Jul 31, 2013


"Over 90 million Americans do some type of volunteer work, and studies show that those who do are less anxious and depressed, and actually live longer, than those who don't."  Dr. Joan Borysenko

We who are caregivers for someone with dementia probably did not 'volunteer' for the job.  Most likely it was thrust upon us; however, there is a piece of volunteering in it for all of us.  We could abandon the person, we could say 'no', we could step aside and let others or some system take care of the person.  But, for some reason, we did not avoid this responsibility; so -- in some aspect, we do volunteer.  I volunteer to drive 4 hours (total) to pick Dwane up and take him to medical appointments.  I volunteer to see him, call him and arrange outings for him.  I would not have to do any of these things, and neither would you have to.  But, we do.  So let us also take the benefits that come from volunteering.  According to Dr. Borysenko, volunteering is a proven way to reduce stress because it reduces the tendency to self-absorption.  Let's take the benefits; we deserve them. 

Jul 30, 2013

Life Purpose

"Your purpose in life is to find your purpose, and then give your whole heart and soul to it." attributed to the Buddha

The above quote is something we have all heard, from different sources -- in slightly different wording.  If we are to find our purpose, how do we go about it?  We who are caregivers might find our purpose in providing care for someone who needs it.  Our purpose might not be lofty; we may not make the news with our purpose, but we most certainly will make a difference -- if we are true to living our lives in alignment with our purpose.  Perhaps we can have several purposes.  One of my purposes is to live my life in a way that leaves people feeling better after having been with me.  Of course, being human -- that purpose is more fulfilled at some times than others.  Relationships are important to me, and I have as a purpose showing up in important relationships in ways that matter.  The most prominent purpose for me is to discern what God's (or the Universe or Higher Self) plan is for me -- and in living according to what I have discerned.  What is your purpose?

Jul 29, 2013

Sore Backs

"More than 90% of us will experience lower back pain and stiffness at some point in our lives."  Dr. Travis Stork

For those of us who are caregivers, we are even more likely than most to injure our backs.  We are involved with helping the care receiver get up out of chairs, beds, etc.  Physical therapists can teach us how to help lift another person without injuring ourselves, and it is very important to find out proper techniques -- for the safety of the care receiver and yourself.  But, there are also things you can do to strengthen your back.  Core-strengthening exercises are key.  Our backs need strong abdominal muscles to help support the back.  Core-strengthening exercises include sit ups, leg lifts, push ups -- any good exercise that is strengthening our abdominal muscles.  It is so important that we nurture our own health and strength. 

Jul 28, 2013

Use it or Lose It

"New research boosts the 'use it or lose it' theory about brainpower and staying mentally sharp.  People who delay retirement have less of risk of developing Alzheimer's disease or other types of dementia, a study of nearly half a million people in France found."  Associated Press

This story includes a woman, age 90, who continues to work.  She looks lovely and is active and mentally alert.  People suggest to me I should retire, and, of course, I did close my psychological practice for about five years to provide caregiving for Dwane.  I reopened it just this year, and I am loving having my brain engaged in purposeful learning and valued service.  Of course we can work too hard, but I think we can also quit too early --- and replace that activity with slowing down in all meanings of the word.  You do not have to continue working to stay sharp, but you do have to keep learning new things and having social interaction.  What do you do to keep mentally sharp?

Jul 27, 2013

Supplements that Support Health

"The recipe for awesome aging?  Healthy whole foods and enough exercise, of course, but a few strategically selected supplements can help keep that youthful pep in your step too." Dr. Andrew Weil

1000 mg of acetyl-L-carnitine and 200-400 mg of alphalipoic acid a day can increase energy and resist stress.  S-Adenosyl-methionine (SAMe) at 200-400 mg twice a day can help deliver collagen-synthesizing sulfur to cartilage to strengthen joints.  Turmeric can help prevent dementia by preventing the formation of brain plaques, at 500 mg of standardized extract 2-3 times a day.  Fish Oil helps prevent unhealthy fats from interrupting the creation of brain nerve cells, at 2-3 g of molecularly distilled fish oil a day.  My eye surgeon also told me that fish oil helps hydrate dry eyes.  Coenzyme Q10 at 120 mg a day helps maintain healthy blood vessels and supports optimal functioning of the heart muscle.  Magnesium at 250-400 mg a day helps regulate blood pressure.  In the form of Calm, a powder found in health food stores, I find magnesium helps me sleep well at night too.  Combining both calcium and Vitamin D supplements helps to protect bone health.  Dr. Weil recommends 2000 IU of vitamin D3 and 500-7000 mg of calcium divided into twice a day. (source:  Prevention Magazine, August 2013)

