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Caregiver Coaching BH Coaching Benita Hampton

Caregiver and Life Coach

The Blog

aka...where I write about all the things

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    Eat Your Chocolate & Drink Your Wine...Seriously

    By Benita Hampton

    We all know that growing older can be tough stuff, especially on brain function. Here are five tips that you can incorporate into your daily habits to help care for your brain health.


    Get some exercise

    This should come as no surprise. Many studies show that regular exercise, at least a few times per week, can reduce the risk of cognitive decline, depression and even anxiety. When you exercise, the blood flow to your brain increases, thereby giving you a boost of oxygen which in turn can help keep your brain healthy and fit.


    Socialize

    We are social creatures that thrive when we interact with others. It’s especially important for family caregivers to stay connected because providing care for a loved one can be a very lonely job at times. Consider scheduling a lunch or coffee break with a friend, or even better, joining a caregiver friendship circle or support group. These can be very healthy outlets for you and you’ll have the opportunity to connect with other like minded individuals that share many of the same challenges that you do.


    Mentally Challenge Yourself

    In this week’s podcast episode, I talk about what one of my mentors calls the competence, confidence loop. When you master a skill, it increases your competence. When you feel competent, your confidence grows. When your confidence grows, there is less room for discouragement in your life. I challenge you to choose a topic and set a goal to master it. You should also set a goal to listen to the new podcast episode on Thursday and let me know how you’re going to challenge yourself next! 😉


    Engage in Brain Exercises Regularly

    Did you know that something as simple as brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand can create new neuro connections? It will definitely feel strange in the beginning, but just like learning any new skill, in time, it will get easier. That is because your brain is re-wiring itself as it is learning to become competent with a new skill. Pretty cool, right? You can use this technique with any skill that you do on auto-pilot now, using the remote control, dialing a phone number, taking care of the pet, the possibilities are endless.


    Eat Healthy…And drink plenty of water, too

    These 5 foods are excellent for brain health. Try to incorporate them as a part of a healthy, well-rounded diet.

    Salmon – Studies show that increasing the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet can help protect your brain against cognitive disease, such as Alzheimer’s.


    Greens – Significant amounts of Vitamin K & A can be found in greens. Both of these are known to help reduce inflammation that can affect your brain. Greens are also high in many other vitamins and minerals which help support mental health.


    Tomatoes – These tasty little gems are full of lycopene. Studies show that consuming tomatoes regularly can help improve your mental health by fighting off certain types of dementia.


    Red Wine - The resveratrol in the red wine is what is believed to help improve overall brain functioning and this is plentiful in a glass of red wine. I’ll say “cheers” to that! (Please remember to drink in moderation)


    Chocolate – The main ingredient in chocolate is cacao which can help improve your mood, boost emotions and help fight off memory impairment. 


    See, look at that, there’s proof that you can have your (chocolate) cake, and eat it too…maybe even enjoy it with a glass of wine 😊

    The Caregiver Bill of Rights

    By Benita Hampton

    You know what? Us women…we are pretty spectacular creatures. We have the ability to juggle multiple tasks at once, make sure our homes are kept in order, appointments are kept, birthday cards are sent off timely, dinner is on the table on time (mostly) and we are the absolute authority on all things that have been misplaced in the home.


    I have a girlfriend that once described her mind as a browser with all of these open files and as long as nobody messed with anything, she had everything under control. And you know what? She did. She’s an absolutely amazing juggler. See what I mean? Pretty spectacular stuff, right?


    But how many of those open tabs, or errands that must be run, or items on that daily checklist include self-care? It’s almost like a taboo topic amongst family caregivers. Either it’s laughed off like it’s such a far fetched idea that it’s not even worth talking about, or it just sounds so deliciously decadent, like eating a hot fudge brownie with extra whipped cream, that it’s just the stuff of daydreams. Am I right?


    Somehow, someway, it became selfish to want to look after one’s self. This is so very common among my coaching clients. I work with women every week that are so uncomfortable with prioritizing their own needs because they have been pushed to the back burner for so long that it just seems “normal” to do so. Then this vicious cycle starts, and before you know it, you can’t get off the merry go round.


