Unraveling the Hidden Epidemic of Social Isolation in Older Adults

This was the third call Miles got from his dad while he was at work. “I was just thinking about that tackle box with my fishing gear. Do you know where that is?” Yes, Miles knew the tackle box was in his own garage since his dad gave it to him 4 years ago. Did his dad have plans to go fishing? “No, I was just thinking about where it ended up. I thought my neighbor may have borrowed it.” A few hours later his dad called asking if those new taxi services could pick him up for his urologist appointment. Miles reminded his dad that the urologist appointment wasn’t until next month. As much as he loves his dad, the regular daytime calls were affecting his ability to work. 

Mile’s dad used to pack days full of activities and projects but was now seemingly uninterested in socializing or pursuing his hobbies. The result was a lot of time to think about where his tackle box was and worry over appointments weeks away. Miles had repeatedly tried to get his dad to engage in the men’s lunch club and model car projects he used to enjoy, but with no success. Miles felt puzzled and genuinely worried over his father’s wellbeing. 

Reports warn against effect of loneliness

The experience of Miles’ father is common. Older adults in particular are finding themselves more isolated and bored than ever before. In fact, this is so prevalent that the US Surgeon General released the first ever Advisory on loneliness, isolation, and social connection. Dr. Murthy warns about the public health crisis that loneliness, isolation, and disconnection pose to the American public. Additionally, a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) found that nearly one-fourth of adults 65 and older are considered to be socially isolated.

Social isolation increases dementia

Among older adults, chronic loneliness and social isolation can increase the risk of developing dementia by approximately 50%. Evidence reveals that social isolation and loneliness hinder good health, putting older adults at risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and even death. 

Factors contributing to social isolation

The cost is clear, but preventing social isolation is complex. The myriad of issues contributing to the isolation of older adults include: 

  • Hearing. Their hearing may be compromised, especially in noisy environments. It can be embarrassing to either not clearly understand what was said or have to ask for something to be repeated.
  • Fear. They may genuinely be afraid of falling since they know how easily it could mean a broken bone. If they are feeling unsteady at all, walking in new environments may not feel safe to them.
  • Incontinence. They may have lost some bladder control and/or need to make frequent bathroom trips and don’t want to call attention to such a highly personal issue. 
  • Transportation. They may not feel as comfortable driving (especially in the dark) or may not drive at all which may cause them to avoid inconveniencing anyone by having to drive them.
  • Pain. Their body may hurt which can cause anyone to feel moody and out of sorts. It also may be physically hard or even painful to walk or sit in various uncomfortable seats.
  • Ageism. Negative stereotypes and ageism can cause an older adult to want to avoid new situations and people who may not be patient with them or kind. 
  • Unwanted. They may feel like a “downer”, as though they aren’t nice/happy/fun enough to have around.
  • Everyone is “new”. They may have lost their closest long time friends who may have moved away or passed away. It can feel hard to develop new friendships. We can all relate with that.

Some of these issues can be addressed through medications or assistive devices and some cannot. It’s a new landscape altogether— the old hobbies and activities no longer address their current confidence and situation. 

Five “Great Day” Questions

Begin by identifying which of the factors above are contributing to their isolation. Next, ask the older adult if those factors play into their social decisions. 

Use these five questions to brainstorm with an older adult about activities.

  1. What would be a “great” day for you? What would it include?
  2. On a scale of 1-10, how content are you with how you spend your time? 
  3. What is one thing you’d like to regularly add to your calendar? 
  4. What are some of the best things you’ve done recently? 
  5. How many activities feel like the right number each day or week?

Additionally, AARP’s “Are You Affected by Social Isolation?” tool can help provide insights. It may be especially helpful if the older adult is likely to respond well or respect a questionnaire assessment from a well known source.

It’s possible that the older adult is content with their level of activity and social engagement. It may be your own (albeit well-meaning) desires for them that need an adjustment. It’s not easy to see someone you care about having a life that looks very different from how it used to look. 

However, if they want to make a change, you can now work with them to create “great” days (as defined by them.) Part of the solution will include resolving or diminishing the contributing factors identified above.

Strategies to increase social engagement

Specific activities will depend on their abilities and interests. Start with these practical steps  to create more “great days” for them.

