I am thinking a lot in this season about loved ones who have passed, and in particular about my daughter, Diane, who died almost 17 years ago in a car accident.
Through much of the year I am able to stay busy with meaningful work and beloved family, but there is a bittersweet aura around the winter holidays that forces me to look at my loss and care for my broken heart.
I know others are grieving too. Perhaps you’ve lost a parent, sibling, or child, or know someone who has. Most of us have lost friends. Perhaps you are caring for a loved one whose illness triggers feelings akin to grief.
While we encourage people to celebrate the joys around them, hold fast to memories, and embrace what is present in our ill loved ones’ lives, this is a time to also honor those who have gone before and those who love them.
Every year I remind folks about the Worldwide Candle Lighting hosted by The Compassionate Friends, an organization that offers peer support groups for bereaved parents, siblings, and grandparents.
The Compassionate Friends group in Binghamton, NY probably saved my life after Diane’s accident.
I encourage you to visit their website at www.compassionatefriends.org, and to participate with me in lighting a candle for our children who have died.
This annual ceremony starts at 7 p.m. on the second Sunday evening in December, and by lighting a candle in your time zone, wherever you are, we create a wave of light that ripples around the world for 24 hours.
This year’s Candle Lighting is on Sunday, December 8th.
Thank you to all who have supported me with their encouragement, prayers, and good wishes.
Thank you to all who are doing the hard work of caring for ill loved ones.
It helps to know we do not walk alone.
Thanksgiving is a very special American holiday that carries many memories and not a little nostalgia for the past.
I remember riding in our family car with my sisters to visit Grandparents for Thanksgiving, and singing “Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go!” It’s a warm memory, infused with laughter and excitement.
Memories are at the heart of this holiday, which is focused on gratitude.
This year for Thanksgiving, you may want to consider a shift in your traditional way of looking at your Loved One who is living with dementia, and the ways they contribute to your family.
Consider your Elder’s strengths, and the gifts they offer, and actively express your Gratitude for them.
Instead of just remembering with sadness the grand meals your Elder used to make, be sure to experience gratitude for the memories, the recipes, and the ways your Loved One contributes to this years’ experience. It will give her great pleasure to “teach” her favorite dishes to the younger set, and to help at whatever level she can and in a way that ensures success.
Instead of focusing on illness, have the family create a list of gifts your Elder has given over the years and continues to give. For example, a grandchild might write “I am grateful for the way Grandma has helped me with college, and for her encouragement in my studies.”
Share this list with the Elder in a packet of notes, so she can refer back to them. This will make the moment last!
Focus on Laughter; it’s the greatest gift we can share among family and friends.
Consider a smaller group to cut down on noise and confusion for your Loved One. Your Elder’s strength might now be to enjoy more intimate gatherings.
Provide a place for the Elder to step back and rest whenever she feels the need. This might be a comfortable room where she can nap, or a second living space, such as a family room or den, located away from the bustle of dinner preparations or rowdy football games.
Remember the other care partners in your Elder’s life, and show your gratitude for them. A card of thanks is a valuable gift to home health aides or the neighbor who keeps the walks cleared in the winter.
Stimulate memories and conversations by starting a story with, “I remember when we (did such and such…) It was always fun to be with the cousins,” instead of asking the Elder “do you remember…?” The former is more likely to generate shared stories, while the latter can lead to frustration and increased confusion.
Seat your Elder next to someone who knows them well and is patient and kind. They can watch for needs the Elder may have difficulty expressing, such as “pass the rolls, please!” or “may I be excused from the table.” They can slow the conversation down so the Elder can participate. Sometimes a little more time is all that’s needed.
Perhaps different family members can take turns attending closely to Grandmother or Grandfather, 30 minutes or an hour at a time. This ensures that no one feels left out of that rowdy football game!
Some family holidays are day-long affairs. Is this what works best for your older Loved One now, or should she come for the part of the day that is most meaningful and manageable for her?
Speaking of “meaning,” a guideline to help you decide what and how much to do for the holiday should be to ask what is meaningful for you, your Elder, and your family. Stretching yourself to do extra cleaning or make everything from scratch might leave you feeling too tired to enjoy the gathering.
