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November 17, 2016

Honoring Caregivers during National Family Caregivers month

caring for caregivers

 

In honoring caregivers, let us not only be thankful for the care we may receive, but likewise be thankful for those who care.

Family caregivers know this first hand. It is said that we never realize how loved we are until times of need. There’s truth to that – a wonderful truth. However, there’s a second truth: we don’t know how deeply we can love until we give of ourselves to someone in need.

When adversity strikes our health, it’s astounding how so many caregivers rise in our most vulnerable times, with grace and dignity that doesn’t just physically help us, but also emotionally heals us. It can be as simple as a neighbor who brings a home-cooked meal every eve, or as complex as a spouse who must help bathe us. Sometimes it’s a paid, skilled professional, with a heart of gold, who goes beyond a job description to address not just the patient, but also the person. Indeed, caregivers are diverse, varying based on the situation.

Yet, they share one common trait: they put one in need before oneself. Caregivers don’t just care – they give of themselves, selflessly, in an authentic way that reveals the purest humanity.

The philosopher, Laozi, said, “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” So many caregivers exhibit such courage, where they give of themselves in even the most harrowing of circumstances, often in ways no one ever sees or knows. It’s the husband who helps his wife bathe and dress for church, where he does her hair and makeup so perfectly that Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t deter her Sunday’s best. It’s the mother who was up all night consoling her son who doesn’t sleep well due to autism, then goes to work in the morning, smiling. And, it’s the adult son who ensures every aspect of his mother’s care, all while caring for his own family. These are the types of caregivers who love and give and serve with little recognition, and dare to love deeply, with courage, sometimes alone in their efforts.family caregivers month

As we honor caregivers, let us not only be thankful for the care we ourselves, receive, but likewise be thankful for those who care. Let us acknowledge the selflessness that caregivers exhibit simply because they love deeply, with humanity and courage, where the reciprocity of caregiving ultimately gives to us all.

November 15, 2016

5 Caregiving Tips to Help You Navigate the Holidays (and Beyond)

In honor of all caregivers out there, SpinLife hopes you will find these caregiving tips helpful.

When you’re stepping up to help a friend or loved one on a health journey, the holidays can become an extra-stressful time. In addition to your already-jammed to-do list, being a caregiver during the holidays demands a good chunk of extra time – as well as taking more of a financial and emotional toll.Thanksgiving Word Cloud Website Banner - Female cupped hands cradled by male hands outstretched with a white 'Thanksgiving' word floating above and relevant word cloud on a stone effect background

 

I came up with some resources for you: insights, ideas and caregiving tips designed to help you navigate the holidays and “keep your merry up” this year.

1. Stay Connected

In the article “How words have the power to heal” by CNNHealth.com contributor, Amanda Enayati, she describes how blogging helped save her life by providing her with a therapeutic outlet to share her experience. If you’re facing a less-than-merry holiday season because of an overloaded to-do list, it helps to share your experience, and embrace the support and positive attitudes of your friends.

 

Stay in touch, don’t cut yourself off, and be open to any assistance they want to give to help ease your holiday stress. Having a strong, supportive network is as important for you as it is to the person for whom you’re caring.

 

2. Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help

The importance of a strong network of family and friends, even during the healthiest of times, is well established. So, there’s nothing wrong with delegating work and setting a community of support in motion on tasks like meal planning, child- and pet care during appointments, transportation, tackling paperwork, household chores and more. Your supporters want to get involved, but sometimes, they just don’t know how to help. That’s why they’ll actually welcome your specific requests.

 

More suggestions: help you shop, decorate, address greeting cards, make cookies or meals, shovel the walk at home, read emails and holiday cards to your friend or loved one, visit them when you can’t…is that enough to start with?

 

3. Keep Surfing

The more you know, the more prepared you will be. The internet has a wealth of information, online resources and caregiving tips. You’ll find excellent advice and insights on information-rich sites like Today’s Caregiver, Medicare, the Caregiver Action Network and many more.

