Monday, December 21, 2015

365 Caregiving Tips: Practical Tips from Everyday Caregivers

Life is funny sometimes. 

When I started caring for Robert seven years ago – and believe me, it does not seem seven years has gone by since then – I had no idea what the future had in store for me or him.  I did not know what I was doing and certainly did not realize I was one of 65 million people providing care for someone.

Available in PDF or Paperback
While I did not feel alone, I felt I needed to share some of the problems I was experiencing to see if others had gone through the same thing.  My first blog post was about trying to change Robert’s address for his Social Security and Medi-Cal benefits.  What a nightmare!

Eventually, I stumbled across the caregiver support website, and asked Denise Brown if she was accepting submissions and if I could write for her site.  (I am always looking for ways to make money by writing.)  I did not fully grasp the supportive network Denise had created and she encouraged me to post on her site and connect with others. 

The people I connected with on that site remain my friends today. We have been through a lot of caregiving and caregiving changes through the years and we have shared laughs, tears and frustrations through it all. 

Four of these dear friends (one of whom is my husband) decided to create a series of books to help other caregivers. We have several years of experience between us and have learned “on the job” so wanted to share what we have learned with other caregivers. 

Some of our tips have been shared on our own websites, some on or other websites such as Assisted Living Directory (a terrific website with caregiving resources).  Life is funny: I connected with David Besnette who created Assisted Living Directory and he offered to pay me to write for his site.  Getting paid to write is certainly a dream come true but I love what he is creating with the website so much that I would probably write for it for free (shh! Don’t tell David). 

Pegi Foulkrod, Gincy Heins, Richard Kreis, Kathy Lowrey and I have accumulated so many caregiving tips through the years and are now sharing our tips in our first of (hopefully) many books designed to help the caregiver.  365 Caregiving Tips: Practical Tips from Everyday Caregivers is an easy to read, short reference book covering a variety of caregiving topics.  From advocacy, meal time, incontinence to travel (and even incontinence while traveling), no topic is too sensitive!   

Life is funny.  You never know where life will lead you. When I first met Pegi, Kathy and Gincy, I had no idea we would be lifelong friends creating a book for other caregivers. This book means so much to me because it was created with people I love and respect and admire.

While creating this book, life continued: caregiving did not stop; life did not stop. Between us, we were involved in fundraising for organizations we are passionate about, one of us sat bedside by her husband as death was knocking on his door (he is now at home, on hospice), we were working, caring, enjoying the news of an engagement (!) and laughing, sharing and loving.

These people inspire me every day to be a better caregiver.  To be a better person.

If there is one thing I have learned from these people it is never to lose hope and that miracles do happen. 

Pegi is the artist of the group and created a stunning cover for the book. In fact, her artwork is so beautiful it must be shared! We are finishing up a calendar to do just that so please watch this space for more information on the 2016 Caregiving Calendar.

Please consider purchasing the paperback or PDF version of the book for yourself or for a caregiver you know. The book will soon be available for e-readers as well!  Please also share the information about this book because you may not know if there is a caregiver in your circle of friends.

Thank you so much for your support! 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Holidays, Decorating and Caregiving

Readers know how much I love to decorate at Christmas time! This passion for lights, snowmen and holiday cheer could be called over the top or slightly very excessive (Exhibits A, B and C) but I like to call it “normal,” “spreading Christmas joy” and “oh so much fun!”

Santa visited our neighborhood early
Since caregiving started I have found decorating just as much fun but adding just a smidge of extra stress to an already busy time.  Last year I was very stressed out with the ever-increasing personal care needs of Robert, work was extremely busy and we were in the middle of trying to sell our house and find a new, more disabled-friendly house.  The mere thought of downsizing the decorations was depressing and a near impossible task for me.

It is not uncommon to have to downsize when caregiving or when someone is ill.  While getting our trees this year (yes, trees – more on that later), I overheard a woman tell her husband and adult daughter they used to get the biggest tree in the lot. She was saying this as her husband tossed a mid-sized tree in the back of their pick-up but she seemed to accept this was the year they were downsizing.

