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Information & Caregiver Resource Corner

Laurie DeskavichLaurie DeskavichDecluttering and downsizing can be overwhelming. Whether it’s to move from a family home to a small apartment, into an assisted living facility, or for some other reason, the task at hand can be challenging for all those involved.

Q: When I want to declutter my home or helped a loved one, where do I begin?

A: It is important to recognize that although this task is necessary, it can be emotionally and physically draining. Remember that there may be items that you or your loved one cherish and need to keep. Start slow, and be respectful of everyone’s feelings during the process.

Begin by identifying your possessions into categories, such as:

  • Keep
  • Donate
  • Sell
  • Discard

Have a system for identifying which category each item belongs in. This is also a perfect time to designate or give items to loved ones.

“Start slow and be respectful of everyone’s feelings during the process.”

The Family Care Alliance at www.caregiver.org encourages those helping another with the process to “be patient and allow time at this stage for your [loved one] to talk about memories, to reminisce about family activities or relatives no longer with you, to acknowledge emotions. This can be a nice opportunity for you both to remember the stories and incidents that are part of your history and that make each family unique.”

Decide what paperwork is important to keep, and shred what is no longer relevant. Pack photos and go through them at a later date, as this takes time and may be emotional.

Then begin the process of donating, selling and discarding the items. There may be items you wish to have appraised if the value is not known. You may want to contact estate sale companies or consignment shops, or hold a yard sale to sell items. Contact local charities for them to pick the items you wish to donate.

People who feel overwhelmed by clutter and do not know where to begin may not be ready for the steps outlined above. Fortunately, there are programs available to help people feel more ready to declutter. For local resources, reach out to the Information & Caregiver Resource Center at LifePath: call 413-773-5555 or 978-544-2259, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or visit LifePathMA.org.

How to offer support when a loved one is diagnosed with cancer

World Cancer Day is an international day marked on February 4 to raise awareness of cancer and to encourage its prevention, detection, and treatment. Having cancer patients be a part of the process from the beginning will help them address their overall needs physically, emotionally and socially. Having a supportive caregiver to get through the diagnosis, treatments, etc. is monumental.

Attention caregivers: this article’s focus is to provide helpful tips when caring for a loved one who has been diagnosed with cancer.

Q: What are some ways caregivers can be helpful?

A: When a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, many people feel overwhelmed. Cancer does not just affect the person diagnosed - people involved in that person’s life, and especially those involved in their care, are also impacted. By taking certain steps, you’ll be better equipped to care for your loved one.

First, remember that communication is key. Keeping the lines of communication open will help all involved. Second, caregivers need to remember to take care of themselves. Without it their own well-being could become affected. Third, some find support groups can help cope with the diagnosis along with supporting the mental wellbeing of the patient and their caregivers. Support and understanding from family and friends often provides the biggest impact on one’s emotional wellbeing.

The nonprofit Cancer Support Community offers ten tips for caregivers:
1. Know your support system

Talking to others who are experiencing what you may be experiencing can help manage stress, cope with possible isolation and help you be a better caregiver.

2. Collect information

“Knowledge is power.” Research information about your loved one’s diagnosis and what treatments are available.

3. Understand how your life might change

Many cancer patients and their loved ones express feeling a loss of control after they have been diagnosed. Take time to accept the “new normal” and the changes that may come, one day at a time.

4. Take a break

Take time to relax and renew. Take a walk. This will help with your stress level and frame of mind.

5. Make time for yourself

Don’t forget you have a life, too. Reach out to friends for support.

6. Have a plan

This will give you peace of mind. Think of activities to do during treatments and plan something special to celebrate when treatments are over.

7. Accept help

Everyone needs help. If someone offers, say yes. This will help more than you think.

8. Take care of you

Don’t forget to stay current with your own medical appointments. Exercise, eat well and get plenty of rest.

9. Manage stress

Meditate, do yoga or whatever makes you feel at ease. Keeping your stress level down is important.

10. Know your limits

Everyone needs help, including you. Know what you can and cannot do by yourself.

A cancer diagnosis brings change, but patients and their caregivers can take better care of their physical, emotional, and social well-being by taking part in the process from day one. Find more information and support from Cancer Support Community or the American Cancer Society.

The Information & Caregiver Resource Center at LifePath is here to help find answers to your questions. To speak with a resource consultant, contact us.

Tips to stay active all winter, indoors and outdoors

Winter is here and so is the cold weather. Staying motivated about your fitness can be a challenge when it’s cold outside!! Exercise has benefits all year, even during the winter. Winter brings cold weather and, for some, sickness, the “blues,” and isolation. So don’t put your exercise gear away – instead, stay active!

