Looking after our loved ones as they get older can be both rewarding and complex.

Whether you are caring for them in their own home or they are living in sheltered accommodation or other types of dedicated domestic provision, there are plenty of aspects to managing their care.  

If you are trying to ensure your relative is well cared for, here is a checklist to help you.

How to provide effective care for an elderly family member

Accommodation

Before you can look into any of the financial implications of caring for your loved on, it’s worth looking into the different housing options that are available. Take some time to discuss with your relative what they want from their accommodation. Do they want to stay at home or are they at a stage where assisted living could benefit them?  Where they choose to live can impact on their care, so this is a major consideration.

If they want to stay at home, it may be necessary to make some adaptations to aid with getting around more easily. Perhaps adding a handrail in the bathroom or adding some dedicated tech could be beneficial. It may be that you just need to make some simple updates to make it more comfortable for them.

If, on the other hand, it’s time to think about moving into a place where your family member can receive more support from specialists, there are several options available.

This could be a case of them moving in with you, moving into sheltered accommodation, or opting for assisted living or residential care. Take the time to work out what’s best for them and consider everything carefully, from the levels of care they need to how much alternative accommodation will cost.

 

Financial Affairs

If you need to look after someone, you will likely have to undertake their financial affairs, especially if they have dementia, are becoming confused, or have physical disabilities. In this case, it’s important to understand what may be required of you, as well as having a discussion with your loved one to help them to understand why they may need some help managing their money.

One of the most significant steps you can take to help them financially is to become their Power of Attorney. This means that you can apply to be granted legal permission to oversee their finances, allowing you to manage their money day to day.

 

Transport

Being able to get out of the house can be crucial for a person’s well-being. By having carefully adapted transport to suit different needs, you can help your relative continue to be active. For example, if you have a car that can accommodate a wheelchair easily, you could potentially be opening up doors for them.

Similarly, care homes and other dedicated provision for the care of the elderly that provides transport that means residents can spend some time away from the care home can be the perfect way to keep your relative active and engaged. Look out for care homes that offer dedicated minibuses, such as those from Allied Fleet.

 

However you choose to care for your loved one, you’ll find that there are plenty of options available to help you.

 

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post

In the dark winter months I think we all have a bit of a natural inclination to want to hibernate.

To come home at the end of the day, shut the curtains and curl up in bed under piles of blankets.

This can be hard though, if your bedroom isn’t quite the relaxing haven you’d like it to be.  There are various things you can do though to create a bedroom to see you though the winter months.

Here are 5 ways to make your bedroom a peaceful, relaxing room to retreat to at the end of the day.

5 ways to make your bedroom a relaxing haven

 

1. De-clutter and deep clean

This is the biggest issue for me and my husband at the moment, our bedroom is in dire need of a clear out and a deep clean.

We have a lot of stuff in our room that should really be kept elsewhere, including the airer full of washing that drives me mad day after day.  Ideally bedrooms should be kept as clear as possible, so they are calm and relaxing rooms to be in.

So work your way around the room and clear out as much as you can.

Throw away any obvious rubbish.  Sort through your wardrobe and drawers and donate any clothes that you never actually wear.  Move things that shouldn’t really be in the bedroom to a more appropriate place in the house.

Once you’ve decluttered, give the room a good, thorough clean.  Dust, vacuum (including under the bed), clean the windows, polish any mirrors.  And finally make your bed to really make the room look clean and inviting.

 

2. Use calming colours

If you want your bedroom to be a calm and peaceful space, then you need to use calm and peaceful colours when you decorate.

The best colour to use to help you sleep is blue, as it’s so calming.  This could be a light, pale blue or a deep, dark almost grey blue.

If blue’s not your thing, then green is another great choice.

You don’t have to go full on with colour, if you’re not sure about having blue or green on the walls.  You can keep the walls a neutral cream and then bring colour in with your bedding, cushions, throws and rugs.

To keep things interesting think about using some patterns in your soft furnishings, rather than having everything as just blocks of colour.

 

3. Make it smell nice

First of all, fling the windows open on a regular basis.

