Jan 31, 2011

Nature as nurturer

"In every walk with nature one receives far more than one seeks," Muir.

A freezing fog over the weekend has left the trees in absolute exquisite beauty. Decked in pure crystalline white, they are dazzling. Driving home I also saw a group of American Paint horses, one of whom was reaching across the fence as if the frosted grass on that other side might be more palatable. How often are we like that horse? Discontent with what is right in front of us? Let's take time today to notice the beauty of our own lives.

Jan 29, 2011

Mayo Clinic appointments

"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude," Maya Angelou .

When I met yesterday with the woman frustrated in getting an accurate medical diagnosis and some answers for her husband with symptoms of dementia, it occurred to me that others may not know that if you want an appointment with Mayo Clinic, all you have to do is call them yourself. 507-538-3270 is the phone line for appointments at Rochester, Minnesota, or for hearing impaired, 507-281-9786, or visit http://www.mayoclinic.org/ for additional information. The woman I met with now has an appointment at Mayo Clinic in March, 2011, after calling them herself; she had waited for one year for her local doctor to facilitate the appointment.

I am not advocating Mayo Clinic above all others. I know there are other good ones, Johns Hopkins University in Maryland springs to mind, and I am sure there are many in other countries. But if you live in a rural area in the United States and want a very good, comprehensive evaluation for dementia - or other medical conditions, Mayo Clinic is a godsend. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of getting a thorough, comprehensive medical evaluation to give you the best answers for dementia. At Mayo Clinic when we initially went, Dwane saw a general practitioner, a neurologist, a neuropsychologist, neuropsychiatrist, a psychiatrist; in addition to having blood work, cognitive testing, sleep study (which is important in Lewy Bodies Dementia) and a CAT scan. Oddly enough, it was the young psychiatrist who gave us our definitive diagnosis. The thing about Mayo Clinic is that a patient sees whatever speciality is needed, AND they communicate their findings to each other via their computer systems. The work of collaborating your symptomatology is done for you. As caregivers for dementia our tasks are difficult enough. We need the best possible medical information to assist us and the person for whom we provide care.


"We are here to learn how to swim together in an ocean of love, peace, joy, selflessness, integrity, cooperation, collaboration, in short ----oneness," Michael Bernard Beckwith.

I met yesterday with a woman whose husband has dementia, but for whom she has been unable to get a definitive diagnosis or answer. She spoke of the incredible isolation, the fact that family members were too busy to help, that friends now excluded them because he can no longer play cards or take part in the conversation. This seems to be a very familiar theme for those of us as caregivers for someone with dementia. The friends who drift away in discomfort, the family members who are too busy to help or not so busy to prevent them from trying to impose their opinions, the activities one can no longer due because of the diminishing capacity of the person with dementia. This isolation is a reality for many of us.

But. I want to be sure to notice and be grateful for the love and support I do have. The dear friends who call regularly, our son-in-law who comes once a month overnight to give me respite, the kindness and inclusivity of the exercise group we go to, the family who do include us and reach out and are kind, the neighbor who plows for us. For those I am so grateful.

Jan 28, 2011

Dealing with Death continued

"More than we fear death, we fear life." Anthony Esolen.

I tend to agree with the above statement; that we fear living all out, fully and outrageously alive. When we learned of Dwane's diagnosis at Mayo Clinic, he was more stunned and saddened than I (because I knew something was amiss), and on the drive home we discussed it, and we decided that we would treat it like Randy Pausch presents in The Last Lecture. We have done the things we wanted to do while Dwane was still able to do them: go to Italy to see his daughter and family, go to the seacoast, go to Sagamore. I am so glad we did these things, but we also need to prepare for the inevitable death. More things to do when someone dies:

Bank accounts: Check to see if the accounts are joint ownership or if you need Power of Attorney to access funds upon death.

Notify employee benefits.

Notify the state/country office for inheritance tax (lawyers often do this.)

