Archive for Caregiving

Dec
09

The Rewards and Challenges of Caregiving

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I had the pleasure of presenting on the rewards and challenges of caregiving at St. George parish in Tinley Park yesterday.  I was glad to see such a good turnout, especially in the midst of Chicago’s first winter storm.

Rewards of Caregiving

We often hear about the difficulties of caregiving, but not so much about the rewards.  Of course there are very challenging aspects of caregiving, but I felt it was important to emphasize the rewards, which are so often overlooked.

I will not go into all the details of my presentation here, but I’m happy to give you a quick rundown of the main points. We can categorize the rewards of caregiving as follows:

  • Positive Emotions:  Research has found that caregivers report approximately three times more positive than negative emotions related to caregiving.  96% report feeling “loving”, 90% report feeling appreciated, and 84% report feeling proud.
  • Relationship Rewards:  Caregivers can experience increased closeness with their care recipient, other caregivers, and their own support network.  Caregiving provides an opportunity for meaningful discussions, resolution of old issues, and expression of forgiveness and love.
  • Sense of Purpose and Meaning:  People find it meaningful to care for someone, to reduce someone’s suffering, to fulfill their role as a family member or friend, to rise to a challenge, and to achieve important goals.  Therefore caregiving can be a very life-enriching experience.
  • Spiritual Growth:  Caregiving can help clarify one’s beliefs and deepen one’s sense of their own values, compassion, and patience.  It can cause one to reconnect with their spiritual community or spiritual practice.  Also, seeing the care recipient coping in a spiritual way can be inspiring.
  • Logistical Savvy:  While caring for someone, the caregiver learns how to help with medical care and activities of daily living.  They also learn about dealing with various helping professionals, about services and resources and how to access them, about legal and financial planning, and about managing their own time and delegating.  These skills can come in handy in the future.
  • Self Confidence and Self-Esteem:  All of the above rewards can help the caregiver to improve their self confidence and self-esteem.
  • Posttraumatic Growth:  Even traumatic events can be followed by posttraumatic growth – a positive psychological change experienced as a result of the struggle with a highly challenging situation.

Challenges of Caregiving

Ironically, many of the above rewards would not be possible if caregiving were not challenging in the first place.  No matter how well you cope with a caregiving situation, its very nature is challenging – because it involves the loss of independence, comfort, ability, health, and ultimately, life.  Here are some examples of the challenges of caregiving:

  • Logistical Challenges:  Finances top the list of logistical challenges for many people, especially with the recent changes in the economy.  Additionally, it can be a challenge to manage time, coordinate care, learn about options, and make difficult decisions.
  • Relationship Challenges:  Caregiving can be an isolating experience, especially if you are the primary caregiver and are not getting any help.  Also, relationships may be strained due to disagreements with other caregivers or unresolved family conflicts, and friends may pull away because they feel awkward or don’t have the time to help.  In the case of dementia, the caregiver also gradually loses their companionship with the care recipient him or herself.
  • Emotional Challenges:  More than half of caregivers experience significant worry and anxiety.  Over a quarter report feeling depressed or sad, and almost a quarter feel overwhelmed.  Caregivers may also struggle with denial, over-involvement, anger, and guilt.
  • Physical Challenges:  Caregivers take worse care of themselves by eating poorly, exercising less, skipping their own doctors appointments, and sleeping poorly.  Eventually, the chronic tension of caregiving can impact your health, diminishing your immune system, increasing the risk of coronary heart disease, and (for elderly caregivers) even increasing the risk of mortality.

