Guest Author: Carisa Campanella
Finding new ways to improve your health-related fitness while under quarantine can be quite an undertaking for most people. It can be hard to know where to begin and what exercises to choose! In my role as Exercise Coordinator for Grand Living at Lakewood Ranch, it is my mission to find fun and purposeful movement to help our Residents feel their best. My aim is to help participants improve their mood, enhance their cognitive abilities, and most of all, feel strong! Daily movement is the key to improving your blood circulation, bolstering your immune system, and keeping your muscles, bones and joints in good working order. Here is a fun and easy program anyone can do at home in either a seated or standing position. This program will help strengthen your heart, lungs and muscles, improve flexibility, and will help you to feel calm and relaxed. Find a space in your home where you have room to move. If you have trouble with balance, make sure you are seated in a strong and sturdy chair. Have some fun and upbeat music playing in the background. And remember, if a certain position or movement does not feel comfortable for you, do not do it!
Warm-Up with Deep Breathing: Sitting up straight and tall in a chair, take a long breath in through your nose and a long breath out through your mouth. On the 5th breath in raise your arms out to the sides and over your head, and on the long breath out bring them down with a big flapping motion like you are a pelican flapping your wings! Continue raising your arms and flapping your wings gently for four more breaths. You make find that this type of breathing can help you feel relaxed when you are anxious.
Jazzy Joints: Now that you have conditioned your heart and lungs, it is time to focus on loosening up your joints. A great way to lubricate and strengthen your shoulder joint is to reach your arm up in the air and pretend you are screwing in a lightbulb. This will rotate your shoulder, elbow and wrist. Do one arm at a time. Another way to loosen up your shoulders is to pretend you are holding oars in each hand and “row the boat.” You can row your oars forwards and backwards. To loosen up your hip joint, sit up straight in your chair and lift your right knee up and then move your right leg to the side, as if you are trying to step over a hot flame. Repeat this move several times and then do the left side. This will open up your hips and help you walk with greater ease.
Rockin’ Rollers: Now that you have warmed up your joints, you are ready to dance! Find some upbeat 50s and 60s music (I like Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry) and turn up the volume. While seated in your chair, you can do the twist, move your arms and pretend you are playing the guitar and piano, do some alternating leg kicks and toe taps, or whatever movement feels good to you!
Dynamic Drumming: A fun way to keep your heart pumping is to do some drumming! You can make your own “drum” by turning a wastepaper basket upside down or using a big pot. “Drumsticks” can be paper towel tubes, wooden spoons, or sticks from outside. You can drum along to any song you like. My favorites are “Respect” by Aretha Franklin and “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” by the Beatles. When you drum, you sit up straight and tall in your chair and bring both “drumsticks” down together on your wastepaper basket or alternate arms. The higher you lift your arms the better it is for your heart. You can also drum on the sides of your “drum” or even bend forward in your chair and tap your “drumsticks” on the floor.
Sunshine Stretching: To cool down after your “party with movement,” put on some relaxing music. Sit up straight and tall in your chair and take a deep breath in through your nose and blow out through your mouth. On your next breath in arch your back, stick out your chest and bring your arms out to the sides. As you exhale, round your shoulders and bring your arms in front of you as though you were hugging a tree. This movement will stretch your chest and your back. From your seated position, the next stretch you can do is to extend your right leg, so your heel is touching the floor. Gently bend forward at the waist to stretch the muscles behind your right leg. When you are done stretch the left leg. Finish your stretching by wrapping your arms around your shoulders like you are giving yourself a hug.
How do you feel? Hopefully you are energized! Remember any type of movement that you can enjoy safely will have great benefits. Try to schedule your “party with movement” at the same time every day, and have fun!
About the Author: Carisa Campanella is the Fitness Coordinator at Grand Living at Lakewood Ranch. In addition to degrees in Communications and Fitness Technology, Carisa holds four national certifications in Health Coaching, Personal Training, Group Exercise Instruction and Spinning including ACSM and ACE. She also specializes in Functional Aging, Senior Fitness, and Parkinson’s Disease.
As a service that provides information and resources to Seniors and their Caregivers, our #1 job is educating clients on the Senior Housing industry. There have always been so many misconceptions out there, and that’s been magnified during the past few months with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Because our Senior population is at such a higher risk, the media has been reporting heavily on the status of the industry. With that, we’ve noticed that all Senior Housing, whether it be Independent Living, Assisted Living, Memory Care or Skilled Nursing, is usually being lumped together as “Nursing Homes”. Our concern is that this doesn’t give a clear depiction to families of what exactly is happening in the industry so they can make the best decisions for their loved ones. Let’s take this opportunity to break down some categories within Senior Housing, so you are armed with the information you need to ask the right questions.