Q: How do I stay fit in the winter months?

A: Stay active! Choose an activity that you already do, or now might be the time to try something new. There are types of exercise that can be done outside or inside. Choose one or more that you might enjoy.  

Exercising outdoors in the winter

Jan 2019 ICRC Winter fitness photo WEBWhen the weather permits, walking is a good outdoor fitness activity for the winter, either on its own or as a warm-up for more intense activities. Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash.com.If you want to walk, ski, ice skate, shovel snow, or do other outdoor activities when it’s cold outside:

  • Check the weather forecast. If it’s very windy or cold, exercise inside with a fitness video and go out another time.
  • Also watch out for snow and icy sidewalks.
  • Warm up your muscles first. Try walking or light arm pumping before you go out.
  • Wear several layers of loose clothing. The layers will trap warm air between them.
  • Avoid tight clothing, which can keep your blood from flowing freely and lead to loss of body heat.
  • Wear a waterproof coat or jacket if it’s snowy or rainy.
  • Wear a hat, scarf, and gloves.
Exercising indoors in the winter
  • If you enjoy walking, go to the local mall and walk around inside or use a treadmill at home or at a gym.
  • You can take a tai chi class as tai chi helps to reduce stress; improve posture, balance and general mobility; and increase muscle strength in the legs.
  • There is also yoga. Regular yoga practice benefits people with high blood pressure, heart disease, aches and pains – including lower back pain – depression and stress.
  • You can also join the local YMCA or fitness club to do activities such as swimming or rock climbing.  
  • If home is where you want to be, you could use a workout video, do routine exercises, or use at-home equipment (weights, an exercise bike, jump rope, etc.).

Exercising daily can help prolong your life and improve the quality of it. It’s important to include aerobic activity, strength training, balance exercises, and stretching in your routine. Start slowly and build your endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility gradually.

Almost anyone, at any age, can exercise safely and get meaningful benefits. Staying safe while you exercise is always important, whether you’re just starting a new activity or haven’t been active for a long time.

You can find more information from Go4Life, a fitness campaign of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging.

The Healthy Living Program at LifePath can help you exercise more and develop healthy habits.

Remember, keep moving!!!

Remember to take care of yourself first during times of stress

As the holidays approach, so does stress, which can cause physical and emotional health issues. Taking care of you is very important.

Q: So what should I know about self-care?

A: First make sure to make time for you.

According to Counseling Psychologist Raphailia Michael, writing for Psych Central, “self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health.” Self-care activities build us up to better manage all aspects of our daily lives, and they are effective when they are a planned part of our daily and weekly routines.

Eating a healthy diet, staying active and exercising regularly, getting lots of rest, and seeing your doctor regularly can all help to ensure overall good health. Beyond these general habits, you may also find ways to take care of yourself that are more unique to your particular needs and reflect what you enjoy doing.

DinoDino Schnelle participated in a Healthy Living workshop through LifePath. He reports, "The goal-setting and expectations-management tools have been one of the most important things that I learned, and the exercise and diet tools continue to help me reclaim my life.”

Self-care for people with chronic health conditions

For someone who is experiencing chronic health issues that limit your activities and socialization, LifePath’s Healthy Living program could offer ways to manage your health. Workshops cover topics such as managing pain, diabetes, and general chronic diseases; balance and fitness; and healthy eating. These programs will help you maintain good health and stay active. Learn more about Healthy Living workshops.

Self-care for caregivers

As a caregiver, it is important to take care of yourself. If you’re not well-fueled, you won’t have resources in your tank to care for others.

At times you may feel isolated. It is important to remember you are not alone. You could join a support group in person or online or stay active by becoming a member at your local YMCA. It is important to take a break and spend time with friends.

LifePath’s Caregiver Program is available to help and inform you about what types of services are available to you and your loved one. Ask what types of caregiver respite might be available so you can refresh and renew. It is important to reach out for help as no one can do it alone.

Self-care for mental health

If you are experiencing feelings of overwhelming stress or anxiety, intense emotional situations or are having difficulty engaging in regular daily activities, LifePath’s Elder Mental Health Outreach Team can help with these problems that are impacting your emotional wellbeing. Our team can help make referrals and educate you about possible resources.

Most importantly, communicate to your primary care physician about what you are experiencing as this is key to getting good medical care. Your doctor can also make referrals for respite, in-home care, YMCA-sponsored programs, or counseling along with assessing your overall wellbeing both physically and emotionally.

