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Toula’s Tips: Caregiver Burnout — It’s Real!


Today we welcome my good friend and guest writer, Toula Wootan from Toula’s Tips for Caregivers to “The Purple Jacket”

 Have you ever felt like this? If so, you are certainly not alone. It’s so very common. Here are a few symptoms to let you know if you are experiencing caregiver burnout:

  • Overreacting to minor nuisances

  • Feeling constantly exhausted

  • Losing interest in work

  • Decrease in productivity at work

  • Withdrawing from social contacts

  • Increasing use of alcohol or stimulants

  • Change in eating patterns

  • Change in sleeping patterns

  • Increasing use of medications for sleeplessness, anxiety or depression

  • Inability to relax

  • Scattered thinking

  • Feeling increasingly resentful

  • Being short-tempered with care recipient frequently

Do you see yourself in the above? If so, perhaps it’s time to take a step back, or perhaps to take a real time-out.

How, you say? If you don’t have family or friends who can step in, there are many support services to help you do this. Many assisted living facilities offer respite, a short-term stay. There are also many adult day care centers in our area, and we have many companion/sitter agencies. Perhaps you qualify for Aging True — they have a team of volunteers who can sit with your loved one occasionally.

 Whatever it takes, take a break so you can rest, do something for yourself, renew your perspective and refresh. It’s essential. I like the saying, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.”

 I am the primary caregiver for both of my parents and work full-time, leading caregiving initiatives! I keep these eight things in mind to help me: sunshine, fresh air, exercise, prayer, water, diet, rest and laughter. Do they resonate with you? They are simple but make a big difference. So does having fun with friends! Don’t forget that.

 I hope these help you. As always, thank you for caring.

 

Toula Wootan

 Toula’s Tips for Caregivers, can now be hear on Spreaker.com/user/toulastipsforcaregivers or from Toula’s website at ToulasTipsforCaregivers.com.  You can email Toula at toulastips@gmail.com

Thank you Toula for all you do for Caregivers in Jacksonville and all over the country!

 

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The Exceptional Theater Company


Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others. Jonathan Swift

In this election season when there is so much negativity on our airways, it is nice to come across someone with a”feel-good” story that warms your heart.  Debra Lombard has your feel-good story of the day!

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Chris MacLellan with special guest, Debra Lombard Executive Director of The Exceptional Theater Company 

As the Executive Director for The Exceptional Theater Company, Debra has turn her passion for theater and the arts into a career that many of us dream of doing.   The Exceptional Theater Company is designed to teach theater to persons with physical and and intellectual challenges which creates opportunities for for personal growth in countless ways.

Debra’s program is filled with many feel good stories as the program enhances verbal skills, improves movement, builds self-confidence and advances socialization while stimulating free thinking.  During our conversation on Healing Ties Radio, Debra and I both recognized how this interactive environment created respite care for caregivers!

Don’t just take it from me;  listen into our episode of Healing Ties and learn how Debra Lombard is creating Healing Ties all around us!

2016-10-11-54Oh…and stay tuned to the end of the show and learn about the terrific story on how the logo was created for The Exceptional Theater, the story will bring a tear to your eye and a smile to your face!

Join us in Chicago for the First Annual National Caregiving Conference on December 2nd and 3rd hosted by Denise Brown as Caregiving.com!  To learn more about the conference and to sign up to attend, visit Caregiving.com 

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Smart Home Technology that Connects Caregivers


Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Arthur C. Clarke

The Purple Jacket is pleased to welcome back one of our favorite guest bloggers, Maria Alice

Caring for a loved one at home can be a challenge, but it’s also tremendously rewarding. Seniors are the fastest growing demographic in the United States, and the number of people who require care and monitoring at home continues to rise. Fortunately, modern technology now provides a broad assortment of tools that make in-home caregiving less stressful, more effective and safer than ever.

