Taking Care of Family: Living for Someone Else – The Caring Generation®

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The Caring Generation® – Episode 88, June 2, 2021. On this caregiver program, expert Pamela D Wilson talks about why Taking Care of Family can be exhausting as a caregiver who feels like you are living your life for someone else. Guest, Martha Tettenborn, a registered dietician, shares es the effects of nutrition for healthy aging and chronic disease prevention. She is the author of Hacking Chemo.

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Taking Care of Family: Living Your Life For Someone Else

0:00:04.0 Announcer: Caregiving can sometimes feel like an impossible struggle. Caregivers may be torn between taking care of loved ones and trying to maintain balance in life. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. The Caring Generation, with host Pamela D. Wilson, is here to focus on the conversation of caring. You’re not alone. In fact, you’re in exactly the right place to share stories and learn tips and resources to help you and your loved ones. So now, please welcome the host of The Caring Generation, Pamela D. Wilson.

Watch More Videos About Caregiving and Aging on Pamela’s YouTube Channel

0:00:37:48 Pamela D Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert, speaker, consultant, and guardian of The Caring Generation. The Caring Generation focuses on the conversation of caring, giving us permission to talk about aging, the challenges of caregiving, and everything in between.  It’s no surprise that needing care or becoming a caregiver changes everything. The Caring Generation is here to guide you along the journey to let you know that you’re not alone.

0:01:06:75 Pamela D Wilson: You’re in exactly the right place to share stories, learn tips and resources to help you and your loved ones plan for what’s ahead. Invite your aging parents, spouses, family, and friends to listen to the show each week. This week we are talking about the complications of taking care of family while being a caregiver who feels you are living your life for someone else.

0:01:36:74 Pamela D Wilson: The feeling of living your life for someone else means different things to each caregiver of aging parents, spouses, grandparents, and other family members. During this show, I’ll share insights from caregivers who take care of family and feel conflicted, guilty, angry, unappreciated, or frustrated and options to consider if this is your caregiving situation taking care of family and wanting to get your life back.

0:02:11:99 Pamela D Wilson: The guest for this program is Martha Tettenborn, RD,  a registered dietician who works in long-term care with a focus on aging. Martha joins us to talk about the effects of nutrition on healthy aging and chronic disease prevention. Nutrition is important for everyone regardless of age as it has a significant impact on how we feel and think day to day. You will learn how poor nutrition contributes to chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.

0:02:45:37 Pamela D Wilson: Plus, how to start changing your diet when giving up favorite—but not good for you foods—seems impossible. Let’s start with taking care of family while feeling you are living your life for someone else. Caregivers who hold everything together day after day can seem to be managing on the outside while starting to crumble on the inside from a build-up of stress. How do you know if this is you?

0:03:15:76 Pamela D Wilson: I’ll share two examples, one for women and one for men who respond to caregiving situations differently. Ladies first. Caregivers share with me that in moments when you are alone, whether it’s in the shower, driving in the car, washing dishes, or even pulling weeds, the tears start to flow for no apparent reason. Caregivers under a lot of stress who feel that they have to be the strong person who does it all and never complain have momentary breakdowns that purposely are hidden from others.

0:03:57:76 Pamela D Wilson: During these teary moments, caregivers feel hopeless and think about running away even though running away is only a dream. In these dark moments, caregivers feel like it’s impossible to keep going. For most caregivers—you find inner strength to pull it all together again. You put your emotions on the shelf and return to coping behaviors to continue taking care of family.

0:04:27:85 Pamela D Wilson: Where did this teary episode come from? Stress may be trigger crying spells without any warning. Unrelated events result in teary episodes.  Caregivers cry because of feeling isolated, lonely, or unappreciated. Taking care of family and being a caregiver who feels you are living your life for someone else is stressful. However, it is possible to change the perception of stressful events and responses.

0:05:03:44 Pamela D Wilson: More on this later in the show. Let’s talk about men taking care of family, and you feel you are living your life for someone else. I want to share the health-related aspects of caregiver and life stress for men and women. According to research by Verma, susceptibility to infectious diseases, high blood pressure, aggressive behavior, and drug abuse are more typical stress responses by men.

0:05:39:66 Pamela D Wilson: On the other hand, women experience more autoimmune diseases, chronic pain, depression, and anxiety disorders. The experience of anxiety combined with stress is one reason for teary episodes. Women are more likely than men to make self-sacrifices in relationships when taking care of family and feeling like they are living life for someone else. Men are more performance-focused and competitive.

