Yoga and Meditation: The Benefits for Seniors and Their Caregivers

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Daughters, we’d like to thank fellow daughter, Lydia Chan for another great guest blog post. Lydia is the co-creator of Alzheimerscaregiver.net, a website that aims to provide tips and resources to help caregivers. Today she shares the benefits of yoga and meditation for caregivers.

       

 

 

 


It’s Not Just Fancy Fitness Mavens Who Do Yoga

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When you think of yoga and meditation, you may get images of fit people in leggings sitting cross-legged on the floor. However, it’s not just fancy fitness mavens who do yoga. The mind and body benefits of these ancient practices apply to everyone, especially seniors and their caregivers. Not only does the regular exercise help offset the effects of aging, both yoga and meditation also promote mindfulness, which leads to greater life satisfaction.

 

Accessible Indoor Exercise

One of the many benefits of yoga is it can be done almost anywhere. In particular, seniors and their caregivers don’t have to leave their home to practice. With the help of indoor fitness technology such as YouTube videos, fitness apps, and Wii games, they can enjoy a personally taught class in the comfort of their own living room. This can be helpful when caregivers are juggling a hectic schedule and seniors suffer from limited mobility.

 

 A Deep Breath

Both yoga and meditation instruct practitioners to focus on the breath. Purposeful breathing has many health and wellness benefits. Breathing exercises reduce stress and the effects of anxiety. Knowing how to focus on the breath is a great technique for pain relief. A well-oxygenated brain also functions better, so seniors and caregivers are more focused and alert overall.

 

Better Balance

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Yoga, in particular, can help improve balance, making it less likely for seniors to experience falls. Falls are dangerous and have the potential to cause severe damage to a senior’s body.  Fall-related hip fractures make up about 25 percent of injury deaths among those over age 65. Additionally, falls result in 34 percent of injury deaths among those aged 85 or older. Even if a fall isn’t fatal, the bodily injury that can occur isn’t just physically damaging, it can also have a negative impact on the person’s emotional and mental well-being. 

 

Improved Sleep

Both yoga and meditation improve the quality of sleep for seniors as well as their caregivers. Many people experience sleep disruptions as they age because a new circadian clock takes over in senior years. Caregivers may experience sleep troubles due to the depression, stress, and anxiety that come with their many responsibilities. By adding mindfulness practices like yoga and meditation to daily practices, both seniors and their caregivers can experience better sleep at night. The physical exercise of yoga has additional benefits as it gives the body an opportunity to expel excess energy that may otherwise keep a person awake at night. Guided meditation can also be a helpful tool for facilitating sleep by giving detailed instructions that relax the body and mind in bed.

 

Feelings of Well-Being

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Everyone wants to feel better, but many people are at a loss when confronted with the question “how?” Beginning either a yoga or meditation practice is a great way to be proactive about improving personal well-being. By beginning something new, the brain’s curiosity is piqued. The activity of yoga also contributes to feelings of happiness and self-satisfaction. Furthermore, learning a skill through either yoga or meditation boosts self-esteem and provides room for growth. Adult learning and goal setting/reaching are all keys to facilitating feelings of well-being.

 

Know the Benefits

Yoga and meditation have many benefits, but seniors and their caregivers, in particular, should consider checking out these healthy practices. When it comes to accessible indoor exercise, yoga is great because it promotes balance and flexibility. Improved balance reduces a senior’s chance of suffering from a fall, which can have devastating physical, mental and emotional effects. Following the breath in both yoga and meditation can reduce stress and help with pain relief. Both yoga and meditation also help people sleep better– something caregivers and seniors can both use. Finally, starting a new practice like meditation or yoga facilitates feelings of well-being and happiness for a better life.

 

Thanks so much for sharing this information with us, Lydia. It’s amazing what one small change – like implementing a simple yoga and/or meditation routine – can make for the better. For more posts specific to Alzheimer’s caregivers, visit HERE!

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Dealing with the Costs of a Loved One’s Alzheimer’s Care

A pile of 50 and 100 dollar bills.

Daughters, we’d like to thank fellow daughter, Lydia Chan for the below guest blog post. Lydia is the co-creator of Alzheimerscaregiver.net, a website that aims to provide tips and resources to help caregivers. Her mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and Lydia found herself struggling to balance the responsibilities of caregiving and her own life. She is passionate about sharing her knowledge and experiences with caregivers and seniors. In her spare time, Lydia finds joy in writing articles about a range of caregiving topics.

