An Eye for Safety: Helping a Parent Age in Place

using stairlift The stairs in my childhood home had been a source of fun for my brothers and me. We enjoyed rushing down to breakfast bumping down the stairs on our bottoms then hopping up to join our parents. To my mother, however, the stairs were a constant state of stress. She daily warned us to be careful, don’t play around the stairs, and ALWAYS reminded us to hold the railing. Each night she would drape a flimsy net across the top of the stairway to protect us from falling to our deaths.

She should have continued that habit for her and Dad. I became concerned when I noticed her constantly climbing the stairs on hands and knees—while wearing her robe and carrying a glass of water! In June 2009, I secretly suggested to Dad to get a stair lift for her. He agreed but didn’t find it to be an immediate necessity. A few days later, Dad slipped down the last two steps and landed on his backside with a painful ‘ooph’! Doubly concerned, I reiterated the need for the stair lift for both of them. Dad immediately went on the defensive and harshly lectured me on respect, ageism, and minding my own damn business.

Then on December 8, 2009, at age 72, Dad fell down the stairs and suffered extreme brain damage and paralysis, eventually dying from his injuries six years later.

Needless to say, I am sensitive to the probability of falls. I rarely hesitate to act on a safety improvement for my mother or my loved ones, even if it must come from my own finances.

According to the World Health Organization:

  • Falls are the second leading cause of accidental or unintentional injury deaths worldwide.
  • Adults older than 65 years of age suffer the greatest number of fatal falls.

Further data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states:

  • Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall; every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall.
  • Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults.

Soon after Dad’s fall, Mom and I ordered the stair lift, refraining from the ‘closing the barn door after the horse escaped’ reality. Mom still needed several safety measures and I planned to get them done! Other immediate activities included:

  • Removing trip hazards, especially loose rugs.
  • Purchasing slippers or socks that were anti-slip.
  • Hiring a handyman to repair loose floorboards or uneven treads.
  • Purchasing a Personal Emergency Response System such as Great Call or First Alert.
  • Moving most used items within reach.

While my mother still lives 500 miles away, I make frequent visits to help with general care, providing companionship, and to maintain the safety watch. During my latest visit, I installed grab bars in risky areas (bathtub, shower, toilet) and anti-slip strips on tub and shower floors after observing some unsteady habits. When I stated my concern to my mother, she attempted to comfort me by saying, “I’ll get to it soon. It’s been on my mind too”. Then a few sentences later she admitted, “I’m getting so forgetful.” I was at the store purchasing equipment lessinstalling shower handle for safety than an hour later!

If you are providing long-distant care for a parent or are close enough to visit on a daily basis, use these tips to maintain household safety as your parent ages in place:

  • Check established safety measures to make sure they are functioning properly.
  • Replace, upgrade, or improve safety measures as needed.
  • Observe your parent’s activities: does she lean more? Is she unsteady? Is it tougher for her to accomplish tasks? Implement safety measures to accommodate these changes.
  • Listen to your parent! Comments like, “I’m unsteady when I get out of bed” or “I’m afraid I’ll slip getting out of the shower” are warning signs. Take swift action on these hints.
  • Keep an open communication with your parent. Request to attend occasional doctor visits to be part of the conversation but to also report observations and progress.

It’s tough to lose a parent to something so common, but it’s also harder to know that simple safety measures could have prevented these injuries. As your parent ages—in place or at a facility—be their guardian and take the action they are reluctant or forgetful to do themselves. If they fuss, tell them it’s because you love them and don’t want to lose them.

Kristen Edens
Making Midlife Better

A New Happiness

iosphere at fdp.net“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

–Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

I had a problem: afraid to admit happiness. We never plan to have this fear. It’s instilled in us by events, experiences, and sometimes other people: divorce, health, losing a job, financial distress, a death. We mourn the loss of the happiness we had before the event and long for its return. We fight an uphill battle trying to bring back what was lost, which leads to further disappointment. Some people dip into addiction to cope, others busy themselves to keep their minds off the sorrow, and yet others cling to their troubles indefinitely.

