Relieve caregiver stress during the holidays

Lighten your load as a caregiver this holiday season

Ah, the holiday season. It’s the most wonderful time of year- right? As we all know it can be a very busy and stressful time too. Between the shopping, cooking, and traveling it gets hectic. This is especially true for those who serve as a primary caregiver to a loved one. In particular, the “sandwich generation” may be caring for an elderly parent and bringing kids back from college for winter break. Caregivers deserve to enjoy Thanksgiving or Hanukkah or Christmas just as much as the next guy, if not more.

First comes daylight savings, then Thanksgiving and Black Friday, and just like that it’s December. Whether you need a few good hours to fight the Christmas shopping crowds or plan to travel; is it feasible to do so with a frail loved one living alone, who needs your daily attention? And for many caregivers, it doesn’t matter what season it is, there just are not enough hours in the day. However, here are several solutions that can make your life a bit more manageable.

Consider tech and other supportive services

First, there are some great technology solutions. An emergency call system, such as Philips Lifeline®, can be the difference between your loved one getting help immediately after falling versus laying there for hours before they’re discovered. The Lifeline with Autoalert can detect a fall and send a signal even if the user forgets or is unable to push the button for help. There are also versions of emergency call systems that work both in and outside the home. They feature GPS tracking technology, which is especially helpful for those with dementia who may wander. Apps and home monitoring systems like GrandCare® can provide a level of comfort and connectedness for loved ones near or far. Facetime, is available on most Apple devices or Skype are a few other ways to provide that vital face-to-face interaction.

If you have aversion to technology, another option is non-medical home care. Hire an aid to come stay with mom or dad for several hours or several days. There are number of non-medical home-care agencies around to pick from. Particularly, Messiah Lifeways at Home offers traditional home-care services like help with bathing, housekeeping, and cooking. They also provide unique home care services like replacing light bulbs and smoke detector batteries, organizing, (un)packing decorations, transportation, and even pet and plant care. Another great choice are Adult Day Programs. Messiah Lifeways Adult Day offers a day program where a loved one can come for a full or half day of activities, socialization, meals, plus receive assistance with activities of daily living. These programs are cost effective and offer great flexibility because your loved one can attend once a week or multiple days. What a great gift to give yourself, the gift of time and security.

Peace of mind for holiday travel

As family becomes more spread out, it leaves many caregivers with the predicament of traveling versus staying home for the holidays. What if your loved one can’t make the 10 hour drive or the cross country flight? This decision is tough. However, if you choose to go away for the holidays or any other time for that matter, a respite stay for the person you care for may be the answer.

Respite provides short-term or temporary care and is typically available at most personal care homes or assisted living facilities. As a respite your loved one can receive the same services a permanent resident would, like meals, activities, medication monitoring, and assistance with activities of daily living. You can arrange for the individual to stay for two to four weeks. Messiah Lifeways at Messiah Village offers respite provides a safe, secure, and nurturing place for them to spend while you are out of town. Holiday activities and cooking, plus special events like Christmas concerts and celebrations make the time even more enjoyable. Respite can also include a combination of overnights in personal care, adult day services and or home care. There are many different options to consider.

Additional holiday caregiving tips

Senior Caregiving Help During the HolidaysUnlike Santa Claus, we do not have magical powers. You cannot be in multiple places in a flash. Ask for help from family and friends and learn how to delegate tasks. Don’t try to do it all yourself. Although it may be a hard choice, you may want to re-evaluate old traditions and family rituals that involve lots of travel or preparation time. Prioritize the things that matter most. You can’t be all things to all people and don’t feeling guilty about the things you cannot change. Schedule time to do the things that you like to do around holidays. You deserve to enjoy the holidays too. Set aside time to relax and talk to your loved one about the holidays and really listen to as they reminisce.

For additional information about the many options available to make the holidays more manageable please contact the Messiah Lifeways Coaching Office at 717.591.7225 or online at

Adapted and revised from Nov. 24, 2015 version

Home Care: A Cornerstone to Aging in Place

Every November, the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) celebrates National Home Care Month all month long, and Home Care Aide Week, which runs from November 13-19, 2016. It is a time to honor the care giving heroes who make a remarkable difference in the lives of those in need. This year’s theme is “Caring in Action.”