0:06:09:51 Pamela D Wilson: Instead of crying spells like women, men pursue physical activity to relieve stress. Activity can be a round of golf, exercise at the gym, bicycle riding, projects around the home, or other physical activity that has the side benefit of positive health benefits. Men tend to bottle up stress, escape it through activity, or confront issues. Women focus more on relationships and a desire for everyone to get along.

0:06:45:67 Pamela D Wilson: In either situation for men or women, taking care of family and feeling like you are living life for someone else holds true depending on the amount of time devoted to caring for a spouse elderly parent, or another person in the family. Let’s talk for a moment about reactions to stress so that we can gain insight into how we might be reacting. Common responses to stress include pain or physical ailments like an upset stomach, back pain, headaches, an inability to sleep, and feeling short of breath.

0:07:27:45 Pamela D Wilson: Some caregivers overeat or crave junk food when feeling stressed taking care of family. Starting to have a few potato chips or M&M’s soon becomes eating the entire bag. That pan of brownies you made—all gone within 24 hours.  Walking through the bakery section in the grocery store is not something to do when you are feeling stressed. Everything—those donuts, the cake, the pies,  all look tasty.

0:08:01:34 Pamela D Wilson: Becoming depressed, feeling negative, or hopeless happens when taking care of family and when caregivers see no way out of the situation. If you are the family caregiver, you likely felt undervalued or unappreciated for your efforts at one time or another. Feeling unappreciated is more common when taking care of family diagnosed with memory loss, dementia, or Alzheimer’s. Family members with these diagnoses—when advanced—have nothing to give back due to the effects of the disease on the brain.

0:08:43:52 Pamela D Wilson: There may be other situations where you are a married couple taking care of both sets of parents. You watch ongoing health declines and issues like falls. In these situations, you might be feeling guilty because you “should have been there to prevent that fall” or been able to anticipate other issues that resulted in injury or more medical problems.

0:09:10:31 Pamela D Wilson: When taking care of family, there can be a tendency to think that other families are perfect or be embarrassed that your family doesn’t get along. No family is perfect, and there is no reason to be ashamed or think that your family situation is worse than any other family when It comes to caregiving situations. The stress of being the person who needs care and of being the caregiver changes everything.

0:09:41:78 Pamela D Wilson: Feeling embarrassed about sharing family situations with others can prevent you from gaining the knowledge necessary to improve a care situation. If I told you that many family caregivers have similar feelings about caring for a parent and living your life for someone else, would that make a difference in your comfort level to talk about your situation to make it easier to identify options and solutions?

0:10:11:13 Pamela D Wilson: What many family caregivers don’t think about is that experience is limited to what the caregiver knows or has learned through personal experience. This means that there is no way that a caregiver can be expected to know how to prevent falls or manage a health diagnosis for an elderly parent—unless you search and find a way to gain specific learning or knowledge.

0:10:39:74 Pamela D Wilson: And then, sometimes even then, knowing is only as valuable as having someone to ask about the information that you have gathered to help you validate the information. While you don’t want to be paralyzed in making care decisions for a parent, grandparent, or spouse, having the information and understanding the consequences of decisions, by talking to an expert can give everyone peace of mind about doing the right thing.

0:11:12:98 Pamela D Wilson: After this break, we will discuss the importance of finding the correct information and people to talk to about taking care of family members and making decisions. If this is the first time you are joining the show, welcome. The Caring Generation is not limited by time zone or location—caregivers worldwide listen. The show and the transcript for reading are on my website at pameladwilson.com.

0:11:42:08 Pamela D Wilson: You can find the Caring Generation on all of your favorite podcast and music apps: Apple, Google, I Heart Radio, JioSaavn, Spreaker, Amazon Music, Breaker, Deezer, Listen Notes, Pandora, Player FM, Pocket Casts, Podcast Addict, Podchaser, Stitcher, Spotify, Tune In and Vurbl. This is Pamela Wilson on The Caring Generation. Stay with me; I’ll be right back.


0:12:37:91 Pamela D Wilson: This is Pamela D Wilson, caregiving expert, consultant, and speaker on The Caring Generation. Helpful information for caregivers and aging adults are in my book: The Caregiving Trap: Solutions for Life’s Unexpected Changes, available through my website www.pameladwilson.com,  Amazon, and other booksellers. My caregiver course online, Taking Care of Elderly Parents: Stay at Home and Beyond, offers 30 hours of webinar information about

0:13:10:87 Pamela D Wilson: practical steps to take care of elderly parents and making a plan for aging and health. Information about the course is on my website. Click on How I Help and then Family Caregiver Support and next Support Caring for Elderly Parents Online Course. It’s never too early to plan to live the best life possible in your later years. Taking care of family and feeling like you are living your life for someone else can happen when caregivers keep going without setting aside time to think about care situations.

