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Posts Tagged ‘depression’

If your’e happy and you know it clap your hands…goes the children’s song. Now there’s a new twist: If you’re happy and you know it you just might live longer, suggests a new study just out by the University College of London.

In fact, if you are in your golden years and you keep up that positive outlook you’re 35% less likely to die than Mr. Scrooge and all those grumps who think that it’s just too much darn work to smile–or be nice to people.

This wasn’t just based on a “Are you happy” questionnaire. People tend to tell you what they want you to hear, or what they need to believe for themselves.

English Longitudinal Study of Aging followed more than 11,000 people age 50 and older since 2002 and in 2004 they collected saliva samples  on about 4700 participants. These samples were collected four times in one day and their moods were noted: happy, excited, content, worried, anxious, or fearful they felt at the time. Steptoe and his UCL colleague Jane Wardle have now published their findings on the links between mood and mortality in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences .

Here’s their analysis:

Of the 924 people who reported the least positive feelings, 7.3%, or 67, died within 5 years. For people with the most positive feelings, the rate fell in half, to 3.6%, or 50 of 1399 people (The researchers adjusted for age, sex, demographic factors such as wealth and education, signs of depression, health, including whether they’d been diagnosed with major diseases), and health behaviors such as smoking and physical activity).

Even with those variables, the risk of dying in the next 5 years was still 35% lower for the happiest people.

But what if you’re not just one of those giddy, always up-beat types?

This is just my take, but there are many ways to be happy. People with dry wit, cynical types who see the world in a slant, and folks who aren’t the silly types, but who find a way to make things easy–these are all types of happiness.

I think we can carve our own happiness, and it may not look like someone else’s happiness.

Start a list:

  • What comforts or soothes you?
  • Add your favorite foods
  • Make a list of music you enjoy
  • Think about people you hang out with who just make you feel good
  • What every day activities do you find pleasing? Do you like to fold clothes or wash dishes by hand?
  • Have you watched one of your oldie but goodie movies you like lately?
  • Memorize three funny jokes–and share them!

This is the beginning of your happiness list.

Happiness isn’t out there–for others–it starts with the simple things.

~Carol O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother

available in hardback and on Kindle 

Source:

http://www.cnn.com/2011/10/31/health/happiness-linked-longer-life/index.html

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There may be 50 million caregivers in the United States, but you feel all alone. You’re stuck at home, going to and from a nursing home or care facility, you’re curled up on that oh so not-comfy orange final chair next to your loved one in a hospital for weeks–isolated, scared, cut off from the life you once lived–and you wonder how long you can keep doing it.

The loneliness and isoluation that comes with caregiving can feel like the last crippling blow. Caregiving takes otherwise outgoing, fun, professional, engaged people and can make you feel like you’ve been put in the proverbial time-out chair with your nose to the corner of life.

Even if you could get out–where would you go? You can forget how to have fun, how to interact with “normal” people, too exhausted to get dressed and meet a friend for lunch, or too concerned to make your own medical appointments–what would you do if they actually found something?

Believe it or not, there’s more caregiving support out there than you probably realize–in your own community, and online.

Where can you go to find caregiving support?

  •  Online caregiving sites, blogs and forums.
  • Check out Caring.com’s new program for those with loved one’s struggling Alzheimer’s.  “Steps and Stages.” is s a great way to plan for your loved one’s care, know what’s coming head, and tap into local community support.
  • Join a forum focused on caregiving needs. You’ll find new friends who are going through just what you are going through–you can vent, get ideas, brainstorm–and just hang out. Some great online caregiving forums can be found at the Alzheimer’s Association site. Also check out Davita, iVillage, Elder-care, and Well-Spouse–each offering

Check out your own community caregiving support.

Go online or make a few calls to the Council on Aging, your senior community center, check with your loved one’s doctor, adult day cares, local care facilities have a list, elder affairs.org and make disease-specific organizations offer local caregiving support groups and activities. Start asking, taking notes, and finding what works for you.

