Count Your Blessings

I  finally walked into the front door of my home after 6 p.m. yesterday. It had been a marathon gift and food shopping excursion. 12 bags of groceries, 6 bottles of water, 1 last Christmas gift…

A woman in a radio ad was trying to return a partridge in a pear tree to the store but was turned down by the salesperson because the gift had been bought more than 90 days ago. That got me to musing about how easy it is to miss the spirit of the holidays.

Caregiving for family members can be all consuming. It is so easy to lose perspective when you are knee-deep in the details. The stress is very real and can hurt your health.

It sounds trite, but when I get to feeling overwhelmed I sit down with a cup of tea, take some deep breaths and count my blessings. My ritual started a number of years ago when everything looked so bleak. I focused on just one blessing.

Oddly enough, changing my perspective caused the blessings to start to multiply. It has been magical to watch as the events and people around me became more positive. Of course, this is easier to do looking back at past events than when your umbrella has turned inside out by the gale force winds of a major storm!

So my holiday gift to you is a reminder: Count your blessings and let the people around you know that you treasure them as one of  your blessings.

And, if you are having a tough time getting started, the video above has a wonderful (tongue-in-cheek) song to get you rolling.

Wishing you a thousand blessings…

Merry Christmas!

Finding The Right Senior Housing and Health Care Providers

Finding the Right Senior Housing and Heal Care Providers

Taking care of seniors may not be an easy task to do, especially when you have business to attend to, a family to maintain, and a whole bunch of other things to do in life. But because you also need the best for them in terms of health and general wellness, you might require finding the right senior housing and healthcare providers around you to choose the best. This is because they reach to a point where they need assisted living, when it comes to performing their regular tasks such as preparing a meal, doing laundry, moving about and so on and so forth. The elderly will also need to be close to health care facilities as one becomes more vulnerable to health conditions as they age since immunity decreases with aging. Such facilities are in some cases also referred to as adult homes or board and care providers. When looking for the right one to take your senior loved one, here are some things that you might want to give thought to.

1. Conduct A Research

Good assisted leaving facilities will be registered with the relevant regulatory bodies and will be well known to the indigenous people or the locals. You can get credible information about them when you conduct an online search taking note of some probably good options. Consider their reputation and also ask from people known to you for ideas about the same. Most importantly, check about the care providers experience and qualifications before you consider such a facility as the right one for your loved one.

2. How Are Their Services?

This is an important question to ask yourself. Since you are looking for a place where you will probably leave your loved one for a while, you might want to look at things such as sanitation, food, hygiene, and most important of all, their healthcare service. Do not choose a Senior Housing provider where your senior will feel abandon or think that their wellness has been neglected. It can have a bad impact on the health and wellness even further.

3. Consider Social Wellness Of Your Senior; Will It Be Well Catered For?

Everyone has their own favorite activity, be it sport, reading, watching, and much more. It would be wiser to seek information from your Senior Housing and healthcare provider, whether they have such services or determine which social amenities they currently support. Take your senior to a place where it will be convenient for them to get to places such as the dining area, the bathroom, and such other considerations.

4. Consider Safety And Security

Another important consideration would be to ask yourself whether your parent will be in safe hands. Is their security guaranteed? Seek information about how people are treated there and whether they are allowed their basic freedoms.

After considering these, you can also determine the costs involved. As much as you may be having a tight budget, ensure that your senior will be comfortable in the facility you take them to. You may decide to take them along when you pay your first visit there and find out their opinion.

If you liked this article then checkout more at our 3GenFamily blog today

Power Naps Are Better Than Coffee

My secret is out…

A few months ago, I was interviewed by Jen Soong, who was writing an article for WebMD magazine. I confessed my secret for staying healthy and sane when my long days catch up with me.

What’s my secret?

It’s all here in the article: The Secret (and Surprising) Power of Naps

I discovered this secret when my children were babies. I used to take naps when they did. It was the best way for a 38 year old mom (42 when the second boy was born)  to survive having a baby in the house.

How Long Should You Nap?

I usually nap for about 25 minutes. And I set a timer to make sure I don’t oversleep. For me, sleeping too long means waking up groggy and less able to function.

Sleep researchers have discovered that how long you nap determines which mental functions are enhanced. In fact, it is all described in a book by Sara C. Mednick, PhD titled Take a Nap! Change Your Life.