0:13:48:35 Pamela D Wilson: If you are like most caregivers, you don’t have time to get a good night’s rest, so planning “thinking time” sounds crazy. Am I right? Time is something that we can’t get back and rarely have enough of to go around. Not to mention that focusing attention—when there are distractions, and competing priorities is difficult. Setting aside thinking and planning time can help caregivers avoid or minimize many of the ongoing regrets experienced in taking care of family.

0:14:25:42 Pamela D Wilson:  Being in the midst of ongoing care challenges and balancing a life that you feel is wasting away can make it more difficult to see that opportunity exists to change or improve a situation. Our concept about care situations is limited to the idea that what we know is based solely on our personal experience.

0:14:51:67 Pamela D Wilson: So—how do you find or make thinking time to change a care situation? The first way to do this is to identify how you react to stress in your caregiving life to look at options to respond more positively to stress and clear up mental overload. In the first part of the show, we talked about pain, overeating, anger, crying, depression, negativity, and engaging in unhealthy habits as ways that some caregivers respond to stress.

0:15:29:41 Pamela D Wilson: Some caregivers “dig in.” Meaning that the more stressed they get, the more they become entrenched in caregiving activities to avoid having to think about caregiving or make time to do other things that might be good for the caregiver. Do you have entrenched behaviors or thoughts? Entrenching behaviors can result in avoidant behaviors that have consequences beyond the obvious.

0:16:01:16 Pamela D Wilson: Like the idea of, “if I don’t think about it and stay busy, I won’t have to deal with it. All I can do is deal with day-to-day events, nothing more,” said the caregiver. Let me relate this thinking to a health concept that might be easier to understand. You have high cholesterol. An option exists to change your diet, which will take effort and time. Or take a prescription drug to lower your cholesterol numbers. If this was you, which would you choose?

0:16:39:95 Pamela D Wilson: If you choose the prescription drug, does that mean that you will keep eating the same foods that contribute to the diagnosis of high cholesterol and not change your diet? If so, how do you think that will further affect your health? Did you have a conversation with your doctor about a prescription drug for cholesterol, accept the piece of paper, take it to your pharmacy and have that prescription filled?

0:17:11:17 Pamela D Wilson: Or did you ask the doctor what steps you can take so that you don’t have to take a prescription drug? All choices have risks. Every time you choose A over B, you experience a different outcome. Let’s talk about the risks of statins. Taking a cholesterol-lowering medication, called a statin, can cause muscle pain. Some individuals taking statins cause muscle injury or experience liver problems.

0:17:46:02 Pamela D Wilson: Statins are associated with increases in blood sugar which can lead to a diagnosis of diabetes that has many, many health complications, including high blood pressure, stroke, neuropathy, dementia, skin wounds, dental decay, and other chronic health issues. When talking about cholesterol that affects the heart, talking about the risk of heart disease, stroke, and the complications from taking a statin medication are essential to ensure that choosing to take a prescription drug does not cause you or a parent more health problems.

0:18:31:12 Pamela D Wilson: Have a thorough conversation with your doctor. In the case of high cholesterol, eating oatmeal for breakfast and giving up fatty foods may be the better option rather than taking a statin prescription drug that can cause so many other unpredictable issues. If you are taking cholesterol medication, you might be thinking—wow.

0:18:56:23 Pamela D Wilson:  My doctor didn’t tell me any of that! Doctors, like family caregivers, are pressed for time. It’s your responsibility to ask the right questions of doctors and others. Think of this single example and multiple it by millions of other similar situations. How do “rushed for time situations,” not making time for thinking or planning, or not asking the right questions result in unexpected and serious situations for which the clock can’t be turned back.

0:19:30:01 Pamela D Wilson: If you are taking care of family and feel like you are living your life for someone else—you can’t turn back the clock. Caregivers tell me that they begin to care for parents, and all of a sudden, it’s three years or five years later. Instead of becoming easier, the situation has become more time-consuming and stressful. I wish it were different, but for many family members, this is what happens.

0:20:09:23 Pamela D Wilson: Unfortunately for many, health issues and other decisions not made become irreversible unless identified early enough to make a different choice or decision. Taking the easy way out has consequences that it’s important to know. Staying healthy takes effort. It can feel like you are constantly in training if you were ever involved in sports or athletic endeavors.

0:20:39:30 Pamela D Wilson: Having high blood pressure or another health condition takes no effort—but is certain to have consequences. Caregivers see the consequences as elderly parents and spouses struggle with daily activities. Caregivers experience the consequences as the stress of caregiving results in no time for the caregiver and when illness is diagnosed.

