Resolving Family Caregiver Conflict

In the Fall issue of the Family Caregiver News Magazine: our very own Meaghan Welfare on “Resolving Family Caregiver Conflict”

family caregiver fall

Click here to download and read this article.





Calling all Champions: Delete!

by Alexandra Fortier, MSS, RSW

“Calling all champions” is a new column this Fall, whose aim is to stimulate conversations, get “shelved” projects started and to make your ideas happen. Basically, the intent is to get your fire started and to get your inner champion moving!  This is the second article in the “Calling all Champions” series.


My kids and I have a weird thing where they ask me: “Who’s the best mom in the world?”… and they always hope that I’ll answer: “It’s me”. But I can’t… not because I don’t feel like I’m a good mom, but because I truly believe that my mother is the best mother in the world! Let me explain why I feel like this.

Among many qualities my mom has  - she doesn’t sweat the small stuff; she loves unconditionally; she’s the most flexible person there is… and that’s just to name a few, she taught me one of the most important life skills I have to date, and she didn’t even mean to do it.

When I was around 14 years old, I was very self-deprecating. I would constantly say things like: “I know, I’m irrelevant”. Until one day, my mom very calmly told me to not just to stop talking about myself in that way, she told me to erase it! At first, I didn’t quite get it, but every time I would say something negative about myself, there she was, saying: “Say DELETE”. To humour her, I would say, “delete” out loud (with a bit of an eye roll for good measure). Her idea behind this was, if you say something about yourself enough, you’ll end up believing it. Funny thing is that after a while, I didn’t need my mom to remind me to “delete”. I would catch myself saying negative things about myself and would instantly say, “delete”. It got to a point where I was even erasing negative thoughts… I was now mentally saying, “delete”.

Why is this important you might ask? Well it’s quite simple – my mom’s intuition was right. If you register that you are a certain way, it will become the perception that you have of yourself, and that’s how you’ll act. You will then be the number one person who will be limiting you to achieve your dreams.

Imagine this if you will: In your brain, you have a tape recorder (I know, very vintage) and it’s highly sensitive to negative talk (your own or others). Once the tape is full, your brain will replay it over and over again. You then become the #1 person that gives you negative talk (even if the initial message came from someone else). But what’s great about vintage technology is that you can press stop on the tape and re-record a new message on it.

So my challenge to you this month is to listen to what your tape is telling you: Is it positive? Great! Pass the positivity around! Is it negative? Great! You’ve achieved the first step already, recognizing what, when and how many times you are speaking negatively about yourself. Now is the time to press the stop button. How? Say, “delete”. Once it’s become second nature, consider the situation and try to replace your negative thought with a realistic one. For example, you overcooked your dinner and you instantly say something depreciative of yourself – DELETE – Now re-record something realistic like, WOW I must be distracted to have overcooked the pasta. By doing so, you’re creating a new mixed tape!

What’s great about “delete” is that it’s a life skill – it’s surprising to see how it can be used everyday. I still use it for myself, it keeps me in check, and I’ve now passed this knowledge along to my kids.

So, what do you think? Are you ready to hit “Delete”?


The 1% Change Challenge

by Alexandra Fortier, MSS, RSW

“Calling all champions” is a new column that has the very transparent and direct objective to stimulate conversations, get “shelved” projects started and to make your ideas happen. Basically, the intent is to get your fire started and to get your inner champion moving! The column will be presented every month with various themes. I hope to help stimulate you and bring out your healthy competitive side to make things happen!

folded laundry

Change can be a scary thing. Depending on the situation, it can create anxious feelings of “What will happen?”, “Will I know anyone”, “What if’”… Which is why most people prefer status quo. The “Let’s not change anything; let’s keep our old habits” attitude.

However, the reality is, not only is change good, but it’s unavoidable. A great example of positive change is that of reading a book. Let me explain. If I were to pick up a book at the library and stare at the cover for 3 weeks, that would be the equivalent of “the no change” attitude. But, as soon as I turn a page, that is change. Even if you are one of those readers that read the end part first to avoid surprises, it’s still a “change” attitude.

Granted, reading is a habit that most of us don’t consider a change, because it’s already a developed habit. What is the most difficult thing to do is change something that is opposite or different to what you are currently doing. I can name many, namely changing your: sleeping habits, eating habits, exercise habits, spending habits, and on, and on, and on.

When you think of it that way, it becomes easily overwhelming and will bring you back to the “let’s keep our old habits” attitude.

Which brings me to the 1% change. This isn’t a new concept. It’s merely thinking of what you wish to change or achieve, then taking small, non-threatening, steps to creating that change and thus, changing your habits.

I’ll give you an example: 4 years ago, I listed out what my day looked like (responsibilities, chores, work, family…) and I decided on ONE thing that bugged me most, then I applied the 1% change concept. Here’s what I did.