Create Your Own Caregiving Tribe Support

Friends, neighbors, your clergy, your hair dresser, your cousin…a complete stranger you meet on a walk. Share your story. Share where you are. Don’t try to sugar-coat it. Don’t isolate yourself by your own doing–because you feel out of step with the rest of the world. Force yourself to get out, to talk, to share, and to listen.

Keep knocking until someone answers.

~Carol D. O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother, available on Kindle

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“I quit!” That’s what you’d like to say some caregiving days.

You feel like crap. You’ve gained a ton of weight. Your life consists of round the clock care–oftentimes for someone who doesn’t seem to appreciate it, and the only way out of this is…death. Yours or your loved ones–not great choices. You don’t know whether you feel like screaming or crying, but running away is definitely topping the list.

You’ve checked into other forms of caregiving–hiring more home health care, nursing home care–both expensive options.  The economy isn’t exactly helping these days.

It’s not as if you can just stand up and say, “I don’t want to do this anymore.”

Or can you?

Isn’t everything in you is screaming that very sentiment?

Not that you don’t love them. Not that you don’t want them to be treated with the utmost care and dignity, it’ just that it’s never ending. There’s never enough of you.

How to Caregive When You Want to Give Up:

  • Embrace your inner Eyore. Sometimes it helps to be grumpy–to get it out of your system. To just let all that negativity out–give yourself permisssion to be a real curmudgeon–especially if you’re always  the “nice,” the “up” one. Sometimes we make caregiving look too easy. It’s time to tell it like it is!
  • Change one thing. Most caregivers do more than they need to. They don’t say no, not even to the trivial things. It’s time to change that. What’s one thing that drives you nuts? Stop doing it. I got so tired of rechecks. Every doctor wanted to see mother–who had Parkinson’s and could barely walk–and Alzheimer’s back in six weeks. Forget it. I stopped the rechecks. We went only when she needed new medication or had a new problem. Having power in this one area felt so good!
  • So quit–for five minutes, or five hours. If you’re being treated ugly or you’ve just had it, say it“I QUIT!” Then walk out of the room. Walk out the front door. Get your keys and purse and sit in your car. You may not have to or need to go any further than that but I guarantee you, you’ll feel amazing!
  • Pretend you’re free. Take it one step further, what would you do if you weren’t caregiving today? Go to the zoo? Zip over to get your hair done? Take a nap? Can you imagine–down to the smell of ammonia and nail polish? Stay in that zone–where you truly believe you’re free–for the next five minutes or five hours–or whatever time you can afford yourself. You quit, remember? So act like it. Give your brain cells a rest.

Why go to all this trouble of pretending? Isn’t that for kids?

Neurologists are finding that we can trick our bodies–by visualization–and if you’re a great little actor/actress your body actually thinks you did that amazing thing–skiied, won an Emmy, or…quit~! It gives your muscles and your mind the break it’s longong for. Don’t be surprised if you kind of miss caregiving–it’s addictive. But you may feel this huge sense of relief, even if it’s only temporary.

Why be so bold? Because you should be caregiving because you want to. Yes, because you’re needed, but also because you love someone and you genuinely want to make their life better.

When you quit it’s like recalibrating something inside you.

When you walk back through that door–do it as a choice–with your heart leading the way.

This won’t solve all your issues. It won’t miraculously give you 20 hours sleep or magically make Alzheimer’s disappear, but it will relieve a little bit of angst.

It  will remind you that each day you must choose to love, to give, to be there for yourself and those you love.

When we feel stuck we fall into resentment –or worse, apathy.

So when you need to, quit, give up, and start anew.

~Carol D. O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother, available on Kindle

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I heard it on the news just this morning–another murder-suicide of an elderly couple. This same awful news happens in every community. Most of us assume that suicide and murder are “young people” crimes–that it’s our youth to blame. The truth is that the highest suicide rate in our country is for males over the age of 65,+ white males and the murder-suicide rates for elders are alarmingly high–and many of these deaths are due to the strains and stress of caregiving, depression, alcohol abuse, and isolation.

