June 18, 2018

Taking Care of the Caregiver: This is Vital

courtesy: pixabay.com

The Importance of Taking Care of Yourself

First, let’s dispel the myth that taking the time to take care of yourself is selfish. Self-care is always important, but never more critical than when you’re also caring for someone else. While you may feel that you must put someone else’s needs ahead of your own, neglecting what your body, spirit, and mind need is detrimental to your long-term health and well-being.

Signs of burnout include irritability, moodiness, depression, anxiety, frustration, and anger. If your energy levels dip, you’ve lost interest in hobbies, or find yourself resenting the person for whom you care, step back. Each of these symptoms is your body’s reaction to stress.

Self-care: not a reward, but part of the process

Besides preventing burnout, self-care reduces the effects of stress, and enables you to refocus. 

Increase your awareness of your daily stressors. Identify what causes you stress each day, and your physical and emotional reactions to it. Chart your symptoms for a week. Use that data to create a plan to manage your stress.

Listen to your body. When you’re tired, take a break. Cultivate a support system of family members, church and other community members, and visiting nurses to give you a break and/or provide regular respite care. 

Evaluate your caregiving work. Are there certain tasks that you find more challenging than others? Ask for help, and don’t turn it away when it’s offered. Be specific about what you need. 

De-stress healthfully
Avoid self-medicating with addictive substances, because doing so can put you at risk for serious issues like alcoholism. Stress makes it easy to drink another beer, have more wine after dinner, or reach for a cigarette or something else addictive. Instead, when you’re feeling the stress and know that it’s time to step away for a break, try these suggestions:

Schedule exercise. That’s right—add it to your calendar just like you do doctor’s appointments and other engagements. You don’t have to block out an hour every day if it’s not feasible, but aim for 20 to 30 minutes at least three times a week. Whether it’s a walk or jog around the neighborhood with a friend or partner, a solo bike ride, or a Spin class at the gym, commit to doing this for yourself.

Eat well. It’s easy to grab fast food through the drive-through, drink a mug of coffee and call it breakfast, and guzzle a diet soda for lunch. Whenever possible, though, you should reach for nutritious food that’s high in lean proteins, fiber, and vitamins and low in refined sugars, starches, and carbs. Don’t have a lot of time to cook? Prepare extra food and freeze leftovers for easy, quick future meals. Cultivate a positive relationship with a Crock-Pot or Instant Pot. A balanced diet will maintain your health and energy, and bolster your immune system.

Don’t sacrifice sleep. It’s tempting to come home and jump into the chores you’ve not had time to complete when you’re caring for someone else. But not allowing yourself time to relax makes it more difficult to get a good night’s sleep. End each day with a pre-bed routine, whether it’s reading a good book, soaking in a warm bath, or meditating. Try to unplug at least an hour before bedtime so that your brain has time to unwind, too.

Grow your tribe. Don’t discount the importance of friends. A solid support system is scientifically proven to improve your outlook. Plus, connecting with friends boosts oxytocin, which controls stress hormones and reduces anxiety.

A quick list of more self-care activities

Can’t spare more than a few minutes each day for yourself? You can still make it happen.

● Take a 10-minute walk and let the fresh air rejuvenate you.

● Set the timer for 15 minutes, pop on a favorite show, and put your feet up.

● Treat yourself. Schedule a bi-weekly massage, manicure, or whatever you enjoy that makes you feel good.

● Spend time snuggling with your pets.

● Meditate for a few minutes each day, or do yoga.

● Make time for your hobbies—whether it’s crafting, cooking, or diving into a good book.

Here are more self-care ideas you can adapt and incorporate into your life. 

This is a guest post from Harry Cline, someone with extensive experience in the field of caregiving. He is building what looks like an excellent resource at his web site: NewCareGiver.org. This post is filled with links for more information if you are interested.

Later this summer, he will be publishing a book that should be worth your time: The A-Z Home Care Handbook: Health Management How-Tos for Senior Caregivers.