0:21:06:34 Pamela D Wilson: Let’s talk a little more about avoidant behaviors. Avoiding making decisions, avoiding planning for aging, and avoiding addressing other concerns can result from being uncomfortable, reluctant to move ahead, or simply not having enough information. Caregivers who may not have good social skills may struggle with family relationships or working with parent’s doctors or providers. These behavior patterns come from family experiences. Remember, the idea of experience Is limited to what we know.

0:21:47:79 Pamela D Wilson: An elderly parent or a caregiver may have no foundation, no information or experience, to act differently. If one of your parents did not model skills related to assertiveness, initiation, or taking charge, you may be a caregiver feeling stuck taking care of family and living your life for someone else because you don’t know a different way.

0:22:16:91 Pamela D Wilson: If you are in this taking care of family situation, it may be unrealistic for you to expect yourself to tackle and manage difficult situations when you might lack the right approach or skills to deal with emotionally challenging situations. The idea of developing skills to manage caregiver stress involves goal setting and using problem-solving skills. If you have little or no thinking time because you continually say yes to more caregiving responsibilities, you may be stuck. What do you do then?

0:22:58:35 Pamela D Wilson: One option for taking care of family and so that you are not living your life for someone else is to figure out how to scale back. We’ll talk about this later in the program. Up next, information everyone should know about the relationship between nutrition and health. Martha Tettenborn, a registered dietician who works in long-term care with a focus on aging, joins us. I invite you to follow me on social media.

0:23:28:01 Pamela D Wilson: On Facebook, follow me at @pameladwilsoncaregivingexpert, on Twitter @caregivingspeak, Instagram @wilsonpamelad, and Linked In @pameladwilsoncaregiverexpert. We’re off to a break. I am Pamela D Wilson, caregiving expert, caregiving speaker, and elder care consultant with you on The Caring Generation. Stay with me; I’ll be right back.


0:24:24:25: Pamela D Wilson:  This is Pamela D Wilson, caregiving speaker, expert, and advocate on The Caring Generation program for caregivers and aging adults. Whether you are twenty or 100 years old, you’re in exactly the right place to learn tips to help you and your loved ones plan for what’s ahead. If you’re not sure how to talk to your children about caregiving issues or if you’ve tried to talk to your aging parents.

0:24:49:11   Pamela D Wilson: Let me start the conversation for you. Introduce your parents or your adult children to my YouTube Channel, where there are hundreds of videos. Share this podcast and my website, www.pameladwilson.com, with elderly parents, spouses, and siblings to make caregiving something we talk about. Let’s talk about good nutrition and how it has a significant effect on the way we feel every day. Let’s meet Martha Tettenborn.

0:25:20:31 Pamela D Wilson: Thank you so much for joining me. Welcome to the show.

0:25:22:95 Martha Tettenborn RD:  Thank you. Thank you for having me.

0:25:24:90 Pamela D Wilson: So you are a registered dietician with experience in long-term care settings. What are the main links you see with the elderly and nutrition that affect overall health?

025:36:72 Martha Tettenborn RD:  Well, in the long-term care setting, we tend to get people that are already somewhat or very debilitated. The main issues that we tend to deal with in long-term care are things like poor appetite. Simply not having much interest in eating. Poor dentition or dental—either they don’t have their own teeth anymore. Or they do have their own teeth, or they’re in poor shape. Or if they’ve been ill prior to coming in, then the dentures don’t fit properly. All of those are factors that impact on how people make food choices and how much they can enjoy their meals.

026:17:51 Martha Tettenborn RD:  We also see problems related to reduced stomach acid. So people end up with reflux and bellyaches after eating certain foods. Constipation is a really big deal in feeling well and in having a decent appetite. And a lot of elderly people don’t want to drink enough because they’re worried about having to get up and pee in the middle of the night. And so, they limit themselves on how much they will drink, and that can have negative effects on your bladder health and your skin and even your level of confusion if you’re confused. People will get more confused when they are dehydrated.

0: 27:02:01 Pamela D Wilson: Protein is so important for the elderly. What suggestions for protein do you have for older adults who may say, “I’m not hungry. I don’t want to eat.” [chuckle]

0:27:11:70 Martha Tettenborn RD:  A couple of things. If chewing becomes a problem—and a lot of protein foods can be hard to chew—and that can be a real problem. So, choosing softer protein sources such as fish. Whether fresh fish or canned fish because it doesn’t have the connective tissue that red meats do or chicken. Using eggs. Eggs are a wonderful source of protein.