What are the signs of suicide?

  • Appearing depressed or sad most of the time.
    (Untreated depression is the number one cause for suicide.)  Talking or writing about death or suicide
  •  Withdrawing from family and friends
  •  Feeling hopeless
  • Feeling helpless
  •  Feeling strong anger or rage
  • Feeling trapped — like there is no way out of a situation
  • Experiencing dramatic mood changes
  •  Abusing drugs or alcohol
  •  Exhibiting a change in personality

What are the symptoms of murder-suicide among the elderly?

  • Prolonged illness which may also include pain
  • Medical financial issues
  • Being told you don’t have long to live
  • Depression
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Previous suicide attempts
  • wrapping up details/talking about dying
  • Prolonged hospital stays and unresolved caregiving issues
  • A history of violence, jealousy, or clinical depression
  • A recent purchase of or interest in a handgun or hoarding of pills
  • Isolation

What can you do if you suspect the possibility of a murder-suicide?

  • Get the guns out of the house–every major study on violence has shown that guns make it too easy to take a life–a recent study showed that 34 out of 39 murder-suicides involved a gun.
  • Get the “victim” out of the house. If an attempt has been made, or you strongly suspect it might, don’t take a chance.
  • Take a hard look at your dad/the male. Elder suicides are almost always perpetrated by the male and they often struggle with severe depression and find that caring for their sick wife or being sick themselves makes life unbearable. Get them help–after you get the female/your mom/loved one out of the house.
  • Get them help–quick. Suicide is the culmination of feeling completely helpless, hopeless and alone. You’ve got to ease their burden–get them assistance–and most likely get them out of the house. The isolation and despair are just too much or a pull. They need to be with others, need outside assistance, and need to not be able to hide the depression and/or violence that are the hallmarks of murder-suicide.

If you suspect there’s a problem, there probably is. Listen to your gut. Do something fast.

Here are a few organizations who can help.

Suicide hotline: 1-800-suicide

Alcohol and Drug Abuse Helpline and Treatment:  800-234-0420  800-234-0420

Elder Abuse Hotline:  800-252-8966  800-252-8966

Alzheimer’s Association Hotline: 800-621-0379

~Carol D. O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother, available on Kindle

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After a decade of caring for my mother who had Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and heart disease, then brought her into our home the last 2+ years of her life, this is the distilled version of what caregiving taught me. I am profoundly grateful for these lessons.

  1. To stand up for myself, and caregiving will give me plenty of opportunities to do so.
  2. There is a time in life in which you sacrifice for someone you love–and a time to stop sacrificing.  
  3. It takes humor to tackle the big scary things in life, like caregiving, disease, and death.
  4. Caregiving will inevitably bring out the worst–and the best in me.
  5. Caregiving will change me, but it’s up to me to determine how.
  6. I can’t stop death.
  7. I can decide how I will live the next moment of my life. One moment at a time.
  8. My emotions are my body’s barometers. I need to listen to these cues, feel them, use them as a catalyst, but know that no one emotion will last forever.
  9. To pace myself. Burnout is very real and very dangerous.
  10. I can’t meet all the needs of another human being. I can’t take the place of my care partner’s spouse, career, friends, or health.
  11. Caregiving is about integrity. I have to choose what is right–for me–and for all the others in my life. No one person gets to be the “only one ” 
  12. When I start to give too much to caregiving, it means I’m avoiding some aspect of my own life’s journey.
  13. Caregiving  isn’t just about caregiving. It unearths every emotional weak spot I have–not to destroy me–but to give me a chance to look at, and even heal that area.
  14. I have to stop being nice and pleasing people. “They” will never be satisfied or think it’s enough. What’s best for me–truly, deeply best–is best for those around me.
  15. Learning to stand up to relatives, authority figures, to my parent or spouse, and even a disease teaches me to be brave, a quality we need.
  16. Give up perfect. Go for decent. Do more of what I’m good at–and ask for help on the rest.
  17. Don’t isolate myself. Being alone, depressed, and negative is easy. Fighting to stay in the game of life–that’s tough, but worth it.
  18. If or when my care partner needs more care than I can provide, or even dies, that doesn’t mean I’ve failed. It means I’ve done all I could and it’s time for change.
  19. You will go the distance. You will live at hospitals, stay up night after night, weep in the deepest part of your soul, question everything you’re doing…and barely come out alive. Caregiving asks, takes this from you. Through this process, you will transform. You will see who you are–the whole of you. You will survive.
  20. Choose to care-give–then do with heart and guts.

