Hope for living, loving and caring with no regrets!
- Focus on the behavior not the outcome
- Anchor an new habit to an already established one
- State realistic expectations aloud to yourself before enter a situation that is challenging
- Elimiate all or nothing thinking
*Transcript is an actual recount of the live conversation
This is Rayna Neises, your host, and I’m excited to welcome Ginger Hill today.
Ginger combines her professional experience with biblical principles and spiritual resources to help employees of Christian organizations to take steps towards healthier living. She’s a wellness professional with over 15 years of experience in the corporate wellness industry as well as an employee executive health coach. Wellness speaker and educator and wellness program manager and consultant. She’s earned, her MS degree in health promotion and also has earned and maintained her MCHES and wellness coach’s certification.
Welcome, Ginger. I’m really glad to have you here today.
Ginger Hill: [00:00:51] Thank you Rayna. So glad to be here.
Rayna Neises: Thank you.
Let’s just jump right in and have you share a little bit about your season of caring, both with your parents and your brother.
Ginger Hill: Absolutely. So, I’m a typical woman in my, late fifties, who is trying to balance, being a parent of adult children, a wife, an employee. And a caregiver as well. I have an elderly mom, who lives in another state, and my disabled brother lives with her, and my father, who is now deceased, he died about 10 years ago and we went through quite a season of caregiving with him. So I’ve been in the middle of it for a while.
Rayna Neises: Oh, definitely. And it’s tough being far away. I’m sure that makes it even more difficult.
Ginger Hill: Yeah. Long distance caregiving.
Rayna Neises: [00:01:36] Yeah. So why is it, do you think that it’s so challenging for caregivers to maintain good health practices and habits as they’re being that carer for their loved ones?
Ginger Hill: Yeah. You know, that is a great question. when you think about health and health habits, the problem is that they are so very daily. You know, if all I had to do was make a good health decision once a year, once a month, even once a week, I would be fine. But it’s, yeah, it’s a fact. I have to do it every day. In fact, I have to do it multiple times a day. And so, because of that, we depend on creating and maintaining routines in order to do these good health habits that we want to practice. And there is nothing that disrupts a good routine more than being in a caregiving role.
When you think about it, if you’re a person, if you’re a person like I was when I was in my early fifties I had a great health routine going on. Suddenly I found myself in a caregiving role and all of those routines got disrupted because now my focus is on the needs of someone else. And then as we went through this different stage of illness and disability as the needs of my father’s changed, my routines had to change too. So, it’s a, to extent of constant flux. So, I think the difficulty is that good health habits, practicing them consistently is very dependent upon routines and routines are very difficult to maintain when you’re in a caregiving role.
Rayna Neises: That is such a good point. I’m sure that our listeners are going, oh yep because it does. There is no normal. That’s one of the biggest challenges is that as soon as you go coasting along and thinking things are going well, something does change. And those constant decisions are just a part of your everyday life. And oftentimes we aren’t thinking about the decisions. We’re just getting thrown whichever direction things are going. So that’s a great point.
[00:03:39] Based on your professional and personal experiences. What are some of the most effective ways that caregivers can incorporate those good health habits or routines into their crazy busy life of caregiving.
Ginger Hill: I have a couple of suggestions. The first one is when you think about health habits that you want to have in your life, focus on behaviors. Rather than outcomes. So, in other words, don’t spend your energy thinking about, I got to lose 20 pounds. That’s an outcome of a compilation of many different behaviors, but instead focus on, I’m going to walk for 10 minutes after lunch and incorporate two vegetables into my evening meal. Those are both small, tiny behaviors that are very doable.
And keeping it small is so very important. We know from a behavioral perspective that success breeds success, and so keep any behavior small and doable that you can succeed at is what’s going to help you move to the next success. So rather than saying to yourself, I’m going to exercise 180 minutes this week. Instead of just say, I’m going to walk for 30 minutes after lunch today. Something very small and doable.
And a third thing to practice is what we call anchoring. So anchoring, is behavioral management techniques? Where we link a habit that we want to practice to an already existing task or routine in our life.
So, think about it for caregivers, that would be linking a habit that you want to practice into a routine or task that you’re already doing as a caregiver.
So, let me give me a few examples of what that might sound like. So, it sounds like when I see that dad has fallen asleep for his afternoon nap, I will walk away, get a cup of tea, open my book, and read for at least 20 minutes. The prompt is, I see my dad sleeping. The behavior is tea and 20 minutes. That was my survival when I was caregiving with my dad.
Another one might be when I hang up the phone from making a medical appointment for my mom, I’ll pick up the phone and schedule an appointment for my own health care or self-care, whether it be doctor, dentist, hair appointment or whatever. As a wellness coach, I talked to so many people who come to me and they say, you know, I spent four years taking care of my mom. I took her to the doctor, but I didn’t do my own mammograms, colonoscopies, et cetera. And then there they find themselves in a bad way after it’s all over. So really important for that.
A third example might be after I hang up the phone for my morning checking call with mom, I’ll fill up my water bottle and put it in my purse. See how those are all very small behaviors that you’re anchoring to something that you already do on a regular basis in your role as a caregiver. So, the idea is linked your behavior that you want to practice to a behavior that’s already part of your routine as a caregiver.
Rayna Neises: That is so great, Ginger. Yeah. I love those examples too because I agree it can be really difficult to bring a new habit in, but that anchoring makes such a big difference. And I love your examples too, of being able to care for ourselves because each of those things are self-care things. And most of us as caregivers get tired of hearing about taking care of herself because it feels so hard to do. But that’s such a great tip because that isn’t hard to do.
