Dec 30, 2010

Resolving feelings

"Letting go (through writing and/or journaling) helps free us from the negative impact unexpressed emotions can have," Angela Lunde. Alzheimer's Caregiving Newsletter.

In her latest newsletter, Ms. Lunde states that writing, whether in a blog or journal, is helpful to deal with the emotions that accompany caregiving. Many psychologists would agree that appropriate expression of feelings is good for one's mental health. That is one reason I write this blog; to facilitate my own mental health and to provide accurate and supportive information to other caregivers. Together we can be of support to each other and experience more health and joy in our own lives.

Happy New Year.


"Day by day, each one of us is weaving the beautiful tapestry of our lives," Kathy Juline.

A common thought, but not one that we perhaps consciously live. Courage moment by moment. I think of Rosa Parks, tired from a day of work, refusing to give up her seat on the bus. Last night we watched, Silent Night, a true story of a woman who took her son, who was old enough to be in Hitler's Youth, to their hunting cabin in the Ardennes forest near the front lines of the war during WWII. Three American and then three German soldiers come upon the cabin, and with her courage she has them stay overnight on Christmas eve in peace. They part as friends, having seen the humanity in each other.

Most of us do not live in war, unless it is a war of our own making, but we do each have challenges in our lives. The way in which we handle these challenges determines our character, which I believe develops throughout our lives. What act of courage can we today take in our role as care providers?

Dec 28, 2010

Thoughtful speaking

"Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment." Ben Franklin

I am amazed at the unmodulated speaking of people sometimes. It is as if what comes into their thoughts, automatically comes out their mouths -- without any censorship at all. We just finished watching a documentary from PBS on Benjamin Franklin. What a fascinating man, and one to whom history seems not to have given full credit. He invented bifocals, brought electricity out of mystery, mapped the Gulf Stream -- to name but a few. His years of diplomatic work in France financed the Revolutionary War, and he did this while a seasoned man in his seventies. In his later years he was a strong opponent of slavery. When I think of the great visionaries and activists of freedom for us all, I am so grateful. What action can we take today that supports the freedom of us and the person for whom we provide care?

Kind words

"Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment." Ben Franklin

It is amazing how words can hurt, and it seems it takes considerable energy to monitor our words. But that is what mature people do. It is especially important for us as dementia caregivers because we are stretched thin, may have trouble getting our own needs met, and then we need to summon the patience to communicate with someone who is losing the capacity to communicate. Staying positive, brief (often someone with dementia has trouble tracking a lot of words and information), and specific are all important. Recent research also tells us that writing information down can be helpful to eliminate the frequent questioning and confusion.

Be yourself

"Be Yourself. Everyone Else Is Taken!" Charles Schulz.

I have always loved Charles Schulz's work. His Peanuts characters and comic strip managed to capture the nuances of human psychology. Brilliant. So much wisdom, along side humor. I have heard Oprah say similar things. Strive to be your best, but don't try to be Oprah -- she already has that one covered. It is so easy to lose the sense of who we are with the pressures of the world. As small children we probably experienced people who tried to mold us into what they thought we could or should be. Today, let us return to the consideration of who we truly are. Without the role of caregiver and the other hats we may wear, who are you?

Dec 27, 2010


?"Realize that no matter what jail of limitation you feel confined by today, you are inherently free," Kathy Juline.

Sometimes caring for someone with a limiting and terminal illness can feel imprisoning to me. When I look at the actual facts, I do have less freedom, less spontaneity, less independence. It can feel confining, and it is good for me to remember other models who have been imprisoned and survived, perhaps even thrived. Viktor Frankl and Nelson Mandela come to mind. They survived having their freedom and independence taken away, and perhaps they even reaped some benefits. They both came out of prison and were the source of great benefit to their fellow humans. Perhaps the time in prison honed the skills they were to use later on behalf of humankind. What skills are we cultivating while being caregivers

Dec 23, 2010


"One of the most crucial aspects of resilience is faith in your own ability to cope," Jeffrey Rossman, PhD.

An effective way to know how well you can cope, is by remembering incidences in which you coped well in the past. We all have those examples of successful coping. You did it once; you can do it again.

Ways to further your resilience are: exercise, taking thoughtful risks like learning a new language, and eliminating negative thinking.

Merry Christmas

"For unto us a child is born," Isaiah 9:6.

Today Christians in the world celebrate Christmas, the time set aside to celebrate the birth of who they believe is Savior. Regardless of one's religion, this holiday reminds us to live in peace and with good will toward all. An empowering way for any one to live. I wish you peace and good will.

Finding meaning

"When faced with a crisis, resilient people ask the forward-thinking question, "What now?". They look within for answers to put their lives back together, and in doing so open themselves up to the possibility of living a richer, more meaningful life," Jeffrey Rossman, PhD.

One can use a crisis, such as living with dementia, as a way to find meaning. We can share with other people the ways we find to cope with the situation. We can also ask ourselves if how we spend our time is really how we want to spend it. In living with a terminal illness might we not reconsider what is really important? None of us knows how long we have to live, but certainly those of us living with dementia know there is a definitive timeline for the person for whom we provide care. How do we want this period of time to look and to feel?

Give up blame

"To have no challenges in our lives is to stagnate," Kathy Juline.

The second step in handling crisis according to author Jeffrey Rossman, is to erase all blame. To do this one needs to: forgive, not be taken advantage of, and decide to release anger and resentment. It is also important to learn from previous experience and to forgive ourselves.

All of these suggestions can apply to living with dementia. Certainly, living with dementia is a challenge, and we can choose whether to have that challenge improve us or imprison us. For many years I have noticed that difficult experiences either make us bitter or better people. What is your choice?

Dec 22, 2010

Hnadling crisis

"Don't beat yourself up or try to jolly yourself out of it: Losing something you cherish hurts, period." Jeffrey Rossman, PhD

In this article in January 2011 Prevention Magazine, Dr. Rossman gives 6 steps for dealing with crisis. And, isn't living with and dealing with dementia a crisis?
1. Acknowledge your feelings. This is not always a fun journey. You will likely be sad at losing the person whom you love, frustrated at the difficulties encountered in everyday living, and tired from doing it all. Many psychologists feel that to heal from trauma one must accept, experience and express one's emotions. So, I recommend that we each have at least one safe person with whom we can honestly share our feelings about this experience. I have a trusted spiritual advisor/counselor. I so value his support. Please find someone you can be honest with, who is nonjudgmental and will give you the support you need and deserve.

Dec 21, 2010


"If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?" Percy Bysshe Shelley.

I love Winter Solstice. For me it brings hope. The time of daylight will no longer, for this year, be getting shorter. Soon, the amount of daylight will be appreciably longer. And, Shelley's quote above has always been a favorite of mine. Though winter, i.e. difficulties, come; can better things be far behind? Life is a mix of what we might label good and bad. Neither seem to be able to last forever, so better is on its way.

Dec 20, 2010

Live life

"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined," Henry David Thoreau.

Sometimes I am tempted to become discouraged and think life is passing me by while I have set my more-active life aside to be a caregiver. But I don't think Thoreau meant the above quote for only those with no exterior responsibilities. So, how can we as caregivers live the life we have imagined? For me, it is partly in the attitude I hold toward my life as it is now showing up, in the role of care provider.

Dec 19, 2010


"Life is either a daring adventure or it is nothing at all," Helen Keller.

This is a good creed by which to live. To see life as a high adventure. To see living with dementia as an adventure. When I have objectivity, I can observe how I and others respond to someone with dementia. The responses range from people being uncomfortable and unkind, to indifferent, to taking action to be supportive and kind -- like Dwane's cousin or my sister. It is interesting to me how life's adventures bring out the best or the worst in people. It is our choice how we respond. Do we want living with dementia to bring out the best ---- or the worst in us? Let's choose carefully.

Dec 18, 2010


"I have no tact except the exercise of gentleness," Oracle of Sumiyoshi.

Gentleness is an important quality in living life and in our tasks as caregivers. Over my life I have noted how much pain thoughtless and unmodulated words cause. So, in our thoughts, in our words and in our actions, let us be gentle today with ourselves and with all others. Perhaps especially let us be gentle with this caregiving situation. Let us take at least one moment today to have a gentle interaction with the person for whom we provide care.

Dec 17, 2010


"According as one acts, according as one conducts himself, so does he become," Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.

Throughout human history there have been those who know we humans become what we think and act. Mindful of that, we can think and act as examples of love and compassion toward our fellow travelers. Who knows who we might inspire away from fear or despair? Life needs good models. Let us be one as caregivers who are providing care with love, with graciousness and compassion toward ourselves and the care receivers.

Dec 16, 2010


Awaken to the now moment." Eckhart Tolle.

This is a theme in several popular movies in this season. The Grinch by Dr. Seuss, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens both are about reviewing one's past behavior and changing. In each story a character goes through a crisis and awakens to realize the importance of love, generosity, faith, and family or community. What can we awaken to in our role as caregivers? In what way can we be more loving to ourselves, the care receiver and others? Let us think of one thing today.

Dec 15, 2010


"This above all: to thine own self be true," William Shakespeare.

We cannot be true to ourselves without knowing what is important to us. And, I think it is very easy to wander away from what is important to us because of other's influence or because of responsibilities we take on. Even in this role of caregiver we might lose track of what we value amid the tasks and responsibilities. Let's take a few minutes today to consider what five things do we most value? If we had but a few days to live, what would we cherish the most?

Dec 14, 2010


"The Sanskrit word ahimsa, meaning "to do no harm" or "the avoidance of violence," is a Hindu rule of conduct that prohibits killing or injuring any living being," Kathy Juline.

References to this rule of conduct date to ancient Vedic texts. More modern spiritual giants have practiced this conduct. Mohandas Gandhi practiced this in his nonviolent protest against British rule, and he expanded the meaning to include using only kind and truthful words. Albert Schweitzer expanded this idea further by applying positive action to help those injured.

