The holiday season is a wonderful time of the year but it can also become a stressful time, especially for families with special needs. Below, we compiled a few holiday tips for families with special needs, military families, and family caregivers.
Lower your expectations.
Often times we build up this idea in our head of the holidays. We create this fantasy about the perfect holiday, then work hard trying to create it. This tip is essential for families with special needs, however it is a good tip for everyone – lower your expectations. When we are trying to create the perfect holiday, party, reunion, etc. What we are really creating is a load of stress for ourselves which can quickly make the holidays less joyful. Things might work out better than you expected with your lowered expectations, or they might not. But, you will enjoy the time with your loved ones more when you are not trying to live up to high expectations.
Reflect on the season.
Remember that the holiday season is a time for reflection on the year, celebrating being together and a time of joy. Keep the joy in the holidays, by remaining focused on what they mean to you.
If you have a family member with special needs, it likely that you are already very busy with things to do for them and the rest of the family. Don’t intentionally add to the list trying to recreate your perfect holiday. Pick two traditions that are manageable to you and your family. Just focus on implementing or maintaining those two traditions, and enjoy the time you have with your loved ones. Sometimes families try to do too much just to make the holidays perfect, when in reality being together and happy are what makes the holidays perfect.
Be OK with bowing out of events and saying no.
As with all things in life, you have to pick and choose what is best for you and your family. There might be holiday parties that would be more stressful to attend than is necessary. Politely bow out of the event and trust that your family and friends will understand. When preparing and planning for big parties or gatherings volunteer for what you know you are capable of and say no to the rest.
Ask for a break.
It is okay to ask for help and take a break. Use respite services if you qualify, ask for a night off rather than a gift. It is okay to take care of yourself, in fact it’s extremely important.
What other tips do you have for military families, caregivers, or families with special needs?
As a caregiver do you ever feel overwhelmed, stressed, or exhausted?
Often, caregivers spend so much of their day taking care of others that they eventually stop taking care of themselves properly.
It is stressed to family caregivers to take care of themselves, because they won’t be able to take care of others if they are not taking care of themselves. Although this makes sense logically, many caregivers still struggle with self-care. The guilt of putting yourself first, even for an hour a day, can discourage caregivers from continuing the practice of self-care.
When speaking to military service providers at Fort Bliss in Texas, self-care seemed to be a common theme or issue when speaking of caregivers. Watch the video below as Monica Lawson, Licensed Clinical Social Worker from the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Clinic in William Beaumont Army Medical Center, shares her thoughts on self-care.
What do you do for self-care?
What suggestions do you have for family caregivers who struggle with self-care?
Autism Care Demonstration (ACD) provides supplemental services to qualifying dependents of active duty service members, retirees and certain National Guard and Reserve members. In this FREE session, presenters will offer advice for service providers and military families on how to best assist beneficiaries under the ACD. Also, information covering the cost of ACD and identifying points of contacts for specific TRICARE® regions will be provided.
NASW Credit Available!
The MFLN Military Caregiving concentration has applied for 1.0 National Association of Social Workers (NASW) continuing education credit for credentialed participants. Certificates of Completion will also be available for training hours as well. For more information on CEU credits go to: NASW Continuing Education Instructions.
Originally intended to honor the veterans of World War 1, Armistice Day was established in November 1919 by President Woodrow Wilson. Although the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919 officially ending “The Great War,” fighting had ceased seven months prior when an armistice between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
On May 13, 1938, an Act was approved making the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be known as “Armistice Day.” Armistice Day was primarily dedicated to veterans of World War 1, however in 1954 following World War II the Act was amended to become Veterans Day, honoring American veterans of all wars.
Today we would like to thank all service members who have served and who are currently serving, for their patriotism, sacrifice, love of country and willingness to serve.
November is Family Caregiver Appreciation month. In appreciation of all family caregivers we would like to share with you 10 ways you can show your appreciation.
1. Ask if there is something specific you can do for the caregiver.
Often when we ask a caregiver, “What can I do to help you?,” there are so many things that come to mind. If you make a request to help with a specific task, the caregiver may be more likely to accept your help, without adding additional stress. Examples of specific tasks that you can ask caregivers to help them with might include: picking up dry cleaning, getting the car washed, clean house or fixing a meal.
