Sep 30, 2014

Handling Stress

  1. "Battling stress is an art -- literally. Painting and drawing improve the brain's ability to bounce back under pressure." University Hospital Erlangen, Germany

    In this study done in Germany, retired people who painted or drew once a week for 10 weeks demonstrated greater psychological resilience.  Creating visual art improves the connection between brain regions associated with resilience, the quality that helps us deal with stress.  I know as caregivers we have precious little time to do something that sustains us, but it is critically important -- and this study suggests it be art.  I love to oil paint, but I have not for several years now, because of the demands of caregiving.  Perhaps I can get back into it.  What sustains you?

Sep 29, 2014

Realness of Hallucinations

  1. "He who loves his brother abides in the light." 1 John 2:10

    Yesterday when I saw my loved one, he described in specific detail how he had gone to the courthouse that morning to be approved to vote, and he had met and talked with Teddy Roosevelt.  Later, when I was wheeling him back into his room, he grabbed the sides of the door frame and screamed.  When I checked to see what his fear was, he said I was wheeling him through a glass window pane.  It is so hard to see him tortured by his hallucinations.  

Sep 28, 2014

Acknowledging the Good

  1. "Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance." Eckhart Tolle

    So many spiritual teachers are saying the same thing.  The practice of appreciating the good in our lives brings more good.  It seems to be a universal rule.  Some suggest that we develop a practice of thinking of 3 new things every day for which we are grateful.  It stretches us into looking at many different things because we soon use up the obvious ones, and then we have to think more deeply about those things for which we are grateful.  Today I am grateful for the good health of many in my family, for the blessings of clean air and water, for prosperity in all its forms.  I could focus on the extreme expense of my loved one's care -- at over $8000 a month -- or I can focus on gratitude that I can pay it.  Always.  It is our choice.  What are you grateful for today?

Sep 27, 2014

Skin Care

    •  Regardless of cost, the most effective nonprescription skin care routine is to use sunscreen during the day and a moisturizer at night or after bathing.  Mayo Clinic
    It is hard to tell which ones are effective among all the products that we can purchase to put on our skin, but according to Mayo Clinic, only broad-based sunscreen and retinol - a vitamin A antioxidant, and alpha hydroxy have demonstrated effectiveness in research to help protect our skin and to diminish wrinkles.    Retinol, a vitamin A antioxidant compound that helps prevent skin cell breakdown may also promote production of collagen, which gives skin its fullness.  
    Alpha hydroxy acid is an ingredient that helps remove the upper layer of old, dead skin and stimulate growth of smooth, evenly pigmented skin.   So, perhaps we can save money by buying only the skin products that are effective.  

Sep 26, 2014

Changing Ourselves

  1. "Wanting to reform the world without discovering one's true self is like trying to cover the world with leather to avoid the pain of walking on stones and thorns.  It is much simpler to wear shoes." The Hindu Sage Ramana Maharshi

    An amusing way to reflect to us that change must start with ourselves.  It is a tenacious trap to get into thinking we can change another person.  It is impossible, unless he or she wants to change.  Our time is much better spent changing ourselves.  Self-help books abound nowadays, but one does not necessarily need several or even one of those.  All one needs is the desire to look at one's own behavior, instead of projecting it out onto others.  One great clue is when anything about someone else bugs us -- we can be certain there is something in that for us to take a look at about ourselves.  It may not be that the quality in the other person is one you express, but it may mean that the quality in the other person is one you need to accept you could do -- given the right circumstances.  Be gentle with ourselves, and, it is certain, we will also be gentle with others.

Sep 25, 2014

Choosing Love Over Fear

  1. I believe that every single event in life happens as an opportunity to choose love over fear.
    --Oprah Winfrey
Every single event?!  I do think that those who profess that there is only love and fear may be right. Fear is what keeps us from achieving our potential, experiencing the full extent of joy and love, and facing situations that could help us grow.  Fear is powerful in hindering us, BUT it is not as powerful as love.  One quick way to get to love is to think of what you appreciate about a certain life circumstance -- even those difficult situations.  Caregiving, for example, what is there that one can possibly appreciate about caregiving?  For me, deciding to close my psychological practice and take my loved one on the trips he wanted to experience before he died, helped me to reconsider my priorities.  When it became apparent to people who love me that it was time for my loved one to move into assisted living, I can appreciate not only their love and intervention, but also the removal of huge amounts of stress.  What is there in your life about which to be appreciative?