Keep a record of activities and all money spent, as this may be a time of confusion.

Bills still need to be paid, but it may be better to pay them from the estate to lessen inheritance tax. An income tax return will need to be filed in the U.S. for the final year, and an estate tax return will need to be filed.

Credit cards: cancel them immediately.

Evaluate surviving spouse life insurance: Make any changes on beneficiaries, employee benefits, IRA's.

Changes in ownership registration: Autos, stocks, bonds, investments, residences, boats, savings and checking accounts, charge accounts and safe deposit boxes may need to have beneficiaries/names changed.

Have available: certified copy of death certificate, notarized Affidavit of Domicile, completed Stock Power Form with signature guarantee to change registration, and a copy of any trust documents. All of these may be needed to re-title assets.

I hope these suggestions of what to remember when someone dies will be helpful as one deals with the stress and adjustment of the loss.

Jan 27, 2011

Caregiver support

"Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong ... To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage." Ralph Waldo Emerson.

"Caregivers need to be supported in their decisions and do what is not only best for the person with the disease, but also what is best for them." Alzheimer's Caregiver's Newsletter, Mayo Clinic.

How true, but how do we find time to do what is best for us? One way is to have something the person with dementia can do independently (another way, of course, is to have someone care for the person so you can be gone, and I strongly advocate that too.). Kathy, a reader of this blog, pointed out that her husband can no longer watch movies, but she came up with a marvelous idea: a digital photo frame which has photos of the family and things they have done. A woman I met recently said her husband would not watch tv, could no longer read, and wanted her to entertain him all day. That would be exhausting, and she looked exhausted. We must find ways where we can have a life too. Adult day care, respite care, home health care. As dementia caregivers we must find ways to meet our own needs. If we are depleted and ill, that is not good for us and it is not good for the person for whom we provide care. We need to remember that far too many caregivers die before the person for whom they provided care. Who does that serve?

Death details

"I am the unending, irresistible Life of the world," Emma Curtis Hopkins.

Our financial advisor gave us some guidelines for what to do when death occurs, which I thought would be helpful to pass along since we are dealing with a terminal illness --- and, one could say we each live in a terminal state of being.

Contact the funeral director, meet to make funeral arrangements, request at least ten certified copies of the death certificate which will be needed by life insurance companies, financial institutions, etc.

Make no immediate decisions about things like buying or selling one's house, borrowing or loaning money, changing job. Income flow may well be diminished. Be cautious for the first 2-3 months.

Contact your attorney to review will and trusts and possible death tax.

Contact your financial advisor to help assist with money flow issues.

Locate Important Papers: Know location of all documents and papers.

Safety Deposit Box. Be aware of the laws in your state/region on whether these boxes are sealed or inventoried upon one person's death. See whose name is on the box to assure more than one person can obtain access to box.

Bank Accounts: State laws vary, but be aware of all bank accounts and whether they are joint or not, and what the laws of your state/region are.

Notify the Social Security Office: In the U.S. claims may be expedited if one goes to the nearest office to sign a claim for survivors benefits, should that apply. The national toll free number is 1-800-722-1213.

Notify Life or Accident Insurers and inquire what information is needed to begin processing the claim. Discuss payment options.

Notify Medical and Homeowner/Auto Insurers: This can reduce premiums, but do not allow coverage to lapse. Eventually, these policies will be re-written in surviving spouse name, if applicable.

This will be continued tomorrow, and already I see that it does not include what steps to take when a person dies at home. I will research that.

Jan 26, 2011

Grieving continued

"Most people respond to loss with resilience, which is often mischaracterized as pathological or delayed grief," Ruth Davis Konigsberg.