    One of the tools that I often introduce to my clients that are struggling with guilt when it comes to self-care is the Caregiver Bill of Rights. A simple google search will yield many versions that have been written over the years. My favorite is still the original, written by Jo Horne, in her book Caregiving: Helping an Aging Loved One (1986). I’ve included her Bill of Rights in this week’s post because even after all these years, I still think it is such an empowering tool for the family caregiver, not just the “right” for a caregiver to take care of themselves, but all of the healthy boundaries and expectations that are set forth in the Bill of Rights.


    Drop me a line to let me know what you think!


    THE CAREGIVER BILL OF RIGHTS


    I have the right:


    To take care of myself. This is not an act of selfishness. It will enable me to take better care of my loved one.

    To seek help from others even though my loved one may object. I recognize the limits of my own endurance and strength.

    To maintain facets of my own life which do not include the person I care for, just as I would if he or she were healthy. I know that I do everything that I reasonably     can for this person, and I have the right to do some things for myself.

    To get angry, be depressed, and express other difficult emotions occasionally.

    To reject any attempt by my loved one (either conscious or unconscious) to manipulate me through guilt, anger, or depression.

    To receive consideration, affection, forgiveness, and acceptance from my loved one for as long as I offer these qualities in return.

    To take pride in what I am accomplishing and to applaud the courage it sometimes takes to meet the needs of my loved one.

    To protect my individuality and my right to make a life for myself that will sustain me when my loved one no longer needs my full-time help.

    To expect and demand that as new strides are made in finding resources to aid physically and mentally impaired persons in our country, similar strides will be made toward aiding and supporting caregivers.

    Dance with the One That "Brung" You

    By Benita Hampton

    You know when you walk into the kitchen and you pause to look around but for the life of you, you just cannot remember why you were there in the first place? It happens to us all. There’s even a psychological term for it, it’s called: “The Doorway Effect” or “Location Updating Effect” fancy schmancy, right?


    Sometimes we chuckle at ourselves (or others) and call it a senior moment, sometimes it gets super frustrating and we just call it annoying. But whatever we choose to call it, there’s no escaping the fact that aging is rough on the brain. A study by the New England Journal of Medicine reported the effects of recreational activities on mental acuity in aging. The results were a little surprising.


    In this study, participants engaged in physical activities like: tennis, golf, swimming, biking, dancing, walking, and housework.

    The outcome? Almost none of the physical activities really provided any sort of protection against dementia, with one exception. Frequent dancing.

    Why? well, to put it simply, the two areas of the brain which are critical to dance can re-wire their neural pathways based upon use. (Proof that you can teach an old dog new tricks). 


    The brain is constantly rewiring its pathways when it’s called to do so aka, when we give it a reason, but if we don’t, then it doesn’t. So basically, in plain talk…use it or lose it.


    Dancing causes you to make split second, rapid fire decisions and uses multiple brain functions concurrently which increases neural connectivity.


    Of course, we know that dancing cannot be a sure-fire way to keep an aging brain completely protected from cognitive disease. We have to weigh in other risks such as genetic predispositions and lifestyle factors. But with that being said…dancing? Who knew? What a fun way to do some good for your brain health!


    So, the next time you wander into the kitchen and can’t remember why you’re there, tell Alexa to turn up to volume ten and play some 70’s dance music (you know, the good stuff!). Then grab your partner and dance your little heart out. The endorphin shot will boost your mood, your brain will thank you, your partner will thank you, and you might even end up remembering why you went to the kitchen in the first place. #bonus 😉

    You're Kinda a Big Deal

    by Benita Hampton

    You are kinda a big deal…

    I am guessing that, since you are reading this blog, that you are the caregiver for an aging loved one. I am also guessing that you have heard the term “Caregiver Burnout” since it seems to be quite the hot topic lately. What I am not guessing however, is whether or not you’re aware of the signs of burnout? Sometimes it can be tough to see something that we are so close to. It’s easy to get defensive when someone approaches us with “feedback”, and we don’t always take it constructively. But, I’m a firm believer in the old adage of “What gets measured, gets improved” and I wanted to leave you with these little bite sized nuggets and encourage you to take some time to ponder and self-reflect.


    Here are some of the more common signs of caregiver burnout:


    •You feel like you’re about to run out of gas…literally. If you are experiencing an overall lack of energy, or always feeling exhausted, it could be a sign that you have overloaded your plate and are likely experiencing other burnout symptoms that you just don’t have on your radar (yet).


