The Arrest of Mr. Menopause

Every once in a while, I like to include a blog for those of you going down the road of menopausal madness.

I’m a firm believer in humor and after thinking about how much menopause steals everything near and dear to our hearts – including our sleep, our sanity, and our figure, I came up with an idea for a funny blog I wrote for Hot Flash Daily. By the way, if you’re going through menopause, be sure and check out some of the great and informative articles on this site.

Since I worked as a newspaper reporter for a few years, I envisioned how I would write up a news article about the justifiable arrest of Mr Menopause who preys on innocent women typically in their late 40s and early 50s. And yes, I assume Mr. MENopause is male. Just look at the name and besides, we know that the male population is to blame for all our woes.

So here’s a portion of that article. Hope you enjoy!

Image courtesy of vectorolie at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of vectorolie at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

At approximately 07:00 hours on May 10, 2008, Mrs. Julie A. Gorges, resident at 45 Hormonal Hell Avenue, reported a series of robberies.

During the early morning hours, the victim reported that Mr. Menopause had stolen her sleep. Gorges contends that previously she slept like a baby but was helpless when Menopause brandished the weapons night sweats, anxiety, and frequent urination. Not even Gorges’ friends, Netflix and Candy Crush, could save her from the ensuing misery.

She also reported her figure. was missing. While admitting that her waistline may not have been perfect previously, the robbery took away her ability to zip up her dresses and snap her pants. Thus, Menopause not only stole her shape but her dignity as well.

Around the same time, Gorges noticed all her skin moisture was gone. She asserts that previously she never experienced dry skin but now needs a bottle of lotion in every room in the house as well as the glove box in the car. Living in the desert, this is a serious loss, she lamented.

Gorges added hair loss to the list of alleged robberies. She suggested that perhaps Menopause was conspiring with the moisturizing and wig industry for their mutual benefit.

Finally, Gorges reported that her patience was missing. Once a reasonable woman, the victim stated that she is often annoyed with random people because they are breathing too much. However, it must be noted that when the officer smiled sympathetically, Gorges became agitated and warned him that he was one snarky smile away from a smack. She then promptly burst out in tears, reporting that Mr. Menopause had also heartlessly stolen her sanity.

Officer Tactless requested that they stick to the facts of the case and suggested that Gorges not allow the robberies to make her irrational. Gorges politely informed the officer that she would prefer the term “delightfully difficult” and it was in his best interest if he agreed.

Unfortunately, the interview took five hours since Menopause had also stolen Gorges’ memory and all her brain cells. When describing the toll that the robberies had taken on her family, it must be stated that the alleged victim couldn’t remember their names. “You know, that guy I married over 30 years ago and the two sons I gave birth to – their names escape me right now – but I can describe them for you,” she offered.

Gorges’ menstrual cycle was also stolen, but although she alleged Menopause was responsible, Gorges declined to press charges on that particular theft, whispering “good riddance” under her breath.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

After a three-month investigation by the Hotflash Police Department, Menopause was taken into custody on Monday at his home located on Devilish Drive. Menopause was arraigned before Justice Michael Merciful and remanded to the HRT County Jail on one million pounds of chocolate bail for each charge to be dispensed to the millions of menopausal victims.

Why not give the story a happy ending?

As you can see from this article, Mr. Menopause attempted to steal Mrs. Gorges’ sense of humor, but she was able to hold on to that valuable asset.

;)

 

Why You Can Celebrate Turning 50

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This year the youngest of the baby boomers turns 50.

Here’s my confession: Although I didn’t blink an eye when I turned 30 or 40, three years ago when it was time to turn the big 5-0, I rallied against it.

Reaching the half-century mark felt like I was moving into the final phase of life and, well, like I was OLD. Menopause had arrived, it was time for a colonoscopy, and my bank offered me the dreaded senior discount. To add insult to injury, I had to have a dental implant and shoulder surgery.

Once I moved past the birthday, however, I soon changed my mind.

Fifty was actually a great time in my life. I had recently become a full-time minister, learned sign language, and did volunteer work with the deaf. I was still able to fulfill my lifelong dream of writing professionally and had taken on some new, interesting writing projects. I had a great marriage, kids, and grandkids.

On top of that, I came to value the experience and wisdom that only comes with age. I’ve learned to forgive more easily, to live more simply and in the present, to let go of perfection, to be more grateful, to value the people I love, and to laugh at myself. I’ve learned not to sweat the small stuff anymore – and learned that nearly everything is ‘small stuff.’

A lifelong people-pleaser, I learned to say no and to let go of people that only bring negativity to my life. I don’t have the energy, interest, or patience for drama anymore. Thanks to menopause, no more periods, PMS, threat of a late life pregnancy, or worries about cysts and fibroids. What freedom! And thank-goodness, achieving that perfect bikini body is no longer on my list of things to do, which is incredibly liberating.