The research cited by Ms. Konigsberg also debunks the myth that grief is harder on women than on men, that if we don't express it we will be repressing it, that we never get over the loss and that one needs counseling to deal with grief. All good news for those of us experiencing the loss of the person we knew as dementia caregivers. Things that do help one deal with loss include having enough money, having social support, and having minimal sources of other stress. Being a mental health professional I was somewhat surprised that research from the University of Memphis "found no evidence that counseling helped most bereaved individuals any more than the simple passage of time." Ms. Konigsberg's findings seem to indicate that in order to deal with the grief process, the best known aid comes from the passage of time. "The worst of grief is usually over within about six months."

For us as dementia caregivers it is not as simple as that. We will be grieving the loss of the essence of the person we love while we provide care; then we will deal with the actual death of the person. A much longer prospect. Still, it is comforting to know that the passage of time is assisting us to deal with the loss of the person, the relationship, the aspects of who that person was to us.

Jan 25, 2011


"expressing negative emotions can actually prolong your distress (in grieving)" Ruth Davis Konigsberg.

I, along with many other mental health practitioners, knew and taught the five stages of grief (denial, bargaining, anger, depression and acceptance) outlined by Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in 1969. New research from numerous sources debunks Kubler-Ross's stages of grief and the need to express the negative experience around one's loss. Kubler-Ross first came up with the stages in relation to the reaction to one's own death, and then it was applied to all grief. It turns out that grieving does not happen in stages, and most people who lose a loved one experience yearning for them more than either depression or anger.

Living with dementia has been said to be a journey of grieving. Certainly we do see the person with dementia diminishing before our eyes. The new research about grief may be very beneficial to us. For one thing, the research certainly does support not wallowing around in negativity; something we have addressed in this blog. The new research does indicate that looking for the positive is supportive to the process. More on this tomorrow.

(Book: The Truth About Grief by Ruth Davis Konigsberg)

Jan 24, 2011


"To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men (and women -my addition) ---- that is genius." Ralph Waldo Emerson.

When I consider the options for Dwane and myself, I try always to consider them through what he has told me he wants and through what I would want myself were I in his shoes. I think most humans want to be treated with love and respect. Most humans want to retain as much independence as possible for as long as possible. Most humans want to enjoy fun and a sense of belonging and being cherished.

As we go through our daily routines, and as I strive to make decisions on our behalf, I keep these things in mind as guideposts.

Jan 23, 2011


"There simply is not enough money in the world to buck the natural currents of individual freedom and independence of thought."--- Abraham

How wonderful that we each have such good thoughts, and that the internet has dramatically leveled the playing field in being able to share those thoughts. Over history people who were working on similar creations tended to move to live in the same areas; think Paris during the Impressionist period. What I would like to create with this blog is a vehicle in which we can share our best thinking about how to live with and help someone in our lives deal with dementia, graciously. I invite readers of this blog to share what works best for them, and I pledge I will do the same. With our various ideas and expertise, we can make this a more pleasant journey for us all.

An idea of mine to share today is the watching of old movies. Dwane can no longer follow complex plots or conversations, but he does enjoy some of the older and perhaps simpler plots in familiar movies. We have set up the routine of a tasty and nutritious meal (I really enjoy cooking.), followed by a movie. Libraries, Netflix and borrowing from others are all ways we obtain movies. What is an idea you can share with the rest of us today?

Jan 22, 2011

Power of touch

""Whether it's a squeeze of the hand, a big bar hug, a kneading massage, even a bedroom romp, touch is shaping up to be the ultimate mind-body medicine," Health Magazine, Jan/Feb 2011, p 92.

According to Mark Rapaport, MD, chair of Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences at Cedar Sinai in Los Angeles and Roberta Lee, MD, vice chair of the Department of Integrative Medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center in NYC, touch is one of the quickest ways to relax. Massages cause muscles to relax, heart rates to slow down and our immune system to improve. Studies are showing that anxiety-causes situations are handled better when one is touched, especially by someone who loves them. So, something to consider for both you and the person for whom you provide care, in what ways can you implement touch in order to be more relaxed and less anxious?

