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Incontinence Support Blog

Feeling Sluggish? Low Energy? Here’s a Terrific and Super-Healthy Cure!

Posted by Mens Liberty

Mar 7, 2017 11:12:38 AM

We literally take hundreds of calls daily, and one of the biggest grumbles that we hear from our clients has nothing to do with incontinence.  It’s all about how sluggish they feel, and how they ‘wish they had the energy they did when they were younger.’

You may recall that I did a video blog on a book that has changed many people’s lives

http://blog.mensliberty.com/blog/health-update-summary-of-the-china-study.  It’s called “The China Study”.  Without going into a lot of detail, here’s a quick summary:

The U.S. government commissioned a study in the late 80’s for scientists to study various population groups in China.  They postulated that a healthy diet included a minimum of 20 grams of protein / day.

A team of scientists went to China and studied thousands of people – wealthy, poor, urban, non-urban, etc.  As it turns out, the scientists had 2 shocking discoveries.  First, they discovered that there were many healthy people ingesting much less than 20 grams of protein daily.

They also discovered that the poorest populations were the healthiest.  In fact, they had less than 1% of their population getting cancer, having obesity, heart disease, diabetes, digestive complications, and on and on…  LESS THAN 1%!!

As it turns out, the poorest populations couldn’t afford to buy proteins and their diets consisted mostly of fruits, nuts, vegetables and some seafood.

And of course the least healthy populations had diets heavy in proteins.

Now before you think we’re going to try and convert you into a vegetarian, please – relax.  We’re not.  This is about gaining energy and preventing age-related disease.  And here’s the best news – some of the latest research says this is much easier than we thought.

While there’s a lot of things that are out of our control (such as our genes), the following information is something completely within our control, and is relatively easy to manage.  This follows some of the guidelines set in “The China Study”, and it’s called “Eating Clean.”

Let’s go through the 6 simple rules of “Eating Clean.”

  1. Get back to basics. The foundation of eating clean is 2 things: Making better choices and eating more foods in their natural states: unsalted nuts, grass-fed and free-range meats, whole fruits and vegetables.  Common sense.

Much of what we consume today is chemically altered with all kinds of things that we can’t spell or properly announce.

Just try to replace 2 servings of clean food each day instead of processed or altered foods.

  1. Think outside the box. Most foods that come inside a box have been processed in some manner. That means they’ve either added things or stripped away some of the food’s essential goodness.

Try to choose foods with the least amount of processing.  The closer it is to its original form, the better it is for you.

  1. Check the label. Spend a little time reading labels and seeing what the ingredients are.

Simple rule of thumb:  The lower the number of ingredients, the better off you are.  Case in point:  Yogurt.  Yogurt is one of the healthiest foods out there.

  1. Know the enemy. We all know that certain ingredients are bad for our health. They affect our blood pressure, our cholesterol and blood sugar.

Try to avoid things like high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, nitrates and nitrites, trans fats, and food coloring – especially blue 1, blue 2, green 3, citrus red 2, red 3, yellow 5 and 6.

  1. Shop smarter. Some foods have major health benefits – foods like hummus, peppercorns, tuna, salmon, grain breads, garlic and garlic powder, chia seeds, oats, fermented foods (miso, sauer-kraut, kimchi), quinoa and whole grain pastas, and of course, fruits and vegetables. If it’s meats, make it grain-fed and/or free-range.

Just like 1 through 4 – all common sense.

  1. Eat at home. It comes at no surprise that restaurant and fast food meals have more calories and fewer nutrients. It’s likely that when we eat home-prepared meals, we eat less.

Keep this in mind when preparing meals:  Simple is best.  I frequently eat a small piece of grilled fish (salmon, tuna, or sea bass) with sliced tomatoes and steamed broccoli.  It’s also quick!  Sometimes in the summer, it’s just some tomato slices and fresh corn on the cob.  Again, simple and quick!

In closing I want to tell you a story about one of my friends.  A few years ago, he almost died.  When he got out of the hospital he weighed 333 pounds.  While recuperating, he read “The China Study” and immediately changed his diet.  He’s what we call a “pescatarian” – that’s a vegetarian who also eats fish and seafood.

Since revising his eating habits and doing one simple exercise 3 or 4 days a week (swimming), he’s lost more than 75 pounds.  More importantly, he’s of course a lot healthier, and he has a ton more energy.  And get this – every couple of months, he’ll indulge in a cheeseburger or pizza or steak – sometimes all 3 in the same day!  Those are our rewards for making great lifestyle choices.

Feeling sluggish?  Wishing you had the energy levels you had when you were younger.  Betcha there’s a great solution in what we discussed today!

Make it a terrific week!  I love sharing these tips with you!


  • Wendy LaTorre

Topics: family, Health Literacy

5 Tips to staying Mentally Healthy

Posted by Mens Liberty

Feb 9, 2017 1:11:26 PM

I read the most beautiful article the other day. Someone had brought kittens to a nursing facility that needed to be bottle fed. “Ohhh how sweet and cute,” is usually the initial reaction when you see tiny kittens being bottle fed by an elderly man and woman. Surprisingly, it’s not something I thought into more deeply. It wasn’t until someone pointed out how much it was helping the PEOPLE doing the bottle feeding that I thought about it that way.

Here are some things we can all benefit from and will help keep your mental health on key, which can sometimes be unfairly overlooked.

