Wednesday, December 20, 2017

9 Considerate Gifts for the Caregiver in Your Life

By Chloe Pearson


We all know someone who provides care for another. Perhaps it’s a new mom with young children and a sleepless infant or an adult providing 24/7 care for their own aged mother or father. This holiday season, give a gift that shows you care. Here are nine ideas to get you started.


An opportunity to rest. Providing care to another human being, despite being a labor of love, is a full-time job that takes a toll on a person’s body, mind, and soul. If your budget is small, you can still give a big gift by setting aside an afternoon once a month to step into the caregiver’s shoes.


Spa day. When you’re a caregiver, stress is par for the course of an average day. But over time, this stress can compound and have a negative impact on mental health, which can affect their life in many unfortunate ways. Encourage your recipient to take an afternoon off by providing them with a gift certificate for a massage or manicure. Having an opportunity to step away from the pressures of life will give them the chance to reboot and may encourage them to do more to ensure their own physical and mental health needs are taken care of.


Spiritual or Religious Texts/Readings. In the hustle and bustle of the day, it continues to be important to tend to matters of faith or spirituality. Show your loved one you care about them from here to eternity by giving them a book or text that can affirm their spiritual or religious beliefs.


Home-cooked meals. It’s often difficult for caregivers to sit down and fix a proper meal for themselves. But you can help ensure your friend or family member’s nutritional needs are met by setting up a meal train and providing a few home-cooked dinners. Get together with other members of your family or community to see if you can provide dinner every night for a month.


A clean home. Caregivers will be especially grateful for an hour or two of maid service and someone to do the laundry, even if it’s just once.


Home maintenance. Whether it’s cleaning the gutters, unclogging a drain, or simply painting the mailbox, everyone has projects they don’t have time to complete. Offer to handle their to-do list and you’ll see a weight lifted off their shoulders almost immediately.


Time to indulge in personal pursuits. According to Vantage Point Behavioral Health & Trauma Healing Center, having a hobby is a great way to stimulate the mind and stave off depression. Consider scheduling a painting class or book club meeting for your gift recipient and make sure they can get away to attend. Do this once a month for a year and your gift will be the one they remember.


Gift certificate for yoga/fitness class. Even if the recipient isn’t a gym rat, he or she will appreciate the chance to indulge in a little physical activity that doesn’t involve cooking or cleaning. If they can’t (or won’t) get away long enough to join a class, consider gifting a yoga mat and DVD set.


A sincere “thank you” for their efforts. Being a caregiver is often thankless. Dementia patients may be cruel in their words and infants often cry for no discernible reason. What you loved one really wants is to be noticed and recognized for all they do. If you’re low on cash, a heartfelt note with encouraging words in a priceless gift from the heart.


Regardless of your budget, there are many creative and thoughtful ways to show you care. It’s not about the price tag but about meeting their needs and offering a helping hand where you can. Remember, we’re only on Earth for a limited time so help those who help others enjoy every moment.


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Caregiver Trainings

By Deanna Leyh

Familylinks' Caregivers First Initiative is offering trainings on various caregiving topics for caregivers, businesses and agencies, and employers. If you or someone you know is looking for trainings on caregiving issues, check out our free trainings below and contact us if you find one that interests you! Familylinks is looking to increase community awareness and knowledge of caregiving and related issues, so we are hoping to reach as many community members as possible through the Caregivers First Initiative and through FREE trainings and presentations that we offer to the public.

The New Second Shift: Balancing Your Work with Family Caregiving
Many people are working full- or part-time jobs while also caring for a family member, friend, neighbor, etc., which can be very stressful. Working caregivers often struggle with maintaining their careers while fulfilling their caregiving duties at the same time. Learn about strategies and community resources to help balance your work life with being a caregiver.

Understanding Dementia
Whether you’re a caregiver, a family member, a friend, or a professional, many people are in some way affected by dementia. Learn about different types of dementia, the disease-process, common symptoms and behaviors, as well as best-practice tips and strategies to help support people living with dementia.

Tough Topics in Aging  
When you’re caring for someone who is aging, it can be tough to assist them through the changes that are needed in their lives to keep them safe.  Learn about the different types of issues that may arise as people age and strategies to help you have the difficult conversations about those issues like: when to stop driving, long-term care arrangements, changes in condition, advance directives and end-of-life wishes, grief and bereavement, just to name a few.  

Stress Management
Stress is a part of everyone’s life—some stress can be good, but what do you do when stress starts to impact your ability to perform your daily tasks and enjoy your day? Learn about different types of stress, short-term and long-term stress management, and a variety of tips and techniques to help manage your stress.