0:27:40:58 Martha Tettenborn RD:   Using dairy products both as eating a piece of cheese type thing or having it as a condiment on something else. Like sour cream or melted cheese. Those sorts of things. And then adding sweetness to your protein foods. So using things like yogurts or puddings that are made with dairy products that contain good sources of protein. You’re right that getting sufficient protein is really important for maintaining good muscle mass and for maintaining healthy skin.

0:28:13:62 Pamela D Wilson: And this is a side question, and I realize you may not be able to answer this because you just made me think of it, but how do we know if we are getting enough protein?  Is there a way to find out?

0:28:24:29 Martha Tettenborn RD:  Yes, we have blood protein levels that can be tested with lab work. But they don’t always relate to whether or not you’re getting enough protein. Albumin levels are really linked to liver function as much as anything. And total protein in the blood is also something that is fairly tightly controlled. So people are usually pretty malnourished before you start to see those levels drop. But if at least some of the food in your diet is coming from animal proteins, in particular, you are probably getting enough protein.

0:29:04:61 Pamela D Wilson: Education about nutrition. It’s lacking in schools—it’s lacking in my opinion for younger adults. What are the longer-term effects for people who have poor nutrition who might eat a lot of sugar or fatty foods, or junk food?

0:29:20:79 Martha Tettenborn RD: Oh, this is huge. They did a study in the United States just in the last couple of years. And they determined that 82, no 86% of the U.S. is metabolically unhealthy.  Like everybody from young people up. And that is frightening. There’s huge issues with too many processed and ultra-processed foods replacing real food in people’s diets. In fact, a lot of young people don’t even know what real food looks like. Meaning something that you would recognize as coming from nature. So, meat, or vegetables, or fruit.

0:30:04:32 Martha Tettenborn RD: Even plain grain products like rice or potatoes. There’s a huge nutritional difference between eating a baked potato and eating French fries out of the bag or French fries from a fast-food restaurant. So the big issues that are happening in the younger population is the beginnings of what is called metabolic syndrome. Which is the body not being able to use the nutrition that you take in because it’s of such poor quality and because the food, such as sugar and some of the industrial fats, are causing a lot of the inflammation in the body.

0:30:49:17 Pamela D Wilson: How does poor nutrition contribute to chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease?

0:30:55:93 Martha Tettenborn RD: In a massive way. Poor nutrition can probably be defined as a lack,  again a lack of real food in your diet. Using processed and ultra-processed food-like substances as opposed to using recognizable real foods. We often say eat the way your grandparents ate. At this point in our evolution, we’d probably say eat the way your great-grandparents ate. Because in the last one hundred years, we’ve had an incredible amount of sugar and industrial seed oils and processed foods added to our diet. The seed oils are things like canola oil and corn oil that have been solvent extracted out of grains that are grown in monocultures with all kinds of chemicals and stuff added.

0:31:49:43 Martha Tettenborn RD: They’re highly inflammatory foods that were never part of our food supply before about a hundred years ago. So if you go further back to the starches and the fats and the proteins that our grandparents ate, which were things like butter and lard and regular animal meats, whether they had been possibly cured or smoked or fresh and grains that were grown without chemicals. Those are the foods that will contribute to good nutrition. And the things that we have added to our food supply in the last hundred years are the ones that are contributing to the massive rise in those chronic diseases.

0:32:32:11 Pamela D Wilson: Let’s say that I’m a twenty-year-old, listening to this, and I’m a caregiver for my parents, and I hear you say processed foods, and I have no idea what you mean. Can you explain what processed foods are versus the foods that we should be eating?

032:40:78 Martha Tettenborn RD: Yes, processed foods are the ones that come in a box with a long ingredient list and a nutrition label. So, processed foods would be things like using packaged pre-made meals like Pizza Pockets or the burritos in a bag. French fries in a bag as opposed to buying potatoes and cooking them yourself and the fact that you happen to know what it is. So lightly processed foods are things that we don’t even think of being processed, like bread, for example.

032:22:32 Martha Tettenborn RD:  It starts with grains that have been ground and yeast added and so on. That’s processing. Making butter is processing dairy products, but we consider those lightly processed foods. But ultra-processed foods are the ones that are made with mono-crop grains such as corn and soy, and canola, and with lots of sugar added.  So those would be the foods that I would be talking about when I say ultra-processed.

0:33:52:87 Pamela D Wilson: And what would you say are the most important dietary changes that anybody can make to age successfully and have the best chance of avoiding chronic illnesses and inflammation?

034:04:47 Martha Tettenborn RD: Number one. Cut out sugar. Reduce sugar. Cut out soda. One hundred percent—cut out soda. That’s probably one of the biggest things you can do. The second biggest thing is to avoid the industrial seed oils, so that would be taking the bottle, the big cheap bottle of vegetable oil, out of your house. Don’t buy margarine. That’s basically plastic.