 

4. Join a Support Group for Caregivers

This is optional, but potentially powerful. Attend a session to see if you like the group’s dynamics, and see how you feel before and after the meeting. To find more information and caregiver groups in your area, check out Daily Strength.

 thanksgiving card design with cute hand print turkeys. I'm thankful for you.

5. Step Back and Appreciate Yourself

Even though your automatic response to the question “How are you doing?” is “I’m good,” you know it’s not always true. Caregiving isn’t easy. It takes extra time, money and emotional capital to help an aging parent, disabled friend or someone who’s recovering from illness or surgery. So if you can’t give yourself a pat on the back, please accept a big one from us.

 

What you do is priceless, and you’re just giving it away, asking nothing in return, not even gas money. For that, my friend, you rock. We celebrate you this month and always, and we hope the tips, suggestions and online resources in this article help you keep all the joyous holiday spirit you deserve.

About the Author:

Sona Mehring is the founder of CaringBridge, the first and most widely used global nonprofit social network dedicated to helping family and friends communicate during a health journey through the use of personal websites. She founded CaringBridge in 1997 when the Internet was just becoming a household name, making her one of the first to recognize that the Internet could be a powerful tool in helping people connect, share and rally support during a health journey. Follow Sona on Twitter @gogosona.

November 9, 2016

5 easy tips to avoid falls: Reduce your personal fall risk!

avoid falls

 

“What walks on four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon, and three legs in the evening?”

According to Greek Mythology, this is the classic riddle delivered by the Sphinx. According to the myth, if any person who was asked this riddle could not answer, they were thrown down against the rocks and killed by the Sphinx.  When this riddle was posed to Oedipus Rex, he considered his words carefully and declared the answer in one word; Man.

His reasoning was as a baby, a human goes about on all fours (“four legs in the morning” – morning being childhood).   Then he learns to walk, which he does well into adulthood (“two legs in the afternoon” – afternoon being adulthood).  Finally, advanced age requires him to use a cane to support himself (“three legs in the evening” – evening being old age).

It is the evening I wish to discuss in this post.

It is so important to avoid falls. Statistically 1 in 4 aging adults will be injured in a fall this year. Falls prevention is such a hot topic that the federal government NCOA has devoted a whole program strictly centered on fall prevention.

brava-walker avoid falls

Brava Walker

As we age, our once strong bodies sometimes need additional support to continue to be active.  Using canes, walkers or crutches becomes commonplace as balance or coordination skills become affected. Making certain our home environments are adapted to our new skill level is important.  Here are 5 easy to accomplish tips to ensure your environment helps you avoid falls.

  1. First thing to remember is to remove unnecessary clutter in your home.  Removing unnecessary clutter from walkways will help prevent unwanted tripping over objects that you meant to throw away years ago.  Yes we all have them! Clear the pathways of stacks of books and magazines, extra furniture and scatter rugs.
  2. Next thing is to install grab bars in and around your bathing areas.  Nothing feels quite like a hot bath after a long day, so ensure you can traverse these wet, slick areas by installing grab bars everywhere you may need a handhold.  Apply non-slip appliques in the bottom of your tub for extra traction, or use a rubberized bath mat with suction cups.
  3. Make certain you can see objects around you properly to avoid falls.  Knowing where things are supposed to be in your home is not enough.  Be certain you have the proper lighting in your home to see clearly so obstacles won’t become obstacles to you! Add nightlights that come on automatically as night falls- so you won’t!
  4. Have dual handrails installed on stairs- not just on one side, but on both. While climbing stairs we can                                                                    become fatigued more quickly than walking
    avoid falls

    Sugar Cane

    on a level plane.  Dual handrails will help to steady your gait and provide additional support for the body. Avoid falls as you avoid carrying things up and down the stairs as much as you possibly can. Countless falls happen every year as people negotiate the stairs with hands full.

