By heatherericksonauthor.comThe Erickson Family

Category Archives: Caregivers

survive the holidays

Surviving the holidays can be difficult when you or someone you love is literally trying to survive the holidays. This almost always means the celebration will look different. I’ve put together a few thoughts and tips to give you a leg up. To survive the holidays you must first accept that things will be different. You won’t be participating in the cookie exchange or Christmas caroling. Things that were once fun, are in this new reality, exhausting. Even if you do have the energy to do them, they may zap your reserves so that you’re left burned out. One of the best things you can do is to recognize that the holidays will look different this year—maybe from now on. That’s okay. Change is a Read more…

Every October I try to predict peak color in the deciduous trees. Then I head off to the woods in St. Francis, Minnesota to spend a few days at Pacem in Terris (Latin for “Peace on Earth”). This year, I went at the perfect time. Taking a break is something everyone should do. Sometimes you may need it more than others. I found that the harder it is to make time in your schedule, the more important taking a break is. Get beyond the guilt of taking a break. This can be hard for caregivers. You spend all of your time trying to maintain control. Walking away for a few days means giving up the reigns to someone else. You may worry about how your family Read more…

Supportive Connections

What is resilience? It’s the ability to bounce when we come up against something tough, like cancer. Will we bounce like a rubber ball, or like a tomato? I learned a lot about resilience at the 2018 Breath of Hope Lung Foundation’s Lung Cancer Summit. Perhaps my greatest takeaways came from a talk delivered by Dr. Jeffery Kendall. PsyD, LP.[1] Dr. Kendall delivered a keynote address entitled, Resilience and Hope for Survivors & Caregivers. In the next few weeks, I am going to share a few of the things I learned from this inspiring message. I’ll start today by touching on the first key ingredient to a resilient life: supportive connections. The impact of supportive connections on cancer survivors and caregivers can’t be overlooked. Yet Read more…

caregiver team

It’s that time of year: NFL Draft Pick!  As a caregiver, you need to have a strong team on your side. While the NFL is choosing their overpaid players, you need to choose who you can count on to be on your caregiver team to help you get through the tough road ahead. The Caregiver is the Quarterback You call all of the plays. If something takes you out of the game, the team often falls apart. So, you need a strong support system behind you. Rather than equate the rest of the team to actual football positions, I will just label them as the positions they play on the caregiver team (Because I really don’t know much about football). Your Medical Team Your medical Read more…

Overwhelming Sadness

At some point, we will all experience it. It’s likely that most of us already have: Overwhelming sadness. How do you deal with it?

What if

Cancer can often feel like a roll of the dice. The unknown can be the hardest part of cancer and its treatment. This causes patients and their families to often ask, what if. One year into his treatment plan, Dan’s doctor declared that Dan was NED (having no evidence of disease). This is a term used to describe what people think of as a state of remission (in certain types of cancer). It is a wonderful feeling to be NED. Still, because Dan’s cancer was advanced and ultimately terminal, we had been told that it was only temporary and that at some point Dan’s cancer would rear its ugly head again. What If One thing that surprised me was how uneasy I felt, even during Read more…

Giving gifts to brighten a patient's day.

Confession: I’m a Terrible Gift Giver. I don’t know why. I just am. Each Christmas my sisters-in-law and I all exchange gifts. They are little gift bags of things that make life fun: notebooks, lotions, great pens, etc. I am always in awe of the ladies’ creativity and thoughtfulness. In comparison, my ideas are unoriginal, and my gift bags aren’t nearly as cute. Still, they appreciate my effort. Gifts are another way to show someone you care about them. Money Money can be a sensitive subject, but it is an important part of life. Many times, we’ve had people bless us with cash, checks, and gift cards just when we needed it most. Because of being self-employed Realtors, we don’t get sick pay. So, when Dan Read more…

Household Chores

There are so many things in life that require your attention, even if you are facing a crisis like cancer. Thankfully, one of those things can be somewhat ignored for a while: household chores. Unfortunately, they can’t be ignored forever. Even if you are accustomed to a neat and tidy home, it’s really important to give yourself and your family members some grace when it comes to household chores, because they can quickly pile up. This is especially true if you have children and/or teenagers at home. While the world won’t fall apart if your house is a mess, a backup of household chores can put some people on edge and overwhelm them even more. The best way to deal with this is to find Read more…

when you have to watch your loved one suffer

I often write about the practical side of facing cancer. One thing I haven’t written about is what it’s like to watch your loved one suffer. It’s something that people try not to think about. Friends and family who don’t live with the patient 24/7 often miss the drama of middle of the night pain. This is a good thing. It’s not something that anyone would want to see and hear. Yet it falls to a spouse or other close caregiver to be there. This is also a good thing because no one should suffer alone. What is like, really, to watch your loved one suffer? The best way I can describe it is a feeling of utter helplessness. You want to make the pain Read more…

Hospice and palliative care

The battles of the war against cancer are waged, daily within the bodies of patients young and old, wealthy and poor. There we have made great strides. In 2014, “UK death rates for breast, bowel, lung and prostate cancer combined are down by almost a third in 20 years.” (1) Yet, like any war, the casualties at the hands of this disease are great. That’s when hospice and palliative care enter the picture. Curing vs. Healing There comes a time when we need to switch from curative treatment to healing efforts. We can heal, even as we die. There can be healing of relationships, spiritual healing, letting go of the things that never should have been clung to in the first place. Hospice and palliative Read more…

Book Review

Today I will be sharing my review of the book, “Hospice Hope: Uplifting Stories of Those in Hospice” by Chaplain Dale A. Swan. I met Chaplain Dale when my husband was in hospice. He gave me his book to help me through that time, I was so impressed that I wanted to write a review of it. The first thing that I noticed was Chaplain Dale’s voice in the stories he wrote for “Hospice Hope.” Reading the short reflections was like talking to him, with his positive and yet, sensitive manner. Hospice Hope? You wouldn’t think that reading stories about people dying would be very uplifting, but it was! Each story truly offered hope: Hope for a good death, hope for reconciliation with loved ones Read more…

