Caregiver Loneliness Can Delay YOUR Recovery

Five Tips for Avoiding Isolation

loneliness

Take a Peek at Caregiver Loneliness

ICU minutes stretch like bubblegum—at some point, I know they’ll burst and slap more messiness into my life. I wait, lonely in the busiest place on the planet, for the nurses to allow me back into Pedro’s room. The tubes cascade out of his mouth, bringing life and hope that I won’t have to face the future alone.

***

Hospital minutes twang with anxiety—Pedro’s not in ICU any more, but nurses rush in on quiet feet each time I press the call button. Days have passed since he knew that I sit next to him, counting each breath and movement—hoping that this crisis will pass. The beeps of his vitals accompany my prayers. The loneliness presses in—squeezing hope into the corners.

 ***

I am on a highway, looking towards a bright future, yet time whizzes past me in a blur. I tend to Pedro’s needs during my lunch break, than hurry back to work. The four of us (Pedro, Laura, Sarah and I) relish his recovery, and long for time to regain its measured pace. Normalcy dances within reach, yet I feel lonelier than when minutes stretched like bubblegum.

The bills, the burdens, the new normal, all build an invisible wall between me and everyone else. No one understands the sheer panic a sneeze or a sniffle produces in my mind. No one understands the confusion of no longer living in panic mode.

I blindly hang on to the one constant from my journey. I know I have never been alone. Never been forsaken. But MY road to recovery is a lonely one. #caregiver Click To Tweet

Lessons Learned in Retrospect

Fifteen years have passed since Pedro’s stem-cell transplant saved his life. For him, recovery lasted about a year. For me? A lot longer. Cancer and other catastropic illnesses can act as blinders for the caregiver. We hyper-focus on the tasks at hand: taking care of our loved one, finding answers, and willing them to live. We forget that the world continues while we fight an isolated battle.

In retrospect, I would have done things a bit differently.

1). I would have found a support group for cancer caregivers.

I don’t know if they didn’t exist at the time of Pedro’s illness, or if I just didn’t see signs offering help. A few years after his recovery, I went to the same hospital and noticed posters all over the place for caregiver support groups. It would have been helpful to know that I wasn’t the only one having all the feelings that accompany caregiving.loneliness

2). I would have taken more interest in my friends.

Pedro’s illness took place before the advent Facebook and Instagram, so keeping in touch with friends meant phoning or writing letters. Nowadays, constant communication takes very little time and effort. You can take an interest in other people’s lives while you wait.

3) Make an effort to keep in touch with friends and family on a regular basis about non-caregiver related things.

This seems counterintuitive, because your world seems consumed by caregiving matters. But if you come out of the bubble, you’ll find connection with others that will help you when the crisis has ended and you return to normal life.

4) Don’t be afraid to ask for prayer for yourself.

I had no problems asking for prayer for Pedro and his specific needs. I had no idea that I could ask for prayer for myself. You can ask to join our Blessed (but Stressed) group of caregivers on Facebook. We pray for each other every Wednesday.

5) Acknowledge that YOU need time to recover, too.

Hopefully, if you take care of yourself during your journey (I didn’t), you’ll find that recovery takes less time. By staying connected with friends and family about non-caregiver related things, you won’t feel so isolated when your caregiving duties have ended. You’ll find it easier to resume activities that feel ‘normal’ to you, thus decreasing your sense of isolation and loneliness.

Know a Caregiver?

Do you know a caregiver?  Have you wondered if he or she might might suffer from caregiver loneliness?  What can YOU do to help? Don’t feel rejected if your caregiver friend seems distant and unresponsive. Keep reaching out! Caregivers suffer from loneliness but often don’t know how to express their feelings. They need YOU!


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Why You Should Forget About New Year’s Resolutions

Brainstorm Solutions, Instead

ResolutionKiss Resolutions Goodbye!

