Jan 31, 2012

Being half present

"Being half anywhere is the true beginning of loneliness." Mark Nepo

I have been 'half there' numerous times lately.  I left my favorite hat lying on a table of a house I was leaving, I could not find a book I read daily because I had packed it and did not remember doing so, I misplaced some important papers because I was not 'conscious of what I was doing' when I put them in a location.  I am a very bright woman, so I take these as signs of stress.  Too much responsibility.  Recently, I agreed to pet sit a dog. I thought I could handle it no problem; afterall, as long as I am here caregiving, what is one more thing?  But, that is exactly what is the problem:  it is one more thing for which I am responsible. The result is that I feel even more overwhelmed.  Now I have to remember everything for Dwane and me, and I have to remember to tend to the dog's needs.  Solution?  I will take time this week to regather myself, eliminate sources of stress that I can eliminate and renew my practice of being present.  I think as caregivers we must be very careful about taking on even one more thing, and I hope you can benefit from my mistake in having done so.

Jan 30, 2012


"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. Winston Churchill

I am teaching myself French.  Someone I know lent me some cd's with an accompanying book.  Learning French has been something I have wanted to do for a long time (I already have several years invested in learning Spanish), so, I thought; why not now?  I am home anyway.  There are many things I could do with this time that I am caregiving.  The time will pass anyway;; I want to have something specific to show for that time.  So, I am learning French.  I may not become fluent, but I will certainly be able to order off a French menu and greet people appropriately.  What a beautiful language, so lyrical.  What could you be doing that you could do while also caregiving?

au revoir - until tomorrow. 

Jan 29, 2012

Stress is a killer

"Make no mistake about it; stress is a killer." Jack LaLanne

And, make no mistake about it; caregiving is a source of great stress.  I have a friend who has now developed chronic low back pain and high blood pressure from the stress of caregiving her husband with Lewy Bodies Dementia.  Even the seemingly simple things are stressful when one is dealing with someone with Lewy Bodies Dementia.  So, how do we handle this stress?  Exercise daily, meditate daily, eat nutritious foods, avoid overuse of alcohol or caffeine, have a support system, manage your thinking so that it is positive and optimistic. 

"Let no one, and I mean no one, ruin your day." Jack LaLanne

Jan 28, 2012

Cost of caregiving

"A new study (of the cost of caregiving) pegs the total cost in lost wages, Social Security and private pensions due to reduced hours or an early exit from the workforce (Women lose more). " Anne C. Lee, Money magazine September 2011.

I am in the process of figuring how much we made last year and how much we paid in income taxes.  It is sobering for me, as I am able to work less and less; therefore earning less each year.  Not a choice I would make, as I am good at what I do and I very much enjoy working part time.  The estimate cited in the Money magazine from Metlife Mature Market Institute shows the median lost for women who leave the labor force because of caregiving is a staggering $274,000.  For men: $234,000.  So, we have more cost in living expense:  his prescriptions, etc, and a reduced income.  Even more than the reduced income now, for me, is the long-term loss of income.  There have to be some better answers. 

Jan 27, 2012


"Always remember this: What you eat today will be walking and talking tomorrow." Jack LaLanne

I am currently reading Jack LaLanne's book, Live Young Forever.  Although he is now deceased, according to his wife he was not ill in the 60+ years she knew him.  That seems to me to be an optimal way to go.  Healthy, active and loving life - right up to the end of it.  The book says he never ate anything out of a box or can.  Of course, he lived in California where fresh produce was available year-round. He worked out with weight lifting and swimming 2 hours every day, and for a celebration dinner he had vegetable soup,  broiled fish, a salad of 10 different raw vegetables and fresh fruit for dessert.  While this may seem extreme to some, LaLanne certainly models some behavior that obviously worked for him.  He died at 96 years of age, and his family said he exercised even on the day he died of pneumonia.  In what ways could you be eating better to protect you physically and cognitively?

Jan 26, 2012

Responsibility to the world

"We are called to leave the world a better place than we found it." Rev. Chris Michaels

Rev. Michaels goes on to say that we have three responsibilities:  first to ourselves - to be authentic; second to our fellow humans -- and not just the small circle of family and friends; and third to the world.  We who are caregivers might think we don't have time to give to a worthwhile organization or issue, but there are some things we can do.  For instance, the pastor in church recommended we contact our legislators about a pending issue.  Certainly we have time to write a brief letter asking them to support something we believe in.  Today, that is made so easy with electronics.  And, let us not forget our very small world.  I notice sometimes that people are kind and gracious to strangers or acquaintances, but treat their family members shabbily.  Charity begins, I believe, at home:  with oneself, with our close circle of family and friends, and then outward from that. 

