Seven Super Foods for Super Caregivers

Photo: AlexMax/Dreamstime

Photo: AlexMax/Dreamstime

March is National Nutrition Month and while it is sometimes hard for the average person to follow good nutritional guidelines, it is even harder if you are juggling your own healthy eating needs while caring for your loved one.

A study by the National Alliance for Caregiving shows that 38 percent of caregivers who feel their health have declined while caring for a loved one report weight gain or loss.  Skipping meals, eating fast food on the run, turning to non-nutritious snacks to cope with stress can all become part of a caregiver’s nutritional reality.

However, ignoring your own nutritional needs will impact your energy level, your ability to stay focused and alert and your physical and emotional stamina.  If your health starts to go downhill, it can be a slippery slope that can lead to you becoming as ill as or worse than the one you are caring for.  If you become sick, who will replace you to care for your loved one?

 

Super Foods for Super Heroes – The Caregivers

Photo:  Alexandra Petruk/Dreamstime

Photo: Alexandra Petruk/Dreamstime

Caregiving can be a superhuman role that can zap the physical and mental strength of even Wonder Woman.

When you are feeling overwhelmed, tired and stressed to the max, it is important to keep your powers

at their peak.  Food is the fuel that can keep our bodies strong and our minds clear.

If someone told you there was a pill you could take which will lower your cholesterol, reduce your risk of

heart disease and cancer and enhance your mood, would you take it?  Well, it may not be a pill but those

foods are available at your local grocery.

 

According to WebMD, here is a grocery list of Super Foods that will ensure you remain a Super You. To make it fun, all you need to think about is “eating the rainbow” –

choose colorful foods which typically provide the nutrients, fiber and other physical health needs to keep caregivers going strong.

  1. Eat the Rainbow

Photo: Bethany Van Trees/Dreamstime

Photo: Bethany Van Trees/Dreamstime

 

 

Fiber keeps cholesterol in check and can aid weight loss since you’ll feel fuller.  Look for beans, whole grains, fruit and vegetables.  I try to “eat the rainbow” daily – one food a day which is red, orange, yellow, green and blue makes it fun and easier to remember to add these super foods to your daily diet.

 

 

 

 2. Berry Good

Photo: Dreamstime

Photo: Dreamstime

Blueberries are great anti-oxidants and an anti-inflammatory that can lower your risk of heart disease and cancer as well as other chronic illnesses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Something’s Fishy

Photo: Dreamstime

Photo: Dreamstime

Omega-3 rich fish such as salmon, herring, sardines and mackerel help your heart, joints, memory and some medical professionals believe it can also reduce depression.  A National Alliance for Caregiving study showed that 91 percent of caregivers who say their health has declined suffer from depression.  If you’re not a fish fan, you can also find Omega-3 in walnuts and flax seeds.

 

 

 

 

 

4. Soy what?

Photo: MCWMeng/Dreamstime

Photo: MCWMeng/Dreamstime

Soy such as tofu, soy milk or edamame, as well as almonds, oats and barley lower cholesterol.  In addition, oatmeal can help regulate blood sugar levels which is important for diabetic diets.  (However, if you have a family history of breast cancer, it is not recommended you add soy to your diet).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Tea Time

Photo: Dreamstime

Photo: Dreamstime

Tea has been shown in several studies to lower cholesterol.  While the antioxidant power is the same in black tea as green tea; the green version has an added element which studies have found helps inhibit the growth of cancer cells.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. Got Milk?

Photo: Batuque/Dreamstime

Photo: Batuque/Dreamstime

Calcium found in dairy foods, salmon (again), leafy green veggies, almonds (again) asparagus and figs build strong bones and helps reduce the risk of osteoporosis – women over age 51 should have 1,200 mg daily.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7. Sweet Dreams

Photo: Monkey Business Images/Dreamstime

Photo: Monkey Business Images/Dreamstime

Dark Chocolate – hallelujah!  Dark chocolate – at least 60 percent cocoa content – has eight times the antioxidants as strawberries and can help lower bad cholesterol (LDL) by up to 10 percent. But don’t overindulge, 2-3 oz. a day will do it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is hard to be diligent about diet if you are caregiving.  But, if you can plan your grocery shopping on Mondays (part of your Me Time Monday plan) it might make it easier to remind yourself – every week –that you are as important as the person you are caring for.   Take along this list of Super Foods and stock up – it will help ensure you stay strong so that you can continue being a super hero for your loved one.

Cast of Caregivers Cover FINAL jpegTo read more about nutritional needs for seniors and family caregivers, get Sherri Snelling’s book, A Cast of Caregivers – Celebrity Stories to Help You Prepare to Care.

 

 

You can also read Sherri’s other blogs about nutrition for caregivers and senior loved one’s nutritional needs:

Caregiver Weight Connected to Breast Cancer Risk

David Murdock – 90-year-old billionaire and caregiver

The Osmond Family’s Greatest Act – Winning the Daily Battle Against MS

How You Can Combat the Senior Hunger Crisis

 

©2016 Sherri Snelling

Caregiver Health & Wellness Recipe: Eat the Rainbow

Photo: AlexMax/Dreamstime

Photo: AlexMax/Dreamstime

March is National Nutrition Month and while it is sometimes hard for the average person to follow good nutritional guidelines, it is even harder if you are juggling your own healthy eating needs while caring for your loved one.

A study by the National Alliance for Caregiving shows that 38 percent of caregivers who feel their health have declined while caring for a loved one report weight gain or loss.  Skipping meals, eating fast food on the run, turning to non-nutritious snacks to cope with stress can all become part of a caregiver’s nutritional reality.

However, ignoring your own nutritional needs will impact your energy level, your ability to stay focused and alert and your physical and emotional stamina.  If your health starts to go downhill, it can be a slippery slope that can lead to you becoming as ill as or worse than the one you are caring for.  If you become sick, who will replace you to care for your loved one?

Super Foods for Super Heroes – The Caregivers

Photo:  Alexandra Petruk/Dreamstime

Photo: Alexandra Petruk/Dreamstime

Caregiving can be a superhuman role that can zap the physical and mental strength of even Wonder Woman.  When you are feeling overwhelmed, tired and stressed to the max, it is important to keep your powers at their peak.  Food is the fuel that can keep our bodies strong and our minds clear.

