Like I shared with you last month, I view the National Day Calendar for just the above reasons at https://nationaldaycalendar.com/calendar-at-a-glance/ April is the national month of hope and humor. I could not survive without either of these! The week of April 15-21 was neurodiagnostic week and the 16th was healthcare decisions day. In my field of practice, healthcare and neurology are important issues; I will elaborate later in ongoing medical blogs about these. But hope especially resonates with me on just a human, existential level. Even just a glimmer or spark of hope can keep us going in challenging times.
What so-called little things do you reach for or extend to others? A phone call, a smile, a lunch date, engage in any self-care activity (even for 5 minutes to catch a wee break), an offer of assistance, or asking for assistance? I recommend that caregivers who have difficulty asking for help try asking someone for a very specific, concrete thing, like perhaps a phone call or other research that would help the situation. Maybe give someone a greeting card to brighten their day, remind them they're on your mind. Possibly making breakfast for your partner, paying for someone's meal in the fast food line (someone did that for me last year!), holding someone's hand when they are sad and receptive to it, write an old friend. Look through an old photo album or cards/other keepsakes you've collected over the years, spend time with animals. Whatever ways we have found that work to care for self and share compassion/caring with others: let's all do more of that! I subscribe to the belief that these "little" things comprise much of our lives and are often really as important and/or related to the "bigger" things. For me, these little things have added up to a whole lotta life!
~Take good care, Suzannah
I believe most folks want to be helpful and may not know how. Some people get “triggered” with their own issues and histories when disease, sickness, illness, etc is involved and they withdraw. People can feel uncomfortable or even inept in these situations, they don’t know what to do or say or offer. Some withdraw due to their own obligations and being overloaded. I feel the smallest segment of folks are just not able to give and/or support in ways we need; certainly not everyone is a “giver” and for me, I ultimately appreciate learning (even when it hurts) who you can and can’t count upon. It may become more clear there’s been a relationship in your life that has really been more one-sided and is healthier to release, in the long run.
When supports vanish, it can also open space for supports we didn’t even know were there or that we needed, that end up being an even better fit! This may be personal or professional support. I find it surprisingly empowering to realize that it’s ultimately largely in my control to get my needs met. It doesn’t always happen the way I think it should, or “soon enough”, but it generally happens. I regularly felt uncomfortable asking for and receiving help and had to really work on that gem of a lesson! Here’s a brief list of some little strategies that may be useful:
~Take good care, Suzannah
There are some funny ones: March is national umbrella month (the 13th is open an Umbrella Indoors Day), the 1st is "Dadgum, that's good day", and the 3rd full week of March is National Introverts Week (yes, I stayed home all that week, lol!). March is also Procrastination Month ( I would have told you sooner, but ... haha). On a serious note, there is also Universal Human Beings Week, which I would hope would just be every week.
The social work profession is close to my heart. It is the professional and philosophical lens through which I frame and engage in helping others. March is national Professional Social Work Month, and the 20th is World Social Work Day. It is a profession of HOPE and promotes values and ethics that resonate within my heart and soul. Early in my graduate school program, an educator said, "Have the hope that all people can change, but have the knowledge that not everyone will". I have carried this with me for years and remind myself of this regularly. The following social work values and ethics inform my practice and perspective: dignity and worth of person, the importance of human relationships, and self-determination. I approach those I serve with an open curiosity about their stories and seek to connect on a basic human basis. I incorporate strengths into the mosaic of needs and seek to remind others of their gifts and abilities they may not see.
I encourage us all to take any opportunity to feed our hearts and souls with care and love! Even if it seems a small gesture or practice. We talk about self-care often in helping professions and may neglect the practice ourselves. Have fun, make laughter, give and accept respect, appreciate the self and others, choose love, acknowledge your awesomeness!
~Take good care, Suzannah
The main strategy is to be as prepared and organized as possible, and there several ways to do this. If it helps, you can even print this or some other information you find on this topic to help you get organized. One of my most important suggestions here is to not let any professional (medical or otherwise) use professional jargon/Latin/abbreviations/etc without asking for explanation. Hold us accountable, ask for "laymen's terms", have it explained it in a way you best understand. It is so important that we as consumers have information/knowledge/power/respect in these processes. Of course we see professionals with expertise in their fields for their knowledge, but they need to partner WITH us for best outcomes.