In other words, fifty doesn’t mean you become the stereotypical frumpy, wrinkled menopausal witch or the over-sexed, botoxed cougar with fake boobs trying to nab that young guy.

 Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s true, 50 can be freaking fabulous!

Look at Katie Couric who became the first female solo anchor of a national evening news show right before she turned 50.  Or Laura Ingalls Wilder, who saw the first of her Little House books published when she was in her 60s. Colonel Sanders didn’t come up with the secrete recipe until he was 50. Or how about the fab Diane Keaton who produced her seventh movie and realistically played the heartthrob of 39-year-old Keanu Reeves in the funny movie, Something’s Gotta Give, at the age of 57?

Michelle Obama, who dances and wears classy clothes, just turned 50. She told Parade magazine, “I have never felt more confident in myself, more clear on who I am as a woman.”

Personally, this has been true for me. I wouldn’t go back to my 20s with all its insecurities and angst if you paid me a million dollars. I finally know what makes me happy – what I want personally, spiritually, and professionally and how to get it.

“A seasoned woman is spicy,” writes Gail Sheehy, the over-50 author of Passages and founder of the Seasoned Women’s Network online. “She has been marinated in life experience. She is at the peak of her influence and power. She is committed to living fully and passionately in the second half of life, despite failures and false starts.”

I agree with Gail. We are seasoned, sassy, and spicy. Most of us are still physically strong at this age and ready to tackle new challenges. As an extra perk, it turns out we are smarter. Older folks performed better on four of six cognitive tests compared to when they were younger, according to the Seattle Longitudinal Study, which tracked the brain function of adults over the past 50 years. We’re also a lot better at abstract and spatial reasoning, verbal acumen, and even simple math, the study found. Maybe all that brain power is why mature women seem to control a lot of wealth in the U.S., with those age 50 and older controlling net worth of some $19 trillion.

In fact, more people over 50 are taking on “encore” careers, reinventing themselves in professions that follow their passions. Nonprofit group Encore.org, dedicated to helping professionals find their “second act,” notes that as many as 9 million people age 44 to 70 are getting paid for work that combines their personal passion with a social purpose.

Although a 2012 AARP study showed there is a U-shaped happiness curve with the early 50s as the lowest point of well-being, that’s not a self-fulfilling prophecy. Why not embrace our age? That’s what I’m learning to do as I try to stay healthy and continue to try and learn new things – like blogging, paddle boarding, and zip lining.

There’s no reason to dread turning 60 either. Research shows that the oldest Americans (age 65 and up) are the happiest. In fact, a recent study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that in general we feel happier as we age.

So to those of you who are part of the over-50 crowd like me – let’s celebrate the fact that we’re alive and vibrant. Rejoice that we’re still young enough to live life to its fullest. Sure, we face problems and issues that are part of growing older, but the alternative is much, much worse. We should all be grateful that we get to be in our 50’s. Let’s not forget, not everyone gets that honor and privilege.

So if that big birthday is coming up, don’t be like me and mourn the fact that we’re getting older. Instead, go out there and make your fifties rock!

Five Ways to Become a Happy-Go-Lucky Person

 Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I love the sound of the breezy, devil-may-care term, happy-go-lucky.

Merriam-Webster defines happy-go-lucky as blithely unconcerned and carefree. Synonyms include affable, laid-back, low-pressure, and mellow.

Perhaps more to the point, the Urban Dictionary defines happy-go-lucky as a person who is cheerful about most things, has a positive view on life, and annoys the you-know-what out of their friends. Don’t you love the quirkiness of Urban Dictionary?

Anyhow, perhaps being cheerful and endlessly optimistic is a bit annoying, but who cares? Actually, I am envious of those people because, although I have my silly moments, I am WAY too serious most the time.

So join me and my goal of lightening up. Think of all the benefits.

If you are laid-back, you’ll be less stressed out and definitely have more fun. If you have a carefree attitude, you’ll be more likely to take risks and step out of your comfort zone. If you are cheerful and have a positive attitude, people will want to be around you which will result in more friends and better relationships.

If you can become more of a happy-go-lucky person, I’d lay bets that you’ll find life more enjoyable and even more fulfilling.

Here are five ways to get you started on the path of that devil-may-care attitude:

Image courtesy of  Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Be a Little Silly

As I suggested in an earlier blog, unleash your silly every once in a while.

If you’re not sure how to do that, simply imitate children. My 5-year-old grandson is constantly cracking himself up. Pretend you’re a kid again and tell a silly joke, sing a silly song, wear a silly hat, make a silly face, or just think silly thoughts.

Children have that devil-may-care attitude that gives them freedom to act silly no matter who is watching. Copy some of that.

I saw this quote, “Live a life of love, honesty, appreciation, kindness, and strength. Sprinkled with a little silliness.”