  5. Finally, review your medications side effects.  If a medicine tells you plainly on the bottle, “May cause dizziness”, avoid physical activity for a couple of hours after you take that medication.  Instead, pick up a book or read your favorite blog to enhance your mind! Always use your walker or cane if you do find that your medication is causing dizziness issues, and do speak to your doctor about any side effects you are experiencing. Your doctor certainly doesn’t want to increase your fall risk either!

What happened to Oedipus?  Once he answered the riddle of the Sphinx he was free to pass and enjoy life.  All of us here at SpinLife wish the same for you, and hope that using these 5 simple tips will prevent a fall that could do serious damage to your “Oedipus Rex!”

 

 

 

 

November 1, 2016

Understanding the Best Ways to Help your Aging Parents

Aging parents

It can be difficult to decide on the best ways to help your aging parents. This dilemma faces so many family caregivers every day! Does this readers’ question sound familiar?

“My sisters and I have been taking care of our aging parents who are in their late 80’s.  They live in their home and said they won’t leave until they die. BUT my mother won’t let us hire paid help. What shall we do?”

I have been in your position. My dad didn’t want to hire help either. Even if your parents say they don’t want to be a burden, they would probably always choose you to help them over paid care. Put yourself in their shoes–it probably is a bit daunting to have someone they don’t know doing services for them.

It may help if you can get to the heart of your parents’ concerns. Perhaps you think they don’t see how dirty things are, or maybe you think they are concerned about the cost. One day while scrubbing my own father’s bathroom, he told me, “I’ll pay you forty dollars an hour to do  that.” It dawned on me is wasn’t lack of understanding or concern for money that bothered him. He was just reluctant to have strangers in his personal space.

You and your sisters also need to validate your parent’s feelings by letting them know that you endorse their hope of staying in their home. It may also be necessary to re-assure them that paid help will not substitute for the visits they count on from you.

Your aging parents need to understand that it is impractical to think that you can do it all while taking care of your own responsibilities. You and your sisters should get together and review the tasks you currently do, the ones you no longer wish to do and the ones that are simply not getting done. Sit your parents down and go over this list together.

Suggest a compromise that shifts some of the burden, to start. Perhaps you can get your parents to agree to once-a-week housecleaning and grocery shopping while you and your sisters continue to take them to appointments. Or like my dad, who was willing to accept transportation assistance but needed to ease into the idea of strangers in the house. Continue Reading

October 27, 2016

How to transport a power wheelchair: Valuable expert advice

Once upon a time, to transport a power wheelchair your only option was a wheelchair-accessible van.

While accessible vans remain a popular choice, today there are other practical ways to transport a power wheelchair. Using your existing vehicle they are often very practical and affordable.

Conversion Vans

Van conversion transport a power wheelchair

The most historical way to transport a power wheelchair chair is a wheelchair conversion van. Nowadays conversion vans are usually minivans with lowered floors and power ramps. For those wishing to drive or ride from a power chair (which should be WC-19 crash test compliant, if occupied), a conversion van is a seamless solution. With a conversion van, you can roll right in, secure the power chair with tie-downs or a docking device, and off you go. However, conversion vans have two downsides. Firstly, they start around $45,000. And, secondly, you’re limited in vehicle choice. Nevertheless, conversion vans are literally a roll-in-and-go solution.

 

Vehicle Lifts

In recent years, vehicle lifts have dramatically changed the ways to transport a power wheelchair. Rather than needing an accessible van, as long as one can transfer to a driver’s or passenger seat, a vehicle lift allows a vast range of vehicles to transport a power chair at a remarkably affordable price. Put simply, a vehicle lift allows you to transport your power chair using your existing vehicle for between $1,000 and $3,000, depending on the lift.

