May 31, 2015

Importance of Intention

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"Having a long-term intention for your life is like living with a compass for your heart."
Jack Kornfield
We've all heard the saying that having intention without action is the path to hell, but to have no intention - in my opinion - is the path to disharmony.  When we realized we were dealing with a progressive, debilitating and terminal illness, I consciously considered what I wanted my intention to be within my response to my loved on'es diagnosis.  First, we traveled to the places he wanted to go while he was still able to travel:  to see Sagamore and to see his daughter and her family and to meet his granddaughter who lives abroad.  Then, I read the statistics about 1/3 of caregivers dying before the care receiver, 1/3 of them having their health damaged by caregiving, and 1/3 becoming better from the experience -- and I chose to be part of the last group.  Within that, I also chose to meet the challenges of the disease of dementia with graciousness.  What is your long-term goal in caregiving?

May 30, 2015

Good News for Namenda Users

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"Actavis can't pull Alzheimer's Drug."  federal appeals court

Actavis, a large pharmaceutical company which makes Namenda, wanted to pull an older Alzheimer's drug from the market to switch patients to a newer, more expensive version before generic competition emerged.  Actavis was going to halt sales of Namenda and promote a newer version they have developed.  This was apparently in an attempt to switch patients to its new drug before their patent ran out on Namenda and other companies made the drug, making it more affordable.  The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ruled that Actavis will not be able to remove the older form of Namenda until August, which gives competitors a chance to enter their generic versions of Namenda into the market.

This is good news for all of us who are caregivers for someone with dementia. Even with prescription drug insurance, my loved one's medication bills are several hundred dollars a month.

May 29, 2015

Positive Thoughts

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"In order to carry a positive action, we must develop a positive vision." Dalai Lama

We are in the planting season in the northern hemisphere, and as a gardener, I know that I would not expect to have a watermelon grow if I planted a corn seed.  How can we as humans expect good lives and good results if we plant negative thoughts?  There are many teachers now who say our thoughts create our lives.  I believe that and have found it true in my life.  So, first it is good to think what kind of a life do you want?  Now, create and entertain thoughts that support that life.  It really may be that simple.

May 28, 2015

Physical Activity

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"The world's longest-lived people are nudged into physical activity every 20 minutes."
Dan Buettner

We do so much sitting nowadays.  I think of my parents who would work long hours at a job, and then come home and do the chores and work of a dairy farm.  Health practitioners advocate more activity, and many people have started to exercise.  But, perhaps, it is not an hour of exercise a day that helps us, but activity all day long.  Most of the people who live long and are spry eat plenty of vegetables and move often.  They walk to see friends or to go to the sore, and they do not hire work done.  They do their own housework and yard work.  Body movement throughout the day  is one important factor to longevity.  

May 27, 2015

Healthy Aging

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"To make it to 100:  plenty of community, exercise, beans." Dan Buettner

Research done in the Italian island of Sardinia, where there are 21 centenarians in a population of 10,000, tells us some things.  Only 4 in 10,000 Americans live that long, in spite of being so diet and exercise focused.  A decade ago scientists thought genes accounted for the extraordinary longevity of Sardinians, but those findings are now questioned, as DNA markers for cancer, etc appear equally there as elsewhere.  More than 65% of diet in areas of longevity come from complex carbohydrates:  sweet potatoes, wild greens, squash, and beans.  Most beans deliver more protein than beef, dollar to dollar, and they have high fiber content.  But, diet alone is not enough, there also needs to be a web of social interaction.  In Sardinia, multi-generations make sourdough bread together.  Unlike most breads, this bread lowers glycemic loads.  But, the content of the bread is just part of it.  The dough had to be kneaded for 45 minutes, wood had to be chopped and the oven stoked.  Social interaction, meaningful exercise and complex carbohydrates for food appear to be the ingredients for long life.  Although the research does not mention this, perhaps remaining a vital part of one's family is also a factor.  

May 26, 2015

More on Resilience

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"The changes we see aren't just changes during the meditation state itself, but they're changes that persist beyond the meditation state." Richard Davidson, neuroscientist

Here it is again:  the recommendation to meditate in order to handle the stresses of life. In this study, the Dalai Lama gave permission for Davidson to conduct research on Tibetan Buddhist monks to see how meditation changes the structure and function of the brain.  He found the consistent practice of meditation changes how the brain looks as well as how it operates.  Meditation helps the brain recover from stress.  These positive changes remain during times a person is not meditating.

Facing what scares you in life is one way to become more resilient and better handle stress.  Learning new things as often as you can and finding an exercise regimen you will stick to are the last of the 10 tips on how to be more resilient and recover from stress.  

May 25, 2015

More on Handling Stress

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"Very few highly resilient people are strong in and by themselves.  You need support." Dr. Steven Southwick, Yale

During stressful times, it helps to have a good support system.  I try to have within my circle of friends those I know will "have my back".  It helps to reach out for support when things go badly,but - in my opinion - it is also important to choose people who can truly support us, because not all people have that capability.  It helps to maintain a positive outlook, and it can be helpful to observe those people in our lives who are resilient and learn from them.  What do they do to handle stress?  Can we do that too?  Research also tells us that we handle stress better when we do not beat ourselves us for mistakes or dwell on the past.  Forgive yourself -- it is so important.