Yeah! Let’s bring silly back!

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Choose Laughter

If it’s either laugh or cry – choose laughter.

So what if something goes wrong or your carefully laid out plans go awry. Learn to laugh at yourself. You’re a happy-go-lucky person now, remember? Don’t take yourself so seriously.

What if life is getting you down and laughter seems a million miles away? Watch a screwball sitcom or movie, listen to a stand-up comedy routine, or check out the latest silly YouTube video. You can even laugh at an absurd situation in your life. You’ll probably giggle about it later anyway. Why not be amused by it now?

Find Joy

I love this quote by Henri J. M. Nouwen: “Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day. ”

Yes, many things are out of your control, but you can choose to be joyful. Yes, you can!

Don’t let stupid stuff you won’t even remember in a few years sap your good vibes. Mellow out! Don’t expect other people, events, or circumstances to bring you joy either. Your happiness must come from within. Focus on the good things in your life, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. Bring joy to others and you will increase your own. Try to do one thing every day that beings you some bliss.

In other words, get your “happy on” and don’t allow anyone or any situation to take it away from you.

Smile

Happy-go-lucky people smile a lot.

Research has confirmed that each time you curve your lips upward you throw a feel-good party for your brain. So just do it!

Think of a special moment with your spouse, or something silly your grandchild said, or a funny joke – fake it if you must. A beaming smile is magical because this facial gesture not only helps you, but invites others to smile with you and feel better too.

Whatever it takes, smile more and bring a little sunshine into your life and those around you.

 Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Be Playful

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing,” George Bernard Shaw famously said.

Being playful can boost your creativity, make you forget your worries, and connect you to the world in a fun and interesting way.

Not sure where to start? If you’ve forgotten how to play, take notes from your grandchild or even your dog. Finger paint, play badminton, have a costume party, or get out a favorite board game you loved as a child. Have a race with your dog. Keep a favorite toy on your desk. Put some funky music on and dance like crazy while you do chores. Be a bit mischievous.

There you go, five ways to start you down the path of becoming a happy-go-lucky person. Focus on the lighter side of life and quit stressing out so much.

Who knows, if you adapt some of these strategies it may even give you the emotional distance you need to come up with creative solutions to all those problems you’re worrying about.

And you’ll definitely be happier!

Caring for a Parent with Alzheimer’s or Dementia, Part 3

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic  at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In Part One of this series, I discussed my mother’s recent diagnosis with Lewy body dementia (LBD) and her symptoms which are similar to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. In Part Two, I shared what I’ve learned about dementia along with our experience getting a proper diagnosis and all the benefits of doing so.

For the final article on my three-part series on caring for a parent with dementia, I’m going to focus on the needs of a caregiver.

In case you haven’t read my previous blogs, although I’ve been helping to care for my mother for the last couple of years, her symptoms have become worse and as a result, I have become a full-time caregiver. As I enter this new phase in my life, I’ve already experienced a wide range of emotions.

Since people with LBD have good days and bad days, I often get my hopes up on the days when my Mom seems “normal.” Then, inevitably those hopes are dashed when Mom begins hallucinating and thinks she sees a bear in the laundry room or her other symptoms manifest themselves. Then the heartbreak begins again.

On some days, I feel overwhelmed by Mom’s needs that range from pulling her up out of chairs, helping her dress, supervising showers, household chores, taking her to appointments, and distracting her when she’s having one of her vivid hallucinations.

Of course, I feel guilty whenever I become frustrated and lose my patience with my Mom over things that are no longer under her control. Sometimes I’m jealous of my siblings, who all help in their own way, but have so much more freedom than me.

And I mourn for the mother I used to know and love.

Not all my emotions are negative, however. I feel grateful that I work at home and can care for my mother to repay her for all the kindness and care she’s given me over the years. I’m happy that I can make this phase of her life a little easier. Thank goodness, we both have a sense of humor and we can laugh about some of the absurd situations we find ourselves in due to this sometimes bizarre disease.

This experience is challenging and rewarding at the same time. So what can we caregivers do while we’re on this crazy roller coaster ride of emotions?

I’m still learning as I go along, but here are a few tips I’ve garnered from my own experience so far, extensive research, the medical profession, and friends who have experience as caretakers:

 Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Educate Yourself

No matter what type of dementia your parent is suffering from, knowledge is power. Writing these blogs on caregiving has not only helped me express and release my emotions but the research has also educated me about LBD.

Learn everything you can from your doctors, books, websites, and support groups – including information about the disease itself, how to communicate with someone who is suffering with this disease, and ways to reduce the stress and frustration that is part of being a caregiver. You may also need to help educate other family members.

If you have a parent with LBD like me, there are some great books listed on Lewy Body Dementia Association’s website you may want to check out.