For a long time, Nursing Homes were all that was available to aging Seniors. But fast forward to today, and the options are vast. To be honest, it’s one of the things we love most about the industry. It isn’t a “one size fits all”, so we’re able to match clients with the perfect fit tailored to their needs.
There are four main categories of Senior Housing and the main distinguishing factor is the level of care they are able to provide their residents.
The first level is Independent Living, and is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a perfect match for Seniors who are still Independent, mobile and have good cognition. These communities offer convenience of having everything they need under one roof, increased socialization and many times have amenities like dining, laundry and cleaning services. However, they are not licensed to offer personal care to residents. If cognitive or physical support is needed, they will need to bring in a Caregiver service to do that, similar to what they would do if living at home.
The next level up, Assisted Living, has the benefits of Independent living, but is designed specifically for residents that need various levels of daily personal care. Different kinds of assisted living licenses will dictate what kind of care they can offer and if they require a nurse to be on site. All that said, Assisted Living communities are a good fit for someone who is still active enough that they can engage and gain from social activities, but need daily care. You will usually only pay for the level of care needed and that can range from basic medication management, all the way up to assisting with all activities of daily life like bathing, dressing and toileting. Other amenities that are usually included are 3 daily meals, housekeeping and laundry services, transportation and a variety of daily activities.
Memory Care communities are very similar to Assisted Living, in terms of amenities, daily programming and layout with the only real difference being that they are in a secured building/unit. They are created specifically for residents with varying levels of dementia who are a risk to wander and are usually staffed with more Caregivers to offer a higher level of care to residents.
The facilities with the highest level of care are Skilled Nursing Facilities, and are what most people picture when they hear the phrase “Nursing Home”. They are created specifically to care for those that need daily medical services. The environment is typically similar to a hospital setting and offers 24/7 care that is typically appropriate for someone with pre-existing medical conditions and more complex health needs that require assistance from a skilled nurse.
Even though our description simplifies the Senior Housing options available, you can see how it’s impossible to get a clear understanding of the industry by bunching them all together as “Nursing Homes”.
Whether it’s now, as you’re trying to disseminate statistics you hear in the news, or down the road when long term planning with a loved one, make sure you’re digging deeper to get the information you really need.
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Mark and I are big believers in the power of routine. Not only does it bring comfort, but also helps encourage good habits & relieves stress. Daily routines are so incredibly important to Seniors and their Caregivers as it can create security, especially during times when things feel out of control. No matter how big or small, a predictable routine can reduce anxiety, helps days run smoothly and even improves sleep!
We see first hand how important routines are to our clients. They reduce uncertainty and the need for so much decision making, which also cuts down on arguments and power struggles. With so many Seniors and Caregivers navigating cognitive decline or dementia, routines can be a lifeline! One of the hardest parts of the Covid-19 pandemic, is that so many daily routines and rituals have had to stop and that adds to the emotional toll that isolation already is taking on the Senior community and their Caregivers.
Even though our days look completely different than they did a few months ago, having routines are more important than ever. If you haven’t already, it’s time to create some new ones! It will take some trial and error, but start with timing and activities that you think will work best and you enjoy…that will increase your chances of staying consistent.
An example of a morning routine is setting a time to wake up, then moving to brushing teeth & hair, changing clothes, eating a simple breakfast then a walk around the block or sitting on the porch for some fresh air.
An afternoon routine could be putting a favorite artist on the radio and working on a puzzle.
In the evening, try making some tea and sitting down to catch up on an old time show or program.
If you can, integrate activities that are physically or mentally engaging. That way you’re improving your health and happiness while you’re at it! For some unique activity ideas, check out our FREE idea guide for homebound seniors here: https://mailchi.mp/sunwaysalc/activitiesforhomeboundseniors
Stay safe out there!
Since starting Sunways, we’ve helped countless Caregivers on their journey to find answers, resources and information to make the best decisions for their aging loved one. And as much as each person’s story and circumstance is unique, there are many reoccurring questions and themes that we always seem to come across. Heck, they’re the same ones that our family asked when we navigated these waters ourselves with Mark’s Grandmother.
A big reason why we’ve always made a focus on sharing information we’ve acquired or lessons learned on places like social media, our blog or speaking engagements is because we want this knowledge in the hands of the people who need it the most…the ones who are overwhelmed, tired and confused on where to start…the Caregivers.
