Jun 30, 2011

Cognitive flexibility

"There are two ways to be fooled.  One is to believe what isn't true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true," Soren Kierkegaard.

Something that interests me, in both persons growing older and in persons who have dementia, is that there is a tendency to become more cognitively inflexible.  Of course, with dementia, there is much damage to cognitive processes, but even taking that into consideration, it seems that a cognitive rigidity sets in.  So, too, with some people as they age.  From a mental health position, that is a disadvantaged place from which to participate in life.  So, how do we avoid it?   One way is to consider new ideas, be willing to give up beliefs and habits, and to ask oneself if something new and unusual might be true.  Consider that just because it is new and revolutionary, it may or may not be true.  It is important, to me at least, to maintain cognitive flexibility, to be open to new possibilities, and to try on new beliefs.  How about you?

Jun 29, 2011

10 minutes?

"Stress relief is as easy as 10 minutes of activity," Nicole Craig.

10 minutes?  It seems nearly everyone could fit in 10 minutes of some kind of activity; especially if the payoff is reduced stress.  It has been wonderful for Dwane to have daughter and family here, and they have helped me by tearing down the greenhouse destroyed when the snow caved the roof in and helping to build another one.  A balance of help and some additional stress.  Probably no one who has never lived with dementia knows that he/she is seeing the person with dementia at their very best when they see the person briefly.  Just before they arrived today, Dwane had a behavioral meltdown -- I am sure it is frustrating for him to be unable to do the things he once could do.  Well, that is stressful for me too.  Amazing how new people can bring out the best in him.  Thankful, thankful I am -- for that, and for helping us construct a greenhouse replacement. 

Except for helping construct the greenhouse, my morning was too hectic to include exercise.  Tomorrow I will go earlier.  My days are less likely to come unraveled if framed by exercise and prayer. 

Jun 28, 2011

Our inner voice

"There are two ways to be fooled.  One is to believe what isn't true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true." Soren Kiekegaard.

We each have an inner voice of wisdom, which will never lead us astray.  It has always been hard to tune into that voice, but perhaps never harder than in our culture with all of its myriad of distractions.  Buddha sat under a tree, Thoreau went to his pond, Joseph Campbell lived in a cabin for five years.  Models of great wisdom teachers show us that it is important to go into ourselves to find and follow our inner voice. 

Perhaps this time of living with dementia is a "going to the cabin" time for us; perhaps we can choose to make it so.  Can we eliminate distractions, can we listen to our own souls, can we choose this time to listen to our inner voice and become faithful to that voice?   It will not lead us astray.  And, it can be the guide through this life with dementia and beyond.

Jun 27, 2011

Life as process

"Every step of the way to heaven is heaven." Saint Catherine of Sienna.

Would we live life differently if we believed that we are experiencing heaven right here, right now?  Joseph Campbell said something similar in different words, that we must accept the pain and losses of life and be fine with it.  Would our attitudes toward life be different if we determined that it was all good?  Just as the butterfly must struggle on its own to free itself from the chrysalis, perhaps we too must navigate our way through life in order to fly.  Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan writes that life itself has the spiritual dimension and it is important for us to recognize that.  So, if any of that is true, what about living with dementia?  Yes, it would include that too, I think.

Dwane's daughter and family are here visiting from another continent.  It has been fun to see how excited he is to have them here.  He spent days doing something or another with the vehicle we lent them; something I have noted about the way he shows people he loves them.  It is good to see him have people make effort to be in contact with him. 

Jun 26, 2011

Our bodies

"Our bodies are our gardens, to the which our wills are gardeners." William Shakespeare.