Harry Cline is creator of NewCaregiver.org and author of the upcoming book, The A-Z Home Care Handbook: Health Management How-Tos for Senior Caregivers. As a retired nursing home administrator, father of three, and caregiver to his ninety-year-old uncle, Harry knows how challenging and rewarding caregiving can be. He also understands that caregiving is often overwhelming for those just starting out. He created his website and is writing his new book to offer new caregivers everywhere help and support.

Satisfying Retirement received no compensation for this post and is not necessarily endorsing any of the sites accessed by links provided by the other.

June 15, 2018

Shocking Retirement Medical Expenses: How Do You Cope?

A couple over 65 will spend at least $260,000 on medical care during the rest of their life. Even with Medicare and Medigap coverage that mountain of money is always on our mind. How is that for a figure guaranteed to disrupt your thoughts of a satisfying retirement?

My wife and I have been relatively lucky. While the American health care system is an absolute mess and not likely to get better in the near term, we have avoided big bills and debilitating problems. Betty has a series of medical issues she deals with by pushing through them, adjusting parts of her life to accommodate them, and waiting for Medicare coverage next year to proceed with some likely surgery.

I had a minor heart issue while on vacation three years ago, the normal number of colonoscopies for someone my age, an occasional bout of acid reflux which seems to be stress-related, and stiff knees and fingers. All in all, for a couple in their late to mid 60's, we have not been faced with medical issue or expense that we couldn't handle. 

What I am interested are your experiences. I have friends who are facing much more serious problems and more uncertain futures than we are. I know several of the blog readers have lived through some major medical issues that  caused real problems. My youngest brother had to go through a serious bout of colon cancer a few years ago. He is now 3 years cancer-free but that was a scary and uncomfortable time for him and his family.

What have you had to face? How did it affect your life? What adjustments have you made to your retirement? Have costs of medications or procedures forced you to ration care?

How is your attitude? What helped you get through the trials of whatever you faced? How has any of this affected your family?

What can you share to help the rest of us if we are faced with a serious, potentially life-threatening issue? 

June 13, 2018

Feeding Your Hidden Creativity [We all have it]

When I asked for new topics for this blog in the post, Where Does This Retirement Blog Go From Here?, a few suggested more about creativity. I'd venture to guess that few concepts are as misunderstood as creativity. So, let's see if I can clear up some misconceptions as well as provide a way to satisfy your desire to be more creative.

Wikipedia defines creativity as the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work. To most of us that means the ability to paint or sculpt, play or compose music, sew unique clothing, build a beautiful wooden bookcase, write a novel or a book of poetry. The key part of the definition we latch onto is the phrase, "especially in the production of an artistic work." 

Certainly, the examples listed above are creative. Each involves a specific talent, either one we are born with, or one we study and perfect. Most of us think of being creative as a full time pursuit. A good musician, writer, painter, or chef doesn't spend 30 minutes a few times a week to at their skill. Rather, maybe a few hours a day are required. 

That's great for those of us driven to carry a certain type of creativity to its full potential. But, what about the rest of us? We don't have those skills or abilities. So creativity isn't for us, right?

Not so fast. 

Read this explanation of creativity from the web site, Creative Something, written several years ago by Tanner Christensen:

"Being creative means solving a problem in a new way. It means changing your perspective. Being creative means taking risks and ignoring doubt and facing fears. It means breaking with routine and doing something different for the sake of doing something different. It means mapping out a thousand different routes to reach one destination. It means challenging yourself every day. Being creative means searching for inspiration in even the most mundane places."

The author of this inspiring piece argues that creativity is not restricted to certain activities or certain skill sets. If I am reading his thoughts correctly, creativity can involve virtually any part of anyone's life.

You substitute or add an ingredient to a favorite recipe just to see what will happen. You find a new place to leave your car keys so you are less likely to forget them. You re-purpose an old bookcase into an entryway display case  with a mirror. You find a quicker way to a favorite bookstore. You fix a broken lampshade with clear tape and a few decals to cover the split.