We’ve always been brainstorming about ways we can help more people with this information and tools. And then came along COVID-19. All of a sudden we were thrust into a whole new world! One where Seniors are more vulnerable than ever and Caregivers are left with even more pressure to make sense of it all…many times from afar and in quarantine themselves.
So with the idea of “social distancing” in mind, we created a way we could still give clients guidance, resources and tools, but in a safe and practical way in our new reality! The Caregiver Coach Course was born!
This 2 week LIVE course has 2 individual calls to get 1-on-1 support and insight, plus 4 group sessions where we’ll go over the 4 Pillars of Caregiving so each participant has the tools and information they need to help make the best decisions for their loved ones. But the best part is, each person will finish the course with a 1-on-1 call with us to create a personalized Action Plan to put all they learned into play.
We can’t wait to see the impact this course makes on the lives of Caregivers! To get more details or to sign up for our upcoming session, check out https://caregivercoach.sunwaysalc.com
Did you know that only 13% of Seniors have a plan for long-term care? Having conversations and making decisions BEFORE it’s needed not only ensures that Seniors are able to have a say in how they live out their life, but also takes the pressure off the shoulders of their Caregiver to make tough decisions.
8 out of 10 times, when a client comes to us to help find community options or resources, it’s usually in a time of crisis. Weighing options and coordinating when things are rushed and emotional makes the process even more overwhelming. Here are 4 steps to creating a long term care plan with your loved one:
Caregivers are responsible for so many day-to-day decisions and responsibilities. Starting the long term care planning with your loved one allows you to take some of that burden off your shoulders and allows you to rest easy that you know their wishes. Reach out to us directly to brainstorm or create a custom step-by-step plan to make sure you know all your options!
As a Caregiver, it can seem like we’re on a never-ending pursuit to find a sense of balance. Juggling the needs of loved ones and our own. Time focused on our work and to our family. Attention given to our children and our aging parents. Often times we stress so much about finding “balance”, that our efforts are what actually is stressing us out more than anything!
But what if balance is just a falsity? An unattainable goal and expectation we put on ourselves that causes more harm than good.
As someone who has a lot on their plate, I’ve always strived for that sense of balance…and honestly, I have always felt like a failure. It’s a perpetual cycle of feeling like you “aren’t enough” because you aren’t able to give 100% to any ONE thing. I mean, think about it…if you were even able to find true “balance” of 50/50 or 25/25/25/25, you’re only giving 50% or 25% of yourself to something. And that’s when the guilt and judgement comes in, especially as a Caregiver.
I challenge each of us to shed our desire for balance all together. To stop beating ourselves up and adding unnecessary pressure to an already overwhelming load that we carry. Instead of dividing our energy among multiple things, lets instead try to commit ALL of our focus to whatever we are currently doing. Let’s strive to be completely present and our best in JUST that moment. 100% Caregiver. 100% Parent. 100% Friend. 100% Employee.
Easier said than done, right? This mindset shift has been something I’ve been working on for the past year or so. Even though it’s been very helpful, I still have to work hard at avoiding the “distraction” of balance. Some things that have helped:
So maybe it’s not “balance” we’re after. Maybe it’s the FEELING that we think it will give us. Relief? Success? Happiness? Fulfillment? Let’s shift our focus to being the best version of ourselves on any given day or any given moment, and it’s THEN that we’ll find what we’re looking for.
Times of uncertainty, like the one we’re in right now, create feelings of fear, panic, anxiety, anger, sadness and a slew of others that can be all thrown into the category of: “Nope, I don’t like this one bit”. All of those emotions are compounded when you’re a Caregiver, because you have two other major components: pressure and guilt…which is pretty much like adding gasoline to the already raging brush fire!
So how do we manage all of these heightened feelings? It starts with looking inward. It takes the same discipline and practice as any other skill you’ve tried to master. The good news? With enough effort and focus, you can re-align your mindset even in the hardest of times to feel healthier and happier. Here’s how:
In times of uncertainty and fear, finding positivity can be so difficult, but it’s essential and takes diligence. How, you might ask? 1. Create a routine – It’s been proven that having a routine can drastically help carry you through a day in which you’re not feeling very positive. Accomplishing your routine (morning ritual, daily prayer, exercise, etc.) will naturally give you a boost! 2. Start a gratitude journal – write down a few things that you’re grateful for every day (hey look, here’s a routine!). Being grateful isn’t about ignoring realities, it’s about taking the spotlight from shining on the negatives, to the daily positives in your life. Try to remember that everything happens for you, not to you. This is sometimes hard to do, but if you can make a mindset shift, you will find yourself over time seeking out positive things and situations, rather than negative ones.
