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?