Category Archives: Caregiving Resources

Shut off you panic response and color

In the mid 1990s when assisted living communities were first popping up and I was an activity director, I was told that coloring was not an activity for older adults. It was childish. Period. Well no more! 2015 was the year of the adult coloring book. You can’t walk into a bookstore or art store without running into a display of adult coloring books and accompanying supplies.

It may seem a bit awkward to color as an adult, but the simple benefits of focusing on one thing will help you tame that part of your brain that thrives on stress: the amygdala. When you worry about your mom’s last doctor visit or your dad’s ability to bathe himself, your amygdala revs up and encourages you to worry more. With an amygdala out of control, it is nearly impossible to make decisions that will benefit anyone.

You never know when you will need to turn off your panic response, so why not
carry around something to color. While waiting to board a flight, a fellow passenger told me about her tricks for surviving a transcontinental flight. She not only had a coloring book of the AmsteMandala-150x150rdam canals, but a full set of travel color pencils and a sharpener. She was prepared for travel stress—missed flights, long lines, bad food—because just like caregiving, there will be stress in travel.

A clinical psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic suggests that when we are focused on coloring, the distractions of our own lives evaporate into the background and allow us to be totally in the present. When we reduce mind clutter and distractions, we address caregiving challenges in a spirit of “let’s find a solution” vs. “nothing will help.”

I know how uncomfortable coloring may seem to many of you. It felt strange to me at first, too, but when I finally tried it some years ago, I found it to be both mesmerizing and rewarding. It’s a solo activity to help you find peace of mind and it can also be something you do with your loved ones. Sometimes simple conversation is stressfull. In those times, coloring separately can ease the stress, but still allow you to share time together doing the same activity.

Make it simple on yourself and start by downloading coloring samples. Open your mind and allow yourself to just color. See if by tuning into coloring, you are able to shut off your panic response. And remember, it’s not necessary to stay within the lines.

Four tips to laughing with your folks

I love being with my dad when he watches any of Peter Sellers’ Pink Panther movies. He literally cries uncontrollably and I end up cracking up just watching him. Laughter often comes spontaneously, but there are some days when I have to purposefully seek out fun. Busy caregivers can easily get buried in all the tasks of giving care. “I don’t have time to goof off,” I had one family caregiver tell me. I hear you and I understand that there are many moments in life that feel nearly joyless.

So how do we bring back the fun? How do you play, goof off, act silly during a day? I am fortunate that the man I married is never without a joke—however screwy. And even though most of his puns and word plays are “groaners,” I laugh (as do his daughters; one Mallory and Johnof them seen in the picture,  being silly with dad). It’s good for our emotional health to laugh and it certainly lifts our moods, but that’s not the only benefit.

If we constantly work, work, work, without relief, then our brains — and our bodies — begin failing us. Want an upside? Playing actually helps us get things done. Think about times you’ve struggled to complete a task, becoming more and more frustrated with yourself. Then someone does something funny, you laugh — and suddenly the task is not so difficult. When we shift our thoughts and do something out of the ordinary, our brains are refreshed and begin humming along again. Our bodies benefit, too. It’s been said that when we laugh, we release endorphins — the brain’s feel-good chemicals. Some researchers also contend that as well as lowering blood pressure, laughter increases oxygen in the blood, which encourages healing. Whether or not that’s true, I’ve found that a good laugh is worth its weight in gold.

When it comes to spending time with your parents (something your parents crave and you may dread), nothing says you can’t spend your time together playing. If you’re constantly checking your phone when you’re with your parents, or fidgeting trying to find something else to chatter about while wondering how soon you can beat a hasty retreat, odds are you really need to play.