As with Kubler-Ross’ stages of grief, we trudge through the phases. We make a new life from the ashes. We rebuild. We reinvent. We start anew. Then one day we wake up and find a smile. But we’re afraid of it! So we hide the smile. We hide it from others, from ourselves, from the Universe.

Yet we strive for more. We don’t like to quit. We don’t want to quit! We have ups and downs but the ups become more frequent than downs. We build on it. We experiment with it. We act on it. Cautiously. Carefully. S-L-O-W-L-Y. And then we discover another smile. Then they last longer. Then we feel a glow.

The little things aren’t so big anymore. We see more sunshine. We feel better. Food tastes better. Hobbies are fun again. What’s that? Did I just laugh? That felt SO good! I want more. So we pursue it—with caution. Then one day we’re bursting with joy and it lasts several days. We want to share it with others.

Happiness is possible but you have to want it bad enough and work for it: long, hard, and consistently, despite the fear of falling flat again.

Which will you choose?

  • Hide your new happiness yet fear the possibility that something bad could happen again?

Or

  • Shout it out and say, “I’m happy! No matter what happens from here on out, I’ll be happy. I’ll rise above the situation and become stronger. I did it! I can survive!”

The greatest lesson learned is that we CAN survive and thrive. There IS light at the end of whatever tunnel we travel and we have the means to get OURSELF there. It’s a sweet feeling to know we made it happen, despite the setbacks.

I am capable. You are capable.

Do you find yourself still struggling to find your joy? What phase are you in?

Kristen Edens
A grandparent in business

(photo courtesy of iosphere at freedigitalphotos.net)

Mother Plucker: Adventures in Caregiving

Medicines, bandages, pimples, whiskers, stitches, wounds and body fluids…fdp.net ddpavumba

Caregiving tasks can fall upon anyone at any time. Caregiving is:

  • gender neutral,
  • not age-specific and
  • independent of income level.

As parents and partners, we accept caregiving with love, knowing our time and attention will help our loved ones through their ordeals. As we age, those tasks may extend to outside family members and in-laws. We still accept the responsibility with the same degree of love, but also with the uncertainty of who will care for us if needed? Many time our caregiving tasks span the generations and we are the ones ‘sandwiched’ in between.

Since my dad’s traumatic brain injury in 2009 and my mother’s own health needs, I travel almost monthly to help my mother with her issues. Some are health related, others are helping her cope with dad’s status. Dad’s recent death put a new twist on the situation.

Then at my home, my partner had surgery to repair a ruptured disc. The surgery improved his mobility, but limited his range of motion. I now help him with shoes and socks and reaching high or low for needed items.

But it doesn’t end there. My partner’s mother, a resident in a local nursing home, has chosen me to be the one to pluck her whiskers. EEK!!

Let’s not forget adventures in babysitting. Many days I care for my granddaughter while I operate my business and my daughter works.

If you find yourself struggling with a long list of caregiving needs, you need to manage your availability in order to care for yourself and your business first. Apply these ideas to help you balance the needs:

  • Communicate! Let others know your schedule and availability for such tasks. You must establish the plan otherwise they will establish it for you.
  • Say no! If you don’t, you’ll become an unpaid caregiver with no time for yourself or your business. If you aren’t comfortable or capable with a certain task, say no and hold your ground!
  • Balance: we have the same number of hours as everyone else so we need to schedule them to our benefit, otherwise nothing gets done—personally or professionally. Many business owners live by the mantra, ‘Family First’, but that doesn’t mean we drop clients or business assignments the instant someone needs us to pluck a whisker, trim a nail, or kill a spider! Prioritizing is vital.
  • Free time: the older we get, the busier we get: children, grandchildren, parents, clients, spouses, friends, religion, community…we’re squeezing it all in and neglecting ‘me time’. Quiet time, exercise, a solo-vacation, hobbies…make time for them. It’s as essential to your well-being as much as sleep, adequate nutrition and exercise.