Short naps of about 20 minutes are good for metal alertness. Longer naps benefit creativity and problem solving.

Naps may also be good for your heart. A study by the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Athens (Greece) Medical School followed 23,600 men and women living in Greece for an average of 6.3 years.

The results showed that people who regularly took siestas, defined by the researchers as napping at least three times per week for an average of at least 30 minutes, had a 37% lower coronary mortality than those not taking siestas. Occasional nappers showed a statistically non-significant 12% reduction in coronary mortality. The apparent protective effect of siestas was particularly strong among working men and weaker among those not working, mainly retirees. Among working women, there were too few deaths to allow inferences.

The researchers believe that regular naps reduce stress which results in fewer instances of coronary mortality.

When Should You Nap?

Are you a “morning person” (sometimes called a lark) or a night owl? The ideal time to take your nap depends on your body’s normal rhythm. I’m a lark in a family of night owls. At 10 p.m., my eyelids are getting heavy. I am ready to get to sleep. But, my husband and sons are just getting rolling on work.

Here is an easy, one-page description of how to pick your most beneficial time to nap and other helpful tips from The Boston Globe.

As the old saying goes, “Try it, you’ll like it!”

Low Salt Diet Saves Lives

salt-crystlsWorking for a small company that does most of its business online means that we don’t have the seasonal celebrations that most bigger companies hold. No company picnics…  no three legged races…  no sunburned co-workers.

So when the building owner for our office invited the entire building to a barbecue on Wednesday, I thought it would be a great way to meet some of the others who work in the building for other companies. There was a great turnout—the building owner made sure of that by holding an emergency drill for the building right at noon!

So, everyone was milling around in the open patio near the parking lot. There was plenty of barbecue chicken and steak, caesar salad, potato salad, corn, beans, soda, iced tea, water, and cookies and brownies for dessert.

A typical menu for this type of American event.

But, I had forgotten just how much salt food like this could have. My stomach was happy when I left the barbecue but it didn’t take long for an overwhelming thirst to set in.

After multiple cups of water and green tea, I finally began to feel normal again. Sigh… too much salt in that food. I made a mental note to drink water and mingle rather than eat at the next event.

Since my Dad died, I have spent time pondering what I could do differently to prevent getting the multiple illnesses that plagued him—diabetes, heart disease, stroke, prostate cancer and kidney failure.

Skipping the beer  and hard alcohol was an easy one. Cutting back on fat was not so hard to do. Ditto the sugar and empty refined carbs. (Ok, I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t sometimes miss delectable crumb cake,  raised donuts and New York cheesecake.)

But, kicking the salt habit took a lot longer. I had great motivation—my husband needs to keep his blood pressure under control. So we began a journey together to a low salt diet.

Out went the chips and crackers. I modified each home-cooked recipe to remove as much salt as possible.

Surprise! Our taste buds adjusted to like unsalted foods.

But going out to dinner is like walking in a field full of mines. Can I find the right items that don’t have much salt in them? Sadly, not at the barbecue.

If each American cut salt intake by 1 teaspoon (3g) a day, there would be 120,000 fewer strokes, 99,000 fewer heart attacks and 92,000 fewer deaths in the next year. –Spry Magazine, May 2010.

Salt is essential for life. But, most Americans are fooled into eating far too much. It is hidden in prepared foods and snacks.

Want to prove it? Keep track of what you eat for a day. Record the amount of salt in the food you eat and the recipes you prepare.

Unless you prepare all of your food from scratch and omit salt in every recipe, you’ll be shocked to discover that you get waaaay more salt than the 1500 -2400 milligrams recommended as healthy.

Bread, donuts, breakfast cereal, cheese, lunch meat, tomato sauce, salad dressings, salsa, corn chips, potato chips, canned vegetables, packaged meals and restaurant meals all have added amounts of salt that can tip you over your daily allowance well before your lunch is over.

My Dad would skip the mayo (78 mg of sodium) on his ham (286 mg of sodium) sandwich but then eat cottage cheese (300 mg of sodium) and canned pineapple. Overall, he did cut down on his sodium intake but never as much as he really needed.

When you are 83 years old, giving up favorite foods is exceedingly difficult to do. And, it’s not much easier for a 50 something daughter.