November is Homecare MonthHome care lies at the core of helping aging and disabled Americans stay in their home for longer periods of time. It can potentially lessen the amount of time someone may spend in an assisted living residence, personal care home, or nursing home. Of course there are many other resources to help people “age in place or community.” Other options include home health care, which provides short-term medical care into the home, adult day programs, respite care, technology, home modification, and in-home medical equipment. Home care services combined with one or several of these other home-based resources can create a workable blueprint to help someone age in place.

The Evolution of Community-Based Care
There are a number of reasons for this shift toward community-based care. First is the government’s dwindling ability to fund healthcare. And with nearly 76 million baby boomers reaching age 65 in the next 20 years, coverage for institutional care will become harder and harder to get. Because of this, the free market is joining the movement away from an institutional model of care and pushing for more community support services. It is the direction health care services are headed in our country. This is why you are seeing more urgent care centers, home care agencies, and hospice providers popping up in the community. It is simply cheaper to take care of someone if they don’t have to be hospitalized or placed in a facility, which is what most people want anyway.

These 76 million boomers represent a large and powerful generation whose demands and expectations of care will be very different from what we are used to seeing. Once more the idea of bringing services into the home and modifying homes will be the future for this rapidly growing number of seniors. Other factors compounding this evolution of care include our ever increasing life spans which require longer periods of care and funding. Secondly, over the last three decades, the number of family members, especially daughters, serving as caregivers has shrunk as our society becomes more mobile and career-oriented making a move out of town, state, or country more common. The way we used to care for our elders has changed. Just as nursing homes and personal care homes have provided surrogate care for aging loved ones over the last several decades, the idea of substituting care with home care aides has become more conventional. It helps working daughters (or sons), sandwich generation caregivers, out-of-towners, and spouses to replace or supplement the care they provide.

The National Association for Home Care & Hospice states that demographic shift studies translate into some [troubling] data. The number of frail older people over 65 is expected to increase from 11 million in 2010 to 18 million in 2030. The percentage of frail older people who are childless is expected to rise from 14 to 18 percent during this period, and the ratio of frail, older people who have only one or two adult children is expected to increase from 38 to 49 percent. Most of these aging boomers will want to remain in their homes, but they may not be able to count on their families for long-term care when it’s needed.

Home Care Can Fill Many Niches
Not only has health care evolved to put a greater emphasis on community-based services, but home care itself is evolving. Traditional housekeeping, cooking, companionship, transportation and assistance with activities like bathing and dressing are generally offered by most non-medical home care providers. However, home care providers such as Messiah Lifeways At Home now offer a unique array of services that buoy one’s ability to live safely and more carefree at home. Some of these newer and less known options include: pet and plant care,  non-skilled home maintenance, downsizing services, assistance with home exercise programs, and technology/computer assistance.

Lastly, in a time where the expanding need along with the absence of consistent familial support continue to grow, home care staff fill a void and become more than just caregivers for their clients. They become almost like close friends or even family and are poised to play a key role at the center of caregiving in our country.

To learn more, go to or call 717.790.8209. For information on home care services for the entire state, visit the Pennsylvania Homecare Association (PHA) home care locator link [click here].

Originally posted November 2013- Revised for November 2016
by: Matthew Gallardo, Messiah Lifeways Coach, BASW, CCP
Everyone is a Potential Caregiver

The Joy and Pain of Caregiving

Serving as a caregiver for an aging loved one or parent is an incredible act. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, in the U.S., there are as many as 44 million¹ unpaid caregivers performing these incredible acts every day for someone over the age of 50. That is a huge mass of people serving the needs of an ailing spouse or loved one, where you will find lots of heartwarming, courageous and selfless caregiving stories. You’ll also hear stories of burnout, frustration and despair. Anyone who’s served as a caregiver for a significant amount of time can tell you that it can be wonderful yet woeful, and joyous and painful all at once. It’s assuming a lot of responsibility, which can be unfamiliar and often uncomfortable from handling their finances to helping a parent bathe or get dressed. It’s also a time to discover your own altruism or rekindle the bond between parent and child or between a husband and wife.