2. Raise awareness within your community.
Unless you personally know a family caregiver; caregiving in general may not always cross your mind. You can raise awareness about family caregivers within your community by working with your city council or county commissioners to get them to issue a local proclamation to honor and recognizing caregivers in the community, similar to the national Presidential Proclamation.
3. Shorten the caregiver ‘to-do’ list.
Family caregivers can get bogged down trying to keep up with everything around the house while also caring for their loved one. Take something off of their ‘to-do’ list. Mow the lawn, shovel snow, or go to the grocery store. If you are not near enough to do this yourself, hire a service to help out on a regular basis.
4. Offer compassion by spending quality one-on-one time with the caregiver.
Many family caregivers can become isolated from friends and family while caring for their loved one. Be available to the caregiver and make sure they understand that you are there as a support system. Talk to them, let them vent their frustrations, worries and fears, while offering compassion and understanding.
5. Send a little ‘Thank You.’
Send the caregiver a little token of your appreciation. For example, you could show you care by sending a hand-written thank you note, flowers, a gift certificate to their favorite coffee shop or spa. The item of gratitude doesn’t have to be big to be meaningful.
6. Bring the ‘get away’ to the caregiver.
Sometimes caregivers need to get away for their own health, but may not feel comfortable leaving their loved ones. Bring the “get away” to them. Pick up a meal from the caregiver’s favorite restaurant. Rent a new movie they would like to watch and bring snacks for a movie night.
7. Offer to take the caregiver’s children to different events.
For many caregivers, they are not only responsible for their loved one, but other members of their family, such as children or aging parents. Offer to take their children to soccer practice, birthday parties or school events. If they are caring for aging family members, offer to take their loved one to doctor appointments.
8. Prepare freezer meals for the caregiver.
Make dinner an easier task for the family caregiver by preparing freezer meals with instructions on how to reheat. Be sure to talk to the family caregiver before putting these meals together to ensure that the meals are meeting dietary restrictions and are something that they will actually eat. Consider making the freezer meals small enough to fit in their freezer and appropriate serving sizes for their family.
9. Offer to stay with the care-recipient.
Although there are respite services available to family caregivers, often times caregivers are weary to have someone they are not familiar with care for their loved one. Offer to stay with the care-recipient so that the caregiver can have a night off or a weekend away.
10. Stay in touch.
The simplest way to say thank you to a family caregiver is to actually say “thank you” and to stay in touch with them. Check in regularly and see how things are going.
What are other ways to say “thank you” to a family caregiver?
This month, the Early Intervention team brings you a unique interview with a mom who was in the Army. We are grateful for her willingness to share her experiences and knowledge with us. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What were the ages of your children when you were deployed?
My kids were almost 7 and almost 11 when I deployed. Additionally, it is important to note the backstory of our family. When my first husband left us in 1996, I joined the Army a year later. Our divorce was finalized in 1998 while he was in Korea. However, custody was not decided at that time. I met my second husband one week before my divorce was final in 1998 and we were married in 1999. I do not remember exactly when my first husband returned to the US, but in 2000, after I myself had deployed to Korea, he decided that he wanted custody.
What were some things you did to prepare yourself for being separated from your children prior to your deployment?
I prepared for deployment by collecting pictures in albums. The Internet was relatively new at the time. Therefore, photos were the best things I could take since I wouldn’t be able to ‘see’ them online like we can now.
What were some things you did to prepare your children for your deployment?
With the kids, we explained that this separation was temporary. We did ‘count downs to return’ with sleeps. For example, if I was going to be home in 30 days, we would tell them after 30 nights of going to bed (‘a sleep’) I would be home. We only told them what they needed to know, how often we would be able to talk etc. I didn’t think they were old enough to understand anything but basics. I did not want to scare them.
We stuck to a schedule of talking, and mail was definitely something that we discussed and implemented. I mailed letters weekly. I wrote many times during the week and then mailed them once a week. They wrote sporadically. My mother was mostly responsible to help with that. If I had to do it over, given the communication we had available then, I would have organized pre-stamped and addressed note cards or post cards to mail daily. It would have been less stressful to have the cards prepared and then they could just send them.
I got to talk with the kids most every weekend. We tried chatting via the computer but the Internet then was very unreliable at the time.
For me, it was very hard to not be with my children. I was terrified of having them ripped from me, due to the custody issue I was facing with my ex-husband while I was deployed. I wanted to write all the time and I had time to write. However, it was hard to write a lot because it always felt like it might be the last letter they got from me. This was not because I was in great danger; it had more to do with the custody battle.