Try these four tips:

  1. Watch a funny movie together (Dirty, Rotten Scoundrels is one of my favorites)
  2. Put on music from their era and dance (Nothing beats 50s dance music with my dad!)
  3. Reading aloud from a favorite joke book (I’m a sucker for Garrison Keillor’s Pretty Good Joke Book)
  4. Retell funny family stories (Like the time my then little brother Dave had to “relieve himself” on a car trip. Dad pulled the car off the highway, only to have Dave face the car, spraying the front fenders, causing my dad drive in reverse down the highway shoulder!)

Caregiving means taking care of some tough issues. Don’t let it consume you. Give yourself permission to laugh and include some fun time! You can find many more tips in my updated edition of The Unexpected Caregiver. And please, share your tips with me.

Feeling Appreciated…even during the holidays

If you ask some of my friends and family, they may tell you that I don’t like Christmas. That’s not true. What is true is that I’ve often felt let down at Christmas. Not because of the holiday itself, but, well, because it’s also my birthday. Celebrating my birthday always seems to be squeezed in between driving to the relatives and opening presents. Probably one of the most painful happy-birthday-christmas-bulbmemories I have is overhearing my grandma say to my sister, “Oh, I forgot Kari’s birthday. Grab a present from under the tree and we’ll put ‘Happy Birthday’ on it.”

When I started working on S.A.N.E.™ (Supported, Appreciated, Not Guilty and Energized) for family caregivers, I looked at aspects of my life outside of caregiving that would also benefit from my SANE Method™—Today I’m asking myself, “What can I appreciate about being born on Christmas Day?” Instead of expecting others to create a “happy day” for me, now I think of SANE™ and realize that feeling Appreciated is my responsibility.

How freeing it is to let go of expectations! Rather than planning my reaction to what doesn’t happen, I plan parts of the day and allow other parts to simply flow. Among other things, I appreciate that I’ve started a new tradition of birthday breakfast. French toast, bacon, coffee, and on the occasional year, a mimosa. It is that simple.

I came into this world at dinnertime on a cold Christmas Day and I took my time. Maybe that’s why it has taken me a while to learn how I can feel Appreciated on my own, from within. On this holiday season, I wish for you to find ways to Appreciate all that you do to create light in the dark winter. Know that feeling loved and Appreciated comes from within first, before it can be shared.

If You could stop the world, would you?

In the 1960s musical, “Stop the World—I Want to Get Off,” the lead character, Littlechap, breaks the fourth wall and addresses the audience whenever he wants a do-over. How many times would you say, “Stop the world”?

stoptheworld1I acted in this play while at St. Olaf College and often recall the poignancy of that phrase: “Stop the World.” Maybe if we were not racing around, we wouldn’t need do-overs. Maybe if we measured twice, we wouldn’t make so many mistakes cutting. I’m guilty of this: The busier I am, the more successful I feel. But this is a ruse, plain and simple. I love how Brené Brown puts it: “What we know matters, but who we are matters more. Being, rather than knowing, requires showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”

Being rather than doing also requires presence. Especially during the holidays, it’s too easy to do, do, do—go, go, go. It’s much more challenging to sit quietly and not do. It’s nearly impossible to understand that one’s self worth has little to do with how busy one is.

Possibly the best gift you can give your loved ones (and yourself) this holiday season is to stop: turn off your cell phone, shut down your computer and just hang out with your loved ones. It won’t be easy to do at first. If you’re like me, sitting still is not my norm. But the times I’ve let silence be my friend have rarely failed me. Don’t get me wrong, I love the big dinners and festivities of the holidays, but sometimes, every once in a while, let yourself off the hook and focus on the being rather than the doing.

No, You can’t do it by yourself: 5 Tips for Caregiver Support

 

My mom burst into tears in the middle of a restaurant dinner and instead of asking, “What’s wrong,” I was embarrassed. I thought, “Why can’t she pull herself together?” My mom had a disease called Huntington’s disease, which renders its victims incapable of acting what many call “normal.”