  1. Apply yourself to something that makes you feel needed and independent.

Having previous experience in geriatrics, I know residents get frustrated because their hands shake, they don’t understand, something is unfamiliar, anxiety, depression, fear, and many people feel like they are such a burden. It is important for EVERYONE’S mental health (not just elderly) to find something that you can contribute to remind yourself that you ARE a useful human being. We all have struggles, and we all like to feel loved, useful, and important.

Have you ever done an activity like sewing, painting, exercising, gardening, or crocheting where you actually go on “auto-pilot” and look up to realize you got lost in what you were doing? These are what I call “freeing activities”.

  1. Find activities you get lost in that do not involve electronics. There is a difference between being fixated on something like the TV and being lost in a hobby. Try to make a habit of doing these activities at least once a week to help free your mind!

I don’t know about anyone else, but when I eat junk- I feel like JUNK.

  1. Fuel your body with proper nutrients. Know your necessary caloric intake and percentages of complex carbs (greens), and protein. With each milestone in our life or medication changes, our nutrient needs can vary.

Do you ever feel like you don’t have many people you can talk to? Maybe you feel you will be judged, or maybe you don’t really want to bother with explaining the situation so you just keep it to yourself? Keep all your worries, concerns, frustrations to yourself with no “freeing activities” or other release in between and all I can picture is a brewing problem inside.

  1. Talk. It’s so important to be able to talk about things whether it be to a friend, family member, significant other, or therapist. This gives you a chance to release any mental toxins you may have so you can feel good as new.

Have you ever been around people who are negative.ALL.THE.TIME. Okay, enough said. It’s okay to be realistic and vent like #4. It’s also even more important to do THIS.

  1. Find the POSITIVE. I can honestly still hear my mom saying this. “Look at the silver lining”. Oh, this is so true. There is also a phrase something like “whether you are looking for a positive or a negative- you will find what you seek” If that’s actually not out there then I call dibs on being credited!  If you sit and focus on the negative over and over- that is going to be what you find in situations, and that’s going to be what you spend the most time on.

Quick Question: Which statement gives you a better feeling? 


  1. I don’t need anyone or their help in life.
  2. I have the utmost strength and ability to tackle life independently.

If I portrayed my point as anticipated, chances are that option B gave off a more positive vibe than option A. It’s because positivity was used over negativity. It’s important to look at a bad situation, acknowledge it, and then step back and look at the silver lining (or sometimes make your own silver lining.) You may have incontinence, but Men’s Liberty can be the positive in an undesirable situation.


Best wishes and until next time,

     ~Nurse Nicole



Topics: family, Health Literacy

A Holiday Message...

Posted by Caleb Bartlett

Dec 22, 2016 1:45:08 PM

Well where did that year go? I think 2016 will go down in history as one of the strangest years in history. I hope all of you made it through unscathed and positive about the future. In these uncertain times it can be difficult for many, especially those of us in chairs who often depend on caregivers for help. Life in a chair can often make us feel marginalized or different, adding the holiday mayhem and social madness to the mix can trigger sadness, depression, and sometimes feeling alone… even among family.

I have been blessed with a close, caring family, others not as much, and many somewhere in the middle. I don’t really have anything to complain about, but emotions are complex and funny things. I know what it is to feel lonely even in a crowded room full of loved ones. If I can instill one thought of the minds of my readers this season, and that is, if you are alone or feeling alone during this happy season take a few things to heart.

You are not alone. Life is a difficult thing. We are all on this journey, learning and growing. Each of us has something, some may be worse than others, but we share the same feelings and joys and fears. Take the time to look around. Count your blessings. That may sound trite, but it works.

Take time to tell the ones you love that you love them. You get what you give. Feeling alone? Show someone else they matter. Thank them for something, anything. Channeling your emotions in another direction can be a powerful tool for changing your mood.

Forgive somebody. Never underestimate the power of forgiveness, even if it’s yourself. Oftentimes we feel alone because we’re holding on to past hurts, misunderstandings, and times when people have done us harm. This time of year, despite all the consumerism, media hype, and modern noise we endure it really is a time when people feel empathy towards others. The act of giving gifts alone causes us to value the relationships we share with our fellow man. While we’re in this mindset we can take advantage of this time to mend the past and right a few wrongs. Remember, the high road is always best. Extending the hand of forgiveness doesn’t always mean it will be returned, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is you. The peace of knowing you have done the right thing will help you beat the loneliness blues.

I know that this blog is often about living with a disability, but all the healthy living tips, how-tos, and personal anecdotes don’t mean a thing if we don’t have the peace and contentment inside ourselves. Life is more than the physical and these experiences we go through can trigger complex emotions that affect our health, daily decisions, and more. This holiday season take time to be a better person. Reach out and use the spirit of good will to bring healing and happiness to yourself and others.

May this season of peace bring peace to others through you. Thanks for reading.

Topics: family, Spinal Cord Injury with Caleb, compassion

Renting a Home from a Chair

Posted by Caleb Bartlett

Aug 16, 2016 4:36:16 PM

My family and I recently went through a rather difficult, yet educational experience. For the first time since my injury I was jointly responsible for a home. By the this I mean my name was on the lease. Many of us in chairs often live with family, some us received a settlement and bought a home, but there are those of us making a go of it out there in world living in a place we do not own. This means Landlords and that can be good, or really bad.