I’ve connected with hundreds of caregivers throughout my career including family, friends, but mostly through experiences at work. They hold a special place in my heart. Several years ago I helped develop a workshop created to help caregivers who were stressed and overwhelmed. The goal was to help this constant cycle of individuals avoid burnout and find options and resources to make the task of caregiving for an older adult easier and more manageable.

Everyone Is a Potential Caregiver

In the book “What to Do about Mama?” authors Barb Matthews and Barbara Trainin Blank exclaim, “Everyone is a potential caregiver.” So whether you have, are or will be a caregiver at some point in your life you can expect the highs and lows of this process. As you begin to read articles or books like “What to Do about Mama” you begin to see patterns and statistics that paint a very taxing picture. Over two-thirds of caregivers are women, many of whom are in the “sandwich generation,” which means they are caring for a parent or loved one while simultaneously caring for their children. also states that anywhere from 40-70%² of caregivers suffer from various stages of depression. It also takes its toll on physical health, relationships, and work. Juggling all this can lead to burnout.

However, there is hope. There are a multitude of books, online resources and workshops like the one Messiah Lifeways Coaching offers to help caregivers avoid burnout. One of the most fundamental tools to elude burning out is taking care of YOU. Simply put – you cannot care for someone else if you yourself are ailing or worse. The comparison is often made to being on an airplane, and oxygen masks descend during an emergency. The rule is to place your oxygen mask on first and then assist those who need help. It’s a simple concept, but quite often forgotten.

Another important choice is seeking and accepting help from others. So often, women especially, think they can run all of mom’s errands, provide her the care she needs and drop in all hours of the day without the help of anyone else. It’s noble, but can be quite foolish as well. Ask others for help or hire help, plus take people up on their offers to help because eventually they may stop asking.

Caregiver support groups are also a very valuable asset in the effort of avoiding feeling overwhelmed, depressed or inadequate. They serve as great outlets to gain support from those who know what you’re going through. It’s a time to share, laugh and cry, to console, validate and commiserate. Jeanne McClintick RN, CHLPN from Hospice of Central Pennsylvania, runs several local caregiver support groups and shares wonderful supportive stories between members. She also states many participants continue to attend these groups even after the person they care for passes. It’s a way for them to heal and to help others new to the caregiving arena. So whether you chose to be or are thrust into the position of caregiver, do not take it lightly; however, do not fret. Remembering some of these tips along with other resources and insight can make it a better situation for all involved.

For more caregiver support and resources read “What to Do about Mama?” or visit or If you’d like to attend The Caregiver Solutions Workshop on September 22, 2015 at the Carlisle Brethren in Christ Church, call 717.591.7225 or go to

¹Alzheimer’s Association, 2011 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures, Alzheimer’s and Dementia, Vol.7, Issue 2.] – Updated: November 2012
²Zarit, S. (2006) Assessment of Family Caregivers: A Research Perspective in Family Caregiver Alliance (Eds.), Caregiver Assessment: Voices and Views from the Field. Report from a National Consensus Development Conference (Vol. II) (pp. 12-37). San Francisco: Family Caregiver Alliance.] – Updated: November 2012

Frog in a Frying Pan

I love metaphors and analogies. Just ask my wife, I use them all the time, and it drives her crazy. But to me, metaphors are a great way to make brief, colorful and descriptive points, such as “I’m happier than a pig in mud!” Now that’s happy. They can also help someone visualize life’s challenges and difficulties such as feeling like a “fish out of water” or one I hear more and more often, feeling like a “frog in a frying pan.” This metaphor often epitomizes caregivers.

One such example is a woman who has been caring for her mother for the last 7+ years. Her mother was diagnosed with dementia and moved in with her and her husband. In addition to being a fulltime caregiver to her mother, she also home schools her three young children, not to mention all the other responsibilities she has as a wife and mother. She is your classic “sandwich generation” caregiver and self-admitted “frog in a frying pan.”

frog it hot in here or is it just me?