2016-07-28-1469685942-7343603-smarthomeThe Smart Home

For the aging or disabled, home automation offers great promise as a way to make their home safer, more accessible and better equipped to handle their specific needs. The modern smart home features a host of inter-connected appliances, fixtures and systems that are easily voice-controlled and able to be set to schedules, from locking doors at night to turning on lights and opening blinds in the morning.

Improving Quality of Life

The influx of smart products designed to aid seniors and disabled people is a significant step toward providing a higher quality of life. Accessible controls and automated scheduling mean more control over the local environment, granting more of the independence and agency that is so important to so many seniors. Caregivers, too, can enjoy the benefits of automation. The ability to automate many of the tasks that once demanded their attention leaves more time for caregivers to care for their loved ones, handle other tasks or even take a bit of personal time.

Improving Health Care

For caregivers, the health of their loved one is always a worry. Here, too, technology offers a variety of aids. Automated medication dispensers allow the elderly to handle their own medications without the typical risks of forgetting pills or taking the wrong dosages. Wearable technology, while still in the early stages of development, promises to provide a convenient and unobtrusive way for caregivers and even health professionals to monitor important vital signs and other health information.

For those caring for someone afflicted with Alzheimer’s, devices such as GPS-enabled trackers, door alarms and other monitors even offer the ability to send immediate alerts to a caregiver should their loved one attempt to leave the house after a set time.

Safety Through Technology

Security, too, is of paramount importance when it comes to the elderly. Remote monitoring allows caregivers to keep tabs on their loved one at any time, employing home security cameras not only for protection against outside threats but to allow monitoring from any location. Many of today’s security systems also feature monitoring for fire, carbon monoxide and other potential hazards.

Security can be further enhanced by installing door locks that can be automated or remotely controlled, implementing access codes to control who can enter the home and at what times and using a camera to safely identify visitors at the door.

The smart technology revolution is barely underway, yet it has already radically altered how caregivers protect and care for their loved ones. The elderly, ill or disabled finally have the tools to allow them more control, independence and accessibility to take on aspects of their lives that they were previously not able to manage, while technology also lessens the burden on caregivers. This benefits everyone, resulting in happier seniors, improved safety and quality of care and less stress for those who care for them.

Maria Alice is a freelance writer currently living in Chicago. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a minor in Communication. She blogs about environmentally friendly tips, technological advancements, and healthy active lifestyles.

Join Us in Chicago on December 2 and 3 for the 1st Annual National Caregiving Conference hosted by Caregiving.com.  Registration is now open by clicking here!  .  Sponsorship  and Exhibitor opportunities available, contact me direct at Chris@thepurplejacket.com for details.  

For additional information on the conference click in the National Caregiving Conference click on the icons below or visit http://www.caregiving.com/national-caregiving-conference-hub/

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Top Caregiver Conferences


We are pleased to welcome guest blogger, Jacqueline Hatch from Seniorly.com to The Purple Jacket.

Top Caregiver Conferences

By Jacqueline Hatch

Caregivers deserve a much support as possible when it comes to caring for aging loved ones. It’s a difficult journey, filled with unexpected obstacles and a mountain of responsibilities. Many family caregivers refer to the experience as an emotional roller coaster. Fortunately, the caregiving community is as supportive as they come. And there are caregiving conferences all across the country designed to support these individuals in their role. And whether you’re new to the role or a seasoned professional, conferences can help you connect with others in a similar position and gain tools to help you better prepare to care for those you love. Read on for the top upcoming caregiver conferences in your area:

Upcoming Fort Lauderdale Conference(s):

The Fearless Caregiver Conference on October 20th, 2016

This upcoming conference will cover important topic areas including how to become a fearless member of your loved one’s care team, respite techniques for caregivers, expert advice on beating stress and other mental health concerns, and hands-on advice from local experts in the field. The conference will be held from 11:00am to 3:00pm on Thursday, October 20th at the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Registration is free.

