Category Archives: positive thinking

The Power of a Hug

older-couple-in-loveJanuary 21st is National Hug Day, an unofficial event created by Rev. Kevin Zaborney in 1986.  Although it is not a public holiday, it is worthy of celebration.  The idea behind National Hug Day is to encourage people to reach out and hug a family member, friend, or maybe even a stranger more often.  No matter whom you decide to hug, the mental and physical health benefits are the same to all involved.

Rev. Zaborney realized that after the holidays, many people suffered from low spirits.  Therefore, he selected January 21st because it fell between the Christmas and New Year’s holidays and Valentine’s Day.

Studies have shown that there are many health benefits related to human contact.  These studies have found that human contact improves both psychological and physical development.  Human contact, especially hugging can:

·      Help build a good immune system

·      Decrease the risk of heart disease

·      Decrease pain

·      Enhance alertness and performance

·      Decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol in women

In a study of couples, a couple that hugs for 20 seconds has a higher level of oxytocin, which acts as a bonding hormone, than those who don’t.  According to the American Psychosomatic Society, a hug with a romantic partner can reduce stress and its harmful physical effects. 

Tiffany Field, PhD, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine, has studied the benefits of touch for many years.  Dr. Field found that in a study where elderly volunteers who were trained to give massages to infants experienced improved mood with less anxiety or depression, decreased levels of stress hormones, more social contacts and fewer doctor visits after just three weeks of contact.

 In another study, it was found that adults who had no human contact had higher blood pressure and heart rates.

So how many hugs does a person need?  Researchers suggest:

·      Four hugs a day for survival

·      Eight hugs a day for maintenance

·      Twelve hugs a day for growth

So what about seniors, those who live alone or are housebound?  How about a pet?

Older Man Hugging a CatIn a three-year study at Baker Medical Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia, of almost six thousand people, pet owners had lower blood pressure, triglyceride and cholesterol levels than non-smokers.  Pets have a calming effect.  People with pets do a better job of recovering from serious illness or injury and managing chronic conditions.  Pets depend on us to take care of them and to love them.  All of this takes attentions away from ourselves.  We are not only a source of love and comfort to our pets, but all that love and comfort is returned unconditionally.

Especially for the elderly, disabled, terminally ill, long term care residents or caregivers, the gift of touch is the most powerful healing you can offer another and give to yourself.  So what’s stopping you?  Start hugging!  It’s free and so easy to give. 


Caring For The Caregiver

Daily, I work with families that are in need of finding assisted living for a loved one and I have identified a very common trait that runs in almost every group of people encountered.  There is always one primary caregiver and that person has reached the end of their rope.  They are in crisis mode every bit as much as the person they are caring for.  Part of the reason they are in a personal crisis is that they have forgotten to take care of themselves.  In order to provide care for their loved one, they have sacrificed their own well-being.  My colleague, Jane Davis who is a licensed professional counselor, has written a wonderful list of suggestions for caregivers and I wanted to share it.  Remember, if you don’t take care of yourself, who will take care of your loved one when you’re unable to?    ~ Becky

Caring for Caregivers

I don’t think there’s any more appropriate use of the  airplane metaphor–the one about placing your own oxygen mask on your face before your child’s — than that of being a caregiver.   Caregivers often forget to breathe deeply.  Caregivers have high rates of both physical and emotional dis-ease.  And it’s no wonder.  It’s exhausting and demanding.  But like other life challenges, it’s also an opportunity for growth.  Whatever else it may be (and each person’s situation is unique), to be a caregiver, to take on the responsibility of managing many aspects of the life of a parent, especially when one feels overwhelmed by other responsibilities, requires self care.   The following list provides some suggestions:

-Physical self care. Exercise, eat healthy meals and get plenty of sleep; have regular check-ups with trusted physicians and dentists and attend promptly to any necessary treatments and procedures.
-Spiritual Conditioning.  Nurture a faith life.  Utilize prayer, meditation or twelve step programs.
-Address your emotional needs.  Use counselors and therapists to help work through past resentments, to cope with a wide range of emotions, to set limits, and to learn some new skills. Use a spiritual director or clergy person to help deepen your faith life.
-Develop a trusting relationship with a financial advisor (and your parent’s financial advisor) and be sure your own fianances are well managed.  Have a financial plan that includes long term care insurance and know what your reasonable limits are for assisting family members.
-Be sure you have your own will and trust in order, and educate yourself about your parent’s will.  If they haven’t put their “affairs in order”, your doing yours is a good time to discuss their doing theirs.  Even if you have prepared well for end of life, seek expert advice about putting closure on all the details.
-Educate yourself about whatever disabilities or diseases your parent may be suffering; learn how to prevent a medical crisis and about resources available to you –online resources, agencies, health care providers, etc.
-Be aware of the signs which indicate it might be time for your parents to downsize.  If and when it is time to consider moving into a retirement community or assisted living facility, utilize the expertise of a professional specialist who can not only provide a wealth of information about communities, but can help address many aspects of this major life transition.
-Keep connected to a caring community–church, synagogue, neighborhood, club, etc.
-Make time for other relationships which nurture you and let go of relationships that drain you.  If you are in a couple relationship, be sure to “protect” it by setting aside specific time for relaxation and play.
-Share meals with friends!
-Identify people, places and activities which bring you joy. Make them priorities.  You NEED these in your life!
-Hire help for what you can afford and don’t have to do yourself.  This includes cleaning, cooking, laundry, etc.
-Set limits with other people regarding what you are able to do.
-If there are other family members involved in sharing responsibilities, be collaborative, organize family meetings and provide a structure for ongoing communication.
-Push yourself out into new places or your world might become too small.  Find places to awaken your spirit and sense of adventure.
-Laugh, Breathe……

Jane Davis, licensed professional counselor
9260 E. Raintree Dr. Ste. 130, Scottsdale, AZ 85260


Caring For An Aging Parent? Worried About Your Own Future?

