7 Reasons Care Partners Should Lead Seniors In Breathing

7 Reasons Care Partners Should Lead Seniors In Breathing

To start, when care partners lead breathing groups, they reap the benefits too. So it is twice as rewarding to have care partners to lead seniors in meditation/breathing groups.

Here are 7 more reasons care partners should lead seniors in breathing groups.

Learning to breathe properly:

  1. Increases emotional well-being and ability to deal with challenges of aging.
  2. Gives a senior the control to change the way they feel. A breathing practice can help decrease anxiety, loneliness and fear. This is particularly helpful if someone is living with dementia.
  3. Increases the amount of oxygen in the body. Often as people age, they move less and breathing deeply can increase oxygen circulation, increasing the body’s ability to fight off infection  and disease.
  4. Relieves congestion and increases the health of the respiratory system.
  5. Removes toxins from the body that may build up as seniors are sitting more often and helps keep the immune system healthy.
  6. Helps to manage pain.
  7. Quickly increases energy levels, mental clarity and increase engagement.

These are just a few of the benefits and all of these increase quality of life for the senior in the breathing group. Being able to breathe well is empowering. It has immediate results and  affects so many areas of our lives.

Leading a breathing group is not difficult but can be intimidating for a care partner who doesn’t understand how the breath can affect the physical health of a senior or how to best lead this type of group. Also the breath is incredibly powerful, it’s important that leaders understand a few basics before getting started.

Once a care partner learns about breathing properly, they can teach other care partners how to breathe well, giving them the same benefits and rewards.

After leading seniors in yoga and meditation for years, I wrote two easy to read books to help make it simple for anyone else understand breathing, why it matters and to lead without being a yoga teacher. Please check them out and make one of your 2015 intentions be to teach seniors to breathe better:

How to Lead Meditations for Seniors: A Resource For People Who Work With Seniors 

Breathe: The Simple Guide to Better Breathing For People 50+

Both books come with 5 recorded meditation lessons to help a leader get started.

I’d also really appreciate you telling colleagues and family members about these books so people 50+ and more seniors can learn the simple power of breathing well. Once someone learns and can practice on their own, it can change their experience of the aging process. They are available at the above links and on Amazon. Thank you!



5 tips to help families to have successful holiday visits

5 tips to help families to have successful holiday visits

The holidays can be a really fun time of the year for seniors who are getting family and friend visits but when someone is living with dementia it may be a challenge for family to know how to interact.

Helping families to have successful visits can make your team stand out and more deeply connect with families. Here are 5 tips to help families to have successful holiday visits:

  1. Send a note to families, before the holiday rush with suggestions for how to engage with their loved one during the holidays. There is a great list of suggestions available from FIT Kits® HERE that you can use in your letter and refer families to.
  2. During your care meetings leading up to the holidays, ask caregivers to identify what times for interaction work best for each person. Be sure a caregiver communicates that specifically to family so it helps set the stage for a successful visit.
  3. Ask caregivers to have in mind a few activities that the person enjoys and be ready to set them up for families when they arrive. This is an opportunity to showcase the expertise of the caregivers and create a specific connection to the family. Ask caregivers to actively help families by asking if they’d like some suggestions for what to do during a visit and setting them up in a quiet area.
  4. Have caregivers introduce themselves to new family members and answer questions. During the holidays many family members visit from out-of-town and may have anxiety about seeing their loved one with dementia. Ask caregivers to be on the lookout for family members that seem new, awkward or uncertain and have them intervene by introducing themselves and answering questions about the family member.
  5. Prepare your team. This is really important because it is easy for everyone to get so involved in the day-to-day work that they forget how important a family visit is for the senior and for the family members. For some out-of-town family, it might be their only visit all year. This is an opportunity for the staff to show what they know and how in tune they are with each person living there. Remind your team of how important they are and how to help make each visit special.

“This has been our most delightful visit with (my mother)
in years – not because she changed, but because we did.”