Upcoming Florida State Conference(s):

Florida Conference on Aging, August 8-10, 2016

This August, the Florida Council on Aging will hold a conference focusing on topics surrounding the aging experience. Attendees can expect engaging workshops on topics including caregiving, health care, technology, elder advocacy, fundraising, long-term care planning and more. The event will be held from August 8-10 at the Caribe Royal Hotel in Orlando Florida. Chris MacLellan will be leading a workshop on August 8th entitled “LGBT Caregiving: Is There A Difference?” Register now so you don’t miss out!

Upcoming National Conference(s):

1st Annual National Caregiving Conference, December 3rd, 2016

The first of its kind, this conference aims to connect caregivers with support and solutions to empower them in a difficult role. Presentations are designed to be engaging and entertaining, and spark conversations about changes that need to be made to support caregivers at home, in our workplaces and our health care system. Educational sessions will be aimed at family caregivers, former caregivers, and working professionals. The event will take place on December 3rd at the Chicago Marriott O’Hare. Chris MacLellan, “The Bow Tie Guy” is honored to be attending as a presenter and part of the steering committee.

Additional Caregiver Resources:

The National Alliance for Caregiving

Family Caregiver Alliance

The Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving

Caregiving.com

For more caregiver resources to support you in a challenging role, visit the Seniorly Resource Center and search by keywords “caregiver support” or “caregiving”.

Jacqueline Hatch is the Content Manager at Seniorly.com, a company that provides free resources for families in need of senior care services. Her goal is to produce educational articles that help families navigate the complicated world of aging options. She does this through managing the Seniorly Resource Center, where families can search for relevant articles based on topics and keywords.

 

 

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We Might Have Cancer, But Cancer Never Had Us


I learned through social media that Sunday June 5th is National Cancer Survivors Day which reminded me of the motto Richard  and I lived by after he was diagnosed  with esophageal cancer in 2011 -“We Might Have Cancer, But Cancer Never Had Us.”  Even in some of our most difficult days, we always stuck by our motto because it freed us from the burden of cancer. Sure, we were aware of the reality of the diagnosis, but the fact of the matter is, Richard outlived his original prognosis by more than two years.   I’m confident that  our motto kept us strong throughout the ordeal of dealing with his cancer diagnosis.

I started The Purple Jacket blog not to long after Richard  was diagnosed with cancer.  I remember the day the diagnoses came in quite well, “Mr. Schiffer has a massive growth where the esophagus and stomach attach” said the gastroenterologist.  After beating prostrate cancer, two cardiac by-pass surgeries, Richard looked at me and said, “I guess this will be something that will eventually take me.”  Richard was a realist, that was one of the many qualities I admired about him.

As I think about National Cancer Survivors day, I am reminded about the importance of caregivers sharing our stories with each other.  Writing the blog helped me and Richard cope with the diagnosis.  Our story in the Sun-Sentinel, In Sickness and In Health:  A Couples Final Journey  had a major impact on the importance of  sharing ones story.  I encourage everyone, as they feel comfortable, to share as much of their caregiving story as they possibility can. Sharing ones caregiving story, albeit it cancer, Alzheimer’s, or whatever health calamity you and your caree face, is a good antidote for any insidious  diagnosis, like cancer.

As we age and face different life challenges, we can look back on pictures to help tell the story of what we don’t see right before our eyes.   (2003 thru 2014 – click on the picture to see the year it was taken)

Pictures do tell a thousand stories.  What I did not see in January of 2014, was because I was looking at 2003.  The reality of a cancer diagnosis has a profound affect on everyone.  Sharing ones story has a profound affect too.  It reminds us that we are not alone in our caregiving journey.

I encourage you to share your caregiving story as you feel comfortable because cancer can never take away our love.  You see…”We Might Have Cancer, But Cancer Never Had Us”

Chris MacLellan is the author of “What’s The Deal With Caregiving?” and the host of Healing Ties radio program.

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Seniors Finding Energy in Self-Driving Cars


We welcome back guest blogger, Maria Alice

Autonomous, or “self-driving,” cars have been making the news rounds for a few years. These computer-controlled vehicles are capable of following a preset course when the driver is impaired or would otherwise be unable to manage the pedals and steering wheel, meaning fewer accidents. These vehicles run on electricity instead of fossil fuels, providing a host of ecological and cost-friendly benefits. These two benefits alone are merely the tip of the iceberg of benefits that self-driving cars can provide.