Take Care of Yourself

The same rule applies for caregivers as parents on an airplane. “Put your own oxygen mask on first.”

Several friends and family members who have gone through this experience have strongly advised me to care of my physical, spiritual, and emotional needs and recognize my limitations.

As a caregiver, you play a vital role in the life of your parent, so make sure you’re eating healthy, getting enough sleep, exercising, and making some personal time for yourself. All caregivers need a time-out from their responsibilities for their own well-being and to prevent burnout and depression. Look for signs that you need a break such as feeling stressed and irritable.

Learn to accept help when it’s offered and ask family and friends for assistance when needed. In my case, I am fortunate to have a support team behind me. My  dear husband has been invaluable. I am one of four siblings, all of whom live close by. My brother lives in a casita on the property and works during the day, but is able to help out during the evenings and on weekends. One of my sisters takes my mother on outings every Thursday. On days when I’m overwhelmed or have an appointment, my other sister is on call. My two sons and daughter-in-laws as well as people in my congregation have also volunteered to assist as needed.

Even so, I realize that in the future, professional help may become necessary.

Find Support

Experts as well as doctors stress the importance of finding support and local resources in your community BEFORE you need them.

If your parent has LBD, you might want to start by checking out The Lewy Body Dementia Association’s website. Or you can call the LBD Caregiver Link (800-539-9767) or contact the online community of caregivers on the LBD Forum.

Caregivers can also turn to a California Caregiver Resource Center for assistance. In other states, resources can be found through local and state offices on aging and health such as your Area Agency on Aging or the Alzheimer’s Association in your area.

In addition to practicing these tips, I’m also learning to take one day at a time and as a religious person, I’m relying heavily on God to get me through this difficult time. In addition, I try and focus on meaningful moments I can still have with my Mom.

These are my thoughts and from time to time, I’ll share more information as I travel this journey. If you’re a caretaker, I’d love to hear some of your tips, thoughts, and feelings in the comments below.

Caring for a Parent with Alzheimer’s or Dementia, Part Two

As I shared in my last blog, recently my Mom was diagnosed with Lewy body dementia (LBD). This news didn’t come as a big surprise since my Mom was having symptoms that included as hallucinations, mental confusion, vivid nightmares, and disorientation, along with several other problems.

However, it would have been helpful to have this diagnosis earlier.

In fact, three-quarters of the estimated 36 million people with dementia worldwide do not have a formal diagnosis, according to a report by the Alzheimer’s Society. I wanted to share my own experience so  you’ll understand the importance of getting an early diagnosis and can avoid some of the mistakes we made.

Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Early Symptoms

A few years ago, my mother, now 77, began having problems typical of growing older. She couldn’t keep appointments straight, was easily confused, and often got words got mixed up.

After her hip replacement surgery two years ago, however, it became much, much worse. For six weeks, my Mom didn’t know where she was and often thought I was a nurse and not her daughter. Her surgeon acted like this was fairly normal after an older person is anesthetized. Although her mind improved, mentally she was never the same as before the operation.

When we brought this up with her primary physician, he gave her a mental test which she was unable to pass. “You knew something wasn’t right, didn’t you?” he asked. Then he ordered some blood work and a MRI of my Mom’s brain, which I thought would surely lead to a diagnosis. However, as I soon discovered, the test only eliminated other possible causes of my mother’s mental decline such as stroke.

Here’s what I learned: There is no single test that can show whether a person has Alzheimer’s or LBD. These diseases can only be diagnosed with complete accuracy after death with a brain autopsy. Nonetheless, experts estimate a skilled physician can diagnose Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia with more than 90 percent accuracy with a thorough medical history, mental testing, a physical and neurological exam, blood tests, and brain imaging to rule out other causes of dementia-like symptoms.

Unfortunately, after the MRI did not show any conclusive results, my Mom’s doctor did not encourage us to see a neurologist, strongly hinting that there wasn’t a whole lot the medical field could do to help someone with dementia. On top of that, my Mom stubbornly insisted she did not want to visit a specialist. She was afraid of more testing, which she absolutely hated, and preferred not to know if she had Alzheimer’s.

After some research, it was clear that several of Mom’s symptoms matched LBD. However, I allowed my Mom’s feelings and her doctor’s advice to prevent me from getting a formal diagnosis – that is, until the hallucinations began. At first, they were the result of medications she was taking such as antihistamine and pain pills. If we avoided these drugs, she seemed okay. Then, the doctor prescribed water pills to help lower my Mom’s blood pressure and the hallucinations were so scary, we landed in Urgent Care.

That doctor pulled me into a room and told me that hallucinations were not a typical side effect of water pills and warned me that my Mom’s dementia would only get worse. She stressed the importance of seeing a neurologist who had the experience and expertise to determine which specific type of dementia was causing my mother’s symptoms. Although many types of dementia cannot be cured, she said, there are ways to manage symptoms and having an accurate diagnosis would help us plan for the future.