Jan 20, 2011

Being happy

"Life is not always what one wants it to be, but to make the best of it as it is, is the only way of being happy."--Jennie Jerome Churchill

Probably none of us would have chosen to live with and provide care for someone with dementia, nor to have a loved one with this terminal illness. I watched a recent video of Meryl Comer, advocate for dementia for the Geoffry Beene Foundation, who said that watching the stripping away of the reality of the person with dementia changes the caregiver forever. I agree. I think really anything we go through in life changes us, for the better or the worse. It seems to me we either get bitter or better as humans when we interact with the events of life. Granted, providing care for someone with dementia is one of the larger, more challenging events of life; but I don't think the size matters as much as our reaction to the event: we still make the choice to be bitter or better as a result of this life experience. Today, in what way do you want to be affected by the experience of providing care for someone with dementia. Bitter or better? I know which one I choose, on behalf of us both.

Jan 19, 2011

Caregiver stress

"Have you laughed today? Laughter, along with an active sense of humor, is one of the best stress relievers around. When laughter is shared, it brings people closer together and increases everyone's overall mood and health." www.caregiverstress.com

A dear friend sent me the link to the above website, on which there is a very funny video called: A Reminder That Laughter is the Best Medicine. So true. Research studies have shown again and again the benefit of laughter to one's overall health, and relationships can be enhanced by laughing together at things mutually enjoyed. So, let's plan on at least one healthy laughing event every day. The video on the above link may be a place to start. We buy movie dvd's that we have found funny. Grumpy Old Men is one. Depending upon your sense of humor, one can accumulate books, movies and television programs that strike one as humorous. And fun gatherings are even better. Dr. Oscar Ybarra, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, says that even 10 minutes of talking and laughing with friends raises one's spirits and cognitive skills.


"It's a godsend, really lucky, when one has so few relations." Menander.

I am reading Cleopatra, the historical study done by Stacy Schiff, and the royalty in Cleopatra's time certainly seemed to eliminate the competition of one's relatives. Harsh. Something not considered today in what we like to call our civilized world. Still, squabbles among relatives is legend. Just now in the news the upset between Ronald Reagan's sons over the book, Remembering My Father, that Ron Reagan wrote. Stress brings out the opportunity for even more upset among family members, and perhaps you, like me, have found that family members express all kinds of opinions about what one should do in the face of dealing with the terminal illness of dementia. So, how can we as caregivers, already stretched to maximum by the responsibilities and strains of caregiving, handle relations?

A most important thing is to become very clear about how you want the process of caregiving to be, so that one is not confused by the divergent opinions. A great Twelve Step strategy is to listen to the kernel of truth in any opinion, and let the rest go. Model communication that is open, direct, respectful and honest; and expect that same communication from others. And, finally, remember: we cannot please all of the people all of the time, and it is far better to put our energies into being true to ourselves and to what we believe is in the best interest of the person for whom we provide care.

Jan 18, 2011

Signs of dementia

"Three years into his first term as president, I felt the first shivers of concern that something beyond mellowing was affecting my father......Today we are aware that the changes associated with Alzheimer's can be in evidence years, even decades, before identifiable symptoms arise," Ron Reagan (the son).

When I have read his new book and heard Ron Regan interviewed about his father and his book, I am struck by the "oh, yes." I feel. Looking back I can now recognize many symptoms for several years prior to the actual diagnosis. Symptoms that concerned me, but seemed fleeting. Actually, that was very confusing; the clarity one minute and the confusion the next. It was several years ago that he pulled out directly into the path of another car. He was still working at the time. I was alarmed, but thought it must have just been a moment of inattention. In our case, as I understand it, it was the anesthesia for the complete knee replacement that kicked into high gear the already-present dementia. We now know too that Ronald Reagan's sons are squabbling about this memoir. That too is familiar to me. The family disagreements about if it exists, what should treatment be, etc.

For me it was comforting to read of someone else having concerns before a definite diagnosis and trying to make sense of it, and even that family members may disagree as they come to grips with this experience out of their own perspectives.

