5 Tips for a Better Marriage

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in family counseling

Recently, my husband and I celebrated our 31st wedding anniversary. When I think back to those first years of marriage, it is amazing how much we have changed. We were high school sweethearts and dated five and one half years before we got married. Many changes have been witnessed over the last 31 years and we continue to work at making marriage better.family counseling

In family counseling, I ask couples to rate their marriage in terms of satisfaction on a scale from one to ten. This exercise gives me a quick assessment of the marriage relationship. Sometimes, couples are surprised at each other’s answers. While one may rank the marriage a “7,” the other may rank the relationship a “3.” When this happens, usually the more satisfied mate is not working to meet the needs of the spouse because his needs are being met. The spouse, who rated the marriage as a “4” is not feeling much satisfaction and the marriage partner may not even be aware of the problems.

Relationships are complicated.

marriage therapistsIn the beginning of a marriage, a couple is consumed with total bliss and longing for each other and may be totally caught off guard when those feelings begin to change over time. The emotional high experienced in the early years is transformed into a deeper, more fulfilling relationship if needs are satisfied. If not, trouble soon arises.

Many troubled matrimony’s can be rescued with the right tools and with the help of marriage therapists to strengthen relationships and the commitment to make their matrimony work.

Consider the five principles below to strengthen marriage:

1. Know the needs of your mate.

Men and women may not come from Mars or Venus, as the title of the book implies, but they certainly have different desires. Take time to share with each other your top five needs with your mate. Keep in mind what your mate requests and focus on meeting each other’s needs. When one person is satisfied in the marriage relationship, he will be more motivated to meet his mate’s needs. Most women, for example, need affection, meaningful conversation, honest communication, family support and commitment. Men, on the other hand, share a desire for sexual intimacy, admiration, a recreational companion, attractive spouse and a partner who makes home a pleasant place to live. Know the needs of your mate and work towards fulfilling those desires.

2. Effective communication is essential in building a healthy marriage relationship.

Unless a couple participates in extensive pre-marital counseling or has the advantage of excellent role models, communication skills may not be adequately developed for a successful marriage relationship. Learn to know when to talk to your spouse about a problem. Ask when is a good time to talk (not when one is busy, stressed or exhausted). Plan a time to discuss issues. Often in counseling, I recommend couples discuss issues over dinner at a restaurant or a cup of coffee at the local coffee shop. A relaxed public venue provides an environment conducive to listening and conversing without anger. A mate is less likely to raise a voice in frustration while dining at a restaurant than in the privacy of the kitchen table at home. Knowing how to talk to a mate in an accepting manner is important in initiating change. How we talk to our mate has everything to do with the chances that grievances will be considered. Share thoughts without accusations and anger.

3. Money mismanagement is a major reason for divorce.

Agreement on spending is important for success in marriage. Success in money management means you must spend less than you earn. Live within your financial means. Debt creates problems in a relationship. Agree on how to spend money, who keeps up with bills, and make decisions together on large purchases. Each spouse should have a set to spend each month for personal use.

4. Capitalize on uniqueness.

family counselingMost people marry someone who is different from themselves. That is what attracts us to the other person. That person has special and unique qualities that are appealing. Instead of viewing differences as negative, think of them as positive attributes of a relationship. One spouse’s weakness is the other spouse’s strength. One may rise and shine in the morning and can get breakfast cooked, lunches packed and kids off to school easily. The other spouse who may be more alert at night can focus on homework, dinner and bedtime rituals. Use variation to enhance the relationship. Know strengths and weaknesses. Think of each other as complements of one another, balancing the relationship with each other’s strengths. You need each other to function as an effective married couple. Laugh at differences and quirks rather than grumble about them.

5. Honor the commitment to marriage.

Commitment sustains the relationship when feelings of love are weak. That is why marriage vows say “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness, in health, until death do us part.” Life changes over time and circumstances and so do people. Learn to grow together as you mature and situations change. Stay committed to the family unit. Children need and deserve the security and love of both parents in the home. Think of marriage as a long-term investment in which you contribute and anticipate rewards from the relationship in the future. Statistics reveal that re-marriages after divorce have a lower rate of success than first marriages. Stick with the relationship and make it work.

Marriage is a rewarding relationship.

Like anything else in life worthwhile, it takes commitment and work to be appreciated and nourished. When focused on meeting each other’s needs, one will find fulfillment in marriage. How do you rate your marriage? Try these tips for a few months and watch the ratings increase.