     
What Is This Really Going to Cost?

senior coupleThat all depends on your loved one’s condition and their needs at the moment. As the Alzheimer’s Association notes, “Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease and the person’s needs will change over time.” While their care may cost one thing this year, it could double or even triple in years to come. The disease costs Americans on the whole over $277 billion a year, and how much of that chunk will be yours is highly variable.

 

It All Depends on Type of Care

While the average Alzheimer’s patient will incur costs from ongoing medical appointments, treatments, home modifications, medications, and more, the single largest cost consideration you’ll have to face is their day-to-day care. Once again, it will depend on their current needs. On average, it costs 85,775 per year for a semi-private room in a nursing home and about $10,000 more for a fully private room. An in-home aide will run on average $22 per hour. Adult daycare can be $70 per day or more.Medical Claim Approved Stamp Showing Successful Medical Reimbursement

 

Will Insurance Cover the Cost of Alzheimer’s Care?

A large majority of elderly Alzheimer’s patients are on Medicare, so we’ll discuss that. Will Medicare pay for Alzheimer’s care? Yes, it will. Some of it. Maybe all of it. The hard truth is that it all depends. For example, Medicare will pay for all of the cost of a nursing home for 20 days and 80 percent of the cost for 80 more days. In some circumstances, Medicare will increase the number of days. Check out the basics on what Medicare covers and what it does not.

Medicare supplemental plans, which help people pay for Medicare Part A and Part B copayments, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket costs, can help with the costs. Consider looking into this option for your loved one as well when researching different plans long before medicare open enrollment begins on October 15.

 

How to Find Funding Outside of Insurance

Even if your loved one has quality insurance (privately or through Medicare/Medicaid), there may be some coverage gaps. Like we mentioned before, Alzheimer’s is a complicated disease that carries quite a bit of financial baggage.

Most states have programs in place to help with long-term caregiving for the elderly. Check with your state’s health services website or head to the National Family Caregiver Support Program portal. Also, check out the national eldercare locator for help finding quality, professional, affordable care options available to you and your loved one.

Beyond that, there are a whole host of options, including Alzheimer’s care loans, prescription drug assistance services, veterans’ assistance for Alzheimer’s patients, state-based grant programs, and more. Check here for a great resource on all this.

Medicare and medicare supplemental insurance will certainly help with the major costs of your loved one’s treatment, medication, and care. But as their primary caregiving facilitator you will need to figure out how to make up the rest. Don’t forget to include your loved one in this conversation. They may have Alzheimer’s, but their opinions matter. What they say could determine what costs you incur down the road, so make sure you respect their wishes.

       

Thanks so much for sharing this information with us, Lydia. Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s is one of the most challenging seasons in a person’s life and we need each other to make it through! For more posts specific to Alzheimer’s caregivers, visit HERE!

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Apparel Designer Helps Caregivers and Seniors

Carla Macklin, Founder, Alium Adaptive Apparel

Daughters, meet Carla Macklin, the founder of a new company that has just launched: Alium Adaptive Apparel. The mission of the company is to design clothing to help caregivers have the best access to giving care while keeping the senior feeling comfortable and dignified. Carla showcased her new clothing line at the 2017 National Caregiving Conference where we had a chance to ask her a few questions.

     
Where did you get the idea to start Alium Adaptive Apparel?

alium adaptive apparel carla macklin Alium was born after a great deal of soul-searching to find a purposeful way to apply my sewing and design skills. Increasingly I’ve heard stories from friends about the difficulty they face caring for their aging family members and often this difficulty boils down to clothing options. Existing off-the-rack clothing options are often undignified, inefficient, and difficult to wear while adaptive clothing companies look clinical and “old”. I thought simply that I could make better adaptive clothing options that bring in modern touches and innovative design.

 

What is different about your garments?

