Taking Control of Your Physical and Mental Health in Your Golden Years


June Duncan from Rise Up for Caregivers and I are back for another tag-team venture on senior health and this time we are changing-things-up!  Rather than the usual intro/outro format we are adding a bit of weaving.  Within her article, I've peppered my thoughts and added points of perspective and resources that I've found to be personally helpful during my own careship.  That's right!  Careship, which is the new term I've started to use in identifying my role as a caregiver.  Like any tour of duty, my time serving in this role is temporary.  I'm an active duty caregiver but I'm also so much more and I'm finding it increasingly important to make that distinction.  I'll have more on that topic later but for now June and I are doing our thing.  My thoughts are below in italics.

Our lifespans are getting longer worldwide. Thanks to improvements in medical science and technology, humans have seen marked improvements over the last several decades, and many people alive now can expect to live well into their 70s and 80s. The percentage of centenarians -- that is, people who reach 100 years of age -- is also rising. The choices you make each day help determine not only how long you will live but how well you will live in your final years. Your quality of life and your quantity of years are dependent on taking care of your health right now.

See Your Doctor

The best way to ensure you stay healthy is early intervention. Regular checkups help you catch problems early when they are easier to address. Even if you feel healthy, it’s important to get regular checkups. Everyone needs an annual exam, but seniors may benefit from more frequent care. It’s also important to comply with your physician’s directives and take medication as prescribed. Get regular vaccinations, including the annual flu shot, and get tested for bone density so you can identify concerns and respond promptly. Broken bones are more dangerous for the elderly, and osteoporosis is a serious issue for your health and longevity.

I'm gonna add, take care of your feet!  If there is one thing that geriatrics could advocate a bit more for it's podiatry.  As senior mobility decreases I find it ironic that there is not more awareness around foot care.  Get pedicures!!!  And if you are a caregiver to seniors get them together.  Feet are easy to neglect, especially when they are not your own and the last thing anyone wants is long, sensitive toe nails that making walking or wearing shoes painful.  This only adds to the risk of falling so get-on these trips to the salon and self-care yourself! 

Take Care of Your Body

A healthy diet and a good exercise program will give you more energy and resilience. Talk to a nutritionist to help you identify any nutrient deficiencies you may be experiencing. Replace empty calories with nutritious fresh fruits and vegetables, protein, and heart-healthy fats. Eating well will help you heal from injury and illness, and it may also help you to improve your mood and preserve your mental cognition.

Anyone familiar with the website Blue Zones?  Their motto is "live longer, better" and exploring their research is worth the time suck.  Go get lost in their website and see what you learn...

Twice a week I would take my mom to the local gym for a program offered through  Silver Sneakers .  It is a light, group exercise program for people on Medicare and I used it as an opportunity to work on my own health at the gym at the same time.  And obviously, she was all about her gym look!

Twice a week I would take my mom to the local gym for a program offered through Silver Sneakers.  It is a light, group exercise program for people on Medicare and I used it as an opportunity to work on my own health at the gym at the same time.  And obviously, she was all about her gym look!

Studies show that moderate exercise for as little as 30 minutes per day can lift your spirits and help you to retain your physical mobility. It helps prevent the onset of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. You can break it up into 10-minute increments throughout the day and switch up your activities to help you stay motivated. Take a walk in the morning, go for a bike ride in the afternoon, and do yoga or tai chi in the evening.

If you are a stay at home caregiver, unable to leave the home and need your own physical outlet, I strongly recommend this book:

I've been working my way through these workouts with the goal of completing all 100 by the end of 2018.  It's great for anyone too mentally exhausted to come-up with workouts.  Personally, I don't want to have to think about what I'm going to do for exercise.  I just want to do it and be done with it.  I have too many other things to think about during my day.  As for fitness, I know it's important and just want to get it done and move on.  So far this book is working for me.  It rids me of my many excuses, the biggest being "stuck at home with no time or equipment".

Lower Your Stress Response

The long-term consequences of living with high stress levels are anxiety, depression, weight gain, cardiovascular disease, and maybe even dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Exercise is a proven stress reducer, but you can enhance its effect by learning a few relaxation techniques. Focused breathing exercises help you to reduce your heart rate and blood pressure and get into a more relaxed frame of mind. Mindfulness meditation lowers stress-related hormones like cortisol in the body. Additionally, you can do things to make your life less stressful overall. Avoid over-commitment with family or friends and learn to say, “no.”

Have you tried Headspace?  It's a meditation app and website dedicated to helping you get calm.  There are subscription options for those ready to dive into a committed practice but there is also a free program that I highly recommend.  For anyone that's been a bit lost in how to get zen, Headspace offers smart guidance with a series of introductory meditations that are worth exploring. 