Jan 17, 2011


"Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal," Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

We can acknowledge with gratitude what Martin Luther King did to foster tolerance and respectful treatment of people, especially African-Americans. We, as caregivers, can do the same for people with dementia. We can expect people to treat with dignity the persons for whom we provide care. We can show them how by example. I once knew someone with dementia who had an active part in a church service; the congregation complained and asked the pastor to remove him because his lurching walk made them uncomfortable. The pastor did remove him. Let us together expect better treatment for our care receivers. We and they can expect they receive the same respect, dignity, regard given to anyone. I spent a part of my earlier life advocating for people with cognitive and physical disabilities. Here too in caregiving we can set the bar high for how included people with dementia are. Let us expect freedom, respect and dignity for us all. "I have a dream," Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We, too, can have a dream of a world in which all people are treated with respectful dignity, and we can act in that way ourselves as models for the world. What is one small action we can take today to advance the respectful inclusion of people with dementia in society?

Jan 16, 2011

Self regard

"My fifth name is All good things created by Mazda, the offsprings of the holy principle," The Zend-Avesta.

What a lovely idea. That you, I, everyone is the offspring of the holy principle. Would we behave differently if we really thought that each of us was an intentional and holy presence in the world? One's self worth, how we really regard ourselves, is critical to healing the world. Not selfish fear-based ego, but true positive regard -- towards oneself and all others. David Hawkins in Power vs Force states that one person who is exhibiting self love (He calls it , if I remember correctly, vibrating at a higher frequency.) can offset and transform many of those people who are living in fear and hatred. I do not know if that is true, but I do know that my life and the life of him for whom I provide care are improved when I regard myself and others as holy. It makes a difference in the atmosphere in our home and in the way I am showing up in the world.

Jan 15, 2011


You are what your deepest, driving desire is," Brihadaranyaka.

I think this is true. That is why I think it is so important to determine what atmosphere you desire to have in your living situation and in your relationships. For me it is love, respect, kindness, open & honest communication, trustworthiness --among the top. Gratitude and a noticing of all the things that are good are of paramount importance to me. As a gesture of that I want to thank all of the people who follow this blog, the official followers and those others who read it faithfully. Thank you. Thank you too for the comments you provide that help us all to have good information and encourage support for one another. Together we can make this journey as caregivers an easier one.

Jan 14, 2011

Levels of care

"We have to talk about liberating minds as well as liberating society," Angela Davis.

In a recent phone call to our longterm car insurance provider, I was reminded of the levels of care, and I thought it would be helpful to review.

1. Level 1 is, of course, living alone with the help of family, neighbors and friends.
2. Level 2 is home health care: This is paying licensed agencies to send personnel in for shifts of work to help a person stay at home. It is the cheapest of the paid-for assistance. These agencies have people who will help with chores, hygiene, managing medications and help in the activities of daily living.
A subdivision of home care is community care or adult day care facilities, where adults can go during the day for assistance with daily living activities.
3. Level 3: Assisted living: Most of these have levels of care, from independent apartment living to more assistance provided. The price, of course, depends upon level of care among other things. The last time I called one of them, the lowest level of care they offered ran about $3300 per month.
4. Nursing home: This is 24-7 fully assisted care, which provides nursing care with a Nurse on staff.

5. Another service available to us is respite care: someone to come in and take over so we can have a break. The Adult Division of the Department of Social Services in each state in the U.S. has a program which helps financially and informationally, called the Caregiver's Respite Program.

Let us carefully consider the programs and support that are right for us and for the person for whom we provide care.

Jan 13, 2011

Changing format

"Surround yourself with only people who are gong to lift you higher," Oprah Winfrey.