Jul 26, 2013

Benefits of Barefoot

"Provocative new research suggests that a practice called earthing -- walking around barefoot or putting any body part in direct contact with the ground -- may decrease pain and improve heart health."  Dr. Stephen Sinatra

I was recently with a yoga teacher who reported the same thing:  that there is something very grounding about standing with our feet on the earth.  Dr. Sinatra's research says that just 20 minutes of earthing eases pain and inflammation, 40 minutes begins to reduce blood viscosity -- thick blood that may lead to heart attacks and strokes in vulnerable people.  When we have a body part in contact with the earth, "you're absorbing the earth's negatively charged electrons," says Sinatra, and this acts similarly to antioxidants, balancing out positive free radicals that contribute to inflammation. 

An easy way to add health to our life. 

Jul 25, 2013

A New Day

No day is like any other day. Isn't that interesting? And you never know what the next day will bring, and that's exciting.
--Alpha English
A woman said to me yesterday that she noticed she never got a used day; each day was new every morning.  It is easy to forget that this is a new day, and that this day will bring us something different -- if we are open to that.  We can get to be so content with our habits that we forget to be in awe.  Like Mary Oliver, the poet, tells us, in order to be fully alive:  we need to pay attention, be astonished, and tell others about it.  What is there about today that is astonishing to you?  We had a lovely lightening storm with booming thunder during the night.  That was astonishing.  This morning everything is cool and clean and fresh from the night's storm, and that is astonishing.  What is astonishing for you?

Jul 24, 2013

Self Love

"When we discover who we really are, we fall in love with ourselves -- with the great wisdom and love that we find within.  When we fall in love with ourselves, we truly fall in love with others too."  Jim Lockard

I believe the above statement is true.  First we must love ourselves; then it is possible to love others.  If we do not truly love ourselves, then our love for others will be conditional and imperfect.  Sometimes I have wondered what spiritual gift the visitation of dementia upon our lives has to offer  -- because there is always a gift among the trials and challenges.  One of the things that I think caregivers can learn is how to better love themselves.  The very situation demands that we pay an inordinate amount of attention to someone else in our life, and in that paying attention of the other, we can lose sight of ourselves.  That, I think, is one of our tasks in caregiving:  to love ourselves truly By loving ourselves we are better able to make loving choices for the person for whom we are providing care. 

Jul 23, 2013

Letting Go of Regrets

"The only time you should look back in life is to see how far you've come." Kevin Hart

I am not sure I agree entirely with the above quote, as I think we can gain much insight into our lives and our behaviors by reflecting on circumstances in our past.  But, it is true that it is a waste of time to regret our decisions and actions.  I think all life situations can serve as lessons for us, and I read a quote recently that said, "The more painful the event; the more profound the lesson."  That, in my opinion is very true.  We can spend a lot of time thinking about what if's and should-have-been's, but that does not serve us.  What does serve us is learning from our past behaviors and moving forward from here.  We each are generally doing the best we can given the circumstances and our level of consciousness.  Let us trust ourselves to be doing the best we can do -- given our circumstances. 

Jul 22, 2013


"Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

What good advise!   It is good to pray for guidance (or trust your inner best self), and then just go for it.  I think many human illnesses are caused by inertia:  the fear of going forward.  It is so easy to stay where we are, and we often have family members who want us to stay where we are.  But, sometimes staying where we are is perilous to our health.  I am not talking about geographic movement; I am talking about continuing to grow toward our potential.  What step can you take today to move toward your own highest potential?

Jul 21, 2013

4 Nutrients for your Heart

"As a cardiologist, I always favor options backed by good research.  These four are backed by research." C. Michael Gibson, M.D.