For years I made New Year’s resolutions: lose weight, start an exercise program, have better health, give up chocolate, and myriad other impossible proclamations.  While my husband recovered from his stem-cell transplant, I spent all of my spare time in bed. I felt grumpy and depressed and weighed fifty pounds more than I should. All of my resolutions clustered around me, tying me to my perpetual inaction.

And then I learned a secret.  ‘Resolution’ simply means to decide on a course of action—there’s nothing to ensure that I stay on course.  Lofty plans sound great on December 31, but without action they fall by the wayside quicker than couch potatoes running a 5K.

‘Solution,’ on the other hand, means ‘the act of solving a problem’ or ‘the state of being solved.’  Action equals motion.  This year, decide on solutions to problems and ditch the resolutions. Start with a list of things you’d like to accomplish, and then brainstorm ways to make those things happen. Don’t focus on your goal, though. You might end up feeling overwhelmed.

Focus on the little changes that you can make each day that add up to big changes over a long period of time. Those daily choices add up. Give yourself grace during your journey to forming new habits.

Resolutions

 

Changes Don’t Happen Overnight

Since saying ‘Adios!’ to New Year’s Resolutions, and acting to solve problems I saw in my life, I’ve lost those fifty extra pounds, lowered my cholesterol and learned that chocolate isn’t the enemy. I have more solutions to work out in my life, but I’m not the grumpy, frumpy middle-aged lump I used to be.

You can find out more about learning to really nurture yourself over at my other blog. On my journey, I’ve discovered lots of solutions to adding extra movement into my life and finding healthier ways to deal with stress.

Whether you’re a busy mom or a stressed-out caregiver, remember to give yourself grace for your journey. Change takes time (more than the month of January) in order to remain permanent. If you’d like to find a grace-filled support group, check out Faithful Finish Lines and their two-week FREE Grace Camp (affiliate link).

True change takes time! Give yourself grace, and don't try to accomplish everything in the just one month! #newyearsresolutions #solutions Click To Tweet

You can also download the printable graphic right here:





 

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We All Learn in Different Ways

(And We'd Like to Help You Out!)

differentDifferent Ways to Learn

The professor of educational psychology class at a university intoned, “We only learn by practicing—by actually doing something.” I shook my head in disbelief.

differentI raised my hand (I can’t keep my opinions to myself, sometimes). “So, you’re telling me that if I drove down the road, and see the vehicle in front of me bottom out in a pothole, I don’t have a different choice? I will have to go through the same pothole in order to learn that going through potholes could damage my car?”

“Hrrrum,” the professor replied. “What would you do in this situation?”

“Something different!” I exclaimed. “As a rational, thinking, relatively observant human being, I would swerve to avoid the pothole.”

“Um, yes,” he replied. “Good choice for your car. But we’re talking about the psychology of learning.”

“Agreed. But if I observe someone else making a mistake, and make a different choice with a better result, did learning take place?” Obviously, the professor (a young man in graduate school), had no siblings. Every second or third child understands the benefit of learning from the oldest sibling’s mistakes!

Our Gift to You

Carol Bovee and I have had some crazy experiences during our different cancer caregiving journeys. We’ve gone through some potholes along the way that damaged us because we didn’t take time to care for ourselves.

We’ve prepared a free book for you to help you negotiate your own caregiver journey (or tell a caregiver friend about the book!). Learn from our mistakes, without having to make them. We want you to experience a different journey—one where you come out the other end with fewer bumps and dings.

You can find the link to the free book up there in the right-hand corner. You’ll receive a free PDF of Cancer Caregiving 101: How to Survive and Thrive on Your Caregiver Journey. You’ll also receive a short series of emails that let you know about other aspects of our caregiving community.

Even if you don’t care for someone with cancer, you might find the stories inspirational and helpful in your own caregiving journey. Remember, if you know a caregiver, please pass this information along. We’d love to help others learn from our mistakes!