Last year my family and I moved to a new state to start a business. We had trained, saved, and searched for the right opportunity as well as the property. We planned to run a home-based food business and so infrastructure and amenities were equally important as accessibility. We finally found what we wanted and in a flurry of activity we signed a lease, packed, and moved. So as not to bog down this post with the gory details I’ll get to the point… the Landlord was dishonest and breached the lease causing us to lose a years’ worth of hard work, money, and ultimately we had to get a lawyer. Now ultimately our case stands on its own for anyone leasing a home, but in our effort to educate ourselves about our rights I learned a few things I felt it might be worth it to pass on to you. So here’s a few tips...

Make friends with a Lawyer. I’m serious. Attorneys get paid for their time and do get expensive, but the $150-$250 to have them read through a lease agreement could save you thousands on down the road. If you’re in a chair there are many pro bono disability rights services that can at least advise you on such matters before you sign anything. If you have a friend or family member who is an attorney don’t assume favors, be honest about what you can afford, tell them what you need, and offer them something for their time.

Don’t be in a hurry. If you are even remotely considering moving start looking now. Give yourself time. When you rush you settle for second best and a lease can be a difficult thing to get out of.

Don’t be impressed and don’t believe the pictures. Anything can look great with a coat of paint. If you are limited physically take someone with you who can look at the attic, the crawl spaces, the plumbing, and under the cabinets. Have them check for rot, mold, leaks, pests, and anything that could be unsafe or a fire hazard.

Be specific with the Landlord about your needs. Educate yourself about disabled tenant’s rights. There’s a lot of them and they’re in your favor. There are many resources online. However, be kind and polite. Explain your daily routine and how the space does or does not work, and what you can do to change it. Educate yourself on all the accessibility aides that are modular and can save them money. They will appreciate that.

Ask for references and do your homework. They will want references from you, expect no less from them. If you can, speak to previous renters, other current tenants, employees, or other professional connections. Listen and watch their reactions, it will tell you a lot.

Get it in writing, get it in writing, GET IT IN WRITING. Protect yourself now and you won’t have to fight later. If the lease is vague, get it rewritten in clear language. Know exactly what you are responsible for and what you are not. If you need special wording due to the wheel chair be honest and say what you want.

Life in a chair can be a daily challenge. Knowledge is power and can ease the stress of so many unnecessary battles. Living independently is a great blessing and gift that many don’t get to enjoy. The more of us who get out there and make it the norm the more landlords will make more and more properties accessible.

Thanks for reading.

Topics: family, wheelchair, Patient Stories, Guest Blogs, how to

Getting Back in the Game

Posted by Mens Liberty

Apr 26, 2016 11:00:00 AM

I think that for almost every one of us reading this message, we have at least one thing in common:  We’ve experienced some setbacks in life.  It could be financial, losing a beloved family member, friend or co-worker, divorce, a lay-off, our health, and many other things – including incontinence.

 It’s easy to have a good attitude and continuously think positive as long as things are going our way, right?!

What about the difficult times?  One of the hardest things to do when we’re experiencing adversity is to keep our heads held high, and “get back in the game.”  To be positive or to not be depressed…  It’s really easy to lose our passion when we’re hurt.

 Our friend Jason Parker, an Olympic medal winner (speed skating) has a great story about his very first race.  He was around 11 years old, and it was a 4-lap race.  So as he was skating into the very first turn, guess what he did…  Sure enough, he “hit the boards”.  That’s skaters-talk meaning he fell down.


He picked himself up and began skating again, and by the end of the race, Jason had fallen 4 times.  But you know what he had to do to finish the race?  He had to PICK HIMSELF UP and begin skating again.

Here’s a guy who went from falling 4 times in his first race and because he had a “Pick-Myself-Up Attitude”, he became an Olympic champion!

 Now here’s the rest of Jason’s story…  Sitting in the audience of his very first race were his family, his friends, and a cute young girl (Kristin) he had his eye on.  And with all his falls, he was embarrassed beyond belief!  And after the race, he knew that cute little Kristin would never give him the time of day, and perhaps not even look at him.

Fast forward 15 years, and cute little Kristen is now Mrs. Parker, and Kristen and Jason have 2 beautiful children!

Of course, many people choose to sit on the sidelines of life and not move forward because they’ve been “injured.”  As we all know, that’s their prerogative.

But at Men’s Liberty, we feel like it’s our responsibility to ask questions that just may perhaps motivate you to change your life and to change your lifestyle!

So here’s the question:    “What if…?”

What if we picked ourselves up from the “boards” and “started skating again?”

We’re reminded of Cameron J., survivor of prostate cancer.  Like many, his treatments left him incontinent.  He was devastated because (in his words) he ‘was TRAPPED at home, afraid to go anywhere because he feared that his adult diapers might leak, or that someone could smell his urine.’

Lucky for Cameron, his daughter was an expert researcher, and that’s how he discovered Men’s Liberty!  And because of Men’s Liberty, Cameron picked himself up off the boards and became active again.

In fact Cameron is so active and busy, dedicating and volunteering his time and energies to the local hospital, church, and community enhancement committee!  Cameron’s wife teases saying ‘she sees him less now than when he was working.’

And that’s what it’s all about – raising our heads up high, finding solutions and getting ourselves back into the game!