Describe the conversations you had with your spouse prior to deployment in regards to supporting him and your children.
My second husband got out of the military about a year before I deployed. He took an opportunity with me being deployed to move to Florida and pursue schooling that would lead to his dream job: working on motorcycles. My mom lived there also and could help support us with the children. The discussions we had about supporting the kids had a lot to do with how he would support my mom and my dad who were going to have the kids Monday through Friday, while he would come to their house on the weekends and spend time with the children. My children had known my parents longer than they had known my second husband, as we had only been married a year when I deployed. He and I felt that having my parents care for the children during the week while he cared for them on the weekends was best.
What were some of your main fears and/or concerns regarding your children’s well being when you were deployed?
I worried mostly about whether or not my deployment would have a lasting impact on my children. I didn’t really worry about whether or not they would be taken care of or if they would have everything that they needed. I mostly fretted over the fact that I didn’t want this to permanently scar them. After I arrived to my deployed location my ex-husband decided that he wanted to try to obtain custody of the children. Then I started worrying about whether I was going to be able to continue to be a part of my children’s life, because I was deployed and the way that things were going in the beginning, I was afraid that I might lose my children to an ex-husband who hadn’t had anything to do with them in over three years.
What were some ways you were able to stay connected with your children when you were deployed?
I was able to talk with them on the telephone about once a week and we tried to talk over the Internet, which was very sketchy back then in 2000! I wrote letters regularly and sent pictures and postcards of the places that I visited while I was in Korea.
Please describe your transition back home. Did you do anything to prepare yourself and/or your children? Were there any challenges?
My transition back home was a surprise for the kids. They knew I was coming home early because three weeks into my tour I found out I was pregnant with my son, but the actual date I came home was a surprise for the children. I don’t remember there being any challenges. My kids were pretty well adapted to moving and change as they had lived through at least six or seven moves and their biological father had been deployed about four times prior to my deployment. I do remember gratefulness seeming to be the theme when we all were reunited. I was able to return home early due to my pregnancy, which also allowed me to go to court and fight for custody of my children. Ultimately, I was awarded full custody of the children.
What a great webinar Health & Wealth Relationships, on Oct 11. If you missed the webinar, you can still view the recording and obtain CEUs, 1.5 for RDNs and AFC-credentialed participants. You can also access the slides and resources noted in this presentation. https://learn.extension.org/events/2677
Have you taken the Personal Health and Wellness Quiz yet? Did your score surprise you? Did you find some room for improvement? http://njaes.rutgers.edu/money/health-finance-quiz/
As we learned in the webinar health and wealth are correlated. Here are some interesting research findings from the webinar:
There is a negative association between BMI and income, especially among white females http://www.nber.org/papers/w11343.
Regular exercise yielded a 6% to 10% increase in wages.
Estimated overall annual costs of being obese were $4,879 for women and $2,646 for men. Dor Ferguson, Langwith and Tan 2010 http://hsrc.himmelfarb.gwu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1211&context=sphhs_policy_facpubs.
Individuals who engage in health search behaviors such as reading nutrition labels are more likely to engage in financial planning.
What are the health and personal finance similarities and relationships?
Problems develop slowly.
Less stigma due to increasing frequency.
Impacts job productivity, discrimination.
Technical jargon, Medical terms and directions and financial terms and acronyms.
Need for programs in schools and at work sites.
People fear drastic changes and large numbers.
Need for more “point of purchase” information.
Advice needs to be realistic.
Lack of limits causes problems.
Restrictions help avoid problems.
Drastic solutions have major drawbacks.
Good health affects wealth.
Higher productivity, fewer work absences.
Live long enough to collect social security benefits.
Money saved on smoking, health care bills, etc.
Healthy people need to save more money for longer lifetime.
People want quick fixes and are often a target for fraud.
Denial and disconnects.
Need for routine check-ups.
Poor risk perception.
Personal traits = Success.
Many available resources.
Government and employer intervention.
What personality traits are associated with positive health and financial practices?
Obesity tends to be higher in the poorer populations.
The skills you need to manage your finances are similar to managing your health.
Being healthy can be expensive, so it is natural to assume that you have to have a solid financial plan in place to maintain that lifestyle.
Access to healthcare and financial resources.
Access to food.
There is a cycle of deprivation and ill health.