Get your FREE copy of Cancer Caregiving 101: How to Survive and Thrive During Your #Caregiving Journey. #selfhelp #cancer Click To Tweet

Get the FREE book!





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A Near Truth is Really a Lie

Give the Gift of Honesty (and a Helping Hand)

nearGoing to Church, but Avoiding the Members

The exhaust from our 4Runner billowed like clouds in the sub-zero temperatures. Snow squeaked under my feet as I went outside to check the temperature in the vehicle. I felt chagrinned that we would drive less than a block before parking. Church was so near, but Pedro couldn’t risk a fall on the ice, nor prolonged contact with the cold. He wanted to go to church, but didn’t want to see church members.

near

Pedro and the girls in front of the tree that transplant Christmas.

“Don’t want to see anyone,” he had told me. “Tired of everyone telling me how good I look. I don’t.”

And he didn’t. When people he knew saw him, I could see the quickly veiled shock and the scarcely masked struggle for a response. They usually blurted out, “You look great!” A near lie, if by that they meant he looked good. A near truth if they meant he looked like an extra for a movie about the Holocaust.

After assuring myself that Pedro wouldn’t freeze, I went back inside to help him bundle up for the short drive. I could give him the gift of church without people.

“Drive up the sidewalk,” Pedro instructed.

I blanched. Pedro must have noticed, because he assured me, “They drive a pickup on it all the time to clear the snow. It won’t hurt anything.”

“Ok,” I breathed, before backing out of the drive way and heading to the sidewalk. I needed to let go of my compulsive rule-following and concern over what others thought of me. I pulled up near the front steps and helped Pedro inside before dashing outside to get the car off the sidewalk.

When I ran inside, Pedro had made it across the lobby and up one of the steps leading to the mother’s room.

Nothing but the Truth

He looked so frail—more like a 90-year-old than a 34-year-old. After battling cancer for eight months, he looked like he’d walked off the set of Schindler’s List—emaciated, expressionless, and practically immobile.

Many church friends hadn’t seen him since the summer, when he looked near-healthy; just a young man dealing with a bout of cancer. The battle had turned ugly in late July, and he had experienced several near-death experiences in the interim. No wonder he wanted to avoid them.

We labored up the stairs together, and sank into a comfortable couch in the darkened room. The annual Christmas program came through the speakers, filled with songs and readings of hope. After the program, I went back down to the 4Runner to get it warming, and then went back inside to visit with a few people and wait for the crowds to clear.

The lobby emptied out, so I went upstairs to help Pedro. As we neared the bottom of the stairs, a voice called out, “Pedro! It’s good to see you!”

Pedro and I both looked up and saw one of our friends rushing across the lobby to greet us. As he neared, I saw the shock and horror. I braced myself for the usual near lie. I had worked so hard to give Pedro the gift of a morning at church without having to hear the hated sentence.

Instead, our friend blurted out, “Man, you look awful!” He clapped his hand over his mouth and froze, stunned by what he had said.

Pedro burst out laughing—but considering his weakened vocal chords and his frozen face, our friend couldn’t read Pedro’s reaction.

When Pedro finally caught his breath, he held out his hand, “Thanks! I needed to hear that today. The truth.”

How to Avoid Near Lies

Give the gift of truth this Christmas. If someone looks haggard and worn out, don’t lie and say they look great. Go deeper and ask them how they are doing. Invite them out for a cup of coffee. If they say they can’t get out because they can’t get away, offer to bring the coffee to them. Caregivers don’t have a lot of spare time, but they always appreciate help!

Those who struggle with illness, whether physical or mental, don’t feel better when we, the healthy, tell them near truths (lies). They would prefer the truth. Or, if you fear offending, an honest offer of help.

To say that someone looks great when they obviously don’t, diminishes their struggle. #mentalhealth #Christmas #caregivers Click To Tweet

In this busiest of seasons, make a vow to spend less time on decorations and fleeting gifts of things, and more time looking for friends in need. To this day, Pedro has fond memories of our friend’s blurted truth—the perfect gift in a season of darkness.