When you get up in the morning, don’t make your bed straight away.  Fold the covers back to let the bed air, and open the window for 5 minutes to get some fresh air in.

To create a really relaxing environment you can then add a bit of extra scent to the bedroom.

Lavender is a classic scent for promoting sleep and helping us feel calm and relaxed.

You could get a lavender reed diffuser or some scented candles, or try some lavender oil in a diffuser.

 

4. Leave work downstairs

It can be really tempting to take a laptop or notebook up to bed with you to squeeze in some last bits of work or reply to some emails before you go to sleep.  The thing with this though, is that we then start to associate the bedroom with work, rather than as a place to switch off and relax.

So as much as possible try to leave work, and work related activities, out of the bedroom.

The same goes for exercise too.  If at all possible keep your exercise equipment in another room and do your home workouts in the living room, not the bedroom.

 

5.  Choose furniture that you love

It’s hard to relax in a room full of furniture that you don’t really like.

So take some time to pick out bits of bedroom furniture that you really love, whether it’s a matching set or a collection of pieces that you pick up second-hand.  If you’re not in a position to buy completely new furniture then see what you can do to up-cycle what you already have so that you love it.

 

Hopefully by working through these 5 steps you can create a calm, relaxing haven to retreat to, perfect for a spot of hibernating during the winter months.

 

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, but our bank balances don’t always agree.  So many of us overspend at Christmas, even if we began with the best intentions or starting with a budget and sticking to it.  Sometimes, we just put too much pressure on ourselves and our finances are usually hurt the most.

So, with the New Year here, why not make it a New Year’s resolution, or a general life goal, to save as much money as you can and be a little bit more frugal and wiser with your spending. Unsure of where to start? Don’t worry – here you’ll find some helpful tips and straightforward advice. Good luck!

4 ways to save money in the new year

 

The little things

It’s not often that we treat ourselves to big, high end items. TVs, large white goods and even things like car payments are big things we build up to and rarely purchase as a flippant, off the cuff gesture. So, in order to save, try looking at the little things more. From things like luxury loo roll to ink cartridges – why pay a premium when you can get the same, if not better results from a different brand? You can pick up an hp 301xl black remanufactured high capacity ink cartridge for a considerably less price than an original cartridge but it does the same job. Cleaning products, even medicines available in your local supermarket – many have the same ingredients just different packaging.

 

Make it a challenge

We all want to save money, but more often than not we find something better to spend our money on. So, how about making it a challenge instead? Whether it’s having £500 saved by June, or even the 1p a day saving challenge, the beauty of challenging yourself means that you can start this at any point in the year and still reap the benefits.

 

Save for treats

Yes you want to save money, but you work hard so there’s always room to treat yourself too. The trick is not to splurge everything at once. If you book your break/holiday/festival several months in advance then you’re likely to get a cheaper deal then if you leave it to the last minute. You’ll also have the option of paying it off in small, monthly instalments so you can work it into your monthly budget a lot easier. Put a little more aside at the same time if you can and you’ll even have plenty of spending money to enjoy while you’re away.

 

Have a clear out

Old gifts you never opened or used, old tops, dresses, handbags, shoes and accessories, that old smart phone that’s just sat in the drawer upstairs, if you don’t wear it or use it then try and sell it and save the money. There are lots of apps that can help you sell in your local area as well as Facebook and other social media platforms, websites, eBay and even friends and family. Anything you can’t get rid of, give to charity.

 

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post

So here we are.

A new week.  A brand new year.

Back to the normality of the school routine after a lovely fortnight of no real routine at all.

We’ve had such a nice break over Christmas and New Year, slowing the pace of life right down and not really doing that much at all.  Not entirely by choice to be fair; I’ve had a throat infection since New Year’s eve and we’ve all been full of cold too.  So quiet days have definitely been in order.

At the weekend though we did venture out to the park to meet some friends and get a blast of fresh air.

Living Arrows

 

We have spent a lot of time in this park over the last 7 and a bit years, and I love that the children still enjoying going there for a play and a run around.

We did the usual playground area first, then walked around to the lake and the kiosk to feed the ducks.