Just as you scale down your social obligations, you can scale down your household junk. If you haven’t used it in a year, get rid of it. Cluttered homes make people feel uneasy and sad. If they impair your ability to clean, they can even make you ill. And if there are things in your home that aren’t safe, consider making some modifications.

June and I dedicated a whole post this very topic.  You can read it right here.

Get Plenty of Rest

The physical and mental effects of sleep deprivation can lead to serious health concerns. Initially, being overtired can affect your performance and thinking in the same way as an intoxicant. But over the long term, your missed sleep can add up to diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Set a bedtime and follow it. Cut out caffeinated beverages in the afternoon and evening to help you get sleepy at the right time. Invest in room-darkening blinds, good sheets, and comfy pillows to help you find sweet dreams.

#koolbob still reads every night before bed.

#koolbob still reads every night before bed.

Your quality of life is a direct result of the care you give your body and mind, so make sure you’re giving yourself every opportunity to have a long, healthy life. Your loved ones want to enjoy your company for as long as possible, making memories for years to come.

Alright, now it's your turn! Whether you are in your Golden Years or not, let us know in the comments below how you are harnessing efforts to address your physical and mental health.  We are in an age that is ripe with self-care and long drank the kool-aid that sharing is caring.  Share your self-care tips!  Tell us about resolutions, best practices, new routines, and failed attempts. You're the expert of your experience and we want to hear from you.


June & Ashley

*June's book, The Complete Guide to Caregiving is expecting to be released this winter!

Life Updates- 2017/2018

It's been a while since I've done an update but let it be known that no news is good news!  At the close of 2017, things were moving rather quickly.  Suddenly, life had an uptick. I needed to refocus some priorities and maintain momentum.  And just like that, January was over too.  Again, all good stuff and I hope this tide continues, however caregiving remains the riptide and it dictates everything else. So, here's what's been goin' on...

December 2018


Hand carved, wooden spoon...

Hand carved, wooden spoon...

December was incredible for my spoon venture.  I sold 4 spoons at the end of the year and felt the pressure of filling "orders".  This still blows my mind. I officially opened the shop section of this website only a year ago and it's been so well received.  I can hardly establish an inventory but that's a production problem that fills my heart. 

In addition to selling spoons, I thought I would explore the knife business by selling carving knives to budding carvers.  In theory, this is great but the reality of shipping knives in the mail without proper blade protection is a bit of a liability.  Safety first! I needed to make protective sheaths...  Wha-what? Knife sheaths?!  As you might imagine, I was clueless, especially for this curved blade below.

Curved blade knife used for carving the bowl part of a wooden spoon.

Curved blade knife used for carving the bowl part of a wooden spoon.

YouTube was full of suggestions for straight blades but the curved blade left me stumped.  Insert Jesse, a good friend and owner of the Jewelry Studio of Wellfleet.  She suggested I take the leather jewelry class offered through the Art School at the Boca Raton Museum of Art. The logic here was that instructor would likely have enough experience in leather working to point me in the right direction. It would be a fun class and get me out of the house.  Sure enough, that's exactly what happened!  

Leather Jewelry Course

Honestly, the class didn't exactly fulfill my sheath dreams but it did solidify fun into my schedule.  I got so much joy from the creative process.  Learning something new scratched my own creative itch.  It helped break-up the caregiving monotony and the perpetual thoughts of feeling stuck.  This leather class reconnected me with my "old" self, the person I was before this whole mess started and reminded me of these wise words by Nayyirah Waheed in her book Salt.

Where you are, is not who you are.
— Circumstance

The class reminded me that at heart I'm a maker and my soul is forever analogue.  I fell in love with the process. Leather work aligned with my attraction to raw materials.  Something about it clicked.  Below are a few bracelets that represent the beginning of a brand new hobby:

Adjustable, yellow-dyed leather bracelet with eyelet detail.

Adjustable, yellow-dyed leather bracelet with eyelet detail.

Secured, teal-dyed leather bangle with brass and nickle eyelets and riveted closure.

Secured, teal-dyed leather bangle with brass and nickle eyelets and riveted closure.

Secured, navy-dyed leather bangle with assorted rivets.  Cause, I love rivets!

Secured, navy-dyed leather bangle with assorted rivets.  Cause, I love rivets!

January 2018

#koolbob - Health Update

Unfortunately, it's not all fun and games. My dad was in the hospital at the end of the year. We made our way to the ER at 3 AM via ambulance which my hope is for the last time.  The event proved tragic for both of us.  Awaking to his health concerns in the middle of the night, I was forced to recognize the hopelessness of our situation as I too was sick.  Only hours before I was throwing up for some unknown reason.  Food poisoning?  Flu? No idea... But the reality was stark. We were alone.  I was slow to respond and overwhelmed at the crisis.  I called 911 somewhat unsure if he was having a 911 moment.  This is a frequent mental debate I think many caregivers experience.  Is the given episode worth the chaos that follows?  Am I ready to light this match?

