As a spokesperson for COX Homelife I have the chance to check out so many smart devices that provide accessibility and for seniors to remain in their home.

For more information, visit Cox.com.

wheelchair pets dog sideDo you have a family member or friend who uses a wheelchair?  If you do, you know that there are a host of issues that come along with it that you would never have considered.  A big one for me was keeping my floors clean from the wheels.  Cleaning the floors on a daily basis was unrealistic and it didn’t help!

So I started searching online because I figured I wasn’t the only person who’s encountered this problem.  Sure enough I ran across a company, Rehadesign, that not only makes tire covers for wheelchairs but a bunch of other products that make perfect gifts for someone who uses a wheelchair.

wheelchair pets

From the practical like the wheelchair umbrella system to adorable   “wheelchair pets” for kids who use wheelchairs, this company has thought of it all!

They are based in the U.K. but offer free shipping to anywhere in the world.  Visit their site to see all of the products they have available.

LifeisBeautifulI’ve been a caregiver for 15 years now but it’s kicked into high gear over the last two.   While there’s no question that being a caregiver is exhausting and oftentimes frustrating, it’s also helped me figure out some important life lessons that I probably wouldn’t have known otherwise.  Here are some secrets I’ll share:

We know how to put life into perspective – The phrase “don’t sweat the small stuff” is our motto.  The rude sales person, our child’s messy room, the delayed train and the person who cut us off while driving just don’t carry the weight of sitting in a hospital room with our sick child or trying to figure out how to pay for the desperately needed medications and therapies not covered under insurance.

For us, life is made up of the tiny moments not the major events – Most likely I will never see my son get a driver’s license or be able to dance with my husband at my daughter’s wedding or have my dad recognize his grandkids as they accept their diploma.  But there’s no guarantee that I’ll be around for those things either.  What I take most pleasure in are those smaller moments, seeing my daughter open a birthday present she desperately wanted, enjoying a quiet dinner with my husband and watching my son go off to the movies by himself with a friend (a HUGE accomplishment for an intellectually disabled child.)

We only keep the company of supportive people –  It’s easy enough as a caregiver to feel like you’re not doing enough or short-changing somebody in the family –  you certainly don’t need someone else being critical of you.  For whatever reason, some friends will never be comfortable being around the person you care for, even if they’ve been long time acquaintances.  It hurts, it’s confusing, but it’s the reality.  Too often we turn ourselves inside out trying to please other people and/or make them comfortable around the people we care for.  In the end, it’s exhausting and not at all productive.   Eliminating toxic relationships leads to peace

We’re not Martha Stewart and it’s OK – There’s way too much pressure to have a clean house, organized shelves and a gourmet meal cooked while at the same time baking home-made cookies for the school bake sale and sewing our kid’s costume for the school play.  That illusion died for me a long time ago.  My kids are great about helping around the house but when they’re finishing homework at 9 or 10 o’clock at night, the last thing I’m going to request of them is to clean the sink of dirty dishes.  It just doesn’t matter! I know that if I go down because of exhaustion the important things, like work, doctor’s appointments and school meetings, won’t happen.  It really is OK to have a messy house.  And store bought cupcakes, put onto a nice plate, really can pass for homemade!

Join me for a life-changing half-day retreat to learn how to become happier, healthier and in control of your own life.

REGISTER HERE FOR JANUARY 23RD EVENT

Great holiday gifts for Grandma & Grandpa

Disclaimer – I have a material and/or financial connection because I received a gift, sample of a product and/or compensation for consideration in preparing to write this content. All opinions stated within are my own.

Let’s face it, trying to figure out what to buy older relatives is never easy.  The last thing they need is more “stuff” to fit into their house.  This year, give them something that will keep them connected, engaged or safe.  Join us for a Twitter Party for some great gift ideas for older relatives.

Join me for a fun Holiday gift Twitter Party sponsored by VTech CareLine™.

Careline productWhen – Tuesday, December 10th  9:00 – 10:00 PM ET

Our Sponsor VTech CareLine™

Hashtag – #Gift4Grandma

Prizes – Three lucky winners will receive a  VTech CareLine™ home telephone and personal communication system.