  • Set up easy-to-use technology, ideally with a prominent video screen. There are a number of options that are designed for older adults, like the GrandPad.
  • Go with them (or set up a buddy) to accompany them to the first event, whatever it is. They may be much more proud to show you off than to show up by themselves. Once there, they will likely begin to develop connections.
  • Schedule others (extended family or volunteers) to engage with the older adult regularly. One daughter sent calendar invites to her siblings. The older adult may be less likely to cancel or pass up an engagement with someone outside of their regular care circle.
  • Create an account with a shuttle service or private taxi option like Uber or Lyft. Accompany them on the first few trips to help remove a barrier of the unknown.
  • Affirm the older adult’s ability to make an impact by setting up meaningful volunteer or work engagements. 

Sometimes a single activity or person can make a world of difference in the life of a lonely older adult. 

The Ways & Wane Care Concierge team can compile a custom matrix of practical solutions to help solve social isolation for the older adult in your life.

A Purpose-Filled Summer for Your Family

Time sure does fly! Between work, school, extracurriculars, and getting dinner on the table, we can easily slip into routines that don’t include meaningful time together as a family. But making time to connect and create memories is a worthy pursuit.  Research shows that engaging in recurring, quality family time has many benefits, as kids “are less likely to have behavioral issues at home or at school” and better mental and physical health (Jones, 2017).  Beyond this, quality time as a family leads to closer connections, life-long memories and fun for everyone.

Three Ways to Build Connection as a Family

1. Designate a special family night and rotate who picks the activity (and treat)

Once a week, a different family member gets the chance to choose an activity and a special treat/snack. Children usually love getting to be the one to choose something that the whole family does together. You may find yourself part of a whole house nerf gun war, a Lego building contest, water balloon fight, make-over party (how does dad look with a face mask) or game of “Sorry”. Kids engage more when they feel agency in the decision making process and setting aside a special night every week will help to build togetherness with consistency. Blocking it out on the calendar will help protect the time.

2. Find a volunteer project to do together

You may tell your children how important it is to give back to the community, but the message comes through differently when they watch you carve out time to do this. Volunteering as a family provides a unique opportunity to demonstrate your values in a practical and meaningful way. It can be an entry to learning about other communities  and to building empathy. Doing shared work can benefit your community and provide a sense of pride and accomplishment as a family unit. Indeed, Utah State University notes that “family volunteering leads to increased marital and family satisfaction, improved parenting and conflict resolution, shared experiences and values, and foster bonding between parents and children”. You might try hosting a food or toy drive, serving a monthly meal at a soup kitchen, or contributing to a community garden. This Parents.com article has some great sites for family-friendly volunteering opportunities. 

3. Plan an Outdoor Adventure

Does it sometimes feel like everyone is glued to their phones, TV or computers? Kids and adults alike rely more on tech than ever before. Being outdoors together creates space for distraction free quality time while you soak up sunshine. Consider sitting down as a family to make an activity wish list and then block out the time on the calendar to make it happen. Maybe you’ll play tourist in your own town, go on a new hike, play around with nature photography, see an outdoor play or concert, plan a picnic, or host a block party. The effort is worth it: The Child Mind Institute notes that youngsters receive several advantages of being outside including the promotion of creativity, confidence, and a reduction in stress. These experiences can create memories and help to build an appreciation for the wonders of the natural world. 

Chances are, none of us is going to suddenly become less busy, so it is essential to plan time  to prioritize togetherness. By soliciting each family member’s unique interests, setting aside dedicated, regular time together, and finding fun and meaningful activities to try, we promote closeness and connection. Don’t let this summer pass by without making lasting memories with your favorite people. 


San Diego State


Child Mind

Fresh Ideas for Activities with Older Adults

Our bodies and minds change as we age. That is part of life. For an older adult, the extent of those changes can vary between forgetting a few words to experiencing dementia; from coping with stiff joints to adapting to life in a wheelchair. Understandably, we tend to slow down, and many older adults’ routines become less active and more isolated. There is a lot we cannot control related to the aging process, but by continuing to engage in activities we like and prioritizing relationships, we can maintain a better quality of life. 