Pet Enrich The Lives Of Our Elderly

I am a committed animal lover.  I cannot imagine a life without my furry loved ones any more than a life without my human loved ones.   During my years working with the elderly and helping them find assisted living, I have often seen families dealing with the trauma of moving a loved one to assisted living and knowing that they will have to separate that person from their beloved pet.

Thankfully, I have seen a very positive trend in assisted living communities during the past few years.  Communities are recognizing this important, life enhancing relationship and, more and more, are becoming pet friendly.  Allowing a person to keep their pet, which they almost always identify as their child, gives them a sense of hope and purpose.

If you are considering moving a loved one to assisted living and they own a pet, please do your research and try to locate an appropriate community that will allow them to keep the pet.  It will do wonders for their qualify of life!    ~ Becky


Are you one of the many who are faced with the fear that moving your parents to a care community will disrupt their lives and make them unhappy?  Do you worry that you are altering their lives in a way that reduce the quality of life?  I helped a woman who is a life coach with finding a care community and moving her parents from New York to Arizona.  As always, there was a great deal of concern whether she was doing the right thing and whether her parents would adapt and embrace the change.  Recently, she has been writing a series of articles about this process and the most current shares the big move.  If you are struggling with the decision to provide more care for your loved one and that means moving them, please read this positive true story and know that it can be the best thing in the world for your loved one.    ~ Becky

Orangutan and the Hound

This post does not pertain to assisted living…however, it is a beautiful testament to love and coexistence.  I just had to share!    ~ Becky

We humans often cannot get along with other humans because the tone of their skin differs from ours.  How much can we learn from these two species, whose love for each other spans across species lines?

Orangutan and the Hound.

Older People Review T.I.’s “Whatever You Like”

I love this interesting take on “rap music” by a few of our older friends!  ~ Becky


I just read an article from care ADvantage magazine published by the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America regarding interacting with those who have a dementia or Alzheimer’s.  I believe this applies whether you have a loved one living alone, with family or in a care community and it is well worth sharing…  ~ Becky

The “Best Friends Approach” seeks to make life better for individuals with dementia and caregivers by adapting a comprehensive philosophy that is easy to understand and founded in a familiar concept:  friendship.  Adopting this approach helps diminish pain and loss, and allows the relationship to take on a new definition.

“Everyone wants to be treated as a real person and being treated as a best friend is what they need most of all.” said Virginia Bell, MSW, co-founder of the Best Friends Approach.

Her bottom line:  “We all feel better when we are with our best friends.”

Here are key points to apply when taking on the role of a best friend for someone with memory loss:

1.  Friends know each other’s personality and history.

A best friend becomes the person’s memory, is sensitive to traditions, and respects the person’s personality, moods and problem-solving style.

2.  Friends do things together.

A best friend enjoys activities with the person with dementia, involves the person in activities and chores, initiates activities, encourages the simple things in life and celebrates special occasions.

3.  Friends communicate.

A best friend listens skillfully, fills in the blanks, asks easy questions and encourages participation in conversations.

4.  Friendship builds self-esteem.

A best friend gives compliments often, carefully asks for advice or opinions, and always offers encouragement and congratulations.

5.  Friends laugh together often.

A Best friend tells jokes and funny stories, is spontaneously fun and uses humor often that makes fun of his or her own weaknesses.

6.  Friends are equals.

A best friend doesn’t talk down to people, works to help the person “save face,” doesn’t assume a supervisory role and knows that learning is a two-way street.

7.  Friends work at the relationship.

A best friend is not overly sensitive, does more than half the work, builds a trusting relationship and shows affections often.

Based on “A Dignified Life: The Best Friends Approach to Alzheimer’s Care,” written by Virginia Bell, MSW, and David Troxel, MPH (Health Communications, Inc., 2002).

Senior Security and Well-Being

This week I was asked to be a guest of Dave Issacs and Cara Lee for the Security and Well-Being Program on KXXT 1010 AM radio.  We had a wonderful discussion regarding security issues facing seniors and their families today.  It is a half hour program and I would highly recommend listening if you are concerned for a loved one who is declining.  ~ Becky

Are you a caregiver?

Did you know that 41% of the Baby Boomer generation are providing care for a loved one and that another 37% expect to provide care in their lifetime.  That’s 78% percent of our generation!

Currently, more than 65 million Americans are caring for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member or friend and chances are that many feel the same way you do, worry about the same things that keep you up at night, and are just as exhausted!  You need support just as much as your loved one.

I always counsel my clients to not be afraid to reach out for help.  Educate yourself on what are your options, what resources are available, and what steps can you take to protect your own health.  You just might be amazed at what can be done to make life easier for you, your family and your loved one.

For practical information–from managing care and drug coverage to emotional advice on delaing with stress, asking for help and finding support groups–visit or call 800-896-3650.