Family Files Facts for All Ages Sun, 15 May 2005 13:02:08 -0500 Be an Intentional Family Fri, 16 Feb 2018 14:35:00 +0000

Most of us say that family is most important to us and that we put them first – but do we? 99% of families have at least one television and a 2012 Nielsen report stated that the average American watches 34 hours of live television per week – along with four to six hours of taped programming. Children engage in six to nine hours of media (TV, phone, computer, video games, etc) every day! By the time you consider school, work, sports, band and scholastic events, and youth groups, it is hard to figure out how to spend time with family members. But spending time together as a family is important. Research has found that children are better off in terms of academic and emotional well-being from time spent with parents. Family routines and rituals experienced in childhood also set the course for how one will organize their own family life in adulthood. Quality time with parents is important for children's growth and development and it helps children to develop in a positive way as they grow.

Sometimes you need to purposefully plan family activities – or be an intentional family.

  • Schedule "My Calendar Day" for each family member. On a specific day of the week, one family member gets to pick the dinner menu, select the TV show or activity to do.
  • Have a Sunday sundae.
  • Establish family rituals. The more rituals a family has, the better members will work as a team and become stronger as a family.
  • Have a family getaway.
  • Have lunch at school together.
  • Outdoor activities are especially important – make sure to "unplug."
  • Choose a weekly or monthly Family Night In, where you intentionally spend quality time together.
Adult Day Settings: Splendid for Individuals and Caregivers Tue, 13 Feb 2018 15:56:00 +0000 Let us start with the name "adult day care." Well, that title could turn people off from the start, but do not let it. I realize that a stigma can come with the name of a service, and, to be honest, I never really cared for the term "senior center" either, but that is an article for another day. Whether you are familiar or not with adult day care centers, we are quite lucky to have a few here in our area. Today I want to share some general information about adult day centers, services that you can expect to find at them and the benefits for both the care receiver and caregiver.

An adult day center could have one focus or they could provide a combination or all three types of care: social adult day care, adult day health care and Alzheimer's/dementia specific daycare. All three have similar goals of providing safe, supervised care during the day while providing personal care, meals, social activities, recreation and, often, transportation. Individual services may differ from location to location, but generally, services you can expect include:

  • Social Adult Day Care – meals, recreation, socialization, outings and some health-related services and case management depending on the type of staffing.
  • Adult Day Health Care – provide the same as social plus therapy (occupational, physical & speech) based on assessed need and treatment plan.
  • Alzheimer's/Dementia Adult Day – a specialized adult day care with trained staff to meet the specific needs of those living with Alzheimer's or another form of dementia. Social interaction and recreation developed to meet the physical, cognitive and social needs based on abilities.

Why are these services beneficial to care receivers? The first reason is interaction with others. Socialization is so important, and while they love interacting with their caregivers, those being cared for need stimulation. New people, engaging activities, exercise, involvement, and socialization are all beneficial for both cognitive health and physical health. Getting up, getting dressed and going somewhere gives purpose. We all need a purpose in life and sometimes when failing in health, we start to lose a sense of purpose.

While at the adult day center, our loved ones can benefit from exercise, cognitive stimulation, social interaction, and interaction with peers, education and more. They can be a member of the club; a club where they can make new friends at a time of life people often experience a lot of loss. An adult day center is also a safe place where someone can monitor the individual's health on a regular basis.

Why is this service beneficial to you as a caregiver? Because you need a break! This may be just the thing to help you keep your job and feel secure knowing that your loved one is safe and secure while you are gone during the day. You can utilize the services to run errands or take a nap; it is good for your health. Often, caregivers tell everyone they are fine when in reality they are not. Physical and mental health are often at risk while caregiving. Caregivers often stop taking care of their needs and put the other person first. Burnout interferes with a caregiver's ability to function and is actually a leading cause of nursing home placement for care receivers. Use this time to take care of your own health and your own appointments, go see your friends and socialize. Go do something that brings you pleasure. Most of all, do not feel guilty. Caregiving is hard. With it comes hard emotions and hard decisions. In addition to the respite from caregiving, adult day centers often offer services to help caregivers as well; these include connecting caregivers to resources in the community and offering support groups.

In order to keep your loved one home longer, utilize the services in your community to make the caregiving process more manageable. You may get pushback from your loved one or you may not like the idea yourself as new and unfamiliar can be hard at first, but it can also be so positive for all involved. If attending an adult day center does not go smoothly right away, do not give up. I encourage you to try to commit to trying it for at least a month. This way it can become a new routine for all involved before judging whether it is right for you and your loved one.

Many are concerned about cost. However, the cost can vary based on services offered and location. Price drives many decisions in life; however, the cost of adult day services is often about half the cost of in-home care for the same amount of time. The cost is also about half the cost of institutional care when budgeting out care options.