May 24, 2015

Handling Stress

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"new research shows humans can train their brains to build and strengthen different connections that don't reinforce the fear circuit.  Over time, if people use this new pathway enough, it can become the new response to stress." Dr. Steven Southwick, Yale

Good news for those of us living with the stress of caregiving.  It was once thought that people's ability to be resilient, to be able to handle stress, was innate.  This new research says it is not.  It can be learned and cultivated.  So, how do we cultivate it?  Researchers studied Tibetan monks to come up with some of the answer, and Navy SEALs for another.  Here are  two of the tips on how to build resilience:  the ability to handle stress:  1  Develop a core of set beliefs from which you cannot be shaken.  2.  Try to find meaning in the stressful or traumatic event.

What is your belief about life?  About caregiving?  Choosing something, such as living with dementia graciously, can give you a baseline from which you cannot be shaken.  What is your baseline?  Then, find meaning in the event.  I know that caregiving has made me a stronger, more compassionate person.  What is it doing for you?

May 23, 2015

Listening To Our Guidance

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"Everyone who wills can hear the inner voice.  It is within everyone." Mahatma Gandh

Have you thought that being intuitive is not for you?  Well, according to Gandhi, it is for everyone.  I find the more I honor and listen for my intuition, the more it is available to me.  Life does not have to be as hard as we sometimes make it.  Life can flow more easily when we are gentle with ourselves and others, when we go with the flow, when we listen for the guidance -- the inner knowing -- that is available to us all.  

May 22, 2015

Releasing Perfectionism

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"As my false beliefs dissolve away and thoughts of truth replace them, the conditions of my life change to reflect that." Rev. Patti Paris

We are hearing more and more of this nowadays.  That content of our thoughts create our lives, and much of our thought is controlled by beliefs which are unconscious to us.  When I am around my siblings, I get a chance to see what beliefs I might have absorbed from my parents, who absorbed them from their parents and society.  Recently a sibling said of herself when she made a mistake, "how could I be so stupid?"  It gave me a chance to tell her she is never stupid, that part of being human is to make mistakes -- but most importantly, it helped me see that we were raised having unrealistic expectations of being perfect.  This is not to fault my parents, because they were raised that way too.  But it is time to stop the habit.  Perfectionism is bad for our self esteem and needs to be abandoned.  Besides that -- it's impossible.

May 21, 2015

Supporting Health

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"Eat meat no more than twice a week.  Eat up to 3 ounces of fish daily." Dan Buettner

The quote above is from an article on how to live, healthily, to 100.  It recommends fish from the middle of the food chain, such as anchovies, sardines or cod - which are not exposed to high levels of mercury or other chemicals.  It also suggests getting 95% of your food from plants, especially leafy greens.  Eat a half cup of cooked beans every day.  Cut back on dairy, eat up to 3 eggs a week, and drink 7 glasses of water daily.  Coffee, tea and red wine are also included in diets of people who live long lives.  Cut back on sugar consumption, eat 2 handfuls of nuts daily, and eat foods that are recognizable for what they are.  As caregivers, let us support our own health while providing care for another.

May 20, 2015

Positive Thinking

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"We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think." Buddha

Long ago Buddha said we become our thoughts, and now science is telling us the same thing.  Most people have repetitive, negative thoughts -- and they become rigid, negative people.  Sometimes a person can look at someone with an illness, and realize why that particular illness visited that person.  Sometimes it is because of unconscious beliefs that we have inherited from somewhere in our family's genetic code.  Sometimes it is our own mindset.  Since so many things point to the fact that we become our thoughts, isn't it a good idea to have our thoughts be good ones?  

May 19, 2015

Being A Friend

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"There can be no greater or simpler ambition than being a friend." Mark Nepo

How many true friends do you have in life?  You know, the kind who you know has your back?  It seems to me that this ends up being just a few at any given time.  We have more people who care for us, more people with whom we like to do things, but -- true friends?  Those seem to be rarer.  I count among true friends those people with whom I can really be myself.  No hiding.  No dimming down who I am.  I treasure those friendships and those people.  I also strive to be that friend.  With my loved one, with those people important in my life.  How can you be a true friend?  By accepting others for who they truly are.  When my loved one is complaining, I listen and I correct the situation if I can.  How do you show up as friend?

May 18, 2015

Seeing The Big Picture

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"The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision." Helen Keller
Sometimes, as caregivers, it may seem difficult to have vision.  After all, with dementia we are dealing with a progressive and terminal disease, but - even within that - we can have vision.  What is your ultimate goal in being caregiver?  Mine is to provide comfort, dignity and respect to his final time on earth.  To do that, I treat him with respect and expect others to do the same.  I try to make things as comfortable for him as possible.  Recently, he has complained about any pants that have a waistband and zipper, as "being too tight", so I removed all of them from his closet because some nursing aides honored his dislike of them and some did not.  I have replaced those pants with soft pants with elastic waists.  Not sweat pants, as he hates them, but soft and comfortable, lightweight ones.  What simple thing can you do to make your loved one more comfortable?