- Family member working with Steven Sabat, PhD[1]

So many people are coming through your community during the holidays and every one of them will be sharing their experience once they leave.  Help them all have a good memory to rave about with others.

By taking the extra time to prep your team and approach every family interaction as an opportunity, you confirm why they chose you to care for their loved one.



Are assumptions killing your organization’s potential?

assumptionsAsking employees for their insights, about how to increase the quality of products or services, should be an obvious part of any business. But what I have seen, heard and experienced in senior care is that many managers get in the habit of assuming the direct care staff lack the ability to bring viable suggestions to the business table or that they don’t “get” business enough to be a resource.

This might not be a popular statement. Generally as leaders, we like to think we are open-minded and not biased – but paying attention to our shortcomings is how we change them.

In Vineet Prasad’s book Employees First, Customers Second, the author gives an example of the engineering department initiating a business project completely on their own. His assumption had been that they were engineers, not trained in the way of business strategy. But instead, what he found was that as the company shifted towards listening to the employees ideas and concerns more and on a regular basis, the engineers wanted to be part of the solution … so they took it upon themselves to learn the business system and offer up solutions.

Why do we make assumptions that the executive management team has the best and only practical solutions to business challenges. The majority of staff doing the work day-to-day are the ones that may have the creative solutions to take your company to the next level. Try taking the time to have team meetings that focus on how to increase quality of care or increase customer satisfaction or change a system. If you can ask the right questions there’s a pretty good chance that the team members that are “in the trenches” everyday will bring either a new outlook or the final piece of the equation that top management has been seeking.

You most likely know this is a good idea – but we all tend to get into habitual patterns that sometimes prevent us from trying what might obviously be the best option.

Recently the same example of valuable employee input came to my attention – twice(!) in two different conversations.  It was about building design. The linens were in closets far down the hall so the staff members had to go far from the showers and rooms each time they had to get fresh lines to change a bed or give someone a shower. This resulted in wasted time and energy in a job that requires lots of energy. It was also easy to get side tracked by the needs of someone else while running to get extra towels which led to frustration for the senior waiting their turn. Caregivers that have to waste energy running around for the obvious get frustrated and are not happy … you and I would not be happy either!

While it may seem like a small, benign change, adding an extra closet can lead to improved senior satisfaction, better care and caregiver satisfaction. These are the things that create loyal customers, great team members and solid referrals…its all in the details.

People that are not asked their opinion by top management simply don’t give it. It does not mean that they don’t have one. If your manager does not ask your opinion, you get out of the practice of sharing it. You may even get nervous about speaking up and feel uncertain that you have any value to add.

I have found that it is not always the star employees that have the great ideas. Many times they have adopted your culture and started to think just like you have. It’s the employees that are simply doing their jobs everyday that may have even more insights (and maybe it’s even the complainers who are endowed with super critical eyes!)

If you assume that your employees have little to say that is of value for business solutions, it may be that you have been listening with a bias. A bias that expects that good solutions come packaged and spoken in a certain way.

Many months ago I talked about ‘asking questions’ to create  employee autonomy.  I suggest continuing on with questions. This is where your finesse and creativity as a leader can really shine because you have the opportunity to find the right questions to ask your team members so they can express what they are thinking. They may not have the “professional” language to express a great idea but it doesn’t mean they don’t have one.  Asking the right questions may find you answers to your business challenges in unexpected places.


The F-word in Elder Care


In the past 10 days, 3 women over the age of 70 have dropped the F-bomb while talking to me. Yep.

And that made me think more about one of the very struggles and frustrations I have always had while working in elder care – balancing “being real” with being “professional.” While talking last week to a colleague, she said that one of the obvious expectations while working in corporate America is that you have a personal life and a work life and the two should not mingle.