Take that thing you do every day and just add the one thing in that you know you need to do for yourself. Love it. Such a great, great example. Not only healthy habits, usually, you know, we’re thinking physical, we’re thinking taking care of herself.
But one of your examples there was taking the time to read and drink that tea. And so, you know, really as a caregiver, there’s just so much emotional stress and all in this process of caring for someone else.
[00:07:34] What are some health habits related to emotional health that you believe caregivers should focus on?
Ginger Hill: Oh, I’m glad you asked that because caregiving is so emotionally stressful as opposed to just physically taxing. So, one suggestion is to really try to battle isolation. I think isolation is one of the most difficult things about being a caregiver.
One health habit to try to incorporate into your life is to get interaction with people on the outside. Whether that means attending the support group or just making it a point to call a friend every day. Something like that, or even doing something online where you’re connecting with other people in some other way.
And I think another, really important part about emotional health and caregiving is managing realistic expectations. It’s, so hard to have realistic expectations as a caregiver.
So, one way that you can do that is to actually make a statement and say it out loud to yourself every day regarding a realistic expectation. Here’s an example. This is what I did with my dad. One thing I would say to myself is, I can go over and have lunch with my dad, but I cannot make him happy. See the difference between the two. Realistic, I can go have lunch but unrealistic. I can’t make somebody happy. So, it was really important for me to keep saying that to myself and reinforcing that to myself for my own emotional health.
Rayna Neises: That’s a great example as well, realizing there are things we can do and have to do as caregivers, but making sure it’s realistic is so important. Especially, when we’re caring for others, whether it be family members that are trying to help us care or just that trying to feel responsible for everybody sometimes, is one of those potholes that really caused problems. So, remembering to be realistic about what we’re thinking emotionally will definitely help us to, to be able to keep on this journey as long as we need to.
Ginger Hill: Yeah. And being very deliberate about saying it out loud to yourself, so you hear it right.
Rayna Neises: You mentioned that was something you did. how often did you do that?
Ginger Hill: Oh boy. Just about every day before I went in, you know, I had to remind myself because it’s so emotionally taxing. I had to tell myself the truth.
Rayna Neises: That’s great. One of the things as caregivers I think sometimes we don’t even know what the emotional drains are. We’re often just so overwhelmed that sometimes even pinpointing what we’re expecting that is unrealistic can be difficult. So, taking the time to really process through that or find a friend, find a coach, somebody that will help you do that, can really make a difference.
Ginger Hill: Right. Absolutely. Absolutely.
Rayna Neises: [00:10:31] Based on your experience, if there’s one piece of advice that you would give to caregivers when it comes to maintaining overall health during their season of caring, what would that be?
Ginger Hill: Oh boy. Well, that’s a great question. and I would have to say, you know, the biggest hindrance I think to us moving forward with our health in a season of caregiving is what I call all or nothing thinking. And, and it sounds like this, it sounds like this. Well, if I can’t exercise for 30 minutes today, what’s the point in trying to do any exercise at all? Right? It’s all or it’s nothing.
When we’re in a caregiving season, we just have to do what we can. So, I suggest to people, and I did this for myself, to adopt the mantra. Do what you can until you can do what you want. Do what you can and tell you can do what you want because here’s what you have to remember.
Even when we do a small thing for our health, it does matter. We are still heading in the right direction, and even when we do the smallest thing for ourself, we are reinforcing to ourself that we are a person who is committed to our own health and wellbeing. Even in a season of caregiving.
Rayna Neises: That is so good. You know, those one small things, it is easy. . I’m definitely an all or nothing thinker. And I do that all the time. And so, I have to have that conversation with myself frequently. No, this little bit is good enough right now. This is all I can do. It’s good enough. And so really being able to identify the times that you’re experiencing that all or nothing thinking it can make such a big difference. And. Just helping us move closer. You know, our health is either we’re moving forward or, we’re going back and sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking we’re sitting still
Ginger Hill: Right, exactly, exactly.
Rayna Neises: and we’re really not. Each decision that we make is either helping us move forward or, it’s moving us the opposite direction
Ginger Hill: That’s right. And, and those tiny decisions count. If we, I always say an accumulation of small changes over time can make a big difference. So just focus on one small step at a time.
Rayna Neises: [00:12:41] It has been so great talking with you, Ginger. I think you have given us some wonderful takeaways. caregiving is not for the faint of heart for sure. And. Some of the takeaways are just, they’re just great bite sized things for people to grab ahold of and start implementing one thing at a time.
So thank you.
Ginger Hill: You’re welcome. Great to talk to you.
Rayna Neises: I know our listeners really enjoy that interview and I just want to remind you, this podcast is intended for encouraging family caregivers. If you have medical, legal, or financial questions, be sure to consult a local professional.
Well, I look forward to seeing you next time on A Season of Caring podcast. Thank you.
*Transcript is an actual recount of the live conversation
Employee Well-being Champion
More importantly, Ginger is a work in progress, just like all of us, through all the seasons of life, including the season of caregiving. As an only daughter of elderly parents and the sister of a disabled brother, she knows how hard it is to remain afloat physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually in the sometimes crashing waves of caregiving.
She has been married to my husband Bob for over 30 years and they enjoy and are pro
ud of their young adult children. They reside in the Chicago Metro area and have served as small group leaders in our church for many years. Ginger enjoys Jazzercise, Pilates, cycling, dog walking, mosaics, scrapbooking, cooking and sometimes gardening.
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