If you care about someone who is not doing as much as they used to, you are not alone. The  CDC reports that by age 75 “about one in three men and one in two women engage in no physical activity”. In addition to less physical activity, aging individuals may also be less likely to spend time with friends or engaged in cognitively stimulating activities. These trends are a cause for concern as inactivity is linked to negative health and well-being outcomes.

The good news is that there is something we can do about it. In addition to warding off chronic disease and aiding in mental well-being, research from the Mayo Clinic has found that “engaging in mentally stimulating activities, even late in life, may protect against new-onset mild cognitive impairment, which is the intermediate stage between normal cognitive aging and dementia”. In other words, it is never too late to get going again and it is worth it!

With the well-documented information on the many benefits of engaging in activity as we age, we may be eager to push a loved one to add more to their schedule. While the instinct is a good one, it is important to approach the topic with patience. If someone has begun living a largely sedentary lifestyle, this might be caused by physical, cognitive or mental health changes. Meeting an older adult where they are means considering their current activity level and understanding their preferences and limitations related to further engagement. You can find tips on how to gently and respectfully encourage an older adult towards more activity in the following resource, Encouraging an Aging Parent Towards Activity.

Thankfully, many activities can be adapted to make them more accessible for individuals with changing abilities. With some effort existing activities can be modified or new ones added so that leisure pursuits remain accessible and enjoyable. 

Five tips for a successful outing or activity:

  • Make sure the older adult brings their: hearing aids & extra batteries, glasses, extra layers, hat and water bottle. Keep in mind that older adults may be more sensitive to hot/cold than you and plan accordingly. 
  • Take breaks as needed to avoid fatigue and consider shorter outings (1-2 hours is fine). 
  • Consider renting a wheelchair or scooter for ease of movement, even if your loved one does not use one daily. Choose accessible venues with amenities like ramps or elevators.
  • Be mindful that you may need to adjust things like volume, font size or activities that involve hand-eye coordination and mental focus. 
  • Allow flexibility in the schedule and be patient with any challenges that may arise. Remember; it is about the quality time spent together and the memories made. 

With summer upon us, there are additional options available for outings and activities.

Here are 5 Activities to Try This Summer:

1. Watch children play at a park with a splash pad water feature

Seeing kids joyful and in their element is contagious. Pack up some folding chairs, sun hats, snacks and SPF and sit back to watch the kiddos play! You can also find a local dog park if pets delight the older adult.

2. Go on a nature walk or stroll through a botanical garden

Being in nature is calming and physical activity is essential for healthy aging. If the older adult is not very active, you can keep the walk brief or use a wheelchair. This site has a tool to find wheel-chair friendly hiking paths. If the sun is too much, consider a walk in a botanical garden, zoo or even a plant nursery.  

3. Buy some disposable cameras to capture summer fun

Photography may have moved digital, but there is nothing like clicking a camera and having real photos developed. Ask the older adult to help you document the season and then turn the pictures into a collage, scrapbook or frame your favorites. It will encourage creativity and provide lasting memories.

4. Create a summer-themed “mini book club” and discuss over the phone

If you don’t live near the older adult. Choose a book club book to read (or listen to) and discuss together on the phone or via zoom. Invite a few other family or friends, or make it just for the two of you. Use the discussion questions for prompts to engage in conversation. Reading is great for brain health and the book club will provide a regular space to connect. The AARP has a list of book clubs to try.  

4. Find a volunteer position as a mentor or tutor 

Mentors and tutors are often needed at local community centers, schools and nonprofits to support students across the lifespan. Volunteering provides a sense of purpose and can lead to lasting connections. These roles can be a great choice for older adults as they have the opportunity to share their wisdom, experience and skills with less commitment than a part-time job. The non-profit, Volunteer Match allows you to filter for opportunities in your community that align with specific interests, be it creative writing, bee-keeping, ESL, math or many other subjects.

Although certain abilities and interests may have shifted, fun-filled and meaningful activities do not have to be out of reach for anyone. With consideration, planning and encouragement, you can help an older loved one continue to do things they care about by adapting plans and creatively engaging with new hobbies.

Happy Summer! 