The Good News

The good news is that caregivers can decrease their stress, increase their effectiveness, and reap more rewards if they educate themselves about coping, utilize their support system, and access community and health-care resources.  Positive ways of coping and helpful ideas include:

  • Active Coping and Problem Solving: learning logistical skills
  • Positive Re-Focusing: focusing on meaningfulness or positive aspects of caregiving
  • Communication: clear and open communication with care recipient and other caregivers
  • Self-Care: taking breaks, delegating, attending to own nutrition, exercise, and sleep
  • Informing Yourself: about services, the illness, coping, legal issues
  • Spiritual Community:  emotional support, volunteers, guidance, spiritual perspectives
  • Counseling/Support: individual or family counseling, support groups, classes, community
  • Geriatric Case Management: professionals who help you with logistics and resources
  • Respite: finding ways to take breaks from caregiving and to relax or enjoy yourself
  • Supplementary Services: home alterations, home delivered meals, volunteers, etc.

Want To Learn More?

Here are some links to additional resources about caregiving:

Community Resources for Older Adults

More Resources for Older Adults and Their Caregivers

Family Caregiver Alliance

National Family Caregiver Association

National Association of Geriatric Care Managers

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Suicide Prevention Walk in Chicago this Weekend

This weekend, the city of Chicago will host an 18-mile walk, from sunset to sunrise, to raise awareness and funds for suicide prevention, education, research programs, and to support those whose lives have been impacted by suicide loss.

The Plan

Out of the Darkness Overnight,” organized by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, will start with an opening ceremony on Saturday, June 27th at 7pm, at Soldier Field.  Walkers will be cheered on by crew and spectators along their route, and the walk will end with the sunrise, back at Soldier Field with a closing ceremony at about 5am.

How You Can Participate

Many walkers, crew members and volunteers have devoted long hours to this important event, but others can also participate meaningfully by attending the opening ceremony (which is free of charge and open to the public), by cheering walkers on along their route, or by attending the sunrise closing ceremony (again free of charge and open to the public).

How I plan to Participate

I just found out about this event today, and seeing that they needed volunteers for Monday after the event, I’ve decided to go ahead an volunteer.  I also plan on being a spectator on Saturday night.  I look forward to a moving opening ceremony and to cheering the walkers on.  I would encourage anyone reading this to also attend, and to consider volunteering.

About the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and About Suicide

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is the leading national non-profit organization exclusively dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide through research and education, and to reaching out to people with mood disorders and those affected by suicide.  The AFSP writes:

Close to one million people make a suicide attempt each year, and every 16 minutes someone dies by suicide int he US.  More than 90 percent of people who die by suicide have an underlying mental illness, most often depression.  More than 24 million people suffer from depression or another mood disorder each year.  Suicide affects people of all age groups and socio-economic backgrounds.  It is the fourth leading cause of death among adults 18-65, the third leading cause of death among teens and young adults, and individuals ages 65 and older account for 16 percent of all suicide deaths.

Local Newspaper Story

Here is a link to our local newspaper (the Southtown Star) story about this event.

Anda Jines MS LCPC offers mental health counseling services in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, in Tinley Park (60477); near Oak Forest, Orland Park, Mokena, and Frankfort.

Categories : Depression
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Jun
18

Lack of Specialists in Geropsychology

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Workshop on Helping Older Adults

Anda Jines MS LCPC and Lynda Behrendt PsyD, IPA Director of Professional Affairs and coordinator of the recent series of workshops on geropsychology

Anda Jines MS LCPC and Lynda Behrendt PsyD, IPA Director of Professional Affairs and coordinator of the recent series of workshops on geropsychology

I once more had the pleasure of attending a workshop on geropsychology (psychology of aging) in downtown Chicago.  This was the last of six workshops aimed at training psychologists and counselors like me to effectively help older adults.

Mental Health Medications for Seniors

This time we focused on the very important issue of psychopharmacology with the older adult population.  In other words, we got information about the use of mental health medications for seniors.  As complicated as medication issues can be for the general population; drug interactions, changing metabolism, memory problems, sleep problems, pain, and age related illnesses can make it even more complicated for older adults.

We also discussed delirium, dementia, and psychological (rather than medication) approaches to helping individuals who face these issues;  We discussed Medicare rules, as well as stereotyping of older adults.