I tend to get caught in the middle when we do this, because Rhys now desperately wants to feed the pigeons, and to try and get them to gather round him.  While Nerys is terrified of the pigeons, and screams when they come near her and just wants me to pick her up to keep her safe from them.

So I’m stuck with two children wanting very different things at the same time and it can be hard to keep them both happy.  I think we just about managed it this time though, and Rhys got to play with the birds while I held Nerys so she could throw the seeds into the water for the ducks.

We’ll just gloss over the fact that she apparently had dog mess on her shoes, which ended up all over my jeans when I picked her up!  I won’t go into how angry it makes me when people don’t clean up after their dogs, it’s something I could rant about for hours if I got started!

Dirty jeans aside though, it was great to get out after a few days of feeling unwell and staying in the warm at home.

I think I’ll feel quite sad when we reach a point when the children don’t want to go the park any more, it really will feel like the end of an era.

 

Living Arrows

Motoring is a large and very expensive part of life for many people.

This is why it is important that all motorists are aware of the different types of cover that they can have to protect themselves if they encounter any problems on the road. The two main types of cover and ones which people often get confused about are auto insurance and car warranties.

With this in mind, here is a look at the difference and how they can work together for complete protection.

Car insurance and warranties

 

Auto Insurance

Auto insurance is required by law and provides financial protection if there is damage sustained due to an accident on the roads or if the car is damaged by fire or stolen. There are various levels of car insurance to choose from and the amount that you pay each month will depend on a variety of factors. Sometimes it is impossible to stop damage from happening which is why this is so important to have (in addition to being a legal requirement).

 

Car Warranties

Car warranties, meanwhile, are an optional type of insurance policy that provides financial protection if your automobile breaks down due to an electrical or mechanical fault (not due to a collision). Vehicles can break down at any moment and the parts and labour can be expensive which is why having a warranty in place is so important.

 

New vehicles come with a manufacturer warranty where costs of repairs are met by the manufacturer and these usually last for 3 years or 60,000 miles.

After this, you could go without a warranty, but this is a risk which could leave you seriously out of pocket. It is for this reason why it might be worth finding an extended warranty from a specialist who can provide brand specific cover, such as a Vauxhall warranty.

All extended warranties are different, so you will want to find one with engine parts and labour, timing belts, turbocharger, cooling, fuel system, driveline and other components all covered. Additionally, some extended warranties will also have helpful add-ons such as the cost of a hire car covered.

 

These are the main differences between car insurance and vehicle warranties.

While it is only car insurance that is legally required in this country, a smart motorist will purchase an extended warranty once the manufacturer warranty has expired for complete protection on the roads. Automobiles are complex machines which can break down due to mechanical or electrical fault at any moment and this can be costly to repair.

An extended warranty fits around your car insurance to provide complete protection if you were to get into an accident or if the vehicle were to break down, providing peace of mind behind the wheel.

 

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post

Living where we do, close to the coast in Swansea, my husband and I both feel it’s really important for our children to learn to swim.

Rhys has been having lessons for a few years now and is a pretty confident swimmer these days.  Nerys has been learning properly for about 4 months and has come on so well in that short time.  I think they’ve both been helped by us spending a lot of time in the water last summer.

We visited the local pool lots and spent countless hours at the beach with the glorious weather we had.

Swimming as a family is something we all really enjoy these days, and there are so many benefits to it too.

Here are just 5 of the amazing benefits of swimming for the whole family:

5 amazing benefits of swimming for the whole family

 

1. Swimming is great exercise

Whether you get stuck into serious lengths at the pool or just splash around with your children, swimming is a great way for the whole family to get some exercise.

It’s a great full-body workout which exercises all the major muscle groups while also strengthening the heart, lungs and respiratory system.  The real beauty of it is that it’s an easy activity to get the family involved in, that doesn’t require lots of expensive equipment.

All you really need is swimwear and a local pool or beach to splash around in.

 

2. Swimming makes us all feel happier

When we go swimming the physical activity makes our bodies release wonderful, feel-good endorphins.

Endorphins make us feel happier and more positive.  They also act as natural painkillers, so any aches and pains feel better too.