She described feeling like the frog in a frying pan, based on the proverb– place a frog in the frying pan then gradually turn up the heat and it won’t jump out. Instead it stays put, continually adapting and adjusting to the heat until they get burned or worse! That’s how she and many other caregivers often feel. They take on the role of caregiver and don’t recognize that the gradual pressure and stress is “frying” them mentally, emotionally and even physically. They need to learn how to avoid getting burned, jump out of the pan and ask another “frog” for help or seek other solutions.

One of the first steps of avoiding caregiver burnout is to simply realize you are in fact a caregiver. Often spouses or adult children get into the habit of helping or doing little things for their loved one and, bam, several months or years later it has become their daily routine. It consumes them and can monopolize their time away from other important things in life. Caregiver burnout is a real epidemic. Otherwise all the books, articles, and websites dedicated to helping caregivers wouldn’t exist.

Realizing it is a problem and looking for solutions is great a starting point. How can you seek help or a solution if you don’t even realize the problem? But once you realize it, you’ll soon discover there are many resources out there dedicated to helping caregivers. Listed below is a sampling of a few great websites and some other local resources that include articles, financial assistance, checklists, support groups, and many other tools to combat caregiver burnout. (click on the links below)
Cumberland County Aging and Community Services
Cumberland County Family Caregiver Support Program
Dauphin County Area Agency on Aging
Dauphin County Family Caregiver Support Program
Hospice of Central PA Support Group Calendar

Please also consider attending our Caregiver’s Workshop at Messiah Village on September 4, 2014. The workshop was designed for those seeking options, resources, and support as caregivers. We will examine ways to identify and reduce caregiver burnout and explore available resources and support. Plus, the workshop will also include the “Caregiving Panel” for a question and answer session with local care-giving experts.

Originally posted August, 2013- Revised August 2014
by: Matthew Gallardo, Messiah Lifeways Coach, BASW, CCP

”What to Do about Mama”- Book Review

Everyone is a potential caregiver – BGM & BTB

We have not done a book review in quite a while on the blog page. However, What to Do about Mama is categorically worth the read. It should not only capture the attention of previous and current caregivers, but it can also provide a potential glimpse into the future for nearly all of us. As the book states, “everyone is a potential caregiver” either for an aging parent, spouse, sibling as well as a disabled child, client, friend, or neighbor. The role of caregiver could be as short as a few weeks or for others it could last decades. Nonetheless, very few of us will ever be devoid of this altruistic and challenging role.

Co-authors Barbara G. Matthews and Barbara Trainin Blank open their hearts and bear their souls to share their challenging, heart wrenching, and insightful journeys as caregivers. Their personal stories, along with a host of other caregiving contributors, give detailed perspective on this physical, mental, and emotional roller coaster that it entails. Readers should heed the warning of how expectations, sharing responsibility, and the relationship between other family members can really deteriorate and/or shift. Furthermore, it highlights many of the unexpected realities of caregiving such as dealing with financial, legal, and medical issues of the care recipient.

Affirmation is also a big part of this book, particularly for those who served as a caregiver in the past. The relatable experiences can provide some absolution from the feelings of guilt, resentment, or remorse while “in the trenches.” If someone felt inadequate or felt guilty, What to Do about Mama shows that they are human and they should be proud of the job they did. For some of the contributors, I think the book was also a way to get those negative feelings off their chest without feeling judged. It helped them move beyond those difficult memories and to remember more of the joyful ones spent with their loved one.

For current caregivers, this is must read. As the authors express, this is not a caregiving textbook, and it is not written by “caregiving experts” but rather a guide featuring a collection of experiences and insights for caregivers by caregivers. It provides real world scenarios, anecdotes, and support to those in the position of caregiver. It tells the tale of what to do, what not to do, what did or didn’t work for them or what could work for you. They also reference funding sources as well as other resources to help your loved one age in place.