Jan 25, 2012


"Americans now sit more than they sleep, spending an average of 10 hours a day in a car, at work and in front of a television.  Taking 5,000 steps or fewer daily is considered sedentary." federal government statistics

5,000 steps is sedentary?!  That is approximately 2 1/2 miles, and it is considered sedentary?  Yes, according to The Walking insert in the AARP Bulletin, January-February 2010.  To be considered active, one needs to walk 10,000 steps a day, which is approximately 5 miles.  I find that I cannot get in that many steps in a day without a deliberate 2-3 mile walk.  If I get 4,000 to 6,000 steps in a walk, then I can get the remaining 4,000 to 6,000 steps needed in my daily activites.  It is important to wear a pedometer, because it is very difficult to know how many steps one gets in a day without this device to keep track.  Walking is getting a lot of coverage in the news now, and with good reason -- it may be the single best and easiest exercise we can do to maintain and improve our health. 

Jan 24, 2012

Life sentence?

"See your life as an adventure story instead of a life sentence.  Enjoy the process." Rev. Chris Michaels

If we are honest, I think those of us who are caregivers sometimes feel as if this is a life sentence.  I know I certainly do.  Sometimes, especially last summer and fall, I felt as if I would never have any life except this one filled with someone who needs so much help, a life filled with so much responsibility and constraint, a life filled with putting what I want to do aside for now.  But, in my better moments, I know that is not true.  There is a spiritual gift in this caregiving for me, and this time will pass. I promise.

Jan 23, 2012

Sobering statistics

"One-third of all American adults are taking care of their ill or disabled relatives and that number is expected to grow. And an estimated 70 percent of all caregivers are women, according to Richard Nix, executive vice president of Aging Care, a website that provides resources and an online community."

This article at abc.go.com goes on to say that the woman in the story, Catherine Graves, went on to lose her mind because of the stress of providing caregiving for her husband.  While, I think, most of us will not endure mental illness from caregiving, this article makes it it clear that that is possible.  Even if we maintain our mental health, caregivers are more likely to suffer chronic physical illness.  That is why I stress proactive strategies:  daily exercise and meditation, good nutrition, restorative sleep, social connectedness and fun:  all are imperative to our own well being, especially as caregivers.

Jan 22, 2012

Exercise and memory

"When you get your heart to pump more blood (through exercise), it sends more oxygen and nutrients to the brain." Dr. Gary Small

Dr. Small, author of The Alzheimer's Prevention Program, says that exercise not only protects our memory, it helps prevent diabetes which is a risk factor for Alzheimer's.  He say that we can do a lot to prevent getting Alzheimer's ourselves, and one of the most effective ways is to exercise.  Exercise, learning to manage stress, good nutrition, social connectedness and fun.  No matter how busy we are; it is imperative we fit those qualities into our lives.  Every day. 

Jan 21, 2012

7 minute exercise

"Vigorous physical activity is actually the most important predictor of a long, healthy life." Dr. Oz

If any of you have wondered, like I have, how Dr. Oz squeezes his exercise routine into 7 minutes, we can now see his workout video at www.parade.com/oz   I am going to check it out as I am intrigued how one can fit a fitness routine into 7 minutes. 

"If everyone in the U.S. adopted just one positive habit, like regular exercise or learning to manage stress, within five years we could expect 1 million fewer Alzheimer's cases." Dr. Gary Small

Jan 20, 2012


"It's not that very old people can exercise because they are healthy; rather, they achieve a healthy old age because they exercise." Jane Brody, New York Times Health Writer

As readers of this blog know, I am a strong advocate of exercise.  It is easy to make excuses to not exercise, or to go to the opposite extreme and pay large sums to exercise -- only to find one does not.  That is one reason I am an advocate for walking.  It does not take any special or expensive equipment or facility, just a very good pair of walking shoes, and it can be done any where.  And don't underestimate the value of walking.  According to Jane Fonda, a 60 year old woman weighing 145 pounds burns 285 calories running 30 minutes at 5 mph.  If you walk 30 minutes at 4 mph you burn 165 calories on a level surface, 225 calories on a slight incline and 360 calories on a 10% incline!  So, it is a good weight management tool, but I do it even more for the stress-management tool that it is.  Make it a goal to walk 6000-10,000 steps a day for this next week.  I believe it is one of the ways to be a caregiver and stay healthy.