Better Business Practices: Supporting Caregivers in Your Workforce
With an increase in how long people are living, there are more non-paid family caregivers of older adults. Many of those caregivers are still in the workforce trying to balance caregiving with working. Learn about the strategies and beneficial outcomes of supporting caregivers in your workforce. 

Family Caregiving 101
Becoming a caregiver for an older adult can lead to isolation, stress, and poor health. Learn about resources and tools you need to cope with the demands of caregiving.

Managing the Medical Maze
Caregiver’s help those they’re caring for navigate complex medical systems. Learn resources and strategies for managing appointments, physician interactions, insurances, medications and more. 

*We may also develop trainings based on a specific topic you have in mind.

If interested in any of these trainings, please contact Deanna Leyh Page at 412-694-6146 or by email at

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Having Trouble Communicating with your Loved One?

By Deanna Leyh

Are you having trouble communicating with your loved one? Maybe they have dementia and are having difficulty understanding you or processing what you say to them. Or perhaps they have trouble hearing, and it’s difficult for them to separate voices from background noise or hearing certain frequencies. Whatever the reason may be, there are some things that may be able to help you communicate better with your loved one.

It may sound obvious, but speak loudly, clearly, and slowly. You may be thinking, “Well, duh!”, but it’s something you need to remind yourself of from time to time when you talk with them. Remember not to shout, but to speak loudly and to try to enunciate your words and not to slur them together. Also, speak slowly—it may sound to you like you’re speaking at a snail’s pace. However, it can be hard for some people to separate words from each other when others are speaking too fast.

You can also try to get closer to your loved when you speak with them and get down on their level. It may also help to gesture or use your hands or objects to demonstrate what you’re talking about so that your loved one may better understand. Also, if there is a lot of background noise, it can be difficult to keep track of the conversation; if necessary, turn down the volume on the radio or the television. Or if there’s a lot of people around for the holidays, perhaps talk with them beforehand about not being too loud or boisterous around your loved one. Don’t forget to take a deep breath and remain calm, because when you get frustrated or angry, it can get your loved one frustrated too.

Sometimes the issue isn’t their actual hearing, but that they have trouble processing language or understanding the meaning of certain words, such as if they have dementia. If this is the case, perhaps also try to break down the directives that you’re giving your loved one. For example, instead of saying “Mom, get ready to go to the grocery store,” instead say, “Mom, slide your feet into your shoes. Now let’s put your jacket on. Let’s get your purse.” When you give more simple directives, it’s a good idea to give one at a time, and pause between directives to give them time to process. You may need to break down the language that you’re using and use simpler terms that they understand. Also, you may need to demonstrate what you mean, or assist them with certain steps.

If they seem to be having trouble picking up certain sounds or frequencies, perhaps think about taking them to an audiologist to see about assistive devices that can help them hear better, such as hearing aids or amplifiers. It can be depressing, frustrating, and isolating for older adults to hear a third of the conversation and feel like they can’t participate in the discussion because they don’t know what everyone is saying. Remember to be respectful when talking them about their hearing or processing difficulties.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Showing Appreciation for Caregivers

By Cameron Smith

It’s the season to recognize the things in your life that you’re thankful for. Along with Thanksgiving, celebrate National Caregiver Month this November. National Caregiver Month is a time to let caregivers know how much we appreciate what they do. Caregiving is often a full-time job, tiring, and stressful. Whether you know a caregiver or not, there are plenty of ways you can participate this month. If you’d like to honor caregivers everywhere in November, here are a few ideas for ways to do so.

Giving to an organization that assists caregivers is the perfect way to honor them. There are plenty of organizations that provide resources, classes, and more for caregivers. Look up ones in your area and see if there’s a way to donate money or time towards their cause. If you’re passionate about fighting a certain disease such as Alzheimer’s or breast cancer, donating to organizations that specialize in these fields is a great help. These groups also typically provide excellent information to help out caregivers.

If you don’t have enough money or time to volunteer to the cause, you can help out by sharing this month’s purpose with others. Perhaps you can share a post on social media thanking caregivers and encouraging others to do so. Social media is a wonderful way to spread knowledge and positivity, so take advantage of this medium for National Caregiver Month.

If you personally know caregivers, there are many ways you can recognize their work. After doing some research on caregiver resources in your area, be sure to share them with a caregiver you know. It’s so helpful to speak with others in the same situation or to learn more about how to be a great caregiver. Sharing resources is an easy way to let a caregiver know that you’re thinking of them and you’d like to help make their job easier.