I think that if we just stop and think about the many times we’ve witnessed people picking themselves up, we’ll start saying to ourselves something like this –

  •  “If John can do it, why can’t I?”
  • “I saw that football player finish the game with a broken arm AND broken ribs! Why can’t I?”

And think about it…  When they interview champions about their injuries, almost always they say the same thing:  “I’d rather be IN THE GAME than sitting on the sidelines watching it go by.”

 And there’s the difference between champions and everyone else.

Now this is important:

 At Men’s Liberty, we believe that


So what can we do to help you find your inner-Champion?  What can we do to help you pick yourself up from the “boards”?

And – do you have a “Champion Story”?  We want to hear it!!  We want your inspiration and we want to celebrate your big wins.  So please – share your story with us now!!

NOTE:     If you’re new or just discovering Men’s Liberty, please know that we have a very experienced team of experts – including nurses and medical specialists, readily available to help answer all your questions to regaining your life and your inner champion.

Don’t hesitate to call our client assistance team today – 800-814-3174.  We’ll make every step of this journey as easy as possible!  800-814-3174

Topics: family, Health Literacy, Patient Stories, compassion

Six Ways Technology Can Make Caregiving Easier

Posted by Mens Liberty

Nov 3, 2015 11:00:00 AM

Welcome back! If you’re like me, technology plays a big role in your life that it didn’t have ten or fifteen years ago.

But technology, thus far, has made only modest contributions to supporting caregivers, the legions of family members and friends who help sustain elderly, disabled, sick and recovering patients.

With that in mind, the National Alliance for Caregiving recently brought together a panel of national experts and government officials to identify ways technology can improve and advance the field. I’m thrilled to be able to share this info with you here today.

The panel examined how technology can play a more meaningful role in helping caregivers, and how innovation can be accelerated to develop new applications to support caregivers.

The group offered six recommendations:

  1. Find more appropriate language to describe the varied and complex caregiving landscape. The report said widely held but simplistic perspectives on caregiving impede needed innovations. Good models of caregiving and appropriate language are needed to enable a better understanding of caregiving and to catalyze innovation.

  2. Continue to collect extensive data about the prevalence, burden, and impact of caregiving and the role of technology. There is a lack of research on family caregivers, especially as technology dramatically impacts caregiving. More current, thorough and accurate data is needed about the diversity of caregiver roles and responsibilities, about what daily caregiving involves, its challenges, and how much it impacts those around the caregiver. Such data is necessary to develop business plans and evaluate solutions.

  3. Initiate a broad national conversation on caregiving. A national discussion is necessary to raise consciousness of caregiving issues and its social and economic impacts, and to explore what kinds of responses are necessary and feasible. Entrepreneurs will be much more inclined to develop new approaches if there is widespread attention on the topic.

  4. Develop compelling business cases for employers and healthcare providers to support caregiving. Employers and healthcare institutions are ideally positioned to help family caregivers. But they require clear business plans to justify their taking action.

  5. Provide caregiving coaching as an integral component of all solutions. Caregivers often lack the time to learn about technologies that may be useful to them. Coaches who are knowledgeable about available technologies and can take the time to understand each family’s unique situation would make it possible for caregivers to get the full benefits of technology solutions.

  6. Inspire social conversations about caregiving to encourage more learning and support within families and communities. Most caregivers work in isolation that not only deprives them of emotional support from others, but also means that people do not learn from each other’s experiences and knowledge. New ways need to be developed to make conversations about caregiving more normal and less taboo.

These are some great suggestions! Technology has the potential to make caregiving much easier and effective. It can be particularly useful by helping them to coordinate the demanding tasks and the complex networks of relationships involved with caring for others.

If you’re like me, you know that these common sense recommendations are a great way to start supporting caregivers. So count me in!

Regain Your Freedom Today!


Topics: family, Caregiving

Not Dead Yet

Posted by Mens Liberty

Jan 29, 2014 1:30:00 PM

This week I have another blog to share, brought to you by Judy Oppenheimer. This was originally posted on Slate.com and the article discusses aging as a baby boomer and the stigma that can come with aging.

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The Internet is awash these days with stories about aging parents—suffering, terminal, demented, irritating, just plain old old parents. How difficult it is to care for them, how to evaluate nursing homes, how to broach important subjects like wills, funerals, power of attorney, DNR, so on into the night. A recent articleurged people to use the holiday season to bring up these matters—after all, Mom and Dad will be right there, presumably eager to hear what plans you’ve made for their imminent collapse/demise.

OK. It makes a certain amount of sense. Baby boomer issues have had a stranglehold on the media for the past 60 years or so. There are a lot of us, and now we are aging. And dealing with aging parents can cause difficulties, true enough; it can be comforting to hear how others have handled these situations.

Comforting, that is, for those who have aging parents. Not always all that comforting to the aging parents themselves.

As a member of this latter group, I have drawn up a few pointers I’d like to share with everyone out there whose parents have managed somehow to get beyond 65, 70, 75, even further. Things to keep in mind:

We’re not dead yet. Most of us aren’t even that out of it. There is a certain facial  expression many of us start seeing in our adult children around the time we hit 65. It involves a faint tilt of the head, accompanied by an intense, pained stare, not unlike that caused by a sudden gastro attack. I’ve named it the “uh-oh, she’s starting to lose it” look. If you haven’t seen it yet, you’re either lucky or haven’t been paying enough attention (or are losing it). Nearly anything can bring it on: a mispronounced name, a forgotten date.