Lack of Specialists in Geropsychology

Through the course of these six workshops, one point was made over and over again.  There is a lack of specialists in geropsychology!  Most young psychologists and counselors entering the field are simply not interested in it.  Therefore there are few graduate programs which offer it as a specialty.  Those of us who are interested in helping older adults therefore need to seek out training opportunities like this series of workshops, or seek out the few post graduate training programs available.

This has become a great concern, especially because the baby boomers, who make up about a third of our population, are entering their senior years.  Not only that, but people are living longer than ever before.  For example, the average life expectancy in 1900 was 47 years.  Today it is approximately 77 years in the US.  Big difference! Additionally, today’s young seniors are much more familiar with and receptive to psychological services.

Currently there are various efforts in the psychological community, to prepare us for the increased demand for older adult services.  That is why this workshop series was organized.

The Basics of Geropsychology

Counselors can be effective with most older adults even without specialized training.  But to ensure quality care, it is important for therapists to be familiar with the following areas of information:

  • Adult Development and the Aging Process
  • Neuropsychological Considerations in Geriatric Mental Health
  • The Aging Body
  • Assessment of Older Adults
  • Promoting Self Care Behavior in Older Adults
  • Community Resources for Older Adults
  • Home, Residential and Office Based Practice Models for Working with Older Adults
  • Ethical and Legal Issues Related to Providing Services to Older Adults (e.g.:  health care agents, powers of attorney, guardianship, incapacity)
  • Dementia and Delirium
  • Substance Abuse and Dependence in Later Life
  • Mental Disorders in Later Life
  • Psychotherapy Issues and Interventions with Older Adults
  • Billing and Medicare
  • Loss and Grief
  • Caregiving
  • Psychopharmacology for Older Adults
  • Stereotyping and Cultural Issues

These are the areas that we covered in this six workshop series.  Clearly this is a lot of information, much of which overlaps with previous training that I have had.  Admittedly, there are some areas (of those listed above) that I do not consider myself an expert in.  However, I am now more aware of many factors related to counseling older adults.  And I know when to screen specific problems, and when to refer out for specific testing or treatment.

If you are an older adult, are concerned about an older adult, or if you are a caregiver; and you are in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, feel free to give me a call to set up an appointment or ask about services.  If I cannot help you personnaly, I will help you find someone who can.

Anda Jines MS LCPC offers mental health counseling services in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, in Tinley Park (60477); near Oak Forest, Orland Park, Mokena, and Frankfort.

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May
14

How to Avoid Doubling Your Dementia Risk

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Real Age is an interesting website that can assess your real age, as opposed to your chronological age.  I encourage everyone to take their real age test, not only out of curiosity, but also because it will then identify specific things you can do to slow your aging process.  They also have many great tips, like in this article on the connection between blood sugar and dementia:

If you’re hoping to dodge age-related dementia down the road, best get a handle on your blood sugar now.

Both chronically high blood sugar (prediabetes) and diabetes increase the risk for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. And that risk more than doubles if diabetes strikes in middle age rather than later in life.

Timing Matters
How does diabetes hurt cognition?…  (click here to read entire article about dementia)

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I recently got this e-mail, with a very useful link at the bottom.  I decided to post it here as a follow up to my previous post on Resources for Older Adults, as it is even more exhaustive than my list was.

Many of you have clients, friends, or family members who will need additional services to continue living at home, will need to move into a nursing home or hospice, or will face other end-of-life challenges.It can be hard to find appropriate resources quickly, especially when there is a crisis.

Ken Pope has just updated and expanded a web page of resources that includes searchable online directories of facilities & services, 24-hour helplines, guides, books, articles, and sources of support.

These resources are meant to be of help to those who face end-of-life issues and/or may need nursing homes, home health care, palliative care, hospices, assisted living, continuing care, geriatric care managers, living wills, special programs for veterans, advanced directives, hospital visitation authorization for unmarried partners, web connections with other family caregivers, and so on.