Mayo Clinic

Guiding Your Child Towards Their Passions

There is no one quite like your kid. Their silly jokes, their creative (sometimes messy) endeavors, and other particularities make them wholly one-of-a-kind. Nurturing their interests and helping them engage with activities they love can help them to develop their individuality and sense of self. However, sometimes parents can inadvertently stifle their child’s originality with their own expectations. By taking care to celebrate their natural talents and interests and managing projection as a parent, you can set up your child to thrive. 


Projection is the unconscious process wherein we displace our feelings to someone else. 

Dr Christine B.L. Adams, a child and adult  and psychiatrist, notes, “each child displays specific behaviors, ways of thinking, and ways of experiencing their emotions, depending on the variety of parental conditioning”. Therefore, it is important to notice when your  own “stuff” impacts what you encourage in your child. 

The first step is to ask yourself how your own biases or preferences might impact the kinds of activities you promote. Are your fond memories of baseball making you push the sport  even though your child prefers soccer? Being mindful of your internal motivations is important to avoiding projection. If it is difficult to be objective about this you can also ask close family and friends for feedback. Additionally, by taking time to honor your own interests and passions, you are modeling the importance of doing the things you genuinely care about to your child.

Listen and Learn

Paying attention to the activities your little one gravitates towards or school subjects they take interest in is a great way to hone in on their natural interests. For young children, observe what toys, songs and experiences light them up. For older children you can do this along with engaging in meaningful conversations about what brings them joy or want to try. By fostering open communication and having regular conversations about hopes and dreams you set the scene for your child’s unique development. 

Create Opportunities

Many parents complain that their kids prefer video games and screen time to more active pursuits. It can be a difficult balancing act to allow your child the freedom to do things they like while making sure they participate in diverse and enriching activities. You can encourage curiosity and experimentation by providing your child with a variety of options for fun activities. Maybe they would like to learn to code, bake cookies, organize a lemonade stand, ace a puzzle, or set up a tie dye station in the backyard. By making new activities available to them you will help them to cultivate their interests and creativity. Talk to your child about the benefits of trying new things and seek to compromise about how they spend their time. 

To learn more, check out these resources: 

The Good Enough Podcast: Kids! Parenting When They’re Not Just Like Us

PedsDocTalk Podcast: “I’m not a crafty or elaborate activity planner kind of mom- and I sometimes feel guilty

This article from Time magazine has some great questions to ask kids of all ages about trying new things

Encouraging Your Aging Parent Towards Activity

Picture this: Dad is in front of the TV, as usual. He used to golf twice a week with his friends. Is there a problem here? This is a common and natural concern, and bridging the gap between what you hope an older adult does with their time and how they prefer to spend it can cause worry and friction. However, there are strategies to bridge this divide. Engaging an older loved one in conversation about their interests and values can lead to a more meaningful connection and an opportunity to learn more about each other. 

There is really no perfect formula for how much time an older adult should be active and engaged versus being more passive or solo. After all, preferences and limitations vary for individuals of all ages. Still, research supports that social engagement is vital for overall well being as it promotes cognitive stimulation and aids mental health (AARP). And of course, socializing can help prevent loneliness, a topic of growing interest due to its many negative impacts on quality of life. Likewise, physical activity is crucial for healthy aging as it promotes strength, balance, heart health, and prevention of chronic disease and falls. Harvard notes that “decades of solid science confirm that exercise improves health and can extend your life.” (Harvard Health).  With this in mind, the instinct to encourage an older adult to do more with their days makes perfect sense. Still, this conversation should be handled with care and the following tips will pave the way for a fruitful talk. 

Lead with Empathy

It is important to understand that your parent or loved one may have adopted a less active lifestyle for a variety of reasons. Research from Baylor University notes that physical ability can impact one’s social life;  “When an individual becomes less mobile, he or she may start to avoid activities and social events, leading to the feeling of isolation”. Indeed, many seniors are adapting to living with chronic pain, stiff joints and a need for more sleep and rest.  Additionally, while rewatching old movies or fiddling with the same gadgets may seem lackluster to you, these routines may be an enormous source of comfort to someone experiencing a season of loss and change. Be sure to consider how the individual’s unique history and circumstances influence their attitudes on adding more to their schedule.