If someone told you there was a pill you could take which will lower your cholesterol, reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer and enhance your mood, would you take it?  Well, it may not be a pill but those foods are available at your local grocery.

According to WebMD, here is a grocery list of Super Foods that will ensure you remain a Super You. To make it fun, all you need to think about is “eating the rainbow” – choose colorful foods which typically provide the nutrients, fiber and other physical health needs to keep caregivers going strong.

Photo: Bethany Van Trees/Dreamstime

Photo: Bethany Van Trees/Dreamstime

Fiber keeps cholesterol in check and can aid weight loss since you’ll feel fuller. Look for beans, whole grains, fruit and vegetables.  I try to “eat the rainbow” daily – one food a day which is red, orange, yellow, green and blue makes it fun and easier to remember to add these super foods to your daily diet.

 

 

 

 

Photo: Dreamstime

Photo: Dreamstime

Blueberries are great anti-oxidants and an anti-inflammatory that can lower your risk of heart disease and cancer as well as other chronic illnesses.

 

 

 

 

 

Photo: Dreamstime

Photo: Dreamstime

Omega-3 rich fish such as salmon, herring, sardines and mackerel help your heart, joints, memory and some medical professionals believe it can also reduce depression.  A National Alliance for Caregiving study showed that 91 percent of caregivers who say their health has declined suffer from depression.  If you’re not a fish fan, you can also find Omega-3 in walnuts and flax seeds.

 

 

 

Photo: MCWMeng/Dreamstime

Photo: MCWMeng/Dreamstime

Soy such as tofu, soy milk or edamame, as well as almonds, oats and barley lower

  1. In addition, oatmeal can help regulate blood sugar levels which is important for diabetic
  2. (However, if you have a family history of breast cancer, it is not recommended you add soy to your diet).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo: Dreamstime

Photo: Dreamstime

Tea has been shown in several studies to lower cholesterol.  While the antioxidant power is the same in black tea as green tea; the green version has an added element which studies have found helps inhibit the growth of cancer cells.

 

 

 

 

 

Photo: Batuque/Dreamstime

Photo: Batuque/Dreamstime

Calcium found in dairy foods, salmon (again), leafy green veggies, almonds (again) asparagus and figs build strong bones and helps reduce the risk of osteoporosis – women over age 51 should have 1,200 mg daily.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo: Monkey Business Images/Dreamstime

Photo: Monkey Business Images/Dreamstime

Dark Chocolate – hallelujah!  Dark chocolate – at least 60 percent cocoa content – has eight times the antioxidants as strawberries and can help lower bad cholesterol (LDL) by up to 10 percent.  But don’t overindulge, 2-3 oz. a day will do it.

And, of course, don’t forget your daily multivitamin.

It is hard to be diligent about diet if you are caregiving.  But, if you can plan your grocery shopping on Mondays (part of your Me Time Monday plan) it might make it easier to remind yourself – every week – that you are as important as the person you are caring for.   Take along this list of Super Foods and stock up – it will help ensure you stay strong so that you can continue being a super hero for your loved one.

 

 

 

CastofCaregivers Cover FINALTo read more about nutritional needs for seniors and family caregivers, get Sherri Snelling’s book, A Cast of Caregivers – Celebrity Stories to Help You Prepare to Care.

You can also read Sherri’s other blogs about nutrition for caregivers and senior loved one’s nutritional needs:

Caregiver Weight Connected to Breast Cancer Risk

David Murdock – 90-year-old billionaire and caregiver

The Osmond Family’s Greatest Act – Winning the Daily Battle Against MS

How You Can Combat the Senior Hunger Crisis

 

©2015 Sherri Snelling

PBS Next Avenue Articles

PBS Next Avenue together

Following are all of Sherri’s articles for PBS Next Avenue:

17 Essential Books for Caregivers

90-Year-Old Billionaire David Murdock Doles Out Advice

Alzheimer’s App Uses Singing to Boost Mood

Alzheimer’s Epidemic Hits Women Hardest

Are You a Caregiver or Just a Good Child? (Sherri Snelling quoted in article)

Can caregiver guilt be good for you?

Caregiver Tipping Points

Caregivers of 9/11 – Cancer and PTSD New Challenges for Survivors

Caring for Her Blind Husband Challenged Her Marriage

Casey Kasem’s Legacy for Caregivers

Dark Side of Caregiving – Elder Abuse News

Difference in Caring for Moms versus Dads

The Emmy Awards We’d Give – TV’s Best Caregivers (2012)

The Emmys We’d Award – TV’s Best Caregivers (2013)

Employers must do more to support working caregivers

Finding Affordable Home Care for Your Parents (Sherri Snelling quoted in article)

First U.S. Dementia Village

For Caregivers, New Tracking Technology Offers Peace of Mind

Fran Drescher on cancer and 3 tips for caregivers (PBS 2015)

Glen Campbell’s Farewell Tour

Healing Power of Pet Therapy

Help Your Parents Join the Aging in Place Revolution (Sherri Snelling quoted in article)

Holly Robinson Peete’s Most Challenging Role – Sandwich Generation Caregiver

How Online Volunteers Support Caregivers

How Strong is Your Living Will? (Sherri Snelling quoted in article)

How to Avoid the Goldilocks Syndrome

How to Care for Your Parent Without Losing Your Job (Sherri Snelling quoted in article)

How You Can Combat the Senior Hunger Crisis

Joan Lunden on challenges of guilt and caregiving

Kimberly Williams Paisley Chronicles Her Mother’s Dementia

Latest report shows rise in male caregivers

Meet the Hall of Fame Caregiver Who Changed the NFL

Moving Together to Prevent the Risk of Falls

New Report Highlights Stress of Long Distance Caregiving

Norman Lear – Longevity, Laughter, Love of America

The Osmond Family’s Greatest Act – Winning the Daily Battle Against MS

Patient Navigators – New Help for Caregivers

PBS Powerful Expose on Assisted Living (Sherri Snelling quoted in article)

Rise of Men as Caregivers

Robots vs. the Real Thing in Pet Therapy

Rosalynn Carter – A Pioneering Caregiving Advocate Says More Must be Done

Seth Rogen Getting Millennials to Care About Alzheimer’s

The Sibling Caregiver

Social Media Dangers for the Modern Caregiver

Suze Orman’s Lessons Learned on Long Term Care for Her Mom

Tax Rules for Caregivers

A Victory for Alzheimer’s Patients and Caregivers (Sherri Snelling quoted in article)

The Village Movement – Redefining Aging in Place

Virtual Reality Is A Caregiver’s Empathy Machine

Waltons reboot – multigenerational living is back!