Jan 19, 2012


"Rarely do we get exactly what we want when we want it.  But we always get exactly what we expect." Rev. Chris Michaels

How very true I have found this to be in my life.  And, I have found that life has been a process of my learning to raise my expectations - or my beliefs about what is possible for me to experience.  It takes some discipline to raise one's expectations, and I think it takes avoiding the naysayers.  Just like many who abuse substances find support in groups like AA; so too, can we who want to raise our expectations find encouragement in like-minded people: Others who are raising their expectations of what life has to offer them.  For this next week let us put forth the intention to expect better things for ourselves and all others.  What could that look like?  Perhaps better cooperation from the person for whom we provide care, perhaps better solutions for bill-paying, perhaps better health and well being.  What can be better for you? 
Now:  expect it.

Jan 18, 2012


"Scientific experiments conducted in various laboratories, using yogi and advanced Western meditators as subjects, reveal that in the deep relaxation of meditation the heart rate decreases and apparently the muscles of the walls of the blood vessels relax.  This allows blood to flow more abundantly to all organs including the brain." Claire Myers Owens

What a good reason to meditate!  Meditation also is a wonderful technique to help diminish stress.  There are many books on meditation, but I don't think it needs to be complicated.  For about 20 minutes every day sit in a comfortable position, breathe slowly, and notice your thoughts without judgment.  It becomes easier and easier with practice, and the benefits are immense. 

Jan 17, 2012


"If the task of young adults is to create biological heirs, the task of old age is to create social heirs." George Vaillant

Erik Erickson coined the term 'generativity' to describe moving from a focus on oneself to a focus on a broader social radius, giving to the community and to the larger world.  This aspect of 'giving back' is a central component of successful aging.  As caregivers for someone with dementia, we certainly give to that individual, and perhaps that does not allow us time to give in a larger sense.  One reason I write this blog is to 'give back' reliable and helpful information from my years of psychological training and experience to assist anyone dealing with a stressful life situation.  In what ways do you care for and guide the next generation or the larger world?

Jan 16, 2012

Human dignity

"I have decided to love. If you are seeking the highest good, I think you can find it through love." Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. King is such a good example of modeling human dignity, how to treat others and how to expect to be treated.  We who are caregivers for someone with dementia have the opportunity to model for others how to treat someone with physical and cognitive diminishment.  I expect others to treat Dwane with kindness, and they usually do. Doesn't that tell a lot about a person?  How they treat someone less capable than themselves?  We have an opportunity to help others to treat all people with dignity and respect.  We benefit as a human race when we increase our capacity for treating ourselves and all others with dignity. 

Jan 15, 2012


"Positivity represents an important developmental shift, a way to approach life that is expressed through humor, gratitude, forgiveness, playfulness, creativeness, and flexibility." Dr. Laura Carstensen, founding director of the Stanford Center on Longevity.

According to Dr. Carstensen and others, happiness tends to increase as we get older.  Of course, there are exceptions that I am sure we can all point out, but generally people get happier as they get older.  In a study done by the University of Georgia of centenarians results indicated that on the whole these people report more happiness than the average person.  As we age we can learn to "not sweat the small stuff".  Perhaps we can even take to heart what some posters add:  "And it is all small stuff."  It seems that the experiences of life give us a perspective which is less personal than in earlier years.  The first time we are betrayed we may be devastated, but as it happens again - which it does to all of us, then we begin to see that it is not all about us.  So, if we are tempted to feel sorry for ourselves that we have been assigned the role of caregiver for someone with dementia, perhaps it might help us to know that this, too, is just part of life.  We have not been singled out to experience something terrible.  In fact, if we look around, I am sure we can each see something we might consider more terrible than what we are doing. 