Start Small

Knowing how many benefits there are to be found in increased activity, it might be easy to throw a lot of options out right away. Book clubs, senior centers, and walking groups are all ideas (potentially) worth exploring, but it may be too much, too soon. Focus on exploring interests and offer to help realize one new activity at a time. Be mindful that while you may love to see a packed schedule, your loved one may be satisfied with adding just a few elements of connection and engagement to their lives, or none at all. Also, be prepared to have this conversation over many weeks or months at a pace that feels sustainable. Be clear that your interest is in supporting a happy and well-rounded lifestyle and keep open to how your loved one defines those things, as well.

Exploring Interests Exercise:

Five Questions

The following questions are designed to generate meaningful conversation around activities, preferences and values. Take turns answering so that it becomes a free-flowing conversation. Look out for opportunities to find common ground and shared interests that you can do together.

  1. What would a great day be for you? 
  • What are 3-5 things that a fun day would include? 
  • Consider simple pleasures and gratifying experiences of connection: is it time with the grandkids, being in nature, laughing with a friend?
  1.  How do you feel about your current level of activity? 
  • Rate your satisfaction on a scale of 1-10.  What could be done to get you closer to 10? What is something you would love to try?
  • Dare to dream big!  If your great aunt used to love a beach day but has not been since she started using a wheelchair, know that this desire may not be out of reach. Adaptive tools, like a terrain-friendly wheelchair, can help individuals of varying abilities connect with the world again. 
  1. Who do you like to spend time with these days? Is there anyone you wish you could see more often?
  • What relationships feel most valuable and how can you make time to nurture these? What kinds of settings do you like to socialize in? 
  • You can consider options like setting up a regular coffee date or teaching dad to use Facetime to connect with his brother who lives out of state. Though new technology can feel daunting to adopt, with a bit of patience it can provide a great source of connection. 
  1. What are things you loved to do in the past?
  • Reflecting on your past, what are some activities and interests you used to love? Are there any past hobbies you would like to try again?
  • Reminiscing can help us remember parts of ourselves that have been long dormant. It can also be a way to engage with someone who is experiencing cognitive changes or dementia. Bringing out old pictures, videos or music can be a great way to prompt beloved memories and can stimulate conversation about dusting off the gardening tools, for example. 
  1. How do you like to move? 
  • What kinds of physical activities do you enjoy  or used to enjoy?

Be sure to consider changes related to mobility and health, along with individual preferences. Walking, tai-chi and swimming are all low-impact activities, and chair exercises can be adapted for a variety of abilities. Talk about ways to add more movement into everyday life that are fun and doable. If maintaining independence is a value to your loved one, you can  highlight that being physically active can support this goal. Check out this article to find seated and standing exercise options.

Self-Compassion and Childcare

Modeling Self-Compassion and Mindfulness for our children

When it comes to teaching self-compassion to your kids, the place to start is with the one already on stage, you. Your kids are watching everything you do, including what you tell yourself when you forget something, lose something, burn something… are you saying out loud, “I’m such a clutz” or “I’m a disaster in the kitchen”? It’s just what you are saying to yourself, right?

It’s not like you would say to your child “you are stupid”, but because children learn how to talk to themselves by watching the way you talk to yourself, you could in fact unintentionally be teaching them to tell themselves things like “I’m stupid”. 

How to shift self talk for the whole family

If you find yourself berating yourself out loud, try to model self-compassion by changing your message to something like, “Oh, I shouldn’t talk that way. I know everyone makes mistakes, it’s just part of being human” or “Oops I messed that up. I know how to do better next time”.

Dr. Neff, the leading researcher of the self-compassion concept, shares that self-criticism is a threat to how we perceive ourselves since we become both the “attacker” and the “attacked.

When we are self-compassionate, we reframe our language by learning to be kind, supportive and understanding when we make mistakes. It’s a tool that will serve our kids well with how they speak to themselves and to others. 

Resources for you and your children

There are lots of resources out there that can help build healthy self-compassion and mindfulness habits in children. We found a few we thought you’d enjoy…

For ages 3-7:

This book, titled “Listening With My Heart” by Gabi Garcia, “reminds us of the other golden rule– to treat ourselves with the same understanding and compassion we give to others.”