Cope with Stress

Here are 10 healthy ways to cope with the stress and anxiety that often accompany caregiving: Play a Game 50% of all men and 48% of all women play video games[1], including me. Of course, playing an analog game is another healthy way to cope with stress. You can play a board game as a family or if you prefer to play solo, a deck of cards can provide lots of enjoyment. While many people view this as a waste of time, there are positive things about gaming (in moderation).  One of them is stress relief. Games provide an escape from the pressures you may be under as a caregiver. It’s important that you don’t spend so much time playing games, that you fall behind Read more…

Walking

Caregivers often experience greater depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues, than their non-caregiving counterparts. Aerobic exercise, such as walking, has been proven to improve your mood while reducing stress and anxiety. Even as little as 5 minutes of this movement can make a difference. Walking increases the feel-good neurotransmitters, endorphins. The caregiver’s physical health tends to suffer as well.[1] One of the best, most available ways to improve your health is to start walking. Walking improves your overall physical health. This is important because an additional health issue will only add to the things on your plate. Mindful Walking Mindful walking is an excellent way to combine the physical and mental benefits of movement and mindfulness. This video will take you through one way Read more…

Should've, Could've, Would've

Should’ve, would’ve, could’ve is the root of senseless guilt. I… …should’ve pushed him to see the doctor sooner. …would’ve been a better husband if only… …could’ve been more understanding. …should’ve known better. …would’ve had our water tested if… …could’ve driven mom to the doctor that time if only… Refocus All of these things have a way of pulling us back into the past when what we need to be focused on are today and tomorrow. We spent years wondering just what it was that caused my husband’s cancer. This is pretty common. It’s our way of trying to make sense of something so senseless. We’ve picked through his life to try to figure out when the turning point was. He wasn’t a smoker. Was it Read more…

Ring Theory Circle of Support

The Ring Theory-Finding Your Circle of Support The Ring Theory was created by breast cancer survivor and clinical psychologist, Dr. Susan Silk Ph.D., and arbitrator/mediator, Barry Goldman. The gist of it is this: Comfort in. Dump out. Who you comfort, and who you “dump” your grief on (in other words, who comforts you) will determine what circle of support you reside in. Take out a piece of paper. In the middle of the page, draw a small circle. Label it with the patient’s name. The patient is in the center circle of support because the patient is the center of their cancer universe. It is everyone else’s job to support them. No one is allowed to dump on the patient. What does that mean? The Read more…

Thankful for the Gift of Gratitude

Gratitude is good for the soul Gratitude is also a choice. You can choose whether to be thankful or not. We’ve all seen examples of people who don’t appreciate what they have, as well as others who have very little, but who are extremely thankful for it. What does this have to do with preventing burnout? It comes down to the parasympathetic nervous system The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is the opposite of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). The SNS triggers your fight or flight response. Whereas the PNS calms you down. It lowers cortisol levels (stress hormones) and increases oxytocin (feel-good hormones). Research shows that when we feel gratitude, the parasympathetic nervous system is triggered, giving you those calming, feel-good benefits. Write it down! Read more…

Sleep Hygiene

Have you ever heard the term, “sleep hygiene?” Just as oral hygiene is the way you care for your mouth and teeth, sleep hygiene is the collection of practices and habits dealing with your sleeping life. They are extremely important, since approximately one-third of your life is spent, asleep. Some people sleep a bit more, and others, less. The key is to feel rested when you wake up. If you don’t, it’s likely that you have poor sleep hygiene. Many wearable activity trackers, such as certain models of the Fitbit, are able to track your sleep and give you a good idea of how much you sleep and what the quality of that sleep is. Temperature. Like Goldilocks, you don’t want to too hot or Read more…

Respite Care

Caregiving is too big for one person to do alone. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what most caregivers try to do, at first. This is especially a problem when you are caring for a spouse with cancer or other chronic illness. In the past, it might have always been the two of you working as a team. You probably think that’s how this is going to work, as well. But, cancer is just too big for one caregiver to handle alone. Respite care can be the perfect weapon your battle with burnout. It really can feel lonely The patient may come home from treatment and go to bed for 8 hours. During that time, you are left to take care of the things you normally do as Read more…

Quit a bad habit

While most people know that smoking, excessive drinking, and illicit drug pose a definite health risk, they are often unaware of the effect that a bad habit can have on their mental well-being. Kick the smoking habit in the ash Each of these activities begins as a way of altering your physical response to stress. For example, in the beginning, nicotine actually reduces stress, feelings of anger, muscle tension, and appetite. The effect is only temporary, though. The more you smoke, the more the nicotine changes your brain. Eventually (often quickly), smoking becomes a habit. As the nicotine in your system is depleted, you experience withdrawal symptoms, reinforcing the habit. These withdrawal symptoms will leave a smoker feeling anxious and stressed. Think before you drink Read more…

Internet Research

In the past, patients were often told to avoid doing their own internet research. That was because the internet really is a dumping ground for both information and misinformation. More and more, doctors are appreciating their patients’ efforts to participate in their healthcare. This is especially true when the patient uses internet research wisely. Benefits of doing your own research: You can decide if what is happening merits a trip to the doctor. Often you can be put at ease when you discover your symptoms might feel awful, but you most likely have a cold. Sometimes, odd, but otherwise painless symptoms mean something more ominous is happening. For example, when my husband felt 3 hardened lymph nodes above his left collarbone (supraclavicular nodes), that specific Read more…

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