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Asbestos: The Deadly Threat to DIYers

What You Don't Know CAN Kill You

asbestos

Today Rachel Lynch from the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance will share with us about a deadly fiber that most people don’t know enough about.

What DIYers don’t know about asbestos just might kill them. Tiny particles of asbestos, a naturally occurring fibrous material used in construction in the 1970s, can enter a person’s lungs and cause Mesothelioma. This rare form of cancer only comes from contact with asbestos.

Shockingly, although we’ve known for years that asbestos causes cancer, other countries import this toxin into our country on a regular basis.

What is Asbestos?

At first, no one knew about the side effects of asbestos. Its cheap and strong qualities seemed to provide the perfect tool for myriad construction applications. After all, it has the ability to resist heat, fire and electricity.

The material can be found in wallpaper, cement, insulation, floor/ceiling tiles, pipes, furnaces, and broilers among other building materials. In addition, the toxin was used frequently in the military and ship building. Unfortunately, when inhaled, it can cause cancer.

What is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. There are four different types of mesothelioma—pleural, peritoneal, pericardial and testicular. Pleural mesothelioma occurs in the lungs and is the most common form of the disease. Pleural mesothelioma accounts for 70 to 80 percent of all diagnosed mesothelioma cases.

asbestosEach type of the disease presents itself with varying symptoms. Due to the variation, it is extremely difficult for patients to get an accurate and timely diagnosis. Unfortunately, all too often patients receive an accurate mesothelioma diagnosis only after the cancer has progressed into the third or fourth stage. Most patients are first misdiagnosed with a more common respiratory illness such as the flu or pneumonia. To make matters worse, mesothelioma has a long latency period—it typically does not manifest until 20 to 40 years after asbestos exposure occurs.

Most often those diagnosed with mesothelioma have only 12 to 21 months to live. Prognosis can improve with early diagnosis. As previously stated, though, most cases are not confirmed until the third or fourth stage when it is too late for treatment. At that point, palliative care is the only option.

How Does Asbestos Exposure Occur?

Three distinct waves of asbestos exposure have occurred in the United States. The first wave of exposure impacted those handling asbestos in their occupations—mainly men working in mining, military personnel, and tradesmen. The second wave of exposure impacted the workers’ families. Those who worked with asbestos brought home the asbestos fibers on their clothing—unknowingly exposing their families when particles fell all their clothing and family members inhaled them.

The third—and current wave—of asbestos exposure has a close connection to the DIY craze. Many homes and schools have asbestos in them. The material is relatively harmless when left alone. However, when Do-it-Yourselfers dig into a project, they often disturb the material and release asbestos dust into the air. Anyone nearby could inhale the fibers and end up with mesothelioma

If you have an older home, consult an asbestos professional to have your home inspected before beginning any remodeling projects.asbestos

International Use of Asbestos

While asbestos use in the United States has tapered off, there are parts of the world where the asbestos trade thrives.

Although the last asbestos mine in the United States shut down in 2002, manufacturers in the United States still wanted to use the cheap and resistant material. With the United States no longer mining and manufacturing our own asbestos and asbestos products, the nation’s imports provide a major driving force in the growth in the international asbestos trade.

Other countries have imported more than 8 million pounds of asbestos into the United States since 2006. The majority of that—more than 7.6 million pounds of asbestos—arrived at the ports of New Orleans and Houston. Other ports receiving shipments of asbestos and asbestos products include Newark, Long Beach and Los Angeles. From those ports the toxic material travels out to 29 different states by either truck or rail. So, while the ban on mining asbestos protects U.S. miners from occupational asbestos exposure, the toxin still makes its way to all corners of the country and continues to put Americans in great danger.

Why is Asbestos still legal?