Within a few days the format of this blog will change. I have made the decision to hire professional help to make the blog more professional. I know I have a lot of offer with my psychological and life coach training, along with my writing skills. I want to have a blog that provides reliable information and support to anyone dealing with a terminal illness, or really any very difficult situation. I plan to make it easy for people to comment, because I want to develop a community of support among readers. I pledge to you that I will continue to bring you the best information I can assemble to live life fully and to deal with the difficult situation in ways that are best for you and for all other involved in the situation. Providing care for someone who is dying is a lonely and isolating task; I want to make it less lonely by building a community of support with this blog.

So, look for the changes to come in format within the next few days. Also, for tomorrow look for ways of obtaining support for yourself in the task of caregiving.

Jan 12, 2011


"The body, like everything else in life, is a mirror of our inner thoughts and beliefs," Louise Hay.

In the article, The Vanishing Mind: Giving Alzheimer’s Patients Their Way, Even Chocolate, By PAM BELLUCK Published: December 31, 2010 in the NY Times, she states,
"New research suggests emotion persists after cognition deteriorates. In a University of Iowa study, people with brain damage producing Alzheimer’s-like amnesia viewed film clips evoking tears and sadness (“Sophie’s Choice,” “Steel Magnolias”), or laughter and happiness (Bill Cosby, “America’s Funniest Home Videos”).

Six minutes later, participants had trouble recalling the clips. But 30 minutes later, emotion evaluations showed they still felt sad or happy, often more than participants with normal memories. The more memory-impaired patients retained stronger emotions."

We watch a lot of movies which evoke sadness, laughter, well-being, and it is my observation that this is helpful to Dwane's emotional state. It is reassuring to see that research supports this. We listen to music for the same reason.

Jan 11, 2011

Managing behavior

"When I despair, I remember that all though history the ways of truth and love have always won," Mahatma Gandhi.

The behavior of someone whose cognitive and emotional behaviors are diminishing can also be be changed with truth and love. First we need to decide what kind of environment is our goal and then we take steps to get there. What is your goal? What kind of atmosphere do you want to create for you and the person for whom you provide care? For instance, for me it is paramount that there be peace, respect and calm in our home. So, I then look at systems to set up to create that kind of atmosphere. One thing I do to facilitate that environment is that we intermingle fun and stimulation throughout the day. We go to the Silver Sneakers exercise program to get us both out and for the body movement. We watch the news at night to keep abreast of what is in the world and to help us to not just focus on our challenges. Then after a tasty and nutritious dinner we watch something we both enjoy on television, often a movie. There is a jigsaw puzzle set out for him to work on if he wants, he has a Kindle to help him read (with the larger print) the books he still enjoys. I have written instructions for every function in the house that might prove problematic for him, and I keep things really simple. I eliminated the three remotes into one remote to turn on the tv.

What are some ways you can have the environment that supports you and the person for whom you provide care?

Jan 10, 2011

Shaping the environment

"With virtually no effective medical treatment for Alzheimer’s yet, most dementia therapy is the caregiving performed by families and nursing homes. Some 11 million people care for Alzheimer’s-afflicted relatives at home. In nursing homes, two-thirds of residents have some dementia." NY Times.

We are not alone, obviously. The numbers are staggering, and will likely increase. So, it is important that we consider everything we can to make the best of this situation. For the next few days I want to consider specific aspects of helping us cope with the task of caregiving.

Today I want us to consider again behavior modification. The article in the NY Times said the staff at Beatitudes in Phoenix, Arizona, stand near elevator doors when they open and distract patients with dementia so that they do not enter the elevators. This is behavior modification: techniques which shape the environment to get the behavior most optimal. More on this tomorrow.

Jan 8, 2011


"The National Institute on Aging and the Administration on Aging are now financing caregiving studies on “things that just kind of make the life of an Alzheimer’s patient and his or her caregiver less burdensome,” said Sidney M. Stahl, chief of the Individual Behavioral Processes branch of the Institute on Aging. “At least initially, these seem to be good nonpharmacological techniques. These techniques include using food, scheduling, art, music and exercise to generate positive emotions; engaging patients in activities that salvage fragments of their skills; and helping caregivers be more accepting and competent.” NY Times.