Additional self-care resources

Call the Information and Caregiver Resource Center at LifePath at 413-773-5555 or 978-544-2259, or send us an email, for more information or click here for additional resources.

Remember, you’re not alone; help is out there.

What to know about diabetes

National Diabetes Awareness Month

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, (CDC), “more than 30 million people in the United States have diabetes, but one out of four of them don’t know they have it.” Diabetes is a chronic (long-lasting) disease that affects how your body turns food into energy.  

Q: How do find out if I have diabetes?

A: Ask your primary care physician to test your blood sugar to find out if you have diabetes.

Testing is simple, and results are usually available quickly. The sooner you find out, the sooner you can start making healthy changes that will benefit you now and in the future.

Healthy Living diabetes self managementDiabetes Self-Management helps people better manage their diabetes by exploring together with peers topics like stress management, healthy eating, exercise, skin and foot care, preventing and delaying complications, monitoring blood sugar, preventing low blood sugar, strategies for sick days, dealing with depression and difficult emotions, and more. Learn more by contacting the Healthy Living Program at LifePath.

There are three main types of diabetes:  

Type 1, Type 2, and gestational diabetes (diabetes while pregnant).  

Type 1 diabetes 

Type 1 diabetes is caused by an autoimmune reaction that stops your body from making insulin. Type 1 diabetes often develops quickly. It’s usually diagnosed in children, teens, and young adults. If you have Type 1 diabetes, you’ll need to take insulin every day to survive. Currently, no one knows how to prevent Type 1 diabetes.

Risk factors for Type 1 diabetes:
  • Family history
  • Age
Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is when your body doesn’t use insulin well and is unable to keep blood sugar at normal levels. 

Risk factors for Type 2 diabetes:
  • Have prediabetes
  • Are overweight
  • Are 45 years or older
  • Have a parent, brother, or sister with Type 2 diabetes
  • Are physically active less than three times a week
  • Have ever had gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) or given birth to a baby who weighed more than nine pounds
  • Are African American, Hispanic/Latino American, American Indian, or Alaska Native (some Pacific Islanders and Asian Americans are also at higher risk)

You can prevent or delay Type 2 diabetes with lifestyle changes such as losing weight (if you’re overweight), eating a healthier diet, and getting regular physical activity.

Gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes develops in pregnant women who have never had diabetes.

Risk factor for gestational diabetes:
  • Had gestational diabetes during a previous pregnancy
  • Have given birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds
  • Are overweight
  • Are more than 25 years old
  • Have a family history of Type 2 diabetes
  • Have a hormone disorder called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Are African American, Hispanic/Latino American, American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander

Gestational diabetes usually goes away after the baby is born but increases the risk for Type 2 diabetes later in life. Before getting pregnant, women may be able to prevent gestational diabetes by losing weight (if overweight), eating a healthier diet, and getting regular physical activity.

Symptoms of diabetes

Be proactive and see your doctor about getting your blood sugar tested if you have any of the following diabetic symptoms:

  • Urinate a lot, often at night
  • Are very thirsty
  • Lose weight without trying
  • Are very hungry
  • Have blurry vision
  • Have numb or tingling hands or feet
  • Feel very tired
  • Have very dry skin
  • Have sores that heal slowly
  • Have more infections than usual

Things to remember if you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes:  

  • Follow a healthy eating plan
  • Get physically active
  • Test your blood sugar
  • Take prescribed medications
  • Monitor your feetskin, and eyes to catch problems early
  • Get diabetes supplies and store them according to package directions
  • Manage stress and deal with daily diabetes care
Work with your doctor to manage your diabetes ABCs:
  • A — the A1C test, which measures average blood sugar over two to three months
  • B — blood pressure, the force of blood flow inside blood vessels
  • C — cholesterol, a group of blood fats that affect the risk of heart attack or stroke
  • s — stop smoking or don’t start

Talk with your doctor about what diabetes self-management education resources are available and to recommend a diabetes educator or nutritionist. You can also search the American Association of Diabetes Educators’ nationwide directory for a list of educators in your community. 

The Healthy Living Program at LifePath

Healthy Living can help you manage chronic health conditions like diabetes as well as learn ways to eat healthier, exercise more, and develop healthy habits. For more information, contact Healthy Living.

Remember that eating a healthy diet, being physically active, taking medications if prescribed and keeping healthcare appointments can help you stay on track. Here’s to managing your diabetes.