I was able today for the first time this season to get my bike on the trail and breeze along for about 13 miles.  It was the first time, since my bad accident two years ago, that I was again comfortable and focused on the pleasure, rather than the chance of mishap.  Shakespeare has so much wisdom in his writings, and this quote is yet another one.  Our wills, or our attitudes, do, indeed, affect our bodies.  It is a good way to think of our bodies; they the garden and our wills the gardeners.  I intend to create a flourishing, welcoming, nourishing, beautiful, and healthy garden, and I will do so with positive thoughts supported by exercise, healthy eating, good health practices, restful sleep, and fun.  Today I have created a very large meal, thinking out-of-town family would dine with us tonight, and that is not going to work out for them.  So, instead, I invited two friends we both enjoy to join us for the feast of food I have prepared.  Some fun and some flexibility --- if not the ones I planned for, then others I can enjoy instead.  Life is good.

Jun 25, 2011

Calming the mind

"Yoga's ability to tone the body and calm the mind makes it useful." Violet Snow.

I am not a faithful practioner of Yoga, but I enjoy it on occasion.  I believe I find similar calming in my walks and runs in nature, in meditation, and in gardening.  Whatever we can put in place which slows our breath and quiets our minds is good for our overall well being.  To achieve balance, I find it necessary to do some practice that calms me every single day.  No excuses.   Mornings work best for me for my exercise walks or runs.  For one thing, it is cooler; but more importantly, if I exercise in the morning, then it does not get scheduled out of my day.  It is done, and the whole day goes better as a result.  What supportive practices do you have that support your well being?

Jun 24, 2011

Comments and gratitude

"Prune and cut back on excess, and growth will flourish," Vivian Elisabeth Glyck.

A friend lent me a lovely little book, 12 Lessons on Life I Learned From My Garden, by the above author.  It seems true that we can apply lessons learned from one activity to another activity -- or the bigger application:  to life.  Pruning and cutting back on excess obligations over the weekend was what saved my mental health and restored me to homeostasis.  What can you prune and cut back?  Perhaps the expectations and judgments imposed by yourself or others?  Perhaps in asking for or arranging respite instead of doing it all yourself?  Perhaps in installing something fun in each and every day?  It is time well spent to observe and - if needed - make changes in our approach to life, so that we are healthier and happier.

Comments by readers:  Thank you for the recent comments from readers, Kathy and others.  I have tried to respond to them, but Google has apparently changed their format, not allowing me to comment within my own blog?!   I appreciate each of the helpful, informative and supportive comments.  And, I appreciate each and every person who takes time to read this blog.  Thank you!

Jun 23, 2011

Postive thinking

"Researchers continue to explore the effects of positive thinking and optimism on health.  Some benefits include an increased life span, lower rates of depression and better coping skills during times of stress." Mayo Clinic Women's Heathsource.

The above information  is supported over and over by new research:  the power of positive thinking, seeing one's cup half full, rather than half empty.  The above newsletter suggests four ways to help maintain a positive attitude.
  • Stop periodically and notice what you are thinking.  If negative, change it to a positive thought.
  • Integrate humor into your daily life.
  • Seek the companionship of other positive-thinking people.
  • Change negative self talk for affirmations about yourself.  Stop beating yourself up!
An affirmation that a body worker told me recently that is helpful to me is, "I give myself permission to accept it as it is."   A powerful way to help avoid judging the present circumstances as good or bad, but just to accept things are as they are.  It is helpful for me.  What can you implement that is helpful for you?

Jun 22, 2011

Balance in life

"In life; pain is inevitable, suffering is optional," Rev. Peggy Bassett.

A familiar quote.  Sometimes life throws at us some events in which it is hard not to suffer.  Part of choosing not to suffer, for me, is to make sure I am living a balanced life.  The Summer Solstice yesterday is a good reminder for me of balance.  The day in the northern hemisphere where we enjoy the longest daylight.  What does balance in life mean?  For me it means days including time for prayer, meditation, exercise, fun, relaxation, and contribution.  I begin to feel too stressed when contribution takes over too much of the day.  Yesterday was a good example of a balanced day:  some time in prayer and exercise, readying activities for out-of-town family arriving, taking dessert to a gathering and sharing it with friends, having connecting and real conversations with friends, a good evening meal with Dwane and a thoughtful movie to watch.  Does a balanced life help you to not suffer with the painful events of life?  It is one good technique.  That, and not applying judgment toward events and people.  A very high order, but very helpful when I can manage to allow things to unfold, without applying negative or positive judgment.  Together, let us avoid suffering. Let us really believe that suffering is an option we can choose to avoid.