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6 Steps to a More Successful Disability Hearing Outcome

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in social security disability

There are many factors involved in obtaining a favorable outcome to your disability claim, some within your control and some out of your control. Here are a few recommendations that may increase your chances of success when you attend a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge.

Some people wait more than a year to receive their day in court and to be scheduled for a Social Security Disability hearing. While two-thirds of appeals are won at the hearing stage of the disability claim process, you need to make sure you do everything you can to help turn the tables in your favor.

If you are going through the disability appeals process and want to ensure the best chances of winning your appeal, make sure that you take the following advice into consideration when you arrive at the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review.

1. Hire a Qualified Disability Lawyer or Advocate

First and foremost, make sure you have a qualified attorney for social security disability representing you at the hearing stage of your appeal. While the SSA does allow you to represent yourself, it’s not in your best interest to do so.

Statistics show that applicants who have legal representation at a disability hearing are more likely to be awarded benefits than those who do not. Your lawyer can help prepare you for your hearing and will ensure that your case is presented properly before the Administrative Law Judge.

2. Do Whatever It Takes to Get There

You need to do everything within your power to show up for your disability hearing, and make sure you show up on time. While you can, in some cases, postpone your disability hearing if you have a very good reason, you should do everything you can to make it to your hearing on the scheduled day.

If you don’t show up at all and do not have a good reason for your failure to appear, you may lose your chance of reversing the SSA’s decision to deny your disability benefits.

3. Understand That Appearances Matter

You don’t have to show up to your disability hearing attired in the finest Gucci suit, but you do have to appear clean and well-groomed. If you show up in torn jeans and a dirty old t-shirt, the Administrative Law Judge isn’t going to appreciate it and may think it shows a lack of respect for the court that is hearing your case.

In addition to your physical appearance, you will need to show proper respect to the ALJ who is reviewing your appeal. When addressing the judge, do so civilly. There is never any reason to become verbally abusive or rude when speaking at your hearing and doing so may result in a denial of your appeal.

4. Be Familiar with Your Case and Your Medical Records

When working with a disability attorney, many applicants make the mistake of assuming that they do not need to stay abreast of the information included in their disability claim or fail to review the records that have been provided to the SSA. Remember, your lawyer is there to represent the legal aspects of your claim. You are the one who knows the most about your condition and how it pertains to your inability to work. You need to know what medical evidence is being provided to the Administrative Law Judge who will be hearing your case so that you can make sure nothing is accidentally left out of your disability application file.

5. Keep in Contact with Your Lawyer

Chances are that your attorney is handling quite a few Social Security Disability cases. Make sure yours does not fall through the cracks. Stay in contact with your attorney and make sure that he or she has everything needed to represent you properly at your hearing.

The last thing you want to do is show up at your hearing, only to find out that you have not provided your attorney with crucial information or documentation that may be necessary to prove your disability claim.

6. Do Not Minimize the Effects of Your Disability

Pride has no place in the courtroom, and especially not during your disability hearing. While you should never over-exaggerate your disability, you should not downplay it either. Be very specific about how your disability prevents you from performing work-related activities.

The people in the courtroom are not there to judge you. The purpose of the hearing is to determine whether or not you can work due to the disability from which you are suffering. If you try to downplay the severity of your condition, you may actually cause yourself to lose your disability case.

A vocational expert may also provide testify to offer insight regarding your transferability of skills.Remember, it is not uncommon for an applicant to wait as long as two years to receive their day in court. Your chances of being awarded disability benefits are highest during the hearing stage of the appeal process.

Make sure you follow the above recommendations in order to increase your chances of a favorable hearing outcome.

8 Ways To Keep Seniors Safe In Their Homes

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in senior care
8 ways to keep Seniors Safe In Their Homes

Home is where the heart is. Unfortunately for seniors, it’s also where most major accidents occur. In this guide, our senior care experts discuss some of the inherent difficulties that come with senior living and provide suggestions for 8 ways to improve senior safety in the home. At guide’s end, we also provide resources on our very own senior living communities — excellent choices for San Diego seniors in need of extra care, comfort, and wanting a safe place to live.

1. Invest in Proper Apparel, Footwear, and Other Assistive Accessories

proper-apparelNo matter where you are, the last line of defense between you and accident or injury is your own body. Investing in the right clothing, footwear, and assistive gear (when necessary) can help you keep your body safe in the home and elsewhere. For seniors with aging bodies and health concerns, this is especially important. Wearing clothing that keeps the body comfortable and adequately warmed can help prevent illness like pneumonia, which can be devastating for seniors. Wearing properly-fitting shoes without heels can help prevent falls and keep the feet from developing bunions, hammertoes, and arthritis. Likewise, investing home-friendly, properly-measured walking aids can help prevent falls and other accidents in the home.