A gift or some time off are both wonderful things to give to a caregiver. Taking care of another person often brings on a lot of stress, so help them relieve some stress with a gift certificate to a spa or an offer to stay with their patient for a few hours. If you do plan on taking over their duties, be sure to ask ahead of time so you know you have all the resources to properly do the job.

Cameron Smith is an Outreach Coordinator passionate about personal safety. She shares safety information across the web including SimpliSafe's Twitter and Facebook.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Thanksgiving: The Perfect Time for Family Meetings

By Deanna Leyh
The Thanksgiving holiday is less than two weeks away, and as families come together, it can be the perfect time to hold a family meeting. With out-of-state and long-distance family members gathering for the holiday, this is a good opportunity to talk about important issues going on with your loved one, such as long-term care planning, changes in condition, taking the keys away, health care decisions, living wills, etc. Below are some helpful tips as you prepare to hold your family meeting around the holiday that can help ensure that the conversation goes as smoothly as possible!

1)      Plan out who should be involved in the meeting. Most likely you’ll want core family members and other members of your loved one’s care team. Think about whether you want the care recipient present at the meeting or not. If some people aren’t able to be there, try having them call in or video chat so that they can still take part.

2)      Set up a comfortable, neutral location for the meeting to take place in, and try to plan out a good time to hold the meeting. Should it take place in the morning, evening, or after holding dinner?

3)      Set up an agenda for the meeting and start off by letting your family know about the goal of the meeting and what you’re hoping to accomplish by holding it. Be prepared for if things get heated. Set some ground rules at the beginning of the meeting, like taking a break if things start to get out of control or not allowing foul language or blaming each other.

4)      Share information to keep everyone on the same page during the conversation. Talk about any information related to the topic of the conversation, such as recent medical appointments, services in the home, power of attorney documents, etc.

5)      Assign tasks if necessary to family members and create a step-by-step plan on how you will accomplish the goals of your plan. Also, plan to do follow-up at a pre-set time in the future to check in with your family and see if you need to make any adjustments to your plan.

By following these tips, you can have a happy holiday with your family and also hold a successful family meeting!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Tips For Keeping Your Heart Healthy

By Chloe Pearson
Photo: Pixabay


Most people think getting a healthy heart means that you need to be working out constantly and limiting how much unhealthy food you eat. Although this is somewhat correct, there are many simple things that can be done to help keep your heart healthy. Keep reading to find out some of our easiest and best tips! 


Eat fiber

Fiber is proven to lower your risk of heart disease. You should try to aim for at least 30 grams per day. Try to eat a variety of foods with fiber in them, such as whole grain bread, bran, and oats, but mainly, lots of vegetables.


Drink less alcohol and add more pure water

People tend to forget that alcohol contains calories, and drinking regularly has been shown to have a noticeable impact on your waistline. To avoid a serious problem with your health, keep to the recommended daily alcohol limits. Drinking lots of pure water in its place will make your heart and body much happier and healthier.


Don’t just look at the scale

Checking your weight is a good idea sometimes. However, it’s important to look at more than just the number. You can track your progress in other ways. Some of these include having fitness goals and achieving them over time, measuring your waistline, or reducing your body fat percentage. Simply looking in the mirror and seeing the changes in your body works, too!


Eat more fish

Eating fish twice per week can help protect your heart against disease. This includes fish such as mackerel, sardines, fresh tuna, and salmon, as well as supplementing with high-quality omega-3 pills. (However, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should not have more than two portions of oily fish per week.)



Being active is one of the best ways to keep your heart healthy. Whether you are going for a 15-minute walk around the block, working out at the gym or at home, lifting weights, or taking a dip in the pool, your body will thank you. No matter what you choose to do, try to get your heart rate up every single day.



If your blood pressure gets too high, this extra force can damage your artery walls and create scar tissue. This makes it harder for blood and oxygen to get to and from your heart. As a result, your heart has to pump harder, and will wear out faster. It is important to know what stresses you out as well as how to calm yourself down when you feel yourself getting worked up. Understanding this about yourself will help maintain your heart’s health.


Love life

This tip ties right into the last tip: you should do more of what you love! This will inevitably mean that you are stressed out less. Whether you enjoy meditation, yoga, walks with your dog, or spending time in nature, make your favorite activities a priority at least a few times a week.  Make it a point to spend time with people that make you feel good about yourself and that you can talk to, laugh with, and confide in. It’s good for your emotional health as well as your heart.