Want to Live Longer?

What Lies Ahead for the Nation’s Caregivers?

What Parents of Wounded Veterans Need

What We Can Learn from Brittany Maynard’s Death

What’s Next in Caregiver Technology

What’s Your Caregiving IQ?

When the Old Care for Their Children

When Parents Face Driving Retirement – Alternative Senior Transportation

Why Caregivers Need to Plan for the Worst – Emergency Preparedness

Why Laughter is Crucial for Caregivers

Why You Need to Make Your End-of-Life Wishes Known

Why and When Denial is Good for Caregivers

90-Year-Old Billionaire David Murdock Doles Out Healthy Aging Advice

Versions of my following interview with David Murdock have appeared on Forbes.com and PBS NextAvenue.org.

David Murdock horsebackridingDavid Murdock, CEO of Dole Foods is a billionaire, a titan of business but he is most interested in healthy living to help us live longer and better. His reasons are personal. In the 1980s Murdock lost his beloved wife Gabriele to ovarian cancer at age 43, his second great loss of his life after watching his mother succumb to the same disease at age 42 when Murdock was then an impressionable young man of only 17.  As with many successful entrepreneurs and business innovators I have interviewed, Murdock has turned his private pain into a passion to find a cure for the chronic illnesses that shorten our lives.

David Murdock, at age 90, has the look and vitality of a man at least 25 years younger and believes his healthy practices will help him reach age 125.  He attributes his longevity and vigor to the healthy lifestyle habits adopted while searching for a cure for the cancer that eventually took his wife.

Putting His Money Where His Heart Is

Back in the early 1980s, Murdock bought Castle & Cooke, a leading real estate development company of which Dole was part. Since then he has made Dole Foods Company, the world’s largest producer of fruits and vegetables.  According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek,  Murdock’s net worth is $2.3 billion of which he has poured more than $500 million into creating  the North Carolina Research Campus where eight universities participate in research to find the health benefits of plants that can lead to longevity and aid in avoiding the wrath of diseases like cancer.

Through his acquisition of Dole, Murdock began focusing on the benefits of a mostly vegetarian diet to prevent chronic illness including diabetes, heart disease and especially cancer.  In 2006 Murdock added to his healthy living empire and opened the California Health & Longevity Institute (CHLI) in Westlake Village, California.  About a 40-minute drive from downtown Los Angeles, guests, including corporate executive groups, stay at the luxurious Four Seasons hotel housed in the same building as CHLI to receive services at the state-of-the-art medical suite, spa and nutrition demonstration kitchen.

Following Murdock offers some insights on caregiving and the business of aging well:

Good Nutrition dreamstime_xs_817857 (2)

Healthy Eating

It’s never too late to adopt healthy nutritional habits, according to Murdock who created his own new diet and discipline in his 60s.  While Murdock eats approximately 20 servings of fruits and veggies every day – he blends most into 2-3 smoothies which includes the food’s outer skin.  Avoiding vitamins and supplements, he advises that anything the sun touches including banana peels and orange rinds should not be tossed but blended in for full nutritional value.

In addition to an abundance of fruits and veggies, Murdock includes seafood, beans, legumes and egg whites into his diet to get an adequate balance of protein with his carbohydrates. And he avoids fatty empty calories – in an interview with the New York Times, when the waiter delivered butter to the table, he pushed it back saying, “Please take death off the table.”

“We take care of our vehicles – we’re careful to put the proper kind of gasoline in the tank, put air in the tires, change the windshield wiper blades and brakes; but how many of us pay that much attention to what we put into our own bodies?” says Murdock.  “We have developed a culture in which we eat with our taste buds – not our brains. It is never too late to change the way you eat and once you do, your body will thank you with a longer and healthier life.”

Walking shoes dreamstime_m_14304581 (2)

Exercise

Murdock advises that exercise should not be viewed as “optional” but should be a daily routine just like brushing your teeth.  He advises on three key elements of an exercise program:

1)      Don’t make it routine – mix it up.  One day Murdock rides horses, another he does yoga and strength training.

2)      Get outside.  He believes that being a gym rat becomes boring and is one of the reasons people do not stick with daily exercise.

3)      Make it fun.  When I first met David Murdock, he spoke at a UCLA Longevity Institute Conference I  attended.  He captivated me with his story about caring for his wife but I was also fascinated by his comments to use “fun” to engage society in consistent exercise.

Murdock’s example was from the Volkswagen Fun Theory program where metro train station stairs in Sweden were transformed overnight into piano keys – each step corresponding to the keys on a piano with actual sounds.  Miraculously where the day before almost 100 percent of travelers took the escalator, once piano stairs were installed, almost everyone was curious enough to take the stairs.  Watch Piano Stairs on YouTube.

Caregiving Advice

Murdock knows firsthand the stress and physical, emotional toll caregiving can take.  His advice is much like his approach to business and healthy living.

“Don’t give up,” urges Murdock.  “Exercising and eating properly will build your physical and mental strength to endure a stressful situation.”

©2013 Sherri Snelling

7 Ways the Sandwich Generation can beat burn-out

nuweston/dreamstime

nuweston/dreamstime

Contributing to Examiner.com, Sherri Snelling’s first article offers 7 magnificent ways for caregivers to manage stress and avoid burn-out. Approximately 47% of Americans in their 40s and 50s are considered the “Sandwich Generation” – those who are caring for both children and older parents.  The “Sandwich Generation Juggling Act” is balancing children + career + caregiving but often means neglecting self-care.  Read the full article here for 7 tips on achieving better health and wellness.

Billionaire & Caregiver David Murdock Talks Healthy Living

David Murdock horsebackridingOne of the hardest challenges for caregivers is to maintain their own health & wellness.  Billionaire 90-year-old David Murdock, who cared for his wife, says healthy living is the key to the physical stamina and mental strength to keep going as a caregiver.  Read Sherri Snelling’s interview with Mr. Murdock for PBS Next Avenue.