The garments are designed to address a number of different issues of aging such as loss of mobility and dexterity, thinning of the skin, incontinence, reduction in circulation, among other things. Our textiles are chosen for their warmth and softness and are sewn with flat interior seams to minimize abrasion to the skin, reducing the potential for bedsores and infections. Innovative textiles have been utilized, such as the soft hook & loop that doesn’t require finger dexterity to open and close. Openings of the garments have been constructed to provide alternate ways for a caregiver to access the body without disturbing the care receiver’s dignity.  For example, a catheter need not be disturbed when changing pants and the nightgown need not be entirely removed or shifted up to check how a wound is healing. But in the end it’s about style and each garment must pass the “does it look good?” test.  Research shows it’s important to an individual’s mental and physical wellbeing to be dressed for the day in garments they feel comfortable in.  We respect that principle in our garments.Pant Front

  What is your design process?

The designs start with research. We have interviewed over one hundred caregivers at this point (medical, professional and family caregivers) about the challenges they face with their care receiver and the clothing options they have use. From there ideas are generated to address these challenges and get incorporated into garments during the prototyping phase. During prototyping, a pattern is made and gets sewn dozens of times for wear testing and trials on real bodies. When we finally feel like it is ready for market, a small production is run. Keeping production small allows us to continue to iterate products based on real customer feedback and we are always looking for customer’s thoughts on how to make our garments better.

What is the future of Alium Adaptive Apparel?

We are positioning Alium to be the innovation leader in caregiving garments. We are devoting a lot of effort to understanding the advancements in antimicrobial, anti-odor, moisture wicking, heat-conserving, and anti-abrasion textiles and plan to incorporate these technologies into future designs. We also plan to expand offerings into menswear and provide a larger range of sizes. Our goal in 5 years is to have a portfolio of garments that can help a wider variety of individuals and their needs.

       

Thanks so much, Carla, for sharing your process with us. And for any Daughters who wish to share feedback and ideas with Alium, please comment below or reach out to Carla directly HERE!

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Millennial Caregiver Turned Dementia Ambassador

Daughters, meet fellow daughter, Aisha Adkins.
Aisha is a Millennial and a full-time caregiver for her mother and founder of Our Turn 2 Care, a platform for young adult caregivers who are people of color or members of the LGBTQA community. She’s an authentic storyteller who’s driven by her faith, inspired by her family, and eager to use her talents to affect positive social change.

Aisha earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Georgia Southern University and has worked in fields ranging from healthcare to technology to nonprofit development. When she is not a doting daughter and agent of change, she enjoys classic film, traditional jazz, and cookies-n-cream ice cream.
. Thanks, Aisha for sharing your story and amazing passion!

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Meet Elizabeth Miller, One Happy Healthy Caregiver! (Part Two)

Elizabeth Miller, Founder www.happyhealthycaregiver.com

Welcome to Part Two of our interview with Happy Healthy Caregiver’s creator and founder, Elizabeth Miller. In Part One, Elizabeth shared the most important lessons she’s learned from her caregiving experience and what led her to create www.happyhealthycaregiver.com.

In Part-two, Elizabeth talks about her Certified Caregiving Consultant course, upcoming Happy Healthy Caregiver podcast and where she most often hangs out on social media.
 

Elizabeth, we hear you became a Certified Caregiving Consultant. What information would you say has impacted you the most from this experience and program?

I wasn’t completely sure what to expect. I’m a chronic learner and I knew I had more to learn. I definitely don’t know all there is to know about caregiving. For example, I haven’t had any direct exposure to dementia or Alzheimer’s.

The class is very structured and organized. The instructor, Denise Brown of CareGiving.com, has organized the content into the stages you go through as a family caregiver. It starts with the expectant caregiver stage and goes through all the stages including the one after your caregiving role ends.

happy healthy caregiver founder, elizabeth millerShe gives you the tools to meet people where they are in each stage, and this training helped me a lot. For example, I love to help people, but sometimes they don’t want to necessarily be helped, or they aren’t ready for the help. They just need someone to listen to them. One of Denise’s superpowers she shares is related to empathy and validation. The importance of meeting people where they are.

We also hear you’re planning to launch a Happy Healthy Caregiver podcast. Can you tell us more about this?

happy healthy caregiver, elizabeth miller, podcastsListening to podcasts has been something I have enjoyed doing, especially while I was engrossed in caregiving responsibilities. I had less time to read books and articles but listening to a podcast during my commutes or carpools or trips back and forth to see my parents was doable. Podcasts were my go-to for learning how to cope with situations, the challenges of the day, and even learning how to start an online business.