According to Helen Riess, M.D., “Self-awareness means recognizing your own emotions. Before springing into action, you must first assess your own mental state so you can manage them.” It’s understanding your tendencies, patterns and feelings so you can work through them and even better, anticipate them coming. Sounds great, right? It is….but it aint always pretty. It means admitting truths about yourself and your habits. We suggest starting with a personality test to get a better, non-biased snapshot of your strengths and weaknesses. Our favorite is The Enneagram. Check out www.enneagraminstitute.com
When we’re vulnerable, we are in a state of being open or exposed and this offers up the possibility of judgement or attack. But in your authentic state, you’re naturally more at ease. In the words of Brene Brown, “(this) is a massive experiment in collective vulnerability. We can be our worst selves when we’re afraid, or our very best, bravest selves. In the context of fear and vulnerability, there is often very little in between because when we are uncertain and afraid our default is self-protection. We don’t have to be scary when we’re scared. Let’s choose awkward, brave and kind. And let’s choose each other.”
Which leads us to empathy. In times of uncertainty, empathy is critical to staying calm, steady and decisive…and all are such important traits, especially for Caregivers. Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. During times of crisis, people just want to be “seen”, and it’s important that we take time to try and understand individuals and where they are coming from. Not only does this help us realize that we are all more similar than different, it also allows us to have self-empathy and give ourselves the grace we need.
From our family to yours, we’re sending love, light and strength!
Whether it’s because of limited mobility, illness or the recent fears stemming from the Coronavirus, many Seniors find themselves isolated at home. Social isolation can many times lead to deterioration of both physical and mental health, so it’s important as Caregivers that we are giving our loved onesactivities at home to keep them engaged.
Below are some ideas:
Start a Book Club
Organize a book club and invite your loved one, friends and family to join. You select a new book each month and participants read and then get together to discuss it. If your oved one is homebound, the gathering can be at their house to accommodate. If necessary, you can set up a group conference call or video chat instead.
Create an Indoor Garden
Bring the outdoors inside! This encourages working on fine motor skills and will naturally create joy. It’s hard not to look at a blooming flower and not smile! Growing vegetables, or other edible plants like herbs and then eating them gives a sense of purpose and success.
Have Game Nights
Your loved one will get social interaction and brain stimulation which is so important for Seniors! Having a weekly or monthly scheduled game-night gives them something to look forward to and a light hearted gathering.
Subscribe to a Monthly DIY Club
There are some great crafting/DIY membership boxes available. A new one is delivered monthly and give you all the supplies and instructions to assemble. This offers great mental stimulation, a chance to work on fine motor skills and a feeling of accomplishment. Our favorite: We Craft Box Senior www.wecraftboxsenior.com
Learn About New Technology
Seniors who are not tech-savvy can often feel left behind. Create a weekly or monthly “technology class” for them where you show them how to use a new piece of tech. Ideas: Internet (set up their email, show them how to use Google to search a favorite topic), Alexa (show them how to get info on demand, play their favorite song or find a podcast), Smart TV (new options like Netflix or Youtube gives them variety)
Set-Up a Video Chat
Show them how to Facetime, Skype, or Portal by Facebook to video chat. This allows them to see and interact with family and friends from the comfort and safety of their home.
At-Home Exercise videos
There are many Senior exercise options like chair yoga and stretching that can be on a DVD or as a streaming service. This improves balance and we all know how impactful just 30 min. of daily exercise can be for Seniors.
One of the most overwhelming parts of being a Caregiver is staying organized. You’re juggling so many balls and keeping them all in the air can sometimes feel impossible. We all know that writing things down helps, but the next thing you know you have sticky notes all over the house, a stack of disorganized To-Do lists, a journal you can’t find and 3 different calendars trying to keep all the family appointments straight! Or is that just me?….
Enter the Bullet Journal. This method of organizing consolidates all the lists, calendars and journals into one place and has been a game changer for me. But the best part is that its 100% customizable to exactly what YOU need and want to track. It becomes an extension of both your brain and personality as you make it your own. Below are the basics of what the Bullet Journal system is and some tips on getting started:
What’s A Bullet Journal?