Jan 14, 2012

Old age

"Nothing is inherently and invincibly young except spirit.  And spirit can enter a human being perhaps better in the quiet of old age . . . ." George Santayana

I am reading Jane Fonda's newest novel, Prime Time.  She gives lovely information and research on Act III of life, the decades after 60.  She suggests that we do better with any situation if we spend time preparing and planning for it.  Perhaps none us expected to be a caregiver for someone with dementia, but now that we are, we can plan how we want it to look.  It is imperative, I think, that we take time to plan it so that it does not destroy us in the process.  Dwane needs sooooo much time to do anything now, and I find that things go better when I plan plenty of time for us to do whatever it is we are going to do.  I prep him by telling him when and where we are going, I arrange for him to be ready in a time frame that gives us ample time because we are going to need that time, and I organize our home in ways that support his movement and independence.  It is important to plan so that we are the ones in charge; instead of letting the tasks at hand take charge of the situation and us.

Jan 13, 2012

Being present

"To be fully present here and now requires conscious effort and attention.  It means letting go of your plans for the future and forgetting the past." Rev. Chris Michaels

Last night I went to a Buddhist lesson and meditation.  Very interesting.  There are so many similarities among the paths to the Divine.  A practice I have been doing this New Year is choosing to live in the present more of the time, which for me means not resisting the present circumstances with my mind planning what I think would be better circumstances.  Living with dementia may be a perfect playground for this activity because there are many things about the present moment I would prefer to not accept.  And, perhaps that is why I am in this situation:  to accept what is.  Without judgment. 

Jan 12, 2012

Self care

"It is a sign of healthy self-esteem to nurture our needs and wants.  We always take good care of the things we value the most in life." Rev. Chris Michaels

Self care is an even more urgent issue for those of us in caregiving positions.  So much of our time and energy is spent on the well being of the person for whom we provide care that we can begin to be delinquent in our own self care.  Adequate sleep (which is especially challenging to a caregiver), good nutrition, fun, social connectedness, peace of mind and exercise need to be practiced regularly in our daily routines.  Exercise and prayer are the things that can fall out of my schedule if I feel overly busy.  It is an act of self love to make sure these are a part of our daily lives.  Are they a part of yours?

Jan 11, 2012

All is well

"it's perfectly OK, even highly ideal, to claim all is well amongst doubt and confusion." Mike Dooley

'All is well' is a mantra I have used for many years, especially when outside circumstances do not seem to reflect that all is well.  It can be a powerful relaxation tool.  If you are anxious or stressed, try saying; "All is well." as you breathe slowly and deeply.  Do this until you feel the comfort of knowing that all is truly well.

Jan 10, 2012

This blog

"I wanted to represent what was the best research and wisdom from my profession  . . . . . ." Dr. Val Farmer

The above quote comes from Dr. Val Farmer's final column; the one in which he announces he is retiring.  His purpose, as stated above, is the same purpose I have with this blog.  Both he and I have psychological backgrounds in private practice.  He wanted to bring the skills he developed in his training and in the work he did in private practice to those who live in rural America.  I want to bring the latest research in dementia and in caregiving, coupled with my experience in psychological training and practice, to those of us in caregiving positions or in any challenging situation.  It is my observation that each of us will face several challenging situations in our lifetimes.  My hope with this blog is to present research-based information and techniques to help us all deal with those life challenges.  I have read Dr. Val Farmer for years and wish him well in retirement. 

Jan 9, 2012


"The most exhausting thing in my life is being insincere." Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Sincerity or authenticity is important.  Have you found that it is easier to be authentic in some situations and with some people than with others?  My inner radar seems to go on alert at times and with some people; and I do not fully reveal myself.  For instance, if I perceive people are judging me, I tend to "hide" within myself.  And, I agree, with Anne Morrow Lindbergh:  it is exhausing.  So, what is the answer?  There are people for each of us who may not be safe for us to fully open and reveal ourslves.  Let us discern who are safe people for us so that we can be authentic and safe -- and replenished instead of exhausted. 

Jan 8, 2012


"To be alive is to be vulnerable." Madeleine L'Engle

Being a caregiver for someone with dementia makes us vulnerable:  vulnerable to stress overload which can manifest in deterioration of our own health.  I have noticed over the past couple months that I have made more mistakes, forgotten more things (even the property taxes!), felt foggier mentally.  Expressing our emotions is one way to support our own well being.  Let's be honest:  caregiving is very, very tough.  We need to have a safe place to discuss the feelings that arise from this role. 

Jan 7, 2012

Getting what we want

"If I had gotten the job I wanted at Montgomery Ward, I suppose I would never have left Illinois." Ronald Reagan.

