Tuesday, 16 January 2018


There are two questions about caring families that interest me. The first is, "How can we plan our days and weeks to give us a better chance of being happy?" The second is, "How can we tell how we're doing with our wellbeing plan?"

If you feel like your life is not your own, that you just get blown and buffeted from crisis to crisis (or one monotonous day just seems like the next), then this blog post's for you. It's time to get intentional about how we live our lives and to do that, we need to think differently about wellbeing. Here are two approaches that can help caregivers influence health and happiness in the family.

1) The Wellness Wheel is a project of Hospice Yukon in Canada. Infused with wisdom of native people in the north, this is a simple way of day planning to ensure your life is balanced between activities of mind, body, spirit and heart.
But how can we use this idea of the self to ensure we nourish all these aspects of the caregiver self? Here's how. Start by choosing just one activity from each domain, every day. See whether there are activities that you can share with your loved one, because they need the benefits of the Wellness Wheel, too.

NOTE: Thank you to the wonderful end of life coach and author Katherine Arnup for the link to this site. If you'd like to know about this approach, read this terrific research paper titled 'The Wellness Wheel: An Aboriginal Contribution to Social Work' by Margot Loiselle, PhD and Lauretta McKenzie, MSW.

The second wellbeing approach I'd like to present is called The F-Words in Childhood Disability.  This strategy for planning daily life to optimize health and happiness may be from CanChild, a pediatric disability research institute at McMaster University in Canada, but the approach works for anyone. I love it.

Here are the F-words. Think about what they might mean in your life and the life of your loved one, no matter their age or circumstances - these are HUMAN concerns.

refers to what people do - how things are done is not what is important; synonyms include ‘role’, ‘job’, ‘task’, etc. (for children, ‘play’ is their ‘work’)

: represents the essential ‘environment’ of all children

Fitness: refers to how children stay physically active, including exercise and other recreational opportunities

Fun: includes particular activities children are involved in or enjoy participating in

Friends: refers to the friendships established with peers; social development is an essential aspect of personhood

is what child development is all about; it refers to parents and children's expectations and dreams for their future 

Here's how the F-Words work for youth with disabilities, but consider what they might mean for designing the day (and the week) for someone with Alzheimer's or dementia. Think of how these approaches might change your family life and your wellbeing.