What might ahimsa mean to us as caregivers? It means for us to do no harm to ourselves or others. It can also mean for us to have positive impact on our lives and the lives of those with whom we interact.

Dec 13, 2010

Finding support

"Seeking help is a sign of strength," Dr. Val Farmer.

To deal with the stress of caregiving, it might be wise to consider professional counseling. Caring for an ill family member is one of the factors noted to cause a high level of stress. Counselors can be well trained to assist us with the task of handling caretaking and the stress involved in it. They provide a trained, objective opinion. How to find a good one? Check to make sure they have credentials and licensures, i.e. LPC, LMFT. LPC stands for Licensed Professional Counselor; it sometimes is NLPC, with the work National in front of the rest. LMFT is Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. CCDC is Certified Chemical Dependency Counselor. And check with other people you trust to find a counselor who is skilled. Seeking help is something wise people do when life gets rough.

Dec 12, 2010


"Life has made the gift, and we are to accept it in the way it was made and not some other way," Ernest Holmes.

This similar teaching comes down to us from many great thinkers. Joseph Campbell says similar things in his interview with Bill Moyers. Buddhist teaching tells us not to resist what is. I notice in my caregiving capacity that some of my angst comes from not accepting what is, especially when it shows up in a new form of decline. It seems human nature to try to maintain the status quo, but life is change; and in living with dementia, life also shows up as decline of functioning. So, to accept what is while maintaining the best quality of life -- that perhaps is the balance.

Dec 11, 2010


"Laughter is good medicine." Kelly Marker.

Research from John Hopkins University notes these benefits from humor, mirth and laugther:
reduces stress, anxiety and tension
promotes psychological well-being
raises self esteem
improves interpersonal interactions and relationships
enhances memory
increases pain tolerance
elevates mood
increases hope, energy and vigor
enhances creative thinking and problem-solving
increases friendliness and helpfulness
exercises respiratory muscles.

Let's be sure to laugh many times every day. In my opinion (for good mental health), this laughter should never be at anyone else's expense.

Dec 10, 2010

Happiness as habit

"Happiness is the consequence of personal effort." Elizabeth Gilbert.

There are so many other familiar and similar quotes. So, happiness is a result of my own effort, or my own choice. I am sure we each know people who live with considerable adversity, who are happy. Perhaps happiness is just a habit. A habit of which way we choose to think and which things we choose to observe. The glass half full/half empty concept. Today let us look for 3 things in our life about which to be happy.

Dec 9, 2010


"Diminishment has come to live with me now, in all sorts of mocking forms," Sister Mary Thomas Noble, O.P.

All of our lives we see people growing old, but until we encounter it ourselves, it is not possible to understand. Healthy food, daily exercise, practicing serenity -- they can only determine part of the experience. Other parts, such as dementia, are beyond our control.

The exercise class we have joined, "Silver Sneakers", has been so good for Dwane. It is a national exercise program, and the cost is covered by some insurance companies. It is a great blend of exercise, balance activities, stretching, and work on mobility and flexibility.

Dec 8, 2010


"Life is either a daring adventure or it is nothing at all," Helen Keller.

This famous quote is a good reminder of how to live life. Helen Keller obviously had difficulties, and yet, apparently she had this attitude. How can we make living with dementia a daring adventure --- of the good kind. I add these last few words, because I can think of some ways this is an adventure that I prefer not to take. So, a good adventure. I am open to the idea.

Dec 7, 2010


"Somehow, in the midst of our tears, a gift is hidden," Henri Nouwen.

I have experienced the truth of the above quote in retrospect when I consider events of my life, and I try to remember it in the frustrations and tediousness of living with dementia. This has been a rough past two months, with him being in a fairly significant delcine, which affects me - both emotionally and in the amount of tasks to do. I have lost sight of the gift within this situation. I hope to refind it.

Dec 6, 2010


"Humor (the cognitive perception of playful incongruity)," Johns Hopkins University.

According the Johns Hopkins University there are 3 aspects of humor: humor - defined above, mirth which is positive emotion that accompanies humor, and laughter which is the respiratory-vocal behavior that communicates this emotion to others. All are beneficial to one's physical, psychological and intellectual being. Yesterday we watched a Victor Borge television special. Very funny. We both laughed and enjoyed both the music and the humor.

Dec 5, 2010


"The average kindergarten student laughs 300 times and day. Adults average just 17 laughs a day," William Fry, M.D., professor of psychiatry at Stanford University.

And I would bet that people living with dementia may laugh less then that. I don't know if it is dementia in general, or the one we are experiencing personally, but the lack of fun and the tendency toward negativity of the care receiver, are among the hardest things for me. Humor has many, many benefits for us and our bodies. How do we find humor in the midst of this stress? A family member lent me some old Lucille Ball movies. We will watch one of those.

Dec 4, 2010

Return to self

"Trailing clouds of glory do we come from God, who is our home. . . " William Wordsworth.

Regardless if one is religious, Advent can be a time to return home to oneself, to consider what is important in life and to refocus our goals. Are we doing everything we can do to take care of ourselves as we provide care? The latest Alzheimer's newsletter from Mayo Clinic reminds us how important it is to take care of ourselves during this holiday season. The season can be one of stress without the extraordinary things we are doing. What is one new thing you can do everyday to take better care of yourself? I am going to a symphony tonight that includes ballet. That will be my one new thing for today.

Dec 3, 2010

We create our lives

"The word is a mold which decides what form the thought is to take as it assumes shape and becomes a part of our conditions," The Science of Mind, Page 476

Similar advise is given by some modern spiritual thinkers. We are what we think, and the lives we create are products of our thinking. For me it is not helpful to go too deeply into how I am caregiving someone with a terminal illness (Life is also mystery, and there is substance beyond our understanding -- in my opinion.) But, the quality of my life is up to me. I talked with a good friend yesterday about happiness and how to get there. Part of it may lie in how we think about and describe ourselves and our world. Let's be faithful to speaking and thinking with the utmost respect about ourselves.

Dec 2, 2010


"Light has the power to overcome darkness; not by combating darkness, but by being exactly what it is: light." Science of Mind page 183.

Today Hanukkah, A Jewish holy day, is celebrated. It is a celebration of light as a symbol of freedom from fear and negativity. We can use light or truth or love in the same way in our lives. When I see the decline in Dwane, I can react with love. There is nothing more I can do to combat his disease process (than what we are already doing with Mayo Clinic and others), but I can treat him with respect and love. I can hold the light.

Dec 1, 2010

Daily life

"To live Advent is to live in the awareness of a Presence that changes us," Magnificat.

Whether one believes in God, a Higher Power, or something else, one's life seems to be enhanced by a belief in some Mystery or Purpose beyond our human selves. At any rate, mine does. So, how can I live in the awareness of a Presence that changes me? Dwane is more confused these days -- that requires more patience, repeating, and preparing for me. Perhaps the very characteristics that are part of the Advent season.

Nov 30, 2010


"Advent is that sacred season of anticipation and expectation in which we come to terms with the deepest yearning of our soul," Magnificat.

We are entering a season in which several major religions have holy celebrations. Christians have entered the time called Advent, and I want to draw upon its idea of preparation and anticipation. It helps me to demarcate my life by timelines that bring me meaning. So, for December I want to use the subject of Advent to consider within the caregiver's context. For what greater good could we prepare? How can I distance myself from the many, many obligations to see the direction of my own life? A good time for reflection, as the daylight grows shorter up to Winter Soltice in the northern hemisphere.

Nov 29, 2010


"A miracle is something inside you, a change in the way you think or feel," Marianne Williamson.

A different way to think of miracles, and in keeping with the idea that our world is a reflection of how we think. In what way can we create a miracle in ourselves as caregivers? What is your prominent feeling most of the day? I sometimes notice how I am feeling off and on during the day. It gives me a good idea of my state of mind. If it isn't what I want it to be, I change it.

Nov 28, 2010

Well being

"All is well in my world," Louise Hay.

I'm taking time again to notice what is going very well in my world. Due to inclement weather forecast, we have moved earlier out of the high country to lower elevation. Back to the lovely house in which we take winter respite. I am so grateful for this chance to be out of the snow country. And, after several weeks of significant decline noticed in Dwane, yesterday he seemed more like himself. We had a gentle day together, and I am grateful for that as well.

For his well being and mine, I believe it is so important to dwell on what is going right.

Nov 27, 2010

Quiet time

Time to regroup after having house guests and being with family. Family members noted the decline in Dwane and expressed concern. I have felt too overwhelmed this fall, and I intend to spend the next week reflecting on our life and how I can create a plan to make things go more smoothly. It is time to again consider our options, the best plans of action.

Nov 25, 2010


"If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is 'thank you' that would suffice," Meister Eckhart.

For everything, every experience today I give thanks.

Nov 24, 2010

Communication help

"We find that if caregivers aren't stressed and in a hurry, if the patient is well cared for, and if they feel safe and in a good environment, they think their lives are good." Michelle S. Bourgeois, speech-pathology professor at Ohio State.

Using pictures with captions, Bourgeois is asking dementia patients about the quality of their life, and the above is her finding. So, how do we as caregivers remain unstressed and unhurried? Her tips on communication can help. Memory flashcards for whatever areas are causing difficulty. Such as, she suggests making a card that says, "Showers make me feel fresh and clean," as a helpful technique if the person you are providing care for refuses to shower.

I can think of countless ways to implement her communication suggestions and make our lives easier, smoother and happier. What are some ways you can think of using written cues to help with memory, anxiety or anger?

Nov 23, 2010

Dissenting opinion

I want to acknowledge a dissenting opinion from "Dave" who relates that he feels I did not apply Joseph Campbell's quotation on 11/21/10 correctly. The comment got deleted, so I just wanted to post his view. Readers who are interested in the inquiry can study the publications of Joseph Campbell to determine their own view. My blog entry was an intent to honor the wisdom of Joseph Campbell, while also considering how we can find more meaning in the role of caregiver.


