Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Secrets of Resolution Success

by Emily Anderson

Right now, about half the people in the US are making lists of all the things they are going to change in the new year, from "keep a neater house" to "learn a new language." The other half is avoiding new year's resolutions like the plague, or maybe begrudgingly thinking, "Yeah, I could eat healthier, but resolutions never work for me."

Less than 8% of people achieve their resolution each year, so it's not wonder we lose heart. That's partly because change is hard, but mostly because we go about it all wrong.

How to Make Your Resolutions Work

Most of us are good at dreaming up big changes we would like to see in our lives, but not as good at making those changes happen. As a caregiver, you have even less time to spare for ambitious projects and self-improvements. When you choose a goal for your new year, focus on these principles first:

Pick one thing.
You just thought of two things. "Eat healthy and lose weight." "Spend less and save more." Changing your habits is difficult, so choose just one thing to focus all your energy on.  
A little bit every day is better than a lot once in a while. 
One of the biggest challenges with changing a habit is remembering to do the new action. Set your sights on something easy or short enough that you can do it every day. Before long, it will simply be part of your routine. 
Have patience with yourself. 
Every goal has setbacks. When (not if) you face some challenges, remember that one error does not destroy the progress you have already made. Being critical of your mistakes will only create negative energy around your goal. Learn what you can from your mistakes, and then try again. 
Begin NOW. 
Pushing off the start date for your changes will make them easier to forget or avoid. Once you know what you want to do, start with your small steps right away.

Common Resolution Problems

Every goal faces challenges along the way, but there are some difficulties you can avoid by setting up your goal correctly from the start. Watch out for these common pitfalls:

Not specific 
Vague ideas like "Save more" or "Help others" are hard to know how to put into practice. Give your goal a specific action and number, like "Put $20 in my savings account each week" or "Volunteer at the soup kitchen once a month." 
Too big 
Though they can be inspiring, big goals can also be intimidating. As creatures of habit, big changes are also much harder to adapt to. Experts suggest that you pick a goal so small that it would be almost ridiculous to skip it, like "Floss one tooth each night." Of course, you probably won't stop at one tooth, but setting the bar low makes it easier to get the motivation to try.
Not energizing 
Start with a goal that you think you will enjoy along the way. There's always time later to teach yourself to choke down brussel sprouts or slog through your filing cabinet, but you're less likely to succeed with that as your first goal. Set yourself up for success by choosing something you will enjoy incorporating into your life, such as "Read one book per month."

For more ideas on how to make your changes stick, check out the work of these great habit-changing experts!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Handling Holiday Stress

by Emily Anderson

'Tis the season to be jolly, but for many people, the holidays are also a stressful time of year. This is especially true when you are a caregiver and trying to make sure that your loved one can participate in the holidays. Whether it's the general hustle and bustle that wears you down, having to spend time with your in-laws, or the cold gray of the weather, we have some tips to help you make it through!

1. Take a deep…sniff!

Holiday aromas are all around you, from freshly baked treats to pine swag. Citrusy scents are often especially uplifting, so slice up an orange and take a deep whiff. Then eat it, because that’s healthy too!

2. Move your body

Changing routine and eating lots of rich foods all at once is very stressful on the body. Discharge some of that stress by moving your body—dance to some music or bundle up and head out to build snow forts with your family. 

3. Do less

Holidays are a time when we tend to take on more than we can handle. Especially for caregivers, it might be necessary to give up some old customs in order to simplify the holidays. Consider sending fewer cards, baking fewer cookies, or skipping out of a party early. Say no at least once this holiday season and keep your schedule sane.

4. Lighten up

And we don’t just mean laughter or low fat foods, though those are good too! The short, dark days of winter and the cold, gray skies can seriously drain your energy. Get outside when it’s sunny, or at least plan activities near a bright window so you can absorb some rays.

5. Eat a healthy breakfast

Starting the day off right can give you a boost to dig in to the day’s schedule. You’re also more likely to choose healthy options in the morning than you are later in the day when you’re faced with delightful treats like the holiday ham or a table full of cookies.