1.  Omega-3 fatty acids:  These are found in fish oil, flaxseeds, walnuts, but it is hard to get enough from food sources. 
2.  Red Yeast Rice:  Produced mostly in China, red yeast rice contains lovastatin, which has been found to lower cholesterol.
3.  Vitamin D:  Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to risk for heart attack.  We cannot get enough of this from food or the sun, if we live in a northern hemisphere. 
4.  Coenzyme Q10:  Research over many years has shown this supplement to improve heart function and give us more energy.
See your doctor for dosage and to see if taking these supplements will help you.

Jul 20, 2013

Handling Stress

"In reasonable doses, stress can enhance our performance, focus our attention on trouble spots, and motivate us to take worthwhile action." Lynda Wallace

Ways to handle stress:
1.  Exhale fully.  Most breathing problems are caused by not exhaling fully.  A suggested exercise is breathe in to a count of 4, breathe out to a count of 8.
2.  Gain psychological distance from your difficulties by picturing yourself 5 years into the future.  Dream up who you will be with, what you are doing, and what is around you.
3.  Work up a sweat.  Exercise stimulates our brains to release endorphins, the feel-good hormone.
4.  Look for the good.  This is an excellent practice:  to always look for the good among the circumstances in your life.
5.  Be part of the good.  People who help other people see the world as a better place. 

Jul 19, 2013


Love is the ability and willingness to allow those that you care for to be what they choose for themselves, without any insistence that they satisfy you.
--Dr. Wayne Dyer
This is a lovely definition of love, and true.  True love sets people free to be who they want to be and do what they want to do.  This is true even for the people for whom we, as caregivers, provide care.  As difficult as it is to see the care receiver be unhappy, there is very little we can do  to help them if that is their orientation.  We can ensure their safety to some extent, we can provide opportunities for socializing and entertainment, but there is nothing we can do about their attitudes.  The greatest love we can give another is the freedom to be who they are and experience things as they wish to experience them. 

Jul 18, 2013

Qualities of Happy People continued

"Happy people have these qualities in abundance." Dan Baker, PhD, What Happy People Know

9.  Altruism:  Unhappy people are self-absorbed.  Happy people know that being altruistic connects you to others and gives you a sense of purpose.  It also helps you get outside yourself.
10.  Perspective:  Happy people see everything in  shades of gray.  They prioritize their problems.  They do not lose sight of the big picture during difficult times.
11.  Humor:  Humor is the closest thing to enlightenment -- in that it causes an abandonment.  It lifts suffering from the heart and gives it to the intellect and spirit, which can heal suffering.
12.  Purpose;  Happy people know they are here for a reason.  They are satisfied with what they are doing. 

We can all develop these qualities, and when we do, happiness finds us.

Jul 17, 2013

Qualities of Happy People continued

"These are the qualities that happy people have."  Dan Baker, PhD, What Happy People Know

5.  Proactivity:  Happy people participate in creating the life they want.  They do not wait for other people to make them happy.
6.  Security:  Happy people are secure in who they are.  They know that life, health, finances can fluctuate.  They find their satisfaction in liking who they are.
7.  Health:  Health and happiness are intertwined, so happy people are proactive in maintaining their health. 
8.  Spirituality:  Happy people know there is something beyond their own lives, and they are open to extraordinary experiences.  They are more afraid of not living, than they are of dying.

Jul 16, 2013

Qualities of Happy People

The sum of the following qualities is happiness.  Not all of these qualities must be present for happiness to exist, and they don't all have to be there in equal amounts.  Most of them, however, must be abundant."  Dan Baker, PhD, author of What Happy People Know

1.  Love:  This is the wellspring of happiness.  "Love is the polar opposite of fear, emotionally and neurologically."  It is the first step toward happiness.
2.  Optimism:  "Every hurtful event holds lessons, and the more it hurts, the more you learn.  Optimism is realizing that the more painful the event, the more profound the lesson."  Really accepting this enables us to see events as possibilities, instead of just bad events.
3.  Courage:  This is the strongest weapon against fear, and fear is what keeps people unhappy.  We are genetically wired for both fear and courage, and we have the consciousness to choose courage over fear. 
4.  A sense of freedom:  Freedom is choice.  Unhappy people do not realize that they have choice.  A wise therapist once told me that to be emotionally healthy, a person needs to come up with 3 options for any situation, and then choose from among the three. 