Sep 24, 2014

Life's Lessons

  1. "What we need to learn comes when we need it, no matter how old or young, no matter how many times we have to start over, no matter how many times we have to learn the same lesson." Mark Nepo

    I have certainly found that in my life.  Sometimes I think that I should have learned this from the last experience like this one; but learning in life is like layers on an onion -- we heal one layer and live with that for awhile, and then life presents another opportunity to heal the next layer.  We are never too old to have life present its lessons to us, and I think it is important that we not feel bad when a similar lesson comes along.  It can mean that you are ready for the next level of lessons regarding this subject.  The lessons usually are based in love:  learning to love ourselves and others more fully.  

Sep 23, 2014

Finding Strength

  1. "Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act." Psalm 37:5

    Sometimes, as caregivers, it is difficult for us to find the strength to continue.  Some people get their support from family and friends, some from support groups, some from their religion.  It does not matter so much where we get our support, but we must get it.  I had a phone call from a neighbor this weekend who is at his wit's end with the caregiving of his wife.  I can certainly understand his frustration, especially when she -- like many of those who need caregiving -- refuses to get any help, or even to see the need for any.  I could listen to him, and I could offer him suggestions for what might work -- since I have been in a similar situation and have found some valuable services in the area.  Caregiving is very, very stressful.  We must find support in order to provide the care for ourselves and the loved one.  

Sep 22, 2014

Sleeping Well

  1. "Persistent insomnia becomes more common as we age.  It's a risk factor for weight gain and can disrupt the body's regulation of blood sugar, can affect cognitive function and increase stress hormone levels."  Dr. Andrew Weil

    A way to improve your sleep, according to Dr. Weil, is to do a relaxation technique when you get into bed.  His technique is to exhale through your mouth, close your mouth and inhale through your nose for a count of 4, hold your breath for 7 counts, exhale for 8 counts, and repeat the sequence 3 times.  

    I personally have also found that it helps me to do some yoga stretches before getting into bed, especially the cat and cow sequence and the cobra.  Both of these relax my lower back, which enables me to fall to sleep more easily.  

Sep 21, 2014

Finding Joy

  1. Acts of John
    Jesus danced and said to his disciples, "To the Universe belongs the dancer. He who does not dance does not know what happens."

    I was this week preparing a talk for church on joy, and I was perplexed how difficult a topic it is to present.  I found a lot of research on what people said were tips for creating more joy in your life, but no real examples of joy.  I looked to the bible to find examples of joy being expressed, and they are rare to nonexistent.  It seemed I should be able to find an example of Jesus being joyful, but I could not.  We can find Jesus being learned (teaching rabbis when he is only twelve years old), healing, walking on water, expressing anger when he topples the money changer's tables in the temple, and despairing as he comes to terms with his destiny in the Garden of Gethsemane.  But joy?  Finally, about midnight on a night I was not sleeping well, I remembered the other ancient texts:  The Acts of Philip, the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, and the one quoted above, Acts of John.  These ancient texts present a joyous Jesus, one who was dancing at the Last Supper.  I think it is important to remember and honor that Jesus was joyous, among all the other things He did.  

Sep 20, 2014

New Beginnings

  1. "And suddenly you know:  It's time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings." Meister Eckhart

    Sometimes we do know that it is time to start something new.  I recently quit a role that was - in many ways - very gratifying for me.  I believe I quit that role because I knew that something new was coming for me.  I still do not know what that new opportunity is, but I don't think it could happen without stopping the previous.  New beginnings happen when we make room for them -- sometimes that means saying 'no' to something that is currently in our lives.  Life is full of endings and beginnings.  It is important for us to not fear the changes that result to make this ebb and flow occur.  

Sep 19, 2014


  • "Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the over-coming of it." Helen Keller

  • An interesting observation from someone who had more suffering than many people.  Overcoming years of deprivation from being born both blind and deaf, she became fully functioning with the help of an amazing teacher.  We each have had "teachers" who show up in our lives and help us to become more fully who we were meant to be.  Who have some of your teachers been?  One of mine was a lovely therapist many years ago who taught me many things about courage and living life more fully.  Another was a roommate I had in my first year of college who taught me much about beauty.  My children have both taught me many things about opportunity, finances, and being loving.  I am so grateful for the teachers I have had in my life.  Aren't you?