Reward yourself

Making small changes can still take time and effort. Make sure that you reward yourself for every positive step you take towards a healthier heart. You can ask your friends and family for support, or you can even ask them to join you on your quest for improved health. Your heart’s future will be better for it!


Having a healthy heart is an important part of an overall healthier you. Remember, small changes can make a huge difference! Start by picking one of these tips and incorporating it into your routine. Once it feels natural to you, implement a new one. You will be on your way to a healthier and happier you.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

It’s That Time of Year…Medicare Enrollment!

By Deanna Leyh

It’s open enrollment for Medicare, which means you have from now until December to think about your health care needs and the best health and drug plans for you! Open enrollment runs from October 15th until December 7th, so there’s only a little over a month left for you to make your elections.

How will you decide whether you want original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan? Or if you want a Medigap plan? How about choosing which supplemental is the best for you? There are a lot of questions that can come up as you think about what plan would be best for you. Information is key if you have questions, so check out the Medicare website at to start finding answers. Here you can find out the costs of various plans, see what services each plan covers, look into supplements and other insurances, and even apply or change your plan online.

Additionally, the APPRISE program in Allegheny County is a great local resource that offers free volunteer insurance counselors that can help answer your questions related to health insurance and help you make decisions about Medicare, Medicaid benefits, Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs), long-term care insurance, and supplemental insurance. To connect with APPRISE or to learn more about their services, call 412-661-1438 or email, or visit their website at

Don’t wait until the last minute to pick your Medicare plan for 2018—time is running out! Make sure that you have all of the information and knowledge you need to make the right choice and to ensure that you get the best healthcare coverage for yourself.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Dementia

By Deanna Leyh

With November being National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, it is important to be aware of the 10 most common early signs and symptoms of dementia. Knowing these signs of dementia from the Alzheimer’s Association can help you know the differences between typical age-related changes and dementia and to be aware of possible dementia in your loved ones or even yourself. Share these signs with someone you know and help spread awareness of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.


One of the most common signs of Alzheimer's is memory loss, especially forgetting recently learned information. Others include forgetting important dates or events; asking for the same information over and over; increasingly needing to rely on memory aids (e.g., reminder notes or electronic devices) or family members for things they used to handle on their own.

What's a typical age-related change?

 Sometimes forgetting names or appointments, but remembering them later.



Some people may experience changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers. They may have trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills. They may have difficulty concentrating and take much longer to do things than they did before.

What's a typical age-related change?

 Making occasional errors when balancing a checkbook.



People with Alzheimer's often find it hard to complete daily tasks. Sometimes, people may have trouble driving to a familiar location, managing a budget at work or remembering the rules of a favorite game

What's a typical age-related change?

 Occasionally needing help to use the settings on a microwave or to record a television show.



People with Alzheimer's can lose track of dates, seasons and the passage of time. They may have trouble understanding something if it is not happening immediately. Sometimes they may forget where they are or how they got there.

What's a typical age-related change?

 Getting confused about the day of the week but figuring it out later.



For some people, having vision problems is a sign of Alzheimer's. They may have difficulty reading, judging distance and determining color or contrast, which may cause problems with driving.

What's a typical age-related change?

 Vision changes related to cataracts.



People with Alzheimer's may have trouble following or joining a conversation. They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue or they may repeat themselves. They may struggle with vocabulary, have problems finding the right word or call things by the wrong name (e.g., calling a "watch" a "hand-clock").

What's a typical age-related change?

 Sometimes having trouble finding the right word.



A person with Alzheimer's disease may put things in unusual places. They may lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again. Sometimes, they may accuse others of stealing. This may occur more frequently over time.

What's a typical age-related change?

 Misplacing things from time to time and retracing steps to find them.



People with Alzheimer's may experience changes in judgment or decision-making. For example, they may use poor judgment when dealing with money, giving large amounts to telemarketers. They may pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean.

What's a typical age-related change?

 Making a bad decision once in a while.



A person with Alzheimer's may start to remove themselves from hobbies, social activities, work projects or sports. They may have trouble keeping up with a favorite sports team or remembering how to complete a favorite hobby. They may also avoid being social because of the changes they have experienced.

What's a typical age-related change?

 Sometimes feeling weary of work, family and social obligations.


The mood and personalities of people with Alzheimer's can change. They can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious. They may be easily upset at home, at work, with friends or in places where they are out of their comfort zone.

What's a typical age-related change?