Remember: these exercises aren’t easy to implement. The obligations stack up faster than we can apply these habits. Start with one tip and apply it to one obligation. But go slow—it requires training for everyone.

What are your caregiving experiences or tips? We’d love to hear from you!

Kristen Edens
A grandparent in business

(photo image courtesy of ddpavumba of freedigitalphotos.net)

What are Your Distraction Risk Factors?

Stuart Miles 11.30.15

 

Everyone needs a break now and then but when does a break become a distraction?

When I worked in Cardiac Rehab, I would help patients identify the factors influencing the likelihood of a cardiac event and discuss options for reducing future events. These risk factors were classified into non-modifiable risks and modifiable risks.

For those of us with home-based businesses, we have a similar degree of risk factors that increase the likelihood of our breaks turning into disturbances during our work day:

Non-modifiable distraction factors

  • Self
  • Family & friends
  • Pets

These are the factors that we can’t eliminate. Well, we could, but it requires drastic measures. It’s better to put that energy into adapting:

Self: we can be our worst enemy and our greatest source of distraction—mentally and physically. Setting a schedule for ourselves and sticking to it is the strongest starting block for putting us and everyone else on track.

Family/friends: How often have you told your family ‘don’t disturb me unless it’s an emergency’? The problem is our definition of an emergency is different from what they consider an emergency.

  • Emergency: the house on fire, someone choking or bleeding
  • Non-emergency: spider on the wall, chocolate all gone, fix the remote control, a cute video on YouTube, or a need to vent

For everyone’s sanity, review and revise the rules early and often. What works this month may not work next. You have the power to adjust, adapt and train.

Pets: see Kitty Litter Crunch for more on this, but establish rules with your animal friends, too. They’re easier to train than family members.

Modifiable distraction factors

  • Schedule
  • Location
  • Clients
  • Projects

Each of these can intensify or contribute to the non-modifiable risk factors. As you establish your routine, it may be necessary to experiment with these points to maintain productivity. Some ideas may include:

  • Start earlier in the day or work later in the evening. You may find varying your daily schedule works best.
  • Spend a few days a week working at a co-working space. These are popular locations (with all the amenities and none of the noise) popping up all over the country.
  • For the budget-conscious, working one or more days per week at a library is an option. Internet, resource librarians and plenty of quiet are bonuses.

Take a moment to review this list. Which risk factors rate highest? What can be done now to reduce distractions from your work day? How do you prevent or divert distractions?

Kristen Edens
A grandparent in business

(image courtesy of Stuart Miles of freedigitalphotos.net)

Break Time for Business Owners; what’s your Strategy?

Stuart Miles from freedigitalphotos.netIf you own a business, you are busy. Add to that the daily activities of being a parent, grandparent, spouse, sibling, and even a caregiver, and you are extra busy.

Oh yea…and we must take time for ourselves. So when does THAT happen? For many of us, it takes planning and practice so here are 3 tips to implement into your break time strategy:

Make it a habit: not just for you, but your business and your family will benefit. No one is to disturb you during this time. Take the dog for a walk. A 15 minute power nap. Have a cup of tea. Avoid screen time, especially if the majority of your work is done on a computer.

Mental and physical exercise: When I worked as an exercise physiologist, exercise was a top recommendation for reducing stress. The same applies to business owners: stepping away or getting out of the environment helps to clear the mental muck. A walk. A run. Fresh air. It shouldn’t drain your energy, but be enough to get the blood and mental juices flowing again.

Release the blahs: A break will be more productive rather than stubbornly sticking to the job until you get it done, creating frustration and more delays. Stepping away brings you back to the world.