Jun 21, 2011


"I know God will not give me anything I can't handle.  I just wish that He didn't trust me so much," Mother Teresa.

Ever feel like that?  I know I do and have.  A clever way to say that we can handle what life gives us, but that it is human to wish we were not given so much to handle.  And who would not wish that, at least sometimes, in the role of dementia caregiver?  Of course, we also know that the burdens of life do bring some people down.  But, we can vow to take care of ourselves so that is not what happens to us.  We can find the support we need, we can eliminate what is unnecessary, and we can make sure we are addressing our need for fun, nutrition, recreation, rest, support, exercise, love.  Together we can handle this.

Jun 20, 2011

First fawn

"We are all self-conscious beings with a gift to share.  How we share that gift determines the quality of our lives and the memories we leave behind." Ron Fox. 

Perhaps it is because I was raised on a dairy farm, but the first animals of spring always bring a smile to my face and a sense of wonder in my heart.  The fawn I saw on this morning's walk is probably not the first of spring, but it was the first sighting for me.  On the train ride in Glacier I saw a baby antelope frolicking in a meadow; that, also, was a first for me. 

I believe that we need these sources of hope and renewal, and what brings each of us hope and renewal is probably different for each of us, and yet some are common to us all.  Music, art, nature, meditation and prayer, loving connections:  are some of the ways humans renew themselves.  More and more it seems that "disconnecting" from our 24/7 availability is a way some people rejuvenate.  That is certainly true for me.  I need to eliminate obligations and create space in my schedule in order to renew myself.  What works for you?

Jun 19, 2011

Transitions and stress

"Not in his goals, but in his transitions is man great," Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Having the goal of living with dementia with graciousness helps me to do so.  Having said that, the transitions, especially the steep declines in his functioning, are very stressful for me.  I made the decision to enter a bit of professional life again, and I find that I cannot do that without feeling very stressed.  So, time to regather.  Probably need more assistance around here.  Probably need to release doing some things that are obligations.  I will spend today regathering my strength and implementing a plan for the future.  The level of stress I have felt is very, very harmful for my body.  So, I will make some changes.

What changes can I implement right now?
1.  Recommit to daily exercise which has fallen out of my schedule (in fact, that will be a good indicator of stress for me is to notice when time for exercise falls out of my day). 
2.  Relax, breathe deeply, notice my surroundings.
3.  Let nature revive me, as this morning on my walk:  to notice the exquisite blue of the Robin's eggshell, the yellow sweet peas, and the wild violets.
4.  Cancel any and all unnecessary tasks.
5.  Implement more support. 

Jun 18, 2011

New phase

"Drop out of the 'ain't it awful' club," Jack Canfield.

One of the things most difficult for me in this caregiving role is his chronic complaining.  Over nearly everything.  I happen to believe that one's thoughts and conversations create one's life, so it is a challenge for me to deal with such a negative mind set.  That, and, we seem to have taken another dive in functioning.  Much more confusion.  I remember from the past that these sharp declines are an adjustment for me too, so today I strive to be gentle with myself and him as we adjust to what I think is our new 'norm'.  What can I do besides have an intention of gentleness?  I plan to implement more structure.  His most recent complaining has been about the lawn; yet he insists on trying to mow it himself.  It is time to make a different plan, in spite of his wanting to do the yard work.  It seems it is so hard for him (and wouldn't it be for any of us?) to give up the image he has of himself and what he used to be able to do. 

Jun 17, 2011

Rewriting our lives

"There is no script that we must follow in life.  We get to write the story, and if we don't like the one we wrote, we get to rewrite it as many times as we choose," Ron Fox.

