Friday, May 24, 2013

Caregiver Tip: Five Minutes to Sanity, From One Who Knows

Caregiving for a parent or spouse is a recipe for stress.  But the last thing you need if you're in that role is another piece of advice on caring for yourself.  No matter how well intentioned, that suggestion can sound like an assignment. Or an order. Unless it's from someone who knows your pain.

Two days ago I heard about the "Five Minute Plan" created by a caregiver named Sammy. Jane Barton, who speaks to caregivers and senior care professionals nationwide, told Sammy's story. One day after a speech,  Sammy came up to Jane. Sammy was the picture of vibrancy, with bright red hair and a knockout smile.

"I enjoyed your talk, and I learned many things," Sammy said.  "Would you mind if I gave you some feedback?"

"I'd love it.  Tell me about your story first."

For years Sammy had cared for her husband who had Huntington's Disease. Her three children were all at risk for the debilitating disease.  Recently Sammy's mother had suffered a stroke, giving Sammy one more person to care for. To pay for the family's needed health insurance, Sammy worked full time. Her plate was as full as it could be.

"How do you manage all that?"  Jane asked.

"Fine.  But it's because I have the Five Minute Plan."

The Plan goes like this: At 8:00 am Sammy locks herself in the bathroom.  Pulling out her I-Pod and earphones, she listens to inspirational music. She loses herself in the beauty of the sounds and the words.  For five minutes, she doesn't think about doctor visits, or bills, or medications.  She's free.  At 8:05, she faces the day renewed.  "I know I can tackle what I need to do, as long as I have my five minutes."

Jane remembers standing in awe of this woman.  She only had one suggestion:  "As good as you feel after five minutes, do you think you could stretch it to ten minutes?"

Sammy broke into a smile.  "I don't see why not.  I've always been an overachiever."

If you care for an aging parent or spouse, do you have any specific ways you keep your sanity?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Help for Caregivers: Free Counseling Comes to the Rescue!

Attention, caregivers!  If you're not sure whether you fit this description, think again.  Do you provide transportation for your aging parent?  Do you do laundry, run errands, or clean house, so your parent can maintain independence?  Do you monitor your parents long-distance, making sure they're safe?

These are all forms of caregiving,  Day in and day out, these tasks can put you in the danger zone for stress.  Fortunately, though, geriatric professionals across the country are recognizing the need to keep caregivers healthy.

In Washington State,  for example, unpaid primary caregivers living in King County can get up to six in-home counseling sessions free, through a new program funded by Seattle-King County Aging and Disability Services.  The focus is on problem-solving, self-care, stress management and positive change.

Caregivers don't have to put in 40 hours a week to be eligible for the free counseling.  They don't have to live with the friend or loved one they care for.  The elderly person can even reside in an assisted living community or adult family home, anywhere except a nursing home.  There are no income restrictions on the program, either for the caregiver or for the elderly person.

This program is dubbed as "Starbucks Therapy" by Kelly Holiday, LMHC, GMHS and Angela Martin-Davis, RN, MHP, GMHS, Clinical Supervisors of Evergreen Health Behavioral Health Services, which sponsors the program.  Counseling sessions often take place, not at home, but in a relaxing place like a coffee shop.  Sounds like just what the doctor ordered!

Caregivers living in King County can schedule their visits by calling 425-899-6300 or 1-800-548-0558.
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