by February 27th. For more information about theconference and scholarship application, click HERE.
Here are some books to add to your library on caregiving.
By Phyllis Quinlan
By Benjamin Pratt
By Elizabeth Rawson, M.A
And as always, let me leave you with two inspiring quotes as you start another new year with renewed hope! May you be empowered with your new discoveries! Until next time, remember to embrace each moment!
“One advantage of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries.” ~Winnie the Pooh
“With organization comes empowerment.” ~Lynda Peterson
At the Brain Energy Support Team (BEST), we are not only passionate about supporting the TBI community, we are also dedicated to supporting caregivers, too.
Please join BEST this Saturday, January 17 from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the BEST Learning Center in University Place, Washington for our monthly caregiver support group. This group offers tools, resources, support and conversation around caregiving.
There is no cost to attend this group, registration is not required and all caregivers are welcome to join us.
Have a question, comment or suggestion about this group? Feel free to post here in comments, private message us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 1-877-719-BEST. We are happy to help with your questions and welcome your ideas.
Each Tuesday for the month of December, the Brain Energy Support Team (BEST) has been posting tips for caregivers to help the holidays be a little less stressful.
It is our final Tuesday before the holiday. Typically, we’ve added two weekly tips; this week, we’ve thrown in some bonus ones.
These tips are adapted from the article, “Stress and the Holidays: Coping Strategies to Keep you Sane” by Helen Hunter, ACSW, CMSW.
1. Start traditions that make the most sense to you in your life now. It doesn’t always have to be done the same way every year.
2. Do things together as a family that you all truly enjoy.
3. Make the holiday season a time for you and your loved ones to have fun and share special memories. When the entire season is over, sit down, relax and count your blessings. Remind yourself as to how lucky you are. When you make an effort to have a joyous, stress-free holiday, you avoid the stress. The key is to plan ahead, and to ask for and accept help from others.
Well, it’s the final week before Christmastime.
Wow. THAT went by fast.
As you know, each Tuesday on this blog, the Brain Energy Support Team (BEST) offers two tips and strategies to help caregivers make the best of the holiday season. Here are the two tips for today (adapted from the article, “Stress and the Holidays: Coping Strategies to Keep you Sane” by Helen Hunter, ACSW, CMSW)
1. Work minute by minute on your attitude. Postpone becoming angry and show understanding and calmness. This technique should be used not only during the holiday period but every day!
2. Any task you have chosen to do, whether it be the cooking, cleaning, gift wrapping, card addressing, organizing, decorating or shopping, it is to be viewed as a choice that you made. Try to have fun in tackling these tasks, which will make the holiday easier and keep your spirits positive.