True to form, that phone call was the match that started a fire, and swept us straight into all the misgivings of the healthcare system. If it were my own life, then I might be more obliging to the procedural side of things.  The parlay of treatment makes sense in regard to the longevity of health but not when measured alongside that of dementia.  My father (and I suspect many seniors that end up in the ER), became a matter of medical whims.  A test subject for assumptions...  The inability to describe what's wrong often leads to random tests, many of which are safeguards backing medicare compliance and have little to do with physical health and everything to do with who picks up the tab.  The liability on part of the healthcare industry is much too great and therefore procedural tests and treatments, (several of which I now know were absolutely unnecessary) have become the backbone in determining a diagnosis for many elderly.  This medical process of elimination is nothing short of confusing for anyone with some form of dementia and is often physically painful.  The excruciating cries, barely muffled by a curtain, are damages accrued to both the individual and their caretaker.  Where one feels the physically pain, the other is destroyed at heart, and the over all sense of hurt and suffering only gets compounded. It's these visceral cries that continue to haunt me from my mom's sudden passing.  These sounds I can't unhear...  Sounds that have been nothing short of brutalizing and ring all the more loudly when it comes to paying premiums.  Ultimately, my dad's hospital trip proved "minor".  He was discharged later in the day with a diagnosis of mild constipation and some acid reflux.  We were sent home nearly 10 hours later with over the counter prescriptions and I had a new headache in how to unwind the trauma he just incurred. 

What people don't realize is that managing dementia is the art of managing chaos.  Rather than implement chaotic measure at the ER, staff could better their services by foregoing some procedures and listening first to patients between their garbled words and observing their behaviors in their most basic form.  Treating through the distortion is not exactly "treating" a dementia patient and the health profession could learn a lot by just looking and listening.   Doctors will likely refute this statement but that illustrates the refusal to listen.  To truly care for someone with dementia you must first care for their environment.  Actions and procedures need to be assessed with regard to overall comfort because it's what happens later, behind the scenes, that ultimately impact one's quality of life.  

To truly care for someone with dementia you must first care for their environment.

When we returned home, my father's anxiety was at an all-time high.  He was restless, experiencing a new pain (urinary, because he was forced to have a catheter rather than water that would help him pee on his own), and agitated in a way that I found abnormal to his norm.  He repeatedly said he was in pain and dying, leaving me again feeling helpless and ultimately hopeless.  Somehow we got through the night and after a follow-up check-in with his primary, it was determined after he left the hospital (where he had an EKG) and prior to this doctor's visit where he had another EKG, he suffered a heart attack.  The worst part is that I think I watched it.  I saw it happening and yet remained inactive both out of fear that another hospital trip might in fact kill him while also taking foolish comfort in the idea that he would never have been discharged if his condition was at all serious.  His condition at the time was not serious but his endured stress from the experience went overlooked.

Long story short, I enrolled him into hospice care shortly there after.  For those of you that feel sorrow towards what you think hospice means, I encourage you to do some research. (You can start right here.)  This is actually one of the best decisions I have made and stand by their approach of patient and family centered comfort-care.  I'm happy to share more about this decision in the comments or through private messaging if you want but for now just know that this is a good thing. I'm hoping the hospice team will enable my dad to live his best version of life for the time that remains. I want to do small things with him when I can and I don't want to live in fear that taking him somewhere might risk his health.  He's almost 86 years old.  The risks are plenty obvious!  But I need to part ways with the burden of caregiver guilt and feel confident there is a team of health professionals that get us. We want to live life, not wait for its passing.  Thus begins our new forward perspective... and below is a little taste of what that looks like.

At the Boca Raton air field for the WWII airplane tour.

At the Boca Raton air field for the WWII airplane tour.

Knife Sheath Class

Ok, back to knife sheaths!  At the start of the new year, like a gift from the universe a leather knife sheath class was being offered locally.  (Wwwhhhaaaaattt?!!!!!!!!!!!) Clearly heeding the sign, I enrolled.  It was a five hour workshop and as expected, it was for straight blades. But, beggars can't be choosers!  I took my straight craving knife to the class thinking I needed a sheath that runs parallel to my belt.  Not the perpendicular style where the knife points down.  I wanted it across my lower back all discrete like a bad a**.  Granted, this is a work in progress but you kinda get the idea.  Just imagine this sheath like a rugged tramp stamp.  You with me?!

Straight knife sheath for my Mora carving knife.

Straight knife sheath for my Mora carving knife.

