Stress Buster: Aqua Aerobics


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heartHeart healthy is brain healthy. It seems to be the new prevention mantra, so this guest post by Kaitlin Gardner of is timely. Although there is no known, certain way to prevent Alzheimer’s, researchers believe that overall health and fitness is a big step in the right direction.

Further, caregiving is a high stress proposition. Caregivers are prime candidates for  burnout and stress related illnesses. Depression is understandably common, and as friends slowly drift away and loved ones demand more care, isolation can be a big issue. If any of this sounds familiar, think about aqua aerobics as a stress buster and mood booster! 

Why I Love Aqua Aerobics

poolBy: Kaitlin Gardner

I have been regular about exercise for many years. I’ve done a lot of different routines, from weight work to running. After a while, I found myself in a rut with my workout – I just needed a renewing spark for my exercise. That’s when I discovered aqua aerobics, and fell in love with this creative way to use the pool.

A good workout option. I first found the water when someone suggested I try aqua jogging. I went to the pool when the lap lanes were open and began moving up and down a lane with a good jogging motion. I got an excellent cardio workout and really enjoyed myself. I started reading about water workouts, and discovered that the heart rate is lower in the water than it is on land. It’s thought to be because of the lowered gravity, and the cooler water. The heart has to work less to get equivalent exercise just being in the water. Here are some resources I found which provide more details:

Lots of great choices. As I began to check out the different workout options available in the water, I was surprised by the range of choices. If I really need to work off some energy, I can always go to the aqua kickboxing class, or do a water weight routine. I haven’t worked up my courage to try the sexy hip swinging moves of Zumba yet, but it’s next on my list. The variety of workout options I can use keeps me motivated, and I always look forward to the next thing I can try in the water.

everythingIt’s just so fun. In the gym, it’s like everyone is in their own world – wearing headsets and doing their workouts without talking. Maybe it’s just because being in the water feels so natural, but people were just more friendly during workout classes. People were smiling and friendly, and they were glad to show me a move I didn’t know when the instructor called it out. I made a couple of new friends by the end of the first class. I also realized my legs were feeling the work we had done. The instructor reminded me that the resistance of the water meant we had to work harder than we might realize.

The low impact element. When I did lunges on land, my knees creaked, I think from so many years of running. A lunge is basically stepping forward on one leg, then returning to a standing position, and stepping out with the other leg. In the water – it was a whole different experience. I still got the exercise out of it, but the landing of my foot in the water was so gentle I absolutely loved it. Now I do lunges in the water whenever I can.

stressStress relief. If I’m in the middle of a really hectic day, a water workout is a great solution to bleed off some stress. I have three favorites – aqua walking, aqua yoga or tai chi. Any of them will bring me a lot of relaxation. If it’s hot in the summer, going for a walk in the lap lanes at the pool is very soothing. The slow and rhythmic moves of yoga or tai chi are wonderful to help me relax, but the benefit is compounded because the water is so soothing. After a workout, it’s hard to remember why I was so stressed.

Aqua aerobics came along just when my exercise needed a recharge, and I’m so grateful. I love workouts in the water and now they are a regular part of my routine.


Kaitlin Gardner started to further her passion for a family friendly, green living lifestyle. She is married to her college sweetheart and lives in Pennsylvania. She and her husband enjoy going for long hikes, to get out and enjoy nature. She is working on her first book about ways to live an eco-friendly, healthy, natural life.




FREE Online Course: Understanding Dementia


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mooc_promoFrame_webUnderstanding Dementia
FREE Online Dementia Course – Available Internationally

Registration NOW OPEN
Course begins Oct 13, lasting 9 weeks


The third offering of Understanding Dementia MOOC, is just around the corner! REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN and the course begins on Oct 13th.

This outstanding curriculum draws upon the expertise of neuroscientists, clinicians and dementia care professionals from the Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre at the University of Tasmania, Australia. Over 25,000 people from 96 countries took part in the first two offerings. Don’t miss this great opportunity!

When Caring Takes Courage: A MUST HAVE Caregiving Guide


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As I sit down to write this long overdue piece, I can’t help but be struck by how many wonderful people I’ve met through dementia advocacy. It’s safe to say that as a whole, these are some of the most gifted and compassionate human beings on the planet. Each has a unique story, but those stories are the common thread that creates such a bond between us.

Mara Botonis falls into that category. To be honest, I don’t recall exactly how we first crossed paths; however, I do know we were instant friends. I’m grateful that social media provides an avenue for meeting people all over the country – and the world, for that matter.

A Caregiver’s Handbook

But, I digress. The intent of this post is to introduce you to what I believe is the best resource in existence for Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers. I know that’s a lofty statement, but Mara’s book, When Caring Takes Courage, just blew me away. To say I wish I could have had a handbook like this 15 years ago would be a gross understatement.

Around the time we moved my mom to assisted living, the facility’s marketing director gave me a copy of a very well known book on caring for a loved one with dementia. Over the years, I probably opened it three or four times, but always found myself feeling overwhelmed by the pages and pages of information – it was too much. Probably some fantastic information, but the critical bits were buried among too many words. I never did read the book.

When Caring Takes Courage is different. Mara aptly terms it as an “interactive guide” for caregivers, and that’s exactly what it is. Think of it as a caregivers’ manual. If you want to sit down and read it from front to back, you can certainly do so, but the real beauty is in the ability to grab the book and refer to a specific topic that might be of immediate concern.

What is Biography Based Care?