March National Nutrition Month

Continuing our “Caregiver Wishes for 2013” our blogs this month feature nutritional health information and tips.

 

 

Mar Nutrion Month

Featured Articles

Water – Caregiver Health One Glass At a Time

Soul Food – More Than Meal Delivery for Seniors, Caregivers, Volunteers

Super Foods, Super Caregiving You

Me Time Monday Video

Me Time Monday – Super Foods

Caregiver Weight Connected to Breast Cancer Risk

It has long been suspected weight gain is a slippery slope to breast cancer risk.  Now recent studies are not only supporting this claim but also showing weight loss – even just 10 percent of total body weight – may also help prevent breast cancer.  If you are one of the 65 million Americans caring for a loved one, studies also show weight management becomes a big challenge which can put caregivers at even greater risk for developing breast cancer.

 Most Americans gain only 1-2 pounds a year since college age, which doesn’t seem like anything to get too upset about until you do the math.  After 30 years, when you’re in your 50s and at menopausal age and possibly caregiving for an older parent or ill spouse, this accumulated weight gain can be 30-60 pounds.  Not only will this increase your Body Mass Index (BMI) but it also puts you at risk for diabetes and heart disease as well as breast cancer.  Researchers have long believed weight gain – accumulation of excess body fat – can fuel estrogen levels which have been linked to breast cancer tumors in postmenopausal women.

A National Cancer Institute (NCI) study of 72,000 women found a steady weight gain over years can double the risk of breast cancer versus those women who maintained a steady weight all those years.  In fact, women in the study who started with higher BMI measurements, considered at an early age to be overweight or even obese, but maintained their weight over the years, did not show the increased risk in developing breast cancer.  In a separate study published earlier this year by researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington, researchers found for the first time weight loss directly lowers hormones linked to breast cancer.  By slowly losing weight through diet and exercise, you can lower the amount of these hormones circulating through the body, which can result in a decreased risk of developing breast cancer.

Maintaining your college weight is tough for anyone – 57 percent of the NCI study participants failed to keep their college figures.  Metabolism slows, childbirth weight gains may never completely come off (just ask Jessica Simpson how tough it is) and what researchers are calling busy life syndrome takes over – fast food nutrition, lack of gym time and restless nights with fewer hours of sleep.  And studies show caregivers have an even increased risk for neglecting their own health and wellness needs than the general population.

While some pounds may have crept on, Dr. Anne McTiernan who led the Fred Hutchinson study believes just 10% weight loss can have major impact and reduced breast cancer risk.  Other researchers support the findings including one of the world’s leading epidemiologists, Dr. Walter Willett of Harvard University.  He told ABC News, “Weight loss by postmenopausal women is one of the best ways to reduce risk of breast cancer.” Willett also mentions a study showing women who lost a moderate amount of weight had a 60 percent lower risk of breast cancer.

Calculate Your BMI

Both men and women throughout their lives should have a BMI measurement of 18.5 – 24.9.  Here is how to calculate yours:

  1. Take your weight
  2. Divide it by your height in inches
  3. Divide this new number by your height in inches again (yes, a second time)
  4. Multiply the new number x 703

 Prescription for Healthy Weight – 5 Things Caregivers Can Do to Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

1. Get your shuteye.

In a National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) study, 87 percent of caregivers felt they didn’t get enough sleep and cited insomnia as a side effect of caregiving. Most experts advise at least 7-8 hours of restorative, uninterrupted sleep.  One Australian research study found less than 5 hours of sleep a night can be equal to .05 blood alcohol level and another study found just 5.5 hours or less of sleep a night can translate into a 12-pound weight gain over 1 year.

 

2. Cut back on cookies and turn to healthy snacks. 

Because our metabolism slows as we age, most experts agree you should decrease the amount of calories you eat by 10 percent every decade.  You can also increase your intake of super foods to give you energy and which are loaded with anti-oxidant cancer-fighting ingredients. WebMD encourages you to swap out crackers for almonds, replace red meat with salmon, eat more blueberries than blueberry muffins and 2 oz. of chocolate a day is okay – as long as its 70 percent cocoa – it will decrease your cholesterol levels by 10 percent!

3. Get physical. 

According to Susan G. Komen for the Cure, regular exercise reduces your breast cancer risk by 10 to 20 percent.  An added benefit is physical activity boosts the body’s immune system which can help slow or kill the growth of cancer cells. Take the stairs at work, walk around the block in the morning or at night – just 30 minutes a day – which can be broken down into three 10-minute cardio, heart-pumping sessions – will do.

 

4. Sobriety Test.

A NAC study found 10 percent of caregivers use alcohol to cope with their stress but drinking more than 1 glass of alcohol per day increases your breast cancer risk by 7 percent.  If you have 2-3 glasses of alcohol per day, your risk increases by 20 percent according to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

 

 

 

5. De-stress. 

Stress is the No. 1 complaint for caregivers.  But stress releases a hormone called cortisol which can lead to belly fat.  Finding ways to de-stress whether it’s meditation, breathing exercises, yoga or finding outlets to let off steam such as support groups or just a friend who will let you vent will keep you healthier in body, mind and spirit so you can continue to care for your loved one and for yourself.

 

Photo credits: All Dreamstime contributors: Pixelbrat, Maxexphoto, Valua Vitaly, Nress, Blasbike, SlavenkoVukasovic

Alan and David Osmond – Life Father, Like Son – Living with MS

Originally published on Next Avenue by Sherri Snelling

They say lightning never strikes twice in the same place yet this is exactly what happened to Alan Osmond and his son David Osmond of the famous entertainment family.  This lightning came in two forms:  great musical and performing talent as well as a gift for songwriting but also something less glamorous:  a diagnosis of the autoimmune disease multiple sclerosis (MS).

The Show Goes On for the Osmonds

Growing up Osmond means you know how to be at the pinnacle of the entertainment world – you sing, you dance and no matter what the show must go on.  This was no problem for David Osmond, one of eight sons born to Alan, the oldest of the famous Osmond Brothers who shot to fame along with Donny, Merrill, Wayne and Jay in the 1960s-70s (Marie and Jimmy came later).  As a torchbearer for the Osmond dynasty, David, age 32, has a successful solo career, still performs as the lead singer for the Osmonds – Second Generation, is hosting a new TV music competition reality series and participated in the eighth season of American Idol.