How comforting to know that research is occurring not just for causes and prevention of dementia, but also to consider the aspects of caregiving and how to make it easier. It will benefit us to keep abreast of this research. What Sidney M. Stahl says above I have found in our own situation. Music, other forms of art and recreation, good food, appropriate exercise, a positive emotional environment: all have helped to make this an easier journey not just for him, but for me. Tonight we see an old classic movie that we should both enjoy, The African Queen. I have found it is easier for Dwane to follow the plot of the older movies, probably both because the movie is familiar, but also it seems that the plots that are less convoluted. It pays off, in my opinion, to find forms of recreation that both you and the person for whom you provide care enjoy.

Different approach

"Giving Alzheimer’s Patients Their Way, Even Chocolate," Pam Belluck, NY Times.

This article from the NY Times discusses a new approach to treating dementia, which is to let the person with dementia do more of what they want, like eat and bathe at 2:00 a.m., eat anything in any amounts they want and play with dolls. It discusses the approach of Beatitudes, an assisted care facility in Phoenix, Arizona.

It seems we, as caregivers, can learn from this approach. While we probably do not have 24/7 staff to allow the person to do anything he/she wants, we can be more careful about what restrictions we impose, we can allow the person with dementia to be right more, have his/her way more, do things (unless safety is involved) more in the way he/she wants. It might be a worthwhile article to read, not just for us but for assisted care facility personnel.

Jan 7, 2011


"We have a great deal more kindness than is ever spoken," Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Kindness seems to me to be one of the primary characteristics needed in caregiving. Kindness, clear thinking, organization skills, knowledge. The variation in lucidity is a characteristic of Lewy Bodies Dementia, as it is to some degree with most types of dementia. It can be disarming. We can in our case go from thoughtful comments on current events to seeing car wash facilities that are not there. It can make one wonder about one's own reality, and when to reflect back non reality. A training I once went through suggested that we choose to find the other person right. I think that is a good stance for most cases. There is often not a need for me to point out when he is wrong, unless, of course, safety is involved. Discernment of when to speak up and when to allow distortion (I guess if we really want to be thoughtful, we could consider that no one of us is sure that what we see really exists.) My rule of thumb is to speak of the illusion if there is benefit for the person for whom I am providing care. A careful consideration rather than just the need to be right; a human tendency. Most of all, I think it is important to avoid arguing to try to get him/her to see things as we do. As caregivers, let us make this task as problem-free as possible. One way is to carefully choose what to bring up to correct the other person.

Jan 5, 2011

Saying yes

"if we choose to say yes to God, we are able to bring new life into the world," James Martin, S.J.

What if we thought we had wholeheartedly said 'yes' to caregiving? Some of you may have actually done that, but I'll bet many of us feel caregiving was cast upon us. And, it doesn't have to be caregiving that we are talking about; it can be any dilemma in which we find ourselves. One of my favorite stories around the Christian holiday of Christmas is the Annunciation. When the messenger, represented as an angel, tells Mary she, a virgin, is to give birth, and she says 'yes'. "Let it be with me according to your word." The reason this is a favorite of mine is that I think it symbolizes the spiritual life. The Divine seeks us out, we are usually hesitant or afraid, we try to understand what the Divine wants of us, and eventually we either say yes or no to the invitation.

What would our caregiving look like if we considered it a task into which we were invited by the Divine, and a task to which we said 'yes'? I think it might look quite different. Let's try on the idea that this caregiving is a Divine appointment for us. If so, how do we want to do it?

Jan 4, 2011


"Awareness of breath is the cornerstone for developing control of the bodymind. When breath is long and slow, body becomes peaceful and relaxed," Dr. Joan Borysenko.