People often cope with struggles by overindulging. Overindulging can happen with food or shopping/spending.
Being unhealthy is expensive such as eating out and unnecessary snack purchases.
Poor health leads to unemployment and unemployment leads to ill health.
Overindulgence/lack of discipline applies to over-eating and over-spending.
“Realistic” is different for each person. You have to start where they are and take small steps forward.
Automatic Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) contributions are a form of “restriction” because you pay yourself first.
Healthier people can work longer too.
A good way to think of it – restrictions control the behavior rather than stopping it. Like the bad stigma around the words “diet” and “budget” – restrictions create a plan instead.
Happier and more productive!
Being healthy will give you a good return on investment (ROI )for all those FICA contributions that come out of your paycheck. If you die before your first SS check, your ROI is “0”.
Those of us who are lucky enough to have lifetime pensions get more the longer we live!
Good example of savings denial is Retirement Confidence Survey:https://www.ebri.org/pdf/surveys/rcs/2016/PR1157.RCS.22Mar16.pdf
How can we get people to look past today and see the work they need to do today to make sure they’re ready for later life?
Healthy eating isn’t expensive; it’s just that unhealthy eating is cheap.
Educate people that it doesn’t have to be expensive to be healthy by listing alternatives.
Relaxation no longer stressed.
Ability to plan ahead.
Structure, organization, motivation.
Often more aware and proactive.
Individuals with positive financial practices tend to be better self-motivated “go-getters.”
How can practitioners foster positive personality traits?
Work with clients to make sure their nutrition goals are specific to them to help build the motivation they need to work towards the goal.
Motivational Interviewing; Determine what the client holds valuable.
Coaching clients to see what their dreams are and the realistic steps they will take to get there. Let them set the goals.
Develop action plans linked to goals and values.
Motivational Interviewing is a great start.
A form of taking control over their lives.
The Personal Finance team did a webinar on motivational interviewing if you would like to learn more! https://learn.extension.org/events/2638
Listening to the client
The Personal Finance team also had a webinar on Positive Personality Traits of Financially Fit People: https://learn.extension.org/events/2592
Identifying their existing positive personality traits and build off those.
Help clients break down big goals into baby steps.
Listening to the client. Part of providing an environment that nurtures their capacity for mindfulness and self-awareness.
Can be one path to helping them develop a more powerful personally grounded orientation for their efforts; helps them to develop a more internal locus of control, even in the face of constant external pressures.
There’s been some fascinating research and discussion about how scarcity influences psychology & decision making, e.g. APA – The Psychology of Scarcity http://www.apa.org/monitor/2014/02/scarcity.aspx.
Financial incentives are not a permanent fix. Frequently there is temporary changes (during a program with financial incentives) have temporary results; when the program ends, old habits return.
Financial incentives appear to change people’s health habits, at least in the short term. How much they impact health is another question.
A workplace “wellness fair” brought in a machine to see skin damage from the sun – has made a big difference in my sun exposure.
My brother stopped using tobacco when there would be a penalty with his insurance costs.
My brother completed a Health Screening Health Insurance, and lowered his LDL over the year, and was incentivized by a lower premium, as a “reward” for better health.
The threat of loss seems to be a stronger motivator.
For more information about health and wealth relationships please visit the website Small Steps to Health and Wealth™ http://njaes.rutgers.edu/sshw/.
The SSHW workbook is free for downloading at http://njaes.rutgers.edu/sshw/. You can also order print copies of the SSHW workbook at http://palspublishing.cals.cornell.edu/nra_order.taf?_function=detail&pr_id=159&_UserReference=56E0D47A4BE703E050494E77
How can you use these techniques to help foster positive changes in health and wealth?
This was posted by Robin Allen, a member of the Military Families Learning Network (MFLN) Nutrition and Wellness team that aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about theMFLN Nutrition and Wellnessconcentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, andLinkedIn.
Planning for retirement involves more than making sure there will be enough money to last through the retirement years. It is important for individuals to plan for this monumental transition by thinking about their expectations for the future and having conversations with their partner about their expectations.
Sharon Danes, Professor, Family Economist, and Extension Specialist at the University of Minnesota, authored the publicationPlanning Ahead for Retirementwhich helps folks address the transitional, emotional, social, as well as financial decisions inherent in the retirement planning process. The first chapter, More than Money Decisions, provides great information and tools for individuals (and their partners) to assess how they approach life, identifying and prioritizing values and setting goals.