Lastly, the book also goes beyond caregiving in the here and now. It examines the residual effects of caregiving even after the loved one has passed, including the emotional aspect, relationships between survivors, and some of the legal and financial issues that can linger.

I recommend What to Do about Mama for anyone faced with the sometimes rewarding and sometimes unenviable task of caregiving for which most of us will encounter at some point in our lives. If you would like to learn more about this book as well as other resources to help caregivers manage and embrace the role along with avoiding caregiver burnout, please call the Messiah Lifeways Coaching office at 717.591.7225 or email


R-E-S-P-I-T-E: Find Out What it Means to Me

If you’d now like to get Aretha Franklin’s voice out of your head, follow me toward a completely different direction or at least to a circuitous segue for today’s blog. We’re talking about r-e-s-p-i-t-e and what it can mean to you – the caregiver, the ever-loving and devoted spouse or family member, dedicated and entrusted to the care of an aging parent or dependent loved one.

First, what does respite mean? Primarily it refers to taking or getting a break from a difficult or arduous ongoing task. And for some the “task of caregiving” can often lead to feelings of resentment, frustration, and in some cases caregiver burnout. So getting a break or respite is so important for caregivers. Many spouses and adult children have made the promise to take care of their husband or wife or parent at home indefinitely. But as valiant as that promise is, over a few years, months or even weeks, caregiving can take its toll on your health, along with your mental and emotional well-being. Fortunately, respite can be an extremely helpful way to stave off burnout and revitalize or prolong a person’s ability to take care someone that needs the help. It’s a tool that all caregivers should use or at least explore.

For those familiar with the term, the most prevalent form of respite care is having your loved one stay at a personal care home or an assisted living residence for a week or two, while you take a well-deserved vacation or an out of town business trip. Messiah Village offers such a program, and it’s a great option in the battle against burnout. However, there are two other options that can also help counterbalance the stress and impact that being a caregiver entails. Those options include non-medical home care and adult day programs. These services are not as closely associated with respite compared to overnight respite care programs, but they are without a doubt as vital, valuable and many times less expensive than respite in a facility.

Adult Day programs offer flexibility for caregivers who may still work or also have young children to care for at home. Fortunately the aging loved one, who cannot stay home alone, can come to an adult day program for up to 8 hours, while the caregiver is out of the house. At the end of the day the most satisfying fact is that the person in need has received the care, attention and stimulation they need during the day, but return home come evening time. Equally satisfying is that the caregiver gets the respite time they need or desire. Most programs, such as our very own Messiah Lifeways Adult Day program, offer full day and half day programs as well one day or multiple day options. It’s also one of the most affordable types of care out there, with the national average of $70/day and $60/day in Pennsylvania¹ for 8 hours of care.

Another form of respite is non-medical home care. Just as Adult Day can break up the day or supplement the duties of the primary caregiver, home care does the same and can be used in multiple ways and time frames. Whether it’s needed several hours here or there, at bedtime or bath time, in the middle of the night or on weekends, home care can offset the daily tasks and challenges a caregiver faces each day. Providers like Messiah Lifeways At Home can also take the burden out of responsibilities like cooking, housekeeping, and grocery shopping for an aging parent, especially for those “sandwiched” between taking care of mom and taking care of their kids. Though more expensive on a hour by hour basis than adult day, home care in Pennsylvania averages a doable rate of $21/hour, which also happens to be the national average².

The great thing about respite is that it’s not necessarily there to replace you as the caregiver, but rather to supplement your hard work and efforts and to help keep you from running yourself ragged.

And lastly don’t forget to sing…

Find out what it means to me
Take care, TCB, Oh (sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me)

To learn more about respite options available through Messiah Lifeways, call 717.790.8209. Also if you’d like to learn more about reducing caregiver burnout, join us for the next Coaching Workshop entitled “Caregiver Solutions” scheduled for Wednesday, September 18, 2013. To learn more or to RSVP, please call 717.591-7225 or online at

¹&² The 2012 MetLife Market Survey of Nursing Home, Assisted Living, Adult Day Services, and Home Care Costs- November 2012