2. Use Ample Lighting

Poor lighting is one of the leading causes of accident and injury in the home. Low visibility can lead to trips, falls, and a host of other unforeseen collisions that can easily be prevented by ample lighting. For seniors, many of whom struggle with diminishing eyesight or sensitive eyes, proper lighting is especially important. When it comes to home lighting for seniors, “proper” doesn’t necessarily mean bright. Overly-bright lights can lead to visibility issues and eye irritation for seniors, making them nearly as bad as inadequately low lights on the other end of the spectrum. For ideal home illumination, we recommend using only non-glare 100 watt or greater incandescent bulbs (or their fluorescent equivalents). To ensure that seniors always have light when they need it, we also recommend retrofitting easily-reachable light switches at the entrances to every room and the top and bottom of all staircases where needed.

3. Take Care of Trip Hazards

For seniors, many falls and accidents in the home occur due to the interference of everyday objects. While not every obstacle in your home can realistically be removed, there are several common trip hazards that can be partially dealt with or done away with altogether. These include:

  • Scatter rugs. The corners and edges of these rugs are major trip hazards. Try tacking them down as much as possible — though the best solution is to remove the rugs altogether.
  • Electrical cords. The electrical cords connected to appliances double as trip wires. Remove them from highly-trafficked areas by tucking them behind furniture or by relocating your appliances altogether.
  • General clutter. Boxes, bins, hobby objects, shoes, clothing, and a host of other items can become trip hazards if not properly stored. The key is to keep them off the floor as much as possible. Utilize closets and shelves to keep clutter away from your feet and stay safe in your home.

4. Stop Slips at the Source

Next to trips, slips are one of the tops causes of accidents for seniors in their own homes. What’s the difference between trips and slips? You trip when your feet collide with another object. You slip when something underneath your feet causes you to lose balance. The main culprits behind slips include spills and slick floors. For seniors, the list of slip culprits is more numerous than it is for younger adults. This is because many seniors struggle with balance — thus, even the slightest minimization of friction can lead to major falls. To prevent accidents due to slips in the home, you’ll want to start by cleaning up any spills until your floors are spotless. Even the smallest water, oil, or other liquid spill can lead to a slip-and-fall. Speaking of spotless: clean floors are good, but overly-waxed or polished floors can be too slippery for seniors. Avoid using slippery wax or finishes on your floors. In the bathroom, it’s a good idea to skid-proof the tub and make sure your bath mat has a non-slip bottom.

5. Follow Bathroom Best-Practices

With water, smooth fixtures, and a number of other potential hazards, the bathroom presents perhaps the biggest accident risk for seniors out of all rooms in the home. Take the following steps to stay safe in your bathroom:

  • To help with visibility, leave a light on in your bathroom at night or opt for plug-in night lights.
  • Always use recommended bath aids. Be sure that they are securely installed on the walls of the bath/shower stall and on the sides of the toilet.
  • Skid-proof your tub and invest in a bath mat with a non-skid bottom. Alternatively, add non-slip stick-and-peel applications to the bottom of the tub.
  • To avoid scalds, turn your water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit or a cooler temperature.
  • Mark your cold and hot faucets clearly.
  • Use door locks that can be opened from both sides.
  • If possible, bathe only when help is available.

6. Keep Your Kitchen Under Control

Bathrooms aside, kitchens are one of the most common zones for accidents in the home. By nature, kitchens contain a number of potential hazards — including large appliances, sharp and/or heavy objects, slick surfaces, and more — all of that can compromise the safety of those who use them (especially seniors). Follow these steps to stay safe in your kitchen:

  • Keep your floors clean and free of clutter.
  • Adequately illuminate all work areas.
  • Clearly mark “on” and “off” positions on appliances.
  • Store knives and other sharp object in a rack.
  • Use a hot water kettle with an automatic shut-off.
  • Store heavy objects at waist level.
  • Keep hazardous items separate from food.
  • Avoid wearing long, loose clothing when cooking.
  • Make sure all food is rotated regularly, and routinely check expiration dates.