Spoon Carving Class

Well, you know how one thing leads to another. It just so turns out that the place that was offering the sheath classe is interested in hosting a spoon carving class! Like a true act of fate, I met the fine folks over at The Guild Folk Art School and in a few short weeks we will be hosting a spoon carving class for the community.  I'll keep you posted on dates when we work that all out but in the mean time, take a look at their offerings.  Everything from blacksmithing to ceramics to knife making (you know that's next;)) and more!  Take a look

Darebee Exercise Challenge

Another new year high has been completing this 30 Day HIIT Challenge during the month of January.  There are lots of excuses I could have made to fall short on this goal but when my friend Erika sent it to me post binge eating holidays (which I continue to stand by!), I  realized, I had no excuse.  I could make excuses but none of them truly held weight and rather then complain or pass judgement on why this challenge wouldn't work, I just committed. I suspended judgement and expectations and pursued the challenge of discipline.

I find it easy to fall prey to the inertia of caregiving and neglect things.  What's worse is society almost makes the excuses for me... "Oh, go easy on yourself.  You have a lot on your plate".  That might sound reasonable but deep down I know when I'm being lazy.  So yeah... An experiment in exercise but more, an experiment in follow-through.

About two weeks in I realized the hard part about exercise for me is just knowing what I was going to do on a given day.  Good intentions are nothing without action.  This challenge told me exactly what to do and no equipment was necessary.  Bingo! I have no mental space to create an exercise strategy here.  Just tell me what to do and I'll do it!  So, I also pulled the trigger on this workout book! I figure, 100 workouts to complete over the rest of 2018 shouldn't be so hard.  That's about 9 workouts a month (cause it's February now) which seems more than manageable. And the no equipment necessary/can-do anywhere factor helps eliminate the obvious excuses. 

Workout Book.jpg

If you are curious what's inside I put an Amazon link below. It's the same deal at the challenge link above but expanded.  Also, if you have any suggestions for timer apps please send them my way!!!  

As for anyone following my pistol squat attempts, just know that they are coming... one day.  Not sure why I thought I'd have those down in a month but reality checks are a good thing!

Alright, that has to be it for now.  I'm impressed if you are still reading this!  I could keep going but my soul is running dry from being on the computer this long.  I told you I was analogue. ;)

TL;DR- Life updates

* This page contains an Amazon affiliate link. If you click on the affiliate link and make a purchase, I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you. This helps maintain the cost of How To Feed A Senior. Thank you for your support.





How To Cope With Caregiver Guilt

Life is what we make of it, right?  This is what we are told.  That if we push through time with the right amount of vigor, we can achieve our dreams with a full heart and a happy ending.  But rarely do these tales mention entrapment via circumstance.  Seldom do they reflect that choice is usually conditional. 

White Pumpkin Recipe 1: Curry pumpkin soup with barley, fresh tomatoes, scallions, cilantro and coconut milk.

White Pumpkin Recipe 1: Curry pumpkin soup with barley, fresh tomatoes, scallions, cilantro and coconut milk.

As caregivers we are often accustomed to squelched hope and rarely do these stolen dreams leave us clues for reparations.  However, a passage through loss, be it people or dreams, is never short on perspective.  Hindsight hurts for all the things we didn’t see before.  The pain doesn’t stem from whom or what is now gone; it’s a pain from recognizing what we had, and the failure then, to act.  It’s all the missed opportunities we can’t get back, and learning in the now, how to sit with forever. These are the seeds of our guilt and no one else can help us sow them.

White Pumpkin Recipe 2: Pumpkin paratha with cumin seeds and cilantro.

White Pumpkin Recipe 2: Pumpkin paratha with cumin seeds and cilantro.

Caregiver guilt is akin to a wet blanket and industry insiders are quick to call for its disposal. It’s heavy, burdening one’s mental health, and hardly the stuff of optimism that dominates the world of self-care.  But in truth that blanket, wet as it may be, is constructed of fibers, entwined with layers that represent so much more than what most outsiders perceive.  It’s a compass that governs our future selves.  It’s not to be cast off, but rather something to heed, as it provides a rare peek at our unmasked emotion.  It’s the truest reflection of the stranger we keep inside.

Sometimes the only thing that’s different is our perception of what ”is”.  And sometimes the only way to see that is to listen...
White Pumpkin Recipe 3: Warm white pumpkin salad with barley, kale, cilantro, pepitas, and lime.

White Pumpkin Recipe 3: Warm white pumpkin salad with barley, kale, cilantro, pepitas, and lime.

Guilt doesn’t have to imply flawed. It can be embraced for growth even when it doesn’t fit well with the mainstream social construct.  We can’t be afraid to feel guilt’s weights.  We’ve been carrying it around long enough for it to become us. It's in our fiber.  And to quote the song from this previous post: "it's in my honey, it's in my milk".  Why not give it pause and listen to what it’s saying.  There is more to it than just the burden of weight.  It has a message and needs some breathing room to develop it's voice. 

Just breathe… 

Things might begin to look different, even sound different, even when circumstance remains the same.