The Emotion Motion podcast has 12-17 min. pods featuring Megan the Mermaid’s underwater adventures designed to teach social-emotional learning through tools such as song, dance, deep breathing and stretching. Warning: we cannot promise that you won’t walk into work singing “Emotion motion, emotion motion….” 

For ages 4-10:

The Like You: Mindfulness for Kids podcast introduces a variety of mindfulness exercises about:

  • Breathing
  • Affirmations
  • Music
  • Imagination

These activities can help explore their feelings, relieve anxiety, encourage self-esteem, and grow empathy.

breathing, affirmations, music, and imagination to explore feelings, relieve anxiety, encourage self-esteem, and grow empathy. With a voice like Mr. Rogers, he’ll have you wanting to listen. Each pod is 10-18 min. 

Beautiful, busy, tired parent: you’ve got this! You are doing your best and are so precious to those around you! 

Now it’s your turn: “I’m doing my best and am precious to those around me!”

To read about more tips to show self-compassion to yourself to better model it for your children, read more here!

Don’t beat yourself up

Start with kindness—to yourself.

We all want to spend time with people who care.

If you spend time
tending to someone who needs help in day-to-day life…
you are a caregiver.
You may not give yourself that title.
Wear it proudly—it’s a beautiful thing to be.

However, sometimes helping an older adult can overwhelm an already stress-filled life and caregivers often don’t have all the support they need or enough hours in the day. Caring can come at a cost, including to our mental wellbeing. Additionally, caregivers are often terribly hard on themselves.

A caring mental health response:

The practice of offering internal kindness and grace—self-compassion—can help process caregiver stress, burnout, and mental health struggles.

Caregivers tend to compound the already challenging moments of life with their own harsh inner critic. The Cleveland Clinic notes that caregivers are overly burdened with feelings of guilt and unrealistic expectations of themselves. Self-critical statements might sound like, “I am such a jerk for snapping at mom when we were driving,” or, “I haven’t been to the gym in weeks; I am so lazy.” The brain thinks it is doing us a favor by motivating us to work hard or live up to our personal standards. Instead, negative self-talk leads to feelings of defeat and exhaustion. Some caregivers are great at offering patience, kindness and forgiveness to just about everyone but themselves.

What is self-compassion?

If compassion is about seeing the suffering in others and feeling compelled to help, then self-compassion is turning this instinct inward. A leading researcher of the concept, Dr Kristen Neff, thinks of self-compassion as “a healthy attitude towards oneself during times of struggle.” Or, as Christopher Germer succinctly puts it, “Self compassion is simply giving the same kindness to ourselves that we would give to others.” Self-compassion helps us to understand that suffering is a universal, shared experience and that we can best manage it with warmth instead of shame.

Honing the skill of self-compassion can take time and patience.

Three exercises to develop self-compassion

  • Get mindful and flip the script
    Notice when you are in a moment of difficulty and offer yourself a kinder assessment of the situation.
    In fact, research from McGill University says that treating ourselves more kindly “has been shown to be related to increased psychological well-being.”

    Compassionate self-statements will sound more like, “I have been under a lot of stress. I am going to ask my sister to help with driving mom.” Or, “I haven’t been exercising and I feel best when I do. How can I make space for this in my life?” Noticing negative self-talk and consciously reframing these thoughts will help this practice to become more automatic going forward. This shift can work wonders!
  • Talk to yourself like you would a dear friend
    Imagine you are sitting with a beloved friend who is struggling with her many responsibilities. Would you really tell her to get a grip and snap out of it or that she is a bad daughter for forgetting about dad’s 4th appointment this month, or call her a jerk for losing her patience with her kids?

    You would be more likely to remind her she is doing her best and that you love and accept her. You might then offer her a cup of tea and thank her for sharing her struggles with you. The next time you are beating yourself up, try to apply the same compassion to yourself that you would with someone else you love.
  • Write it out
    Writing about stressful events has been shown to improve our physical and emotional health. Practice self-compassion through journaling or by writing a letter with prompts. Writing out your stressful thoughts will help you to get them aligned with a kinder view of a difficult situation. The Center for Clinical Intervention has a Compassionate Letter Writing template (page 8) for how to write a compassionate letter to yourself. Or, you may want to make your own version.
  • Mental health needs minding
    While self-compassion is a great framework for coping with distress, sometimes we need more. If you are dealing with changes to your mental health at a level that is disrupting your life, read through the symptoms of depression below. This is not a comprehensive list, but show some of the most common symptoms of depression, one of the largest mental health challenges facing caregivers.