If you take care of someone with a disease that causes dementia, you are not living a “normal” life and caregiving is therefore doubly challenging. You may think, “He’s doing this just to drive me crazy,” when in reality the repetitive questions or unpredictable behavior are not malicious. You’ve known this person for years and now you are their caregiver—helping with daily tasks, while getting to know someone who is actually a very different new person.

Think of it this way: Do you ever get really frustrated at a vending machine when it won’t take your dollar bill? You straighten out the bill, insert it again, and it just keeps spitting it back, even though the bill looks fine? Your loved one may also look fine on the outside, but their brain is not working the way it used to. You need to find a new way of being with him or her, while you simultaneously figure out how to take care of yourself.

I know you want to scream. Some days you even yell at your loved one, but that only adds to your stress. This is why you must find support—a person or a group which allows you space to say all the things you simply can not say directly to your loved one. Being supported along your caregiving journey is the first step in being a S.A.N.E. caregiver—Supported, Appreciated, Not guilty and Energized. Start by finding support for yourself:

  1. Educate yourself about the disease so you know what to expect.
  2. Let off steam with a trusted friend.
  3. Set aside a half-hour a day to do something just for you.
  4. Join a support group (or start one).
  5. Find ways to laugh every day.

You know you would do anything to help out someone in your shoes. It’s time to take that same spirit of helpfulness and turn it inwards. Ask for help and let others support you.

Three Taboo Subjects to Raise with your Aging Parents

Finances, Mental Health and Sex: Three topics of conversation avoided in the calm times and poorly handled under crisis—especially when a conversation needs to take place between an aging parent and their adult child. Read more »

To Organize or not to Organize. Is that even a question?

Just having packed for a three-week trip to Norway, I am amazed at all the stuff I think I need. And I know I’ve made copies of my passport, driver’s license, and credit cards for previous trips, but couldn’t find them before this trip. I’m sure they’re in a file. Or a pile. Somewhere.

My husband recently went in for a colonoscopy and made it a goal to complete his health care directive. He’ll file his copy with my health care directive and hopefully, if someone needed to find them, they could.

As part of a caregiver focus group, we asked family caregivers what they least expected. Top among the issues had to do with the high cost of care and spending a lot of time tracking down documents. I make reference to gathering financial and legal documents in The Unexpected Caregiver, and recently interviewed Hope Clements with My Legacy Made Easy (Listen to our radio interview here). She and her partner created this product to organize your life’s work and give peace of mind to your family caregivers. They use a three-step process to help you establish and maintain your legacy planner. You walk away with all of your important documents in one place. How cool is that?

When you’re in the emotional throes of giving care to your parents, it feels like a waste of precious time to search high and low for necessary documents. Here’s what I suggest: organize your own “stuff,” then offer to help your parents do the same. Check out www.mylegacymadeeasy.com and get in touch with me if you need help! Once many of the details are in order, you can focus on connecting. What a gift!

Time to Reboot

I’m worn out. I’ve had it. I don’t know where to turn.

I have heard these three statements in various forms quite a bit lately. With my private caregiver coaching clients, my friends, my family. I get it. Being tired after a good workout or a long day of work is one thing. Being worn down from day after day of not getting ahead, not accomplishing your to-do list (let alone your mother’s or husband’s), or feeling defeated from all you’re trying to be for everyone else…that is a whole other beast.

And the voices in your head! How do you turn them off? The non-stop judging of how little or well you’re doing, the old tapes that seem to be stuck on repeat…Those voices seem to have moved in permanently and do not listen to you screaming “Stop!”

Whether you’re a caregiver or not, my interview with Robin Collins on “The Unexpected Caregiver Radio Show” will provide you with down-to-earth, accessible advice for how to reboot your core thinking. Her wisdom resonates to the heart of your being. If you haven’t yet listened, I offer you this gift from Robin. And here’s how you can get in touch with her: lovetothe5thpower@gmail.com

Robin Collins offers that reboot we all need. And I am so grateful.