034:31:66 Martha Tettenborn RD: And replace those fats with fats that have come from either animals, such as butter or lard, instead of shortening. Or olive oil or avocado oil instead of the vegetable seed oils. If you can—if you can afford it go organic so that you are avoiding a lot of the chemicals that are used in industrial agriculture. If you can’t, that’s sort of further down the list.  But number one on the list would be take out soda, reduce the other sweet foods in your diet. Number two would be take out the seed oils.

035:08:92 Pamela D Wilson: What recommendations do you have for somebody who is listening and they want to make a diet shift, but they’re hearing you say, “oh, I have to give up soda and sugar that they love.” Even though they know, it’s healthy, how do they start making these changes?

035:23:97 Martha Tettenborn RD: Well, I think the first thing to do is to, as they say, “know thyself.” [chuckle] So you really want to know what your weaknesses are. Do you have a sweet tooth, or do you have a salty tooth? Which are your comfort foods, and what do they do for you?  Do they may you feel better? Do they make you feel loved? That sort of thing. So do a little bit of a kind of analysis as to what food is giving you besides nutritional value. Because food is a huge cultural and emotional thing for us as well.

035:59:39 Martha Tettenborn RD: And then once you identify what those are, then you look for substitutions for what you’re getting out of the food. So, in other words, if what you are looking for is emotional comfort, there may be other things that you can do to give yourself emotional comfort. If you’re looking for a salty taste, there may be substitutions for something like potato chips that are cooked in those ultra-processed oils. So there is something else that will give you the salty taste and the crunch, perhaps without the inflammatory, negative effects of potato chips.

036:40:95 Martha Tettenborn RD: So look for substitutions that are giving you what the food is giving you. But it starts with analyzing yourself and finding out what it is that you love.  For me, cheese and crackers. My total comfort food is cheese and crackers. I’ve been eating them all my life. I love every variation. I always say I’ve never met a cheese I didn’t like. And so when I went low carb, I needed to find some substitutions for crackers that gave me the crunch of a cracker and the light saltiness of a cracker and that you could put under a piece of cheese. And so, I needed to work on getting some alternatives that gave me that same sort of benefit. And believe me, it wasn’t cucumber slices. They don’t do it. I had to find something that was crackery, and I did, and so I can now I can meet my comfort need for cheese and crackers in a way that still allows me to eat low carb and feel healthier that way.

037:42:82 Pamela D Wilson: For those of us who are dying of curiosity, what did you substitute the crackers with? [chuckle]

037:47:90 Martha Tettenborn RD: [chuckle] I found actually a couple of things. I found recipes online that make crackers using grains and some psyllium husk to kind of provide the gumminess to hold it together and some parmesan cheese. The recipe is actually in my book, Hacking Chemo. You cook them to make them sort of stick together, and then you let them dry out all night, and that’s what gives them the crunch sort of thing.

038:18:61 Pamela D Wilson: Martha, I thank you so much for joining us. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and for everything that you do.

0:38:23:14 Martha Tettenborn RD: Oh, it’s been wonderful. Thank you so much.

038:26:06 Pamela D Wilson: The discussion of making nutritional changes with Martha is relatable to taking care of family and making changes so that you don’t feel you are living your life for someone else. It’s essential to start somewhere and change daily habits until the change becomes permanent. If you are looking for help with decision-making about care for elderly parents or making a care plan for yourself, I can help.

038:53:24 Pamela D Wilson: Visit my website PamelaDWilson.com to schedule an eldercare consultation. Click on How I Help, next Family Caregivers, and then Elder Care Consultation. Up next thoughts about scaling back if you are overwhelmed with the responsibilities of taking care of family. This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert, speaker, and consultant on The Caring Generation.  Stay with me. I’ll be right back.


0:39:49:07 Pamela D Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert, speaker, and consultant on The Caring Generation. If you are an aging adult or a caregiver not sure what to do or how to plan for care, my website PamelaDWilson.com offers resources for caregivers. Check out my caregiving library, my Caring for Aging Parents blog, listen to all of The Caring Generation podcasts, read the show transcripts, watch videos, and check out caregiver courses online. There’s something for everyone at PamelaDWilson.com

0:40:24:86 Pamela D Wilson: Let’s continue the conversation of taking care of family and scaling back so that you are not living your life for someone else. Caregivers who are constantly busy juggling work and caregiving may find it difficult to think about scaling back efforts that include taking care of family by encouraging elderly parents or a spouse, when possible, to be self-sufficient.