Do organizations that provide elder care focus too much on this as well? Has it gotten too corporate? The philosophy that is advocated for these days is “person-centered care.” Providing person centered care and engagement requires an intimacy, a knowing of the person you are working with. The only way to really have this knowing is by being transparent yourself. And if you are expending your energy (wasting it I might add) on trying to be your “work” self, the result is a distancing from the person you are trying to get closer to. Intimacy is the primary thing we all crave, that makes us feel valued and whole. If professionalism suggests that we leave part of our real self at home, we are missing a part of our self while interacting at work and we are not whole. We lose the opportunity to be truly authentic and connected with those around us.

In 1997 I was working in a hospital, primarily with people who had some type of neurological “injury” – at the time that was maybe 50% had a stroke which put much of the population I worked with over 65. I had an eye brow ring and punked out short blond hair. That eyebrow ring was an incredible touch point. It created conversation and intimacy that I would have had no other way to create. It made people laugh, get angry, fear for my future, ask questions, counsel me, become intrigued but most of all it was a way we really connected. One day I ran into the CEO in the hallway. He asked me to take out my ring…because it was “unprofessional.” I was so bold, I said “not until it’s in the employee handbook.” For two reasons – one, I was a bit of a rebel but the second was because I knew that that simple social rebellion and self-expression (in ’97 not every kid had a facial piercing) connected me with SO many people in an interesting way. I simply didn’t care about “professionalism,” I cared about realism and connecting with other humans as I was. The result: I was good at my job and really well-liked.

That thing which was different and edgy helped to create intimacy and connection. That “thing” wasn’t who I was but it was an outward expression of who I was and it provoked curiosity. Self-expression – physically, verbally, energetically,  makes us all interesting and unique. Respecting another does not require us to stop self-expressing… this includes while we are working with elders.

What I have in fact found is that when I am real, raw, honest, opinionated, creatively expressive – that is when people feel open and connected to me – particularly elders!! When I am focused on how I am dressed and acting “appropriately,” I miss so many opportunities – the energy I put into monitoring myself is what I could be putting into being present.

Elder care communities that are interesting and engaging are not stuffy. There is laughter, there is debate, there is expression and often messiness mixed in. It’s not about appearances, it’s about experiences. To assume that our elders … who, by the way, are about to be the rowdy, rebellious, bold, outspoken, creative, drug curious, big thinking, opinionated, fascinating crowd from the 60’s … are so easily offended and require a gentle “professional customer service” approach is almost laughable. They want to keep living and feeling and being provoked to think and create. They want interesting activity – and seriously, what is interesting about being proper and dull (that creates distance and a false sense of safety.) And I have found this all along the way even with the stoic generation of elders we have been serving!

Kindness, vibrancy, authenticity and connection are above all what I want if I have to live in an elder care community.

To go back to the F-bomb, I do use “inappropriate language” during my consulting when I sense that we need to cut through the distance and get real. I find it instantaneously wakes up the room and changes the perspective – I become real. I also tell vulnerable, uncomfortable stories when I want a group to feel that I am real and not another “professional” who is separate or above them.

I am not suggesting that you encourage your staff to start integrating bad language into their work routines. But I am suggesting that you consider what  level of “professionalism” you would want if you were in an elder care community. I can tell you that the people I know – yes half of my close friends are over 65 – are resistant to living in an elder community because they (and I) fear the lack of real true connection with others. The noise of real conversation, the freedom to do and say what we want, of being exactly who we are, when we want and the fear of going to live like we are living in a hotel with stuffy customer service everyday. I can feel the fear rising! And honestly, like now, I will welcome the good use of “inappropriate” language when it is warranted.

Every person connects in a unique way – elders and staff members. Teaching your team members how to connect in a person-centered way without sharing their drama will give them the freedom to access all of their energy, not wasting it on being professional but using it on being real.

Forget Annual Employee Reviews!


Annual employee reviews are antiquated and counter productive. They are fear based assessments of employees that create animosity and waste a ton of energy. And the truth is that most managers hate doing them and as a result are not very good at them.