I chose folding laundry… it’s not that it’s difficult, it’s just… I HATE it. Hum… what could I do? That’s when I came up with a win-win situation idea! I have 2 kids. At the time, they were 8 and 5. Every Saturday morning they watch cartoons… AND when we go out, they would always ask me to buy them something… So I put them to work. While they watch their cartoons, they “fold” the laundry. And because they do this small chore, I give them $5 allowance per week.

Here is the win-win: I no longer fold laundry. I developed a healthy “let it go” attitude (because the folding technics of a 5 year old is cringe worthy-but I didn’t redo their work… now they are experts!). They are happy because they get a little spending money every week. And the bonus that I didn’t think about is now they learned about the value of money. They save up for larger items and they don’t bug me in the store anymore (because if they ask, can I have this, I reply: “Sure, do you have enough money?” Which makes them think twice about the said item, and most often than not, they choose to not purchase the article in question).

The 1% Change Challenge – What will you do this week?

So here is your challenge: think of what you would like to change, then take a small step towards achieving this.

Post your ideas and achievements to inspire others to do the same!


Thank a helping professional today

“Listening can be an act of social justice” beautiful, inspiring, a call to action


How long will you live? The link between Poverty and Health

Does it make sense to prescribe diaper cream to a baby with a chronic rash, when the real cause of the problem is that his mother can’t afford to buy diapers and change him regularly?

This is a fascinating show on the connection between poverty, health and life expectancy on CBC’s “Project Money”.  It features Dr Gary Bloch, a family doctor with St. Michael’s  Hospital in Toronto who is also the chair of the Ontario College of Family Physicians’ Committee on Poverty and Health.

Click here for the podcast

Dr Bloch is also the author of a March 20, 2013 Globe and Mail article entitled: “As a doctor, here’s why I’m prescribing tax returns. Seriously”

In this piece, Dr Bloch writes: “The link between health and income is solid and consistent – almost every major health condition, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and mental illness, occurs more often and has worse outcomes among people who live at lower income. As people improve their income, their health improves. It follows that improving my patients’ income should improve their health.”

This is an important discussion that we all need to be part of. It also suggests that front line workers, physicians, nurses, social workers etc. should always ask about a patient’s financial situation and become more aware of the resources available in the community.

Dr Bloch also believes in advocating for larger scale societal changes: ”As doctors we need to, and we can, prescribe income while advocating for real, effective policies to combat poverty.”

How refreshing and inspiring!

Book Review: Bringing it Home


Tilda Shalof is a Toronto-based ICU nurse who combines critical care nursing with a very successful writing career. Shalof has authored more than five books, including the best-seller A Nurse’s Story.  All of her books explore an aspect of nursing, from critical care to camp nursing to being a cardiac patient herself. I have often found myself devouring her latest work in a single sitting as her writing is conversational and very engaging.

In her most recent work, Bringing it Home – A Nurse discovers health care beyond the hospital, Shalof was commissioned by the Victoria Order of Nurses (VON) to take a tour of some of the home care services they provide across the country. This fascinating and sometimes poignant road diary left me in awe of these invisible and unsung nurses who work with the most neglected members of society. Shalof herself begins the book by candidly confessing that at first, she lacked enthusiasm for this assignment and had to be convinced to take it on. I mean, let’s be honest, for an ICU nurse, home care nursing is not high up on the list of sexiest jobs! But over time, Shalof’s eyes are opened and she concludes her road trip with a new appreciation for the crucial role these nurses play in supporting all of us, at one point in our lives.

Shalof contrast what she sees daily in hospitals to what she witnessed in home care:

There are so many things that still make no sense to me in the hospital. like the waste we create and the excessive use of technology; the restricted visiting hours and the no-pet policy. The fact that patients aren’t invited to participate in team rounds about their own care. Why aren’t people allowed – no, encouraged, to read their own charts? [...] Why are there nurses and doctors who don’t talk kindly – or at times even courteously – to patients, or who can’t find it in themselves to sit down and simply listen to what the patient has to say? [...] Why is there so much waiting in hospitals, and if you do have to wait, why can’t someone come out and tell you why and how much longer you’ll still have to wait, and maybe even do it with a smile? [...] in all of my travels outside the hospital, in all of my visits to homes, clinics, community centres, I saw patient care that was governed by logic, fairness and common sense, administered with kindness and goodwill – not to mention fiscal responsibility and restraint. More please.

This book presents a stark account of the realities of ageing for some many patients who do not have money, or family to care for them. It also highlights a whole host of skills and duties that most of us would not associate with VON: street outreach, pregnancy support, drug and alcohol support and many other invisible acts of kindness and assistance.

Kudos to Tilda Shalof for showing us the beautiful side of these talented, compassionate nurses.


Fall 2014 Workshop for Managers: Guide to Stress, Burnout and Trauma in the Workplace

Growing Volume of Work…More Complex Cases…

Shrinking Budgets…Overwhelmed and Stressed-Out Staff…

What can you do, as a manager?

overworked businessman

Develop strategies to address STRESS and TRAUMA in your workforce

Join us for 2 days of hands-on, concrete tools for Managers working in High Stress, Trauma-Exposed settings 

An intensive 2-day program with Dr Patricia Fisher, R.Psych., L.Psych. Canada’s leading expert in trauma-exposed environments.