Have you ever gotten something you wanted, only to find out you did not really like it?  I did once in what is a silly example: We once thought we would like a motor home; it turned out that it was not the travel vehicle for us.  Or, perhaps you have not gotten something you were sure you wanted, but later see the blessing in having not gotten it.  Take being a caregiver for dementia, for instance.  I doubt that many of us wanted this job.  I certainly did not want it.  It wasn't even remotely on the radar for me.  There have been other times in my life that what happened is not what I wanted; and, yet, in each of those cases, there were blessings associated with what did happen.  What might the blessings be for us who are caregivers?  Do you believe there are any?  I would like to know what your blessings have been for being the caregiver for someone with dementia.

Jan 6, 2012

Heart energy

"As we affect each others' hearts, we affect their minds." I Am documentary by Tom Shadyac

According to the I Am documentary and other sources, our emotions affect not just ourselves, and those directly around us, but the planet and all life.  What if that is true?  Let's assume it is, and then decide what we can do to 'clean up' our world.  Can we have less negative thoughts?  Can we choose to remain at peace and serene?  Emotions come and go --- unless we try to hold on to them.  We can become 'stuck' in negativity by circular thoughts about whatever is troubling us.  Does that do us any good?  I say it does not.  Better instead is to think positive thoughts, which encourage positive emotions.  When what we might call negative emotions do happen, feel them and let them go; and return to positive thoughts.  The world may very well be counting on us. 

Jan 5, 2012


"When asked the question:  'What is wrong with the world?' G.K. Chesterton responded, 'I am'."

What delightful insight and demonstration of self-responsibility.  I watched the documentary, I Am, by Tom Shadyac over the holiday weekend.  Fascinating.  It depicts how he came to the realization that he was not happy with his wealth while others had so little, and that humans have been led off their true path believing we are all separate and must compete with each other.  The documentary states that the basic nature of humans is to cooperate, not compete.  In what way can we create more cooperation in our lives, in our world?

Jan 4, 2012

Caregiver Syndrome

"There is a stressful condition referred to as 'caregivers syndrome'." David Yount

Oh, so now we have a disease named for us.  Infamy assured.  Some other bleak statistics:  1 in 5 caregivers is a working woman (or in my case, a woman trying to work), the value of unpaid services by family caregivers is $306 billion a year, caregivers have little time to devote to their own private needs and are often housebound (Yount).  Sobering statistics - which behoove us to be aware.  More reasons for us to make sure we are meeting our own needs.  I make sure that I do not miss daily prayer, exercise and some time connecting with other people (usually by phone).  What do you do that feeds your soul and supports you in this caregiving task?

Jan 3, 2012

New Year's resolution

"Voluntary caregivers are compensated with gratitude alone -- and sometimes not even that.  Author Singletary urges her readers to offer caregivers they know some time off to shop or exercise." Michelle Singletary, The Washington Post.

What a refreshing news article and piece of advice.  Singletary recommends that instead of the usual New Year's resolution favoring self improvement, that people instead offer to give respite to someone who is providing caregiving -- so that they can have fun and meet some of their own needs.  I heartily endorse this suggestion, and I hope you have someone in your life who provides you with this loving support. 

Jan 2, 2012


“Four Rules For Life:  Show up. Pay attention. Tell the truth. Don't be attached to the results.”Angeles Arrien

If you enjoyed The Blessing Way, written on earlier in this blog, you may enjoy a resource that a reader sent to me:
Sounds True is a good resource that I have used over the years, and Angeles Arrien is a deep thinker, whose work and words I enjoy.  Thank you, Reader, for taking the time to share this resource with us.  Another source of solace and inspiration for us.

Another resource that brings me solace and inspiration is the Institute of Noetic Sciences:

Jan 1, 2012


"There are only two ways to live life:  One is as if there are no miracles, and the other is as if everything is a miracle." Albert Einstein

What if that is a true way to live?  You may remember that I was asking for a miracle this Christmas season. What if the miracle is that everything is a miracle?  I am choosing to believe this is true, and I am starting to journal every morning the miracles in my life in general; and every evening the miracles of my life that day.  I am excited to try out this new way of interfacing with life.  A miracle for me this morning is you -- I am so grateful for your support of this blog, and in so doing, of my life.  I hope 2012 brings you many miracles, good health, prosperity, and peace of mind.