Giving care when you’re worlds apart

If family caregiving wasn’t hard enough, let’s throw distance into the mix. 7 million people consider themselves long-distance caregivers in the U.S. Trying to figure out what’s going on with Mom and Dad when they live on one coast and you the other can sometimes seem an impossible task. Whether to travel or not depends on what kind of relationship you have with your parents. Read more »

It’s not you; it’s your hormones

Thank you Dr. Sara Gottfried for reminding us to stop blaming ourselves and take a look at our biology. If our hormones are out of balance, we’re struggling against our selves. I gained invaluable insights into hormones during my radio interview with Dr. Sara: Caregiving and Hormones.

As women and as caregivers, we tend to give and give and give. Dr. Sara sees thousands of women in her medical practice. The majority of her patients fall into the classic definition Read more »

What to do with the Stuff in Your Life

Stuff. I have surrounded myself with things from my past—the December angel figurine my mother gave me when I was a little girl, the wooden deer pin from my Grandma Jo, the Avon Sweet Honesty girl brushing her hair. But as I’m entering into my 50th year, those things don’t hold the same meaning as they once did. I want to clear out. I seek a clean, clutter-free environment. Don’t get me wrong, Rageddy Ann still hangs out in my bedroom Read more »

Your Legacy May Live on in Cyber Space!

The PBS News Hour covered a story on our digital real estate. Do you know how many people die every day in the Facebook world? According to the News Hour story, three. That’s a lot of ghosts haunting the social media world of Facebook.

Planning for a death is not a popular event, but it is a rare and precious gift to your survivors. Read more »

Woman Dies While Nurse Calls 911

The lead sentence in a California online news source read: “A nurse’s refusal to give CPR to a dying 87-year-old woman at a California independent-living home despite desperate pleas from a 911 dispatcher has prompted outrage and spawned a criminal investigation.”

This is a tragedy. We need to dig deeper, however, to understand how this can happen. Did the independent living community have a medical arrangement with her? Read more »

Isn’t it Time to Embrace this Thing Called Aging?

“I want to talk about another word that is used to demean and diminish older people.” The first sentence in a recent blog post written by Dr. Bill Thomas perked my interest. It wasn’t a word that immediately came to me, but is such an “ah-ha” after reading his post. We say it often, “My mother is 75, but she still drives.” Still is the word. In other words, the person is old, but they can still do this or that. They are old, but still useful. Still able to get by on their own. Still smiling. The list goes on and on.

We are all aging, yet many want to ignore the aging changes and make note of what we can still do despite our age. Read more »

We All Need Support On Our Caregiving Journey

I can’t take it any more!
I don’t know what I’m doing.
I feel like a failure!

Statements like these are what I routinely hear from family caregivers. We are not trained to do this job and yet we think we “should” be able to do it on our own. When we get frustrated and don’t know what to do, who do we turn to?

I’ve been developing the Unexpected Caregiver Support groups—so that family caregivers can meet once a week and understand that they’re not alone. In these peer-to-peer run groups, I have seen family caregivers let out huge sighs of relief and gratefulness, knowing that they share this journey with many others. That their feelings aren’t unusual or crazy. And in these groups they can speak their feelings and trust that what is said in the group, stays with the group. We have built little communities of trust.

When you’re giving care to a family member, it’s not uncommon for your past issues to resurface. All those unresolved issues of childhood come bubbling up to present day and you are stuck with an overload of emotions. What do you do with the feelings? Who will understand?

Caregiver support is crucial. You can receive one-on-one support from me or I can help you start a support group. Contact me. I’m here to help.

Music Makes the World Go ‘Round

(Thanks for your patience! I’ve corrected the radio link at “Listen in.” I will get this!)

I had the pleasure of interviewing Music Therapist Michele Hirokowa. Her explanations of just how music can be used as a therapy with your loved ones is clear and right on. Music can change a mood, calm you down, or simply keep you company in the background. But music also has powers to evoke memories, both good and bad. Melissa explains how working with a trained therapist can help process those emotions. Besides that, she’s just a whole lot of energy and fun. Listen in.