September 23-24, 2014

9:00am-4:30pm (registration 8:30am)

Royal Botanical Gardens, 680 Plains Road West, Burlington, Ontario.

**Spaces limited to 25 participants – register early**

Click here for more information


Click here to download Flyer


Brought to you by Compassion Fatigue Solutions

Summertime reads, recipe and an invitation to stay in touch


Here’s a quick post for you today with three items: new reads, a recipe and an invitation…

It’s finally summer!  This is hopefully a time for you to slow down a bit, enjoy the beautiful weather, have a picnic, maybe go to a local market or outdoor music festival on your day off.

June was a very busy time for me, starting with the wonderful Care4You conference (photos will be posted next week!), a work trip the Florida Panhandle,  and a trek to England to visit family and friends.

Needless to say that by July 1st, I felt the need for a little r&r after all of this excitement.

Whenever I finish a hectic time and need to refuel, I try to go back to the basics: get more sleep, eat more greens and less carbs, ditch the caffeine and get more exercise. Those simple things help keep me grounded, and when I go too long without them I start feeling tired, unwell and irritable. So I went back to read my favourite healthy eating blogs and spent a bit more time in the kitchen juicing and making homemade meals. I came across this weird and wonderful gluten-free bread recipe that I will share with you below. There are also some newly published compassion fatigue articles to recommend, for your time in the hammock!

1) New Reads on Compassion Fatigue

I just had two new articles published and a book chapter which I co-wrote with my colleague Leslie McLean from Capital Health Cancer Care, in Halifax.

For Family Caregivers: When the Juggling Act Isn’t Working: 5 Key Strategies to Reduce Compassion Fatigue and Burnout. Click here

For nurses: Occupational Hazards: Compassion Fatigue, Vicarious Trauma and Burnout. Click here.

New Book Chapter: Managing Compassion Fatigue, Burnout and Moral Distress in Person and Family Centered Care Click here


2) Healthy Eating, Cool Gluten-Free Bread Recipe

If you read this blog regularly, you’ll know that I am a big fan of healthy eating and enjoy reading food blogs for pleasure. My two current favourites are Choosing Raw by Gena Hamshaw, a New York nutritionist, and My New Roots, a beautiful whole food blog by Sarah B. a Canadian who now lives in Denmark but recently spent 6 weeks in Bali (yes, I know, tough). What I like about these bloggers is that they propose easy, fresh recipes without dogma.

Sarah B. posted a crazy-sounding gluten-free bread recipe last year, called “The Life Changing Loaf of Bread” which may seem like a rather bold statement. I was intrigued, but did not have time to gather the ingredients to try it out until yesterday. Well, what a success! This produces a very dense, toastable seed bread. Not suitable for sandwiches but perfect for toasting. Fantastic! Click here for a the link to the recipe.

3)  Join the anti-spam brigade, and make sure you stay on our mailing list!

Finally, an important note to any of you on my mailing list. If you are a Canadian reader, you will likely have been deluged by emails lately from all sorts of businesses asking you to confirm that you wish to continue receiving their emails. A new anti-spam legislation became effective july 1st, 2014 and if you do not confirm your desire to receive emails from us, we will have to remove you to comply with the regulation. So please take a minute to click on the “confirm” button in the email we sent you recently.  Thanks!

Now, I’m going to go watch some tennis and World cup soccer and drink some romaine, cucumber fennel juice. (It sounds weird but it tastes great.)

Here’s wishing you a lovely summer!

New Book Chapter – Managing Compassion Fatigue, Burnout and Moral Distress

Person and Family Centered Care

Hot off the press! Leslie McLean and I have a chapter in the newly released book Person and Family Centered Care by University of Pennsylvania’s Dr Jane Barnsteiner and colleagues. Here are some comments from reviewers:

Written by top thought leaders in nursing today, Person and Family-Centered Care offers a new approach that emphasizes the person as partner, embraces the family, and encompasses all care delivery locations. At the forefront of this movement are authors Jane Barnsteiner, Joanne Disch, and Mary K. Walton, who present a surprisingly practical clinical reference covering a vast array of patient-care scenarios, together with effective strategies for achieving optimal outcomes. This ground breaking text is a complete resource that ensures the needs of patients, families, and caregivers are met. Published by Sigma Theta Tau International.


Full reference: Mathieu, F., & McLean, L., (2014) Managing Compassion Fatigue, Moral Distress and Burnout in a context of patient-centered care in Walton, M., Barnsteiner, J., & Disch, J. (eds) Patient/Family Centered Care – Patient and Care Provider Considerations, Sigma Theta Tau International.

Un risque du métier: l’usure de compassion chez les infirmières


Auteur: Françoise Mathieu

Cliquez ici pour télécharger cet article, publié dans la revue “Infirmière Canadienne” en Juin 2014.