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.