Creating a podcast for Happy Healthy Caregiver is a natural next step to reach family caregivers. I was approached by Chris MacLellan of the Whole Care Network about joining their team of podcasters and the timing felt right.

The podcast is in the works. I’m batching up a few episodes before launching it later this year. Each episode will focus on a topic to help family caregivers be happier and healthier. Sometimes I’ll be sharing my own stories and content and sometimes I’ll have guests who are either current or former family caregivers.

  Besides the podcast, what else is on the horizon for you?

I want to publish a few different books that I currently have swimming around in my head. I love to write and will also continue to look for ways to help share information in different media outlets.

happy healthy caregiver, elizabeth miller, corporations, senior communitiesI also am connecting more locally with corporations and senior communities by sharing interactive presentations with small groups of family caregivers. I currently lead the Atlanta Daughterhood Circle (a social support group for family caregivers) so I’ll continue to get the word out about that.

Lastly, I’m doing as much national speaking as my schedule will allow. I’m excited about speaking at the National Caregiving Conference this November in Chicago.

Wow. You’ve got a lot going on, Girl. So, tell us. What’s your favorite social media channel to hang out on?

I find that most of the interaction I get with family caregivers tends to be on Facebook. I even started a Happy Healthy Caregiver Facebook Group that has different daily themes (Monday Motivation, Tip Tuesday, Workout Wednesday, etc.). I also like Instagram a lot.

       

Thanks, Elizabeth for a jam packed two-part interview! It’s amazing how many ‘Daughters Turned Caregivers Turned Entrepreneurs’ we run across. If you’re one of us and would like to be interviewed for a blog – PLEASE contact us at info@daughtersunite.com. We’d love to share what you’re doing for our amazing tribe! Also, don’t miss this year’s 2nd Annual National Caregiving Conference – even if you can’t travel – you can attend online!

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Meet Elizabeth Miller, One Happy Healthy Caregiver! (Part One)

Elizabeth Miller, Founder www.happyhealthycaregiver.com

The absolute best part about uniting daughters is the amazing women we meet along the way. This week we’d like to introduce you to Elizabeth Miller, founder of www.happyhealthycaregiver.com. Elizabeth is a positive force to reckon with – she’s on a mission to help families integrate caregiving with life and support caregivers in their journey to first care for themselves. Find out how Elizabeth went from being a Journalist to one of the daughter caregiving pioneers in the rapidly growing family caregiving support industry in this two-part interview.
 

Elizabeth, what are a few of the most important lessons caregiving has taught you about yourself?

Caregiving has been life changing for me.

First, I think it reiterated the importance of the flexibility I need in my life. I want to be able to be with the people I love when I want to be with them.

quote in interview with elizabeth millerSecondly, it really taught me that you can’t change people. You just have to learn to let go. I’ve had to really practice this and the one tool I’ve used the most is meditation. I discovered an app that I love called CALM where I find benefit from just a 10 minute guided meditation.

Thirdly, I would say ‘being prepared’. It’s so important to be prepared with your own finances, emotional state (for example, not repeating the same mistakes over again) and personal health and happiness plus being prepared with your loved ones by having certain conversations earlier, and having them documented.

I’m especially focused and interested on helping family caregivers connect with resources to help them feel more prepared and less overwhelmed. My mission with Happy Healthy Caregiver is to encourage and help family caregivers integrate caregiving with their busy lives and create ways to be happy & healthy in the process.

What led you to create Happy Healthy Caregiver?

just thought i was a daughter not a caregiverThe reason I created the site was that I felt so isolated and overwhelmed as a new caregiver. I didn’t even know that I was called a family caregiver! I definitely never did a Google search on that term. Just a daughter trying to help care for my aging parents. I looked for resources to help guide me through the challenges and really didn’t find what I was looking for. I was finding specific disease information but I wasn’t finding a way to live my life while caring for aging parents and raising children and working full-time. I landed on the term ‘sandwich generation’ – a group of people caring for aging parents while raising children. I knew I was a part of that but now what?