The cornerstone of the book is Biography Based Care ®. This approach helps to adapt care based on your loved one’s life experiences, likes and dislikes, and current abilities. Biography Based Care ® recognizes that just as each person living with dementia is unique, so is the way the disease manifests itself. Techniques that work with one person may yield disastrous results for another.

Mara points out very early on that this is a book intended to be USED, not just read. She encourages readers to write notes throughout, “dog ear” pages of particular interest, and even tear out pages for frequent reference.

When Caring Takes Courage includes a plethora of tools you can use to develop a personalized care plan. It begins with a comprehensive Biography to help you gather information about your loved one. As the disease progresses, these pages will be increasingly valuable – a source of ideas and approaches for dealing with new challenges.

Pages Meant to Be Used

Inside the book, Mara also provides various checklists and worksheets to help assess care needs, plan activities, document and track symptoms, compare and score care options, create a safe environment, and much more!

You won’t just read about challenges with communicating, bathing, toileting, difficult behaviors, and wandering. Instead, you’ll get real suggestions on ways of dealing with these things. For example, Chapter 4, “Bathing Without Battling” provides succinct bullet points listing things you can do before, during, and after bathing to help make the experience less traumatic for everyone involved.

While the first section of the book addresses “Getting Through the Day,” the second provides a guide for “Creating the Best Possible Day.” The Biography Based Care ® concept introduced in the opening pages are equally important here, as they allow caregivers to build the day around the whole person, their history, preferences, and unique needs.

Moments that Matter

Mara consistently reminds us to consider the whole person for whom we are caring. That means looking at their physical, spiritual, emotional, social, and intellectual needs as well as their sense of purpose.

Being a caregiver is exhausting, but the latter half of the book will help you achieve some of the balance that is so elusive. It’s easy to get wrapped up in (and overwhelmed by) the ever growing to do list, but it’s important to make the most of every moment. These final chapters will help you make time for “moments that matter.”

You’ll find countless ideas for activities that cater to the whole person’s needs. These include holiday and special occasion activities, but also past times for everyday. Ideas are grouped by interest – pets, music, sports, travel, worship, and many more. If that isn’t enough, the book also comes with an 80-page companion guide titled Alzheimer’s Adapted Activities for Every Interest and Level of Ability.

World Alzheimer’s Month Giveaway!

Whether you’re a family caregiver, a professional caregiver, or a facility administrator, you need this book. In my opinion, When Caring Takes Courage should be part of required continuing education in every memory care facility around the world.

September is World Alzheimer’s Month, and what better way to mark it than with a giveaway!? I couldn’t be more pleased that Mara has generously offered to give one lucky reader a copy of this must have guide to caregiving. To enter the giveaway (***Continental U.S. only, please***), just click below to leave a comment on this post. A winner will be randomly drawn on Friday, September 19th.



Mara Botonis is a 29-year veteran of the senior housing and healthcare industry. Her passion for elder care began at age fourteen when she spent her summer break volunteering at a nursing home. When Caring Takes Courage is dedicated to the memory of her beloved grandfather, Bill, who she lost to Alzheimer’s disease.

Learn more at or visit Mara on Facebook at Biography Based Care ® or When Caring Takes Courage.



A Caregiver’s Guide to Caring


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I’m very pleased to present the following guest post by author and health care consultant, Anne Hays Egan.

Caring List

by Anne Hays Egan

Caring for a parent or other loved one with Alzheimer’s disease can be one of the most difficult, exhausting, joyful, and rewarding things you do in life. It was for my brothers and me.

Mama had been charming, headstrong, and brilliant. She taught piano for decades, and loved music. When we realized that she was having memory problems, she was still active teaching piano, going out to church and seeing friends. But we realized she was having trouble when she told us about some “nice young men” who put a new roof on the house which was much too expensive. When she told us that “they were so nice they even took me to the bank,” we knew that she was at risk.

Over the years, we helped her to navigate the difficulties of living with Alzheimer’s. It started with updating her will and her financial records. Each of us visited her more often, staying longer. We worked with her to help her manage her living situation, facing many challenges.

It meant taking the keys to the car (in her case, we removed a spark plug). Over time, her world shrank, and with it, her ability to communicate. We increased the number of hours of care, and then we moved her to live with one of us, with caregiving support. We looked for activities that would engage her, and increasingly focused on the little things, like watching the birds.

We developed a checklist that we’ve shared with others, which you might find helpful.

Finances – work to understand their financial situation, and then protect it. Know what benefits may be available to them. by the National Council on Aging is a great resource. Ensure that a will, living will, and Health Care Power of Attorney are in place.

Caregiving – find out about your loved one’s preferences, whether for caregiving in the home, nursing home care, or moving in with a member of the family. See what different family members can do to help.

Community Resources – learn about the community resources, such as the local Senior Center, caregiving programs, respite care, meals and transportation, nursing, caregiving, and other medical resources.

Self-Care – develop a plan for caring for yourself early on, and find others who can provide support. Friends who have gone through a similar situation are invaluable. And, there is a very supportive network on Facebook called Memory People, which provides excellent information and support.

Whenever possible, take time to capture some of your special moments, as these will be your memories in future years. One of the most important things we learned from our caregiving is that the person is there, and one can have many meaningful connections, even when the mind dims.


Anne Hays Egan is a health care consultant working with community health planning and evaluation, including helping communities develop plans for older adult services. She is the author of Moving Mama: Taking Care of Mother During her Final Years with Alzheimer’s.