Another key point is to ensure that the professional (again, medical or otherwise) includes anyone diagnosed with any cognitive issue (any dementia or whatever diagnosis) as much as is possible/appropriate. I once saw a Dr. with Granny (and he was a geriatrician) and he mainly ignored her and only spoke to me. Please advocate for your loved one/friend/etc to be included, to the degree they are able to participate and potentially benefit (and this may take some trial-and-error to figure out, I struggled with this...).
1 always bring a list of questions/topics to be covered and addressed if you have any (I always get distracted/forget something if I don't have it written prior to the visit) - this is where bringing another person can be helpful since you as the patient are likely more distracted than they are
2 always bring a pen/pencil/paper and your scheduler/appointment book/calendar/whatever you use, to take notes and make any future appointments. Some agencies will print some details of your visit; please keep these documents in an organized place in your home for future reference
3 if it's an initial meet, have all your medical/physical/medication information already together (current diagnoses, all medications/doses/time of day/drug allergies/etc), medical history, including surgeries, current providers (including counselors/therapists/PA/NP/PT/OT - to best coordinate care). Also, update all this for your records and share this with professionals when any of this info changes. If it can be typed beforehand, wonderful. For "tech savvy" folks, I recommend an application for phone or computer called CareZone at https://carezone.com/home (this is the Online link, check your specific phone for app options). For the same info to be at home and available in the event of an acute event for first responders to access, I recommend the "File of Life" that is magnetized for your refrigerator; visit them at http://www.folife.org/ (they have other options such as a wallet version and something to keep in your car).
4 if you take medications, have all the contact info for where your current pharmacy is ++ you can also bring all your meds/supplements/herbal remedies with you if you do not have them recorded
5 bring any advance directives (medical durable POA, health care proxy, MOST form, DNR, etc). Have contact info for anyone you want on HIPAA documents and/or who would be contacted and involved in your care. If you bring originals, they need to COPY them, they may make some new documents for you to sign - ask them exactly what they are and get copies of ANY documents you sign. Please ensure you understand what you are signing, ask them to explain it until it is clear and comfortable for you.
I know this is a lot of information; contact me with questions/clarifications. Although I was pretty organized with all this as a caregiver, it was still a lot for me to manage and understand. As with anything else, please reach out for assistance - maybe someone can type your med list, or a list of providers or history of medical care, etc. I know it can be a challenge to ask for support, but I firmly believe it "takes a village" sometimes to get through some of this life stuff!
~ Take good care, Suzannah
To gluten, or not to gluten: is that really a question? Indeed it is, according to Dr. Mosconi. She refers to our "Great American Gluten Panic" and the "witch-hunt" against gluten. Only approximately 7% of the U.S. population is truly sensitive to or even allergic (Celiac disease) to gluten. By avoiding these proteins/grains/cereals, we tend to also go low-carb. Dr. Mosconi states this generally does more harm than good, and there is NO conclusive, scientific evidence linking gluten and cognitive decline. Also, many scientists agree agree that diets rich in healthy carbs and fiber is CRUCIAL for dementia prevention. So, about 93% of us can gluten (and apparently, should). For those with true allergies/sensitivities, there are gluten-free alternatives: rice, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, teff (what the heck is that?), etc. Her book provides guidelines for "healthy carbs" and portions. There is also a correlation between fiber deficiency and diminished gut health (and out "guts" are known as our "2nd brain").
Other suggestions: 1) the Mediterranean diet for reduced risk of cognitive impairment. It has the added benefit of reducing risk for cardio diseases, diabetes and obesity.
2) Fruits/veggies should make up 1/2 your plate, any given meal
3) 8 glasses of water daily will boost your brain 30%
4) More fish for essential fats
5) Chia seeds & oats improve mood and memory
6) MORE cacao, berries, almonds, lentils (I love them!), spinach (yep, love this, too!), and eggs
We'll just keep doing our best with the latest information that comes available to us! But, yea!!, more spinach and lentils! (And I was happy kale wasn't an any list of foods she suggested thus far) : )
~Take good care, Suzannah