Let’s start by talking about what actually is the point of a review. It is generally perceived as a way to annually inform an employee if they are living up to the managers or companies expectations, report the good, bad and ugly of their efforts, to suggest what the expectations for either their continued performance or change in performance should look like and often address a pay increase.

But in reality reviews are only helpful to everyone if they are done on a regular – yes daily or weekly – basis. You should be communicating what you expect and how things are going from moment to moment. Manager/employee relationships are relationships like all others in life and no healthy relationship waits to be reviewed annually or it becomes damaged. When you can begin to shift into an ongoing, day-to-day review process, annual employee reviews lose their fear value for both the reviewer and employee.

I call them “daily reviews” and here is why they are so effective:

  • Your employees get feedback daily from you and understand what you expect from them everyday. It builds trust and they will ask for your input in areas where they know they are coming up short.
  • It gives you an opportunity to express your intentions for business and get your team on board. When your team understands what your primary intentions are, they can make decisions based on those intentions. This frees you up because your team knows that their choices and decisions in every situation should drive the results toward those primary intentions. It empowers them to make good choices.
  • When you have annual reviews it is like a pressure cooker building steam, ready to explode – you wait and wait, building up things you will “have to tell them at their review” and your employee just keeps making the same mistakes.  This is a recipe for drama.
  • Doing it daily removes the fear from the workplace if you speak respectfully. As you see something good happening you praise your employee, right now and if you see a problem, you address it with another solution, right now. This helps people to feel safe that you appreciate their work and will be honest and solution oriented when you don’t.
  • There are no surprises. No one will be shocked if you are doing daily reviews. This helps avoid drama in the workplace.
  • You can leave work and leave behind your frustrations. When you do reviews daily, you are actively addressing that employee who drives you nuts and you more quickly help them grow or remove them from your team.  At the end of the day you know you have taken action and you can more easily leave your work at work.
  • Daily reviews shift a manager/employee relationship from one of a “boss” holding power over an employee – like an adult controlling a child – to adults talking about what needs to happen at work to progress and be successful.

If you are not comfortable doing daily reviews then this is your opportunity to review your self and ask where you need support and tools for growth. Fear and lack of effective communication tools are the primary reasons for avoiding daily reviews. Avoiding daily reviews is also a way for managers to indulge in drama by perseverating on the issues their team has. This is one of the primary reasons that I provide 1:1 sessions focused on giving managers tools for communication and engagement. Many managers never learned effective communication tools and have habits that limit our potential – being self-aware is vital to growth.

For employees who are concerned about their rate of pay, the annual employee review has come to mark an expectation that this is the time when they will either get a raise or not. When a company has no plans for annual raises, it puts a manager in the position of avoidance of annual employee reviews – “I don’t want to do reviews because I can’t give raises.” Transparent, respectful communication about how and when raises are given should be happening as you know more information. Tell them any day of the year where they stand. They work hard, be honest about when and how raises are given and stick to it. If there will be no raises this year, employees should understand that and why. They should understand what they can do to ensure a raise when it is available.

Then when you give a raise, don’t attach it to an annual review – attach it to a thank you, you are a great team member. This will diffuse the expectation that they will get a raise every year because time has passed and place the emphasis on the qualities of their contribution to the team. Maybe they get two smaller raises throughout the year to keep them motivated. If they need to make improvements to get a raise be sure you have been clear all along so they are not surprised and know exactly what you expect.

Lastly, take notes all along. Create a system that allows you to easily make note of significant conversations along the way. The notes should be short but specific, put in the employee file and dated. These notes in an employee file are either the documentation that will help you when it’s time to remove them from your team or they will be the support you need to get a great team member a raise.

Forget annual employee reviews! Honest, direct, transparent communication every single day is a what your team needs. They will respect and appreciate your insights and know where they stand and you will feel more empowered as your team is making daily improvements.