 Developing very specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Tips on How to Start the Conversation about Future Planning

By Deanna Leyh

As our loved ones get older, it’s important to plan for the future and talk to them about their legal and financial wishes. Yes, it’s important, but it’s usually the last thing that people want to talk about and deal with. So how do you actually even broach the topic and start the conversation?

Well, for starters, it’s important first to be sensitive about future planning and having that discussion. Plan ahead! Think about who all should be involved in this conversation—mom, dad, siblings, grandchildren, who? Who will take the lead on the issue? Also, think about what should be said during the conversation and how it should said. Will Mom or Dad feel like we're "ganging up on them"? Do they respond better when people are direct with them or not? Remember that this may be the first time that your loved one is thinking or talking about the future, so this conversation could help open the door for you.

So how can you go about cracking open that door? One way is to try talking about your own plans for the future. Mention how you are starting to think about completing your living will now and are wondering if your parent or sibling has too. Offer to look into a financial adviser or attorney who can help both of you. Your loved one may be more willing to get more information if you're getting it for yourself. Or you could try to ask your loved one how to find their Powers of Attorney, living wills, wills, and financial records in case of an emergency, and try to crack open the door in that respect.

Remember to try to be sensitive about your loved one’s right to make decisions for themselves. It’s important that they don’t feel like anyone else is trying to tell them the “right way” to do anything because this conversation is also about helping them figure out what their wishes are. Try to gauge how comfortable they are with future planning issues. For example, Mom may be willing to start talking about her living will and Power of Attorney, but she may not be ready yet to actually take the next step in contacting an attorney or completing the documents.

Talking about future planning is a sensitive and difficult subject, and taking the steps to fulfill your plans can take weeks, months, and possibly years. It's good not to rush your loved ones, but to try to normalize the topic because it can be scary to think about. The important thing is that you start the conversation, and hopefully these tips will make it a little easier on you and your loved ones.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Walk to End Alzheimer’s 2017

By Deanna Leyh

Many of us know someone whose life is affected by Alzheimer’s disease, whether they, a family member, or a friend have it, or whether they are a family caregiver or professional caregiver of someone with it. Getting involved in your local area’s upcoming Walk to End Alzheimer’s is a great way to draw attention to Alzheimer’s disease and to raise money and awareness for the fight against Alzheimer’s. The Alzheimer’s Association’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the world’s largest event to raise awareness and money for Alzheimer’s support and research. There are over 600 communities nationwide that hold the event annually to further the Alzheimer’s Association’s mission of advancing care, support, and research across the world.
Pittsburgh’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s is quickly approaching! With November being National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Family Caregivers Month, the walk will be held on Saturday, November 4th, 2017. The Walk will take place at Stage AE, and it begins at 10am with registration beginning at 7:30am. To register for Pittsburgh’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s, please visit their website at or visit to learn more about creating a team and fundraising for your local walk! Go purple with a purpose in November in support of Alzheimer’s awareness!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Stigma Around Caregiving

Contributed by Deanna Leyh

Caregiver. It can be a scary word for some people to see. For some people, they see that word and think that it means someone that has committed their life to taking care of another person and maybe someone that has “no life” of their own. Some tend to shy away from that label or adamantly refuse to acknowledge that they are a caregiver. The definition of a family caregiver according to the Family Caregiver Alliance is “any relative, partner, friend or neighbor who has a significant personal relationship with, and provides a broad range of assistance for, an older person or an adult with a chronic or disabling condition” (  The definition of a caregiver is just someone who essentially provides some assistance to another person. So why is there this stigma around using the term caregiver?

Well for some, using the term “caregiver” can be an acknowledgement that this new role they are in is real and has an impact on their life. They may just say that they only help their mother out with errands and doctor appointments but that they’re not a caregiver because it can be difficult to acknowledge that they are in this caregiving role that can affect different areas of their life. For example, some people may not acknowledge that they are a caregiver at work because they’re worried their employer might think that their caregiving role will impact their productivity or that they will be passed over for promotions. Other people may downplay their role as a caregiver to their friends because they’re worried their friends may not reach out to them as much or invite them to social events because they figure they are “too busy” caring for their loved one, when many caregivers are aching to have that social connection.  So how can we help caregivers and the community in general get over this stigma around caregiving and instead better support family caregivers?

