June is Men’s Health Month!

June is Men’s Health Month!

If you are feeling worn down as a caregiver for an aging loved one, you are not alone. You may feel isolated, at times, desperately needing the support of others and seeking guidance as to how to make your life a little easier.  One thing is for sure, all across the country many of us are struggling to care for our loved ones. It’s likely that each one of us will be caring for a loved one in the future. And caregiving is not a short-term commitment.

Being a caregiver takes a toll. This is evidenced both emotional and physically. Unfortunately, our own bodies do not stop needing care while we provide care for others. Many of us are also providing for our own families, still maintaining a day job as well as needing to care for ourselves.  Coping as a caregiver means being able to discern not only your loved ones’ needs but knowing the importance of caring for yourself.

There are some basic “caring” support measures that we must offer ourselves. Remember, you are a very important person, and you need and deserve proper care.

  • Exercise Daily: Whatever our caregiving schedule, we can only take care of others if we take care of yourselves. Walk, run, stretch, lift weights, dance, and do whatever you do, but do some physical exercise 30-60 minutes four to six times a week. If you only have ten minutes a day to exercise, this better than no time at all. A walk around the corner is a great way to clear your mind. Exercise truly does relieve stress, increases your energy level and protect your health. Strength training two times a week will help keep your bones strong and your muscles firm. This is important if you are caring for someone else. Every morning, think through your day and try to anticipate little pockets of time you can devote to exercise. Take whatever measures you must to make it happen…do as if your life depends on it!
  • Accept Your Own Limits: As a loving caregiver, we want to be able to say; “I can do it all”, but we need to accept, that we also must care for ourselves.  We must proactively ask for help and support from outside. Taking good care of yourself and your loved one involves recruiting additional help at times.  Even if you feel you do not need extra help now, you will need assistance in the future. Everyone needs a break and time to enjoy their own life. It’s so much better to have peace of mind that the world will go on without you when you need or want time away. Talk to your doctor, a senior care professional, a pastor or others that you trust about your situation. Respite care is an excellent resource for giving you “time off” from caregiving to take care of yourself.   Plan ahead by making a list of people you can recruit to help you. Having options will help you manage the extra demands of your time and give you a sense of control.
  • Relax: Daily relaxation is vital to our own health. Deep breathing, meditation, praying, or doing whatever helps you to reduce stress. If possible, take time at the beginning and the end of the day to practice these techniques and any other available moments you can.
  • Talk: Everyone needs to share their own caregiving challenges and successes. It is always reassuring to know that you are not the only one having certain struggles. Find people you can trust and share your heart with them. Join a support group for caregivers. Just know that you are not alone and hearing another person’s story can be a great comfort. You may help someone else as you share your thoughts and feelings as well.
  • Schedule Time for Yourself: You may not remember the last time you left your responsibilities and just took time for yourself. Caregivers typically feel very guilty taking time away from their loved one. Taking time to do something that is not work-related will actually make you a better caregiver. Read a few pages from a book, window shop, take a nap or go to the beach. It is not just okay, it’s vital for your wellbeing.
  • Get Enough Rest: If you are lacking on your sleep, your body will soon let you know. Without proper sleep you’re putting your own health at risk. Try to get at least eight hours of rest each night. If you are required to be up at night with your loved one, take naps the following day when your loved one is sleeping.
  • Eat a Balanced Diet: If you are preparing meals for your loved one, this should be a good way to manage eating healthy for yourself. Just as you want your loved one to eat well, your nutrition is vital to your health.  Keep veggies and fruit available for snacks, eat whole grains, avoid high fat and carbohydrates, increase your water intake to six to eight glasses a day and avoid concentrated sweets and too much caffeine.
  • Get Organized & Simplify: Being a caregiver, a parent, a grandparent, a worker outside the home, etc. brings many demands of your time. Control those demands by recruiting your own family to help with chores at home.  Stay organized daily with whatever method works for you. Simplify by saying no to activities that may not fit the current demands of your time.

Caring for a loved one is a tough job. At times it’s frustrating, overwhelming and exhausting. It’s also one of the most rewarding jobs you will ever do. But, as a caregiver, you know your loved one is reliant on you and wants you to be healthy and happy. We all perform better physically and mentally when we are taking care of ourselves. So make sure you’re not forgetting to make yourself a priority.

The New Senior Transportation: Ride-Sharing Services

The New Senior Transportation: Ride-Sharing Services

It’s a too-common scenario for seniors: Places to go, things to see, and a life to lead—but limited mobility or the inability to drive prevents them from getting out. Fortunately, ride-hailing services such as Lyft and Uber, and a new service tailored to the needs of seniors called SilverRide (which has launched in San Francisco, CA but is planning expansion in the US), are all addressing senior transportation with new initiatives.

The Community Transportation Association estimates that 26 million older Americans rely on others for their transportation. With the elderly population growing, this number will only increase in coming years. Not being able to drive can affect more than just self-esteem. It can take a toll on physical health as well. In fact, a 2004 report found that seniors who don’t drive make 15% fewer trips to the doctor than their driving counterparts.

Ride-sharing services could close that gap. How? With a little technology, senior housing partnerships, and special services for the mobility-impaired.

How to Use Lyft and Uber

Lyft and Uber are operated via drivers using their personal vehicles. They originally gained popularity among young urban dwellers as a safe option for those who have had too much to drink. However, these personal ride-sharing options expanded very quickly in geographical range and popularity of use. While these services do require a little bit of tech savvy, that shouldn’t deter seniors from taking advantage of these services. All you need to catch a ride is a smartphone with the Lyft or Uber apps. Ask your children, grandchildren or a tech-savvy friend if you need a little help downloading and setting up the app.

Once a phone is equipped with the app, Lyft and Uber are easy to use. Provide a payment method (usually a credit card or PayPal) and then just type in the address of where you want to go. The app will automatically calculate the rate for the ride, so the cost is known upfront. A driver’s description and car model will be provided, as well as the estimated time of arrival.

For more cost savings, you can take advantage of Lyft’s Lyft Line, in which you carpool with other consumers riding the same route to split the tab. Uber’s version of that option is uberPOOL.
Once at your destination, just say thank you and goodbye. The cost will be charged to your credit card. The entire transaction is handled online, so there is no need to exchange cash or give a tip (unless you want to). Ready to come home? Just perform the same action in reverse, using your home address.

Special Services for Senior Transportation

For seniors who need extra assistance, Uber offers uberASSIST. This service uses drivers who are trained to help riders get into and out of the vehicle and can accommodate folding wheelchairs, walkers and scooters.

Given that seniors with limited transportation options might need to use ride-hailing often, Lyft and Uber have both been working to develop partnerships with local senior advocates, organizations, local retirement communities and municipalities around the country with the goal of increasing affordability. In many cities, programs are being tested in which seniors can get discounted—or even free—rides due to city support. Some of these initiatives also address ride-hailing options for seniors without smartphones. Check in your area for specific options.

by Mark Edelen