After reading all this you might be wondering—If we know that asbestos contains a cancer-causing toxin why do we still use it? I can assure you it’s not for lack of trying.

Beginning in the 1970s, when researchers discovered that asbestos causes cancer, the Environmental Protection Agency began attempting to ban the carcinogenic material. Unfortunately, they didn’t find success.

Almost 40 years later, the Senate unanimously passed the Ban Asbestos in America Act. Unfortunately, the House of Representatives squashed the bill and it never made it to the President.

“It’s reprehensible that Congress has allowed the man-made asbestos crisis to continue,” says Linda Reinstein, president of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), which represents asbestos victims. “Each year, up to 15,000 Americans die from preventable mesothelioma and other asbestos-caused diseases and imports still continue.“

What Now?

Until researchers discover a cure for Mesothelioma, prevention and raising awareness provide the best recourses for early treatment. If you or a loved one believe they have experienced asbestos exposure, visit a medical professional.

By raising awareness of Mesothelioma, people may realize they have been exposed to it and seek help before symptoms arise. A simple mention that you may have been exposed to asbestos could enable early detection, significantly increasing your chances of survival.

asbestosRachel Lynch is the Press and Media Coordinator for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, a leading authority in providing information about asbestos exposure and its link to mesothelioma.

 

 

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A Caregiver You Know Might Need This Book

Dr. Bengtson Releases a Hope Prevails Bible Study Guide

BengtsonNot Knowing That I Stood in Need

When my husband miraculously recovered from non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma with Central Nervous System involvement I knew I should feel grateful and blessed. I did, mostly. But a heavy blanket of depression crept over me and sucked the color out of my days. I felt as if an angry monster lurked inside, ready to lash out at any moment. I had no idea that I needed something.

It took me awhile to acknowledge that perhaps I suffered from depression (after all, shouldn’t I feel blessed? Which just made me feel guiltier and more depressed). At the time, I found a good resource that helped me understand my feelings and start traveling out of the darkness.

I wish I would have had Hope Prevails Bible Study: Insights from a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression by Dr. Michelle Bengston. Not only has Dr. Bengston traveled through depression, she has experienced seasons of caregiving as well. In fact, her husband received a cancer diagnosis on the day her first book, Hope Prevails: Insights from a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression launched last year. Dr. Bengston knows first-hand how caregiving can wear a person down and how maintaining a positive attitude of hope plays an important role in a caregiver’s life.

Dr. Bengtson graciously answered a few questions about the unique challenges that caregivers face.

What lies do caregivers need to be aware of both during and after a loved one’s illness?

Dr. Bengtson: Caregivers need to be aware of the lie that somehow our loved-one’s well-being depends on us. It doesn’t. God has them in His hand and He cares for them so much better than we ever could. We just need to cooperate with Him.

We also need to be aware of the lie that will scream that their healing isn’t permanent. Only God knows. So, we rejoice in the promise that God says that by His stripes we are healed. We don’t know if that will be this side of heaven or not, but we thank Him that God’s ways are best.

Caregivers also must be careful to guard against the lie that says that more we do, the better off they will be, or that no one can care for them as good as we can. We need to take time to rest ourselves so that we can care for them. And sometimes resting means delegating or allowing others to step in and help.

As a cancer caregiver yourself, what extra advice would you give a caregiver who struggles with hopelessness?

Dr. Bengtson: As a caregiver, we have to be careful to guard against hopelessness. We have to be careful not to let anxiety have a place in our mind. One of the best ways to do that is to repeat God’s promises out loud, such as Psalm 39:7 “”But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.” and Isaiah 40:31 “but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Go to Him. Share your burdens. He wants to help you carry them. He wants to be your strength. You do not have to go through this alone. Even when friends and family do not understand, he does!