An automated car means that seniors and others with mobility problems or handicaps can truly share the road with the rest of the driving populace. Elders unable to drive by themselves would simply need to tell the computer where they wanted to the car to take them and then relax. Furthermore, a self-driving car does not require additional, sometimes-costly, mechanical alterations that a conventional handicap-accessible car would require to drive around unsupervised.

The main draw of a self-driving car is that all of the content between point A and point B is handled by someone else. The passenger just needs to know those two points.

When looking into the big names behind this booming industry, Audi, Baidu, BMW, Ford, Google, Mercedes and Tesla, all make appearances. Google offers two different models of self-driving car: one is a “pod” lacking either a steering wheel or pedal and the other is a modified Lexus outfitted with sensors and an on-board computer.

While you may think that this technology is being championed by the elderly, the blind and visually-handicapped will also greatly benefit from the proliferation of self-driving cars. Independence is a big merit for these people and it can do a lot for their self-esteem to know that they don’t need to ask around for a ride or hunt for just enough fare to pay a public bus or taxi. A self-driving car is the perfect means of granting that sort of independence.

The benefits of driverless cars extend beyond just people – the environment gains a huge boon as well. According to Energy Companies Alberta, full integration of electric driverless cars would reduce fossil fuel consumption by nearly 3 billion gallons between relying on electricity, running the vehicle at a sustained speed, and streamlining traffic on busy highways. While electrical self-driving cars would not eliminate fossil fuel usage entirely, the technology could eventually be reworked to handle other industries that involve automotive devices, like the shipping industry.

While all of this information may sound wonderful, the reality is mired in legal quicksand. One speed bump on the road to automotive modernization and the disabled comes from the legal requirements for operating a vehicle. Most states and federal districts have laws on the books which dictate that a driver must be in full control of the vehicle at all times. This means that while driverless cars can be put into the marketplace, a designated driver must still remain within the vehicle as long as it is on the road.

Do we think self-driving cars are a worthy endeavor? Does the idea of giving your parents the freedoms they used to enjoy appeal to you, especially when several major automotive and technology industries are looking into them? Would you rest better not having to include time spent driving them around into your schedule? Do you care about renewable energy and the future of the planet’s health? The short answer to these questions is “yes.” All research points to driverless cars becoming common enough that the gas-guzzling auto will be a relic of the past and will greatly loosen our reliance upon technology that requires fossil fuels to operate.

Maria Alice  is a freelance writer currently living in Chicago. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a minor in Communication. She blogs about environmentally friendly tips, technological advancements, and healthy active lifestyles.

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Graduate: A Thesis Complete


An investment in knowledge pays the best interest. Benjamin Franklin

The road to Spokane has come to a happy ending with the completion and acceptance of my thesis entitled… Spiral of Silence:  Caregiving, Stress and its Impact in the Workplace.   

Originally proposed by German political scientist Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann in 1974, Spiral of Silence is the term meant to refer to the tendency of people to remain silent when they feel that their views are in opposition to the majority view on a subject.  My theory suggested that working family caregivers, fearful of losing their job, do not self-identify at work because they feel that they are in the minority.  I am happy to report that 75% of the respondents who indicated that they did self-identify at work found some form of relief.  However, 25% of the respondents who did not self-identify at work as a family caregiver, were fearful of losing their job or that self-identifying would be of no help to them.  I am very grateful to Denise Brown from Caregiving.com for allowing me to take part in Caregiving.com yearly working family caregiving survey.  Please feel free to reach out to Denise Brown at denise@caregiving.com if you have any further questions about the working family caregiving survey and how you might get a copy.

Of course there is much more to the thesis; we have more work to do to bring awareness to the epidemic of stress that working family caregivers face on a daily basis.