To love makes us brave. To be loved gives us courage.

                                                                                                                                       –Lao Tzo, Chinese Philosopher

Carol O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother

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Caregivers are often told to take care of themselves, and sometimes this advice is a little annoying.

Exactly how am I supposed to take care of me? Not give my mom her pills in the morning? Go to the gym instead?  Not take her to physical therapy? Not help my kids with their homework or fix dinner? Just soak in the bathtub all day? Right…

Yes, the stress builds and you can’t sleep, you’ve gained 40 pounds and you’re pretty sure you’re depressed but you don’t care to go to the trouble it would take to find out. Self care sounds like a fairy tale most days, but don’t think that the self-help movement is some new-age 70s feel good way of thinking. It’s not. In fact, it’s as old as Socrates…

One of my favorite books is Eye Witness to History, edited by John Carey. It’s first hand accounts recorded throughout history, and as a memoirist and writer, I love having a front row seat to the most stunning and scary historical moments man has ever witnessed.

The first account is written by Plato and recounts the death of Socrates. The year was 399 B.C., and for those of you (us) who might be a bit fuzzy about Greek history, Socrates was a philosopher and teacher, (and he’s still widely debated today–both as an individual and for his teachings). He got in a bit of trouble with the Atenian government and was considered a “gadfly”  (a fly who stings the horse into action). He wound up in prison and was proved guilty of corrupting the minds of the youth of Athens (political minds, that is) and was  ordered to drink a deadly mix of hemlock poison, which killed him.

On the last day of Socrates life, his friends, including Plato came to visit him and asked,  “Do you wish to leave any directions with us about your children, or anything else. What can we do to serve you?” 

Socrates replied: “Nothing new. If you take care of yourselves , you will serve me and mine and yourselves.” 

So this idea of caring for yourself first is the best way to care for another isn’t new. It just makes sense and that’s why it’s been around for so long. When we “sacrifice” ourselves for too long, we lose ourselves, we deplete who we are. Sometimes it’s needed–giving all you have–but it isn’t a sustainable long-term model.

During the last couple of years of my mom’s life (she had Parkinson’s, heart disease and Alzheimer’s), I can tell you, there wasn’t a whole lot of self-care going on. I had to pull it out–long hours, lifting my mom, hospital stay after hospital stay. I rested when I could–napped in the middle of the day–or any other time for that matter, took long showers. when my family members could take over “mom duty.”

I simplified my life–letting go of work, friends, saying goodbye to many activities–but I held onto a few lifelines. I journaled every day. Not a lot, but when the tears or screams built inside, I’d anchor them onto a page. I slipped  outside to pray and think, allowing nature to nurture me. I returned to take a college class one night a week–up until the last six months of my mom’s life. I got a new puppy to bring us all joy and laughter and remind us that life does indeed go on. Other aspects of my life were put on hold. That’s just part of it–for a season.

Self-care isn’t always a bubble bath and candles. It isn’t impractical nor is it selfish. The only way for a caregiver to do it is to incorporate small amounts of self-care throughout the day. Read a line or two of a poem. Buy your favorite coffee and refuse to get up off that couch and take care of anyone until you drink that first cup. Put a lock on your bedroom door and use it. Take short five-minute walks in your yard. That may be all the self-care you get to, but those few snatched moments here and there add up.  You’ll find a sense of calm comes over you when you’ve honored your own soul.