How right she was!

What I Learned About Dementia

Before all this happened, my knowledge of dementia was limited. In fact, I had never even heard of Lewy body dementia.

Here is what I learned: Dementia is actually not a single disease. It is a blanket term that describes a category of symptoms that can impact memory, judgment, language, and motor skills. These symptoms are triggered by brain diseases and disorders like Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.

Collectively, dementia is quite prevalent among aging people. Overall, about one-third of individuals aged 65 years and older develop at least one form of dementia by the time they die.

Three of the most common types of dementia include:

  • Alzheimer’s disease, which accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. Early signs include difficulty remembering recent conversations, names or events, as well as apathy and depression. Later symptoms include impaired communication, poor judgment, disorientation, confusion, behavior changes and difficulty speaking, swallowing and walking.
  • Lewy body dementia is the second most common type of dementia after Alzheimer’s. LBD is associated with abnormal deposits of a protein called alpha-synuclein called Lewy bodies which affect chemicals in the brain. This brings on symptoms that include memory loss and thinking problems mimicking Alzheimer’s disease. However, people with LBD are more likely to have early symptoms such as sleep disturbances that can include night terrors, acting out dreams, and talking in their sleeps as well as vivid, well-formed visual hallucinations. LBD also includes Parkinson disease-like symptoms including muscle rigidity, difficulty walking, and tremors.
  • Vascular dementia is less common accounting for about 10 percent of dementia cases and is a result of brain injuries such as microscopic bleeding and blood vessel blockage. Impaired judgment or the ability to make decisions, plan, or organize is typical of onset symptoms instead of the memory loss associated with the initial symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

Other dementia diseases include Parkinson’s disease, frontotemporal dementia, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, normal pressure hydrocephalus, Huntington’s disease, and Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.

Something else I’ve learned is that a patient can have “mixed dementia” which the neurologist said could be the case with my Mom. That means more than one type of dementia can occur simultaneously in the brain. Recent studies suggest that mixed dementia is more common than previously thought. In the most common form of mixed dementia, the abnormal protein deposits associated with Alzheimer’s disease coexist with blood vessel problems linked to vascular dementia. Alzheimer’s brain changes also often coexist with Lewy bodies. In some cases, a person may have brain changes linked to all three conditions — Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, and LBD.

Why an Early Diagnosis is Important

While it is true that there is no cure for Alzheimer’s or LBD, an early diagnosis is beneficial in several ways.

A specialist can help you find the right treatment plan for your parent that can include medications and lifestyle changes to help with symptoms. In my Mom’s case, her doctor prescribed drugs to help her with anxiety and depression as well as medication for her hallucinations.

In addition, health advisers can answer your questions as well as help you understand the different progressive stages of the disease and anticipate your parent’s needs. They can direct you to the support services that can help lessen the impact of dementia on you, your parent, and your family.

The unknown is scary and it was, in a strange way, comforting for me and my family – and even for my Mom – to know exactly what was causing her strange symptoms and what we could expect in the future.

Since dementia will progressively get worse, it’s important to develop a relationship with doctors, health care professionals, and support services. An early diagnosis will give you time to do so. You’ll also have more time to make plans for the future and allow your parent to express his or her wishes regarding care and living options.

One more thing, having a diagnosis can help caregivers make better informed medical decisions. For example, we learned that people with LBD “often respond to certain anesthetics and surgery with acute confusional states (delirium) and/or may have a precipitous drop in functional abilities which may or may not be permanent,” according to the Lewy Body Dementia Association (LBDA). Although I doubt a specialist could have given my Mom an accurate diagnosis prior to her hip surgery, we now have information that will help us make wise decisions regarding any possible future surgeries.

So if you are noticing some of the symptoms I’ve mentioned, by all means, see a specialist which may include a neurologist, neuropsychologist, and gerontologist so your parent is accurately diagnosed and can reap all the benefits of an early diagnosis.

In my next blog, Part Three of this series, I’ll be sharing some specific tips for caregivers.

Caring for Parents with Alzheimer’s or Dementia – Part One

Yesterday, my Mom was diagnosed by a neurologist with Lewy body dementia (known as LBD or DLB).

Me and my Mom, recently diagnosed with Lewy body dementia on our sailboat.

Me and my Mom, who was recently diagnosed with Lewy body dementia, on our sailboat.

The diagnosis was not a surprise. Her regular doctor had told us she had some form of dementia. The last two years my mother has progressively shown the symptoms of this disease and after a lot of research (something I’ve become good at thanks to my profession as a writer), I guessed as much.

At first, my Mom only needed part-time care and since I only lived about 15 minutes away, I was able to drive over as needed. However, that all changed when my Mom went into a deep sleep during the morning with the Rachel Ray show on and awakened confused. She thought she was at Rachel’s house and was going to walk “home.” Thank-goodness, she had trouble turning the alarm system off and called my brother to ask for help which saved the day.