 

Help spread the word! Here’s a sample tweet or just use the tweet button at the bottom of the post:

#ad Join #Gift4Grandma Twitter Party 12/10 9pm ET @VTech411 

RSVP List

 

 

How To Tell When Your Aging Parents Need Help..and What To Do

 

MiracleMom05

 Disclaimer – I have a material and/or financial connection because I received a gift, sample of a product and/or compensation for consideration in preparing to write this content. All opinions stated within are my own.

Are you visiting your parents or older relatives this holiday season?  Has it been a while since you’ve last seen them?  You might be surprised at some changes you notice.  Maybe they seem a bit forgetful, or they’ve lost weight or they off-handedly mention that they fell recently.

Whether you live close by or hundreds of miles away, being prepared to help your parents as they age is often difficult.  How can you tell when your older relatives might need a little help?  How do you start having that conversation?

Join me for a very important Twitter Party sponsored by Comfort Keepers®.  We’ll discuss important topics, including:

  • How to find local services for your parents when you live far away
  • Setting up plans now for the future
  • Clues to look for around your parent’s home that could indicate early signs of dementia
  • How to manage difficult conversations with siblings about your parent’s future care
  • Conversation starters with your parents to discuss their issues

Admitting our parents are aging is never easy.  But having plans and resources in place for when they’re needed can make the process much easier.

Who to follow: @safetymom

Where: #AgingInPlace

When: Monday, November 25th at 9:00PM ET

Why: Learn the tell tale signs that your older relatives need assistance

Prizes: THREE $25 Amazon GCs!

Help spread the word! Here’s a sample tweet or just use the tweet button at the bottom of the post:

#ad Join #AgingInPlace Twitter Party 11/25 9pm ET @ComfortKeepers #AmazonGCPrizes

RSVP List

 

 

 “These words are my diary screaming out loud….threatening the life it belongs to.”

"What our eyes really say through the smiles is often surprising" Photo: Karen Morneau

“What our eyes really say through the smiles is often surprising” Photo: Karen Morneau

Sometimes I feel like I might go crazy.  How many times have I daydreamed about what it would be like to just get in the car and start driving, heading off into the sunset?  How many times have I dreamt about what it would be like to wake up and find people taking care of me for a change?  Waking up with only the minor irritations of an everyday existence rather than the ever present fear of wondering how I’m going to support me and my family, coping with the heartache of recognizing that my husband is becoming increasingly disabled, questioning what the future looks like for my son and being there for my mom as she deals with my dad whose Alzheimer’s has progressed to the point that he’s barely recognizable as the person she married.

Wow, this sounds like a pity party story.  It’s really not supposed to be.  I have remarkable self-preservation skills.  Thank God.  If not, I’d probably be 6 feet under by now.  Just when I think the last strand of sanity is left I somehow pull it together.

“And breathe, just breathe….”

Yup, just breathe.  Keep breathing.  Just one breath at a time.  Focus on that breath and nothing else.  That’s what I’ve learned from meditation and yoga.  It does help, along with a bunch of other tricks I’ve learned for survival.

For those of you who don’t know my story, let me summarize: Death, Disability, Divorce, Debt

  • First child died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome when he was 3 mos and 24 days old. (yes he died young enough where I was still counting the days he was alive.)
  • Second child comes along – turns out he has intellectual disabilities.
  • Two miscarriages, one a partial-molar pregnancy – look it up.
  • Blessed with two more children – girls who are wonderful just like their brother.
  • Finally work up the courage to leave my marriage.  Because I live in a very small town and many residents read my blog, I’ll leave it at that.
  • Because of said divorce I’m financially ruined.
  • My father, on top of the rapid deterioration from Alzheimer’s, has a stroke which renders him completely incapable of caring for himself.  My mother insists on doing it herself.  The stress is overwhelming.
  • I meet a guy and get remarried.  Little do we know that he has Progressive Multiple Sclerosis.  That’s the bad and rare kind where there is no “good days” or remittance, simply consistently bad days.

Even to me this sounds pathetic and unbelievable.  The embodiment of the phrase “You can’t make this stuff up.”

Yes, there’s a story in here.  Sounds more like a Lifetime special but I’d prefer to think otherwise as those just seem super depressing or include some psycho killer.  I’d much rather consider this a written journey about self-discovery for myself as well as the readers.