Undoubtedly, this look is a direct effect of all the attention given to the aging-parent problem lately. Recently a certain statistic has made the rounds, and it’s unquestionably a scary one: Fifty percent of all people over 85 are at risk of developing Alzheimer’s. If that’s scary to you, dear children, think of how scary it is to us! But also remember the other 50 percent—those not developing Alzheimer’s. And those of us in our 70s who aren't part of that stat and don't need it forwarded to us, thanks. You too forget your keys now and then.

Other things, too, can bring on the look. Being less knowledgeable than one’s children about current cultural references, for instance. True, we may be unclear on which Kardashian sister is which, or even worse, what the point of knowing this is—but this does not mean we’re losing it. Same goes for our iPad learning curve. We were fully grown when the technology revolution roared into being. So, admittedly, it may take us longer to learn how to use some of the most popular tools of the day. (Though many of us have discovered that Google can be a senior’s best friend when it comes to memory, 18 percent of us are wedded to our smartphones, and way more are on Facebook). Does our lack of tech savvy bother you? Ha. Just ask yourself who is more at ease with everything tech out there today—you or your 4-year-old? And realize, while you’re at it, that you are NEVER going to be as at ease with all this stuff as your 4-year-old. And that’s just now: Imagine how hard it’s going to be to master all the new tech marvels coming down the road. That sound you hear in the background will be us, your parents, chuckling from the great beyond. Or possibly the next room.

Now, the grandkids. Too many of you assume we know nothing, as befits anyone on their way out, about raising children. One of my friends raised three of them, and is a pediatric nurse practitioner who operated a wellness clinic, and served as a professor at two medical schools. She is, however, 70, so how can she know anything about babies? Once when she was attempting to calm her crying 6-month-old grandson, she flipped on the TV to distract him. It worked immediately—but a few minutes later she heard a key in the door. She nearly wrenched her back trying to get the TV turned off before her son and daughter-in-law got inside. Because all TV is bad for babies, no matter what or when.

It’s not that I don’t trust the studies that say this. It’s just that we did things differently raising you because that was how it was done back then, and because for the most part, everyone does it the way it’s being done at the time. It takes a highly unusual person to forge her own path, make her own rules, particularly when it comes to child rearing, and most of us weren’t that unusual. We put our babies to sleep on their stomachs, let them bike without helmets, strapped them into poorly made car seats, and even worse, occasionally had a glass of wine while they were still in utero. We used white bread, and tuna fish and hot dogs and took everyone to McDonald’s. Horrifying, I know. We’re perfectly willing to learn today‘s rules and apply them to our precious grandchildren, whom, you undoubtedly have realized, we adore beyond measure. We understand the reasons behind the new guidelines. But it would be nice if you would realize we did the best we could back then according to the information of the day—exactly like you’re doing now—instead of giving us the “you did what?” routine. Who knows, there may even be more information and different rules coming down the pike that will affect your own grandchildren. You too may someday hear that sharp intake of breath that comes when a grown child realizes exactly how much jeopardy you put them in when they were growing up. I won’t even get into some of the stuff our own parents did. 

But there are signs of hope. At a recent toddler get-together I attended, one little guy stumbled and fell, receiving a sizeable bump on his forehead. Amid all the hysterical fuss, I did what I would have done long ago—quickly prepared a cold compress. Later the mother told me she had seen how unexcited I was and instantly relaxed. “I knew then it wasn’t serious,” she said. Her tone was matter-of-fact, so I just nodded. I never let her know she’d made my day.

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Judy Oppenheimer is the author of Private Demons: The Life of Shirley Jackson. She has written for the Washington Post Magazine, Washingtonian, and Salon.

Source:  Slate.com

Topics: family, Caregiving

7 Ways To Transform Caregiving From Burden To Opportunity

Posted by Mens Liberty

Jan 7, 2014 2:00:00 PM

Today I have an article I found while browsing through google news. The author is Kathy Caprino of Forbes.com. The article highlights 7 unique ways you can transform caregiving from a burder to an opporunity. Now I will admit that up to this point in my life I have never been a caregiver, however, I think that the tips Kathy offers would come in handy to current or future caregivers.

Orange Line

Observing my mother through her tireless caregiving of my father during his hospice care in the last months of his life, I saw first-hand the enormous toll it takes on loved ones to care for the elderly and those in declining health.

According to estimates from the National Alliance for Caregiving, during the past year, 65.7 million Americans (or 29 % of the adult U.S. adult population involving 31 percent of all U.S. households) served as family caregivers for an ill or disabled relative.

In a report issued by the National Alliance for Caregiving, almost three-quarters of family caregivers of people age 50 or older, work while they are caring for the family member or friend, and nearly 70% of them make some kind of workplace accommodation — coming in late, leaving early, reducing work hours, taking a leave of absence, choosing early retirement.

Employees providing eldercare are more likely to report fair or poor health in general. For example, among female employees ages 50 and older, 17% of caregivers reported fair or poor health compared to 9% of non-caregivers. Among men ages 18 to 39 and women ages 40 to 49, caregivers were also more likely than non-caregivers to report lower health ratings.

Female employees with eldercare responsibilities reported more stress at home than non-caregivers in every age group. Stress at home appears to affect younger female caregivers most frequently. Caregivers were more likely to report negative influences of personal life on their work.