Below are a few strategies implemented by other small business owners:

Kathy Bernard of Wiser U says she gets a cup of tea and heats it for 2 minutes, 29 seconds. During this time she runs laps around her small kitchen. Then she does squats as she makes toast.

Romondo Davis of Davis Interactive says the conversion to a standing desk has made a big difference for him. It took him 2 days to adjust but he loves it. When he needs to step away from the desk, he goes out onto his porch where his wooded yard helps his mind relax.

Cory Schmidt, social media marketer for TapCast.it and the developer behind TURK, a digital chessboard, is also an advocate for standing desks. Yerba Maté tea and jamming to music from Skrillex or Deadmau5 keeps him energized.

Marc Bernstein, currently looking for opportunities in business development, marketing and sales engages in what he calls the ‘power hour’. This is one hour of high energy phone calls between 3 and 4pm. This activity recharges him and keeps him focused on his purpose.

Suzanne Magee of Bandura Systems relies on a change of locations to recharge. If she’s in front of the screen too long, she’ll step outside for a quick break. She admits these occasions don’t occur that often otherwise she’d fall asleep: she’s usually awake by 3am and keeps on going.

What are your strategies? Comment below. What are some whacky ways to recharge?

Kristen Edens
Kris the Scribbler

(photo courtesy of Stuart Miles of freedigitalphotos.net)

The Center of Their Universe

“The Universe has as many different centers as there are living beings in it”scottchan fdp.net
–Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Bed was cramped this morning. I woke to find my 24-year old daughter needing comfort at 6am. Through teary eyes, she asked if she could snuggle. Sleepily, I nodded.

At that point I realized my daughter, three cats and my partner were wrapped around me in a way that would soon lead to cramps and restricted blood flow.

There was a brief moment of contentedness before the numbed limbs became uncomfortable. I was loved. I was needed. And I provided the comfort and reassurance they needed. Then someone snored. Then rolled over or repositioned. A kitty attacked my toe. Another cat began kneading my belly. Everyone continued to adjust for their comfort, unaware they were crushing, elbowing or numbing some part of me.

As the day dawned, we began our daily activities. Each of us, except the cats, has work to report to and responsibilities to fulfill. However, my family has a hard time remembering that my availability is limited during the work week. Having a home office that keeps me within sight or shouting distance short-circuits their brain. Whatever the situation: a funny story, a cute picture on facebook, an interesting bit of trivia, an emergency errand, or a request to help build a shed, there’s an immediate requirement to involve me NOW!

Those of us with home businesses have varying situations, but the results are the same: we’re wanted or needed all the time.

However, we need to set boundaries and teach them that our business has requirements if we intend to be successful. For that to happen, we must manage ourselves by implementing these points:

  • Limitations: how much are you willing to do for everyone and still have time left for you? Just as we can’t work an 80-hour work week, we can’t dedicate huge chunks of time to any one person or thing. Know your limitations and stay within your boundaries.
  • Scheduling: Being a morning person or a night person is only the beginning of this equation. When are you most productive? Reserve that time for your business. When does your family truly NEED you? Meal time? Homework time? Before school? How much time do you have for activities? Owning a business allows for some flexibility, but the family must understand that flexibility is for emergencies rather than any time they want your attention.
  • Redirecting their needs: A few authors I know have taught their family not to disturb them unless they are bleeding, barfing or the house is on fire. Everything else can wait. Another idea is to place a whiteboard on your door for notes. When you’re available, check off the items.
  • Tough love: sometimes you must say NO. Be prepared: they’ll whine, fuss, say you don’t love them and stomp off. Let them. They’re looking for weaknesses. It’s up to you to remain tough!

It’s a wonderful feeling to matter to so many people, but unless we manage our time we won’t reach our goals.

How do you manage your work schedule? How well does your family respect your schedule? Comment below and share with others.

Kristen Edens
A grandparent in business

(photo courtesy of scottchan of freedigitalphotos.net)