5 Tools to Stop Feeling Overwhelmed

When you feel overwhelmed it seems like the last think you want to do is stop and assess what you could do differently.  But just like every other behavior we have, overwhelm turns into an energy sucking habit if we don’t disrupt it and create a new pattern.5overwhelm

Here are 5 tools to help you Stop Feeling Overwhelmed

  1. Create lists – Oh how I love lists. They create order when my mind feels is chaotic. I use long strips of plain paper for my lists. Every morning I start the day with a list of what I know I need to do from small to potentially catastrophic. I can fill more than a page some days with bullet point items. I write creative ideas that popped into my head, people I need to contact, items I HAVE to finish and people I need to simply check in with.  After I get it out of my mind and on the paper, I prioritize. I mark what has to happen first. What works for me is to knock out a few of the smallest tasks first and that helps get my momentum going. Then at the end of the day I create another list of what I didn’t get to and what I think needs to happen tomorrow. This clears my head so when work is done, my head is freed up with more space to enjoy life outside of work.
  2. Communicate clearly what you want and expect - One of the potential problems with overwhelm is that it can trigger the stress response in the body and that screws with our ability to think straight. Taking a few deep breaths and being clear with what you can ask of others is important. Lists can help here too! What can you delegate. Then while delegating be sure to be clear about what expectations you have of someone to get the job done. If you delegate to the right person, the one who likes doing those type of tasks, they have a better likelihood of success if you are clear. Don’t dump requests on someone else without clear expectations – that will only result in their failure to complete the task the way you wanted and feed your overwhelm monster.
  3. Stop everything, walk away and breathe … for more than a few minutes – Overwhelm is addictive. Once it begins it has a tendency to build like a snowball rolling downhill. And as a result every little ridiculous thing starts to feel way more important that it most likely is. Simply stop the machine. Turn off the phone, close the computer, walk out of the building.  If you actually stop long enough you start to realize that everything is not falling apart and you can begin to think clearly about what really is most important. Breathe deeply, trigger your calming hormones and decide what 3 things that can be done that will help the others fall into place.
  4. Stop doing other people’s work – Managing too many things, ideas or people is one of the primary causes of manager overwhelm. Trying to do it all results in not doing things as well as you are capable. Doing everything doesn’t make you better at what you do, it just depletes you. At some point you need to empower those around you to do their jobs well. Mistakes will be made but mistakes and failures lead to growth if you allow it to.  Teach and counsel your team so they have the tools to succeed. Acting as if you are the “one” that should be doing a task to be sure it’s done right, is the fastest way to create a complacent team that won’t make a move without your permission. That can feel really great if you need an ego pump, otherwise it ultimately exhausts your potential for greatness. Let other people shine and it will give you the freedom to put your energy into things you love about your work.
  5. Use a schedule - Set a schedule that will allow you to say no and set boundaries. For instance only check emails during certain hours of the day, schedule time frames when you will call customers back or meet with employees to discuss ideas or issues. The brain works well when it is focused and not as well when it is constantly distracted. Everything doesn’t have to happen NOW. If you create a schedule and stick to it, unless there is an urgent issue, your team and customers begin to feel safe that they will in fact have some of your uninterrupted time. If people who depend on you for answers or leadership fear that they won’t get your time, or if they feel like they are constantly vying for it, they will panic and hound you or demand your attention whenever they see an opportunity. Give yourself and others a sense of certainty that they will get their needs met – and when it will be.

Like any habit, being in a state of overwhelm can feel like the “right” place to be and as you decrease that sensation you actually might feel like you are losing a sense of control. But it’s all part of the process of creating a new (more efficient) comfort zone.

If you find yourself saying “Oh that won’t work for me” then ask yourself what you are afraid of? Overwhelm is a state where you are burning off a bunch of energy that could be used for bigger things. Is the thought of having more energy … and potentially more success too uncomfortable?

Be uncomfortable, let go of overwhelm and think of what big ideas you can make happen with all that extra energy!