When all this crazy health stuff was happening to my parents in 2014, I had a six hour ride each way in my car, I had time to think and process emotions. My family and my own personal health and happiness was being impacted by those around me. I knew that the health conditions of my parents and my mother-in-law (she had terminal lung cancer and my husband was caring for her at the same time) were self-inflicted by the lifestyle choices they had made. If I didn’t really focus on my health & happiness and prioritize it, I was going to repeat the same cycle. It just really hit me that I needed to figure out how to care for myself while caring for others and share with others how to do this so they wouldn’t burnout.

interview quote from elizabeth millerI have a degree in Journalism and had considered starting a blog in my past but now I had to start it. I saw a huge void and identified with a group of family caregivers who were being underserved. This need compounded with my own desire to have more flexibility in my life motivated me to push forward even during the craziest emotional days of my life. Blogging and staying accountable to my audience has truly helped me probably more than I am helping them.

I do hope that something I have written or shared will help a family caregiver create time for themselves and make life just a little bit happier for them during a difficult time.

  What can people expect when they connect with your private happyhealthycaregiving.com community on your website?

Family caregivers will first see that the content is super organized. There’s a lot of content specific to caregiving ‘out there’ on the internet, but it’s not very well organized. So, it was very important to me to create a site that was practical and where caregivers could get the information they need when they need it. Unlike Facebook posts where they disappear from your newsfeed and feel like they are gone forever, the content in the community is organized by themes and topics.

interview with elizabeth miller tried and true ideasIf people need information about how they can truly implement self-care and get tried and true ideas to create more time for themselves – they will find all of these resources and tips nested together. And I am constantly adding more resources and tools that I come across or if they don’t exist yet – we’ll create them.

       

Stay tuned for Part Two of this interview and find out what information Elizabeth learned the most from her Caregiving Consultant program and her exciting new Happy Healthy Caregiver podcast venture!

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Welcome to the ‘Daughter Hood’, Girls.

Disabled senior woman in wheelchair with her young daughter.Daughters, have you entered the ‘daughter hood’ yet? If so, you totally know. If not, chances are pretty high that eventually you’ll be there. Here’s the great news – when you arrive – there are millions of other daughters more than ready and willing to help you through. Yes, it’s scary, sad and stressful, but it can also be a sacred time you’ll cherish when you look back on it.

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3 Significant Lessons I Learned on the (Caregiving) Job

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Jessica and her mom.

Daughters, meet fellow daughter, Jessica McLean.
Jessica is a freelance writer and full-time caregiver to her Mom who has Primary Progressive MS and Epilepsy. She lives Austin, TX with her husband and Mom, and blogs about caregiving tips, ideas, and solutions at Givea.Care. In this week’s blog, Jessica (aka ‘Jess’) shares three significant lessons she’s learned from and about caregiving.
Thanks, Jess for sharing your heart and wisdom!

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Meet Denise Brown, Family Caregiver Support Pioneer (Part Two)

caregiver

Denise Brown, Founder, CareGiving.com

Welcome to Part Two of our interview with CareGiving.com’s creator and founder, Denise Brown. In Part One of our interview, we learned how Denise went from being a writer to launching one of the first online caregiving support communities, which has been in existence since the ‘90’s.

In Part Two, Denise talks about how CareGiving.com has been her lifeline for support while managing the needs of her own aging parents, her thoughts on how to best promote and broaden partnerships between healthcare providers and family caregivers and the upcoming Second Annual National Caregiving Conference.

         

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               As you’ve gone through the process of building CareGiving.com, you’ve watched your parents’ age.  Do you feel like everything you prepare others for has prepared you?

denise brown caregiving.comI don’t think you can be prepared for what aging looks like for someone else. There were definitely surprises, but I knew what was coming and I had my support system in place. I used my website. I’d go to my ‘Chats’. I blogged about all that was going on. I used Twitter. I had it all there for me and knew where to go. That was the key. It wasn’t that I knew exactly what to do with my parents because what happened to them is not what I thought would happen, but what I did know is where to find support for me. I knew on CareGiving.com I could make sure I wasn’t alone, talk honestly about what was going on and receive support.