Common symptoms of depression*

  • Are you spending less time doing things you used to enjoy? Do you have less interest in activities you used to love?
  • Are you experiencing persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or numbness?
  • What about feelings of irritability, restlessness or having difficulty concentrating?
  • Have you noticed changes to your sleep or appetite levels?
  • Are you feeling less energetic, fatigued and slowed-down?
  • Do you often feel a sense of guilt?
  • Do you experience thoughts about death or suicide?

*If you notice these symptoms for more than 2 weeks, it is important to be evaluated for clinical depression. Additionally, this list is not intended to make a diagnosis. If you think you may be suffering from depression, it’s important to reach out to a medical professional who can diagnose and support you.

If you are suffering, you are not alone

Caregivers deal with depression and other mental health disorders at higher rates than their peers. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, “40% to 70% of family caregivers have clinically significant symptoms of depression, and about a quarter to half of these caregivers meet the diagnostic criteria for major depression.” In fact, the American Psychological Association recommends caregivers be screened for mental health conditions due to their elevated prevalence. This is startling but, maybe not surprising. Afterall, caregiving, while deeply rewarding, can also be tiring, confusing and isolating.

Mental health conditions, including clinical depression, are treatable

The good news is that most individuals will find relief from depression with effective treatment, according to Mental Health America. The most common and effective treatments for depression are psychotherapy and medication, or a combination of the two. A good place to start would be to talk to your primary care doctor and ask for referrals or to initiate treatment. In addition to formal treatment, doing things like eating a balanced diet, getting exercise, and spending time with loved ones are all helpful. These are great examples of self-care practices we can engage in to help bolster our mood. As caregivers, it is especially important to avoid isolation and reach out for support

Practical Books & Other Resources

If you want to dive deeper into books, podcasts and workbooks here are some recommendations:



If you’re in crisis, there are options available to help you cope. You can call the Lifeline at any time to speak to someone and get support. For confidential support available 24/7 for everyone in the United States, call 988.

You already know how to love well; that’s why you are a caregiver. But if caregiving or other life stressors have impacted your mental health, it is important to seek support from a professional.

Engaging social supports and asking for help from our loved ones is an important step. And if you can practice self-compassion and give yourself grace through the ups and downs of your caregiving and mental health journeys, it will be that much easier to manage. You deserve to care for yourself just as well as you care for others!

Siblings as Friends

Model a Solid Foundation

Sibling dynamics among children play into how well those siblings will work together later in life.

At some point, these same children will be in a position to work together to help manage your care. They are (or will be) watching how you work through care challenges with your own siblings. 

It’s hard to imagine your children as adults, but as Psychologist Dr. Albers states, “Role modeling is one of the most powerful and effective ways to teach your children how to get along with their siblings.” 

10 tips to prevent sibling rivalry

It’s a complex topic without a “one size fits all” solution, but this article from the Cleveland Clinic outlines 10 tips for dealing with sibling rivalry. A few of the main points include:

  • Create a cooperative environment
  • Celebrate individuality
  • Treat kids fairly, not equally
  • Give children problem-solving tools
  • Make discipline private
  • Have a family meeting

We’ve presented how powerful family meetings can be to manage care navigation for the older adults in your family circle. Imagine how useful it would be to have family meetings already a practiced habit from childhood!

May you find joy in loving one another well in and outside of your family meetings! 

Siblings: The Sticky Subjects

Conversations between siblings about care for an older adult are layered with emotion and just might have lasting impacts on the sibling relationships for years to come. 

The truth is that most siblings don’t talk about care management roles until it is essential. Nobody wants to have a stressful conversation in the hospital corridor. We want you to be prepared to calmly navigate care for your parent or in-law. 

You are not alone! There are common sibling care controversies. There are also tools to move forward with purposeful and peaceful care conversations.