Gaining a creative edge in your management style

lizardManaging people successfully requires a constant flow of creativity. In your day, challenges are constantly arising and you are called upon to help resolve, improve or elevate a situation. The ability to keep a continuous flow of creativity is a powerful tool.

Creativity is a source of energy for you.  Once you get it flowing it generates more energy and in turn more creativity. Creativity begets creativity. Creativity exists until either you feel too uncomfortable with all that potential and block it by falling back into old habits or you stop paying attention to it.

Imagine:  a situation arises at work that is challenging and irritating. You woke up feeling inspired and you stoked your inspiration by taking a morning walk and generating some great ideas. You get to work where a staff member approaches with a challenge…the same one you heard last week. Then, in response to the tedious question, you habitually respond by trying to fix it with the same solution you’ve used before.  As a result, you feel your morning creativity draining and as the morning progresses your creativity becomes completely bogged down.

“You habitually respond” – these are the key words. Habitual behaviors – they can be oh so good and they can be oh soooo bad.

Solutions and challenges, by nature, require creativity aka the generation of new ideas. If you have habits that continue to feed and generate creativity then they are great habits to keep. If you find that your habit is to respond with the same ideas you have suggested before, even if they had not been amazingly successful, then your habits of response are starving your creativity. New, creative, inspired responses will inspire more creative ideas.

When you notice your habitual response happening, it’s time to invest in stoking your creativity so that you are better at your work and you positively affect all those people you are managing. Creating habitual behaviors that will continually feed your creative energy will help you choose to be creative more often and come up with great solutions and ideas.

5 actions to feed your creativity and break the habitual response cycle that kills your creativity:

Write about your ideas. Writing is doing for the mind. The brain is not so good at knowing the difference between imagination and reality. Capture your visions. Put them on paper. As you write, feel what you body feels like when your creative juices are flowing. Make this a daily habit for 5 – 15 minutes everyday. Fill a composition book, notepad or journal with your creative ideas. Refer back any time you need to start generating more.

Change up the creative scenery. Go to garage sales, thrift stores and art sales, art stores or any other places that might have creative objects you would like to have in your life.  Buy some, make some, borrow some cool items that make you feel alive. Then bring your creative mojo into your office and work space! Stop thinking of your office space as dead “professional” space. Creative spaces incite conversation, debate and engagement. Make your office a place you love to walk into and your employees and customers are curious about. Curiosity is the basis of passion.

Get outside during the workday. Too many people separate life from work. As if, once you enter the “work zone,” you must prepare to give out energy all day long and then only in your personal unpaid time are you allowed to regenerate it. This is absurd. You are being paid to be an amazing, inspiring, creative thinking solution master. And the key to that is increasing your levels to optimal creativity generation. Walking outdoors is one of the cheapest, quickest most effective tools to do this. So simply walk out the door when you need a boost and take a 10 minute walk about. Move your arms and quicken your pace until you feel your mind shift.

Breathe. Yes, yet again I mention this. My yoga students always tell me that I need to repeat it every class throughout the class.  I am always asking “Are you breathing?” It may seem redundant but 95% of people in my staff trainings are not breathing fully, engaging their diaphragm, yet this is another powerful way to access your creative thought processes. Increase the oxygen levels going to your brain. Allow time to sit and breathe… and so importantly to pause when looking for creative solutions. Breathe fully allowing the air to use all of your lung capacity. In and out through your nose. Keep your mouth closed….Shh, this is one of the secrets to circulating your creative energy.

Be spontaneous. “Spontaneity is the spice of life.” Change up the day’s or the week’s schedule. Your staff and seniors will love you for it. Routine can dull the creative mind. Break out of the cycle. Come in late, leave early, have a party, make no phone calls, avoid technology, stay out of your office, take a few people to lunch, pull out your drum and play it with anyone passing your office, teach the staff something new … simply spontaneously shake up the day.

Gaining a creative edge in your management style requires practicing good habits that continue to generate more creativity and allow the mind to rejuvenate.

empowered caregivers, dynamic managers, increased revenue