Who Needs Dr. Bengtson’s Book

If you act as a caregiver to someone, I strongly recommend that you read this book as preventative maintenance! Traveling through a caregiving journey calls for extra fortifications—something this book provides. If you know a caregiver, consider giving the book to them as a gift. Often times caregivers look fine on the outside, but inside they feel lost and abandoned. The easy-to-use and understand Bible study takes the reader on a journey of hope. I found the play lists of hope-filled songs especially helpful. Dr. Bengtson has curated a wide variety of Christian music artists to help lift the listener’s spirits throughout the day.

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The Cost of Caregiving to Working Family Caregivers

Cost of Caregiving to Working Caregivers

by Samantha Stein
Many people like to say that being busy is a myth. No one is truly too busy, and it is all a matter of time management. However, I wonder if any of these people know what it is like to manage the cost of caregiving, holding down a paying job, and keeping a family together. All while fighting to maintain your own well-being in the process.

Achieving the fabled work-life balance becomes even more challenging if you put caregiving into the mix. Becoming a caregiver to a loved takes time, energy, and money. After all, not everyone can quit their jobs and dedicate their time to caregiving because the costs can quickly drain bank accounts.

This brings in a question that many ask: how can I manage the cost of caregiving, secure our nest egg, and maintain my health? All without leaving my job?

caregiver cost

Invest in Your Care Coverage Now

High-hour caregivers often face various health problems during or after caregiving. Some have even shared that their illnesses and conditions were developed or aggravated because of the demands of care.

As care costs in America continue to increase rapidly, it would be a wise financial move to purchase long term care coverage now while caregivers still have more room in their finances. To avoid confusion on what policies cover and how it works, refer to the Long Term Care Insurance Buyer’s Guide to determine if this type of coverage works best for you.

Bear in mind that it is always good to be prepared especially when the risks are too high. Long term care services are too expensive to leave to chance.

Research on Community Services

Communities and organizations offer various services that help working caregivers manage their tasks effectively. As these services are often free or offered at a low cost, caregivers and their care recipients can minimize the cost of caregiving substantially.

The problem comes when these public programs do not reach the notice of caregivers. This is why you should be vigilant in researching for possible benefits in your area. You or your loved one may fit the qualifications for benefits. You can also look into the National Council on Aging’s BenefitsCheckUp.org. This website helps older adults find benefits that match their needs.

Learn about the Benefits Offered by Employers

Some employers have made special adjustments to allow caregivers to manage work and their caregiving duties more easily. These programs and benefits depend on the company, so would have to check with your HR or your manager. However, the usual accommodations are working on flexible time, working from home, or additional paid leave of absences.

Final Thoughts on the Cost of Caregiving

It will be difficult to stay on top of your game, especially when you are dealing with the financial, emotional, physical, mental, and social costs of caregiving while keeping a steady source of income. In fact, studies show that three out of five working caregivers say that they have experienced at least one impact in their employment situation.

On more than one occasion, it will get overwhelming and stressful.

No one wants to experience caregiver stress and burnout. Keep in mind that in order to care for your loved ones effectively, you have to care for yourself too. Spending a day at a spa, or choosing to not hang out with friends in order to enjoy some much-deserved alone time might benefit you. Whatever you do, make sure to dedicate resources and time to keeping your well-being in place.

Vegan Cinnamon Apple Cake with Maple Frosting

applesauce

Part of living a less stressful life has to do with making healthier choices for your self and for your family.  After Pedro’s stem-cell transplant, we decided that we could do more to eat healthfully.  Over the next year, we completely cut white flour and white sugar out of our diet.  While this cake still has unhealthy things in it (sugar), the majority of the ingredients beat anything you’ll find in a boxed cake mix!