7: Mind Your Medication

The majority of seniors take at least one form of medication to deal with an ailment, injury, or chronic condition. Practicing drug safety and taking medications in the proper dosages at the right times is instrumental in maintaining medical care and well-being, both in the home and elsewhere. To ensure that you are taking your medication the right way, it’s a good idea to review your medicines frequently with your doctor or pharmacist. In your home, you’ll want to clearly label all medications you are currently taking and throw away any expired or defunct medications. Always read your medication labels in good light to ensure that you are taking the right medicine and taking the correct dose — and never borrow prescription drugs from others.

8. Consider Assisted Living

While following the above recommendations can significantly improve safety in the home, accidents can still happen. Worse, for many seniors — especially those living alone — following the above steps can prove to be difficult. Decreased physical capabilities, the onset of memory-related issues, and a host of other factors can make staying safe or in home care a challenge for many seniors. In these cases, making the move to assisted living is often the best choice.

At assisted living communities, seniors live in residences specially designed to meet their needs. Hazards are minimized as much as possible, and comfort is emphasized. Assisted living communities are also staffed with care professionals who help seniors with daily activities and work to maintain a safe and enjoyable living environment at all hours of the day. Assisted living communities give seniors a level of care and attention that often can’t be achieved in the home. In many cases, assisted living is the safest choice for seniors.

The Benefits Of Cooking When Living With Dementia

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in Dementia Care
dementia assisted living

Cooking and baking have been shown to be great activities for people in assisted living; it allows them to explore the senses, provides a creative outlet, helps to spark memories, and encourages conversation. Explore the benefits of cooking for those living with dementia:

1. It Engages the Senses

Cooking provides an excellent activity for sensory stimulation exploring touch, sight, smell, sound, and taste. For someone living with dementia, sensory activities provide platforms for reminiscence, socialization, and help to improve mood. Engaging the sense of smell as part of a cooking activity can be a great way to reduce agitation and aid with relaxation, as familiar scents incite feelings of comfort and evoke memories.

dementia-care-and-cookingTry asking your loved one what their favorite meal was as a child and re-create it together. Involving your loved one in cooking processes, such as kneading dough and using cooking utensils, are great ways to engage their sense of touch. Doing these can help to improve hand-eye coordination while providing light physical exercise.

2. Creates Reminiscence

Cooking is a familiar activity for many and taking part in activities in the kitchen can help trigger positive memories for someone living with dementia. Meals are often cooked within a family home shared with loved ones, therefore creating a familiar meal, which has a familiar smell or taste, can help stir those memories.

If your loved one used to bake, why not try making biscuits together. Select a simple recipe that involves kneading. Baking biscuits is known to provide a homely familiar smell which may also help spark memories and conversations of when your loved one used to bake. The smell of food cooking has proved to be a powerful reminiscence tool. Familiar scents can help to take someone back in time, triggering memories and eliciting feelings of positivity.

3. Provides Socialization

Living with dementia can sometimes cause someone to withdraw and become less forthcoming as they may be experiencing memory or communication difficulties. Taking part in familiar activities such as cooking or baking is a great way to increase social interaction by working together.
Socializing through activities can have a profound impact on someone’s mood. Simply taking part in something together or having conversations surrounding the activity can significantly reduce loneliness and help improve your loved one’s mood.

4. Increases Appetite

Many people living with dementia can experience a loss of appetite and therefore lose a connection with food. By introducing cooking as an activity, the enjoyment and social interaction can provide a useful tool for increasing appetite. Try to create food that looks or smells appealing; the aroma can help stimulate appetite.

5. Provides Relaxation

dementia assisted livingCooking has many stress-relieving benefits and can help those living with dementia relax. Repetition in baking and activities such as kneading dough have been shown to be an effective way to reduce agitation and create a calming environment.

With a multitude of benefits, cooking and baking are brilliant ways to help those living with dementia reminisce and create connections with both people and food. Try introducing small cooking activities in a safe way with your loved one to explore the benefits.

Dementia Statistics

A study published in the January 2010 issue of the journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia, finds that symptoms of cognitive decline can be experienced some 20 years before an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. According to the long term study led by Dr. Barry Reisberg director of The Fisher Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Resources Program at NYU Langone Medical Center, healthy older adults with subjective memory loss are 4.5 times more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment and dementia.

In 2012, Alzheimer’s Disease was the third leading cause of death in San Diego County and an estimated 60,000 San Diegans are currently living with this disease or another form of dementia (per the San Diego Health & Human Services Department).

Learn more about San Diego Dementia Statistics