What an intriguing idea - that we can rewrite our lives.  A friend told me recently that Michael Beckwith had deliberately created himself and his life story by a purpose he felt from childhood.  So, perhaps it is good practice to consider one's life, and if one does not like what one sees, change it.  How does that fit with being a dementia caregiver, as one of the obstacles for me sometimes is that I feel trapped in this role, with few palatable options.  One thing I think is that one must consider the options.  Using the overworked phrase of "thinking outside the box", one needs to really consider all the options within one's situation.  Then, one chooses a path and chooses how one wants to be while on that path. 

I find it helpful to remind myself that I did choose this.  When we were told the diagnosis, I realized I had several choices; and I chose the one most in alignment with my values.  But, any choice does not lock us into it, we are free to choose anew.  For mental health it is so important to know we have freedom and choices. 

Jun 16, 2011

Truth versus myth

"There is a saying that if you repeat something often enough it becomes the truth.  Nothing better illustrates that point than the notion that Social Security will be bankrupted by the boomers," James Roosevelt Jr., grandson of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Most of my life, it seems, I have been warned that Social Security will not be there for me; or if so, surely it will not be there for my children.  The latest edition of AARP, June 2011, has a great article by James Roosevelt, Jr., that disputes that warning.  Mr. Roosevelt contends that the boomers, instead of bankrupting Social Security, have been paying into it since the 1960's.  He says that Social Security is solvent and has enough reserves to pay full benefits until 2036, and then can still pay 77% of the full benefit.  I personally hope Mr. Roosevelt is right. 

This presentation of the "other point of view" is instructive.  It seems to be true that opinions are presented as if they are fact; and, if presented often enough, become believed.  Let us consider that there may be at least two points of view in any given situation.   It is part of my life journey to consider, "What if this is (or is not) true?"  I find it an empowering way to live.  It is freeing to not be locked into fear-based opinions.

Jun 15, 2011

Other's opinions

"The truth is heavy enough without the additional weight of the world's scrutiny . . . . " Diane Setterfield.

Just finished a most satisfying novel, The Thirteenth Tale, by the above author.  Lovely language.  A good novel, like a good movie/play/opera, is a good diversion for me from the dramas of being a dementia caregiver.  Into our third year of living with this diagnosis, I am still surprised at the people who feel free to tell me how to do it.  And, those bits of unsolicited and unwanted advice range all the way from people "seeing nothing wrong" to others who pressure to put him in assisted living.  Amazing!  No one can know what living with dementia (or any other challenging situation) is like unless they have done it, and even then; they do not know the specifics of our situation.  So, borrowing from and paraphrasing a line from Macbeth, "Away cursed spot of unhelpful advice."  (Just saw Verdi's opera, Macbeth, yesterday, so its poetry is still fresh on my mind.) 

For anyone who wants to be helpful to someone providing caregiving for dementia or any other challenging situation, offer support but do not offer advice, unless asked.  Even as a trained and skillful mental health provider, I shy from ever giving advice.  I trust, instead, in the inner wisdom of the person to find his or her own way through the quagmire with my nonjudgmental support. 

Jun 14, 2011

Website for saving

"Sciddy.com lists details on how adults age 55 and older can save as much as 15% on everything from travel to pet services." AARP June 2011

A good steward of our finances, I am always looking for good value, and this website seems to offer that.  There is no need to buy coupons, as with Groupon or other sites.   Instead, one puts in a ZIP code or city, and searches for discounts.  Sciddy was developed to tap into the buying power of older adults, and several thousand local and national companies are onboard.  Looks worth checking into.

Jun 13, 2011

Home care services: Questions to ask

"Home care services range from medical care to help with daily household chores. If you're considering home care services, ask these questions to choose the best provider for your needs."  Mayo Clinic Healthy Aging Newsletter.

Mayo Clinic has a great article with suggestions for how to select home care services, what types of services are available, and what to monitor.