Studies have found that swimming for just half an hour, a few times a week, can make us feel happier and less stressed.  It also reduces feelings of depression and anxiety.  No wonder my family felt so happy last summer when we were at the beach swimming several times a week!

 

3. It can boost self confidence and body image

Swimming really does work the whole body, which then burns fat and tones our muscles, helping us to feel fitter and stronger.  This then gives us a confidence boost and helps us feel better about ourselves.

For our children learning to swim can be great for self confidence.  Learning new skills in the water, and reaching milestones like being able swim a set distance unaided, really helps children learn what they’re capable of if they stick with something.

I also think that going to the pool as a family can be great for promoting a positive body image.

Putting on a swimming costume and showing your children that you’re proud of your body and what it can do can really help children to grow up with a good, positive body image.  You can get some really fun, colourful swimming costumes from TYR to stand out at the pool, rather than trying to hide in a plain black one.

 

4. Swimming boosts our brain health

Swimming doesn’t just make our bodies stronger and healthier, it can also boost our brain health too.

There was a study carried out that found that the simple act of just being in water boost the flow of blood to our brains.  This is beneficial to the whole family as a good, healthy flow of blood to the brain supplies it with oxygen, glucose and nutrients

Other studies have also found that cardiovascular activity, like swimming, causes oxygenated blood to be pumped more efficiently around our bodies.  This again boost the flow of blood to the brain.

 

5. It helps everyone sleep better

I’m all for anything that will help my family get a better night’s sleep.

Studies have shown that swimming can help us get just this.  One study in particular found that older adults with insomnia had an improvement in the amount and quality of sleep they got each night after starting regular aerobic exercise.

I know that my children always seem tired, in that good, healthy way, after spending time at the pool or swimming at the beach, which then helps them sleep more deeply at night.

 

Swimming really is such a great form of exercise, and can be a great fun activity for the whole family to enjoy.

How often do you take your children swimming?

 

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post

Ever since our holiday to Bluestone in May 2017 the children have been asking, on a regular basis, when we were going to go back.

We all had such an amazing time that I was just as keen as they were to go for another break there.  Having been to Bluestone in the summer before though, we really liked the idea of going in the winter to see how different an experience it would be.

So we were unbelievably excited when I had an email asking if we would like to go for a 4 night break in December, including a visit to the Kingdom of the Elves.  Quite a few of our friends have been to the Kingdom of the Elves over the last few years and have always raved about it.

If you’ve never been before though, you might not really know what I’m talking about.  So keep reading to find out all about our adventure to Elftopia.

Kingdom of the Elves at Bluestone Wales

 

The Kingdom of the Elves takes place in the adventure centre at Bluestone so it’s really easy to find.

As soon as we walked through the main door at the adventure centre we knew we were in the right place.  There were Christmas trees and piles of presents just inside the doors, perfect for a quick photo opportunity.

Adventure centre Bluestone Kingdom of the elves

 

Once we got into the reception area we were greeted straight away by a friendly elf asking if we were off to the Kingdom of the Elves.  He took our names, gave the children their special passports and told us where we needed to go to get started.

We made our way round and were led through with the rest of our group to the ticket master to get the children’s passports stamped.

Then we moved through to the first stage of the journey.

Another elf came along and filled us in on what we would be getting up to.  He told us that the Elf King had been turned into a nutcracker toy by the Mouse King, and we needed to take him back to Sugar Plum Land to break the curse and turn him back.

King nutcracker Bluestone Kingdom of the elves

The children were all given really lovely elf outfits to put on (and keep) and then they had little rosy cheeks painted on.

Well, lots of the other children in the group did this while Rhys and Nerys both got really shy and refused to get dressed up.  So I carried their outfits for them, hoping they might decide to wear them another time.

Honestly, we weren’t really sure how well the whole experience would go at this point as both the children seemed so unwilling to join in.  Luckily they warmed up relatively quickly and did get stuck in, and I was relieved to see some other children in the group didn’t put their elf outfits on either so we weren’t the only ones!

 

Once everyone was ready we were taken on to the train to head off to Elftopia.