Take care of you and yours and you will serve me well. Good advice. No wonder Socrates is still remembered today.

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“You’re in a bad mood.” I could see it on my mother’s face the moment she woke up.

As a caregiver, my mother and I took turns being in a bad mood. It’s a miserable existence when two people play off each other’s negativity. My mother had Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and some days, it was just too much for her to work at being happy. Is it work? Is happy all it’s cracked up to be? It’s not about being happy or giddy, it’s more about being okay with where you life is–acceptance–and then being on the look-out for the good that comes with your situation.

My mom wasn’t the only one that could turn into a Gloomy Gus. I had my own issues to contend with–raising three teenage daughters isn’t the world’s easiest job, and it’s easy to let depression seep in the cracks of your life when you’re caregiving and dealing with end-of-life concerns.

It’s usually the head and heart stuff that turns your insides into knots. I’d mull over a past hurt (my mother should have been archeologist, the way she could dig up the past!) or I’d project into the future and create disastrous scenarios. Ridiculous, I know, but our minds are like a team of horses, if you don’t reign it in, it goes anywhere it wants to, which is usually a bad-thought neighborhood.

In time, I learned that if my mom and I were going to live together again, and if she was going to have to do the tango with two formidable diseases, then we had better get our act together.

Here are a few tips I learned to coax either of us out of a bad mood:

  • Lovingly disengage. Just because my mom wanted to declare it the end-of-the world-all-is-lost-day, I didn’t have to raise the flag. I could take one step back and acknowledge that yes, today was a challenging day for her, but the best thing I could do for both of us was to stay on a steady course.
  • Ignore the whining and grumpiness. I’ve learned something about emotions by observing my long and illustrious marriage–sometimes we push someone else’s buttons so they will either get mad, yell or cry–and then we feed off the release of their emotions. I’m not kidding! Anyone who’s been in a long-term relationship will attest to this phenomena. So the best thing to do is to click into high gear and simply not go there. After a time of it not working, the emotional fire won’t have any oxygen to keep going.
  • Conversely, if you haven’t had a heart to heart talk lately, then it may be time. But cut to the chase. Ask if they’re scared. Ask if they’re lonely. Tell them you are. At first, they’ll most likely scramble. We’d rather pick at each other than look at the truth, but by you admitting your emotions, they’ll gain permission to consider their own.
  • Put on some music or a funny video! Music is simply amazing when it comes to altering our moods. Within minutes, we breathe differently, our heart rate alters, and we start having different thoughts. Turn on some Bach or Count Basie to drown out a fussy moment. Even if they complain and say turn it down, don’t turn it off.
  • Coax, flirt, play, tease your way out a challenging moment. Remember how to cheer up a toddler? Get their favorite stuffed toy, a cookie and a snuggly blanket? Do you think we ever grow up from needing a few creature comforts? We don’t. With a bit of gentle play, a time of wooing, an offer of a gift, we can cause a shift in someone’s day. Come on girls, you know what I mean here–we’ve been cheering up our guys for years. Guys, there is nothing in the world like flowers and chocolate. It works–for moms and girlfriends. Even for dads. Remember what they like. There’s nothing as wonderful as someone who knows you.

When all else fails, choose to be grateful for even days like this. Gratitude can be broken down into bite-size pieces. Today, a flock a sea birds took off over my house. It sounded like angel’s wings–and took my breath to see such magnificence. they just kept coming, bird after bird, their long necks (egrets and spoonbills) stretched against a blue sky. Whatever happens today, I have my birds to remember.

Not all of your day may go so great, but be on the look out for your birds–for something that startles you and takes your breath.

Helping someone get out of bad mood is an art, part play, and part having a plan. The up-side is that you can’t help lift someone else out of the doldrums without giving yourself a boost at the same time.

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