    Sep 18, 2014

    Loving Ourselves

    1. "No matter how much we give love, if we don't give it to ourselves, nobody can love us enough." Louise Hay

      I believe it is true that being loved must start with loving ourselves.  We are trained to disregard ourselves.  It is appalling the way people can speak to themselves.  When things go awry, like hitting our heads on an open cupboard door, it is not helpful to blame the person who left the door open, nor ourselves for not looking.  Treat yourself just as you would anyone who got hurt -- with compassion.  Today let us resolve to say and think only loving thoughts about ourselves.  If it is true that shame is the basis of addictions and bullying, let us start with ourselves by treating ourselves with loving kindness.  

    Sep 17, 2014

    Telling Our Story

    1. "Imagine how many times Paul told the story of being knocked off his horse by God.  He did so, most likely, because with each retelling, he was brought deeper into revelation."
      Mark Nepo

      This is true of our stories too.  We need to tell our stories in order to understand them, and we need to tell our stories to people who can accept them.  Research tells us this is imperative to let go of shame -- that we must tell the circumstances of our feeling shame to someone who can accept and hear this.  Then, and only then, can we be free of the shame -- which is so important because shame is so damaging to our psyches, our bodies, our souls.  Who do you have in your life who will hear your story?  I was telling two friends recently about my loved one's fear that he could no longer move his body, and I started to cry.  It was so good for me to have someone listen, nonjudgmentally, to me, to my story.  

    Sep 16, 2014

    A Tender Moment

    1. "Choose happiness today by taking life moment by moment, complaining very little, and being thankful for the little things that mean a lot."  Suman Rai

      A tender moment when I saw my loved one yesterday.  He was struggling to change his position in his wheelchair.  I tried to help him readjust his body, as he gets so that he leans over to the left -- eventually hurting his left hip from the weight.   After I had helped him, he said, "It's scary."  I asked, "What is scary?"  And he responded, "Not being able to move my body."

      These moments of lucidity are touching and sad.  The lucidity is about his physical decline; not usually about his cognitive decline, and it is not usually there.  It has to be hard and scary for him (or anyone) to see their decline.  


    Sep 15, 2014

    Laughter Is So Good For Us

    1. "Laughter releases endorphins, feel-good chemicals that act as natural stress busters. A good belly laugh also improves circulation, fills your lungs with oxygen-rich air, helps relieve pain, and counteracts fear, anger and depression." Susan Smith Jones, Ph.D.

      Yesterday when I was in a funk over the grief of options not chosen, I watched the movie, Boy In Striped Pajamas, which makes any loss we are experiencing pale in comparison with the devastation of the holocaust.  Then, when my mood of feeling left behind had been ameliorated by this very sobering movie, I watched a short comedy.  It was a silly piece, but there were times when I laughed unabashedly -- a wonderful remedy for fear and sadness.  Yes, there were dozens of tasks I might have been doing instead; but I honored my feelings by feeling them so that they could move through me and beyond.  The fastest way to move through feelings is to feel them.  It is important to take the time to honor what we are feeling, so that we do not become stuck in those feelings.  By honoring them, they move, and other feelings take their place -- feelings of well being can come after we honor our sadness and feeling left out.  

    Sep 14, 2014

    Good Is The Natural State

    1. "The premise that so many people come from is that good isn't natural; good must be demanded or manipulated or orchestrated. And we say, good IS natural! It must be asked for, and it must be expected — but Good is the only Stream that flows." ---Abraham

      What if this is true:  that good is the natural state and all we have to do is ask for it and expect it?  Well, we don't really have anything to lose, do we, in assuming that good is the natural state of things?  It helps me to orient toward this belief by practicing gratitude.  I was in a recent funk because I had made the decision to leave something that --- on many levels -- I really enjoyed.  I knew the decision was right, and a wise therapist taught me many years ago that when you make a decision, you must grieve all the options you did not choose.  I was grieving the what-if's, and maybe's of what might have been had I stayed in the situation.  The decision to leave was correct for me, and I needed to grieve the other options that were available that I did not choose (such as staying in the situation).  What helped me switch out of the grieving was to turn to gratitude by remembering the good I had experienced while in the situation.  