I’ve tackled this puzzle by buying less packaged food and cooking more at home. I purchase chicken broth,  tomato sauce and salsa with no added salt. For regular snacks, I get unsalted almonds.

But, sometimes even I forget to glance at the label. The other day I bought plain cottage cheese made by a dairy that specializes in “healthy foods” (300 mg of sodium per half cup) when I should have gotten plain yogurt (125 mg of sodium per half cup) for a between-meal calcium boost.

It takes perseverance to lower the salt in your regular meals because extra salt is everywhere. But, saving 120,000 people from strokes and 99,000 from heart attacks is a really important reason to do it.

And, you may just save the life of your spouse, your children, or your own.

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Swine Flu – 3 Things You Must Do

Unless you have been isolated in a remote retreat, you probably have heard and read all  about the swine flu. Comedy Central’s programs “The Daily Show with John Stewart” and “The Colbert Report” are buzzing about it. Vice President Joe Biden angered the airline industry today by advocating that his family stay away from plane trips to avoid getting sick.

It is so important not to panic.  Medical experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that each year 5% to 20% of Americans get the flu. Peak season is October through March.

Most people recover from the flu without serious complications. Reports indicate that folks in the US who had this latest version of the swine flu have recovered without using special medications.

3 Things You Must Do

The key is to focus on the 3 most important basic actions to maintain a healthy immune system:

  1. Wash your hands frequently and help your children to wash their hands. Sing (or say) the ABC’s to help your children wash for at least 20 seconds. Avoid touching your face, nose or mouth with your hands.
  2. Get at least 8 hours of sleep each night. Our bodies recharge and heal while we sleep. Work on reducing stress during the day, too.
  3. Eat well. Skip the sweets and heavy fat meals in favor of vegetables and fruit, lean protein and legumes and whole grains.

Really? Is that it?

Yes, those are the basics.

What If You Start To Feel Ill?

  • Stay home. You will recover faster and will help prevent the spread to others.
  • Get rest. Your body is telling you it needs rest.
  • Drink plenty of fluids but not alcohol.

An herbal tea like chamomile or ginger can soothe an upset stomach. Green and black teas can help clear your throat. Chicken soup really does work to clear your sinuses. Some friends swear by spicy soups. I made onion soup without the cheese for my younger son when he was under the weather recently.

CK’s Super Fast Onion Soup

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

2 medium onions, thinly sliced ( I use red onions for the milder taste)

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 quart beef broth ( I use one container of organic broth  that I buy and keep in the pantry. You can substitute vegetable or chicken.)

A sprinkle of Paul Prudhomme’s Magic Seasoning Blend or a pinch of cayenne pepper.

Instructions

Heat olive oil in a 2 quart pan or dutch oven over medium low heat.

Add onions. Sprinkle with seasoning.

Cook  until onions are soft. Stir occasionally and add a little water if they start to stick.

Once onions are soft and translucent, add beef broth.

Turn heat to medium-high until soup starts to bubble, then turn heat down to medium-low and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Taste soup and adjust seasoning to your taste.

Here’s to your good health!

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Mental Wellness for Caregivers – 5 Quick Tips

Do you worry?

I know I do.

Caregivers often encounter unexpected crises and need to make complex medical decisions on a moment’s notice for the loved ones under our care. Difficult questions can continue to weigh on you when you most need to rest. Your mind keeps wandering back to a jungle of gloom and doom.

I was having one of those less than perfect days recently, so I sat down for a quick cup of tea. What I needed was something to lift my spirits.

Leafing through the day’s newspaper looking for anything that would inspire me or make me laugh, I came across a very brief article about ways to stay upbeat when you may not feel so positive.

The first comment by Matthew Ferry, a life coach, startled me.

Realize that your mind’s job is to keep you safe, not happy.

In other words, your mind naturally looks for things that could go wrong so that you can protect yourself.  All this time, I had been thinking that there was something wrong with me for worrying.

It turns out that I’m not alone.  Everyone needs to control their thoughts to remain positive.

Here are some tips and techniques that I have gathered over the past few years to help a caregiver with little time and lots of responsibilities stay on the sunny side of the street.

1.Make time for activities that give you enjoyment. Even a few minutes to enjoy a cup of tea or take a brisk walk can rejuvenate you. But, be careful about reading the newspaper or watching TV. Too much of today’s news fuels anxiety.

