ADVICE FOR YOUR BUCKET LIST

Do you know what a bucket list is? Most people think it is a list of things you want to do before you die. A typical guess is people want to visit a particular place before dying. Based on an unscientific poll about bucket lists, that is not a bad guess. Travel appears to be a frequent bucket list ambition.  Anne is an American who is proud her ancestors lived for centuries on the group of small islands in the English Channel between the southern coast of England and mainland Europe.

REDUCE STRESS, INCREASE ENJOYMENT FOR A HAPPY 2018

Family caregivers provide practical assistance and enhance the quality of life for frail seniors who might otherwise require placement in a long-term-care facility. Typically, caregivers are spouses or adult children, many of whom are seniors themselves. Their role involves physical, psychological, emotional and financial demands. It can be a heavy load.  If you are a caregiver, consider the following strategies for not only surviving but thriving in the year ahead.

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DISCOVER A LOVE OF LIFELONG LEARNING

Curiosity, exploring interests and engagement are a few crucial ingredients to healthy and happy longevity. Enrolling in a class just for the love of learning is a great way to do this. The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at the University of Kentucky offers educational and enrichment courses, forums, shared interest groups, trips and more for adults age 50 years and older. Membership for the full year is $25; summer programs are at a prorated fee.

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•  Talk openly with your care receiver about his or her wishes. Discuss living arrangements, outside help, surrogate decision making, medical intervention and end-of-life care and funeral arrangements. Be careful not to make promises you may not be able to keep.

•  Help your care receiver get his or her affairs in order, including completing paperwork such as advance directives, powers of attorney and a will. Consult with a lawyer who is familiar with eldercare issues.


5. Are you open to simplifying your life?


•  Keep a caregiving log so you don’t have to rely on memory when it comes to medical history. Include notes about medications tried and their results; acute illnesses; hospitalizations; tests; diagnoses; treatments; and surgeries.

•  Keep relevant medical, financial, legal and other documents organized in a binder or filing system for easy access.

•  Seek ways to streamline your life. Set priorities and stick to them. And let go of the need for perfection.

•  Take things one day at a time. Learn to live in the moment and focus on simple pleasures.


6. Do you practice self-care?


•  Look after your own health. Make it a priority.

•  Find something relaxing you can do to give yourself a daily break at home.

•  Schedule regular breaks from caregiving duties. Take a couple of hours, a day or an overnight.


7. Do you have supportive people in your life?


•  Stay connected to friends and outside activities.

•  Find someone you can talk with openly, who will listen and empathize.

•  Talk with other caregivers. Join a community support group or an Internet group.


8. Are you receptive to help?


•  Recognize that you can’t and shouldn’t do everything alone.

•  Accept offers of help. Ask other family members to share the load. Be specific about the type of help that’s needed.

•  Research and take advantage of respite services in your community.

Whether you are new to caregiving or have been at it for a while, you may find yourself feeling overwhelmed and worried about your ability to handle all the responsibilities involved in looking after a person with a long-term health condition.


What better time than the start of a new year to reflect on your role and how you may be better able to manage it. Take time to honestly answer the following questions and consider the advice offered here.


1. Do you accept the realities of your care receiver’s condition?


•  Give yourself permission to experience all emotions that surface.

•  Grieve losses, but don’t dwell on them. Adapt your goals and expectations.

•  Recognize there will be good days and bad days.


2. Are you open to learning new things?


•  Educate yourself about your care receiver’s diagnosis and share the information with family and friends to help them understand.

•  Be open to learning practical skills, such as proper transferring and bathing techniques. Mastering these tasks will make caregiving as safe and easy as possible.   

8 REFLECTIONS FOR A NEW YEAR OF CAREGIVING

•  Find out about community services in your area that can help. The local office on aging is a good resource.


3. Do you keep communication lines open?


•  Involve your care receiver (if able) and other family members in decision making as much as possible. Don’t shoulder the responsibility alone.

•  Develop a partnership with involved healthcare professionals. Share information about your care receiver, ask questions, seek advice and offer opinions and suggestions.

•  Keep family members informed of changes in your care receiver’s status. Don’t act as if things are okay when they’re not.


4. Are you prepared for changes and challenges?


•  Find out what to expect during the course of the illness in terms of symptom progression and caregiving skills, medical equipment and community supports that may be needed.  

LISA M. PETSCHE

Lisa M. Petsche is a social worker and a freelance writer specializing in boomer and senior health matters. She has personal and professional experience with eldercare.

more articles by lisa m. petsche