    • If you consider grocery shopping “me time”, friend, that is not a good sign. You should really consider scheduling time for yourself and then treating it like it’s an appointment. Do not no-show on yourself. It is vital to your emotional well-being, so make sure you show up for your appointment…. Make sure you show up for yourself.


    • If you (or other people) notice that you are becoming short tempered with the loved one that you are providing care too, it’s likely you are suffering from burnout. On a subconscious level, you may feel anger or resentment that you are regularly putting your wants and needs on a back burner since you are prioritizing your loved one’s care needs. This is normal and nothing to feel guilty or ashamed of. It is, however, something that does need to be addressed because if not addressed, these feelings and emotions will continue to fester and turn into something ugly, perhaps even dangerous.


    Did any of this sound familiar to you? If so, you may want to consider looking at respite caregiving options and reaching out for help. I know that it’s not easy to ask for help, but the next time that it’s offered, grab on to it with both hands!


    Caregiver burnout affects nearly 40% of the family caregiver population. It is often looked at as indulgent, so caregivers are not likely to reach out and seek help until they are pretty far down the burnout path. Do not let this happen to you. You are not alone. Reach out and let’s talk.


    You give selflessly of your time and talents to your loved one. It is not indulgent to make sure you are also looked after. A Caregiver Coach may be exactly what you did not know you needed, and you deserve that. You deserve someone in your corner, because…You, my friend, are kinda a big deal.

    Remember the Roller Skates

    by Benita Hampton

    My sweet baby girl was turning six.  It was nearly 15 years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday.  I could not believe how fast the time had gone by.  I really wanted to make sure this birthday party was extra special for her because we had just moved from Hawaii to California.  It was a tough transition for our family, Rach was very close to my parents so moving so far away from them was a hard thing to do.  That is how we found ourselves at a roller skating rink on a hot Saturday afternoon in July in the middle of the desert of Bakersfield California, our new home.

    The air was filled with screaming little girls singing along to the musical stylings of Kids Bop and the smell of children, pizza, candy and overwhelmed parents.  We didn't have any roller skating rinks in Hawaii so this was Rach's first time skating. She fell. A lot. But she was having the time of her life.

    We were nearing late afternoon and the birthday party was coming to an end.  The roller rink staff member (you know, the one in the black and white striped referee style shirt that skates around and makes sure everyone plays nice)  announces that it's time for the races to begin.  Kids pour out onto the floor jostling for the best starting spot and ready to win the free passes that are given away.  Several of Rach's friends head over to enter and I see that Rach starts to tighten up her laces and I tell her that she doesn't have to worry about it because the skating is over and we'll be leaving soon.  This sweet little six year old that spent more time falling than skating looked up at me and said "But I'm going to race".  I felt so many different emotions just then.  What was the right response?  I didn't want her to get hurt, or embarrassed.  I said "Baby, it's going to be really fast out there and usually only the super good skaters enter the races".  

    Rach said "That's ok, mommy, at least I can try".  

    Mind. Blown.  

    Those six words shut me up.  Of course she could try.  She should try!  I should be encouraging her to try, not discouraging her because she wasn't a good skater, or because she might not win.  The purpose of the race wasn't to win, it was to have fun with her new friends, to laugh, to embrace the falling and to learn to get back up and keep trying.  

    She did enter the race that day, complete with her birthday girl crown and her good luck marble in her pocket.  I don't even remember how she did, but I do remember jumping up and down and cheering her on (yes, I was that mom).  I remember the sound of her laughter, the brightness of her smile and how excited she was to wave to me as she took the last corner to head for the stretch home.  I had never been more proud of that girl.  I had never been more humbled either.

    The simple child's point of view all those years ago caused me to open my eyes.  


    What would happen if we went through life embracing that childlike attitude of "well, as least I can try" instead of "what if I fail?"   


    Because we will fail, we will stumble, we will get knocked down, but we get back up.  We learn, we keep trying, we keep pressing forward.  That is what makes us human.  That is what makes us strong.  That is what makes life beautiful.  Don't sit on the sidelines because of a fear of failure.  Get in the race.  Embrace the falling, because nobody starts out as an expert.  So when you need some life inspiration, remember the roller skates and how life teaches us valuable lessons even at the most unexpected times, and from the most unexpected teachers.  


    We just have to be willing to learn, and occasionally fall.

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