"Forgive others and forgive yourself. You have that power." W. Frederic Keeler.

This week in the U.S. Thanksgiving is celebrated. It is by tradition a time to be with family. A good time to consider forgiving oneself and others. I have heard people say that sainthood is more easily attained when one has family with whom to interact. Like most jokes, there is truth to the comment. So, for this week we might choose to focus on forgiveness of self and others and gratitude. We have so much to be grateful for in our lives. Nature in all her forms, friends and family who love us, being alive, new experiences, new things to learn. What are some of the things about which you are grateful today?

Nov 21, 2010

Communication tip

"Spoken words literally go through one ear and out the other. Patients understand, but they can't store the memory. That is why they ask the same question over and over." Michelle S. Bourgeois, speech-pathology professor at Ohio State University.

Bourgeois has an excellent suggestion for the extreme difficulty in communicating with someone with dementia. She suggests that we write down the information. She suggests that people with dementia retain reading skills, and that they will be comforted by having information written rather than told -- or in addition to being told. I have done that with directions and lists of information, but it did not occur to me to do it with everyday communication. She gives an example of a person with dementia asking over and over where they are going. She suggests that we write on a piece of paper the information for the person, and they may very well ask less often. Great ideas in her article in the November 21, 2010, Parade Magazine.

Meaning of hero's journey

“Where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence; where we thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world,” Joseph Campbell.

The above quote succinctly describes the hero's journey. We go from a selfish perspective to a worldly one, one in which we know our interconnectedness with all others. We have no choice in whether we will do this journey called life; all we can choose is how we will do our journey. Why don't we make the most of it by exploring the possibilities of the hero's journey? How are the one to whom I provide care and I connected? What is the meaning of this part of life's journey for me?

Nov 20, 2010

Self forgiveness

"Forgive others and forgive yourself. You have that power." W. Frederic Keeler.

A significant part of the hero's journey can be self forgiveness. As one takes the journey and encounters the trials, one is recognizing and accepting parts of oneself. Take Dorothy in Wizard of Oz, when she finally gets to meet with the Oz she discovers he is all smoke and mirrors, and that the real answers lie within herself. So, too, in the hero's journey. It seems we need to recognize that the characteristics in others that we find the most contemptible or fear the most, are the very ones we need to recognize in ourselves. If we ahve the most contempt for a murderer, it is not that we need to have murdered ourselves --- it is that we have with thoughtlessness or perhaps intent inflicted harm on someone else's spirit at some time. Or it can be that we merely recognize that given the right upbringing, with the right combinations of traumas, the murderer could be me. This seems to be an important part of the hero's journey, and it applies to caregiving. What characteristics are emerging in caregiving which you may have some trouble accepting? That is an area of growth for oneself.

Nov 19, 2010

Self care

"Failure is never quite as frightening as regret," character in movie, The Dish, enjoyable true story about a satellite dish in Australia covering the 1969 moon landing.

The most current Mayo Alzheimer's Caregiver's Newsletter discusses how important it is for self care for the caregiver. It cites a person who devotes time to yoga, etc. as a way to cope with her husband's diagnosis and the care required for that. I agree that self care is vitally important. It is just not as easy as one might think, as it is dependent upon finances, family and friend support and involvement, circumstances of the dementia. It is vitally important that we find ways to meet our own needs, or resentment of the caregiving is a likely result. One of my favorite current ways is that I exercise at the Physical Therapy facility when I take Dwane for his time there. That may be something available in your area.

Nov 17, 2010

Research needed

Published: October 27, 2010- New York Times Opinion Page
"OUR government is ignoring what is likely to become the single greatest threat to the health of Americans: Alzheimer’s disease, an illness that is 100 percent incurable and 100 percent fatal. It attacks rich and poor, white-collar and blue, and women and men, without regard to party. A degenerative disease, it steadily robs its victims of memory, judgment and dignity, leaves them unable to care for themselves and destroys their brain and their identity — often depleting their caregivers and families both emotionally and financially.

As things stand today, for each penny the National Institutes of Health spends on Alzheimer’s research, we spend more than $3.50 on caring for people with the condition. This explains why the financial cost of not conducting adequate research is so high. The United States spends $172 billion a year to care for people with Alzheimer’s. By 2020 the cumulative price tag, in current dollars, will be $2 trillion, and by 2050, $20 trillion."

There is more to this important article which you may access via NY Times, Oct. 27, 2010.

Travel guide

"At the end of every road you meet yourself," S. N. Behrman.

There is a joke about the difference between the genders and who will stop and ask for directions when lost. I love travel guides, and if that is not sufficient, I am the first to stop and ask for assistance. What assistance is there available for our journeys as caregivers? There are newsletters, such as the one from Mayo Clinic. My intention with this blog is to provide reliable information and support. Of one thing we can be certain: we are each taking a journey in this life, and caregiving is a part of it for many - - - we can either take the trip with wisdom, drawing from the best sources of information and support we can find, or we can travel blindly, without seeking directions. What is our conscious choice?

Nov 16, 2010

Journey as growth

"It is said that when any one person overcomes a block toward growth, the consciousness of the Whole is uplifted," Dr. Joan Borysenko.

So, if the hero's adventure is about interior growth, how might that apply to caregiving? It has seemed that the interior journey involves recognizing, accepting and integrating all those aspects of ourselves that we would rather not own -- what we consider to be the very good and the very bad. What might be called upon to recognize, accept and integrate in the act of caregiving? It seems that impatience/patience might be one. Administering to another versus self care another. Isolation and lack of support. Resentment. All of these might be things to look at and consider. It has seemed to me that one needs to address the negative aspects before the more positive ones are accessible.

Nov 15, 2010

Interior work

"We shall not cease from exploration, And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time," T. S. Eliot.

It seems appropriate to better describe the interior journey that is reflective of the hero's journey. Worldwide myths and folktales depict the myth, and so do some modern ones. We watched a bit of one of the Harry Potter films last night. J. K. Rowling seemed to incorporate the interior journey in her marvelous tale. Harry emerges from a dark space (under the staircase) to be guided by a wise person. He faces trials, which cause him to mature as an individual, so that he is able to develop the potential within him. Jungian psychology points to the idea that all the trials we meet help us to recognize and integrate various underdeveloped parts of ourselves. Perhaps the silly, time-driven White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, or the much more dangerous-appearing Queen of Hearts. All are aspects of oneself, that - upon integrating - serve our journey.

Nov 14, 2010

Thoughts of the journey

"Thought is the real causative force in life, and there is no other." Emmet Fox.

If the above quote is true, how does it apply to the hero's journey? It seems it is so easy in human form to be "lost in thought". Literally. One can take the hero's journey of self discovery, in my opinion, only if one has the courage to disentangle oneself from the entanglement of thought, and use thought instead on the path of self discovery. How is this done? By being aware of our thoughts, by being willing to look at the content of our thoughts, and by choosing thoughts that support the quality of life we want.

Nov 13, 2010

Great men and women

"The great men and women of all time have been gentle, gracious, and loving, though commanding persons," James E. Dodds.

So, in considering caregiving as a hero's (gender-neutral) journey, the qualities of gentle, gracious, loving - and also commanding seems apt. The commanding can mean taking a stand with the person with the terminal illness on issues affecting their own or our well being, but it also applies to advocating for their good treatment outside the home. One of the persons at P.T. (physical therapy) speaks in a very loud voice to Dwane. He is not deaf. I have seen people do that before with a person with disabilities. I choose not to correct the person, but to model appropriate behavior.

It seems that the hero's journey is being called upon more here because in the last 3-4 weeks we have been experiencing a significant decline in functioning. These downward slides into a new "norm" of functioning are hard for me, and they represent an opportunity for me to take extra care and gentleness with myself.

Nov 12, 2010

Volunteers wanted

"Waging War on Alzheimer's," Prevention Magazine December 2010, page 18.

During the summer I wrote of the new research findings in dementia, specifically Alzheimer's; that instead of the plaque in the brain being the problem that causes dementia, new thinking is the plaque is the body's way to try to protect against the damage that beta-amyloid (a protein that clumps in the brain) does. This research is under the leadership of Dr. Paul Greengard of Rockefeller University. Now Dr. Greengard's team has identified the specific enzyme (named GASP) that triggers the overproduction of protein.

Prevention Magazine says that volunteers are needed to test new drugs which will target this enzyme. If interested, one may volunteer by going to
This is a link from the non-profit Alzheimer's Association. Together we may find new ways to help end dementia.

Nov 11, 2010

Warrior heroes

"They also serve who only stand and wait." Milton.

Today in the U.S. it is Veteran's Day, a day set aside to be grateful to those who have served our country and helped to create freedom for us all. As Milton says, those who stand and wait, the families of the Veteran's, also serve. I think anyone who stands for freedom, equity and good treatment of us all serves the greater good. It doesn't matter if it takes the form of Ghandi's position on freedom or that of Joan of Arc. Freedom is served when we all expect it for us all.

In caregiving, freedom - within what is safe - also serves. That is why we strive to set up an environment that supports Dwane's freedom. Schedules, lists, written directions for things: all are ways to support the freedom of those for whom we provide care.

Nov 10, 2010

Everyday life

"The great mystics like Jesus have taught that as we enter into the One, the One enters into us and becomes us and is us," Science of Mind, p. 343.

The heroic journey shows up quietly in everyday life, in the parent who foregoes career advancement to raise children, in the parent who goes off to work every day to provide for the family, in those people who are being good neighbors to others. I had a thought yesterday: what if the heroic journey is not just one the caregiver takes, but also the care receiver? What if during those periods of less lucidity the person with dementia is abiding with angels, preparing his/her way into the time after this life? Interesting thought.

Nov 9, 2010

Hero as myth

"The hero's epic journey to the center of the self beckons to everyone, though of course it can be ignored or postponed." Dr. Jesse Jennings.