May 17, 2015


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"True happiness comes from the joy of deeds well done" Antoine de Saint-Exupery

How can we be happy?  Perhaps the above quote is right -- by deeds well done.  Caregiving fits into the category of deeds.  Do you feel your deed of caregiving is well done?  That is a source of joy.  As caregivers, I think we need to be realistic.  We will not get everything done.  We will lose patience.  We will sometimes be afraid -- for our loved one, for ourselves, if the money that is available will cover the needs.  And then, we do it anyway.  Courage is not absence of fear, but thoughtful action in spite of fear.  Deeds well done, in spite of fear, constitute joy.

May 16, 2015

Staying Calm

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"All tempest has, like a navel, a hole in its middle, through which a gull can fly, in silence." Anonymous from 14th century Japan

We all know the people we would want with us in a crisis and those we would not want.  So far in life, when a crisis occurs, I become very still and calm.   I know this can change for me and any person because in being a nationally certified crisis responder, I know that another trauma, small or large, can tip any person's capacity to cope.  But, it helps to know that there is, at our center, a calm.  Caregiving can be a tempest, and we can find calm at our center.  To do so takes self care, support from others, and a belief in the greater purpose of us being here.  Daily, regular meditation also helps us to get in touch with and reside in our own stillness.  

May 15, 2015

We Are All the Same -- and Equal

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"Everyone's bald underneath their hair." Susan McHenry

Do you sometimes have the human characteristic of thinking someone is better than you?  More successful, perhaps?  Are there people you tend not to approach because you think they are "above" you?  I heard a snippet of a speech from Michelle Obama where she said in the early days of her husband's presidency, they were sometimes mistaken by people to be staff who wait on tables.  I tell this story because it exemplifies that our impressions of others is often wrong, and at the basis, we are all the same and we are all equal in status and importance.  Knowing this, what do you want to do to make the world a better place?

May 14, 2015

Practice Doing What We Want To Do

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Long story short: a few years ago a group of American and Norwegian researchers did a study to see what made babies improve at walking. They discovered that the key factor wasn't height or weight or age or brain development or any other innate trait but rather (surprise!) the amount of time they spent firing their circuits, trying to walk." Daniel Coyle

What a funny example to give of how important practice is.  But, are we willing to wobble and stagger, as babies happily do in learning to walk?  Are we willing to look foolish, imperfect?  Many of us have had a lot of pressure to look perfect.  When you think of it, isn't that silly?  No one.  No thing is ever perfect.  But, we can become better by practice.  This might be a talent, like playing the piano, or an academic area like math (I am thinking of taking a math refresher course because I am not as automatic in math as I once was.), or a behavior, belief or attitude.  It takes practice to turn habitual negative thinking into positive.  To become better at anything, it takes practice.

May 13, 2015

Making the Most of Who We Are

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"Myelin does not care who you are.  It only cares what you do."  Daniel Coyle

Daniel makes a good point.  Our brains do not care where we were born or who are parents are, it only cares about the experiences we expose it to.  That does not mean, of course, that some people do not have more advantages than others.  I often think that by pure good luck, I was born into a country and an age where I could be educated, do work I love, and provide a service to the world.  Myelin did not care that I was raised on a small dairy farm.  Opportunities provided me with a different life than the one I had known.  So, too, for you.  Caregiving is another experience that has the potential to change who we are.  In fact, I made the decision early on in this disease to allow the process to change me for better.  What can you do with your life within your circumstances?

May 12, 2015

What Is Bliss?

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"To direct the mind toward the basic unity of all things and to divert it from the seizing of differences -- therein lies bliss." Tejo-Bindu Upanishad

Bliss has always sounded to me like an out-of-control emotion.  But, the dictionary defines it as:  perfect happiness or great joy.  Why do we as humans seem to shy away from feeling perfect happiness or great joy?  I think it is because we are too trained to "wait for the other shoe to drop".  We are too afraid to allow joy because we fear that it will be snatched away from us.  But, did you know that the phrase, "wait for the other shoe to drop", comes from the early Irish immigrants who lived in tenements, and - when they were going to bed at night, if they heard one shoe drop onto the floor above them, they knew that the noise would not stop until the other shoe dropped -- that they probably could not drift off to sleep until they heard the second shoe drop on the floor above them.  It did not mean that bad was inevitably going to follow good.  It simply meant we have two feet, and if we take off one shoe, then another will be taken off as well.  Let us let go of all beliefs and habits that prevent us from experiencing full joy.  

May 11, 2015

Changing Our Thoughts

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"Change your thoughts, and you change your world." Norman Vincent Peale

I have certainly found this to be true.  We can either focus on what is wrong in our lives - and there will always be things we would prefer were different, or we can focus on what is right in our lives -- and there will always be much that is positive and supportive of life in our lives.  It is the focus of our attention and the content of our thoughts that make the difference.  I try to avoid those people who are looking for gripe companions, and instead look for people who acknowledge the challenges in their lives without wallowing in them -- those people who look for the best in themselves and others.  Do you have enough positive people in your life?