One answer is education! In order for people to understand more about what it means to be a caregiver and to start to break down that stigma is to educate people that caregiving is something we will all be affected by in some manner. One great resource to learn more about what caregiving actually means and what caregivers need is the Family Caregiver Alliance at

Also, keep an eye out for any friends, family, or co-workers that help others out with things like medications, preparing meals, cleaning, running errands, mowing their lawn, accompanying them to doctor appointments, etc. Chances are that they’re a caregiver! Ask them about their caregiving role, and if they’re leery about using the word “caregiver”, try inquiring about what’s holding them back from saying that they’re a caregiver? Start the conversation so that we can work to end the caregiving stigma!

Offer your help and assistance to them! Try asking them if there’s anything that you can do to help them out or to make things easier for them, i.e. “I’m going out for groceries—what can I pick up for you while I’m there?” or “I’m mowing the yard tomorrow, so why don’t I come over and mow you and your mom’s yard too?” Or just offer your emotional support and let them know that you are a safe person for them to talk to about their caregiving situation.

The littlest act of kindness can go a long way for caregivers, and the more that we talk about caregiving, the less stigma there is surrounding it.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Creative Ways to Engage

by Emily Anderson

Once upon a time, you and your mom would go to museums and movies and parks. But now it feels like the only place you go is to doctors appointments, and most of the time she watches TV while you take care of everything in the house.

A lot of caregivers feel like they lose track of their relationship with their loved one in the process of caregiving. It's overwhelming, there is a lot to do, and you get tired at the end of a long day. As a result, where you used to talk, share, enjoy, and experience things together, now everything is about care with your loved one.

The "all work and no play" approach is problematic for you and your loved one though. For your loved one, boredom can contribute to problems like excessive sleeping, depression, restlessness, irritation, and behavioral issues. For caregivers, it can lead to feeling disconnected and resentful of your loved one.

Mix it up and bring some life back to your life by planning an activity that adds creativity, connection, and interest back into your relationship with your loved one. Follow these steps to plan an enjoyable activity that brings the two of your closer:
  1. Set a manageable goal, like one fun event a week, or even one per month.
  2. Think back on the things you used to enjoy together, or plan a new experience for you both. You may not be able to participate in hobbies in the same way, but think about other ways that you both can enjoy something fun together. It's okay to get creative with past activities or new experiences. 
  3. Then plan for problems you might encounter. Get a ride, pack medications, bring a snack or a change of briefs, enlist the help of a friend, or contact the location of your outing so there is a wheelchair waiting for you. Don't let the challenges stop you--instead, plan to overcome them!
  4. If your loved one can't get out, or you would rather do an activity at home, consider exploring the National Center for Creative Aging here. They have comprehensive guides for activities that are engaging, enjoyable, and easy to put together for you and your loved one.
Right now you might be thinking to yourself, "That's just one more thing to do, and it will be such a hassle!" Try thinking of it this way: you won't look back nostalgically at all the laundry and doctors appointments. The moments you will treasure are the ones where you connect with your loved one ins spite of all the chaos around you. Once a month or so, let the laundry wait, and give your energy to something that will feel rewarding to  you both.




Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Upcoming Fall Caregiver, Wellness, and Aging Events

Contributed by Deanna Leyh

If you’re looking for upcoming events in the area for caregivers or regarding wellness and aging issues, check out some of these local happenings below!

September 20th—Where to Turn Resource Fair, 8am-12:30pm, David L. Lawrence Convention Center, free event

September 20th, October 11th, November 15th—Ursuline Support Services 3-Part Speaker Series, 6:15pm registration/refreshment & speakers beginning at 7pm, Calvary Episcopal Church, 315 Shady Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15206, $20 fee per event or $50 for entire series, featuring: Dr. Richard Schulz (Sept 20th), University of Pittsburgh Distinguished Service Professor and internationally renowned researcher on aging and caregiving, Dr. Theresa Brown (Oct 11th), BSN, RN, author of The New York Times bestseller, “The Shift: One Nurse, Twelve Hours, Four Patients’ Lives”, Nikolas Jintri (Nov 15th), storyteller, musician and illusionist who challenges audiences to explore spiritual, social and practical concepts critical to caregivers.