Insurance is not my personal specialty, it is best to check with your local adult day care service provider for the best understanding of financial assistance. To the best of my understanding, Medicare does not cover adult day care. Medicaid dollars may cover part of adult day care and adult day health if they meet the qualifications. VA benefits may provide coverage for adult day health services. Some long-term care policies will also help cover adult day services, check your plan or policy for more details. Check with your tax professional to see if any of the costs associated with your loved one's care can be deducted from your taxes.

According to the National Institute on Adult Day Care, they recommend that you choose a center that:

  • Assesses abilities and needs before admission
  • Offers services that meet your needs – transportation, health screenings, counseling
  • Provides activities to meet the need of your loved one: active/sensory program or recreational vs rehabilitative needs
  • Is a gateway resource for you to other community services
  • Follows state guidelines and has the appropriately trained staff/volunteers
  • Communicates clear criteria for terminating their services
To find an adult day center, you can call your local Area Agency on Aging. For more information on adult day services, The National Adult Day Services Association is a great national resource.]]>
To Spank or Not to Spank? Tue, 23 Jan 2018 14:30:00 +0000

I recently read an article on Facebook about a famous celebrity who admitted that she spanked her child when necessary. Knowing how the act of spanking as discipline can be a controversial topic, I proceeded to look at the comments left by readers of the article. Sure enough, for every comment like "spanking is abuse" or "you should never strike a child", there was an equal amount of comments such as "I was spanked as a child, and I'm just fine" or "spanking is not beating!" Americans do seem to divided on this issue, and even professionals tend to differ in opinion. Where someone lives, childhood experiences, religious background, and culture can all play into the decision whether to spank a child.

The stance of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is that they do not recommend spanking. They feel that after years of research, they have found that spanking seems to lose its impact after a while, increases aggression and anger, and can lead to physical struggles to the point of harming the child. AAP says that although parents intend to stay calm, they often do not and then regret their actions later. They also add that while many adults who were spanked as children may have grown up as well-adjusted and caring people - that compared with children who were not spanked, these adults are more likely to have issues like depression, increased anger, alcoholism, and commit domestic violence and engage in crimes and other violence.

So what can a frustrated parent of an unruly child do instead?

There are many great resources available on the Web, but some quick tips from the Illinois Early Learning Project include:

  • Ignore or overlook attention-seeking behaviors – especially if they are behaviors that will not harm your child or others. Sometimes whining, bad language or tantrums need to be ignored and not rewarded with our attention.
  • Use consequences related to the misbehavior – taking away toys/items that are being fought over or misused seems to make good sense. Having a child help pick up a mess he made will encourage him to be more careful. Consistency is important.
  • Encourage positive behaviors – give children things they can do instead of always telling them the things they shouldn't do. Arrange their environment to be one that is conducive for what they are allowed to do. Use the "when/then" rule – when the children pick up their toys, then they can watch TV or play their favorite game.
  • Use timeouts wisely – it is better to use a timeout in response to behaviors that could be dangerous or harmful like biting, hitting, etc. Timeouts are for a child to calm down and regain control.

There are many other suggestions for effective discipline out there. A article that is worth looking into is called "Disciplining Your Child" by the American Academy of Pediatrics and can be found online at

Website that are also helpful are Parenting 24/7 found online at and Illinois Early Learning Project

I would imagine that this topic will continue to be a highly debated one and regardless of research, parents will continue to make their own decision to spank or not to spank – based on very personal and emotional factors.

Be grateful you just might age better, according to science Mon, 15 Jan 2018 05:33:00 +0000 Many times throughout my life, I have heard and learned about being grateful. It started when I was young. It was a value that my parents hoped to teach me. "Eat your peas," my parents would say and "be grateful you have food to eat, there are starving kids in other parts of the world." I did not know there were hungry kids in my own hometown. I am not sure as I child I understood to be grateful for my greens and vegetables, but I was grateful that I was able to go on summer vacations. My best friend rarely went on vacations.

Then in the 1990s, I remember Oprah promoting a book called Simple Abundance and the Simple Abundance Journal of Gratitude. Oprah believed in keeping a gratitude journal. She reported that she writes down five things each day that she was grateful for in order to maintain an awareness of her blessings. I really loved that idea, but I never bought the book because I was a poor college student and then a poor just out of college young adult. What I did do is start a little notebook where I could write down that for which I was grateful. It does not take much money, just a little time and effort. However, somewhere in the hustle of life, I lost this routine.

This past year, this act of being grateful and showing gratitude has really re-emerged and presented itself to me in multiple ways. First, it came to me while doing some research on contributors towards healthy aging. Then, this "attitude of gratitude" was shared with me during a leadership development session as a skill held by top leaders. Finally, it came a third time at the end of the year as I was researching something for our family to do this coming year. Therefore, as we start this 2018, we, as a family, are going to each write down something we are grateful for each week and place it in a container. Next year on New Year's Eve, we will all get to read and reminisce about all of the wonderful things we were thankful for throughout the year.