0:40:55:20 Pamela D Wilson: In many situations, the overly helpful caregiver has complicated taking care of family by doing too much. Caregivers are caring people who can’t stop themselves from saying yes and being helpful. Taking care of family and feeling that you are living your life for someone else may arise because of a need to please others or seek approval. Caregivers who have low self-esteem can become involved in co-dependent relationships with spouses or elderly parents.

0:41:33:23 Pamela D Wilson: Thoughts of placing other’s needs over your own can be a warning sign that you are entering a danger zone of living your life for someone else, especially if this shift in focus becomes long-standing or permanent. When this happens, many caregivers feel ignored. No one asks how the caregiver is doing. The question is, “how is your mom or dad or spouse?”

0:42:01:86 Pamela D Wilson: The caregiver seems to be handling it all on the outside, resulting in less concern from family or friends about the caregiver who is focused on the person who needs care. It’s almost a self-fulfilling prophecy that the caregiver’s focus becomes the focus of everyone else in the family. How can caregivers begin to scale back to do fewer things but maybe do them better or more efficiently?

0:42:33:60 Pamela D Wilson: Scaling back takes us to the idea of family discussions and care planning that requires thinking time. When caregivers begin saying no to additional responsibilities, self-esteem can rise. There is less worry about what other people might think. If other people begin expressing concerns or asking questions—my suggestion is to return the question and ask them what they plan to do to help a parent or a spouse.

0:43:06:44 Pamela D Wilson: Scaling back means that it’s time for well-meaning family members to begin helping or to look at alternate care options. We all know that taking care of family can result in caregiver burnout. Caregivers, while good intentioned, loving, committed, and responsible—if you are exhausted, you may not be providing the best care for an elderly parent. Admitting to not providing good care is complicated for caregivers with low self-esteem who gain positive feelings from being a caregiver.

0:43:43:89 Pamela D Wilson: How can a caregiver look at scaling back as a positive action instead of feeling like you are abandoning the care of a parent? Taking care of family and living your life for someone else means that caregivers give up their lives, and as a result, many become frustrated and angry. If you don’t like your life where it’s going—you are the only person that can change direction. Start with creating a list of obligations, who you feel obligated to, and what you do for these individuals.

0:44:23:15 Pamela D Wilson: Categorize and prioritize the obligations. Be brutally honest with yourself. What has to be done versus what is nice to be done. What is essential? What can wait? When caregivers begin to look at their lives and their contributions as valuable, it can be easier to think about scaling back as a positive activity. How many of you are familiar with the Pareto Principle, the 80/20 rule?

0:44:57:30 Pamela D Wilson: This principle states that 80% of the results or consequences come from 20% of the causes. We can look at the Pareto Principle from two very different perspectives. Let’s begin with the health perspective, which if we are taking care of family, we may know to be significant. High blood pressure may seem like a small thing and be in the 20% category.

0:45:25:51 Pamela D Wilson: Yet if ignored, high blood pressure can transition into damaged and narrow arteries that can lead to TIAs called mini-strokes or a stroke. Heart disease damages the heart. Results in chest pain, an irregular heartbeat, congestive heart failure, blocked arteries in the legs making it difficult to walk, weeping leg sores, vascular dementia, kidney failure, retina damage to the eyes, and other concerns. Many people think that a high blood pressure diagnosis is a small thing.

0:46:08:65 Pamela D Wilson: But, it falls into that 20% of health issues that consumers ignore that end up resulting in 80% of why an older adult needs a caregiver. Many older adults have to move into a care community or live in a nursing home to receive 24 7 care. It’s often the little things that make significant differences. From the perspective of scaling back, can you divide the list of obligations into the 20% category and 80% category?

0:46:46:25 Pamela D Wilson: Twenty percent being very important. Eighty percent being not so important. What tasks or actions, that if you stopped today, would put more time in your day and not harm your daily life or caregiving relationships? Realizing that 80% of the things you do may be unnecessary can be a freeing thought if we’re willing to accept the Pareto Principle accurately. Imagine how taking care of family and feeling that you are living your life for someone else might change if you focused on the 20% of your life with an 80% effect on the outcome.

0:47:31:51 Pamela D Wilson: Earlier in the program, we talked about the different ways that women and men manage stress and caregiving activities. Women have a significant need to provide hands-on care and be highly involved in the care of parents or a spouse. Men, on the other hand, might look at caregiving situations as another concern to be managed.

0:47:55:91 Pamela D Wilson: Managing care versus providing the care might be that 20% vs. 80% difference. How can caregivers move into a situation of not providing direct care but managing the care situation? If you are a caregiver who has been taking care of family for years, making this shift may require time and initiating relationships or access to others who know how to create care plans and access care services.