So I have recently moved in with my Mom to help care for her full-time. I am grateful that I work at home on my laptop which makes this possible.

If you are a baby boomer with aging parents like me, there’s a good chance you will deal with this issue at some point.

One in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. Last year, 15.5 million caregivers provided an estimated 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care valued at more than $220 billion.

LBD is the second most common type of progressive dementia after Alzheimer’s disease. It shares symptoms with both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. This means that people with this diagnosis will eventually develop a combination of similar cognitive, physical, sleep and behavioral symptoms of these two illnesses.

Everyone is different, but some of my Mom’s symptoms are typical of LBD and include vivid hallucinations, lack of concentration, confusion, night terrors, daytime drowsiness and long naps, vocabulary problems, disorientation, memory problems, agitation, anxiety, and depression.

Add to that, some Parkinson-like symptoms including tremors, lack of motor skills, rigid muscles, difficulty walking, and balance problems.

In addition, my Mom is extremely sensitive to certain medications like antihistamine and pain medications which can cause intense hallucinations that last for days. Two years ago, my Mom had hip replacement surgery, and as I know now, the anesthesia can also cause severe problems. For six weeks, my Mom didn’t know where she was and didn’t always recognize me.

She has good days and bad days, but I know the condition will worsen over time.

My conflicting emotions have ranged from heartbreak to frustration to pure exhaustion and I know it is only going to become more challenging as time goes on.

Earlier, I wrote a blog, Caring for Aging Parents, with some general advice if you want to check it out.

I’m going to follow up that article with a three-part series of blogs written specifically to help caregivers like me whose parents have some form of dementia. The information will be for my own benefit as well as for my readers going through similar situations to help us all retain our joy through a difficult time.

Part Two will discuss the advantages and importance of an early diagnosis and Part Three will have specific tips for caregivers.

So stay tuned and we’ll all get through this together!

Embrace Your Flaws

I just heard about an Instagram account started by two mothers called “Love Your Lines.” The campaign encourages women to share photos of their stretch marks along with stories explaining why they have embraced the physical “imperfections” in their bodies.

The movement has quickly become a huge sensation.

Love, love this!

“More than 80 percent of Americans have stretch marks, and rather than hide them, or try creams and potions to make them fade, the account’s curators wanted to celebrate the experiences that give our bodies character and strength,” an article on Buzzfeed noted.

Walking the talk with a photo of myself with no make-up in harsh light.

Walking the talk with a photo of myself with no make-up in harsh light.

So here we go. I’m bravely joining the bandwagon with this photo of myself with no make-up in harsh, bright light to show off my crows’ feet and age spots. If I wanted to, I could also take pictures of some pretty hefty stretch marks from the birth of my two sons as well as from all the weight gains and losses over the years. Add to that an expanding middle, cellulite, and sagging body parts that naturally come with getting older.

What I Iove about this “Love Your Lines” campaign is that it inspires us to quit beating ourselves up and stop obsessing about fixing our “flaws.” Instead, the women are promoting the idea of appreciating the beauty of our bodies and the truth about our perceived imperfections.

Here are a few reasons why we should do just that:

Our Bodies Tell a Story

I’m in my 50’s now and my face and body tells the story of having lived life to its fullest. My laugh lines represent days of happiness including marrying the love of my life, giving birth to two children and seeing the birth of my three grandchildren, traveling around the world, and days spent sailing the ocean. My wrinkles reveal struggles overcome, worries about children, the stress of meeting deadlines, and caring for my aging mother. My “flaws” tell the unique story of my life.

Embrace FlawsLearning to Love Ourselves is Beneficial

As I wrote in my blog, “The Importance of Self-Acceptance,” if we want to gain a positive sense of whom we are and find our bliss, then we have to stop judging ourselves so harshly. The relationship we have with ourselves impacts our relationship with others. So be kind to yourself. Learn to love and accept yourself with all your imperfections. Value the idiosyncrasies of your appearance that makes you a one-of-a-kind, unique individual.

Letting Go of Perfection Will Make You Happier

There’s a new saying going around the Internet. “Good enough is the new perfect.” No doubt about it, perfection is overrated and can cause stress and depression. Losing those 10 pounds, removing wrinkles with plastic surgery, or getting rid of that cellulite doesn’t mean life will become perfect and you’ll automatically be happy. In fact, continually striving for those goals can actually make you unhappy.