Essentially, they say to make sure agency is licensed, find out how the person providing the care is monitored by the agency, and what to monitor yourself.  It seems ironic to me that home care is less expensive and in many respects more desirable than placement in an assisted living situation, but our long term care insurance will pay significantly less for those services.  hmmmmm.  Seems counterproductive to what might be the best options. 

At any rate, if you are considering in-home services, this is a good article to read. 

Jun 12, 2011

Be the change

"We must be the change we wish to see . . . . . " Mahatma Gandhi.

Years ago I was walking with a group of people and we were discussing some social injustice or need for change (I no longer remember what the urgent topic was.).  I said, "Somebody should do something about that."  And a woman walking with us said, "No. We should do something."  I got it.  Easy to say that somebody else should take care of something seen needing to be corrected; harder to take responsibility and do it myself.

So too with self care, especially in stress, such as the stress of being a caregiver for someone with dementia.  Last week a dear friend reflected to me how stressed I seemed to be.  Yes, I knew he was telling me the truth.  How valuable to have friends to tell us how we appear to them!  So, back to looking at what is within my control to change so that I feel less stressed, and letting go of that not in my control.  It is serenity that I seek. 

Jun 11, 2011

Peace of mind

"Peace of mind lowers blood pressure and heart rate, brings the immune system to balance and quiets the rational mind, allowing a deeper wisdom to emerge." Dr. Joan Borysenko.

Sounds good; so how do we achieve peace of mind?  As I make my way through life, it is obvious to me that we cannot count on external circumstances to provide us with peace of mind.  The reason why themes of betrayal, treachery, jealousy, struggle are part of some of our great literature is because these things are also part of our human experience.  Try as we might to keep things stable in our exterior worlds, change is inevitable.  So, peace of mind cannot be based upon the capriciousness of our circumstances.  It must come from within.  And, how do we cultivate more peace of mind in the midst of challenging situations, like dementia caregiving?  Meditation and relaxation response are one documented way.  I know I do better in my day because of my discipline in starting the day with meditation and spiritual time.  Exercise is another documented way to support our homeostasis.  Yesterday I went kayaking with my daughter.  A chilly, misty day, there were no other boats on the lake.  Silence and beauty surrounded us.  Nature is a reliable supporter of my peace of mind, and so are connecting relationships - like the poise and supportive presence of my daughter.  Good nutritious food and conversation can support peace of mind, as can having a spiritual practice.

What things do you implement daily to support your peace of mind?  It is so important.

Jun 10, 2011


"Aspens:  Each individual tree can live for 40–150 years above ground, but the root system of the colony is long-lived. In some cases, this is for thousands of years, sending up new trunks as the older trunks die off above ground."  Wikipedia.

Some people think that every action, thought or emotion we each have affects the whole of humanity.  Perhaps - like the aspen trees which seem to be individuals but are actually part of a common underground root system - we too affect others by our actions and thoughts.  What if that is true?  Then perhaps it would enable us to consider whether something or someone is really worth getting upset over.   If our negative emotions and thoughts spill out like toxins adversely affecting the web of energy connecting us all, then it would behoove us to manage our thoughts and emotions and purposely think thoughts of good will toward ourselves and others.  Research tells us that we benefit from nurturing positive thoughts and emotions.  Perhaps we benefit others as well. 

Today let us notice off and on the content of our thoughts and interrupt and replace any thoughts that do not serve the highest and best for us all.  After all, we really are in this together; perhaps more than we realize.   

Jun 9, 2011

Commitment to growth

"To know our true identity destroys the mortal sense of existence which has kept us earthbound," Joseph Goldsmith.

Somehow, and I choose to believe it has been from the grace of God, early on in life I began to realize that experiences I would prefer not to have were going to happen despite my preference, and I realized that I had a choice in how I responded.  It is similar to the old adage, should you spend the next four years getting a degree?  Well, the four years will pass in any event, so what do you want the four years to exemplify or accomplish?  Same approach in this.  This experience that I might have preferred not to have is here; in this case it is a spouse with dementia.  The years will pass and this experience will end -- that is a given.  My only freedom within this is my choice:  How do I want this experience to affect me?  We can be absolutely sure that the experiences or challenges we encounter will change us; the choice for us is how will they change us?  For me, long ago I decided that I would encounter each experience/challenge with the intention of it helping me to become a better, more mature, more evolved and contributing human being.  In what way will your challenges change you?  It is your choice.  It really is.