The expanded web page now identifies helpful resources in the following sections:

1) Descriptions of and links to 34 online resources (e.g., Nursing Home Directory; National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization: Find a Provider; Children’s Hospice International: Directory; Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association; Mayo Clinic: Anticipating end-of-life needs
of people with Alzheimer’s disease; National Cancer Institute: End-of-Life Care; Veterans Coalition Senior Veterans Initiative; Consumer Reports: “Form 2567: How to read this very important document”; Nursing Home INFO)

2) 48 books (e.g., *End-of-Life Advisor: Personal, Legal, and Medical Considerations for a Peaceful, Dignified Death*; *When Someone You Love Needs Nursing Home Care: The Complete Guide, 2nd Edition*; *Hospice Care at Home: A Guide to Caring for Your Dying Loved One at Home*; *Living Well in a Nursing Home: Everything You & Your Folks Need to Know*; *Eldercare 911: The Caregiver’s Complete Handbook for Making Decisions*; *Dying at home: a family guide for caregiving*; *Being With Dying: Cultivating Compassion And Fearlessness In The Presence Of Death*)

3) 95 articles & chapters on hospices

4) 105 articles & chapters on nursing homes

5) 100 articles & chapters on facing end-of-life challenges

This expanded web page is at:
http://kspope.com/hospices/index.php

Please forward this announcement to any lists or individuals who might find this resource helpful.

If you’re looking for counseling and mental health services in Tinley Park, Oak Forest, Orland Park, and the surrounding area, please call 708-429-6999 to set up an appointment or to ask questions. Tinley Park counseling service, Oak Forest counseling service, Orland Park counseling service. Call today.
Anda Jines MS, LCPC, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor
Offering counseling services in the southwest suburbs of Chicago

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Feb
24

Counselors Empowering Caregivers of Older Adults

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I went to a great workshop in Lisle, IL last weekend, all about how to help caregivers of older adults.  Caregiving is becoming more and more common as babyboomers age, and I have had many clients who find themselves in caregiving roles, although it is not always their main issue.

It was an all day workshop, and we covered information about

  • statistics and demographics of who caregivers tend to be
  • how they contribute to their care recipients
  • positive aspects of caregiving
  • the financial, physical, emotional, social, and developmental impacts of caregiving
  • assessing the extent of these impacts
  • the stages of caregiving
  • five broad approaches to helping caregivers
  • and cultural perspectives on caregiving

The presenters were excellent, and there was so much useful information, I couldn’t do it justice in this short article.  Let me just mention two areas stood out to me the most.

Caregiving is not all negative

First, it struck me just how meaningful caregiving can be, especially if the caregiver is doing it out of a sense of genuine caring rather than obligation, if they have social support, and if they focus on being practical in their approach to the difficulties associated with being a caregiver.  Indeed, research has found that far more caregivers report feeling loved and appreciated (over 90%) than report feeling depressed or overwhelmed (less than 30%).

A counselor can help in many ways

Second, it is clear that the demands of caregiving can overtax a caregiver’s coping abilities.  When this is the case, counseling can help a caregiver in a number of ways.

Counseling can help caregivers overcome their barriers to adapting to the situation.  It can help them understand the importance of maintain their “identity” by continuing to work as long as possible, and by maintaining their interests and hobbies.  Counseling can help clients explore the spiritual aspects of caregiving, and to deal with a spiritual or existential crisis if one exists.  Clients can get relief from depression through cognitive behavioral therapy and other common treatments.  The counselor can facilitate family meetings, process “ambiguous loss,” and explore long standing issues that may be influencing the caregiving.  Lastly, a counselor can help you access information about caregiving, about the care-recipient’s illness, about local resources (like support groups, respite or a geriatric case manager), and about legal or financial information.

This workshop gave me a lot to think about and information about several books that I’d like to read.  I’m excited about now getting to apply what I’ve learned.

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