The Caregiver Connection Newsletter is a free publication of the Baltimore County Department of Aging (BCDA).
October, November, December 2023
Stories in This Issue:
- Celebrate National Caregivers Month
- Seasonal Affective Disorder
- The VA Caregiver Support Program
- Book Nook
- Emergency Preparedness
- Caregiver Challenge: Harvest Your Wins
Caregiving is a tough job. You are not alone. This November, caregivers are recognized for all they do throughout the year. This year’s theme, “Caregiving Around the Clock,” reflects the reality that the family caregivers often forget to care for themselves as they take on more and more responsibilities for another person who needs help. While there can be joy, purpose, and other benefits to helping out a friend or family member who needs assistance, it’s important to stay balanced so you as a caregiver stay healthy.
One way to celebrate Caregivers like you, is to attend our Annual Caregiver Conference.
It’s All About Perspective: Caregiving Through a Different Lens
When: Friday, November 17 from 9 a.m to 3 p.m
Where: Ateaze Senior Center, 7401 Holabird Avenue, Dundalk, Maryland
Why: To support you. It is time flip the switch and find ways to keep caregivers “in the flow,” break down barriers to success, and learn skills needed to change the way they look at caregiving. It is time to look at caregiving with fresh eyes and see the value in all you do.
Keynote—How Caregivers Learn: A Pattern of Role Development—Aaron Blight, Ed.D, international speaker, author and founder of Caregiver Kinetics. Most caregivers are not innately endowed with the ability to deliver tasks of care but they can grow into an emerging role. This presentation raises consciousness of caregiver development and can accelerate growth by focusing on the learning process inherent in caregiving.
- “Care Partners: Reframing the Caregiving Relationships,” Emily Kearns, Ph.D, Dementia Friendly Coordinator, will offer a reframe on caregiving focusing on the “caring relationship.” This is defined as the interactions and system of caring and support that affects all involved.
- “Uplift Your Spirits Through Humor,” Mary Jo Neil, Drawn Dialogues, LLC, will teach you the magic of humor and play for lightening your stress and feeling heard and valued.
- “Managing Anticipatory Grief,” Anna Smolensky, Hospice Care Consultant and Area Leader of Health Equity, will provide education about anticipatory grief. Navigating through grief can have an impact on our daily living and it is always important to be prepared in all elements of change. The anticipation of an adjustment in life is something important to acknowledge and process.
Special presentation: Maryland Department of Disabilities Technology Program and opportunity to try out assisted devices.
Resources, raffles, continental breakfast and lunch provided. Free of charge to all caregivers! Limit 75.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also called seasonal depression, is believed to be brought on by shorter days and the bitter winter weather The body’s natural circadian rhythm is influenced by exposure to the rising and setting of the sun. Scientists think that less sun exposure during shorter winter days can cause changes in brain chemistry—like serotonin and melatonin levels. These biochemical changes can cause symptoms of depression. SAD typically starts in late fall or early winter and goes away in spring and summer when there’s plenty of radiant sunlight.
Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder can start out mild and become more severe as winter progresses. Some of the symptoms include:
- Lack of sleep
- Loss of interest in once-loved activities
- Irritability and agitation
- Increased need for sleep or problems with sleep
Being aware of the warning signs of SAD is a way to be proactive, better preparing you to gain control of the symptoms faced. With this, you have a higher chance of improving you and your care partners quality of life.
Four Ways to Prevent and Manage Seasonal Affective Disorder Symptoms
- Know the risk factors
- Being a woman
- Family history or personal experience with depression
- Living in places where there’s naturally less sunlight
- Having low levels of vitamin D
- Increase light exposure
- Open the blinds or curtains.
- Go for a 10-minute walk outdoors.
- Get regular physical activity:
- Check with your doctor about an exercise program that is right for you!
- Seek assistance:
- Talk to your healthcare team, as they can assist in properly diagnosing the cause of the symptoms and make recommendations that will help you feel better.
The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) Caregiver Support Program (CSP) offers clinical services to caregivers of eligible and covered Veterans enrolled in the VA health care system. The program’s mission is to promote the health and well-being of family caregivers who care for our Nation’s Veterans, through education, resources, support and services.
