tips & how-to's

10 Tips for Supporting Caregivers

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We all know a family member, friend, co-worker, or neighbor, who is a caregiver of an aging, ill or disabled parent, spouse, sibling or child. Unless you’ve done this work of caregiving, there’s no real understanding of the limitations, the complexity of difficulty, or the toll it takes on the physical, emotional, spiritual and financial well-being of the caregiver. And although it’s extremely rewarding, it’s a very tough, never-ending job. 

It’s not uncommon for caregivers to give and give and give with little in return. Oftentimes the person being cared for is unable to reciprocate appreciation or affection, especially over time. As a result, many caregivers feel isolated, and for a number of reasons, are unable to ask for help. An elderly woman caring for a sick husband may fear losing her independence, the mother of a disabled child may worry about how she is viewed as a mother, a man caring for his demented mother may feel he’s not living up to his role as a son. There is an entire range of unspoken emotions and thoughts to deal with, none of them easy.

So, supportive interaction becomes critical to the stability and stamina of caregivers. Support must come from the heart, clothed in genuine love and compassion. There is no room for criticism or controlling gestures. Here’s how you can help:

1. Pick up the phone and call. Caregivers need human connection. More importantly, make the call about THEM. Ask how they are doing. Bring them some good news. Make them laugh. Do it often.

2. Give ample notice when extending an invitation. Attending something as simple as a lunch date or holiday party often requires advance arrangements to have someone ‘stand in’ to provide care. 

3. Learn about dementia, Aspergers, autism, cystic fibrosis, Parkinson’s, etc. Don’t be afraid to ask/talk about these conditions in an appropriate setting. Pretending nothing is wrong is isolating. 

4. Be aware that caregiving is very different from (and often more challenging than) raising children. With childrearing there is an end goal in sight. Your children are growing UP and, at some point, moving on to their own lives. Even as our children lose their innocence, there is a lasting sense of pride and joy that comes from raising a child into adulthood. With caregiving, temporary illness care aside, the opposite is usually true. There is a deep sense of loss (of that person, of one’s personal life, of one’s freedom from the situation, etc) that accompanies caring for someone who will never be independent or who is slowly moving toward the end of their life. 

5. Be sensitive.  Some caregivers are on limited or fixed incomes, sometimes having had to give up their job/career to care for someone else or living on part time employment wages. Something to consider when asking them to go out or travel. 

6. Visit. Traveling with a sick or disabled person is disruptive, often requiring both the caregiver and the one being cared for to go without resources they rely upon for activities of daily living. Traveling without one’s charge means finding someone trustworthy or paying HIGH fees for their care in your absence. So if there’s a family gathering or special occasion in the works, consider bringing it to the caregiver’s home! Since those being cared for usually respond best to routine schedules, be sure to include the caregiver in all the plans … and be prepared to lend a hand when you arrive.

7. Help them locate community resources - home care aides, physical or occupational therapists, chaplains, social workers, hospice. See if they are interested in attending a caregiver’s support group. If so, locate one (or several) and perhaps offer to go with them. This can be especially helpful for long time caregivers who’ve never sought help but are exhibiting signs of caregiver stress.

8. Ask how you can help. The caregiver knows what they need but may need a little coaxing. Be prepared for anything from ‘would you sit with him/her while I take a bath?’ to ‘can you recommend a ____?’. 

9. Know the signs of caregiver stress (denial, frustration, anger, guilt, social withdrawal, depression, lack of concentration, loneliness, exhaustion, unchecked health problems) and how it affects health. Encourage and do what you can to make it possible for them to take better care of themselves, to get out of the house, and to enjoy life.

10. Reassure them know you are there for them. And really, really be there when they need you.

9 natural UTI prevention tips

A urinary tract infection (UTI) or bladder infection occurs when harmful bacteria take up residence in the bladder or ureters (tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder where it is stored until emptied via the urethra). Urination is a natural process that flushes bacteria from the body.

Although infection can be caused by many things, women are at greater risk for UTIs than men. A shorter urethra and closer proximity to the anus, making them more likely to develop infection following sexual activity. Women who use a diaphragm, are pregnant, or have entered menopause seem to be more susceptible as well.

Other risk factors include diabetes, loose stools, extended periods of immobility, bowel and urine incontinence, surgery, having a catheter, advanced age, kidney stones, enlarged prostate, problems emptying the bladder, or anything blocking the flow of urine.