Creator Ryder Carroll refers to the bullet journal as a “mindfulness practice disguised as a productivity system”. Even though you customize it to your needs, there are certain components that stay consistent and help with organizing. At the end of the day, it’s about having a place where you can take things out of your head and put them into a place you can use the information. You start with a blank notebook and have:
1. An Index aka a table of contents
Once you put page numbers on your journal, this makes it easy to find what you’re looking for.
2. A Future Log aka a yearly overview
This is an overview of the year where you list all of the months and their important dates, birthdays, big appointments, activities etc.
3. Monthly Logs aka monthly calendar
This allows you do get more detailed about the events, tasks and happenings of the month.
4. Daily Logs aka daily To-Do’s and journal
This is where you list your daily tasks and To-Do’s but also where you log what happened during the day. This section serves as both your daily agenda AND your journal to be able to remember important things that happened or ideas
5. Collections aka lists & trackers
You know the 200 sticky notes, scraps of papers and lists you have floating around? The collections part of the bullet journal is a way of having all of them in one place where you keep them organized. Ideas for collections: gratitude journal; track exercise, water or weight loss; plan an upcoming vacation; write down blog or social media post ideas; meal plans….
Depending on your ability or desire, Bullet Journals can be colorful, artistic and witty. Or if you’re like me, it’s black and white and to the point!
How To Get Started:
The Bullet Journal is a very easy system, but understanding the basics and the “whys” behind the set-up is important. To get started I suggest:
1. Buy The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll
Ryder is the creator of the Bullet Journal and having this foundation is key to success
2. Get a dotted grid journal
This allows for the freedom to set up your pages in the most efficient way for YOU
3. Get some inspiration online
Check out Pinterest or Google and search “Bullet Journal ideas”…you’re welcome!
If you’re overwhelmed as a family Caregiver and not even a Bullet Journal can help, reach out to us and lets come up with a gameplan and get you the support you need!
Images: @productivedoodling @feli.noel_bujo
As a specialist in caregiver stress, I see LOTS of caregivers struggling with burnout. They often tell me that they are struggling with mild anxiety and depression, but they don’t understand why. I hear things like “I’ve never been so stressed out before. I’ve always been in control of my emotions. I’ve always had a handle on things. Now I can’t seem to get a grip! Everything overwhelms me!”
What these caregivers are struggling with, often for the first time in their lives, are the effects of chronic stress – also known as burnout. Burnout is defined as “a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that may be accompanied by a change in attitude -- from positive and caring to negative and unconcerned.”
In addition to the financial and physical stress associated with being a caregiver, there are several emotional factors that can easily lead to burnout. Caregivers may be so preoccupied with the care of their loved one(s) that they don’t attend to their own needs until they reach a point of emotional and physical exhaustion.
The signs and symptoms of burnout often include:
If several of these signs and symptoms seem all too familiar to you, it’s probably time to make some changes to your routine. Let’s talk about ways you can shift your mindset about caregiving and ease the burden on yourself:
First and foremost, preventing burnout involves being committed to your own self-care. This means allowing yourself the time and space to be “off duty”. Take more time for your own self-care, such as socializing with friends, exercise and physical activity, alone time, engaging in hobbies, and going on small excursions. Engage the services of loved ones, friends or professional caregivers to ease the burden on you. You may also consider respite care in an Assisted Living or Long-Term Care Facility to give yourself “a vacation”.
There are several federal, state, and county programs that can provide assistance with the cost of placing a loved one or getting professional care in home. But often, most caregivers struggle with the guilt of asking family and friends for help, getting professional help in the home, or especially with placement in a facility.
Knowing when it is appropriate to place your loved one in a facility (Assisted Living or Skilled Nursing) is crucial for minimizing burnout. Placement of a loved one is a decision often fraught with a lot of conflicting emotions, such as guilt, grief, and sadness. Recognizing one’s own limitations as a caregiver and the signs / symptoms of burnout can make this decision easier. Loving someone and being totally responsible for someone are two very different things.
Lastly, there is no shame in recognizing that you are in over your head. Requesting the help of a mental health professional or caregiver expert can often result in rapid and sustained improvements in mood, anxiety, and quality of life – for both the caregiver and their loved one!
About the Author:
Angelo Domingo, Psy.D. is a licensed Clinical Psychologist who has a passion for Caregivers. He has a private practice in Sarasota, FL where he helps patients and their loved ones using a combination of Cognitive-Behavioral, Compassion-Focused and Interpersonal Therapies. He facilitates several support groups as well, including one at Parkinson Place the 3rd Thursday of each month 11am-12:30.
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Elli is the President of Sunways and loves spending time outside with her family, and is passionate about cooking and holistic health.