Jul 15, 2013

Trials and Tribulations

"Happy people know that from the most painful experiences come the most profound lessons." Dan Baker, author of What Happy People Know

It seems in life, does it not, that troubles come in groups.  Fortunately, those are usually groups of small matters, but sometimes we are besieged by groupings of very big difficulties.  When things seem to go awry, our coping skills are lessened; so that is the time to be particularly gentle with ourselves.  I have found the above quote to be true.  My greatest lessons came from the most painful experiences.  Knowing that the experience has something to teach us can help us get through it.   A lesson I am learning right now is the consequence of saying 'yes' to something without giving it sufficient thought.  Although that seems like a small matter, it is actually a large one  -- because it is part of a people-pleasing behavior.  So, this time, I intend to learn the lesson and say 'yes' to only those things which make my heart sing. 

Jul 14, 2013

Brain Fitness Activities

"AARP now offers brain fitness exercises to help you think faster, focus better, remember more and polish your people skills." AARP, June-July, 2013

Keeping our brains agile can help ward off types of dementia and improve our overall quality of life.  There are four free brain exercises at AARP Brain Fitness powered by BrainHQ.  AARP members can do16  more at a reduced rate at www.brain.aarp.org

As caregivers, we have plenty of stress, and it is important that we keep our own brains in optimal working order as we are making decisions for at least two of us. 

Jul 13, 2013

Memory Tips

"6 Steps to a stronger memory"  AARP, June, July 2013

1.  Learn something:  "stimulating the brain helps it develop a resilience that allows us to fight off diseases like Alzheimer's." Paul D. Nussbaum, PhD 
2.  Walk with a friend.  This gives you a triple gift to prevent dementia:  cardiovascular workout, stress-relieving social interaction and mentally stimulating conversation.
3.  Sleep:  Fewer than 6 hours of sleep increases the risk of stroke. 
4.  Eat right:  more than half of your plate should be filled with green vegetables.  Also eat fish, nuts and olive oil.  Steer clear of refined carbohydrates.  This diet helps prevent Alzheimer's according to research at Columbia.
5.  Challenge yourself:  Dr. Majid Fotuhi recommends memorizing three names a day.  These can be names from tv or any where.
6.  Meditate:  Reducing anxiety improves blood flow to the brain.  One technique:  inhale for a count of 7, hold for a count of 7, exhale for a count of 7.  Repeat 7 times. 

Jul 12, 2013

Benefitting Others

He that plants trees loves others besides himself.
--Thomas Fuller
Dwane and I have always planted trees and gardens that we would not be around to enjoy.  I am sure many of you do the same.  To plant a tree is to be thinking of the enjoyment of others years beyond when we may be here.  Gardens can be the same.  At a previous house, Dwane and I planted and nurtured raspberry bushes, rhubarb and asparagus.  It did not matter that we would not be around to enjoy them, although we did enjoy them as long as we lived there.  I have always enjoyed moving in somewhere where an earlier person planted a tree or perennial that I could enjoy.  It shows our regard for others to do so.  What has someone planted that you now enjoy?

Jul 11, 2013

Signs of Dementia

"Struggling with tasks that were previously easy for the person."  Poster in Neurologist's Office

We made our every-few-week trek to the neurologist yesterday, and there was a posting of the 10 signs that might indicate dementia.  The first one listed was memory, which is not really a significant concern for Lewy Bodies Dementia, although it is more and more a concern as we go along.  The symptom that caused my first concern was his difficulty with a familiar task:  putting gas in a car.  He was unable to figure out how to make the gas pump work.  I knew this was significant because he had paid his way through high school and college working in a gas station.  Another common area of difficulty is anything to do with math:  writing checks, paying bills, etc.  All of us forget things, particularly when under stress, but to forget how to do something once easy for us is a real sign of concern.  If you have someone you love who has begun to demonstrate those difficulties, I recommend you find a good neuropsychologist and arrange for an evaluation.  That is one of the best places to start, unless you have a primary physician who is very good about listening to your concerns.