My parents are healthy…

If you have healthy older adults in your care circle, why should you make a plan with siblings now? Let me illustrate why this is so important with a story.

Adam’s perfectly healthy dad, George, had a fall one afternoon where he hit his head so hard he had a brain injury resulting in him being unable to speak clearly or make decisions. In a matter of minutes, Adam went from “my dad is perfectly healthy” to trying to figure out if he or his sister was the healthcare proxy. He didn’t know if his dad had his wishes defined and where in the world that paperwork was, if it existed at all. His sister thought her dad had asked her to be the healthcare proxy, but Adam said his dad had talked to him about it over golf one day. His sister was furious with Adam over how he was directing the care for their father when she thought it was her role, but Adam felt he was just trying to do his best in a terrifying and chaotic situation. Neither of them thought the other person was in the right role nor did they know what their dad would want, except for them not to be fighting. 

Three sibling sticky areas

You may be thrust very suddenly into figuring out care for an older adult. Are there other family members involved also? If so, there are three common barriers to setting up a successful care team: personal agendas, childhood roles and division of responsibilities.

Challenge: Personal Agendas

At work, we clearly define project goals at the onset, so it’s clear when they’ve been achieved. While a caregiving journey is likely not as quantifiable as your work projects, it’s just as important to define the overarching goals.

Solution: Establishing common goals

Among siblings, start your conversation with your common goals. 

  1. We all want to respect our older adults’ wishes and needs as much as possible.
  2. We don’t want angst or division between us during this time or for the years following.

Once we agree on these basic goals, it’s much easier to shift care decisions and strategies. We recommend restating the common goals to start each care plan meeting.

Challenge: Childhood Roles

Let’s say you and your siblings have defined the key goals, but that doesn’t really make up for the fact that your brother has always been the (insert primary trait from childhood) one and your sister will likely be (insert primary trait from childhood). The roles your siblings played in your family are decades old. Are you assuming that they are the same people they were in childhood? You have likely evolved past those early stereotypes or roles and want your siblings to see you for who you are today, many years later. 

Solution: Recognize current strengths

Instead of dragging those old assumptions into this season, can you put yourself in a neutral, curious and even grace-filled posture when it comes to who your siblings are and what they are capable of? We all have different strengths. Each sibling has an opportunity to help in a way that fits their strengths and giftings. That’s a beautiful thing.

Challenge: What’s “fair”?

When you and your siblings were young, there were likely feelings of what was “fair” between you. Remember the heated argument of who got the piece of cake with the big green frosting-filled flower on it? Now that everyone is older you already know that most of life isn’t “fair”, but in addition to that, you and your sibling’s lives are significantly more complicated as there are geographic locations, spouses, kids, jobs, health and individual finances that factor in for each person. All of that wasn’t a factor when you were jockeying for the piece of cake with the green frosting-filled flower on it. The notion of siblings each covering their “fair share” of care navigation just isn’t realistic. 

Solution: Accept imbalance and ask for or offer support

The truth is that usually the majority of the caregiving responsibilities fall on one or two people’s shoulders. It’s helpful to accept that and let go of what’s “fair”. The individual taking on the bulk of the care can take time to define how others can help; other family members can support in the ways requested.

The power of the family meeting

A well-prepared family meeting creates a way forward. 

To help you suggest or run a family care meeting, we have two great options:

  1. Ask a friend to facilitate your family’s care meeting. Ask for input on an agenda from family members. Encourage everyone to arrive with the common goal of supporting the older adult (and with a “neutral” personal agenda.)
  2. Enlist the support of a Ways & Wane Care Advisor to facilitate a family meeting. Having an unbiased, professional third party involved can be a way to reach a decision especially if sibling relations are complex or the necessary decisions are weighty. 

You may not be able to get absolutely everything in place, but whatever steps you take, however small, can ease the stress of managing care for the older adults in your family circle.

Summer Camp & DayCare: Safety and Success

Summer camp schedules are out. Finding camps that match your kids’ interests and your schedule is not the only challenge. What about safety and supervision? 

This practical 15-minute webinar will give you checklists and tips, whether you are a seasoned parent or this is your first summer.