And speaking of using music to bring people together, Read more »

Who wants to talk about incontinence products and wipes?

Lynn Wilson (listen to our interview here) along with her husband Tom do! They own The CareGiver Partnership and answer phone calls every day from family caregivers who need incontinence and other care products.

I can’t imagine ever having to help my dad with incontinence or bathing issues. I’m sure many of you shudder just thinking about it. It’s not uncommon: your mom is in the hospital and at discharge time, you are told that she will need help with bathing and toileting. Read more »

Why call yourself a caregiver?

November has been all about caregivers, but what, exactly, is a caregiver? Wilder Foundation has a beautiful campaign that addresses just this: What is a Caregiver.org helps put a definition around the term caregiver. While you may think you’re just a daughter bringing mom a few groceries or just a son mowing the lawn for your aunt, you’re a caregiver. Why identify with this term?  Read more »

Life is.

“I let everything be as it is.” My radio show guest, author Coy F. Cross II, shared this quote by Adyashanti today. It might be a good quote to hang onto as you start or continue your caregiving journey. As a family caregiver, you can’t fix things. You aren’t necessarily called to play that role. Most of the time, we’re just supposed to be present for our loved one needing care. And that isn’t always easy.

But it doesn’t have to be difficult either. It just, well, is. “Life is our classroom. If we live consciously, life will present us the lessons we need for growth and we will see them as such.” (The Dhance, by Cross).

I wonder, what lessons about being a family caregiver have come your way recently? I’d love to hear from you.

Expanding the Reach of The Unexpected Caregiver

The Unexpected Caregiver logoKari Berit Presents recently entered into a a strategic partnership with Neuger Communications Group, a Twin Cities-area communications firm. Our goal is to raise awareness and carriage of The Unexpected Caregiver radio show and to develop sponsorships to support the program.

The ultimate point, of course, is to get helpful information for caregivers and seniors out to a much wider audience, starting in Minnesota and adjacent states but with ambitious plans to extend this coverage across the country. Read more »

Kari Berit Presents … A New Website

I am happy to announce the launch of the new kariberit.com, featuring a fresh and energizing new look and revised navigation to make it easier to get around the site and stay in touch. Read more »

Updated Website Coming

I have taken in comments from radio show listeners, presentation participants and contact forms…and am delighted to say that Kari Berit Presents is working on updating our website to include your ideas. There’s still time to let me know what you’d like to see…simply “contact us” and let us know.

Check out my new online offerings for FREE this month at LearnItLive.com

Be well!

Mental Fitness Challenge – Changes

Change. Some of us can’t wait to take it on and others run from it. I view myself as a person who enjoys change, but when it comes to creating new habits, I tend to resist it.

We know exercise is good for our bodies, but do we do it? We understand that bad habits increase in intensity as we age, but do we change them? Eating lots of veggies and fruits is still a great idea, but isn’t always the immediate choice. Read more »

Star Tribune article features Kari Berit – Learning how to care as parents age

Learning how to care as parents age

Caring for aging parents often means establishing a new relationship, one adult to another.
By KIM ODE, Star Tribune

Logically, it’s not as if baby boomers couldn’t have seen this coming. Except that they’re — heh — baby boomers, and the conventional wisdom is that caring for aging parents requires them to 1) admit their mortality, and 2) come to grips with the fact that they can’t talk to their parents without someone ending up shouting. Read more »

Kick off to Kari Berit’s Mental Fitness Challenge

Are you brain fit? I’ve been teaching brain fitness for years and now, it’s time to turn inward. Take the plunge and expose all my habitual cobwebs. I’ve created a brain fitness team, brave friends and colleagues who are willing to shake up their daily routines to achieve greater brain health. Read more »