The most common symptoms include:

  • Pain or burning when urinating 
  • Foul smelling urine 
  • Cloudy urine or traces of blood in urine 
  • Frequent urination or inability to hold small amounts of urine 
  • Weakness 
  • Excessive tiredness 
  • Back pain or pain below the rib cage 
  • Pain or pressure in the rectum (men) 
  • Pain or pressure near the pubic bone (women) 
  • Mental confusion, refusal to drink water, or loss of appetite (elderly) 
  • Nausea or vomiting 
  • Fever or bleeding, if the infection has moved into the kidneys or bloodstream 
 Image:  lllu Urinary System  by  Arcadian  is used here with permissions granted under the  U.S. Public Domain  (original works of the Federal Government)

Image: lllu Urinary System by Arcadian is used here with permissions granted under the U.S. Public Domain (original works of the Federal Government)

Sadly, I've been down this road enough times with folks to know that the healing modality depends on the particular bacteria strain. A urine culture will reveal the strain of bacteria you are dealing with, and most doctors will tell you if a UTI can be managed without antibiotics. Something like ecoli (yes, you read that right) requires a remedy more powerful than what's discussed here. If you cannot take antibiotics or prefer not to, consult a qualified herbalist.

As for prevention or early first sign of UTIs, consider the following ...

  1. Practice good genital hygiene. Avoid unclean public toilets. Keep a squeeze (perineal) bottle with warm water by toilet and use to wash front and back after eliminating, and be sure to ALWAYS wipe front to back. 
  2. Always practice safe sex, exercise caution during sexual activities, and bathe afterwards. Be sure to properly clean intrauterine devices (IUDs). 
  3. Cranberries contain hippuric acid which create an acidic environment, making the urinary tract unattractive to bacteria, and helps to inhibit their growth. Use a pure cranberry juice or tablet. For recurring UTIs (aka RUTIs), select a high dosage cranberry tablet with a non-acidic vitamin C (I favor Ester-C with Cranberry by American Health). 
  4. A probiotic designed to reach maximum effectiveness in the lower intestine. (I highly recommend Ultra Flora Plus by Metagenics). 
  5. Drink LOTS of fresh water. 
  6. Avoid cheeses, carbonated and caffeinated beverages, chocolate, alcohol, yeast, and cigarettes to inhibit bacterial growth. 
  7. Increase garlic, tumeric, clove and other spices with antibacterial properties, prunes and plums (for their hip pubic acid), plus grains, corn, beans, lentils, walnuts, and peanuts for their acidic value. 
  8. Mix equal parts of tea tree, frankincense, bergamot, and juniper essential oils with EVOO or fractionated coconut oil and massage over bladder. Can also diffuse the essential oils into the air. 
  9. Eat foods high in Vitamin C. A list of the best choices can be found at World's Healthiest Foods

Note: A bladder infection is a serious condition that left untreated or improperly treated can lead to severe complications, kidney damage, and even blood poisoning. Please consult a medical or naturopathic doctor if you suspect or develop an infection.


Image: Pyuria by Bobjgalindo is used here with permissions granted under the GNU Free Documentation License

Keeping bugs away naturally

Gardening? Camping? Playing? Spending time outside? Traveling to or through a mosquito-infested region? Then you are likely trying to avoid getting bit by any number of menacing mosquitoes this year.

Not only are mosquito bites annoying and painful but they can be a source of transmitting serious diseases like Lyme disease or West Nile Virus. So it’s important to protect yourself and your children from bites when possible.

Unfortunately, most bug repellents on the market contain DEET, a chemical with known toxic side effects. Research shows that certain essential oils like citronella, lemongrass, tea tree oil, and eucalyptus, are highly nontoxic and effective alternatives to DEET. Although natural remedies may require more frequent application, they are safer and effective, especially for children and the elderly. 

Choose a safe, effective, nontoxic  bug repellent

dōTERRA’s TerraShield Repellent Blend™ is one such formula. A proprietary blend of Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade (CPTG) essential oils including lemon eucalyptus, citronella, lemongrass and 12 other balanced oils blended in a base of 100% pure fractionated coconut oil, TerraShield can be used safely by the entire family, and reapplied every 4-6 hours for maximum protection without worry of harmful side effects or toxicity.

Users report the following uses for TerraShield Repellent Blend™

"A few drops mixed with water and sprayed on windowsills, prevents bugs from getting into the house."

"A great rub for the inside of horses ears."

"Spray around kitchen vegetables and fruits to prevent fruit flies."

"25 drops in a spray bottle of water with a drop of dish soap, sprayed on the counter will repel ants."

"Put a few drops in the water used for plants and flowers will eliminate bugs and flies."

"Add to homemade natural lotion and apply to skin."

"Apply to insect bite sites to reduce swelling and redness."

 

Order dōTERRA’s all-natural, concentrated TerraShield Repellent Blend™ today and discover all the ways it heals and protects you or learn more about the benefits of Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils!

For more information on mosquitoes, read Mosquitoes: Natural Bug Repellents and Bite Remedies.

[Full Disclosure: Aqiylah Collins is a dōTERRA Wellness Advocate]