Given the toll caregiving takes and the growing number of people affected in years to come, the care and well-being of the caregiver must be addressed in new and more effective ways.

To learn more about how caregiving can be transformed from burden to opportunity, I caught up with Anthony Cirillo, President of Fast Forward Consulting, an international healthcare consulting firm, and recognized expert in assisted living and hospital patient experience.

Anthony offers 7 key ways that the stresses and burdens of caregiving can be lessened. Here is a start:

1. Shift your mindset

Caregiving doesn’t have to be a negative, draining experience that turns your life upside down. Caregiving can also be a special opportunity to give back, and create a closer, deeper personal bond with the individual you care for. To experience it as an opportunity rather than a burden, a change in mindset is required, as is a new focus on what you can learn and how you can grow in a positive way through the experience. For a start, there are 8 traits of elders experiencing a high quality of life that we all can learn from, and embrace.

These traits are:

  • Have purpose
  • Stay active
  • Laugh every day
  • Learn something new
  • Nurture friendships
  • Foster a positive attitude
  • Be grateful
  • Demonstrate love

2. Connect with helpful online resources

There are numerous apps that can help you on your caregiver journey. Elder 411 offers over 500 pieces of expert advice organized around 11 categories. Involve Care helps you organize your caregiving activities and share them with family and friends who want to help. Use the app to request assistance and volunteer for activities to help everyone you care for live better. Add appointments, post requests, involve others. Tonic — Winner of “Best Mobile Health Solution for Behavior Change” at the Mobile Health 2011: What Really Works! conference held at Stanford University — helps you keep track of everything in your health regimen, making it easier to take care of yourself and everyone else in your family. You set the agenda—perhaps advised by your doctors, family and friends—while Tonic helps you remember, track and organize. Caregiver’s Touch is a subscription-based app that keeps critical information at your fingertips and allows you to safely and seamlessly share it with others. Use Caregiver’s Touch to enter, update and store a broad range of important data you need to care for your loved one, such as a parent’s insurance provider and medication regimen. Then download the iPhone application to keep this information with you wherever you are.

3. Get community support to ease the burden

The Caregiver Relief Fund provides vouchers for at-home respite care. Vouchers for professional at-home care services are donated or purchased on behalf of the Caregiver Relief Fund. They award these vouchers to caregivers, giving them time to address their personal needs and financial resources to invest in their own well being. They select individuals who have been in a caregiving role for a chronically ill individual, elder or disabled person for 12 months or longer. Applicants must not have an annual income that exceeds $80,000. Lotsa Helping Hands powers online caring communities that help restore health and balance to caregivers’ lives. The service brings together caregivers and volunteers through online communities that organize daily life during times of medical crisis or caregiver exhaustion in neighborhoods and communities worldwide. Caregivers benefit from the gifts of much needed help, emotional support, and peace of mind, while volunteers find meaning in giving back to those in need.

4. Join a powerful coalition

ReAct is a coalition of corporations and organizations dedicated to addressing the challenges faced by employee caregivers and reducing the impact on the companies that employ them. The coalition and its members are dedicated to increasing awareness, understanding and action around issues faced by employee caregivers by: 1) developing data and research to improve understanding and quantifying impact, 2) identifying and sharing best practices, and 3) showcasing employer successes. ReACT seeks to support a business environment where the challenges faced by caregivers’ juggling the demands of both work and caregiving for an adult with a chronic age-related disease are understood and recognized by employers. Measures can then be taken to provide support and resources that employees need to better meet their personal responsibilities for caregiving and their professional demands.

5. Access all available benefits

A 2010 Gallup survey found that approximately two-thirds of caregivers spend more than 5 days per month handling errands and day-to-day tasks related to caregiving. High stress, changing schedules, and competing demands can be challenging to a working caregivers’ lifestyle and well being. Not surprisingly, this same survey found that the majority of caregivers say that caregiving has at least some impact on their performance at work.

The 2012 report Best Practices In Workplace Eldercare issued by ReAct in conjunction with other partners reveals the following best practice trends among employers:

• Reliance on technology—intranet and web services—to provide an array of informational and support services to employees and to market existing services and benefits.

• A move away from the “full-service” work-family vendor who provides a comprehensive array of workplace eldercare services to eldercare programs provided by more than one vendor.

• Paid time off is an important part of the menu of programs for most of the study’s employers. Most of the employers had flexible approaches to time off.

• Resource and referral services continue to be at the center of eldercare programming for employees.

• Discounted back-up home care for emergency needs was a popular option for many employers.

• Geriatric care management services were offered by some of the employers.

• Help with insurance paperwork and information about Medicare, Medicaid, and other insurance policies were offered as a benefit by one employer to the employees, their parents and parent-in-laws at no charge.

Perceived benefits to the employers included reduced absenteeism, improved productivity, better retention rates, improved recruitment, reduced stress in the workplace and enhanced employee loyalty. One-third of the employers studied report that they had initiated their eldercare program in the past 5 years with most starting the program less than 3 years ago, pointing to a positive trend of more companies recognizing the vital importance of this issue.

6. When the journey is done, recover and rejuvenate

Grieve your loss. Restore yourself, and do what is necessary to recover and heal. Develop helpful rituals that offer you solace and peace, including (if it’s helpful) adhering to some of the daily traditions you started with your loved one. The site www.aftergiving.com offers resources that help caregivers adjust to life after the caregiving ends, and transition into the next stage of your life.