I completely realize there are people out there with it ten times worse than me.  The woman whose husband died in 9/11 only to have her second husband killed by being struck by a car as he was changing a tire several years later.  Or the thousands of people who lose everything in tornadoes and typhoons.

There are a million stories out there.  And the one thing my life experiences have taught me is to listen to people – I mean, really listen.  Not necessarily to the words, but how they’re used, the emotions that go along with them.  For so long, I never shared my story.  I was certain that no one wanted to hear the real story.  When they asked the generic question “How are you?”, I knew they didn’t want an in-depth answer, they were just being polite.   As Jack Nicholson’s character says in A Few Good Men, “You can’t handle the truth.”

And so I, like so many others, simply answer in the only way we know how – “I’m OK.”  I dug myself into a terrible trap with that benign response.  You see, people really believed me.  Either I am a superb actress or they didn’t bother to look into my eyes at what was really behind that answer.  For the most part, people want to believe that everything is OK.  Once they delve into someone’s life, they usually have to examine their own, which could be even scarier.  Being vulnerable and raw takes courage in both expressing it and being the person on the other end receiving it.    Being able to crack the protective shell of someone and be there to hold the mess once it’s been open takes strength, compassion and fortitude.   But that’s the only way to have true relationships in life.

It’s been scary to admit to my insecurities but it’s actually making me stronger.  Since I’ve been exposing myself, incredible people have been entering my life.  And, in turn, I’ve found them telling me about their sadness and fears as well as their joys and triumphs.  The real stuff, the personal stuff – not the superficial things.

So I’m putting it out there and happy to hear the real answer – “How are you?”  Feel free to expose yourself here.

I had no idea how hard simply walking would be for Greg in two years.  Photo: Maring Visuals

I had no idea how hard simply walking would be for Greg in two years. Photo: Maring Visuals

Two years ago, just after I got married, my husband Greg was diagnosed with Progressive Multiple Sclerosis.  Most people don’t realize that there are two types of MS; Relapsing Remitting MS, which is the more common type and, as the name implies, offers some times of remittance, and then there’s Progressive, which my husband has.  Progressive is less common and the really bad one.  There are no drugs for Progressive MS.  There are no “remitting times.”  It’s simply degenerative and constant.

When we first met, Greg was extremely active.  He went to the gym everyday and he was a former pro-golfer.  We would take long walks and he was teaching me to play golf.  All that changed once he was diagnosed.  For years he had been misdiagnosed with Lyme Disease, something that happens frequently.  Ironically, one of the first really bad days he had was the night before our wedding.  We were hosting a party at a beautiful winery for our friends and family and our photographers were having us walk through the vineyard.   It was extremely hot and humid and Greg could barely walk without me supporting him.  What I didn’t know at that time was that he was dealing with two of the worst factors for MS sufferers – excessive heat and stress.  Regardless, the evening was still magical and our wedding the next day was absolutely perfect.

Over the past two years, Greg’s MS has progressed.  Neither he nor I know what our future will look like.  He often apologizes for the “situation” he has put me in.  As I tell him constantly, I love him no matter what.  Just as I’m certain he wouldn’t have called off the wedding if I was the one with MS, the thought never crossed my mind.  True, the plans I had for our retirement will probably look different but that’s OK, we simply need to create a new reality.   I also remind him that no one’s future is certain.  Any one of us could face some physical disability or life-changing catastrophe at any time.

Does that mean I’m not scared sometimes?  Of course I am.  I worry about how I’m going to support our family when he can’t work.  Last year, when he could no longer snow blow the driveway and I had to do it, I had a bit of a pity party that I needed to handle all of the chores around the house myself.  But I’m not really doing it myself.  My kids have learned that they need to help out – way more than most of their friends do.  At 7 years-old, my daughter is in charge of doing the laundry and cleaning the bathrooms.  My 15 year-old son, despite being intellectually disabled, is strong and puts in and takes out the air conditioners, rakes the leaves, takes out the garbage and empties the dishwasher.  My 11 year-old daughter cooks, helps her siblings with homework and is my “second in command.”  And Greg has become air traffic control – getting the kids where they need to be, managing the family paperwork and picking up the slack where ever he can.