0:48:28:42 Pamela D Wilson: If you are interested in making the 80/20 shift visit my website pameladwilson.com and take a look at my caregiver course online. Caregiving involves making many decisions. If you lack the experience, don’t beat yourself up. There’s no way to know what you don’t know before you need to know it. Visit pameladwilson.com, click on the how I help tab, l then family caregiver then elder care course to learn more.

0:48:59:04 Pamela D Wilson: For caregivers who can embrace and implement the idea of scaling back, it is possible that this may result in an elderly parent receiving better care IF you know how to make this happen. Scaling back is not about neglect or abandonment. Scaling back is about focusing on what matters, making better decisions, having more brainpower to think and act, and opening doors to meet new people and find learning opportunities. Personal development in all aspects of life supports the path to success.

0:49:44:29 Pamela D Wilson: Taking care of family doesn’t have to be about living your life for someone else. Taking care of family can mean focusing on what’s most important while asking others in the family to do the same. Having everyone in the family focusing on the 20% of things that produce 80% of the results can make a difference for everyone involved who cares for elderly parents. Especially asking the same question of elderly parents.  When everyone pitches in, no one feels like they are giving up their life to care for someone else.

0:50:24:45 Pamela D Wilson: Get started making that list of obligations and take a strong look at must versus want and see where you end up. These thought patterns originate in families from behaviors modeled by parents for their children. I’ll share some stories after the break. Caregivers and aging adults, if you are looking for alternatives and ideas for a care situation or are interested in creating a care plan. Check out my 1:1 elder care consultations on my website at www.pameladwilson.com  This is Pamela D Wilson, caregiving expert, advocate, and speaker on The Caring Generation. Stay with me. I’ll be right back.


0:51:32:40 Pamela D Wilson:  This is Pamela D Wilson, caregiving speaker, author, and expert on The Caring Generation. Are you struggling to balance work and caregiving? Does your company offer caregiver support programs? If not, share my information with the human resources manager or decision-maker in your company. Taking care of family can be based on beliefs that we have about the responsibility that begins with the relationships and habits that our elderly parents modeled for us.

0:52:04:39 Pamela D Wilson: Here’s an example of how parents can model behaviors for children. How many of you had mothers who made meals from scratch plus desserts, ironed clothing, canned vegetables from the garden, and were constantly busy. In the neighborhood where I was born, several families had 12 children. I don’t know how those families managed, except that many of the children, my friends, took care of their brothers and sisters who were close to their age because mom was so busy doing other things and dad had to work one or two jobs just to pay the bills. What memories do you have of things that your parents did that you might be doing today or that you remember fondly today?

0:52:52:65 Pamela D Wilson: My father, who was a WWII veteran, was an early riser. On the weekends, when I wanted to sleep in, he would get up early and start vacuuming around 6 am to wake us up because he thought we were sleeping too late.  All of these behaviors and habits become ours as children, and in some instances, if we continue to do them, they are passed down to our children. There are many positive habits and others that are not so positive. An example is families who avoid talking about imperfect relationships or family disagreements or who are uncomfortable talking about caregiving situations.

0:53:40:49 Pamela D Wilson: There are as many families where children will tell me that they weren’t supposed to “talk about that.” Whatever that was. It could have been an alcoholic father or another abusive family situation. How do caregivers break out of family situations that can result in taking care of family and giving up your life for someone else? If you have children think about the behavior that you are modeling. Is it your expectation that your children will give up their lives to care for you?

0:54:20:04 Pamela D Wilson: Where can you find a middle ground so that elderly parents have care and you are not giving up your life and your well-being and your future? Learning to say no, to set boundaries for participation, and to identify that 20% that can really make a difference—instead of feeling that you have to do everything, which is the other 80%—can help you stop living your life for someone else and start doing the things you love.

0:54:56:76 Pamela D Wilson: Pamela D Wilson: Thank you all for joining me on The Caring Generation – the only program of its kind connecting caregivers and aging adults worldwide to talk about caregiving, health, and everything in between. Invite your family and friends to listen each week. I am Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert, advocate, and speaker. I look forward to being with you again soon. God bless you all. Sleep well tonight. Have a fabulous day tomorrow and a great week until we are here together again.

0:55:25:93 Announcer: Tune in each week for The Caring Generation with host Pamela D Wilson. Come join the conversation and see how Pamela can provide solutions and peace of mind for everyone here on Pamela D Wilson’s The Caring Generation.


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About Pamela Wilson

PAMELA D. WILSON, MS, BS/BA, NCG, CSA helps caregivers and aging adults solve caregiving problems and manage caregiving needs through online programs, live support groups, and an extensive caregiving library that includes articles, podcasts, videos, and webinars.

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