But, imagine if one day you woke up and found you could not walk, you could not hold a guitar, you could not sing because the pain in your chest and paralysis in your body reached from your toes to your diaphragm making it hard to breathe.  This was what David Osmond faced in 2005 when he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) and went from a promising entertainment career into a wheelchair.  Remarkably, it was the same diagnosis his father, Alan, had been given almost 20 years earlier when he was in his late 30s.  What makes this story so inspiring is that for the Osmond family, whose longevity in show business is legendary, both Alan and David are not only living with MS today, they are actually thriving.

Multiple sclerosis, which affects 2.5 million people worldwide, is an autoimmune disease that attacks the central nervous system and for which there is no cure.  Essentially, scars and lesions cause interference with the transmission of signals to the brain and spinal cord that then cause the unpredictable and often debilitating symptoms that MS patients experience such as numbness, tingling and searing pain in the extremities, periods of partial or full blindness, loss of sensory function such as taste or smell and even full paralysis.

While researchers feel there may be genetic predictors for MS (the National Multiple Sclerosis Society states that siblings or children of those with MS have a 1 in 40 risk of also having MS), there is no clear connection that one generation passes it to another.  What Alan did pass to his son David is a “can do” rather than a “can’t do” attitude towards living with MS.

“When I originally received the diagnosis, I had tested positive for West Nile Virus but some of the symptoms did not match up so they tested for MS and found I had the relapsing/remitting form of this disease which my doctors believe may have been dormant in my system but was triggered by the virus,” says David.  “I was in complete denial – I had grown up watching my dad battle MS and my symptoms were not really the same so I just could not believe it.”

There are four variations on the aggressiveness and progression of MS disease, Alan’s was the primary progressive type, a diagnosis only 15 percent of all MS patients receive.  With primary progressive there are no flare-ups or periods of remission such as with David’s type of MS – which means for Alan it is supposed to be a slow degeneration of the body’s functions.

Originally, David’s devastation took on the typical reaction people have when faced with a difficult diagnosis:  “Why me?”  He relates how one day while in a wheelchair he watched his brother playing on the floor with his kids and wondered to himself, “Will I ever have that?”  You can hear the emotion in his voice as he continues, “I’m almost embarrassed to admit that is how I felt because when I looked from my brother and nieces and nephews to my dad and realized, here is this man who has lived with this disease for 20 years and he has never complained, I realized life can go on and you can find ways around this disease just like my dad did.”

“I have a motto I live by – you have to be TUFF,” says Alan.  “It stands for: Target what you need to do; Understand everything you can about the challenge in front of you; Focus on how to live with or beat that challenge; Fight, Fight, Fight – you have to have the drive and desire to keep living and keep fighting for yourself and those around you.”

Family and Faith

Osmond father and son tackled MS the same way they approach the music business – all out or as Alan says “I may have MS but MS does not have me.”

“I was given a cortisone shot when I was first diagnosed in 1987,” says Alan, “and it just about killed me.  It was right then that I decided there has to be a better way and I started investigating alternative medicine that would not have the side effects of traditional drugs.”

Both Osmonds have found ways to deal with MS and overcome many obstacles and the dire prognosis of their physicians.  David was able to get up and out of his wheelchair with powerful steroid shots that helped him walk down the aisle with his beautiful bride, Valerie, a few years ago.  “I proposed to her from my wheelchair and she said, ‘Yes!’ so being able to walk down the aisle with her was something I just knew I had to do.”  He has not been back in his wheelchair since and the couple now has two beautiful daughters, ages one and three.

Valerie and David Osmond

Father and son embrace all-natural homeopathic remedies and David takes up to 50 all-natural supplements a day while Alan adds a daily dose of 2,000-5,000 IUs of Vitamin D; they believe in using essential oils, such as Frankincense, for aromatherapy and they follow a healthy diet based on gluten-free (wheat-based products) and casein-free (milk protein) foods with limited meat and other proteins.  The strict adherence to an all-natural diet which Alan blends into most of his meals has helped manage his MS symptoms and helped him lose 30 pounds.  Alan also enjoys hydro-exercise – the buoyancy of the water not only takes the pressure off of sometimes painful joints but also helps with balance while practicing movements.  In addition, both Alan and David avoid stimulants such as cigarettes, coffee or caffeinated sodas, which is part of their Church of Latter Day Saints faith, and they believe in the power of prayer and positive thinking.  If there is an Osmond prescription for helping to tame the symptoms of MS it is simply “family and faith.”

In fact, both Alan and David credit their wives, Suzanne and Valerie respectively, with the kind of unconditional love so essential in a spouse when someone is facing a chronic illness.  According to the National Health Institute Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, 75 percent of marriages among those couples dealing with a chronic illness end in divorce – 50 percent higher than the overall national divorce rate.

“There is a good side to every challenge in life,” says David.  “Sometimes dealing with something like multiple sclerosis can make your marriage better, I know both my wife and I have learned more patience with each other through this journey and I absolutely would not be where I am at today in conquering MS without her.”

Suzanne and Alan Osmond

Alan agrees that it was Suzanne who helped him seek the alternative remedies which have him defying all the odds with his prognosis.  All doctor predictions and prognosis pointed to Alan being in a wheelchair by now but instead Alan travels with Suzanne and is walking only occasionally using a leg brace or cart when he has to walk long distances.  Alan says, “It is not just one person who gets MS, it is the whole family.”  That is one of the reasons why Alan created his Web site, TheFamily, which addresses family issues around chronic illness and other life lessons.

Alan and David admit that they have learned a lot from each other through this journey with MS.  David says his dad has taught him to never feel sorry for himself, to embrace both the blessings and burdens in life with a positive attitude and to help as many people as you can with whatever you can.  Alan believes David has taught him what patience and perseverance are all about.