Jul 10, 2013

Being Here Now

"There is no better place that 'here'.  When your 'there' has become a 'here', you will simply obtain another 'there' that will look better than 'here'."  Cherie Carter-Scott

We have probably all experienced the desire to be somewhere other than where we are.  Mark Nepo tells of sitting on one lake shore and admiring the opposite shore, which looked so much better than the shore upon  which he sat.  So, he rowed over to the other side of the lake; and, upon sitting on that shore, he saw that it was just like the shore he had been sitting on previously --- and, in looking back across the lake, it was that shore from which he had just come that looked so appealing now.  A good life lesson for all of us.  We can yearn for being "over there", but once there, we find it is just like where we were before.  The answer would seem to be what Eckhart Tolle teaches, Be Here Now.  Enjoy our present circumstances.  Enjoy the moment right now. 

Jul 9, 2013


"I have just three things to teach:  simplicity, patience, compassion.  These are your greatest treasures." Lao-Tzu

Patience is something I do not seem to have been inherently blessed with.  I am efficient and quick, and it is actually painful for me to slow down; but slow down I do to accommodate someone with dementia.  It facilitates harmony if we, as caregivers, slow down our talking, our walking/moving, our time schedules.  We will just frustrate ourselves otherwise.  When I am with the care receiver, I suspend any schedules, except to get him to medical appointments on time.  I talk in simpler ways, so we can enjoy each other.   I incorporate compassion in order to see things from his perspective.  Simplicity, patience and compassion are important in life --- and crucial in caregiving. 

Jul 8, 2013

Solving the Problems of Others

"Frequently, this reflex to solve, rescue, and fix removes us from the tenderness at hand.  Intimacy arises not from any attempt to take the pain away, but from living through together; not from a working out, but from a being with."  Mark Nepo

Nepo is speaking of trying to take care of someone else's feelings, which we cannot do and is detrimental to us to try.  If you, like me, have a care receiver who tends to look at many things negatively, there is a temptation to try to fix it for them.  But we cannot, and it is so instructive for me to remember how much the other people in residence at the assisted living facility enjoy the food prepared.  Whenever I go see or talk with my spouse, his first words are usually complaining about a recent meal.  I am coming to realize that is his orientation, and I cannot fix it for him.  We cannot fix the feelings of others, and it creates a very dysfunctional situation if we try.  We have a responsibility to ourselves to take care of our own feelings, and we benefit --- spiritually, physically and mentally -- if we choose to orient ourselves to positive feelings and thoughts. 

Jul 7, 2013

How Can You Support A Caregiver?

"Family caregivers need:
  • To be asked about their needs, goals and preferences.
  • To easily know where to find the help and resources that match their preferences, values and financial situation.
  • To know how to arrange breaks and have the financial assistance and community resources to do so.
  • To be offered information, support and practical strategies on how to cope with runaway emotions such as guilt, anger, resentment, worry, isolation.
  • A core group of individuals who support without judging.
  • A community that accommodates rather than isolates.
  • A nation that recognizes their contribution as the backbone of our broken health care system and, in doing so, creates policies and systems that support caregivers and reward their contribution."  Mayo Clinic Newsletter
To the above, I say:  Amen, amen, amen.  I agree, I agree, I agree.  I am surprised how often I am asked how Dwane is by others, but how seldom the same people ask how I am.  As caregivers, we create support systems for the person needing the care; and then on top of that, we have to create systems of support for ourselves as well.  If you want to support a caregiver, and there are legions of us, the above suggestions are helpful. 

Jul 6, 2013

Caregivers Need Support

"Many caregivers feel as if every day is the longest day. The popular book "The 36-Hour Day" reflects that notion. In another great book, by Gail Sheehy, called "Passages in Caregiving," she says that the vast majority of family caregivers are swept in with no preparation or training for the role they're expected to perform or the transitions they'll face. They're unprepared for the emotional toll that accompanies the journey."  Mayo Clinic Newsletter

Not only are we unprepared, but it is very difficult to get the support and information we want and need.  I am grateful for family and friends who support us and who help educate me.  A sister was just here who helps to bring out the best in Dwane.  A friend invited both of us to her house for a July 4th picnic, and it was so good to have Dwane out with people who engage him and help him.  A daughter who visits him, a son-in-law who mows our lawn.  The above newsletter is about caregivers needing support.  Some websites that give good information are:  Eldercare Locator elder-care.gov), AARP (aarp.org), and either Lewy Bodies Dementia (lbda.org) or Alzheimer's Association (alz.org). 