7. When you’re ready, give back

Share your experiences with soon-to-be caregivers, new caregivers, and experienced caregivers. Caring.com offers some great tips in giving back. Gift your time or expertise. Arrange for a one-time housecleaning for a caregiver maybe around the holidays. Prepare a meal for a caregiver and their loved one. Think about gifts the person might not otherwise buy for himself or herself.

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Topics: family, Caregiving

A Caregivers Lesson in Asking for Help, a Personal Story

Posted by Sarah Woodward

Nov 24, 2013 10:31:00 AM

Ask any caregiver to describe their scariest moment, and I will bet you, none of those moments will be about them. That's the thing about being a caregiver for one of your loved ones – mother, father, sibling, husband, child – their illness, their comfort, their happiness become your own. Yet there are no doctors, or specialists or medications for you. It's often a lonely and thankless task.

But don't think for a moment that we regret it. I know I don't. I spent three years as a full time caregiver for my younger sister. It was by far the hardest thing I've ever done. It took over my life and ate away at my personal time, my finances, my social network, my job. It all suffered under the strain of caring for someone who was unable to take care of herself.

My sister, let’s call her L, has several mental health challenges, including but certainly not limited to bipolar disorder. This meant a lot of different things – basically, L has intense rapid mood swings between manic euphoria and extreme depression. L has been hospitalized 10 times in the last 8 years for suicide attempts, including one which ended with her in a coma in intensive care for 4 days before regaining consciousness.

Back in 2010, I moved home after many years to take care of her after her latest suicide attempt. L shunned my parents support yet wasn't able to live independently, she couldn't even be trusted to take her medication without supervision. So I moved home, got an apartment and moved her in with me.

To say I had no idea what I was getting myself into is an understatement. I could give you a rendition of everything that happened in the next two years, but to honest that would be a book, not a blog post. So I'll just give you an excerpt –

My lowest moment as a caregiver was spent sitting in the psychiatric ER waiting room. I've never been more terrified than I was that night. Because I'd failed; everything I'd spent nearly a year working on was coming apart around me. It was my job to take care of her, to protect her and I failed. I couldn't protect her from the one thing that truly endangered her, herself.

The night began shortly after I got home from work, with L coming into my room crying, holding a paring knife. She was mumbling about the voices and keep trying to cut out her own eyes so that she could “get to the voices” that were trying to make her think she was crazy.

My first challenge was to get the knife away from her without getting hurt – it took a few minutes but eventually she dropped it and collapsed on the floor crying and rocking, seemingly unconcerned that she was repeatedly knocking her head into a wall. I cradled her and tried to get her to take her meds, to help calm her.

After nearly 20 minutes of this, I was getting even more concerned – I had never seen L like this before. The meds weren’t kicking in yet. I focused on calming L, holding her and speaking softly, telling her I loved her and eventually just begging her to calm down. It took about half an hour and the meds finally kicked in and she calmed. The crying stopped. But now she was withdrawn, she seemed terrified of me. She shrank to the other side of the room, convinced that I was working with the evil woman who put the voices in her head that I was trying to hurt her.

It took me another hour to convince L to go to the hospital. And that was how I found myself sitting in a waiting room, waiting for a doctor to come out and tell me that I had failed, that there was something I could have or should have done to prevent this. I find it hard to find words that adequately convey the level of guilt I felt. I was a failure at the only thing
that really mattered.

But he didn't. The only thing he said was that I should have called an ambulance; that I shouldn't have had to deal with this on my own. Where were my parents? I was barely older than L was. I didn't have an answer for him. Asking for help has never been my strong suit. It seemed like weakness. Taking care of L was my responsibility – why should I expect anyone else to help?

It's been several years now, but I can still recall every detail of that night, the feelings of guilt, of relief that L was admitted, that I could go home to a quiet apartment. Though I love L, in that moment, I didn't like her very much, and I resented her. I resented what I had given up
for her, seemingly all for nothing.

But the truth is, it wasn't for nothing. Because the next day I got up and went back to hospital, and again the day after that, and the one after that. Eventually, L came home. And while I can't say everything was better (it definitely wasn't), the feelings of failure abated, the guilt lessened. L lives on her own now. I don't know how much of that was because of me, but I take some small measure of comfort for having done something in my life that I know has truly mattered to another person.  

And in the years since, the doctor's words have stuck with me. And in time, I learned something that I hope I never forget: needing help doesn't make us weak, the ability to ask for help, to be vulnerable, is the very definition of courage. I'm not perfect, no one is, certainly no caregiver. We need to be forgiven our failings, just like anyone else. But we also need to be courageous enough to ask for help – from doctors, from family, from friends. We can't do it all alone.

This November is National Family Caregivers Month. It's about recognizing the important role of caregivers – for anyone who has sat in that waiting room, counted pills and scheduled doctor’s visits, done the shopping and cleaned the house, provided physical, social, psychological or other assistance in the daily life of a loved one. Please know... there are thousands of other people out there with issues just like yours. Ask for help, ask for support. You deserve it and so does your loved one.

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Topics: family, Caregiving, healthcare professionals

11 Things You Should Never Say to a Caregiver

Posted by Mens Liberty

Nov 18, 2013 2:30:00 PM

Some things simply shouldn't be said.

When they come from people who don't know what someone else is going through, even well-intentioned comments and questions can be frustrating and hurtful.