Consider these keys to successful retirement transition identified by Danes.
Identify a vision for retirement. What do you imagine life will look like in retirement? Consider how time will be spent and what your health might be during your retirement years. Visualize what your relationships with family and friends will look like during this time. Space is also a major factor as you think about where you plan to live. And of course, finances need to be considered as you build your vision of the future. Worksheet 1: Retirement Questions in the Planning for Retirement publication provides questions to help folks think these factors in more detail.
Assess life view. “There is no better predictor of your approach to life in retirement than your approach to life now.” So, it is important to take stock of your present outlook on life. Worksheet 2 in the publication provides an opportunity to think about your disposition, enthusiasm for life, inclination toward traditionalism, and capacity to affect your environment. This information can be used to determine whether you want to adjust your stance in particular areas.
Identify Values and Set Priorities. Values are the things in life that are important to you and bring you joy. Values typically guide one’s lifestyle, relationships, careers and volunteer work. Being aware of your values and setting priorities can help inform what you want your retirement years to look like. Worksheet 3 can help you identify your personal values while Worksheet 4 helps identify your priorities.
Set goals. Setting both short and long term goals can help you frame what you want to accomplish. Some goals will be easy to achieve while others will require years to reach. Worksheet 5 provides space to identify goals.
Coordinate With Your Partner. Because life is typically not a solo journey it is essential to synchronize plans with your partner. This involves communicating about roles, values, priorities, and goals. It may be necessary to manage any conflict that arises.
Because retirement involves more than money decisions folks are encouraged to spend time thinking about and planning for this major transition. The Planning Ahead for Retirement tool is an excellent place to start.
To learn more about the transitional, emotional, and financial perspective of military retirement participate in our two-part webinar series entitledRetirement Ready? Effective Strategies for Military Families Part Iand Part IIon November 1 & 8, 2016. The webinars will be recorded and archived for viewing following the event. CEUs for accredited financial counselors, certified personal finance counselors, marriage and family counselors, social workers and counselors are available.
This post was written by Sara Croymans, MEd, AFC, University of Minnesota Extension Educator, and member of the MFLN Family Transitions team. Family Transitions provides education, resources and networking opportunities for professionals working with military families to build resilience and navigate life cycle transitions. Engage with the MFLN Family Transitions team on our website, Facebook, and Twitter.
During this month we like to show our appreciation for all of the hard work and sacrifices family caregivers make for their loved ones. This year we have created a learning opportunity for family caregivers to learn more about two organizations and their missions to support all caregivers but especially the 5.5 million military caregivers in the United States. The responsibilities of a military caregiver may include a wounded service member but also a person with a special healthcare need or development disability.
We will be highlighting two organizations, Easterseals and Operation Family Caregiver(OFC), during this webinar and have representatives from both participate in an engaging session on their organizations’ response to military caregiving and how these resources can help the caregiver.
Easterseals has been helping individuals with disabilities and special needs, and their families for over 100 years through services and support surrounding medical rehabilitation, employment and training, children’s services, adult and senior services, and camping and recreation. More recently Easterseals has responded to military caregiving by providing support for caregivers and their families through respite care, inclusive childcare, employment and career services, transportation, behavioral/physical health services and advocacy at the federal and local levels.
Operation Family Caregiver (OFC) is a program within the Rosalynn Carter Institute (RCI) for Caregiving at Georgia Southwestern State University. RCI supports caregivers – both family and professional caregivers through advocacy, education, research and service. OFC coaches the families of returning service members and veterans to manage the difficulties they face when returning. The program has been implemented across the nation and within communities to teach military families how to best navigate the challenges that come with caregiving in order to build a stronger family network.
Certificate of Completion Available!
The MFLN Military Caregiving concentration will provide a Certificate of Completion following this session.
Join the MFLN Military Caregiving team as we continue learning new skills and strategies for improved communication in times of crisis in the final session of our three-part Virtual Learning Event (VLE) beginning at 11:00 a.m. EDT on Wednesday, October 26.
In session three of the VLE entitled, Empowering Caregivers and Families, we will provide an in-depth look at effective practices for communicating sensitive topics. Highlighting real-life challenges and solutions, case studies, practices from the field and a panel of professionals will be employed in addressing some of the most pressing communication issues military helping professionals face.