So, to kick this year off, I wanted to share with you the importance of living life with an "attitude of gratitude," because it will not only help you in your current mood, research shows that it will help you age well. According to multiple studies, the practice of gratitude can show the following lasting physical and psychological effects:

  • improving immune function
  • better heart health including lower blood pressure
  • more restful and efficient sleep
  • diminished stress and anxiety
  • decreased depression
  • greater optimism and happiness
  • increased overall well-being
  • strengthened self-esteem
  • more openness to forgiveness
  • better self-care

When we focus on the positive, it engages our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The PNS is the calming part of our nervous system that has protective benefits leading to decreased cortisol levels and increased oxytocin, which helps us feel in a better mood. In order to use the power of the positive, get in the routine or habit of asking yourself some daily questions to help acknowledge the good in your life.

  • How was I kind today? Who was kind to me?
  • What have I received today? What have I given to others today?
  • What was a simple joy I experience?
  • What was unexpected in a good way?
  • What was good?
  • Who am I thankful or grateful for?

"How do I get in on this?" you may ask. Simply acknowledge the good and appreciate the good. It is a state of mind, like being positive. It can transform you, but it may require a little practice until it becomes routine or second nature. There are multiple ways to bring this habit into your life. Some find it helpful to utilize tools. Here are a couple of suggestions:

  1. Keep a journal or notebook and each day write down three to five things for which you are grateful
  2. Send thank you cards to those that you are grateful for on a regular basis
  3. Meditate or focus on being mindful of your gratitude daily
  4. Pray or give thanks daily

"Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough." Oprah Winfrey.

Gratitude is a great practice for all ages.

Find a Healthy Balance with Technology and Your Children Thu, 21 Dec 2017 11:53:00 +0000

Technology is so prominent in our society today, bringing disadvantages with it along with the benefits. How many times have you seen a toddler or small child given a smartphone, tablet or other similar device to keep them occupied while in public? While this can be helpful in a pinch, this form of entertainment also has the potential to be abused. The Illinois Early Learning Project provides some great tips for parents in finding a healthy balance with technology and electronic devices:

  • Talk and interact while using technology. Conversations help your child understand what she sees and how technology works. Talk about the content to help your child understand what she sees.
  • Choose age-appropriate programming. Infants and younger toddlers (under 18 months) can participate in interactive video chatting with relatives, but they do not benefit from programming or toys that claim to improve children's intelligence. Older toddlers (18–36 months) may benefit from some simple, child-directed programming with support from adults.
  • Infants and toddlers need hands-on practice with real objects. They benefit most from their interactions with people through play and conversations. Use technology to complement other activities rather than relying solely on technology to entertain, teach, or otherwise occupy your child's time.
  • Young children are attracted to blinking lights and screens. Childproof as needed, especially heavy electronic items such as big screen TVs, which are tip-over hazards.
  • Your child is watching your technology use, which can often interfere with daily routines. Put down your device and give your child your full attention. Use electronic media away from meal and sleep spaces.

So what's the big deal? Why shouldn't we let children watch programs and videos and play video games as long as they are content? Well, experts say that problems begin when media use starts taking the place of physical activity, hands-on exploration and face-to-face social interaction in the real world, which is critical to learning. Too much screen time can also harm the amount and quality of their sleep. The most current guidelines on children's digital media use or "screen time" by the American Academy of Pediatrics includes these highlights:

  • For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting. Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming, and watch it with their children to help them understand what they're seeing.
  • For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.
  • For children ages 6 and older, place consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health.

I think the big take-away on this topic is that with supervision, appropriate time limits and good role modeling, families can find that healthy balance children need with technology use.

Ideas for keeping your holiday anxiety in check Tue, 12 Dec 2017 05:15:00 +0000 We are in the midst of the holiday season, and many of the songs we hear are joyous and happy but this may not be a happy time for all. For some, the holidays are sad due to the absence of a loved one (because of distance or loss), a change in family life due to divorce or unresolved family issues. For others, the demands of the holiday season cause such stress or unrealistic expectations that they start feeling anxious, overwhelmed or depressed.