Richard’s mom has boxes and boxes of Christmas decorations at her house but hasn’t had the energy or desire to unpack them the last few years. Last year, Richard snuck over on Christmas morning and set up a tabletop tree and strung a few lights so she would wake to a magical Christmas morning.

I still get a little teary-eyed just thinking about that generous gesture.
Carol's finished product

This year, Carol was again not interested in decorating. It could be her depression. It could be hauling boxes out and decorating seems too overwhelming. Whatever the reason, we wanted to bring her some Christmas cheer so surprised her with a decorating party.  Richard, Robert, Rachel and I set out with another tabletop tree, decorations and our Christmas spirit. We surprised Carol who was grateful and ready to decorate with us. She jumped in and went through her own boxes of holiday decorations and pulled out what she wanted to set around and found ornament hooks since we forgot to bring them. 

She let us know when she was satisfied there were enough decorations – we wanted to follow her lead and not overwhelm her. After all, this was her house and we didn’t want to overstep our boundaries but wanted to bring some Christmas cheer.  When we were finished, she left for church and called once she returned home.  She expressed her gratitude and joy at coming home to a tree and a living room full of Christmas lights.

Choosing the best tree
It was a fun afternoon for all of us and Carol was pleased with the decorations. Success!

For our own house, Richard and I have been decorating a little at a time. Instead of taking a full day (or two or three) to decorate, we have slowly put out a few items each day. We even did our own version of downsizing: instead of a very tall tree which is difficult for the two of us to haul in and decorate, we opted for two smaller trees. We have done this for a couple of years now and it works out much better for us. Richard is not in as much pain while stringing the lights or trying to get a 10 foot tree straight in the stand.

The bonus of having two trees is we can use most of the ornaments we have collected through the years! Last night, Robert ate his Rocky Road ice cream and watched us string the lights on one tree and tonight we will tackle the other one. Robert enjoyed helping pick out the trees and will help put on a few ornaments as well. 

We don’t have him help with the lights as that is a very delicate operation that Richard and I have tried perfecting over the years. By perfecting, I mean we try to hang the lights and continue to speak to one another for the rest of the night.  (There’s something about stringing those lights . . . as a friend said, “hanging lights can make or break a family!)

Stringing lights on Tree #1
Again, success! J

Caregiving brings challenges and change and sometimes even downsizing but it can also remind us how precious time with family is and that change can be embraced.

Here’s hoping you enjoy your holidays and decorating too!  Just watch out for those Christmas tree lights . . . 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Caregiving Blog Party 2015

It is that time of year! Grab a cup of hot cocoa, a bag of tiny marshmallows (oh yes, I said a bag) and a few candy canes.  We are going to have fun this week!

Every year, Denise Brown hosts a Blog Party through her site for caregivers,  There are several other participants, including my husband who writes at and friends Kaye Swain ( and Shelley Webb (The Intentional Caregiver) along with many others.

Of course, no party is complete without prizes and presents! 

This week I will be talking about holidays, decorating, medications and advocacy and anything else that might come up (in caregiving, you never know). Each day I will give you a chance to win a copy of my book, “Forever a Caregiver,” – all you have to do is leave a comment on one of the blog posts.  At the end of the week, Richard and I will give away a grand prize of a $25 Amazon gift card. Visit either one of our sites to enter – just make sure you leave a comment in order to be eligible to win!

I am excited to participate again in this fun event and looking forward to reading the blogs of fellow caregivers. Getting a variety of perspectives during the holidays and during a caregiving situation is both helpful and unifying. 

To me, this season is all about being helpful and loving and giving and hopeful and bringing people together.  (I don’t expect much, do I?)

These may be high expectations for the season but we need as much goodwill and kindness now and all year long!

We just might need two bags of marshmallows . . .