We’ve created a new family reality – one that works for us.  I’m learning that Greg will have good days and bad days, that there are instances that I can’t possibly imagine how he’s feeling.  I’m also learning that I too will have good days and bad days and, as the caregiver, I’m entitled to that.  Our lives might not look the way either of us imagined but we’re in this together and we’ll figure it out.  People often say that they don’t know if they could do it.  Well, there’s really not an option when you love someone – you just do it.   The only choice you do have is how you will deal with it.  I’m choosing happiness.  It’s a heck of a lot better than the alternative.

Disclaimer –  I have a material and/or financial connection because I received a gift, sample of a product and/or compensation for consideration in preparing to write this content. All opinions stated within are my own.

 

More Information from The Safety Mom’s Media Segments

November has been designated National Caregivers Month.  As someone who cares for three generations of men in my life (my dad has Alzheimer’s, my husband has MS and my son has intellectual disabilities) I understand all too well the stress caregiver’s are under and the physical toll this can take.

The theme this year is “Family Caregivers – Now More Than Ever” and boy, that’s the truth.  Consider this – today there are more than 90 million family caregivers in the United States and 2 out of every 5 adults is a family caregiver.  Family caregivers provide $450 billion worth of unpaid care each year. That’s more than total Medicaid funding, and twice as much as homecare and nursing home services combined.

Sometimes, caregivers are thrust into this role after a traumatic accident or sudden illness.  Other times, it’s far more gradual, as when we realize our aging parents need help with daily activities or their driving skills have diminished.  It’s usually during the holidays, when adult children are visiting their parents after not seeing them for several months or even a year, that they see the decline in mom or dad.

It’s All About Planning Ahead

Recognizing the signs that your aging parents might need help and getting resources in place before an illness or injury occurs will go a long way in reducing the stress on you as a caregiver.  Comfort Keepers, the In-Home Companionship and Care agency, offers a free Home Care Survey which can help you determine if your parent or older relative might need some help with daily activities.

Being a “long distant caregiver” is not easy – even if the distance is 10 miles.  Insuring the your older parents are remembering to take their medications, keeping scheduled doctor’s appointments and simply stay connected to family and friends is difficult when they’re not living with you .  And then we always worry about what would happen if they fall or have a medical emergency.    The VTech Careline phone system is a great tool in helping seniors continue to live independently while giving caregivers the peace of mind to know they can get help at a moment’s notice.  In addition to the phone, which features larger buttons, and four frequently-called programmable buttons that you can be customized with the person’s photo, there is a pendant that they can wear that also acts as a phone to call the four pre-programmed numbers, answer the phone and talk.  So, in the case of my dad, my mom wears it in case he should fall or there’s an emergency, she doesn’t have to leave him to run and get the phone, she can call 911 or me directly from the pendant.  What I also love about the VTech Careline is that you can program “reminder calls” that can be set up at any intervals to remind your parent to take their medication, if they have an appointment and even to check if they have enough food in the house.

Whether your caring for an aging parent or child, be sure they can get help in an emergency

As I said, I not only am a caregiver for my father but also my son with intellectual disabilities.  The number of parents caring for a child with special needs is growing dramatically in this country.  Issues of wandering and/or emergency safety when they are away from home is a major cause of stress for any parent but especially for a child who might be non-verbal, autistic and/or not able to advocate for themselves.  The Amber Child Safety System allows caregivers to track their child’s location through their cell phone, set up and set up “safe zones” and “danger zones.”  Perhaps most importantly, you can store all of your child’s vital information securely in the system so that if they are unable to communicate with emergency responders if they are injured, they can be cared for appropriately.  Clearly this is a great system for elderly people as well, especially with Alzheimer’s or dementia.   All members of the Safety Mom community can receive a 25% off discount on the Amber Child Safety System when calling their toll free number at 855-726-2377, and mentioning the “SafetyMom”  promotional code.

There’s a high likelihood that, if you’re reading this, you care for someone.  But, if you don’t and you have a friend who’s a caregiver, share this information but also offer to help out – maybe it’s just watching the person they care for while they just take a walk, get a manicure or have some quiet time.

We want to hear from you if you’re a caregiver – how do you handle the stress and feeling of being overwhelmed?  What advice can you give to others?