The first thing to do in order to help your mood and well-being is to identify how you feel. Do a body scan and think about your mood. Are you showing any of the typical signs and symptoms of someone who is stressed? Here are some common signs and symptoms:

  • Neck ache or tension in shoulders
  • Frequent headaches
  • Stomach/digestion issues
  • Excessive anxiety, worry or guilt
  • Increased anger, frustration, or hostility
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling overwhelmed or sad
  • Increased irritability
  • Increased/decreased appetite

We can all handle everyday stressors for a couple of days when trying to get through a stressful stretch. However, unmanaged stress wreaks havoc on our health and well-being. People who have chronic stress are more prone to cancer, heart disease and accelerated aging. They often have more marital problems and family dysfunction and are at higher risk for clinical depression. Chronic stress also negatively affects the brain by altering brain structure and function, which leads to impaired thinking and emotional regulation. Not so holly jolly, eh? So during this bustling time filled with holiday shopping, parties, musical performances or whatever fills your calendar, how do we maintain our health and holiday spirit?

Start with having a plan and looking ahead. Managing your calendar will help you carve out time to do the things that need to be done but also make time for your health. If you have noticed that you have neglected your physical health, budget time in your schedule for it to happen. If you are like me, if it is not on my calendar, it does not happen. Find time for your health, such as scheduling in a 15-minute walk on a work break or over a lunch hour if your evenings are packed. Another suggestion I heard a co-worker say she takes a day off from work to catch up on some things. Taking some vacation time, if available, may be worth the amount of things that you can get accomplished.

Another tip is to scale back or be okay with saying, "No." We do not have to do everything we have "always" done. Whether this be as much decorating, baking, buying, events attended. This can feel hard at first, but once you reclaim some time on your calendar and in your life for other priorities, you will find it easier.

Find the stress relievers that help you feel better. I mentioned physical exercise already; making sure to get activity in is important, but you can also do other stress busters, like simply taking three deep breaths, getting out in nature, reciting a mantra or practicing some mindfulness techniques. There are website, books and apps to learn about many of these practices.

Other ideas include talking to a friend to share what is on your mind as well as getting in some good laughs. Sleep is also vitally important. Lack of sleep lowers our tolerance for stress, and when we get our daily 7-8 hours for adults, it is like a reset button for our brain and is when our bodies heal themselves.

Keep things in perspective and do not worry about what could happen. We often worry ourselves sick over things that will never happen or over things in the past that we cannot change. Keep things in perspective. Do your best to have a plan to manage the stressful moments as well as have techniques on hand for those time when you feel your body reacting to a person or situation that may arise over the holidays. It is always ok to take a little break from a family gathering if you need some space or down time.

Here's wishing you and yours a happy holiday season and hoping that you can manage your stress over the holidays in order to enjoy the season as well as come through with good health.

Making the Most of Holiday Meals Wed, 22 Nov 2017 16:00:00 +0000  

With the holidays rapidly approaching, I wanted to re-share an article published a couple of years ago that was written by Extension colleague Janice McCoy.  She points out the benefits of sharing meals together:

Family mealtimes during the holidays can be memorable not only for the food that graces the table, but for the chance to reconnect with relatives, whether they're siblings scattered across the country or kids home from college. Family meals are important year round because they provide an opportunity for conversation and connection between parents and children. But, when extended families eat together during the holidays, the story telling and reminiscing that occurs often casts a warm glow that travels through the years. Holiday meals that stretch across generations and households provide a sense of security for children and create a powerful ritual for young and old alike.

Family meals are an opportunity to shape family culture and identity, develop respect between the generations, and encourage positive communication skills. Sharing intergenerational mealtimes can be mutually beneficial for young and old alike. Children feel important and have a sense of belonging when adults other than their parents care about what is important to them. Grandparents say that spending time with young people keeps them young and gives them an opportunity to pass on family values and traditions.

When gathering your family, small or large, the following communication tips can help keep conversations positive and helpful during mealtimes.

  • Pay attention to what is being said, even if it seems trivial. You will seem interested and improve your relationship with the other person at the same time.
  • Remove distractions. Turn off the television, lay down the newspaper, and make eye contact with the speaker.
  • Listen to the other person and comment on what is being said.
  • Give the speaker a chance to finish their comment before responding.
  • Accept what is being said even if you don't agree. Accepting the person does not mean that you accept the idea.

Here are some tips if conflicts should arise:

  • Stay calm and try not to get too emotional. Keep your voice even and steady.
  • Stick to the subject. It might be tempting to bring up everything that has happened in the past but resist that temptation. Comment about the issue, not the person. Regardless of the situation, refrain from blaming, shaming, or name calling.
  • Talk about your own feelings. When stating a different opinion, speak with "I" not "you." For example, say "I don't see it that way" rather than "you are wrong."

Done right, your family's holiday mealtimes will be remembered not only for the turkey and dressing and delicious desserts. Each person can leave the table feeling loved, respected, and part of a family that knows who they are, what they've been up to, and what some of its members' individual goals and aspirations are. Family mealtimes are too good to save just for the holidays. When your relatives go home, be sure to continue the practice with your children at least three times a week. U of I research shows that family meals are associated with many positive benefits for both younger kids and teens.