 

Types of Vehicle Lifts for Power Chairs

Lifts come in two styles, “boom” and “platform.” Boom lifts resemble a crane that lifts the power chair up and into the vehicle via a reinforced strap. Platform lifts place the power chair on a platform at ground level, then it’s lifted upward like a miniature elevator. Either one is a great way to transport a power wheelchair.

 

Boom lifts are primarily an interior lift application (although they can be mounted in truck beds). This includes placement in the rear cargo areas of station wagons, minivans, and SUVs, as well as in a side-entry location on minivans. Further, boom lifts can be used in conjunction with trunks on large sedans. This is accomplished via a quick-release base where a compact power chair lifts into the trunk, then the boom is removed and stowed, allowing the trunk lid to close. This type of application requires the removal of the seat from the base of the power chair.

Transport a power wheelchair

To lift the power chair into the vehicle, a boom lift features a docking strap that clips on to a special mounting point on the power chair to maintain a level position as it rises in the air. Once the power chair is lifted, the boom is then manually or electrically rotated into the vehicle with the power chair attached, lowering it into its stowed position. A primary benefit of a boom lift is that it takes up minimal space in the vehicle, allowing cargo room when the power chair isn’t present.

transpoprt a power wheelchair

Platform lifts serve as a very practical means to transport a power whelchair, as you simply roll it onto the lift platform, secure it with tie-downs or a mechanical docking bracket, then lift the power chair with the push of a button.

 

Exterior platform lifts raise the power chair well off of the ground, to driving height, with plenty of ground clearance during transport.

Additionally, when not in use, most exterior platform lifts fold up against the rear of the vehicle to ease maneuvering and parking.

 

A variation of an exterior platform lift is a tilt rack, in which the platform serves as a “tilting ramp.” This allows the power chair to be rolled up onto it, where it then manually tilts into a stored, elevated position, ready for transport.

Transport a power wheelchair backpacker

Interior platform lifts allow you to place and secure the power chair onto the platform just like in an exterior lift application. At the touch of a button, it operates in two stages, lifting upward, then slides inward on tracks, stowing the power chair inside the vehicle. The power chair is secure within the vehicle and out of the weather. Interior platform lifts also have no equipment outside the vehicle, retaining the vehicle’s standard length and appearance.

 

Vehicle Lift Installation

No matter exterior or interior, most lifts are remarkably easy to install and some require no tools or modifications to the vehicle whatsoever. Exterior lifts plug into a corresponding hitch receiver. For power, the lift will come with a wiring harness, to connect directly to the cars battery. Some lifts are entirely self-contained -with a rechargeable battery pack that powers the lift, where a wiring to the vehicles battery is not needed.

 

Interior platform lifts are designed to be as unobtrusive as possible to vehicle interiors. They secure to existing seat mount locations or other preexisting mounting points in the minivan or SUV, so no holes are drilled in the vehicle. Power is most commonly supplied via a rechargeable battery pack, but some models connect to the vehicle’s electrical system, tying into an existing power port or wiring.

 

Boom lifts typically require minimal installation by bolting to the vehicle’s floor, with a rechargeable battery pack or vehicle wiring delivering power.

 

Although most lifts feature very practical do-it-yourself installation, many are also available with optional nation-wide installation.  A skilled technician will come to your residence to professionally install the lift for you.

 

Consumer’s Checklist to Selecting a Lift

  • Determine the desired location of the lift, and assess the vehicle’s compatibility
  • Determine the type of lift you want, boom or platform
  • Determine the power chair’s specifications, including length, width, height, and weight
  • Determine the vehicles specifications (hitch classification for exterior lift, or hatch/door opening dimensions for interior lifts)
  • Match the lift’s weight capacity, dimensions, and style to the power chair’s specifications
  • Confirm the lift, power chair, and vehicle compatibility with a sales representative, and discuss installation options

 

Transporting Your Power Chair

From van conversions to vehicle lifts, there are wonderful ways to transport your power chair. No matter a roll-in ready conversion van or an affordable vehicle lift, there are astounding options available today!