It is difficult to find the words to describe the feeling of earning a Master’s Degree GU_logoin Leadership and Communication from Gonzaga University. I love the Jesuit tradition and the spirit of Gonzaga. Professor Michael Hazel has been terrific throughout the entire process, as have all of the staff at the University. I will always remember Dr. Hazel’s sage advice at the beginning of the thesis in January, when my goals were bigger than the time frame, “The best thesis is a completed thesis.”  Michael Hazel knows his “stuff!” It is a good feeling to have the thesis completed, an even better feeling to now be an alumnus of Gonzaga.  It is nice to know there are life-long friends in Spokane, WA.

11410888-smooth-road-ahead-good-times-recovery-yellow-street-sign-1is84y6I am getting ready to embark on a new road, (one that is not virtual as was my road to Spokane); I look ahead with anticipation and excitement because I am creating a life to love after caregiving ends through writing, radio, travel and advocacy.

Leave your limiting self-doubts behind and go and grab the life you have always dreamed.

That is my new road to follow!

Chris MacLellan is the author of “What’s The Deal with Caregiving” and the executive producer and host of “Healing Ties” radio show  and a alumni of Gonzaga University!

 

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It’s All About Forgiveness


To understand is to forgive, even oneself. Alexander Chase

The road to Spokane is in its final stages as there are only two chapters left to write for my thesis “Caregiving, Stress and its Impact in the Work Place.”   I owe a big thanks to Denise Brown from Caregiving.com for helping me gather statistics for the thesis.   I had two hypothesis to prove in my thesis, so far the data tells me that I was able to prove one of them.  I will be sure to reveal the results of the study in May after the thesis has been approved and submitted.

20160323_081923.jpgWhile attending the American Society on Aging Conference in Washington, D.C., I was struck by not only the information that delivered at the conference, but the commitment of the professionals in attendance.  Another added benefit was the chance to connect with quite a number of social networking friends, people who I have collaborated with of the years online, yet have never had the opportunity to meet in person.  I was fortunate to be able to attend this event.

Something hit me square in the eye while in Washington, D.C. that is difficult to explain, but quite profound.   During one of our discussions at the conference, I suggested to the group that there is plenty of information for caregivers and those who are in the  aging profession, but I did not see much information on life after caregiving ends.  (A few eyebrows where raised when I made this point!) Yes, there is an estimated 43 million family caregivers today in the United States, but what happens to caregivers when caregiving ends?   Do family caregivers just go back to  daily life without recognizing, or better yet, dealing with the dramatic change in life when caregiving ends?

I had to look inside my heart for that answer.  And for me, that answer centered around forgiveness.

In order to fully grasps and move on with life after caregiving,  I had to first forgive myself, forgive myself for moving on with my life.  Seems strange after all most two years past Richard’s life transition, but yes, life after caregiving has to include a bit of self-forgiveness.   I then had to  forgive myself for the bad decisions I made during and especially after caregiving ended.  I had to forgive myself for not taking better care of myself both physically , emotionally, spiritually and financially.  But most of all, I had to forgive myself for being afraid to continue on with my life after caregiving ended.

HealingProjectYou see, caregiving was just a small portion of our life together.  Time wise, eleven years together, pales in comparison in relation to the six months of intensive caregiving that transpired in our relationship.  However those six months of intensive caregiving takes a relationship to new heights, new destinations and at least in our case, a deeper love and commitment that is impossible to replace.  I marvel, and often wonder about couples who have been together 30, 40, 50 years then suddenly find themselves in the role of a family caregiver.

Our time in caregiving ends: Our time in love is endless. 

For me, life after caregiving is about learning to forgive myself. When I came to the realization that I had to first forgive myself in order to fully move on with my life, a little bright light went on in my head, (thanks to a wonderful conversation with my friend Sam Chalfant) allowing me to understand and accept, that living in the past does not help the present, nor the future: living in the past puts life on hold.