Cellulite Never Stopped Anyone from Achieving Their Goals

Barbara Streisand embraced her large nose and went on to stardom. On the other hand, Jennifer Grey changed her distinctive nose and lost her fame. Is there a lesson here? I think so. Plenty of people, including famous writers, musicians, scientists, artists, and even actors have gone on to success with their imperfections intact. Look at Jamie Lee Curtis who embraced her naturally gray hair with style. Or Helen Mirren who let her features age naturally and became the poster woman for aging gracefully and confidently. As she recently told TV Times magazine: “I don’t want to be younger,” she said. “I accept the absolute reality of what is happening to me as the years pass.”

Embracing Your Flaws Will Help Keep Things in Perspective

Instead of focusing on physical imperfections, why not concentrate on what’s really important in life. Focus on what really makes you happy including your spirituality, your health, your loved ones, and your passions. As a quote says: “Remember being happy doesn’t mean you have it all – it simply means you’re thankful for what you have.”

So embrace your flaws. Realize how special and unique you are with all your so-called imperfections. Don’t let what you perceive as faults stand in your way of living life to the fullest. Love yourself for exactly who you are right at this moment.

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Five Easy Relaxation Exercises

 Image courtesy of Mister GC at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Mister GC at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you read my blog, by now you know that I’m moving.

And no, I’m not quite finished whining about it. This will be the last time – I promise.

It’s been awhile since we’ve gone through this process and, frankly, I forgot just how awful this all is – everything from showing the house, to all the paperwork, to the moving sale, to seeing my peaceful hamlet taken apart bit by bit, to the physical exhaustion, to the ticking clock as time runs out to get all the packing done.

That’s my current dilemma, but I know you all have your own stresses in life – some much worse than my own.

I recently read that when an octopus is stressed out, it eats itself. Gross, right?

We don’t want any of that happening, so I thought this would be a perfect time to discuss some relaxation techniques.

Fortunately, you don’t need a vacation, spa weekend, or a bucket load of time to practice the following five simple stress relieving tips that can get you from crazy to calm in 15 minutes or less:

1.   Just Breathe

Image courtesy ofstockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy ofstockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When you’re stressed, do you find yourself taking short, shallow breaths from your upper chest? Stop that! You need to take deep breaths from the abdomen to inhale more oxygen, which will make you less anxious, slow down your heart rate, and lower your blood pressure. Take a quick 5-minute break and focus solely on your breathing. Sit comfortably or lie down, close your eyes, and put one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Breathe in slowly through your nose and out through your mouth pushing out as much air as you can. The hand on your stomach should move while the hand on your chest should be fairly still.

2.  Be in the Moment

As I wrote in my blog, Savor the Day, slow down and stay in the present. Stop whatever you’re doing, take a deep breathe, take note of everything around you, and focus on all the details. No matter what you’re going through, use all your senses and absorb the beauty of a sunset, the laughter of a child, a hug from a friend, the sound of a bird singing, the first sip of coffee, the smells after a rainstorm, or the taste of a good piece of chocolate.

3.  Stay Connected

Whenever you’re stressed out, reach out to family and friends. Share your feelings. Some of us (myself included) tend to isolate ourselves when things get tough. Don’t! Your social network can be a great tool for reducing tension during trying times. If you can’t talk face-to-face, pick up the phone. Loved ones can give you sympathy, comfort, and encouragement, along with a fresh perspective.

4.  Use Muscle Relaxation Techniques

Remember when Lamaze was all the rage? One thing I learned from those classes is progressive muscle relaxation. You start by tensing and relaxing muscles in your toes and progressively work your way up to your neck and head or vice versa. Focus on tensing each muscle group for at least five seconds and then relax for 30 seconds. The great thing is you don’t have to be in labor to put this relaxation technique to work.

5.  Visualize

You’re probably familiar with this technique. Experts suggest closing your eyes and taking a mini-vacation in your mind. Go to your favorite place and visualize the sights, sounds, smells, and sensations. Lately, I’ve been watching Cedar Cove on Netflix which reminds me of how much I love Washington State where I lived briefly. Visualizing myself on Mount Rainier or sailing the San Juan Islands works well for me right now. You know where your special place is, so just close your eyes and go there!

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I only mentioned a few ways to decompress. There are plenty more. A heating pad, a neck massage from your spouse, or listening to calming music are other great ways to relax.

It doesn’t really matter which technique you pick. Just find one that works for you. Even on your busiest days – which are actually when you need these tips the most – try to set aside just a few moments twice a day to de-stress. Practice makes perfect and relaxation techniques are no different.

And if all else fails, keep your sense of humor. It’s like this joke I saw on Pinterest on how to handle stress like a dog. “If you can’t eat it or play with it, just pee on it and walk away.”

Sounds good to me. I just might try that!

 

Five Tips to Take the Stress Out of Moving

MovingOkay, although I blog about happiness, I am officially stressed out.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, “How Clearing Clutter Can Make You Happy,” after 15 years in our home, we are moving. Moving is recognized by researchers as one of the most stressful events in life. In fact, moving ranks up there with the death of a loved one or divorce.