Jun 8, 2011

Interior insight

"Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart.  Who looks outside, dreams.  Who looks inside, awakens," Carl Jung.

Some people believe that the life we are experiencing is a dream, from which we must awaken to achieve and act from our actualized potential.  This is not too hard to believe.   When one begins working with one's nighttime dreams (trying to understand their meaning), experiences when we are awake seem very similar in quality.  The inner world becomes as real as the outer world, and even richer.  What if we consider that what we experience in life is designed to help us awaken and live authentically?  It seems to me that could be a noble purpose for our existence and the challenges and joys we each have. 

So, today, let us consider what being a dementia caregiver (or whatever challenge faces you today) might mean for your own interior journey.  Is this experience making you a deeper, more mature individual?  Perhaps it is serving its divine purpose.  This is not to infer that God creates challenges for us, but that challenges are a part of our human experience -- and might it not serve us to consider that these challenges serve a purpose?  One thing I know for sure:  we each will have challenges, and how we deal with these challenges will help us develop more fully or we can choose to become more stunted and bitter.  What is your choice today?

Jun 7, 2011

Supporting family living with dementia

"Family members often feel alone and disconnected from friends, need assistance or a break but are hesitant to ask, struggle to run errands or complete daily tasks, feel high stress and welcome a good listener." Alzheimer's Association.

What would you like as forms of support for you in your role as dementia caregiver?  The Alzheimer's Association suggests most of us want:  people to stay in touch and show they care, others to treat the person with dementia with dignity, to do little things for us like drop off dinner or run an errand, to help with something on our 'to do' list, to take the time to learn about dementia and its effects, to invite us over for dinner, to be a nonjudgmental listener, to offer respite services, to fill in as caregiver.  Wouldn't it be wonderful to have people in our lives to provide each of these types of services for us?  I hope you do have.   And, these are suggestions we can offer to anyone who is experiencing a challenge in their lives (and who isn't?!?).  I have had a friend offer to have her husband come and chat with Dwane while I go to a meeting at which I have a presentation.  How kind.  I am so grateful and relieved.

Jun 6, 2011

Kindness to self

"Parts of the left hemisphere (of the brain), when activated, allow us to be relaxed and open to the world, in contrast to being in a state of withdrawal.  Treating yourself with kindness will stimulate this part of your brain."  Jane B. Burka and Lenora M. Yuen. 

Another reason to treat ourselves with kindness.  It seems a well-accepted truth that we can be kind to no one, if we are not kind to ourselves.  Self love, healthy - not bravado, is the basis of feeling safe in the world and thinking kindly of others.  An old Hasidic tale says the only question we will be asked upon dying is, "Were you yourself?"  Each of is completely unique, and perhaps it is true that our only task in life is to fully develop the uniqueness of who we are.  We each have potential, within our brains and within our personality, that many people never fully develop.  It has been a longstanding passion of mine to develop my own potential and to support others to develop theirs.  As dementia caregivers, what is one act of kindness we can do today for ourselves and for the person for whom we provide care?

Jun 5, 2011

Looking for the good

"Look for the evidence of the Well-being, and be an advocate for Well-being rather than an advocate for getting rid of what does not feel like Well-being. Then little by little by little, your own personal experience begins to take shape in a way that is more satisfying to you." Abraham.