 

The train journey to the Kingdom of the Elves was great fun and really well done.  The seats sort of vibrated slightly, in a way that made it feel like we were actually moving, and there was a big screen on the wall that looked like a window, showing us the landscape we were riding through.

I was sat on the end of a row of seats, right next to the conductor and felt like I was in the front row at a comedy club at times.  A dad-joke comedy club, in the best possible way.  I heard so many puns on that journey and they were all brilliant.

At one point the train started flying and we went through some clouds.  We went past cloud 9, and a few other funny ones that I can’t remember off the top of my head.  The one that did really tickle me though was Jean Cloud Van Damme.

 

By the end of the train journey Rhys and Nerys were feeling more relaxed and had started to enjoy themselves which was a big relief.

We got off the train and headed into Mother Ginger’s kitchen.

Mother Ginger told us that the children would need their energy to battle the mice in the next part of the journey, so they were given some gingerbread men to decorate and eat.

 

Mother Ginger was helped by Marshall Mallow and they were both brilliant and really engaging for the children.

Mother Ginger's kitchen Bluestone Kingdom of the elves (1)

 

Once the children had all finished with their gingerbread men the lights were changed to blue light for a bit which we all really enjoyed.

It was great fun to look around and realise how many different things were glowing, including all the paintings on the wall and the special passports.

Mother Ginger's kitchen black light Bluestone Kingdom of the elves

 

From Mother Ginger’s kitchen we made our way to a beautiful garden to meet the Sugar Plum Fairy.

It must take ages to put together the rooms in the Kingdom of the Elves, the attention to detail is brilliant and the creativity and artwork is amazing.

The Sugar Plum Fairy herself was just perfect.  She really looked the part and the way she spoke was soft and sweet and just right for a fairy.  She told us that this was the point where the children must battle the mouse army (the adults) to be able to save the King.

Nerys was a bit nervous about joining in, but Rhys jumped straight in to make sure the children won.  We had to rush around putting balls into a big watering can on the wall, and to be honest the adults didn’t stand a chance against the determined children!

Sugarplum fairy Bluestone Kingdom of the elves

 

The next challenge was a little mini golf game, where we were pitted against the children again to get as many balls in the hole as possible.

It was great fun, and I think every child and every adult did join in and give it a go which was lovely.

Sugarplum fairy competition Bluestone Kingdom of the elves

 

Once the competition was over and the mice had conceded defeat, we all went through to the final part of the kingdom.

The nutcracker ball.

I think I may have genuinely ‘oooohhed’ when I walked into this room.  It just looked so pretty, full of fairy lights and with stars hanging from the mirrored ceiling.

Snow ball Bluestone Kingdom of the elves

 

As we walked in we were greeted by the Elf Queen who thanked us for bringing the King back to her.

Then she placed the nutcracker in special room where he magically changed back into the Elf King.

Nerys in particular was amazed when he walked into the ball, and I loved seeing how solid her believe in the magic of it all was.  After thanking us all for saving him, the King and Queen then signed all the children’s passports for them.

Snow ball King Bluestone Kingdom of the elves

 

The whole event ended with a little disco, with a fun dance routine led by the king and queen.

Rhys got in the spirit of things by flossing and Nerys had a bit of a boogie too, while I just enjoyed watching the king and queen bust out some cool moves!

Snow ball King Queen Bluestone Kingdom of the elves

 

We had an absolutely brilliant time at the Kingdom of the Elves, I really can’t fault it at all.

I was a bit worried that it might not live up to the expectations that I had after hearing all my friends rave about it but, honestly, if anything it was even better than I expected.

The cast were amazing and didn’t break character once which, considering how many times a day they must do this, was really impressive and really made the experience something special.

 

If you’ve been thinking about visiting Bluestone around Christmastime I would definitely say go for it!

We all came away feeling so festive and the whole Kingdom of the Elves experience was just magical and absolutely lived up to the high expectations we had for it.

 

Disclosure – We were given a four night stay at Bluestone, including tickets to the Kingdom of the Elves, for the purpose of this review, but all words and opinions are my own.