Each of those examples, and thousands more we could think of show a type of thinking that certainly qualifies as creative. They describe someone solving a problem in a new way, or breaking with routine. No Frank Lloyd Wright,  Georgia O'Keeffe, Jackson Pollack, Picasso, or Ella Fitzgerald talent required.

Rather, the ability to solve a problem comes from allowing your mind to try a different path. It isn't necessarily coming up with something brand new. Rather, creativity is often just combining experience and what is known to trigger a new way to solve a problem or generate a fresh approach to something.

Huffpost had a fascinating article, Ways To Be More Creative, that should give you plenty of ideas to try. Among some of the suggestions: generate ideas based on everyday tasks, think of unusual uses for everyday items, engage with people who are different from you, become a beginner at something.

I found Creative Something to be a tremendous resource for all sort of ideas and motivation on the subject of creativity. There are hundreds of blog posts on all aspects of creativity that should inspire you to look for a new way of doing something, a new way of satisfying yourself.

I will leave you with one thought: every single one of us is creative, in hundreds of different ways. Even if you don't think of yourself this way, if you have ever figured out how to get a broken light bulb out of a lamp, found a substitute for Cumin in a recipe, used a staple remover to add something to a key ring, a bread clip to identify various cables to your audio or TV setup, put together a costume for your grandkid's school play, or figured out how to poach an egg without overcooking it, you are creative.

The engine of creativity is always working in your life. All you must do is allow it to push you to look for a new solution to an old problem, decide to perform a routine task differently, and not be afraid to experiment. 

Give it a try. I think you will be surprised at how creative you really are.

June 10, 2018

What Are Your Retirement Wishes?

That may seem like a deceptively easy question. What I want from my retirement is to be happy, to lead a fullly satisfying life. I want to enjoy the freedom that retirement seems to hold for me. I want to relax and do what I've always wanted to do.

OK, those are very reasonable responses. I wouldn't have a problem with any of them. They are fine, as goals. They are where I want to end up after a certain period of time. 

Of course, your goals may be very different. You want to start a business and make it a category-buster. Maybe you want to join the Peace Corps and spend 2 years helping starving families somewhere in the world.

You want to write that book that has been struggling to get out of you. You want to earn a degree that has always alluded you. You want to restore 1965 Mustangs or train the real ones. You want to be the best grandparent you can to your child's kids.

All great goals. What they are not is complete. Goals without plans to achieve them are really just wishes or hopes for your future.

I have written a lot about the dangers of making a retirement plan before or after leaving work and leaving it unchanged as time passes. Recently, there has been a lively discussion about how best to schedule one's time during a typical day. Certainly it is possible to over-plan, over-commit, over-volunteer. 

So, am I reversing myself? Not at all. The type of plan I refer to this time is a specific one designed to help you achieve a singular goal. It is a plan with a beginning and an end.

Think back to your days in business, teaching, retail, or virtually any way you earned a living. It is likely there was a plan to accomplish specific goals: increase revenue by 35%, cut expenses by 19%, implement new product roll out by a certain date. Teachers, you had a yearly plan to follow to cover certain subjects in a particular order. Self-employed? Same deal. I set goals the first of each year that I wanted my consulting practice to achieve.

Those plans came with steps to be taken to accomplish the objective. No one in charge would expect revenues to increase 35% without a way to reach that goal. I contend our retirement can benefit from the same mindset.

Let's say, you'd like to learn to quilt. Certainly, you'd look for classes in quilting. You'd talk to everyone you know to find other quilters. You'd do some Internet browsing, buy a few books, watch some YouTube videos. Then, you'd start working on something: a bedspread, maybe a blanket or something to display on a wall. Your goal? Finish by Christmas so you give your project as a gift.