2. When you are feeling tense or fearful, stop and take a deep breath and exhale slowly. Are you clenching your jaw or squeezing your shoulders? Breathe slowly a few more times to relax.

3. Do you have a fear lurking in the corner of your mind that you keep trying to push down but it keeps coming back?

I have lived a long life and had many troubles, most of which never happened. — Mark Twain

Recognize that many of your fears are unfounded. We scare ourselves by imagining negative outcomes that will never happen.

There are many techniques for overcoming fear. One of my favorites is to imagine I’m holding a large chalkboard eraser. I stretch my arm up to the top of the image in my mind and begin to mentally sweep back and forth with my arm as if I was erasing chalk from the board. (Use a white board if that’s more familiar to you.)

In my mind’s eye, I watch the negative image disappear.  My negative feelings also begin to slide away. By the time I am done erasing the image, my tight stomach is gone.

Then, construct a positive image to replace the fear.

If I’m worried about another person’s reaction, I visualize that person reacting positively to what I have just told them. We work out any differences and part company, happy that each of our needs were met.

Another approach is to remember a time that you triumphed in the face of fear.

New experiences always feel a little scary. By remembering how you managed to get past your fear and succeed the last time, you set the stage to do it again. Feel that glow of triumph again. You CAN do whatever it is you have to do.

4. Sometimes a fear or worry won’t go away.

Roger Callahan, Ph.D. (Clinical Psychology, Syracuse Univeristy)  came up with a amazingly fast method for anyone to rid themselves of fears. In Tapping the Healer Within : Using Thought-Field Therapy to Instantly Conquer Your Fears, Anxieties, and Emotional Distress,  Callahan describes his method of combining light tapping of several acupressure points with expressing thoughts about an emotion to release it permanently.

Callahan’s technique has been acknowledged by a number of highly regarded professionals (Jack Canfield, Deepak Chopra, Joe Vitale) for its effectiveness. Another name for it is Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). And, the technique can be used for pain and disease management, too. It is easy to do anywhere.

5. Practice gratitude every day. Make a list of 10 (or more!) things in your life for which you are grateful. They can be people like your family, things like your car or personal attributes like being in good health.  Review this list first thing in the morning and right before bed. The law of attraction dictates that we get more of whatever we focus our minds on. By counting our blessings each morning and evening, we set the stage to receive even more. If you only have time to try one of these tips, try this one for a week. You will notice a happy difference.

Do you have a mental wellness tip not mentioned here? Please leave a comment to share it with others.

Oh, and thanks for taking the time out of your busy day to read this post!

9 Survival Tips for Parents of College Students

Our trip to the airport on Saturday to send our eldest son back to college for his second year was so much easier than last year.  Just  12 short months ago, our firstborn was departing for his first year of college (see Sending a Son to College – I Didn’t Know It Would Be Painful!).

There was so much uncertainty when he started his Freshman year at an Eastern university:

  • Did he have everything he needed in the way of clothing and stuff for his room?
  • How much money does a college student need during the school year?
  • Did our son really need the meningitis vaccine?
  • Would he adapt to a different cultural environment and the change in weather?
  • Did he choose the right college?

Waiting in line at San Jose airport to check his luggage, I had a chance to watch the college freshmen and their families repeat the teary-eyed departure that we lived just one year ago. How I empathized with them!

One young woman was frantically trying to shift enough clothing from her checked bag to her carry on. The checked bag weighed 57 pounds. She had to get the overweight bag to 50 pounds to meet the airline’s requirements. Her flight was set to depart in 45 minutes. And, there was still the long walk through the security line before she could get to her plane.

Watching the activity all around me, I realized that we have learned a number of lessons after surviving the first year of college:

College Survival Lesson 1: Ship as much of your student’s belongings to the college ahead of time. I got this tip at a party from a father of a second year student who paid exorbitant fees on overweight luggage her first year.  FedEx Ground is actually slightly cheaper than UPS from California to Rhode Island. What used to be Kinko’s is now FedEx Office. They can help you get your boxes of stuff where they need to go. And, there are open late.  Remember to allow enough advance time to ship. It takes about 4-7 days to get packages from here to there.

College Survival Lesson 2: Residence Hall Linens turned out to be a time saver. I ignored the first flyer because I didn’t know who they were. When the second one came in from my son’s college, I read through it more carefully. We ordered a smaller package of sheets and towels shipped to our home so that I could launder them before the start of school. I was pleasantly surprised at the quality. And they are guaranteed to last all four years! They still look good after the first year.