Cindy Laverty, caregiver coach, radio talk show host, and author of, "Caregiving: Eldercare Made Clear and Simple," offers examples of phrases that can leave caregivers thinking, "Did she really just say that? 

1. "Why are you having such a hard time being a caregiver?" Usually voiced by someone who has never been a caregiver for an elderly loved one, this question can be very difficult for a caregiver to hear. As Laverty points out, it effectively takes their role of providing care for a loved one, and diminishes it. 

2. "Gosh…we haven't seen you in such a long time. Why don't you get out more?" Though it probably comes from a place of love, Laverty points out that this can be an unproductive way to express concern for a friend or family member who is a caregiver. "The truth is that most caregivers do need to get out more, but this is an insensitive way of saying it," she says. 

3. "You look really tired. Are you making sure to take care of yourself?" Caregivers generally have a good reason for looking tired and haggard—because they are. "The biggest issue for caregivers is that they tend to sacrifice personal care—it's the first thing that goes," Laverty says. Caregivers look tired because they are not getting enough sleep, they spend their nights worrying and making sure their loved one doesn't wander. But, that doesn't mean that they appreciate having that fact pointed out to them. 

4. "Caregiving seems like a burden. You shouldn't have to sacrifice your life for your mother's." Caregiving is hard. That's why so many people, both caregivers and non-caregivers alike, refer to it as a ‘burden.' But, according to Laverty, when a friend or family member likens caregiving to a burden, what they're really telling the caregiver is that they aren't handling the situation properly and that this isn't what they should be doing with their life. "Caregivers get into their role because they started out as loving, caring people trying to do the right thing," she says. 

5. "You need to get a ‘real' life." As the old saying goes, ‘you're preaching to the choir.' "Every caregiver understands that they need to get a life, have a plan, start making time for themselves," Laverty says. But, telling a caregiver to ‘get a life' is like telling them that what they're doing now (caring for a loved one) doesn't matter. 

6. "Why don't you just put you mother in a nursing home? It would be better for everyone." Laverty says that comments like this can make a caregiver feel like they're not doing a good job taking care of their loved one. The reality is, a nursing home might not be financially feasible, or a caregiver may be trying to keep their loved one at home for as long as possible. Outsiders think they're offering good advice, when they might really just (unintentionally) be making a caregiver feel guilty. 

7. "Why do you visit your dad so much? He doesn't even know you." If a caregiver is taking care of someone who has Alzheimer's or another form of dementia and lives in a nursing home, people may ask why they bother to visit someone who doesn't even remember who they are. "People need human contact and love, or they will just shrivel up and die," Laverty says, "Caregivers shouldn't feel stupid for going to visit someone who doesn't recognize them outwardly. As long as they know who their loved one is, that's all that should matter." 

8. "Don't feel guilty about…" When you're a caregiver, "guilt just comes with the territory," according to Laverty. Caregivers want to fix everything, to solve every problem, to ease every hurt, when the reality is that no one can do it all. When people tell a caregiver not to feel guilty about something, it can make things worse by bringing that guilt to the forefront of their mind. 

9. "Let's not talk about that. Let's talk about something happy and fun." When it comes to your average small talk scenario, caregivers generally don't have a lot of "fun" things to contribute. Laverty says that people need to understand that people taking care of an elderly loved one need to talk about what's going on. Friends and family members of caregivers should take the time to listen to what a caregiver has to say, no matter how ‘unpleasant,' or ‘unhappy' it is. 

10. "You must be so relieved that it's over." When their elderly loved one dies a caregiver is likely to be facing a bunch of mixed up emotions. Relief may be one of those feelings, but Laverty feels that it's probably not productive to point this out to a person who has just lost a parent, spouse, or sibling. "If you diminish the event, you diminish the life and effort of the caregiver," she says. 

11. "When are you going to get over it (a senior's death) and move on?" Grief is an individual process. For some people, processing the death of a loved one will take some time. This is particularly true of caregivers, who've poured a significant amount of time and energy into taking care of the person who has just passed.

Tips for responding to callous comments

Conventional conversational courtesies tend to fly out the window when intense situations (like caregiving) and strong emotions collide.

Caregivers, according to Laverty, tend to have a heightened sensitivity. "Everything seems to affect you more than when you're a normal person going to work and dealing with family, because you're so on edge and trying to do a million things in a day," she says.

It's easy for stressed-out caregiver to take a well-intentioned comment or question the wrong way and snap at whoever said it. Laverty has a few general suggestions for caregivers:

  1. Respond calmly to whatever is said. 
  2. If you're hurt by someone's question or comment, you can say "I know that you really care about me, but what you just said didn't feel good, here's why…" 
  3. Use hurtful comments as a way to ask for help. For example, you could say: "I'd love to figure out how to, ‘get a life.' As my friend, would you be willing to sit down and brainstorm ways to help me balance being a caregiver and having a ‘real' life?"

Conversely, friends and family members bear some responsibility for expressing their concern in appropriate ways. Laverty's advice: "Think before you say something stupid."

Interactions between caregivers and their family and friends have the potential to be helpful and fulfilling for both parties. When in doubt, following the Golden Rule and treating someone how you would like to be treated always works best. As Laverty says, "We get these packages that say, ‘Handle with care.' Why don't we make efforts to apply that to each other?"

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Topics: family, Caregiving