If our routine thoughts create neural pathways in our brains, it behooves us to make our thoughts satisfying and containing well-being.  The old adage about whether the glass is half empty or half full holds such perennial interest because of the truth in it.  Each of us has within our lives what we might judge as both good and bad experiences.  The optimal may be to reach the state Buddha is said to have reached where we do not put judgments upon any of our experiences.  In the meantime, one good practice in that direction is to look for the evidence of good in our lives.  It is there; I guarantee it.  If Viktor Frankl could be grateful for the blooming flower in the concentration camp, surely we can find things about which to be grateful in our lives.  Today I am grateful for the sunshine, the cooler temperatures (record-setting heat yesterday), the walk in nature this morning, the conversation with a sister, the well being of my children and families, the garden I have planted, that Dwane has a little project going which interests him and focuses his energy, that I have come up with a topic for the presentation I am giving next week to a philanthropic group, that I have a great dinner planned.  For what are you grateful today?

Jun 4, 2011

Relating anew

"The caregiver cannot retain the same familiar relationship with the patient as in the past — we now have to live with the patient as she or he is today and a new relationship must be formed. Carrying the emotions of our past relationship into the present only dissipates our energy and weighs us down." Author of "Your Name is Hughes Hannibal Shanks", Lela Knox Shanks.

Whether your relationship in the past was good or not, it will be different now that the person with whom you are in relationship has dementia.  Accusations, suspicions, faulty reasoning:  all lend to difficulties in any relationship.  One way to deal with these new behaviors is to completely reframe your idea of what the relationship can be.  It can no longer in many definitions of the relationship be spouse, parent/child, etc.  We need, in my opinion, to reframe the relationship.  Now we have a relationship with a person who misperceives, has difficulty with judgment and reasoning, remembers some things but not others.  In the language of Virginia Satir we as caregivers are the adult, and the person receiving the care is in many respects a child.  But we dare not treat him or her as a child.  It helps me to think in some instances that the behaviors are very much like a small child; that helps me from taking the behaviors personally. 

Jun 3, 2011

New relationship

"Symptoms of dementia such as suspiciousness, false accusations, paranoid delusions and aggression will put even the most loving and committed relationships under considerable strain." Angela Lunde, Mayo Clinic.

I would add to that:  inability to take responsibility for oneself and one's actions.  Even a request to him to try to remember to shut off running water is met with denouncements that he left it on.  It seems it is impossible, and to be honest -- always has been difficult, for him to accept responsibility for his actions.  Amazing, as I have always leaned strongly into looking at what my part of any mishap is.  Yes, the behaviors of people with dementia put strain on relationships.  It helps to remember that it is the accentuated behaviors caused by the dementia that is causing the unwanted behaviors. It also helps to use behavior management techniques.

Jun 2, 2011


"Community means strength that joins our strength to do the work that needs  to be done.  Arms to hold us when we falter.  A circle of healing.  A circle of friends.  Someplace where we can be free."  Starhawk.

In an ideal world we each have a community of people who love and support us.  As dementia caregivers, creating such a community seems to have extra difficulties.  Many people are uncomfortable being with someone who is demonstrating cognitive and physical deficits; I saw that when I was involved in special education and, of course, now.  And, for some of us as caregivers, it is hard to get away to create a community of support for ourselves.  Therefore, I am grateful for the supporters I have:  a kind neighbor with whom I garden, kind relatives who invite us on excursions, friends who support me in phone calls.  What forms of community can we create for ourselves and the person for whom we provide care?

Jun 1, 2011

Habitual thoughts

"As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind.  To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again . . . . . " Henry David Thoreau.

So true.  And, more evidence that what we think habitually makes us who we are.  Some people seem unaware of what they habitually think.  One way to become aware of what we think is to consciously choose to observe our thoughts off and on; check in with them to see what content is running through our heads.  I know that when I cannot sleep at night it is because I have a running commentary of past events or conversations or visualized future events or conversations.  This is a waste of my thinking time (not to mention my sleeping time).  Having the intention of entertaining only positive, life-supporting thoughts can become a habit.  We tend, as humans, to become more and more of what we develop as characteristics or habits.  These characteristics and habits are within our choice.  Today I choose to think kind and loving thoughts toward myself and others.