The Caregiver Support Program is comprised of two separate programs the Program of General Caregiver Support Services (PGCSS) and the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC). Caregivers enrolled in both programs have access to a wide range of support services provided in group and individual settings. Programs are designed to enhance caregiver skills, increase caregiver confidence, decrease caregiver burden and provide opportunities for mutual support.
In addition to access to programs and supports, those enrolled in the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers receive a financial stipend and access to additional respite services. Please note in order to be considered for the PCAFC family caregivers must be caring for a Veteran who has been identified by the Veterans Benefits Administration as being seventy to hundred percentage Service Connected, Veterans and Caregivers must also meet clinical criteria, please review the PCAFC website and eligibility fact sheet prior to applying. If you have questions about applying to PCAFC, please contact the VA Maryland Caregiver Support Program PCAFC Office at 410-605-7000, extension 54143.
Individuals interested in enrolling in the Program of General Caregiver Support Services are encouraged to review the program information.
If you are supporting a Veteran who lives outside of the state of Maryland and you are not sure where to start with connecting to the VA’s Caregiver Support Program or need support while caring for a veteran, please contact the VA’s Caregiver Support Line, 855-260-3274, Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Positive Options for Seasonal Affective Disorder by Fiona Marshall and Peter Cheeves
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can often go undiagnosed due to the generalization of symptoms. The symptoms can easily be attributed to a variety of different causes. This book is informally written, providing helpful changes to eating habits and other lifestyle routines. It distinguishes SAD from depression, chronic fatigue and symptoms related to other illnesses. If you or someone you know are dealing with SAD, this book can help you gain more tips and advice about navigating this diagnose through the winter months.
No matter where your loved one lives, bad or unexpected weather is bound to happen. Here is a quick guide for protecting your care partner around their homes and when they are out and about.
Whether it’s a winter storm, during a flood or hurricane season, snow, ice, rain, and wind can cause power outages. Here are some tips to prepare:
- Supply the phone numbers of all utility companies including power, gas, and water. Also include emergency numbers such as the fire department, police, doctor, and home care provider. Quick access to these phone numbers is crucial.
- Be equipped with working flashlights and a battery-powered radio. Have extra batteries on hand.
- Stock up on warm blankets and non-perishable foods, and if it’s cold or damp, wear several layers of clothing.
- Does your senior rely on a home medical device powered by energy? As soon as an essential medical device is put in service in the home, the local electric utility (and sometimes other authorities) should be notified of its existence and need. This can put your loved one on a list for immediate attention during a power outage.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Burning wood, natural gas, kerosene and other fuels produce carbon monoxide, a deadly gas that no one can see or smell. Unless fireplaces, wood and gas stoves, and gas appliances are properly vented, cleaned, and used, they can leak dangerous amounts of carbon monoxide. These and other appliances, such as kerosene and electric heaters, can also be fire hazards. Here are some sound safety measures:
- Call an inspector. Chimneys and flues need to be inspected yearly and cleaned when necessary.
- Open a window. Just a crack will do when using a kerosene stove.
- Use carbon monoxide detectors. Put battery-operated carbon monoxide and smoke detectors near fireplaces, wood stoves, or kerosene heaters.
- Never allow someone to heat a home using a gas stove. Charcoal grills or other stoves are not made for home heating.
Falls are common for older adults and can cause major injuries such as hip and wrist fractures, head trauma, and major lacerations. It is easy to slip and fall, especially in wet, icy, and snowy conditions, but here are some precautions that can be taken:
- Shovel snowy steps and walkways for seniors.
- Older adults should wear boots with non-skid soles.
- If your care partner uses a cane, replace the rubber tip before it is worn smooth.
Caring for a loved one may take most of your time. It's key to make sure you take some time each day for your own well-being.
Challenge: Take a few minutes at the end of the day to write down your wins. Maybe you went to the grocery store, had a nice lunch with a friend, took a nap—whatever it may be that brought some peace and joy, write it down. Similarly, write down at least one goal for yourself. It can be short-term or long-term but think of something attainable. Perhaps you would like to go for a long weekend away from family, but can't take your loved one along. Start researching options to arrange care for your loved one so you can take some time to refresh and refocus.
Read past editions of the Caregiver Connection newsletter: