Dec 31, 2011

Happy New Year

In whatever sense this year is a New Year for you, may the moment find you eager and unafraid, ready to take it by the hand with joy and gratitude." Howard Thurman

Well, another year is ending.  It has been a year of ups and downs, both in Dwane's physical/cognitive status, but also in my emotions. Summer and fall were a time of considerable discouragement for me, so I spent the holiday season re-evaluating, regathering myself.  I have lost too much of myself to this caregiver role and to the dementia.  It is hard to explain, but my attitude has now shifted.  There may not be a lot of difference in outward appearances for the way I live my life, but it is different.  I have returned the focus to my own life.  It feels good.  I hope each of you come to peace between you/your life and whatever you have in your life that could take a lot of attention from fulfilling your own life purpose.  The dementia really is the journey of the person who has it; for us touched by that life:  we have a responsibility to the person but not for the person.  Our responsibility for life remains with ourselves and what we do with our one, glorious life.  May 2012 be full of blessings for each of us.

Dec 30, 2011

Year-end inventory

"The key to a spiritual life is discovering that there is something unique about you that is a part of God's plan." Monsignor Gregory E.S. Malovetz

I don't know about you; but I tend toward introspection, toward wanting to see my part in the bigger picture, toward discerning the meaning of life and why I am here.  It has come to be my belief that we are all here for a purpose, and that we have a responsibility to live our lives so that our gifts and talents are used to benefit ourselves and others.  So, how does that happen when one is a caregiver for someone with dementia?  I wonder, for myself, if this is not a time out of society, for my own soul's growth; a kind of desert experience.  I have been spending this week doing a personal inventory; looking at where I have been and preparing for what lies ahead.   What I have come to is - despite the fact that I am a caregiver for someone with dementia - I still have a responsibility to live the life I was given.  Not sure fully what that means yet, but I do know that I am reclaiming my life, my right to live my life - after having set it aside to be a caregiver.  This does not mean that I won't still be a caregiver for awhile, but it does mean that it will be with a different attitude and focus.  I am back in my life.

Dec 29, 2011

Three questions

"The Blessing Way contains three questions we can ask ourselves every day." Angeles Arrien

1.  What made me happy today?
2.  Where did I experience comfort, peace, solace, and a sense of sanctuary today?
3.  Who or what inspired me today?

Three easy questions that can help us be more our true selves and to be oriented toward gratitude for the mystery of our own lives. 

Dec 28, 2011

The Blessing Way

"These are indigenous practices that support being your compassionate self and bringing your best self into the world." Angeles Arrien

I had the good fortune to hear Angeles Arrien speak some years back.  She studies spiritual practices around the world, and distills their wisdom for us.  She suggesst a practice called The Blessing Way which is comprised of 3 things we must do every day.

1.  Pray or set sacred intention
2.  Give gratitude every day
3.  Take a life-affirming action to relieve the suffering in the world. 

Dec 27, 2011


"Walk 100 steps a minute for better health.  Walking is life-extending, heart-saving and blood-pressure-lowering." Dr. Paul Donohue

Readers of this blog know that I am a strong advocate for daily exercise.  Walking is something that any of us with mobility can do easily, inexpensively and in almost any conditions.  2000 steps is approximately equivalent to 1 mile, and fitness experts recommend we get 10,000 steps, or 5 miles, a day.  I do not always get 5 miles, but I make sure I get at least 3 miles daily.  Some enjoy using a treadmill or indoor track; I try to walk my miles outside because I find nature so soothing.  It is snowy and icy where I live, so I sometimes snow shoe or cross country ski instead of walking.  Wearing a pedometer is a reliable way to ensure we get the number of steps that we want into a day.  I like the type that simply count steps (not calories, etc.), and Omron is one that does that and is easy to use. 

As caregivers for dementia it is imperative that we attend to our own health, and daily exercise is one very good way to do that. 

Dec 26, 2011


"A high-quality essential oil of true lavender is an irreplaceable gift of nature because it provides so many benefits." Dr. Daniel Penoel and Rose-Marie Penoel

As caregivers for someone with dementia, it is important to find easy ways to support our own health and well being.  Lavender essential oil could be one of those ways.  Lavender oil is reported to be calming and helps someone relax enough to get restful sleep (and isn't sleep one of the most important things we need?).  It is also used as an anti-inflammatory, for skin irritations, insect bits, and overall skin health.  People who support the use of essential oils recommend that one get a good quality of true mountain lavender - called fine lavender.  This could be an easy way to support our own well being, and the well being of the person for whom we provide care.

Dec 25, 2011

Happy Holidays

"We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light." Plato

A fitting quote during this season in which we in the northern hemisphere have just passed the shortest day and longest night of the year, and the season which has long celebrated the return of the light, birth and rebirth.  On the one hand we have the triumph of light over darkness -- an important theme in our human consciousness; and on the other hand we have the symbolic birth or rebirth that ensures life will continue.  So, today I wish us all peace and good will towards each other.  May the season bless you with the light you desire. 

Dec 24, 2011

Taking care of ourselves

Taking care of ourselves in a righteous way is meaningful service to a greater task because we cannot give what we cannot be." Marianne Williamson

What an appropriate suggestion for this busy holiday time of year.  When you have made your lists of persons to whom to give gifts, did you remember yourself?  What do you want for you this holiday season?  I want a miracle.  I am not going to tell God what shape to put the miracle in, as God probably knows that better than I.  What do you want for Christmas or Hanukkah or other holiday you are celebrating this season? 

Dec 23, 2011


"The ego is suspicious at best and vicious at worst." A Course of Miracles

Now that is strong wording.  According to Marianne Williamson's interpretation of the above book, either the ego will survive or we will.  She says the only antidote for ego and its fears is love.  "Love is to fear what light is to darkness; in the presence of one, the other disappears." (Marianne Williamson)  It seems to me that we must first develop a healthy love of self, and then we can include loving others.  Something to consider with any decision we make:  Am I making this decision out of love or out of fear?  That even includes caregiving.  Each decision:  Is this decision coming from love or fear?

Dec 22, 2011


"Researchers in the field of consciousness studies have found that giving is good for you --for your health, your happiness, and your sense of purpose!"  IONS sponsored research.(Institute of Noetic Sciences)

As caregivers for someone with dementia, we certainly do give.  Plenty.  Of our time, talents, caring, organizing, etc. etc.  Perhaps it is important to consider the attitude with which we give.  If altruism, as the above research indicated, improves our immune system, then I suggest that the 'giving' our caregiving entails can benefit us - particularly if done with an attitude of altruism.  The dictionary defines altruism as 'concern for the welfare of others'.  It is my opinion that life is best served if we have an attitude that holds the best for ourselves and all others.  Let's see how that benefits our immune system. 

Dec 21, 2011


"Forgiveness isn't just about being nice -- it's about being spiritually intelligent.  We can have a grievance or we can have a miracle, but we cannot have both." Marianne Williamson

I agree.  Some years ago I began to realize that if I did not forgive someone, there was some kind of an energetic entanglement that kept me bound.  Perhaps it kept the other person bound too; I just know it kept me bound.  So, it is spiritually intelligent to forgive.  Every single one of us has been betrayed, rejected, abandoned, treated badly by someone, cheated out of something.  It is part of life.  Our role, in my opinion, is how we deal with those injustices.  Most important is that we choose to forgive the person or situation or agency.  And, I do think forgiveness is a choice.  I hear people say they cannot forgive someone.  I don't think that is true.  I think it is honestly just as simple as choosing to forgive.  The only caveat is that we may have to choose more than once, as forgiveness - like many spiritual practices, is often done in layers.  We forgive one layer or aspect of the event, which reveals another layer to be forgiven.  The gift in this forgiving is our own freedom.

"Do forget what was done to you; just remember the lessons you learned from it." Marianne Williamson

Dec 20, 2011


"Pain can burn you up and destroy you, or burn you up and redeem you." Marianne Williamson

As I approach the eighth decade of my life, I can attest that one will encounter pain in life.  It just seems part of the package.  In A Course of Miracles it says that it is not up to us what we learn, but merely whether we learn through joy or through pain.  In my own life I have not found it as easy as just deciding to learn through joy, but I do think it is important to be willing to learn through joy.  It seems to me that Life will present our lessons to us in the manner in which we will most quickly "get the lesson" - whether that path be pain or joy.  There is much in living with dementia that can be painful.  Funny; it is often the little things -- like never knowing that what I place carefully in a spot so that I can find it, will ever be in that spot when I want the object.  It is important, I think, in living in any difficult life situation, that we focus on what is joyful.  And that we learn from the pain and the joy that we encounter.    

Dec 19, 2011

Being present

"The past is not dead.  In fact, it's not even past." William Faulkner.

If one reads self-help literature at all, one cannot avoid the advice to live in the present.  In listening to a Marianne Williamson tape in the car, she said the reason God does not reveal the future is because there is only now.  hmmm   Hard to get my mind around.  How much of your time do you spend regretting something in the past; or dreading or imagining something in the future?  What if the future is completely dependent upon the choices we make in the now?  A better way, I might suggest, is to grieve and make atonement for the mistakes of the past; to focus our attention on the present and make the best possible choices here; and to trust that the future will unfold naturally from the choices we make right now.  Perhaps our only task is to be aware of the present and to enjoy it.  Now.

Dec 18, 2011

Love or fear

"In every moment we get to choose whether to act out of love or out of fear." Marianne Williamson

Several notable thinkers have said similar things.  They suggest that there is only love (Spirit) or fear (ego), and that we get to choose in each and every moment from which place we will respond to the situation.  I have spent some time in fear, and I can attest that it is not a powerful place from which to choose.  What if it is just a matter of choosing from which place we will make our decisions and our choices?  What if we can simply choose to choose to act from love?   I think it may be that simple. 

Dec 17, 2011

Life's ups and downs

"But the point of a life journey isn't whether or not we've fallen down; it's whether or not we've learned how to get back up." Marianne Williamson

I was speaking with someone recently who had a very public professional betrayal.  He seemed comforted by my belief that each and everyone of us will experience some stumble like this in our lives.  His would be the more difficult because of its publicity, perhaps making him think he is alone in the stumble.  But, Marianne Williamson says that most of us by the time we are in our 40's have had at least one or two major life upsets.  I think living with dementia is another life upset.  So, since we all have the falls, the issue is how do we get back up?  How do we get back up from the betrayal, or the health issue, or the financial reversal?  In listening to a tape of Marianne Williamson, she suggests we do it with graciousness.  And, graciousness can be accomplished by practicing it.  In what way can we be gracious today?

Dec 16, 2011

Evaluating life

"Take a good look at your life right now.  If you don't like something about it, close your eyes and imagine the life you want."  Marianne Williamson

The sentence above is taken out of a visualization Marianne Williamson is suggesting.  She suggests that if we don't like something about our lives, we can imagine/visualize how we would want to be; get in touch with how we would feel and behave in that preferred life - thus helping to imprint onto our subconscious the way of life we prefer.  You may be dubious.  Can it be as simple as that?  A number of current thinkers suggest it is, and what do we have to lose?  I suggest you and I try it for the next seven days.  It might be a good way to counteract the 'imprisonment' feeling that can accompany caregiving.  I hope so.

Dec 15, 2011


"God's works are so secured by an all-encompassing plenitude that no created thing is imperfect." Hildegard of Bingen

One of the great mystics.  If she came to an understanding that all of life is perfect, then who am I to argue?  That would mean that I am created perfectly, as are you.  It would also mean that the dementia with which we live must be a distorted view of perfection.  Katherine Saux writes that the imperfections that we see (wars, pollution, crime -- and I would add; illness - like dementia) are distorted forms that have accumulated over eons of wrong choices.  hmmmm   Then, it would stand to reason that one way to deal with these distorted forms is to set our vision on the perfection beneath what appears to be imperfect.  For today let us choose to see the perfection of Spirit in ourselves and in all other people and things.  My sister who was here recently commented on my speaking to inanimate objects (my dishwasher, etc.); but, what if no object is really inanimate?  That is a consideration.  And, all is perfect:  despite some other appearances. 

Dec 14, 2011

Life as spiritual practice

"My miraculous power and spiritual activity:  drawing water and carrying wood." Layman P'ang

Quotes like the above always make me smile as they help me remember that spiritual practice is not just prayer and meditation, but spiritual practice is in our life activities.  Activities like counting out medication, or like having cousins for dinner and one decides to stay the night because of winter road conditions - making an opportunity for a slumberless party, or putting out the garbage to be collected.  Life is richer when we see that each and every activity provides us an opportunity to do it as if it were prayer.  And what does that mean?  I think it means being fully present to the activity, doing the activity with serenity, avoiding negativity, and knowing that no task is too small to be done with graciousness.

Dec 13, 2011

Senior airfare

Senior airfare discounts aren't extinct, but they certainly can be hard to find." AARP

I was not even aware that one could get senior discounts on airfare, and not all airlines offer it.  If you plan to get away on one of your respites by air, it might be good to know that Southwest offers senior discounts on all domestic routes.  United, American and Continental offer senior discounts on select routes. 

With the cost of medications, etc., it is prudent to save money where we can. 

Dec 12, 2011

Time out of society

"Life does not have to be whitewashed in order to be beautiful." Emmanuel

The isolation of being a caregiver is one of the hardest aspects.  I was talking with a fellow caregiver recently, and she quoted another caregiver of calling her caregiving time, "Her time out of society".  That really rang true for me.  Home health aides cancel coming, and then there is the reality of how much harder it is to go anywhere and take the person with dementia.  It takes far longer, is more encumbered, and one has to be alert for their safety.  So, sometimes, the simplest answer seems to be to just stay home.  If that is the case, then it helps us to be aware of the truth in the above quote.  Perhaps not everyone is familiar with the concept of 'whitewashing', but it was done before paint was as available to beautify and preserve walls and buildings.  Our life may some days not seem beautified by ease of exterior circumstances, but it is important for us to look for and see the beauty. 

Dec 11, 2011


"Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened." Winston Churchill

Well known for his wit, Churchill seems in form in the above quote.  The reason it brings a smile to my face is that I can resonate.  I have noticed in my life that it takes courage for a person to really take a look at the truth. That is one function of denial; to support people until they are ready to face the truth of their situation.  The problem can occur when people do not move out of denial.  So, what does it mean to face the truth?  It means to look at things realistically.  In the case of us who provide care for someone with dementia: it can mean that we face the fact that the person for whom we provide care can no longer be expected to do some of the things we think they "should" be able to do.  It means not hiding from life circumstances; taking off our rose colored glasses.  This does not mean, in my opinion, that we become jaded or negative.  It means only that we objectively assess our life situation and stop kidding ourselves about it.  Then we can take appropriate action.

Dec 10, 2011


"I accept my responsibility to think rightly about myself, my fellowman and the world in which I live." Ernest Holmes

What if we consider that having positive thoughts is our responsibility; not just a choice?  What if the world is a different place depending on the quality of our collective thoughts?  I know that my own personal space is different when I remain in peace and joy.  The past week I have felt despondent because of some environmental factors, and that affected the quality of my life and - I think - the lives of those with whom I interact.  So, I claim that it is not just an exercise for me, but a responsibility I have to my fellow humans/plants/animals and planet to think rightly.  Rightly for me means being at peace, in joy and truly wanting the best for myself and all others.  In this holiday season it seems an appropriate practice. 

Dec 9, 2011

Keeping our word

"Keeping our word is the alchemy to becoming free and whole." Tukaram

Is it easy for you to keep your word?  I confess that sometimes I glibly say I will do something, and then I change my mind.  It seems the person we may be less likely to keep our words to is ourselves.  We might say, "I will lose 10 pounds, I will limit my alcohol to 1 drink, I will exercise every day, I will not judge others." and then the time arrives and we don't feel like taking the action.  It seems to me it is important that we know we can count on ourselves, and in what ways do we do that?  Mostly through honoring our words and following through on behavior (the action step).  We are human and temptation seems part of that condition, so perhaps a way we might think of this is to be thoughtful about giving our word - to ourselves or anyone else.  We might consider:  Do I really want to do this?  before we say we will.  Another way to keep our word according to research is to share with someone we can count on to support us what our goal is.  It is more likely we will keep our word about the goal if we have some social support to do so. 

Dec 8, 2011


"Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Emerson's mind is a mind I have always admired.  His way with words.  His wisdom.  His words stretch me, like the quote above.  This quote is from his Self Reliance essay, and he may have been emphasizing the power our minds (our thoughts) have over our destiny.  Buddha and others have said similar things; that we benefit from controlling our thoughts.  One definition from the American Heritage Dictionary for integrity is purity.  How can we keep our minds pure?  One way is to avoid negativity in any form:   negative self talk, gossip, judgment, fear, limiting thoughts.  I wonder how much different our world would be were everyone to strive to think only thoughts that contained the highest and best for themselves and each other.  Perhaps you and I can start an experiment and see how different our own worlds become from that practice.  I am willing.  Are you?

Dec 7, 2011


"No loving gesture has ever failed to leave its mark in the world."  Katherine Saux

Yesterday I was talking with my spiritual director, and he said he thought the ultimate purpose in life was to return to love and joy.  I think he is right.  Whatever our situation is, it is our task to return love and to be in joy and in peace.  Being a caregiver for dementia can be a trial for returning to love, but if we are honest with ourselves, so can a lot of other situations in life.  I think it is important that we provide ourselves enough breaks from the tasks and responsibilities of caregiving, so that we can enjoy and emanate love and peace.  Have you ever stopped to consider what this caregiving has to do with you?  Is there any purpose whatsoever in it for you?  I think we can use this task of caregiving to grow more mature in our spirituality, and one way to do that is to practice love and peace and joy.  Respite for ourselves is one way to return to love/peace/joy, and so is levity.  I laughed out loud with my daughter on the phone this morning, and that laughter and connection helps me to return to love and peace.  What connection helps you in that way? 

Dec 6, 2011


"Just one daily dose may lower blood pressure, cut stress, reduce stroke risk -- dark chocolate and unsweetened cocoa powder." Prevention Magazine Dec. 2011.

Well, if anyone ever needed an excuse to enjoy chocolate!  As dementia caregivers, it is important for us to implement into our lives ways to handle the stress of the amazing amount of responsibility, frustrations and work of caregiving.  Small amounts of chocolate is one way to support ourselves.  One of my favorite treats is dark chocolate-covered almonds.  Yum!  Along with good nutrition, exercise, meditation, fun, prayer, healthy social connections, and activities that stimulate our intellect, this is an easy  - and delicious - stress-reducing addition. 

Dec 5, 2011

Live in the present

"Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry — all forms of fear — are caused by too much future, and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of nonforgiveness are caused by too much past and not enough presence."  Eckhart Tolle

Angela Lunde of the Mayo Clinic echoes what Eckhart Tolle says, "Alzheimer's caregivers can find the gift of living in the present by dwelling less on the past, worrying less about the future."  And yet perhaps the reason we are told so often to live in the present is because it is hard to do.  I find myself sometimes thinking: when in the past was my marriage relationship even remotely balanced, with him doing part of the care giving?  I also find myself fearing the future:  How am I going to continue to stand to do this?  Neither of these ways of thinking is beneficial for me.  I will intend again to stay just in the present, and not allow thoughts of regret, resentment, or fear cloud my day.  How about you?

Dec 4, 2011


"The luxury of planning.  Planning the flow of each day for one full week." Lalita Tademy

I am reading a novel, Cane River, by the above author - a well-researched book about slavery and the author's family.  Things I had never considered:  what an anomaly it was for slaves to have time they could call their own (the time between Christmas and New Year's).  It gave me pause, and it made me realize that is part of what caregiving brings us too:  deprivation of planning our own life.  Some days I only have the energy for the many tasks:  dishes, meals, shoveling, plowing, paying bills, managing medication -- that I yearn for time and the freedom to plan my own life and how I would like to spend my time.  Next week my sister is coming again, and I will have a 3 day retreat in which I intend to do just that.  How can you fit time into your schedule to reflect on and plan your life? 

Dec 3, 2011


"Doing this (this breathing exercise) will induce a feeling of serenity," Dr. Andrew Weil

We hear it from a lot of places:  breathe.  We are told breathing supports our physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual selves.  It would seem that breathing correctly would be inherent for us, but some suggest it is not -- or, perhaps more correctly, some suggest that living with stress impedes our natural ability to breathe deeply.  Dr. Weil suggests a daily exercise of what he calls "4-7-8" breathing.  The steps are:
1.  Rest tip of tongue on roof of mouth
2.  Exhale completely through your mouth with lips slightly pursed to make a whoosh sound.
3.  Close mouth and inhale deeply and slowly through your nose to a silent count of 4.
4.  Keep mouth closed and gently retain your breath for a silent count of 7.
5.  Exhale slowly through open mouth for count of 8, making the same whoosh sound.
6.  Repeat for a total of 4 breaths twice daily.

In this task of caregiving - or in any stressful life situation, this breathing exercise could be an important and easy tool of support. 

Dec 2, 2011


"There is a difference between impermanence and fragility." Rachel Naomi Remen, MD

Let's be honest:  sometimes it seems as if we have been doing this caregiving forever -- with no end in sight.  I certainly feel that way sometimes.  This is a good time of year to notice that nothing is permanent - to include our caregiving.  The shortest day of the year is coming up for us in the northern hemisphere.  It is snowing here today, but even at this high altitude, I can be assured it will not snow like this next July.  It is easy to get bogged down in the tasks of life in caregiving.  I think it is important for us to step back and look at a bigger perspective.  How will our life be when this caregiving task is over?  Because, assuredly it will be over. 

Dec 1, 2011

Forgot to pay taxes

"Our brains simply are not suited for the modern world." Dr. Andrew Weil.

While Dr. Weil is speaking of living deprived of nature, I think the quote applies to us who are caregivers for dementia too.  I forgot to pay our property taxes.  Not just for this last half of the year -- for the whole year.  Amazing!  It is a very reliable way for me to know that I am overloaded, as it is most unlike me to forget such things.  It seems I spend my days trying to track down one of Dwane's prescriptions (the highly controlled one for his narcolepsy -- a medical condition in addition to his dementia), or paying the bills for our household, or cooking/cleaning/shoveling/plowing/laundry chores.  It is hard to even try to carve out some time for my own personal and professional life.  This is also the time of year when getting out in nature is harder.  It is very slick here, ice covered with snow.  Next week I have planned for myself an individual retreat, while my dear sister comes to stay with Dwane.  I plan to use it to review my life, my choices and to replenish myself. 

What can you do to recharge your batteries --- especially in this busy holiday season?