The myths from around the world support this epic journey as a common experience in our human experience. It begins with a call, which we may have tried to ignore, to change, to view things differently from before. Those who take the journey finally say yes, meet at least one mentoring presence to help with guidance, enter into the unknown, face trials and learn the power of love.

Why would we even consider this topic as caregivers? Partly because it is a universal journey, and if not now, when? And for me partly because I need something else to look forward to, to engage my intelligence, besides the daily tasks. And for me partly because as this disease causes us to be more isolated, this is an activity I can do anywhere. I also believe that all of human kind benefits when even one person has the courage to undertake the hero's journey.

Nov 8, 2010


"On the journey to the center of the self, gradually all opposites are reconciled into an overarching unity - - - Most usefully, for purposes of effective living in the world, balanced in due proportion are the soul's humility and the ego's self-esteem." Dr. Jesse Jennings.

It has seemed to me that the best way to know if someone is a mature individual is when there are not extreme opposites in judgment, living, self-centeredness versus others. One might think that in caregiving we have died to self to care for someone else, but that is not necessarily true. Why are we caregiving? It could be to stroke our ego, to look good for the community. It could be based on resentment that we believe we have no other choice.

Today, as part of our hero's journey, let us look honestly at why we are caregiving and what all of our options are.

Nov 7, 2010

The Tea Party

"Anyone unable to understand a god sees it as a devil," Joseph Campbell.

Continuing on the hero's journey as seen from the caregiver's position, it is helpful for me sometimes to consider that I am at the Mad Hatter's Tea Party. It helps me to not take too seriously the miscommunications, the mishaps, the misadvenures. Just as Alice met very strange creatures, the talking White Rabbit with the watch, the Queen of Hearts who ordered 'off with her head', the Cheshire Cat, Mad Hatter, mushrooms that could cause one to shrink and grow, etc., so we can consider that the misadventures that can accompany providing care for someone with dementia as vehicles for our own personal growth.

Once we have chosen to see these things as opportunities rather than obstacles, we are often offered help in surprising ways.

Nov 6, 2010

The unknown

"In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity," Albert Einstein.

So, in the hero's journey one has had the courage to follow the guidance to wisdom, and met some mentoring presence. Now the journey seems to call for a going into the nether world or the unknown. Think again of how Alice fell down into the earth in Alice in Wonderland and how she met many strange creatures after that. Psychologists tend to believe that these strange creatures one meets on the hero's journey are projections of oneself that need healed or integrated. This is a journey into our interior and an integration of our projected or neglected parts.

Many opportunities can be brought up in caregiving which help us to see how we can integrate more fully the human aspects we have neglected.

Nov 5, 2010

Leap of faith

"Do not require a description of the countries towards which you sail. The description does not describe them to you, and tomorrow you arrive there and know them by inhabiting them," Emerson.

To leave what is comfortable in one's personality and choose to change requires if not a leap of faith, at least a step of faith --- into the unknown. As humans we seem hardwired to fear what we do not know, until we consciously choose to not be fearful. According to Jesse Jennings old world maps depicted the areas that had not been explored with dragons, as if to say if one dares to venture there, you will encounter danger. That is reflective of how our psyche views unfamiliar things, attitudes, behaviors, ideas. So, to continue on our hero's journey, we must cross the threshold into the unknown. There will be mentors to assist us at least periodically, but most of all we must trust our own intuition. To change requires leaving the familiar behind.

What new way could we be, perhaps just attitudinally, in your caregiving?

Nov 4, 2010

The Mentor

"I want to know and know I know," The Voice Celestial.

Once we overcome our reluctance to change and begin our journey, a mentor in some form appears. This mentor can come in many forms, consider the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, and the role of the mentor is to guide gently without giving specific advice, so that the hero grows by his/her own efforts and choices. When we step into the unknown on faith, someone or something will be there to help us. I remember reading that Carl Jung felt he got some guidance from a scarab beetle that landed on his window. A current movie, The Karate Kid, displays a mentor who guides while allowing the hero to make some mistakes and find his own way. Let us look for the mentors in our lives to help us find the way on our journey of self discovery while providing care.

Nov 3, 2010

The Journey

"To meditate upon the presence of God is to indraw the Universe into one's own soul," Science of Mind, page 621.

The Hero's Journey is more an interior one than exterior, though it is depicted in the myths as exterior -- out of the cave, usually a wise mentor, slaying of dragons or other obstacles. It has been defined in various ways, but it occurs when we decide to know ourselves and the mysteries of the universe. If a person is turned off by the use of the word, God, it can be replaced by mystery of the universe. Sometimes we choose this interior journey, as apparently Buddha did; and sometimes it is thrust upon us as it is reported to have happened to Saul on his way to Damascus.

Being caregiver of someone is a similar opportunity. Whether we feel this was thrust upon us or we chose it, we can use it as a catalyst to better know ourselves and the universe of which we are a part.

Nov 2, 2010

Hero's journey

"Hero, which is gender-neutral, has Greek origin in Hera, wife of Zeus, in her role as protector." Jesse Jennings.

I am re-watching Joseph Campbell's Power of Myth videos. The hero's journey is a common myth, and one that I think both we, and the person for whom we provide care, can take. In this journey the person moves from birth to death, or spiritual unconsciousness to consciousness. The steps are universal, hence their existence in a myth. In the following days we will look at the components of a hero's journey as applied to living with a terminal illness.

Nov 1, 2010


"November is a month of finishing our business, squaring the inner and outer accounts that require our energy," Dr. Joan Borysenko.

It is amazing to me how quickly the time of daylight is shortening. November reminds me that we are into our third year of living with the diagnosis of Lewy Bodies Dementia. It was in October, 2008, that total replacement surgery catapulted us into the medical arena of neurologists and neuropsychologists. After a summer of improved functioning, we are now in a period of fairly marked decreased functioning, especially physically. Today we begin a new program of exercise, supervised by Physical Therapists, to help with mobility and balance.

Oct 31, 2010

Life and dying

"To see the gift of life as a "burden" in any way is a result of error." Fr. J. M. Sullivan.

Our society seems to revere youth, strength, beauty, vitality. We do not hold as much esteem for the aging as do some other cultures. So, here we are as caregivers, with the many tasks to do and the lessening of any reciprocity from the care receiver; and we have also to contend with society's discomfort with the process of debilitation. In church last night people noticed Dwane's struggle getting his jacket on. I think people are torn between wanting to offer to help and wanting to avoid the whole process, because interacting with someone with a terminal disease is such a reminder of our own mortality. Is part of our task, perhaps, to honor the life as it is ebbing away?

Oct 30, 2010


"Karma is an immutable law. The results of our actions will return to us," Buddhist belief.

I have noticed in my life that one's actions do return onto oneself. When I have been hurt by someone, seeing karma in action is not always something I get to witness, but I believe it happens.

We seem to have had a rather steep decline in physical functioning in the past few weeks. This new norm taps my patience in new ways. It helps me to remember that how I behave in this situation, as in all situations, will come back to bless or haunt me.

Oct 29, 2010

Heathy habits

"The ancient practices of mind-training are quite similar to modern cognitive-behavioral therapies. We begin to observe our thinking patterns and gradually make changes based on those observations," Dr. Joan Borysenko.

When people say they cannot control their thoughts, I think that is incorrect. We can, as Dr. Borysenko says above, observe and begin to change the patterns of our thought. It can be one of the habits that support our health. Other habits to support our health include beginning the day with some kind of prayer, or if you are not religious, exercises of gratitude are beneficial. A good, nutritious breakfast is important; followed by physical exertion. Some form of exercise sufficient to get our heart rates up. If we begin our day with these three things and observe our thoughts during the day and choose to focus our thoughts on happy, grateful, calm, optimistic content, we will have done much to help ourselves be healthy in the midst of providing care to another.

Oct 28, 2010

Heath and healing

"Our negative reactions to life, our unhappiness, and perhaps most of our physical disorders are based on unhappy experiences that are buried, but buried alive, in our memories." Dr. Ernest Holmes.

We have all suffered trauma. Betrayal finds its way into great drama, i.e. Shakespeare, because it is a reality of the human experience -- we can all identify with it. So, if we all suffer negativity in life, what can we do about it? Gary Renard's book, The Disappearance of the Universe, suggests one way: forgive. Sounds simple, and many mental health and spiritual practitioners recommend it. To practice it one needs to identify the source of the woundedness and be willing to forgive whoever hurt us, and this includes forgiving ourselves. The act of forgiveness may be easier to do with the help of a therapist. However we do it, it is critical to our health that we release the negative emotions that can damage our minds and bodies.

Oct 27, 2010

Our health

"Our bodily health depends upon our internal attitudes," Dr. Ernest Holmes.

Managing our own health is imperative if we are not to allow this caregiving to kill us. Last week when I was so stressed over several situations, I even had chest pains. The Oct. 25, 2010, Time magazine reports that there are nearly 10 million women either with Alzheimer's or caring for someone with dementia, and this is expected to triple in the next 40 years. It often means leaving one's work, as Sandra Day O'Connor and I both did. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, 30% to 40% of caregivers suffer from depression. The Shriver Report says that caregivers have higher levels of stress hormones, reduced immune function, and increased risk for hypertension and heart disease. Very dismal statistics.

We must not allow this caregiving to harm or kill us. Let us share ideas, support one another, get exercise, get respite care for ourselves, eat well and have fun. Let's do whatever we need to do to remain healthy.

Oct 26, 2010

Day to day

"With a new viewpoint we look out upon our world and like God we, too, can say, "behold it is very good," it is heaven." Dr. Ernest Holmes.

Whether one taps into a form of religion or thinking, there is a familiar teaching that we can create the quality of our own lives. There is some thinking that we might consider the everlasting is not something in the distance, but a state of living we can achieve now. If that might be true, how can we apply it to living with dementia? It helps me to look for the good, for what is going right, for the blessings. Today I can consider that we are both awake and about our day, that the people I care most about are well and safe, that overall we have many things about which to be grateful.

Oct 25, 2010

Fresh start

"You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose." Dr. Seuss.

How very, very true. And steer myself I did. Our son and nephew invited Dwane on an outing, so I had my first real break from 24/7 responsibility in a long time. I am renewed. It is both hard and imperative for us as caregivers to provide breaks for ourselves. This is getting more attention now with the national impetus spearheaded by Maria Shriver. I am hopeful good things will come of recognizing how Alzheimer's (and by association, all dementias) affect family members. It is so helpful to a disease when someone of status provides some focus and impetus for funding and research.

The October 25, 2010, Time magazine has good material on Alzheimer's. They make the medication aspect sound more promising than what Mayo Clinic indicated. Perhaps they are considering a more futuristic aspect of optimism. There is, apparently, nothing new that is helpful now; but, with new information on what the medication is targeting, there will be more research in those directions.

Oct 20, 2010


"A merry heart doeth good like a medicine" Proverbs 17:22.

Usually I am optimistic. Usually I can maintain myself in contentment and well being. But for the past few days I feel overwhelmed, overly judged and criticized, under appreciated. It is so hard to do this caregiving, with all its demands, and to feel adequate love and support oneself. Usually I do very well. I will try to get back to usually.

Oct 19, 2010


"People with a strong purpose in life are 2 1/2 times more likely to ward off Alzheimer's disease," The Doctors Will See You Now, Prevention magazine, Nov. 2010.

This article also says that when a person has a strong purpose in life he/she is less likely to be depressed. The authors suggest that a person answer quickly the question: "If I could change one thing about the world, what would it be?"

Although those of us who are providing care are not in the business of preventing a disease which has already gotten a foothold, perhaps the above thoughts still apply. How can we and the person to whom we provide care both find a strong purpose in life? And, it seems to me, that it is important that this purpose be about something other than the daily obligations brought about by disease we face.

Oct 18, 2010

Home with gladness

"The one who loves the most will live the most," Ernest Holmes.

Home. The trip was both lovely and hard. Harder to get through long airports to make connections than ever before. (Note to self: I really need to arrange a cart if we travel again.) A lot of togetherness. But also lovely. We went because Dwane really wanted to go, so I made the arrangements for him. We enjoyed our time by the sea. We had Mother Nature serve up a spectacular storm that we had never experienced by the sea before. We also got to attend one of the televised operas that I had read about. What an experience.

And it is so good to be home. The serenity and silence here is so supportive. And Dwane is much for independent here, with reliable schedules and the reliable setting. Whew! It will be good to relax from hypervigilance.

Oct 8, 2010

Will be gone

"Our thought moves into a creative medium which returns its image," Dr. Ernest Holmes.

Pretty powerful words for why it is important for us to control the content of our thoughts. People say to me that it is hard to control their thoughts. I believe that it can become an established practice and, therefore, easy for us to control our thoughts. What works for me is setting an intention for the day, and then not allowing my mind to go to worry, upset, irritation. Sound simple? It actually is. Let's try it together. I think that not we, and everyone else, benefit from our having positive thoughts.

I will be gone and not doing this blog until Oct 19. I so appreciate those of you who read the blog regularly and support me with your thoughts and prayers. Dwane has wanted to go back to a seaside location that we used to go to, and I have made the arrangements for us to do that for the next week. I have a feeling it will be our last time to do so. We choose a location that does not have internet or even cell phone coverage. I am looking forward to just sitting with the waves.

Oct 7, 2010

Life as opportunity

"Human birth is hard to attain and extremely precious. We must do something of value with the opportunity," Buddha.

Some days when doing menial tasks, and there are many to do, one can be tempted to think that we aren't doing important enough work -- at least I can think that. But, truly, there is perhaps no more important work than to develop our own potential as humans and to behave in loving ways towards ourselves and others. Providing care to someone with a terminal illness provides great opportunities for this type of growth.

Oct 6, 2010

Creating a good life

"Good is the result of right thinking based on right motives. It is not a location." Dr. Ernest Holmes.

Driving home the other day I was amused seeing one cow who had her neck through a barbed wire fence trying to reach the grass on the other side. How like that cow we humans can be thinking that we can be better when our situation is better. The above quotation indicates the incorrectness of this thinking. Our thinking in any given situation is what makes it good or bad. How can our thinking create more good in this situation of caregiving?

Oct 5, 2010

Love of self and others

"The universe suffers a sense of incompleteness whenever we indulge in self-condemnation," Dr. Ernest Holmes.

I think the the above quote holds truth, and I think the universe also suffers when we engage in condemnation of others. The role of caregiver can be so encompassing with completing tasks that we may forget how important it is to hold ourselves, the person receiving the care, and all others in positive regard. The attitude I hold makes all the difference in how things go here. Let us remember to treat ourselves and others with kindness, respect and love.

Oct 4, 2010

Enjoying nature

"Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience" Ralph Waldo Emerson.

It is just lovely here. The trees resplendent with color. Lovely temperatures during the day and cool at night. The coyotes have been full of song morning and evening.

Yesterday we had a neighborhood gathering, to thank people for being such good neighbors. I served bison chili and creamy wild rice soup. It was successful and fun. After, Dwane said, "It was nice to have the house full of people." He still so enjoys social events, even though people might not guess that of him, as he does not talk much to anyone. It was a great diversion from the tasks of everyday life.

Oct 3, 2010


"Death fascinates us in the abstract and repels us in the particular," Dr. Joan Borysenko.

How true. People seem fascinated generation after generation with movies about vampires and other violence. Ever been driving when there has been a car accident and experienced the frustration of being slowed by the "rubber neckers" who want to see the damage? Great symphonies and literature have been written about death. Death seems to fascinate us, until it gets too close.

Yesterday we attended a family gathering, a celebration of a bridal shower. People invariably ask how Dwane is doing, and I am reminded that we are dealing with a terminal illness. This too is more easily considered in the abstract.

Oct 2, 2010

Daily life

"The one who loves the most will live the most," Dr. Ernest Holmes.

After just getting such good news about Dwane's improved cognitive ability from Mayo, he is doing worse. Perhaps it is the new sleep agent, or perhaps it is part of this insidious disease which is characterized by significant changes in lucidity. Yesterday he got himself into a difficult situation and could not make sense of how to best handle it. He seemed to have forgotten how to operate a machine he had just used. I found myself discouraged that he was, for yesterday, in about as much a fog as two years ago. It seems that I know intellectually that this is a terminal illness; but when his condition worsens, I am discouraged. I'm not sure how to prevent these emotional ups and downs with hope and hope discouraged. I was speaking to another person whose spouse has early dementia. In frontal lobe dementia it seems the person with the dementia is not as discouraged nor experiences as much fear as the caregiver.

Oct 1, 2010


"God gave me the ability, with the rest up to me," Billy Mills, Lakota Olympian.

I have always loved the above quote and what seems to be the attitude behind it. A great Olympian, and he seems to say that the ability was given to him, with him having the responsibility to use it well. I think that is true for us all. We have all been given unique talents and skills, and perhaps it is our life's work to develop them. Perhaps you, as I, have spent many of my years doing things that were not necessarily a direct match for my skills and talents because I also had to make a living. Well, it is never too late. What are the skills and talents that are innate to you? What can you do to develop them? I started water color painting classes this past week. I want to see how that creative expression is for me.

Billy Mills was an exceptional athlete. What are we exceptional at?

Sep 30, 2010


"I turn the searchlight of truth upon every apparent evil in my experience," Ernest Holmes.

Dr. Joan Borysenko's daily meditation book, Pocketful of Miracles, says this time of year is under the guidance of the Archangel Rafael and is a time to heal. She says that we can take the circumstances in our lives which are difficult and use them to develop more of our human potential. I agree. Within and without, we can take the searchlight of truth and shine it upon any and every apparent evil, and we can transform ourselves. Living with and providing care for someone with a terminal illness is good practice for these activities.

Sep 29, 2010

REM sleep disorder

"Sleep disorders, particularly the tendency to act out dreams known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder, are common in Lewy Bodies Dementia." Mayo Clinic literature.

Clonazepam. That is the new medication the sleep clinic at Mayo has prescribed for Dwane to try to stop the worsening REM sleep disturbances. At first we were taking Melatonin, but that began to not prevent the episodes. We will see how this medication works.

Sep 28, 2010

Retain the good

"Do not quench the Spirit. Test everything; retain what is good," 1 Thes 5:19/ 21

What a wonderful attitude to have about everything. The weather has been exquisite here. Yesterday I had a 3 mile run, checked my garden, had an oil painting lesson, cleaned house, and fixed a wonderful oven dinner with mostly garden-fresh vegetables. The above Bible quote seems to tell us we do not have to squelch anything in life; but just look for and retain what is good. That is good practice, whether it is external goodness or our own thoughts and attitudes. Today I will look for and retain all that is good.

Sep 27, 2010

Thinking creates one's life

"If you want to know what you have been thinking, look at your life," Barbara Leger.

More and more I see the truth in the above statement. Many years ago a beautiful therapist told me that there was thought that cancer was caused by a person being unwilling to change. Perhaps many diseases have their root cause in our thinking, Louise Hay certainly thought so. It probably does us no good to consider whether dementia is caused by one's thought; but we, as caregivers, might benefit from considering our own thoughts and whether they support our health or not. There are so many tasks to do as caregivers that it is easy to become numbed out or overwhelmed with just getting them done. We must not allow that for ourselves. We must, in my opinion, stay focused on peace, harmony, joy, well-being (and whatever is top on your list. It is a gift for ourselves and the person for whom we provide care when we take care of our own mental health, the quality of our own thinking.

Sep 26, 2010

Body wisdom

Yesterday I attended a workshop called "Body Talk". It involves a series of light tapping in patterns on the body. The people presenting spoke of amazing healing effects from the process. I have no idea, except I do have high regard for the people who brought the workshop into the area. We will be trying the tapping techniques on Dwane, and see if we notice positive results. It seems similar to the Holy Tea -- it can't be harmful, and if what they said is correct, it can restore equilibrium and energy to the body. It is amazing the different resources that are out there, and it is interesting to sort through and see what might be genuinely helpful, and to share those helpful ones with others.

Sep 25, 2010

Cognitive improvement

"It is not the brains that matter most, but that which guides them—the character, the heart, generous qualities, progressive ideas," Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821 - 1881) Russian novelist.

The medications that are prescribed for dementia are not purported to improve brain function; they are said to merely delay the decline. So, how do we explain Dwane's improved cognitive abilities two years after beginning medication? I think it is the combination of what we do. Good diet, Holy Tea, apple juice, prayer, serenity, intellectual stimulation and fun. I wonder if the Holy Tea (this is not an endorsement of that product -- just a wondering) is a factor. Our alternative healh practioner believes it is. For any interested, Holy Tea is a combination of plants made into a tea by Dr. Miller and can be found in a web search.

Sep 24, 2010

Our life impression

"We will be known forever by the tracks we leave," Unknown, Dakota.

How true. A friend once told me when I said that I was not attending a workshop, "but your energy will be missed." Our energy, the essence of who we are, is either a blessing for ourselves and others, or a diminishment. I don't think there is much of a neutral stance. We can choose whether we are a blessing unto the world and ourselves, or a diminishment. We can also choose whether to reflect back to someone the blessing they are or to reflect back some negative characteristic. This is something to remember in caregiving. We can reflect back to the care receiver the loving energy that lies at the interior of each of us; despite what their behavior might be. And that will make a difference.

Sep 23, 2010

Fall equinox

"Know the river has its destination," Peacemaker, Iroquois.

According to my calendar, today is the first day of fall, and it is very fallish weather here. The meteorologist said that last night was the full moon, and for the first time since 1963 one could see Jupiter near the moon in the night sky. It was too cloudy for us to see it last night; we will look for it tonight.

We are home and getting settled back in. I found myself impatient with Dwane yesterday -- too tired, too much to do with laundry, unpacking, etc; and his negativity was pushing some buttons for me. When impatience occurs for us in caregiving, I suggest we be gentle with ourselves. What we are doing is herculean. We would have to be super-humans to not have some negative emotions. What I do with negative emotions is notice that I am having them, and then recommit to my intention to do this with graciousness.

Sep 22, 2010


"He is the happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace in his home," Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

We are home. In our eagerness to get home, I drove many miles yesterday. It is so good to reenter the peace of our home, the silence, the serenity, being in one's own bed. Lovely. The colors changed while we were gone. It is just beautiful.

Good news on last day from Mayo. Cognitive and memory testing supports my own observations: Dwane is functioning better cognitively than he was two years ago. Yea! It appears what we are doing is supporting his well being. Mayo also put him on some new medication for the REM sleep disorder. I am hopeful and interested to see if that helps.

Sep 21, 2010


"All dreams spin out from the same web," Hopi saying.

So much wisdom. I think we have seen over and over in history when an idea comes to one person, it is also available to anyone else. And others do pick up the same or similar idea. We are connected. That realization helps me to provide caregiving with compassion. If him; then us. I wonder what role illness plays. I remember a friend telling me of an alternative practitioner who said of illness; 'well, we must all die of something'. I happen to think that illness may be a way for the person to continue the evolution of their soul (and I am not necessarily talking of reincarnation); and/or the evolution of the soul of someone in their lives.

Mayo did not have much to say for Dwane. Not much hope given. They seem resigned to the progression of this terminal disease. And, what meaning does that prognosis have for us? I was not expecting a cure this time, but I was hopeful of new, more beneficial medications.

Sep 20, 2010

Mayo news

"...never engage in a fight you are sure to lose." Steig Larsson.

We have had our initial appointment with Mayo. The bad news is that there are as yet no effective medications to address the protein clumping in the brain, so Namenda and Aricept are still the best line of defense. The good news is that we see the sleep clinic tomorrow, and they do have some ideas for better handling the REM sleep disorder. So, this continues to be a fight that we appear to have no chance of winning.

Sep 19, 2010


Our time with grandson is complete. We watched him do very well in his race yesterday. What a conscientious and considerate young man.

Then we began our trip to Mayo. Dwane is complaining of stomach distress, which he often has -- before the dementia, and perhaps more so with all the medications. I am looking forward (with some trepidation?) to what Mayo has to say. Whatever they have to say, I do better with knowing what we are dealing with. And, so, onward.

Sep 17, 2010

Time well spent

It seems that it is always time well spent when one makes the space and gives energy to connecting with people one loves. It has been a good week, and we are moving on today.

The past week has also shown me that Dwane continues to have REM sleep disorder issues. He continues to act out his dreams, flailing and hitting at times. It provides good information to discuss with Mayo. Otherwise, things seem the same. Lucidity fluctuating. More trouble with mobility.

Sep 16, 2010

Nature walks

"A crane standing amidst a flock of chickens," Chinese proverb.

When I run in the mornings here, I see cranes. Beautiful, red-headed cranes. First I would see two, and now I see four. Magnificent. They stand out in the animal/bird world. I recently was talking to someone about the perception of standing out. Her experience was that it was easier to stand out (Be expected to do and be your best) in some places versus others. I think that is true. Some environments are more conducive to allowing and encouraging people to be outside the mold. That is what some of us who are providing care to someone with dementia are doing with the task of caregiving. Standing out by standing in our own truth of how we want to do this task. My choice is with honor, respect and full cognizance. What is your choice?

The time with our grandson is coming to a close and what a joy it has been. He is a delightful, honorable young man. It has been a very good week.

Sep 15, 2010

What we believe

"What the people believe is true," Anishinabe saying.

This saying seems to have deep truth in it. When people believe that other people are basically good, that is usually what they experience. And, conversely, when they believe people are bad, that may be what they experience. Our expectations and deep beliefs seem to manifest in our lives. I have noticed that when I expect things to go very well, they usually do. When I am anxious or distracted, things can go awry. I also find it helpful to set intentions. I set an intention yesterday of really connecting with my grandson, and last night was a delight with him. Also, when I expect things to go well with Dwane, they usually do. Our beliefs and our intentions shape the quality of our lives, and perhaps also, the content.

Sep 14, 2010

Fun Day

Shopping. Many people, seems especially women, love to shop. I am not much of a shopper myself, but yesterday we went to a luxury outlet mall. Fun! We got Dwane a very nice winter coat and a couple fun things for me. The weather has been beautiful, and we have decided to stay long enough to see our grandson run in a race this weekend.

Then on to Mayo. I intend to ask where they think we are with this disease process, and I want to know if there are any new treatments, especially in light of the research released this summer about protein clumps being the problem -- instead of the plaque. There is something I am going to check on regarding my own health too. I intend to stay healthy in this process.

A very good week. Some fun with Dwane and grandson, and some good connections with grandson. It is so good to get a glimpse into his daily life.

Experiencing the metropolitan

While we choose to live intimate with nature, we also like to experience the city. Yesterday we took advantage of some shopping that we cannot do in our rural setting. The traffic and congestion is an interesting experience. It sometimes amazes me that so many people can cohabitate in a relatively small area. There is so much energy in a city. All the bustling, rushing; yet the people are kind and courteous.

Dwane seems okay after his fall, and he is doing well, being congenial, interacting.

Sep 12, 2010


"Those who have enough give, and those who don't have enough take," Katrina Kittle.

We drove into the metro center, ate at an art museum cafe, and walked around in the beautiful sunshine. Dwane fell off the edge of a sidewalk. He almost fell a couple days ago, stumbling over an uneven sidewalk. Even though I am very vigilant, it appears I need to be more so. He is unhurt, but it makes me more aware that in unfamiliar surroundings, he is much more susceptible to accidents - even when care is taken. So, fortunately, I have enough attention and cognitive ability to provide for us both. We will go more slowly. I will be more watchful for pitfalls.


"The sun, the darkness, the winds are all listening to what we have to say," Geronimo, Apache Chief.

If we remembered that the above is true, in that what we say affects ourselves and others, we might be more careful about what we say. Yesterday we took our grandson to a movie. It was rated PG, but it has been a long time since I saw a movie filtered through the lens of what is appropriate for a young person to see. A lot of sexual language, violence, harsh language. When I commented on it afterward, he seemed unfazed. It is important for me to realize, since it was PG, that this is the norm for our society now. Recently I saw a movie which I had liked from my own childhood era, and while there was no blatant sex, there was drunkenness and a lot of smoking.

It is important that we, and the media, be aware of the message we are sending, what we are condoning. Someone may be listening.

Sep 11, 2010

Treasured time

"Communication is to relationships what breathing is to life," Virginia Satir.

What a glorious time we are having with our grandson. I had the most precious gift of being there when he was born, and we have always had a special connection. It is so good to reconnect with him. We planned to do something fun today, but the weather is not cooperating. Dwane is of good cheer and enjoying the "vacation" time. He and our grandson discuss his history class. It is good to see someone eliciting Dwane's knowledge base.

Sep 10, 2010

Road trip

We have arrived to stay with grandson as his parents travel to international conference. It is good to be acquainted with this area, and to catch a glimpse into their lives. The travel was fine, and all will be well here. It will be fun to scout the area for some fun things to do. Dwane is loving the trip and doing well. We will go out and become familiar with the basic services today.

Sep 7, 2010

Tips for Physician's Visits

This information is taken from a Mayo Clinic newsletter:
1. Schedule wisely
Plan appointments for your loved one's best time of day and, if possible, when the doctor's office is least crowded. Bring snacks and water, and an activity your loved one enjoys.

2. Be prepared
Make a list of issues you'd like to address with the doctor, such as concerns about medication side effects or aggressive behavior. Put your primary three concerns at the top of the list so that you're sure to cover what's most important to you. Also take note of your loved one's medications, even over-the-counter medications and supplements. You can either make a list of everything your loved one takes or bring the labeled containers in a bag.

3. Be specific
Be ready to answer questions about your loved one's symptoms and behavior. Have you noticed any changes in your loved one's mood? Is your loved one able to eat regular meals? Does your loved one seem to be uncomfortable in any way? Has your loved one shown any aggressive behavior? As the disease progresses, your insight may be the critical factor in determining what's best for your loved one.
4. Take notes
Bring a note pad and pen so that you can jot down the main points of the doctor's explanation. You might also record the conversation on your cell phone or another device so that you can listen to it again later. Better yet, bring a friend or another family member and ask him or her to take notes or to stay with your loved one while you take notes. If you don't understand something the doctor tells you, ask for clarification.

Also think about seating arrangement in the doctor's office. If your loved one sits next to the doctor and you sit beyond, the doctor can address questions directly to your loved one — and you can nod your head to confirm or refute your loved one's responses.

5. Consider the future
Ask the doctor to discuss what to expect in the next year or two. You might ask about advance directives, long term care or nursing home placement. You might also discuss hospice or palliative care. Knowing what to expect can help you prepare.

6. Ask for referrals or recommendations
If you need help, ask. The doctor can refer you to various community resources, such as meal services, senior centers, respite care and support groups.

7. Deal promptly with conflict
If something annoys you about a particular appointment or if a misunderstanding arises, discuss it with the doctor right away. Work as a team to resolve the problem, rather than rushing to switch doctors. A change could be confusing to your loved one and detrimental to his or her care in the long run.

Respectful living

"When we show our respect for other living things, they respond with respect for us," Arapaho saying.

This seems to be true whether one is talking about nature, one's garden, relationships, oneself, work environments. It has certainly been true for me in caregiving. The more respectful I make our environment, the more Dwane responds positively. Harmony, peace, respect, ease, fun. These are all things worth making a priority in one's living situation; and the dividends pay off. People treat us better, things go more smoothly, there is more harmony. It is worth considering how we want to be treated, and then treat all other people and situations as we want to be treated.

We are off on a road trip. Any time away from the structure and predictability of our home is harder. Dwane responds to the consistency here, and has more anxiety when we travel. My intention for this trip is for fun, safety, relaxation, ease.

Sep 6, 2010

Not plaque??

"Scientists once thought plaques were bad. New studies show they may protect the brain," AARP/Bulletin, September 2010.

A whole new way of thinking what may cause Alzheimer's. It has been presumed for some time that the brain is destroyed by sticky plaque; now the thinking is that the plaque may be trying to protect the brain from clumps of protein. Why do we care? Because that will change the direction of research and the medications. Right now the medications are designed to target the plaque; but if the plaque is helpful and the protein the problem, medications will take a whole new approach. Something for all of us dealing with dementia to watch.

Fully here

"You can only get there if you are fully here," Jon Kabat-Zinn.

I am re-reading, Wherever You Go There You Are, by above author. A book full of great tips for being mindful, not being lost in our thoughts of fear and lack, and being present. Caregiving is an opportunity to practice mindfulness. Really be present in each moment. It might be easier with caregiving, than being out in the world working. At least there is no excuse to be "lost in our thoughts". What can we notice today during the time we spend providing care to the care receiver?

Sep 5, 2010

Review of my year

"Love settles within the Circle, embracing it and thereby lasting forever, turning within itself," Luther Standing Bear.

So, how has the last year been for me as caregiver? It was a godsend that I found us another setting in which to live for the winter months, as the snow removal was just too much for Dwane and me in our current situation. The deep grieving I did in June was beneficial. I came to the realization that we are now 2 years post diagnosis, and things seem about the same as two years ago. So, this is going to be a longer project of caregiving than I had originally planned for (because Mayo literature said death from diagnosis with Dementia with Lewy Bodies is usually 2-3 years.) The good that came from that grieving is that I reclaimed some of my life that I had set aside to devote to caregiving. I started doing some professional work again. I also scheduled us again to go to Mayo -- to see if they have any news tricks in their bag to assist Dwane's health. We had some wonderful trips, fulfilling some of Dwane's wishes and mine. A good year, well spent.

Sep 4, 2010

Year's review

"Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves," Chief Seattle, Chief of the Suquamish.

So, 365 days of writing this blog. Actually, it has been a bit over a year since it originated because of a few missed days with travel. So, what has the year brought us? Ups and downs, celebrations and sorrows, accomplishments and setbacks --- much like any year; except that this year we have been dealing with a terminal and progressive disease. Dwane seems about the same to me cognitively as he was one year ago, but with the characteristic fluctuations of lucidity common to Dementia with Lewy Bodies. Physically I see much decline, in spite of having gotten him into PT (physical therapy). That has helped, but his physicality seems to be diminishing and slowing. He is generally congenial, of which I am so grateful. That is a major difference; not so often the belligerence that was so present early on. I am glad that we completed one of his "bucket list" items this year; going to Sagamore, summer home of Theodore Roosevelt. The upcoming hunting trip will be another item. We focus on quality of life, ease, fun. In spite of it all, our life is very good.

Sep 3, 2010

Reflections of gratitude

"Our first teacher is our heart," Cheyenne saying.

Today is my 365th blog entry. I had originally set as a goal doing this blog for one year. During that year I have wondered at the helpfulness of it, especially when faced with some extended family opposition about it. My intention for it has always been to provide reliable information and support to help caregivers in any situation, with dementia in particular, and also to give myself some sense of purpose in the midst of this journey. I know from feedback from readers that many of you find this blog helpful and supportive, and that is my delight as it was also my goal. So, today, it is with gratitude that I have had this avenue of expression and the support of you, the readers. May we all be blessed with serenity and wisdom. I look forward to what the next year will bring. Medical breakthroughs for help with dementia?!?! Wouldn't that be lovely? World peace? Prosperity for all? What would be a good intention to hold for ourselves and the world for the next year? What does our heart tell us?

Sep 2, 2010

Dark periods

"In the middle of this road we call our life I found myself in a dark wood with no clear path through," Dante Alighieri.

Despite the support systems that we carefully craft, despite taking care of our physical/mental/spiritual health, despite our educating ourselves, we will encounter times of discouragement. Let us honor our feelings during these (and all) times. This too shall pass.

Sep 1, 2010

Healing of nature

"When people in nursing homes are given plants to care for, they live a year longer than the average expectation," Dr. Joan Borysenko.

One might wonder if it is the being with the plants or if it is having something alive dependent upon them which increases the lives of these persons. Perhaps both. We have plants in and out of the house, and choose to live in an area where we experience nature intimately. I think it is beneficial to us both. Perhaps having something one is responsible for keeping alive is good for people with dementia who seem to collapse into themselves. Their awareness seems to slowly restrict so that they are eventually only involved with their own sensations. Perhaps that is not true of all dementia, but it certainly true of some. Perhaps it is good to give them a focus outside themselves (such as a plant) that is dependent upon their attention. An interesting experiment.

Aug 30, 2010


"To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts," Thoreau.

Choosing isolation, as Thoreau is reported to have done, is different from the isolation that seems inherent with dementia. There is a collapsing inward that happens to the person with dementia; a narrowing of their interests, their awareness, that restricts everything down to their own needs, their own world. Then there is the isolation from the world. I have been surprised both by those people who make the effort to include and support us, and by those who don't. People one would think would be kind and supportive to either the care receiver or care giver aren't; and conversely there are those one might least expect to be kind and inclusive who are. One of those persons is someone in the extended family who is planning a hunting trip that not only includes Dwane but seems to be a gesture of helping Dwane complete his bucket list. How extraordinary! He is looking forward to it, and I get a few days reprieve. I am so grateful for the kindness of this person.

Aug 29, 2010

Apples? The new cure all?

"Apples, and especially apple juice, turn out to be brain food," Hara Estroff Marano.

In Psychology Today, June 2010, there is interesting information on research of the effectiveness of apples with dementia. According to the article in a study of people with moderate to severe Alzheimer's disease who consumed 8 ounces of apple juice a day, the behavioral and psychotic symptoms of the disease fell by 27%. That means less anxiety, agitation and delusional symptoms. Apples juice fed to mice also reduces generation of the neurotoxin betamyloid thought to cause Alzheimer's disease. It also increased levels of neurotransmitters which help movement, sensory perception and attention; decreased some negative components that can be activated during aging; and reduced free radicals of oxygen in the central nervous system.

It sounds worthwhile to add one to two cups of apple juice to our daily diet.


"Yikes! Belly fat equals smaller brains, and a higher risk of Alzheimer's." Remedy magazine Fall 2010.

The quest for overall health, even in the face of a terminal illness, needs to include weight management, physical activity, good nutrition, and peace of mind. Because my mother exposed me to a good knowledge of nutrition, our weight is fine. Exercise is a dilemma. He cannot walk much because of pain in legs. Bike riding is iffy with balance issues, so perhaps we can join a place with a pool for him to swim. There is significant research stating the benefits of exercise to one's physical, mental and cognitive states. In fact, research for some time has stated that to stay at the weight we are we need at least 30 minutes of exercise. To lose weight we need 60-90 minutes. So, what can we implement today to support exercise, weight and well being?

Aug 27, 2010


"Only that day dawns to which we are awake," Henry David Thoreau.

I am re-reading a book a friend gave me in 1995, Wherever you Go There You Are, by Jon Kabat-Zinn. It concerns daily mindfulness, and the author contends (and I have observed) that many people spend their entire lives in a dream-like state. Mindfulness is something we can practice as we provide care for our loved one with a terminal illness.

"Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally," Jon Kabat-Zinn. What a good intention for us and for those around us.

Aug 26, 2010

Creativity and dementia

"Even though our brains age, it doesn't diminish our ability to create," Dr. Bruce Miller.

The following is copied from The Mayo Clinic Alzheimer's Newsletter: "Dr. Bruce Miller of the University of California at San Francisco has been a key person in drawing attention to the creative abilities in some individuals with frontotemporal dementia. He has pioneered research recognizing that degeneration in the left side of the brain may limit language but may actually enhance and release musical or artistic abilities. His work moved him to realize just how much creativity exists in dementia patients.

Over the past decade, more and more research has demonstrated the benefits of the arts for older persons especially those with cognitive decline such as memory loss due to Alzheimer's, as well as other causes of dementia. At a forum held at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, in November 2006, leading researchers acknowledged that although more research was needed in the area of creativity, the benefits of creativity for those impacted by dementia were undeniable."

Suggestions for creativity in the article include yoga and doing art forms such as painting, drawing, dancing. The benefits can be significant.

Living out of gratitude

"Wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving," Kahlil Gibran.

What great advice. There is considerable evidence that our lives are better when we have an attitude of gratitude. That expression is one the Twelve Step Programs use to achieve serenity - "have an attitude of gratitude". It is a good practice for us who are providing care. Some days we may have to look carefully to find things about which to be grateful, but they are there. Today I am grateful for the cool morning, the more spacious (less committed) day I have before me. An opportunity to fertilize my garden and do a longer run than usual. Perhaps a Netflix movie tonight after a great meal. Perhaps start a new oil painting. Many, many reasons for thankfulness.

Aug 25, 2010

Governing one's surroundings

"You govern your surroundings by the nature of what is taking place in your consciousness," Joel S. Goldsmith.

Very true. I learned this in my first few weeks of teaching many years ago. A large part of the atmosphere in a classroom is created by the conscious intention of the instructor. Order, respectful interactions all occur based upon the conscious intention of the instructor. Conversely, so do disorder, ridicule occur because nothing better was intended.

That is also true in the home and/or in relationships. It is important to be conscious of what we are thinking, intending, feeling - because that is what sets the tone of the area. That is why I consciously choose to think, feel and intend the best for all. It makes a difference. And it is easy to know what we are thinking and intending by catching ourselves off and on during the day. Check in with what we are thinking and feeling: that is our intention. It may not be what you thought it was. And that is one way to develop self honesty. Am I showing up as I intend to show up? My thoughts and feelings reveal the trueness of this for me. Let's be conscious of what environment we want to create in our surroundings while we are providing care.

Aug 24, 2010

Compassionate thoughts

"We have met the enemy and he is us," Pogo by Walt Kelly cartoonist.

I remember my whole family delighting in this quote when I was a child. It is delightful that some of the greatest wisdom can come in the form of cartoon strips. Of course, I guess that is the function the jesters and clowns used to serve -- passing along wisdom in the guise of humor. At a recent gathering someone was saying they were so grateful to not have the health concerns of someone else, but if the above quote is true (and I think it is); what one of us has, we all have. How does this apply to caregiving and the care receiver? Certainly, conditions could be reversed and it could be we that need the care provided. Perhaps that can help us be compassionate. For this journey, we drew the card for the caregiver. What can that mean to us?

Aug 23, 2010

Sundowner tips

"As many as 20% of people with Alzheimer's (and other types of dementia) may experience increased anxiety, confusion, agitation, restlessness and disorientation that starts in the early evening and continues into the night," Mayo Clinic Health Source.

To help reduce late-day confusion, Mayo Clinic has these tips:
1. Plan activities and exposure to light during the day
2. Discourage daytime naps
3. Limit caffeine to early morning
4. Encourage walking at least twice a day
5. Suggest repetitive tasks late in the day (i.e. folding towels)
6. Turn on several bright light during evening
7. Avoid interruptions and noise at night
8. Keep a night light on
9. Encourage visitors

Aug 20, 2010

How we look

"Take care, there is much power in a glance. If accompanied by a malicious thought, it can cause harm." Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

There is power in our thought, opinions, ways we perceive others. A spiritual director once told me of the power of "shining love": looking with love onto another human. I was with a dear, dear friend recently and the love we have for each other shines through our eyes. Let us give thought to how we think and look at others. It is important for me to protect Dwane from contempt; which I have seen people with dementia receive. We can help our loved one avoid that by modeling the behavior we want others to show to our loved one. It really works. People tend to treat others the way that is expected of them. I cannot prevent people from avoiding us, which of course some do with their discomfort with dementia; but I can help people to treat Dwane graciously when we are included.

Aug 19, 2010

Wonders we can control

"Work on having only positive thoughts. It will do wonders for your mind," Rebbe Nachman of Breslov.

Something we can actually control to greatly enhance our lives! I have heard people say, but how do we do that? A good start is to have the intention of avoiding any negative thought: this means worry, anger, fear, anxiety, judgement, negativity about oneself/others/situations. Then catch yourself when you are entertaining a negative thought. Isn't the word "entertaining" an interesting one? We do choose and entertain our thoughts. Which thoughts do you want as guests in your mind? The ones you choose affect your entire health, relationships and circumstances. Listen to positive-thinking tapes. Retrain your brain to think positively. It is amazing what a difference this can make in any circumstance; including living with dementia.


"Know! A person walks in life on a very narrow bridge. The most important thing is not to be afraid." Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

A friend reminded me of the wonderful writings of this Hasidic Master. Some people think that there are just two emotions, fear and love, from which all other emotions are distilled. Might be true. When people are angry, it seems it is really that they are afraid. So, how not to be afraid of what lies ahead of us in caregiving and in all things? Perhaps this is another good application of "Act as if." If we practice anything long enough (some psychologists say about 30 days), it becomes a habit for us. So, let's act as if we are unafraid.

Aug 18, 2010

Folic acid

"Low folate levels are associated with poor cognitive performance in the general population." Mayo Clinic Alzheimer's Newsletter

The article goes on to say that among the population of people who have normal folate levels, taking folic acid supplements did not help; but it might be worth a conversation with one's doctor. It is yet another benign way that may be helpful to the cognitive functioning of the person to whom we are providing care.

Aug 17, 2010


"An ounce of practice is worth more than a ton of preaching," Mahatma Gandhi.

So true. People's behavior is often much more revealing than their words, and can contradict what they say they believe. Only when one truly integrates their values so that their words and behaviors match are they maturing individuals. Sometimes we get some unusual help in developing this congruence from people who push our buttons. There is much for us to learn about ourselves from what pushes our buttons. Some deep healing that can occur. What in the act of caregiving pushes your buttons? For me it is to have something that I have carefully put somewhere relocated. Frustrating. It is sometimes hard to remember that it is probably not willful that he does this, but part of the disease process.

Aug 16, 2010

Fun with family

"I know but one freedom and that is the freedom of the mind," Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

It is such a wonderful thing that we can choose our thoughts and our topics of conversation. Absolutely free will in both. Yesterday we hosted a family gathering. Great fun. The food was delicious; Dwane handled freezing the homemade ice cream. Good conversation, a lot of laughter. A long walk alongside the creek. A time of blessing for us and those we love. I had asked, somewhat tongue in cheek, that people bring a lawn chair and their good will. There is such a difference when we extend our good will to one another. A good time was had by all.

Aug 15, 2010


"Worry is fear -- but fear on the offensive. Worry is the guest we put up for a night who turns out to be a serial killer," Harry Cronin, CSC.

It is hard not to worry sometimes. We see the decline in functioning and worry what it means for the care receiver and ourselves. We read the stages of dementia and worry about how we will get through what is ahead, address each stage and get the help we need. But Fr. Cronin is right. Worry is worse than useless; it is destructive. Somehow we must not succumb to the temptation to worry. The only way I know how to do that is to stay in the present moment; because, after all, this moment I am handling, this moment things are okay. So, all is well. When I stay in the here and now, all is well.

Aug 14, 2010


"The ability to forgive those who have ignored us, wounded us or even killed us, comes only after long practice, and leads to the deepest personal freedom," Dr. Joan Borysenko.

Forgiveness. It might be the key to mature and healthy life. We all have those family members, friends, colleagues, acquaintances or strangers to forgive for some transgression. But, the person most important to forgive is ourselves. For the times we are impatient with the person with dementia, for not recognizing the signs sooner to get medical help, for assuming the person wouldn't do something when it was he/she couldn't do it. For all those times, let us forgive ourselves. Let us free ourselves entirely. Perhaps, too, we need to forgive our loved one for having dementia.

Aug 13, 2010


"He who is contented is rich," Lao Tzu

Contentment. It seems that is an elusive thing for people in some stages of dementia. What are some ways to foster contentment? Music is a great one. I play nostalgic music often to create contentment. Yesterday we had a delicious dinner. Then we watched a movie from some decades ago. And then we sat outside to enjoy a meteor shower. Activities that bring contentment to us both. Sometimes contentment is achieved by my simply avoiding an argument or upset. We are rich indeed.

Aug 12, 2010

Freedom of choice

"Societies have done the best when people have sought the freedom to make the most of their own abilities," Milton Friedman.

Watched a documentary on the noted economist, Milton Friedman. He attributes the success of societies to people having the freedom of choice so that they can make the most of their own potentiality. Since families are a microsystem I think this applies to families too. Isn't it a discerning process to foster freedom while creating safety for persons with dementia?

Aug 11, 2010

Be yourself

"Be yourself; everyone else is already taken," Oscar Wilde.

What a funny way to remind us to be our authentic selves. I remember once hearing Oprah tell her audience they could be all they wanted to be, but to not try to be Oprah, as she had that one covered. In my life I have sometimes been told/asked, "Who do you think you are?" Sometimes that is said or inferred to us about how we are handling this dementia journey. Perhaps it is said whenever one does something in an individual way, without following the social norm. Who do I think I am? I know I am what I think, so I think peace, well being, fun. Who do you think you are?

Aug 10, 2010

Change yourself

"Change yourself and your work will seem different," Norman Vincent Peale.

Sometimes caregiving can be a strain and tiring. Sometimes it may seem that it is endless and without joy. When these feelings come, it is time to change yourself; change your attitude. Take a break. Arrange respite for yourself. Look for the joys in your life. Sometimes we cannot see the joys because we are too tired. We need to make sure we are refreshed enough to do this task, and to do it with equanimity, if not with joy.