“I know it’s crazy to say, but it is actually a great time to have MS,” says David.  When his father was diagnosed more than 25 years ago, there were not a lot of options but today David, who sits on the board of the Nancy Davis Foundation for MS and attends her annual conferences for the foundation’s Center Without Walls says, “There are eight drugs on the market and several more being approved by the FDA as we speak.  The numerous choices we now have to attack this disease that is attacking our bodies – especially with the education about alternative, all-natural choices that I have made for my lifestyle – are encouraging.  I truly think we are going to lick this disease and the great research minds agree – they believe MS is one of the chronic illnesses that I may see a cure for in my lifetime.” (See more with David and other celebrities from the Nancy Davis Foundation for MS Race to Erase MS Event).

When I asked both Alan and David what are their private passions – both responded almost simultaneously with “spending time with family.”  While David enjoys sports like skiing even though his balance and agility are not what they used to be because of the MS, and Alan loves to continually learn new things and brainstorm on ideas – like teaching himself html code so he can build web sites – both men are happiest when surrounded by family.

As we wind up the interview, David is eager to get back to playing Legos and watching Disney movies with his two young daughters – a scene he was not sure he would have just a few years ago.  He says he wears a ring on his right hand that is engraved with ETTE – Endure To The End.  He says he has had the ring since before his MS diagnosis, so today he adds, “Endure to the end …of the day.”  With his girls calling for daddy from the other room, we say our “so longs” and I wish Alan happy birthday (June 22) and both men a happy Father’s Day.  I laugh as I later see a tweet from David – it says simply, “Going to make tshirts for my girls that say ‘Having MS gets on my dad’s nerves.’”

Sherri Snelling is writing a book on celebrity caregivers, A Cast of Caregivers, and the lessons of love and caring that will be published by Balboa Press, a division of Hay House Publishers in January, 2013.

You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down, Even with MS – Meet My Best Friend

 Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.  — Charles Swindoll

Normally my blog features the latest caregiving information and interviews with top experts or professionals in various fields.   This week is different.  Today’s blog is very personal for me because it is about my best friend.  I have known her for 32 years and for 22 of those years she has been living with and conquering multiple sclerosis (MS).

I am dedicating this blog to my friend because May is National Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month and also because today kicks off National Women’s Health Week (May 8-15) and she has a story to tell.

Vicki and Sherri

Soul Sisters

I first met Vicki Guttridge in high school but we really bonded in college as USC sorority sisters.  As we were living it up in our carefree, career-fueled 20s, my fun-loving, energetic friend was diagnosed at age 29 with Relapsing/Remitting MS – the most common of the four types of multiple sclerosis.  This means she has periodic flare-ups of the disease which can rob her of her eyesight, her ability to walk and leave her overwhelmingly fatigued.  She is not a hypochondriac – in fact quite the opposite – she is the energetic, spontaneous and joyous friend everyone wishes for in life.  She is my big sister teaching me many things about life and no better lesson than the grace with which she lives with her MS.  In fact, our circle of friends say, “you would never know Vicki was living with a chronic illness – she doesn’t dwell on it and she doesn’t let it hold her back.”

After two decades living with MS not only is she surviving, she is thriving.

When I think of Vicki two things come to mind:  courage and laughter.  It is these two things which have helped her with her diagnosis.  While she has tried many therapies over the years to address the progression and aggression of this degenerative disease – including acupuncture, Botox for bladder problems, special diets and experimental drugs – her latest approach is to look at her life and apply a new style.  She has undergone  a complete makeover in her exercise routine and her diet.  This is not easily done for someone who is a great cook and truly enjoys martinis on Friday night and watching Mad Men re-runs on her big screen.

When it comes to humor, she has a great attitude on her disease.   She laughingly told me that she recently had a tense meeting which she felt may be a hostile setting.  In true Vicki style she said, “I brought the cane and I worked it – after all, they can’t attack a person with MS, right?”

Vicki and her family

What keeps Vicki motivated is her family.  She has a daughter who is a freshman at Washington University in St. Louis and a son who is a high school junior being recruited in football by colleges as far afield as Princeton (Vicki and her family live in California).  She wants to stand and applaud at their graduations and dance at their weddings.  A new plan of attack was needed and she dove right in – literally.

 

Taming MS With the Help of a Special Trainer

The guru behind Vicki’s transformational plan is a certified health and fitness specialist located in Woodland Hills named Michael Brazeal.  As former head of the fitness program at the California Health and Longevity Institute and now owner of his own personal training service, Brazeal Fitness, Michael is no ordinary trainer.  With a master’s degree in exercise science (as opposed to the six-week course many trainers take), and a dedication to using evidence-based research, I was impressed as he explained to me the customized plan he developed for Vicki.

It starts with a health history intake – to explore not just her physical and neurological challenges but also her lifestyle challenges.  This helps Michael develop a plan to address Vicki’s physical and emotional hurdles.  Vicki calls him her biggest cheerleader.  Michael feels Vicki’s success to date – she has been on the new regime since January — is due to her behavioral change.

Michael training Vicki

Part of his strategy is to use the Japanese philosophy of kaizen – the idea of continuous quality improvement which is applied holistically to one’s life.  He also applies his own philosophy of “dosing appropriately.”  Michael reinforces to Vicki that it is not about the destination – it is about the journey.      Michael told me that good trainers are not unlike good physicians – they treat the person not just the body.  He understands Vicki – what is going on with her body but also her mind.  This means he can adapt her regime to what is happening in her life and not just with her disease.

For instance, one of their goals is to avoid the relapse in commitment that Vicki has experienced in the past when she started a new fitness routine.  After she recently lost 15 pounds, Michael had her carry weights of that measurement around as long as she could during the day – up and down stairs, getting into the car, etc.  This was to show her how she had alleviated her body of that unnecessary baggage putting less strain on her heart and joints.  This type of technique serves as a strong memory for her to not put that weight back on.

For exercise, Michael has Vicki doing exercise in a pool.  This helps with managing the heat sensitivity that so many MS patients suffer from, but also gives her the buoyancy of the water that helps Vicki with her balance – another MS challenge.  He also has her walking – using hiking poles for balance, riding a stationary bike and doing a lot of resistance training with kettle bells and bands.

Vicki has noticed that her balance is better and her core strength improved which also helps with her range of motion.  She told me she can reach for things on the top kitchen shelves without worrying about being wobbly on her feet.  Risk of falls is a huge concern for MS patients and Vicki feels she has overcome this fear to the point where she rarely needs her cane.  She also feels more energetic and says, “I don’t dread working out anymore.”