From your perspective, what are the most important changes that need to occur in healthcare to promote and broaden partnerships between the treating providers and family caregivers?

denise brown caregiving.comThis is what I think, which is the next level of training that I’ve created. The impact of the disease process on the family caregiver is misunderstood. The patient education currently available is all, understandably so, about patient care. We ‘get’ patient care. My mom and I learned how to manage my dad’s ostomy bag, but what we didn’t know how to manage was the emotional impact it would have on us and my dad. I really believe we have to educate the healthcare professionals on the emotional impact of the disease process. There needs to be both treatment plan for both the caree and the family caregiver.

The family caregiver’s treatment plan needs to be about the tasks and skills required to care for their caree and how to get the emotional support that’s needed. Right now, this doesn’t happen. You get a diagnosis and your told the follow up for the ‘patient’, but if you’re a family caregiver, you’re left waving in the wind. You have to go home and figure it out.

caregiving_care quality_cost containmentAll of this is the basic premise of my third training program that’s available to any one who’s gone through the first two. The training is about ‘us’ as family caregivers educating healthcare professionals about the impact of caring. The purpose is to equip the healthcare professional with the ability to identify when ‘enough is enough’ for the caregiver and how to best support him or her when they’re trying to be their best during the worst time of their life. I strongly believe healthcare professionals need to have some sort of training – whether it’s mine or someone else’s – if they truly want to provide quality care to their patients. Family caregivers are a huge part of the overall care quality and cost containment puzzle and healthcare professionals need to understand the family caregiver’s experience.

  Tell me about the National Caregiving Conference. What motivated you
to coordinate such a huge undertaking? What did you learn from last year’s event and what are you looking forward to this year?

I really wanted to have a conference that brought caregivers together to share their experience, strength and hope and have an opportunity to learn from each other instead of the experts telling us what it’s like. It was interesting to see the number of professionals who’ve been family caregivers participate and volunteer to do presentations along with non-professionals, which gave us the opportunity to offer continuing education.

denise brown second annual family caregiving conferenceLast year (2016) was our first conference. I tried to do a conference two or three times before the 2016 conference and each time I tried it never took off so it really wasn’t the right time. For whatever reason, last year I saw a lot of conferences happening at the local level and I thought, ‘There are enough conferences happening locally that there’s a need for something nationally – so, let’s just do it.’ My intention was to make it an inclusive event. I reached out to as many organizations that serve family caregivers that I could and invited them to be a media partner and promote the conference in exchange for name recognition. This was not about CareGiving.com or me; it was an opportunity for family caregivers, former family caregivers and anyone in this space to get together. That’s really what I tried to create.

One of the things I’m always trying to do is get diversity in terms of the stories and types of stories we have. We have a good representation of those caring for parents and spouses. This year we’re working to get more representation of those caring for children. Diversity is such a an important part of caregiving – you want to connect to a person in the caregiving role with a similar lifestyle. Whatever life you live, I hope when you come to the conference you connect with someone who lives a life that’s similar or understands the impact of caregiving on you and your life.

Last year was a tremendous learning opportunity. I didn’t realize the sense of community that would develop during the conference. Now, the focus is on what the community does together at the conference. We’re going to have entertainment in the evening on Friday night and many opportunities for people to connect – catch up, talk, share. I’d like for people to leave the conference having connected with someone and having learned something. I’m thrilled that we’re doing another conference this year! The theme is “Our Boldest Hours: Before. During. After” and we’d love to have as many people join us who want to. If cost and/or finding respite care is an issue – please visit CareGiving.com. We have a variety of opportunities for support. Also, if you can’t join us – we’ll be live streaming the entire conference.

       

Thanks, Denise! You are an inspiration to us all! Daughters, if there’s any way you can make the 2nd Annual National Caregiving Conference in Chicago this fall – you definitely need to. There’s an amazing community waiting to meet you.

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Meet Denise Brown, Family Caregiver Support Pioneer

caregiver

Denise Brown, Founder, CareGiving.com

Daughters, this week we’re thrilled to introduce you to fellow daughter and caregiving expert, Denise Brown. Denise is the founder and creator of CareGiving.com and has been helping family caregivers since the early 90’s. Her story is fascinating and truly inspiring. Find out how Denise went from being a writer to a pioneer in the rapidly growing family caregiving support industry in this two-part interview.

 

What inspired you to create CareGiving.com?