Jul 5, 2013

Futility of Worry

"Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength." Corrie ten Boom

For sure.  It seems human nature to worry.  We worry about others' reaction to what we might decide, we worry about impending health or financial challenges, we worry about weather events.  Scientists say that most of our thoughts are either negative or redundant -- and I would venture that a large part of that negativity is either worry or judgment.  Both are so destructive to the human soul and psyche.  Let us try, for just today, to abstain from worry and from judgment of our self and of others.  Our physical and mental health will improve if we eliminate these two habits:  worry and judgment.

Jul 4, 2013

Happiness and Being Present

"People who dwell on the past and future are less likely to be happy than people who concentrate on the present."  Jeffrey Kluger

An interesting article on happiness in the most recent Time magazine.  The American Declaration of Independence is unique in that it guarantees citizens the right to "the pursuit of happiness".  These words can be found in Thomas Jefferson's own writing.  It is said that he meant public happiness is the test and justification of any government.  This is the first time that happiness for the governed is put at the center of importance in government.  How important is it for you to be happy?  Sometimes we must choose between our own happiness and health over the wishes and demands of others.  As caregivers, I think we must be particularly vigilant to be guardians of our own happiness.  If not, the disease -- whether dementia or something else -- will rob us of our happiness -- and of our very health.  On this day celebrating Independence in America, let us be sure to be guardians of our own independence.  Our happiness depends upon it. 

Jul 3, 2013


He has the right to criticize who has the heart to help.
-- Abraham Lincoln

Have you ever noticed that in most groups or organizations, those who criticize the most were those who had little to do with something getting done.  It is said that what we criticize in others includes shortcomings that we are reluctant to see in ourselves.  It can give us insight into ourselves when we pay attention to what annoys us.  I read recently that when we are angry, it usually means that we have been quiet too long about something.  I notice that is true for me:  that I can go along with things and be flexible, but then it seems a line can be crossed and I am annoyed.  I want to recognize earlier when my boundaries are being violated, when I am being taken advantage of, when someone is making unfounded demands of me.  Recognizing this early, I can so "No" at that point, and save myself from being angry later. 

Jul 2, 2013

Our Physical Bodies

"We are made up of the same particles as the stars, the planets, the nebulae.  Our bodies are a community of trillions  and trillions of particles -- all in motion, all vibrating, all active." Dr. Jim Lockard

I think we tend to think of our bodies as solid, dense; but they are not.  Our bodies are made of particles, which have huge spaces between them.  Our bodies are particles in motion.  Perhaps it is gravity which makes our bodies seem dense.  Because our bodies are particles in motion, the thoughts we choose affects them.  Thoughts of higher vibrations -- love, appreciation, joy -- vibrate at a higher frequency than thoughts of fear, sadness, hopelessness.  Our bodies are affected.  We can increase our health by thinking thoughts of higher emotional frequency.  Every part of our body and spirit benefit when we think thoughts of appreciation and gratitude.  What are you grateful for today?  I am grateful that we have some respite from the heat, and I am grateful for family members and friends who joined me in celebrating my birthday. 

Jul 1, 2013

Minding Our Own Business

"Don't go hoeing in someone else's psychic garden.  What if their pain is exactly what their soul needs for its growth?  There is no way for you to know the lessons that will best serve them." Dr. Carleton Whitehead

As caregivers, whether we like it or not -- and I do not like it, we have to take some control over someone else's life.  That has been the hardest part of caregiving for me:  to interject my control over someone else's will.  We, as caregivers, do have to take some control; there is no way around it, but we do not have to try to save the person from the feelings he/she may be having about their situation.  As caregivers, we do have to ensure safety and dignity for the person, but we cannot make their life perfect --- and perhaps that is good for their soul.  If we admit it, our lives are not perfect either, are they?  Challenges are a part of life, and if dealt with, can be very good teaching points for our souls.