Knowledge is Power

Vicki truly believes that everything she has learned about MS, and continues to learn, has made her a better person.  Nutritionally, she keeps notes in a smartphone app called My Net Diary.   She tracks everything she eats and then discusses her choices with Michael.   She has lost 20 pounds so far with Michael’s guidance, but she decided to try a new alkaline diet with an expert nutritionist.  This type of diet is proven to improve many issues for MS patients.  In general, the alkaline diet involves eating certain fresh citrus and other low-sugar fruits, vegetables, tubers, nuts, and legumes.  It also recommends avoiding grains, dairy, meat, sugar, alcohol, caffeine, and fungi.  Proponents believe that such a diet maintains the balance of the slight alkalinity of blood without stressing the body’s acid-base homeostasis

She acknowledges her faith keeps her strong, her family keeps her going and her friends keep her feeling “normal” and in good spirits.  She also realizes living with MS is like life – it is a marathon not a sprint.

What touched me the most was a story Vicki recently told me.  Her son organized his football team to walk in the local National MS Society “Walk MS” event.  Her husband of 26 years, Tim, became emotional after the Walk.  Vicki asked him if it was because she could not join him in the walk and struggles sometimes to be able to physically do all the things she could do when he married her.  “That’s not it,” he replied.  “I was thinking about all the things you are capable of doing.”

For Vicki and Tim, the marriage vow, in sickness and in health, are not just words.

Michael and Vicki

Michael Brazeal’s Tips for MS Patients

  1. Find a trainer you are compatible with – as with any relationship, this is essential for success.
  2. Find a trainer who is credentialed in health, exercise science or similar field (preferably a master’s degree or higher) ensuring they understand your disease and how to treat you holistically.
  3. Review your Tool Box consistently – this is a set of tips and techniques a good trainer gives you.
  4. Keep a Me File – your health history including all medications, exercises, therapies, doctor appointments, etc.  (I like Microsoft Health Vault which you can find online for free).
  5. For MS patients – working out in the morning is best for heat issues – your body’s circadian rhythms which affect your body temperature are at their lowest levels in the morning.

Vicki’s Tips

  1. Track what you eat and what you do to exercise.  Vicki likes My Net Diary.  I also like these apps:  Weight Watchers, Lose It, Good Food Near You (great for travelers), Nutrition Tips.
  2. Don’t withdraw.  Don’t hide your disease.  Stay in the game.  Vicki has participated in clinics and graduate student programs at USC which address chronic illness issues.  Not only does she learn more about her disease but she makes new friends.  And, she does not avoid what she loves like USC football games.
  3. Get a massage – Vicki likes the chain, Massage Envy.  It heals body and mind.
  4. If you have to use a cane – go stylish or don’t go!  I like the Omhu Canes, Scandinavian-designed walking sticks with style that come in colors like turquoise, tangerine and royal purple.

Soul Food: More than Meal Delivery for Seniors, Caregivers, Volunteers

March is National Nutrition Month, and while it is important for all of us to check on how well we are balancing our diet, it is even more important to know that more than six million Americans over age 60 suffer from malnutrition and hunger according to the Meals on Wheels Association of America (MOWAA).  In fact, there has been a 79 percent increase in hunger among people age 50 plus over the last 10 years according to an AARP Foundation report.

As a caregiver for an older loved one, good nutrition can often get overlooked among so many other worries such as health ailments, prescriptions, paying hospital or insurance bills and other activities.  If your older loved one is struggling with food costs on a fixed income, good nutrition is often the first thing to go.  Several studies show that seniors are often choosing between a hot meal or paying utilities or health care costs.

Meals on Wheels president and CEO, Enid Borden, calls these older Americans “the hidden hungry.”  She says, “They are literally hidden from society and because we do not see them at food banks – they are behind closed doors because of mobility issues – a nutritiously delivered meal, not just food, can mean the difference between life and death.”

The MOWAA is comprised of 5,000 local groups who deliver nutritious meals across the country – even in the hard to reach rural areas.  “We deliver one million meals every day through the efforts of our 2.5 million volunteers,” says Borden.  However, Meals on Wheels delivers much more than just a nutritious meal.

Feeding Three Souls:  Seniors, Caregivers and Volunteers

Beyond the benefits to your older loved one of a home-delivered, nutritious meal, services such as Meals on Wheels bring socialization as well.  One of the biggest concerns caregivers may have about their older loved one is isolation, particularly those loved ones living alone at home because they recently lost a spouse or partner.  When an older person does not have someone to talk to, does not attend church or synagogue or is  not seeing friends regularly, this can lead to isolation and ultimately depression and other health issues.

Seeing a young volunteer regularly who delivers meals and checks in on seniors can have positive impact for both generations.  The senior gets to look forward to a visit.  The young volunteer gains newfound respect for the vulnerabilities of aging and feels uplifted in the gifts they bring.  Ultimately, you, the caregiver, gain peace of mind not only that your loved one has a regular nutritious meal but also that they are having interaction and conversation to keep their spirits up.  This is particularly important for the 7-8 million caregivers who may live long-distance from their loved one – sometimes hours or even a plane ride away.

Caroline Sorensen, a high school junior in New York who volunteers with Meals on Wheels, recently told me that “I love knowing that I made someone’s day easier and happier.” She has been a teen volunteer for Meals on Wheels through her school for three years and she has a favorite delivery recipient.  “Doris always comments on my hair, it is long and silky and we talk about the latest in hair fashion,” says Caroline.  “She laughs that her hair is not quite that pretty anymore – but instead of making her sad it’s a fun conversation we have every time I see her.  And, she always wants to make me tea so we sit for a few minutes and talk – I always feel good after I leave her.”

Borden believes that meal delivery is nourishment for the soul – for the recipient and the volunteer.  And, caregivers benefit from the peace of mind that their loved one has food and friendship.

Special Delivery

While you have to qualify for Meals on Wheels services (typically those over age 60 who are homebound), there are shipped meal delivery services that can also help caregivers of anyone who is having trouble making their own meals or getting to the grocery store.  The good news is that there is a variety of meal delivery services – both free and paid – that caregivers can use to ensure their loved one is getting the proper nutrition and eating healthy for their age.