Deep, relaxed and slow breathing is a vehicle of health. When we are stressed, fearful or anxious, there is a natural tendency to hold our breath or to breathe shallowly. I have heard it said that the breath carries the energy of the body, and if that is so, relaxed breathing gets our energy to all parts of our body. That is one of the benefits of meditation; there is a conscious slowing and awareness of our breath. We can be conscious of our breathing throughout the day, as well as in meditation. A good practice is to choose to be aware of our breathing off and on during the day and to remind ourselves to breathe deeply and slowly. It is a easy thing we can do for ourselves to help relieve the stress of caregiving, and to support our own health and well being.

Friendly universe

"When we stay awake and keep positive thoughts, the Universe will appear to be much friendlier to us than we might have imagined," Celeste A. Frazier.

Have you noticed how differently people perceive life? At exercise class yesterday a woman spent considerable time grousing about how poorly done was the televised coverage of the Rose Bowl Parade. Since I believe that one's orientation will bring us more of the same, I believe it is dangerous for me to spend any time complaining. I do not mean to take her inventory; I'm just saying that for me I dare not venture into, much less stay in, complaint about anything. It is an orientation. One is either oriented to looking for what is going right in one's life, or what is going wrong. We will always have both, but just like positive reinforcement in behavior modification, what we focus our attention upon increases. So, for today I commit to staying awake and looking for all the things that are going right. Even the little things, like having enough money in the checking account to pay all the bills, and calling my cell phone company to modify my service to get the best value for my money, and watching "Fried Green Tomatoes" with Dwane, and going outside last night to look at the meteor shower (we did not see that, but the stars were glorious.) So many, many blessings in each and every day ---- especially if we are looking for them. And, in the tediousness of caregiving, we may need to be particularly vigilant about looking for the blessings. They are there. I promise.

Jan 3, 2011

Creative mind

"You have to go past the turbulence of internal dialogue to connect with that abundant, affluent, infinite, creative mind," Deepak Chopra.

Other teachers teach the same idea. Dr. Joan Borysenko calls this taming the monkey mind. We each as humans have what seems like a mind that wants to do it own thing, spiraling with thoughts, resentments, lists of things to do: none of which might serve us. Part of our human journey, in my opinion, is to tame this mind. To quiet the turmoil so that we can get in touch with our wisdom. Meditation can do this, mindful walks in nature can, practice and intention can. The benefits are worth the effort, and as caregivers we, and the person for whom we provide care, can benefit by our quieting our minds and tapping into our wisdom.

Jan 2, 2011

On'e effect

"All's love yet all's law," Robert Browning.

The great poet, Robert Browning, could have meant several things by the above quote, but let us consider today that he meant that everything is good and as long as we act within that law, good will come to us. Similar to the idea of karma -- in that one's actions will return onto her/him. Emerson said that when we seek to harm another, we but find that we are beating our own bleeding breast. Same idea. Our thoughts go out on an energetic ride, and the quality of our thinking is what returns to us. Many believe this is as much a law as is the law of gravity. One's thoughts and actions are what creates one's life. Even if that were not true, we are healthier and happier when we think thoughts of kindness toward ourselves and others. So, for 2011 let us commit to thinking, speaking and acting only love and kindness toward ourselves and all others.

Jan 1, 2011

New Year

"The first light of 2011 is a moment when we can realize that this new beginning is an opportunity for new thought," Celeste A. Frazier.

The 6th step in handling stress in the January 2011 Prevention Magazine is "Connect with your spiritual side." So important for the quality of one's life. And spirituality is not synonymous with religion, although it can sometimes be expressed in one's religious practices. "People who are spiritual or religious stay healthier and report higher levels of well-being than those who aren't." So, how does one develop one's spiritual side? Being present in the moment, enjoying aspects of nature, creating a sacred space in your home in which to listen to music or meditate, join a prayer/support group, read books which inspire you. Find what works for you, and let us commit to developing the spiritual side of ourselves even more in 2011. Let us practice positive thinking and implement practices that support our well being. As caregivers these practices of taking care of ourselves is even more critical.