Just like our caregiving journeys are different, so will our journeys be different when caregiving ends.  Sharing our stories after caregiving ends is just as important as it was while in the midst of caregiving.  Because in the end, somewhere along the line, forgiveness, in some form or another, will be part of the healing formula for each one of us to experience, so that we can fully embrace our life once again after caregiving ends.  Sharing is caring… before, during and after our caregiving experience, so  that our hills are light, and with a gentle breeze always at our backs.

Chris MacLellan is the host of “Healing Ties” radio program and the author of “What’s The Deal With Caregiving?”

The road to Spokane is my virtual story leading up to graduation from Gonzaga University

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Two Years Past


Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies. Aristotle

We are taking a break from the thesis project today to remember a significant day in our life. For as long as I live, I know March 9th is going to come around every year.  Significant in the sense that I will always remember March 9th as being the day that Richard made his life transition.  Together as one, our lives changed forever on that day in 2014.

Sure, the pain of losing him has gotten softer, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t miss him quite a bit.  The love we shared is still strong.   I did not want the day to go unnoticed, nor do I want to belabor the point either.   Finding that gentle balance when you lose the love of your life takes time.  Getting over it, means something different to each one of us.  We don’t really get over it, we adjust to it and move on as best we can. The love we shared is still strong in my heart and always present in my life.

I’m not sure what I will do when March 9th rolls around next year, but what I do know for sure is that my faith tells me that I will see him again, my mind tells me that he is forever pain free and my heart tells me that he is standing right behind me.

Enjoy some of our favorite photo’s from our eleven years together.

  Never miss out on a chance to tell that special person in your life that you love them!

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A review of Still Alice: Watching a Loved One With Alzheimer’s


We welcome back guest blogger Maria Alice with her review of Still Alice: Watching a Loved One With Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease is an illness that affects its victim at the core of their being. Memory and different mental functions are compromised in those who develop the disease, and ultimately it changes them in profound ways. The award-winning film, Still Alice, centers on the hardships that come with early onset Alzheimer’s and how they affect the victim and the people that surround them. In Still Alice, family, friends, and caregivers experience life with a loved one who, one day, may or may not even remember who they are.

Alice Howland, played by Julianne Moore in an Oscar-worthy performance, is a linguistics professor – a true creature of words, ideas, and thoughts. After Alice encounters a period of memory loss and confusion, she is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. We follow her life as the disease gets worse and those around her start to become frustrated and lose hope. Still Alice shows the uglier and more difficult stages of Alzheimer’s as a person with it goes through stages of memory loss and personal deterioration. As the disease progresses, it begins to rob the victim of their dignity. Alice quickly loses the ability to perform daily functions and maintain personal responsibility and safety. Still Alice, still available on DTV and Google Play, vividly illustrates how one person can lose their former selves inside their mind and how their body can become a mere shell of who they once were.

In a common real world situation, Alice’s family becomes her caregivers. Her husband John (Alec Baldwin), her daughters Anna (Kate Bosworth) and Lydia (Kristen Stewart), and her son Tom (Hunter Parrish) all deal differently with the diagnosis of their loved one. The family accepts Alice’s condition in ways that reflect their situations and their levels of fear and insecurity about this genetic condition. The fact that they must react to her condition both as a loving family, caregivers and potential carriers of the trait adds a distinct layer of tension to the plot.

Directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland portray the disease and its path of deterioration with precision and empathy for all concerned. There are days when Alice seems like she’s who she was before the diagnosis and days when she cannot find herself. Repeated imagery of waves on the shore captures the incisive feeling about the nature of the disease – a thing that comes in waves with no two quite the same but with the same impact. However, it is the human resolution that stands. Alice learns to live in the moment and savor life.

Still Alice describes a painful descent from a lofty, comfortable, and productive life to one of searching for a most basic connection to the self. Alzheimer’s is a disease that robs one of past, present and future by breaking the connections with life events, time, and people. With effective use of imagery, photographic effects, and themes, Still Alice creates moods and very relatable scenes of the descent from high-powered professional existence. It follows a person who must struggle to overcome confusion in the simplest tasks and disconnection from the lives that matter so much.

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March 5, 2016 · 10:00 am