I am not moving far – just 15 minutes away. My husband and I are building a house across the street from my parents so I can help my Mom who is suffering from health issues. In the meantime, we’ll be living with them.

Oh my! It feels like my life is being turned upside down.

So what can you do if you are in my shoes? Whether you’re moving just around the corner or to the other side of the world, packing can seem overwhelming and daunting, bringing on anxiety and even panic.

To help you out – and myself as well – I’m listing five tips to take some of the stress out of moving:

1.      Start Early

Even if you’re just thinking about putting your house on the market, get started right away. Clear out the clutter and start paring down to the essentials. Sell or donate items. If you need some ideas of what to get chuck, check out my blog. Take my word for it, the sooner the better. I should have started this process earlier.

2.      Be Organized

Have a system. Be sure and put room labels with a brief description on every box. Tip: Your cooking routine will be dramatically disrupted before, during, and after you move, so prepare a basic kitchen kit to have on hand. You don’t need a full set of pots, pans, dishes, or utensils. Just keep a few necessary items packed in one box and label “Essential Kitchen Tools” so you can whip up a few simple meals.

3.      Have Resources Ready

Nothing is more irritating than to be in the middle of packing and run out of boxes, tape, bubble wrap, or packing paper. Have plenty on hand. Keep towels, dish cloths, sheets, and blankets accessible to protect delicate items and furniture.

4.      Ask For Help

Admittedly, this is one of my downfalls. Don’t try to do everything yourself and then realize a day before your move that you’re not ready. Ask family and friends early on to help you out. Books, DVDs, china, and other items can be easily packed ahead of time with some help. Provide pizza and beer to show your appreciation. Thankfully, my children and siblings are helping me now, but I should have probably asked earlier.

5.      Take a Break

When your head is spinning and your nerves are shot, take a 15-20 minute break to clear your mind and calm your senses. Have a cup of tea, call a good friend and vent, close your eyes and listen to some relaxing music, watch something funny. You’ll come back with renewed energy and be able to get more accomplished.

Okay, those are my five tips. Now it’s time to get back to packing. Wish me luck!

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Ten Ways to Improve Your Body Language and Feel Happier

“The human body is the best picture of the human soul.” – Ludwig Wittgenstein

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

People can tell a lot about you by your body language. As Martha Graham said, “The body never lies.”  In fact, body language – - including your posture, the way you stand, sit, or walk, and your facial expressions – – can be a powerful tool that helps you be more successful and happier.

Recent research proves that fact and shows that body language has more far reaching implications on your mood and happiness than previously thought. Body language can even change your hormones and essentially mess with your mind, according to a recent Harvard study.

Perhaps your body language is bringing you down or lifting your spirits without you even realizing it.

For example, the study showed that when you stand in a posture of confidence by standing straight, putting your hands on your hips, and opening your shoulders, your testosterone levels increase while cortisol levels decrease. When you sit up straight, you feel more energetic and in control. You are also more likely to think positive thoughts and call to mind good memories. If you smile and laugh more, you feel happier. If you walk with a spring in your step, your energy level increases. On the other hand, if you walk hunched over, it can zap your energy.

That’s why it definitely pays to be aware of your body language and make necessary changes. These changes will not only make you feel better, but will help you communicate more effectively with others, improve your relationships, and be more successful in your career.

What if you tend to slouch and cross your legs like me? The good news is that you can change your body language and reap the benefits with just a bit of practice. Take note of how you sit, stand, walk, and communicate with others. Visualize how you could look more confident, happy, and relaxed. Observe and learn from others whose body language and attitude you admire. Then try practicing in front of a mirror. Don’t worry, no one will see you.

To get you started, here are 10 ways you can improve your body language:

  1. Keep your muscles relaxed.
  2. Slow down your movements.
  3. Don’t fidget, touch your face, shake your legs, or tap your fingers on a table.
  4. Loosen your shoulders and move them back slightly. You will feel less stressed and more calm, composed, and peaceful.
  5. Don’t be like me and constantly cross your arms or legs. Not only is it not good for your body, but it makes you seem defensive or guarded. Keep your body open and you’ll begin to feel more confident and comfortable in your own skin.
  6. Lighten up. Smile and laugh more. Research shows that you can trick your brain into thinking you’re on the road to happiness.
  7. Quit slouching. Sit and stand straight.
  8. Keep your head up and look ahead when you walk. It will put you at ease and in a better mood.
  9. Move happily too, with a spring in your step and with a relaxed swinging arms.
  10. Have a positive attitude. How you feel will come through in your body language and can make a major difference in not only how others see you, but how you see yourself.

Take one or two of these tips and work on it every day for a few weeks until they turn into new habits. Pretty soon you won’t even have to think about standing up straight or smiling more. Make your whole body say you are happy and self-confident and positive feelings and actions will follow.