September 27th—Senior Health Fair, 10am-2pm, Crowne Plaza Pittsburgh South, 164 Fort Couch Rd, Pittsburgh, PA 15241, free event

September 29th—Arthritis Expo, 12:00pm-4:00pm, Cumberland Woods Village, 700 Cumberland Woods Drive, Allison Park, PA 15101, RSVP to 412-250-3348, free event & lunch provided

September 29th—Senator Randy Vulakovich and Representative Hal English’s Annual Fall Senior Expo 2017, 10am-1pm, Allison Park Church, 2326 Duncan Avenue, Allison Park, PA 15101

September 30th—Penn Hills Charter School of Entrepreneurship Wellness Walk and Health Fair, 11am-3pm, 2501 Main Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15235, free event

October 2nd-November 6th—Joy of Living Caregiver Series, Mondays 6:30pm-8pm, Jewish Community Center of Pittsburgh, RSVP to 412-369-4673

October 11th—Celebrating You! A Caregiver Gathering for Mind, Body, and Spirit, 10am-4pm, Pittsburgh Botanic Garden, 799 Pinkerton Run Road, Oakdale, PA 15071, RSVP to 412-369-4673, free event

November 10th—Navigating the Path Ahead: A Dementia Caregiver’s Conference, 9am-2:30pm, The Priory Grand Hall, 614 Pressley Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15212, free event

November 11th—Life Options Pittsburgh’s 3rd Annual Healthy Aging Expo, 10am-4pm, Monroeville Mall, 2nd Floor, free event

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Supporting Our Caregivers in the Work Force

Contributed by Deanna Leyh

Out of family caregivers, 60% are employed while also caregiving (AARP 2015 Report: Caregiving in the U.S., 2015). It can often become difficult for caregivers to balance caregiving with working, and caregiving can lead to employees turning down promotions, decreased productivity, more missed time at work, and increased rates of leaving the work force altogether. More than 8 out of 10 caregivers state that they could use more information on or help with caregiving topics (AARP 2015 Report: Caregiving in the U.S., 2015). So how can working caregivers get information about balancing caregiving with work and how can employers learn ways to better support their caregiving employees?

The Caregivers First Initiative is now offering trainings and workshops for interested businesses, non-profits, and employers in the greater Allegheny area! We can provide a variety of trainings, lunch and learns, and workshops based on what you and your employees feel you need information on, such as stress management and self-care, supporting working caregivers, resources available in the community, managing common caregiving issues, and much more. If you or someone you know is interested in learning more, please call us at 412-694-6146 or email us at

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Days are Growing Shorter and the Weather is Getting Colder

By Deanna Leyh

With the cooler fall season soon approaching and the days beginning to grow shorter, it’s easy for people to get stuck inside and to cut down on their activities. This is something that can especially affect older adults when the bad weather and short days can make it difficult to physically get out of their homes. It can be easy if it’s cold or darker outside to just say, “I’m going to stay inside today instead of going out.”

Over a third of adults over age 45 have self-identified as lonely according to the AARP’s Loneliness Study (September 2010) and social isolation grows increasingly more common as we age, and so it is very important to find ways to support older adults and prevent feelings of loneliness and isolation in them. Below are some helpful steps for older adults and caregivers to try to prevent that loneliness or isolation that can happen, especially in the winter months, and to keep older adults engaged and active in their communities and in their lives!

1)      Stay connected to loved ones and friends by phone or email: If you’re able to get out and meet up with family or friends for lunch or hobby groups that’s great! However, when the weather is bad and the days are shorter, it’s still important to keep that contact and connection to others going. Calling up friends or family often to stay in touch, or setting up an email pen pal are also good ways to stay connected if you can’t get out to physically be with others.

2)      Look into transportation options to help get you out and about: There are often transportation options available to help older adults get out into the community if they are unable to drive or find their own means of transportation. Allegheny County offers older adults the option to use their Access Transportation Service (412-562-5353), and there are also newer services like Go-Go Grandparent (1-855-464-6872), which is a number that older adults can call that connects them to an operator who set up a ride service like Uber and Lyft to transport them.

3)      Look into companion programs that offer a friendly visitor to come to your house: It can be difficult to get out sometimes for older adults, so it can be helpful to have a friend come to your home to visit with you through programs like Senior Companions (412-350-5460) or In Service of Seniors (412-345-7420). Volunteer caregivers can help older adults get a social visit, assist them with errands, do light-housekeeping, engage in meaningful activities with them, etc.

4)      Check out learning programs and classes offered in your area: There are many programs like Osher Lifelong Learning Institute programs offering noncredit courses with no assignments at local colleges and universities, like Pitt and CMU, for adults over age 50. There are also many free classes, workshops, and events offered at local libraries, such as learning about gardening, financial planning, how to play instruments, writing clubs, etc.

5)      Look into attending exercise programs through your local gyms: Many gyms and exercise centers offer classes specifically geared toward older adults or certain health conditions like Parkinson’s or arthritis. YMCAs and other gyms can offer classes like Silver Sneakers, yoga, tai chi, water aerobics, Zumba, light cardio, etc. that are specifically for older adults, which is a great way to stay active, engaged, and healthy!

