Thursday, September 21, 2017

You've Gotta Pay Attention to YOUR Health When Caregiving

Someone once asked President Harry Truman’s secret for his high energy level. He supposedly said, “You should take your dog for a walk every day...even if you don’t have a dog.” 

Walking is, hands down, the best basic exercise. In fact, new research is showing that walking may reduce anxiety in some older women. You can speed up or slow down and walk hills to increase intensity. By carrying a small dumbbell or can of food in each hand and curling them as you walk you improve muscle tone in your arms; hold them over your head and you get a shoulder workout.
Here are a few simple suggestions to make fitness fun; and remember, there are no age boundaries on fun:
Look for fitness friends. Find a walking buddy, or someone to work out with. Check on exercise and dance classes. Look for organized groups that move (birding, walking historical tours, hiking groups).

Hang out with kids. If you have grandchildren you know that playing with them can be a workout. Remember, any movement within your limits is good. Encourage them to come outside with you and move around. If they are addicted to video games check out the Wii Sports games you watch on a TV or computer screen and actively move to. If they want to go Old School, check out DDR (Dance Dance Revolution).

Take a lesson. What type of activity would you like to participate in, but don’t know how? Try golf, tennis, rowing; or the new court game, Pickle Ball!

Head to the gym. Even if you need someone to care for your caree while you’re gone the strength training you gain is worth it. Find a knowledgeable, patient instructor and use light weight to start. Even slight strength gains will double your confidence level.

Look for a swimming hole. Whether a “Ceement Pond” (pool to the Beverly Hillbillies), lake, river, or ocean, water is incredibly therapeutic. Don’t worry about swimming the English Channel, simply get in the water and moooove. In fact, for my money, moving in water is at least as good as walking with less impact on joints.

Think about it this way: Fitness After 50 is about fun. You’ve already done the guy with the whistle wearing the stretchy pants and baseball cap. You want to be as fit as you need to be to live the life you want and need to live. If you are a caregiver you have mental, emotional, and physical challenges other 50+ folks may not have and those issues require a different level of fitness. 

Be sure to start slow, find movement (forget the word exercise) you like, look for easy ways to increase your strength and endurance, and relax. 

Finally, check with your physician before starting any sort of exercise program. If they start to give you The Fitness Lecture simply tell’em, “Hey, chill out, I’m just going out to have a little fun.”

Monday, July 31, 2017

You're Retiring?...AND You're a Caregiver? You need a Therapist

        Retiring and Caregiving at the same time are like juggling …a chainsaw and a loaded pistol.
If you think this is overstating the case consider that retirement and a variety of issues relating to our families are consistently ranked in the Top 10 most stressful events in life. 
So, here’s a simple suggestion: You need therapy.
No, really.
If you are smarter than most you’ll meet with a therapist if:
- You are retiring in the next 6 months (even if you are not staring down the barrel of caregiving).
- You can see the caregiving experience coming in the next 6 months.
- You have just been informed by a doctor or life event that you are now a caregiver. 
Why see a therapist if you are retiring? Because, you may have a wonderful idea of what retirement is like—I’m not at work!—but, research is showing that at least half of retirees experience a variety of anxieties and stresses, including depression, within 10 months of retiring. Why not identify some of the issues that could cause you problems before they are on your doorstep?
If you see a caregiver experience coming and you are like most of us you’ll do one of three things; start planning, resist planning and start worrying, decide to put it out of your mind (good luck!) until it happens. A good therapist can help you with all three options.
I’ve said it before in this column, I’ve had an emergency room doc look me in the eye and tell me, “No, your mother isn’t going back to her home. We are admitting her and after a few days she’ll go into a care unit for a few weeks. Then she’ll need some type of 24-hour care, from then on.” It’s like being told you’re taking a physics exam in two hours…and you’ve never had a physics course. If you get the type of news my brother and I heard 5 years ago you need to schedule an appointment with a a therapist as soon as possible. Believe me.
Understand that the term “therapist” is most commonly used to describe a counselor, but the title can apply to almost anyone. You are looking for the therapist who might be the difference between you maintaining a sense of balance during your experience, and you standing at the corner of Heartbreak and Depression with your head in your hands.
Here are 7 simple tips for finding the therapist who might help:
1) Ask your friends. If you have friends or family who have seen therapists for whatever reason ask for a name. Simply telling them you’re trying to get ahead of a challenge and are putting together a list of names for future reference. I promise, some may joke with you, but they’ll admire you for thinking ahead.
2) Ask a therapist. You would not call an optometrist and ask about stomach pain. Therapists, like physicians, focus on different areas an issues. Tell whomever you talk with what your challenges are and let them suggest colleagues. 
3) Go online and do some research. In some cases therapists and therapy practices may have websites or individual profiles. You may see comments and reviews. You will probably be bewildered with the alphabet soup of titles, qualifications and the services provided. They will range from Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) or Licensed Social Worker (LSW),  (LPC), Licensed Clinical Psychologist (LCP), PhD, PsyD and M.D.s. Do yourself a favor and do some research.
4) Ask if they offer a free consultation, such as a phone call or a brief visit. You’ll get a feel for how they communicate. Can you envision talking with this person and being very honest about your life, for 45 minutes a week, for at least a few weeks? Granted, this may sound simplistic, but trust your gut. If they are open to a short visit check out their office, appearance and communication style (do they make eye contact?). This isn’t etched in stone, but someone who is careless and disorganized in their workplace and personal life may be the same in relation to the relationship you have with them.
5) Have a list of questions. From a practical point, the first question is, “Have you worked with someone facing the same challenges I’m facing.” Ask them what they think about your situation and how they might help you. Find someone with applicable experience.
6). Don’t settle. Resist pressure, from yourself or family and friends, to go with the first therapist you see. Find someone whom you trust and with whom you believe you fit. After a few visits if you don’t believe you fit, say so. Maybe you don’t fit; or, maybe the conversation has moved into areas in which you are not comfortable. That is not necessarily a bad thing; it may point to areas you need to explore.
7) Who pays? Whether you are employed, or not, find out what your health insurance might cover.

In today’s world, with so much helpful information available, it’s crazy to ignore assistance in some of life’s most difficult situations.