    Sep 13, 2014

    Braver Than You Think

    1. "You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think."
       A.A. Milne from Winnie the Poo

      I am surprised when I hear people talk of how many people say they will not go to nursing homes to visit.  That was true of me, too, many years ago, but after visiting an assortment of relatives in nursing homes over the years, I am no longer uncomfortable.  Except that I never know what I will be dealing with when I arrive.  My loved one varies so much in lucidity and in mood, that I never know "who" I will be visiting; but I try to keep the same routine so that he knows what to expect.  I bring home baked cookies or a treat of some kind, I cut and clean his fingernails, I read him the newspaper or any letters he has received.  There is comfort in the routines.  We who are caregivers are braver than we believe we might be, stronger than others (and ourselves) may assume, and smarter that we give ourselves credit for.  Just being a caregiver and showing up consistently and lovingly in our loved one's life takes courage and strength.  Give yourself credit for how well you do.

    Sep 12, 2014

    Try Not To Worry

    1. "You are of no advantage to anyone who has your negative attention." Abraham/Hicks

      It seems we are taught to worry.  News often suggests we worry about terrorism or the latest virus or the economy.  Worry helps no one, and if Abraham is correct in the above quote, worry actually hinders.  If there is something awry that we can correct, then by all means it might be our task to correct it.  But, so many of the things we worry about are way beyond our control.  We can monitor our own spending and balance our checking accounts, but we cannot solve the missteps of the international economy.  Why worry about it?  Far better to take action on the things within our control, and turn the rest over to a Higher Power.  

    Sep 11, 2014

    Conscious Choices

    1. "A life lived of choice is a life of conscious action." Neale Donald Walsh

      Have you ever reacted instead of acting?  I once had a friend who called that a knee-jerk response.  Far better is it for us to thoughtfully consider and choose our actions in the world.  I am the kind of person who, in any given situation, tries to make it workable.  That has been both a strength and a weakness for me.  I sometimes stay too long in situations in my desire to see if I can think of a way the situation can be a win/win, but perhaps that is better than throwing in the towel at the first sign of concern and walking away. I heard yesterday of someone who immediately divorced a person who was diagnosed with dementia.  While that is an option, is it the right one for you?   Life is a practice at noticing how things are, and choosing our response consciously, thoughtfully, and out of love for ourselves and others.  

    Sep 10, 2014

    New Food Products Worth Considering

    1. "Delicious unsweetened vanilla cultured coconut milk gives the benefits of milk." Shopping for Health 2014

      Other products to consider are pistachio sea salted butter, coconut butter, almond Brazil butter, sweet potato savory yogurt, Icelandic style strained yogurt, drinkable yogurt, goat milk yogurt.  These are all made from ancient foods, but new in form to most people, and worth trying.  

    Sep 9, 2014

    Walking Our Own Path

    1. "In actuality, underneath all the plans, pressures and expectations, underneath all the subtle guidance and nudging we receive from almost everyone, the next step is truly unknown and has never been taken by anyone." Mark Nepo

      Caregiving is often a solitary journey.  Sometimes we have a partner or two, but there are many of us who have the full responsibility of caregiving.  Others will have opinions of how we could/should be doing the task, but every step is up to us.  I find it best to check with people whose opinions I respect when making a decision, thinking about how I would like things to be if I were the one receiving the care, and making the best decision I can among the options available.  

    Sep 8, 2014

    Knee Health

    "Walking, kneeling, stair schlepping  . . . Knees take abuse.  No wonder 20% of us report having had pain in these joints in the past 3 months." Richard Laliberte

    Some things you can do to help your knees:  ginger extract.  510 mg daily of ginger extract improved knee pain in people with osteoarthritis.  NSAIDS (think Ibuprofen) are more effective than acetaminophen.  Dr. Elizabeth Matzkin, surgical director of women's musculoskeletal health at Harvard Medical School, recommends taking them for 10 to 14 days for the most effective pain control.  Frozen peas molded around the knee joint for 20 minutes each hour brings down inflammation. 

    Sep 7, 2014

    What Would I Want Done To Me?

    "The nursing home decision is a lesser-of-two-evils type of choice.  It would be better if people could remain healthy and self-sustaining until they died. If that is not possible, then any alternative is not very desirable."  Doug Manning

    I was called by a married couple who know me to come help them with their finances.  They were moved into assisted living about one year ago.  Though they do not have many financial resources, by some people's standards, they have too many to qualify for Title 19 (Medicaid).  So, they are trying to pay the $4700 per month cost of the assisted living facility out of pocket, and their joint Social Security and his Veteran's pension do not cover the cost.  Then, they also have medication costs, a phone, newspaper, and like to buy things to snack on that they enjoy.  Very, very sobering.  While I was there, the man was showing me something when he fell backward.  As I was standing beside him, I was able to catch him before he fell to the floor and call for help to get him to a chair.  It reminded me of my loved one's first months.  Still wanting his regular life (and who can blame him!!), but not physically or cognitively able to manage it any more.  In every decision I make I try to consider, What would I want done to me?  No one wants to give up their freedom and be in an assisted living facility or nursing home, but statistics indicate that many of us will need that support during our end days.  So, perhaps the best we can do is try to decide based on the very most humane options possible, within the given circumstances, . 