How about learning enough about your finances that you can start making some of your own investments? The same process would be followed: gather information, talk to others, set aside a certain amount of money, and start slowly to learn what works and what doesn't. Your goal is to increase the size of your nest egg by 15% by the end of the year. Come December 31st it is easy to see if you met your goal.

Retirement often gives us the chance to set all sorts of different goals, some easy, some requiring lots of effort. To achieve what'd you like from the time, effort, and money you really should not approach a serious goal as an open-ended quest. If there is no finish line, no measurement, I think you cheat yourself out of a lot of the satisfaction that comes from accomplishing something that is important to you.

June 7, 2018

River Cruising: What is It Like?

Our home for 7 days;  Viking Mani
Most of us are familiar with cruise ships. We have seen pictures of these massive sea-going hotels. With the ability to hold thousands of passengers on each trip, taking a cruise is something an estimated 20 million folks indulge in each year. Virtually all of them feature a dozen restaurants and lounges, Broadway-like shows, casinos, rock climbing walls, swimming pools, full fitness centers, and enough shopping to bankrupt anyone.

Quite different is the experience of river cruising. With roughly 200 passengers, these 440 foot long vessels are very little like their big cousins. Instead of unlimited entertainment options on board, days are spent leisurely floating from one city or town to the next. Reading, playing cards, sitting on the deck watching the countryside pass by, and establishing friendships solidified over dinner each night and onshore excursions each day, river cruising is more  about being closer to the places you visit and the people on board.

Less than two weeks ago, Betty and I completed our first river cruise from Amsterdam to Basel on the Rhine River with Viking Cruise Lines. With a few extra days in Amsterdam before the cruise and then afterwards in the Swiss city of Lucerne, we spent 12 days having the time of our lives. 

Most river cruise ships have one restaurant, maybe a more casual choice for breakfast and lunch, a lounge for cocktails and evening entertainment, and a roof deck with plenty of chairs for relaxing. Our ship had shuffleboard and a few putting greens for those so inclined. A small but well-stocked library, a few Internet connected computers, and a couple of shelves of gift items completed the package.

Our stateroom came complete with a balcony, a TV (that we rarely used!), plenty of storage, desk and chair, excellent air conditioning, and one of the best showers we have experienced anywhere! Twice-a-day steward service kept our room clean, bottled water restocked, and turn down service during dinner each evening.

The ship was so smooth sometimes the only way to know we were moving was to look out the window. On a river, with such a large ship, there was no swaying or motion sickness to contend with.

The crew was absolutely on top of their game: friendly and efficient. After just two days, we were greeted by name more often than not; one of the benefits of 200 passengers instead of 3,000.

Each day included a stop in a city with a walking tour lead by a competent local guide. We visited the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam, a windmill site in Holland, Mannheim, Cologne, Heidelberg and the Black Forest in Germany, plus Strasbourg in France. Along the way, dozens of castles loomed over us from the steep hillsides that line portions of the Rhine.

Yes, we were that close to the wall
Actually, one of my favorite memories was passing through eight locks along the river. As the ship slipped into the slot, we were literally no more than 6 inches from the sides. As water filled the lock, we slowly rose 20 feet to meet the new level of the river.  I sat on our balcony or stood on the deck experiencing this fascinating display of engineering and skill.

The flight time to and from Phoenix was tough. On our last day we awoke at 6:30am in Lucerne and weren't home until 8:30am Switzerland time, the next morning, making for a 26 hour day. 

Even so, the friends we made and the places we saw made the effort worth it. Here are just a sampling of the thousands of photos Betty and I took on this memorable journey.

Amsterdam canal at night

More Amsterdam

Kinderdijk Windmills
Cologne, Cathedral 
The famous Anne Frank House and Museum

Local guide with traditional wooden shoes

Cologne at Night

There are dozens of castles along the middle Rhine

How to make cuckoo clocks
How to sell cuckoo clocks!
Strasbourg, France

These last few pictures are from Lucerne, Switzerland and while on a sightseeing cruise on Lake Lucerne. Yes, those are the Swiss Alps in the background.