College Survival Lesson 3: Unless you live within a couple hours driving distance of the college, buy or rent your mini-fridge and other big items there. But, remember that any bulky item you buy will have to be stored over the summer. Buy only absolute essentials. Coordinate with roommates about furnishings. Most dorm rooms are very small.

College Survival Lesson 4: Will the budget amount for personal expenses estimated by the college financial aid office last both semesters?  Maybe. As our son’s plane took off last year, I worried that the budget of $3600 might be wrong. How expensive would books be? Did we forget to anticipate anything? How would our son manage his money?

It turns out that our son did an great job of holding down expenses. He spent $3300 on books and personal expenses (not counting room and board). The biggest difference from the college prepared budget was travel costs. Driving 3000 miles for holidays was not really an option. Plane flights, including an extra trip at Thanksgiving, cost $1200. The school budgeted $800 for travel.  Our son managed to save money on text books by sharing a few with another friend in the same classes and buying used books ($850 actual vs $1230 estimated). His personal expenses totaled $1350 actual vs. $1590 estimated. He resisted the temptation to eat out rather than at the college cafeteria. We were relieved to know that our son is quite good at conserving his cash.

College Survival Lesson 5: If your daughter or son has not lived away from home before, expect some homesickness the first semester. I visited our son during Parents’ Weekend in October because he seemed so lonely those first weeks. He paid the plane fare to come for Thanksgiving because he didn’t want to be alone in the dorm (most students live within driving distance) on the holiday. In addition to communicating by phone, Facebook and cards, consider sending care packages.  You can order a package from any of the floral websites and from specialty companies. Search “College Student Care Packages” to find a long list of companies that will ship your student’s favorite munchies. Because our eldest has food allergies, I packed my own with non-perishable items like food bars, chai tea, almonds, pistachios, dried cherries and cranberries. I shipped vitamins periodically, too.

College Survival Lesson 6: Bottled water is costly for a college student. Tap water often tastes bad, not to mention the latest reports showing all sorts of drugs coming out of the tap. But, everyone needs to drink water. The simple solutions is to buy a water purifying pitcher. All your son or daughter needs to do is soak and rinse the filter, put it in the pitcher, pour in cold tap water and wait for the better tasting filtered water to trickle through to the bottom.  I tested several brands and settled on a PUR pitcher and filter.

College Survival Lesson 7: I have very mixed feelings about all of the immunizations that are required for children and young adults. Was the expensive meningitis vaccine really necessary? Yes. My research indicated that college freshmen are at a much higher risk of getting meningitis. Some strains are contagious — spread through sneezing, coughing, kissing, or sharing drinking glasses.  Antibiotics work on this disease IF it is diagnosed early and treatment is begun very rapidly.  The reality of college freshman life is that most students stay up very late, eat at odd times, are stressed to the max adjusting to the new environment and may not recognize that they are much sicker than just having the flu. And, sadly, delays in treating meningitis can be deadly. This is one immunization that your son or daughter should not miss.

College Survival Lesson 8: I grew up in the East but my son is all Californian. My pleas to shop for winter clothes were ignored. My son was convinced that he would be warm enough by layering the clothes he already owned.  The protective mother in me wanted to scold him into submission. I resisted the urge, allowing him to have his own way. The late October rain in New England was cold, cold, cold. The long walks from his dorm at the far end of campus to class convinced him that I was right about buying winter clothing. Fortunately, we were able to buy boots, lined raincoat, long underwear and windproof fleece online and have it arrive pronto.So, be prepared for unexpected needs but let your college student lead. Because of this episode, my advice carries much more weight these days.

College Survival Lesson 9: Wait until January to get a realistic appraisal about the student’s choice of school. The first semester was rough for our son and many of his friends.  Roommate problems topped the list of super stress inducers. Resist the urge to intervene unless the situation is potentially dangerous. Give your student space to deal with the issue. A five star book with great tips for dealing with the roommate from hell is “My Roommate Is Driving Me Crazy”

This year our son is rooming with several of his friends who share is interests and values so he shouldn’t experience the issues he had with last year’s roommate. I think he’s going to have a great school year. We are looking forward to hearing about it when he is home after the semester ends.