    Sep 6, 2014

    Duos Healthier When Eaten Together

    "These strategic culinary alliances are actually healthier when eaten together." Food Research International

    Olive oil eaten with leafy greens lowers blood pressure.  Drinking tea with lemon boosts antioxidants.  Using black pepper with turmeric increases the amount of curcumin, the anti-inflammatory compound in turmeric.  Eating spinach with oranges increases the absorption of iron.  Eating avocado with a hamburger decreases inflammation.  No wonder these foods are often paired.  Now culinary wisdom is supported by research.  

    Sep 5, 2014

    A Good Day

    "One thing that distinguishes DLB (Lewy Bodies Dementia) from other forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer's disease, is clear fluctuations in an individual's attention and alertness." Mayo Clinic

    Yesterday when I visited my loved one, he was more lucid than he has been in weeks.  It was refreshing to talk to him about our trip to Russia and how destructive Stalin had been during his power.  There were still the intermittent reported hallucinations, but he was much, much more in our reality than usual.  He has so much knowledge of history, it is fun for me to talk to him about it.  I have been reading a book which called the Inquisition, a women's holocaust, and I wanted to know what he thought about that.  He agreed.  I can always trust him, when he is lucid, to give an objective and informed view on something in history.  

    Sep 4, 2014

    Releasing What Other's Think

    "It is from the burden of others watching and judging that the need to achieve gets exaggerated into the want for fame.  It is in the unwatched space that peace begins." Mark Nepo

    I read an amusing sign in the office of the social worker at the nursing home.  "When we are 40, we think everyone is watching us.  When we are 50, we don't care who is watching us.  When we are 60, we realize that no one was watching us at all."  The reason I find it funny is that it is so true.  Most of us are trained as children to think others are watching us, and, really, nothing could be further from the truth.  Most people are so caught up in the drama of their own lives that they do not watch nor care about what is happening in others' lives.  The exception might be those people who thrive on gossip:  watching others so that they can be the first to report something they consider newsy.  But, for the most part, no one is watching.  No one much cares what we do as long as it does not affect them personally.  Let us be at peace knowing that others really do not think about us much at all.  

    Sep 3, 2014

    Love is the Key

    "When you understand, , that what most people really, really want is simply to feel good about themselves, and when you realize that with just a few well-chosen words you can help virtually anyone on the planet instantly achieve this, you begin to realize just how simple life is, how powerful you are, and that love is the key." The Universe

    Love is the key to leading a healthy, happy, productive life which also serves the higher good of the Universe.  Love of oneself and others is the key.  We can always withhold the supportive word, or we can give it generously.  Sometimes out of fear that there is not enough good to go around, we withhold our love.  But, we and all others will always benefit when we give our love.  

    Sep 2, 2014

    What is Sacred

    "In the sunlight of awareness, everything becomes sacred." Thich Nhat Hanh

    I heard Mark Nepo say recently that the original definition of sacrifice was:  to give up something in order to stay close to what is sacred.   Interesting in that we caregivers give up much.  We give up the role that the person we have loved has in our lives as he or she is no longer able to function within that role.  We give up our freedom to come and go as we wish.  We give up spending money as we might want, such as in traveling, to pay for the extreme cost of medical care.  Perhaps it is helpful to think of those givings-up as a way we come closer to what is sacred.  Being a caregiver is a sacred task, and we can use that task to come even closer to who we always meant to be -- a sacred journey.  

    Sep 1, 2014

    Antioxidants Help Your Brain

    "Anti-inflammatory antioxidants and caffeine increase brain connections that process and store information." Prevention Magazine, September, 2014

    Another report that the antioxidants of home-brewed green tea and coffee are good for your brain.  This research also found that drinking green tea decreased your risk for cancer, reduced the risk of your having a stroke, guards against neurological disease and may help burn fat - along with exercise.  Of course, as with anything one does not want to drink to excess.  The research was done with drinking 3 cups of green tea per week.