 Cinnamon Apple Cake with Maple Frosting

by Anita Strawn de Ojeda

Preheat oven to 350º

Grease and flour two 8-inch round baking pans (I use whole-wheat flour)

1/3 cup ground flax seeds (you can buy whole flax seeds and grind them in a clean coffee grinder)
¾ cup chopped dates (the dried kind work fine)
2/3 cup boiling water
Place the first two ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl and pour the boiling water over the top of them.  Wait a few minutes for the mixture to cool.
Add:
½ cup coconut butter, melted or softened
2 c. applesauce
3 c. whole wheat flour (I like to use Wheat Montana Prairie Gold)
2  teaspoons of cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ Tablespoons baking powder
¾  teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ¾  c. brown or raw sugar

Beat all ingredients for three minutes on medium-high speed and pour into prepared pans.  Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.
Let cool in pan for ten minutes and then remove from pan and allow to cool thoroughly before frosting.
 

Maple Frosting:

¼ cup coconut butter, melted
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon maple flavoring
½ teaspoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons cool water
Mix until smooth and use immediately to frost the cake (I use about a fourth of it to hold the two layers together).

 

applesauce

Cake so yummy, no one will know it's #vegan! Click To Tweet

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31 Ways to Nurture Yourself for Caregivers

nurture

The Importance of Self-Care Increases with Caregiving

If you spend time caring for someone else, you need to make sure that you spend thoughtful time caring for yourself. This month on my other blog, I’m writing a series on 31 Ways to Nurture Yourself. So often people tell caregivers, “Take time to take care of yourself,” but in the stress of caring for someone else, caregivers can’t figure out what exactly that means.

You can find ideas, as well as the psychology behind self-care and self-nurturing over at www.anitaojeda.com.

A fellow caregiver, Karen Sebastian, also has a great series (this one designed especially for caregivers), called the ABCs of Self-Nurture for Caregivers.

Julie Steele has a series about mothering one’s self. You’ll find great ideas for self-care.

Tammy McDonald has a series on grief that might interest you, too.

If you do nothing else today to care for yourself, take the time to visit one of these series and glean some great ideas on how to take care of yourself! Remember, if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t have the energy and patience to take care of someone else!

If you don't take time to care for yourself, you won't have the energy and patience to care for someone else. #caregiver #selfcare Click To Tweet
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A Different Kind of Caregiving

SchoolOutdoor School Present

I watch as the sky turns from city glow to deep blue. None of the students stir, and traffic flows by like a roaring river (even this early). Finally the clouds behind the campsite change from vague shadows to glorious pink.

In the quiet of the morning, the stress starts to wash away. For the past six weeks, the students and I have planned for this day, this week. They decided what time they would need to leave school in order to arrive in San Diego by 4 in the afternoon (4 a.m., they said). They decided what they would like to visit and learn about on this Urban Jungle Expedition.

Today we go on a whale watching tour, and visit the USS Midway. Tomorrow, we’ll take in the Living Coast educational center and a beach. Many of them have never seen the ocean before. Wednesday, they will venture out into the city on their “Choose Your Own Adventure Day.” Using public transportation, they will travel to points of interest that they didn’t want to miss. The only caveat? They have a $10.00 budget. (Don’t worry, a staff member will travel with each group). Thursday, they’ll hit the zoo. “I can’t wait to see a lion,” one young man told me yesterday.

Outdoor School Past

For the past two years, I’ve done the bulk of the planning for outdoor school. Sure, they kids had choices about which hike or which class they wanted to take. But I made most of the decisions. I figured they should enjoy whatever I planned and go with the program because I’d done stuff like this before.

The results? We had fun. The kids loved the hikes, activities, and programming. But the trips took forever and kids dawdled at rest stops.

This time, the bus arrived 20 minutes early and everyone hustled through the bathroom lines at the rest areas. Students have told other staff members how much they appreciate getting to make choices and plan things.

Caregiver Lessons

In teacher mode, I’ve forgotten a basic human need. People (even students), like to have input. They like to feel as if their thoughts and ideas matter. It makes them happier about the situation–even if camping isn’t their thing.

And that’s a good reminder for caregivers. How can we involve and engage the ones we care for in the decisions? How can we make it a journey together rather than a journey for? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments section!

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