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.