I graduated from college in 1990 and started working for trade magazines as a writer. I wrote for magazines that served bakeries and would go into bakeries in the middle of the night, take pictures, talk to the bakers and get their ‘formulas’, which is the technical word for recipes. I also worked for a trade magazine that serviced convenience stores. I needed to find a part-time job to augment my free-lance work and I fell into a job managing a congregant meal site in a small town in New Jersey along the Delaware River. Local seniors would come in for a hot-meal at lunch and we delivered meals on wheels. The agency that provided this service also managed the statewide respite care program for family caregivers, a program that was funded by the casino revenue fund. I was promoted to “manager” of the respite program and this is when I started talking to family caregivers day in and day out.

caregiverFollowing this position, I worked as an admissions director at a nursing home and then moved back to Illinois and was an admissions director for another facility. Then, I decided to start a business. Initially, I offered a marketing service to professionals in the nursing home industry, but I really didn’t like this so I decided to start a newsletter to help those who care. My newsletter was called, “Caregiving”. The first issue came out in January 1995. It was a print publication that I continued to publish for ten years.

Around this time I was introduced to the Internet and decided to build a rudimentary website through Prodigy, which was an Internet Service Provider that was bundled in your computer software. I used the content from the newsletter on the Internet and people like it. This led to me finding the Caregiving.com domain name and I launched the site in September 1996.

At the time, there were only three of ‘us’ in the caregiving industry. There was my site, CareGiving.com, the National Family Caregivers Association, which is now called, Caregiver Action Network (CAN) and caregiver.com, a site created by Gary Barg who also publishes a magazine called, “Today’s Caregiver”.

 

Wow. You’ve been doing this for quite some time. What’s it been like watch the industry grow?

caregiver

Honestly, it’s hard to be in this space. I can’t begin to tell you how many companies I’ve watched ‘go under’ and in the process – burn through millions of dollars. I was in business during the dot.com boom of the late 90’s. There’s one site in particular that I remember receiving $1million to launch and sustain their website and they lasted maybe a year.

  What do you think happened?

It’s simple, really. They lost their focus on serving family caregivers. If you lose focus on serving you start to operate out of selfishness and a family caregiver sees that. A family caregiver knows when you’re in it for yourself and when you’re in it to make a difference.

 

How has CareGiving.com been able to make it?

At the time, it seemed like everyone was getting funding, but me. I was watching all of these websites get money and I wasn’t getting any. The irony is I didn’t get any money, which is how I stayed in business.

The business model around websites has evolved. In the late 90’s it was an advertising-based model. At that time, a ton of traffic to your site could have been a successful model. Even today and even with a ton of traffic, it’s hard to be successful with advertisers. It takes a ton of time to chase advertisers and it’s not a lot of money. Instead, I chose to build my business model around training and doing speaking engagements.

caregiverI developed a concept in 1997 called, The Caregiving Years: Six Stages to a Meaningful Journey. I wrote the curriculum while working a variety of other jobs to keep the business going. When I first created the concept there were four stages and I’ve continuously refined it over the last 20 years with feedback from my website and live audiences and launched it in January 2016 as a certification course that includes two levels of training. The Certified Caregiving Consultant training program helps you take a personal caregiving experience and turn it into a career. You learn three critical skills that you use when you work with family caregivers, you practice them, you prove that you understand them and then you dig into the six stages. We take one stage a week and then week seven and eight we talk about the challenges that come up when you work with a family caregiver. Once you’re certified as a consultant – you can then take the ‘educator’ training and that’s when you take the Caregiving Years as a presentation and deliver it in your community.

 

This is a huge accomplishment. How did you feel launching it after 20 years?

caregiving expert

Denise & her Dad

After writing the first draft, I asked my dad, who was the editor of the Sears catalog to edit it and, I told him, “Dad, this is going to be one of the best things I ever do in my life. I knew how good it was. I just knew from my gut it was ‘right’.” All of this happened – the newsletter, CareGiving.com and the certification program – because I listened to family caregivers. All because I listened.

     

Stay tuned for Part Two of this interview and find out Denise’s thoughts on how CareGiving.com has helped her manage her own parent’s aging, what she sees as the most important changes that need to occur in healthcare to promote and broaden partnerships between the treating providers and family caregivers and information on the 2nd Annual National Caregiving Conference in Chicago this fall.

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