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Five Resources in Allegheny County to Combat the Cold Weather

by Kristen West

The holiday season is just around the corner and winter has come to join the fun. The cold weather can present its own unique challenges to caregiving. Below are some resources available in Allegheny County to help reduce any stress the winter may bring.

Icy sidewalks are hazardous for everyone, so Pittsburgh Snow Angels provides snow removal for adults over the age of 60 and persons with a disability living in Allegheny County. Snow Angels matches a volunteer with residents in need and clears their sidewalks within 24 hours of a snow fall. To register for services or to volunteer, call (412) 863-5939.

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) helps low-income families pay a portion of their winter heating bill between November and March. You can qualify even if you are not on public assistance or do not have an overdue heating bill. You can also qualify if your rent or own your home.

LIHEAP offers assistance in the form of a cash grant, sent directly to the utility company, or a crisis grant for households in immediate danger of being without heat. To apply, you will need the names, birthdates, social security numbers, and proof of income for all individuals in your household, as well as a recent heating bill.

There are several ways to sign up for LIHEAP: you can apply online here, you can visit your local county assistance office, or you can call the LIHEAP hotline, Monday through Friday, at 1-866-857-7095 for assistance (individuals with hearing impairments may call the TDD number at 1-800-451-5886). For additional information about the LIHEAP Program, click here.

Free Rides for Seniors provides door-to-door shuttle service each weekday from 10AM - 4PM taking seniors to medical appointments, grocery stores, UMPC St. Margaret, banks, pharmacies and many other destinations. Shuttles are available for those living in Blawnox, Sharpsburg, Aspinwall, Fox Chapel, and O'Hara along Freeport Road. For more information about Free Rides for Seniors, please contact Kerry at (412) 449-0151. 

For warm clothing and winter outerwear, search Southwest Pennsylvania's 211 web page and a list of agencies providing assistance will be generated based on your area code. 

For meal and food assistance, search the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Pantry for area food banks. The website's Recipe Rainbow App also provides seasonal recipes so you can utilize the groceries you already have in your home when preparing your next meal.

Stay safe, stay warm, and happy holidays!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Five Gifts for the Caregiver in Your Life

by Emily Anderson

Since there are between 30 and 40 million family caregivers in the United States, there's a good chance one of those caregivers is on your gift list this holiday season. We have some ideas for what that caregiver in your life might really appreciate.

For the caregivers reading these ideas--don't be shy about suggesting these as gifts for yourselves! Print out this list, add your own touches, and give it to the people who might be shopping for you. You'll enjoy a gift much more if it's something you really want.

So while you are out searching through the sales, keep these ideas in mind.

1. Time

The most affordable option, yet the most likely to be appreciated, give your caregiver the gift of your time. Mow the lawn, handle some paperwork, clean the house, or take over their duties for a weekend. Whatever you promise, make sure you stick to it!

2. A cooked meal

Preparing a healthy meal becomes a challenge with the constant interruptions that caregivers often face. Mix up a whole meal that can be frozen or reheated easily, and drop it off for your loved one to enjoy during a particularly crazy day.

3. Books

In spite of the presence of the internet, you still can't beat a book for in-depth information. Try some of these books related to caregiving, or pick something you know your loved one will enjoy:

  • The 36-Hour Day by Nancy Mace
  • The Best Friends Approach to Alzheimer's Care by Virginia Bell
  • Alzheimer's: A Caregiver's Guide and Source Book by Howard Gruetzner
  • Coach Broyle's Playbook for Alzheimer's Caregivers by Frank Broyles
  • The Emotional Survival Guide for Caregivers by Barry Jacobs

4. DVR

Being a caregiver means working on another person's schedule--doctors' appointments, meals, bathroom breaks, and entertainment. A DVR lets the caregiver in your life record programs or shows they miss because of their responsibilities. To add a special treat to this gift, offer to come watch a game or a program with them!

5. Relaxation

Put together a "self-care" basket for your loved one with some favorite or comforting items. Consider including music, tea, candles, warm fuzzy slippers, or some essential oils.

If you're shopping for your loved one with Alzheimer's or another dementia, check out our gift ideas from last year or this guide from the Alzheimer's Association.