Free or government subsidized options:

Meals on Wheels Association of America – check here to see if you quality and for local delivery services

BenefitsCheckUp® – this service offered by the National Council on Aging (NCOA) will let you see if your loved one qualifies for programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to help pay for nutritious food.

Eldercare Locatoroperated by the U.S. Administration on Aging – this site will help you find local resources for meal delivery in your loved one’s city (1-800-677-1116)

Paid delivery services

Mom’s Meals – this family-owned business delivers great tasting, high quality, fresh and nutritious meals throughout the United States.   Everything is shipped fresh in a patent pending package and you can specify food for diabetics, gluten-free, vegetarian, low carb or hearty healthy meals.  Average cost per meal is $5.99 plus shipping and handling.  Mom’s Meals is dedicated to the senior nutrition and meal delivery market and currently works with numerous Area Agencies on Aging and providers across the United States as an approved home delivered meal provider (you can use a Medicaid waiver for this service).

Dinewise – gourmet food meals ordered online.  The home-delivered frozen meals are offered as part of a package where you choose several meals at the same time with average meal cost between $13 – $17 plus shipping and handling.  Customers can order for their older loved one and for themselves or for entire family meals.

Sign Me Up!

Caregivers can get help with meal delivery – whether from an organization like Meals on Wheels or from your own circle of friends.  If you want to find volunteer help or you want to volunteer, here are three great ways to get involved:

  1.  Meals on Wheels – with so many seniors suffering from hunger, there are few causes that are better for needed donations and volunteers.  And, it is a great way to teach your children about aging in America – with 78 million Baby Boomers getting older every day – we will have more parents to care for than children over the next 20 years and the burden will fall to our younger generations.  Think about the cost of eating out for one lunch – donate that amount to MOWAA instead.
  2. Lotsa Helping Hands – create a private, online community and invite friends, family and others to volunteer to help.  You put information into a simple calendar on when you need meals to be delivered with any dietary details and people in your community sign up to help you, the caregiver.  It can be a meal for your family while you visit mom in a nursing home or a home-delivered meal for dad while you are at work and juggling all your other responsibilities.
  3. Drive to End Hunger – an initiative by the AARP Foundation to address hunger among America’s seniors.  To date, more than 5.8 million meals have been delivered and $14.9 million raised for Feeding America food banks around the country due to this effort.

Do you know your older loved one’s nutritional needs and issues?  Check our Me Time Monday tip on Senior Nutrition and learn more about the nutritional needs for your loved one and for you at these online resources:
www.nutrition.gov — learn more about healthy eating, food shopping, assistance programs, and nutrition-related health subjects
www.healthfinder.gov — learn how to follow a healthier lifestyle
www.choosemyplate.gov — USDA Food Guide
www.foodsafety.gov — learn more about how to cook and eat safely

Bon Appetit!

Sandwich Generation Recipe: Super Foods for a Super You

March is National Nutrition Month and while it is sometimes hard for the average person to follow good nutritional guidelines, it is even harder if you are juggling your own healthy eating needs while caring for your loved one. A study by the National Alliance for Caregiving shows that 38 percent of caregivers who feel their health have declined while caring for a loved one report weight gain or loss.

Skipping meals, eating fast food on the run, turning to non-nutritious snacks to cope with stress can all become part of a caregiver’s nutritional reality. However, ignoring your own nutritional needs will impact your energy level, your ability to stay focused and alert and your physical and emotional stamina.  If your health starts to go downhill, it can be a slippery slope that can lead to you becoming as ill as or worse than the one you are caring for.  If you become sick, who will replace you to care for your loved one?

Super Foods for Super Heroes – The Caregivers

  Caregiving can be a superhuman role that can zap the physical and mental strength of even Wonder Woman.  When you are feeling overwhelmed, tired and stressed to the max, it is important to keep your powers at their peak.  Food is the fuel that can keep our bodies strong and our minds clear. If someone told you there was a pill you could take which will lower your cholesterol, reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer and enhance your mood, would you take it?  Well, it may not be a pill but those foods are available at your local grocery.  According to WebMD, here is a grocery list of Super Foods that will ensure you remain a Super You: Blueberries are great anti-oxidants and an anti-inflammatory that can lower your risk of heart disease and cancer as well as other chronic illnesses.     Omega-3 rich fish such as salmon, herring, sardines and mackerel help your heart, joints, memory and some medical professionals believe it can also reduce depression.  A National Alliance for Caregiving study showed that 91 percent of caregivers who say their health has declined suffer from depression.  If you’re not a fish fan, you can also find Omega-3 in walnuts and flax seeds.   Soy such as tofu, soy milk or edamame, as well as almonds, oats and barley lower cholesterol.  In addition,oatmeal can help regulate blood sugar levels which is important for diabetic diets.  (However, if you have a family history of breast cancer, it is not recommended you add soy to your diet).       Fiber keeps cholesterol in check and can aid weight loss since you’ll feel fuller.  Look for beans, whole grains, fruit and vegetables.  I try to “eat the rainbow” daily – one food a day which is red, orange, yellow, green and blue makes it fun and easier to remember to add these super foods to your daily diet.   Tea has been shown in several studies to lower cholesterol.  While the antioxidant power is the same in black tea as green tea; the green version has an added element which studies have found helps inhibit the growth of cancer cells.   Calcium found in dairy foods, salmon (again), leafy green veggies, almonds (again) asparagus and figs build strong bones and helps reduce the risk of osteoporosis – women over age 51 should have 1,200 mg daily.       Dark Chocolate – hallelujah!  Dark chocolate – at least 60% cocoa content – has eight times the antioxidants as strawberries and can help lower bad cholesterol (LDL) by up to 10 percent.  But don’t overindulge, 2-3 oz. a day will do it.       And, of course, don’t forget your daily multivitamin.   It is hard to be diligent about diet if you are caregiving.  But, if you can plan your grocery shopping on Mondays it might make it easier to remind yourself – every week – that you are as important as the person you are caring for.   Take along this list of Super Foods and stock up – it will help ensure you stay strong so that you can continue being a super hero for your loved one.

March is National Nutrition Month

Caregivers spend so much time caring for others they often neglect their own nutritional needs.  Watch our blogs this month on how to eat right for life.