6)      Check out your local senior community center: Senior community centers often offer older adults a low-cost or free meal every day and a wide variety of classes and events to keep seniors active and engaged in the community, such as bingo, card clubs, exercise classes, sewing and quilting clubs, and charitable events. You can find your local senior center at

These are just a few ways for older adults to try to stay active and engaged in the community, especially when the weather is worse in the fall and winter and the days are shorter. As caregivers, it’s important to encourage our loved ones to stay active and healthy and to assist them in staying connected with others.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Defeating Malnutrition in Older Adults

by Emily Anderson

I used to read the back of my cereal box every morning as I was groggily getting my day started. At some point, the boxes I was reading transitioned from fun games and puzzles to infographics on good nutrition and balanced diets. We all know that eating right is important for energy and weight management, but it is also an important underlying factor in wellbeing, disease, and recovery from illness.
Nutrition can become more difficult to maintain with age due to medical, social, and psychological factors. As many as 30-60% of older adults qualify as malnourished, and malnourishment worsens with events like surgeries and hospital stays. As a caregiver you may be concerned about keeping your loved one healthy and nourished. Understanding what is going on, what to look for, and what to do can help you keep your loved one on the right track, or healing after a setback.


How Malnutrition Develops

Malnutrition is rarely the result of neglect. More often, it sneaks up on a person and their caregiver due to a combination of medical, social, and psychological causes.
First are medical factors. With age comes some profound changes to the way we taste and digest food. Due to changes in the GI tract and hormones, older adults tend to feel full sooner and are less sensitive to noticing their hunger. Loss of taste buds and medication side effects can make food taste bland or unpleasantly bitter. An older adult, for example, needs eleven times as much salt in a dish in order to sense it. Other common medications—like those for high blood pressure, cholesterol, antibiotics, and heartburn—can reduce appetite, cause nausea or diarrhea, and reduced absorption of nutrients. Only 35% of people over age 75 have all their own teeth, which contributes to dry mouth and difficulty chewing. This particularly leads to a lack of fiber, protein, and the micronutrients often found alongside those first two, like calcium and iron. Finally, particular disease like dementia can create confusion about how to prepare foods, as well as making it more difficult to eat and swallow.
It’s not all medical though. Ever had to cook for just one, and then eat your meal alone too? It certainly doesn’t encourage you to put a lot of effort into the meal. People who live alone are more likely to be malnourished. If your loved one is on a fixed income, they may have difficulty affording high-quality, nutritious food. Older adults experience a lot of loss as well, as friends or family pass away, which can lower appetite. Finally, many older adults experience depression, which often goes unnoticed or untreated, and contributes to a loss of appetite.
Once an older adult becomes malnourished, it takes longer for them to regain good nutrition due to these complications as well. The best approach is to prevent it if possible, and if not, then to notice it as soon as you can and take action.


What to Watch Out For

  • If you go to the doctor with your loved one, write down their height and weight. Use this calculator to figure out your loved one’s Body Mass Index (BMI). Anything under a BMI of 23 is a concern. 
  • Watch your loved one for changes in appetite, and ask if they are experiencing changes.
  • Take note of unintentional rapid weight loss of 5-10lbs over 6 months that leaves their clothes dropping and dangling.
  • Peak in their refrigerator to see what kinds of food they are eating and how much is getting left behind.

What to Do

  • Talk to your loved one about yours concerns. Try to find out if they are having low appetite, or their food tastes bland, or they are getting indigestion.
  • Ask for a consultation with a nutritionist to make a dietary plan. Your primary care doctor may also be able to help you make a plan.
  • Pack your food with flavor! Load up on herbs, vinegars, and ingredients that add flavor without adding salt, sugar, or fat. Read this article for more healthy ideas to pump up the flavor on healthy meals.
  • Encourage your loved on to eat foods high in folic acid, B-12, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and Omega 3s.
  • Join a congregate meal program. Most senior centers offer lunches that are low cost but filling and nutritious, as well as enjoyable to share in good company.
  • Keep some nutritional shakes on hand, either as a powder you can add to meals or that you can mix up as a drink. Mixes with protein are often sweet, while vitamin-only drinks often come in fruity flavors. Beware of high-sugar drinks like Gatorade though, that offer little nutrition and a lot of diabetes.
  • Use supplements as a last resort. It’s always best to get your nutritional needs from food, but a supplement can help fill in the gaps. If your loved one doesn’t want yet another pill, try gummy or liquid vitamins.

Happy, healthy eating!