Where can you cut back on work, or delegate tasks, while keeping the most meaningful parts of your time together intact? Is there a ritual your family does for Thanksgiving that you want to honor? Figure out how your Elder can participate easily.
For example, a family who has always had each member read a verse or passage at the table might shift the custom to showcase the teens or the younger kids. If your Elder’s reading is good, but recall is poor, she may be OK with reading something rather than reciting from memory.
What ideas do YOU have for enjoying Thanksgiving with your family, and for adapting to the needs of a Loved One who is living with dementia?
Please share your comments below, and have a Blessed Holiday.
Hi, All -
I’m sorry there has been so much confusion about the talk on Care Partnership I’ll be doing at Lifelong in Ithaca next Monday, November 18th.
Lifelong has let me know that the course is FREE of charge, but registration is requested.
Please call Lifelong at (607) 273-1511 for more information or to register.
Thank you for your patience!
Hi, Everyone – I must apologize for incorrectly posting the presentation I’m doing for Lifelong in Ithaca as free of cost. There is a $10.00 fee for the program, per Lifelong’s new pricing structure. Please let your networks know, and again, I am very sorry for the error.
Thanks and take care,
P.S. If the fee is a barrier to anyone attending, please let me know. It’s important feedback!
Monday, November 18, 2013
Hosted by Lifelong, Ithaca, NY
Facilitated by Lisa Kendall
When we or our loved ones need some assistance due to illness or injury, we find that traditional models of care can create as much distress as the illness itself, leaving us feeling powerless and frustrated.
“Caregivers” report acute stress and exhaustion, and “care receivers” feel they have little to offer because of their physical or cognitive challenges.
When we advocate for the well-being of the whole care partnership rather than seeing the needs of caregivers and care receivers as separate, we create empowered care partner teams that ensure the independence, dignity, and continued growth and development of everyone involved.
Learn about person-directed care and how to make care partnerships work for you, and tap into an international movement to change the culture of care for Elders and their care partners in this two-hour session.
Call Lifelong at 273-1511 to register for this informative presentation.
Receive your complimentary report on How to Assemble Your Care Partner Team at www.carepartnerconnection.com
Lisa Kendall is a clinical social work psychotherapist and clinical gerontologist who has worked with Elders and their care partners for over 30 years. In addition to her private practice and public speaking, Lisa is an Educator for The Eden Alternative and teaches for the Ithaca College Gerontology Institute. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to schedule a training.
Dementia of any kind, including Alzheimer’s disease, can be very frustrating for families or professionals who are trying to provide care.
Early in the disease, people living with dementia might have difficulty finding the word they mean to use, or forget names of close friends and dates of important events.
As the disease progresses, it may become even more difficult to express feelings or make needs known to others. People who have trouble expressing themselves become frustrated and even angry.
It’s easy to make two mistakes when this happens:
First, we might assume that the use of the wrong name or incorrect date means that the person has forgotten their loved one or the event. In reality, they may know who and what they’re trying to discuss, but the correct word doesn’t come to them.
We’ve all had this happen, haven’t we?
Second, we may see angry behavior as coming from the disease, as opposed to a very natural frustration at not being understood.
Dr. Al Power’s book, “Dementia Beyond Drugs: Changing the Culture of Care,” talks about several different kinds of communication problems that can accompany dementia, and challenges us to change how we look at and deal with them.
You’ll want to take a look at his book, which focuses on care in residential settings such as nursing homes, as the principles apply to Elders who live anywhere.
Naomi Feil, a social worker who created “Validation Therapy,” teaches us to acknowledge the feeling that’s being expressed, rather than to take on the logic (or apparent illogic), of what the person who lives with dementia is saying to us.
This approach works well for routine communication as well as for those situations where someone appears to be delusional.
For example, when Mary says she wants to see her Mother, who has been dead for a long time, it does no good, and may do harm, to remind Mary that her mother has been dead for many years.
A more helpful approach is to acknowledge the feeling that is being expressed.
If the person seems sad, you can say, “it sounds like you’re missing your Mom. Could you tell me a little more about her?”
This approach honors the person and helps them feel heard and understood. The invitation to talk more about the mother can lead to wonderful stories, and help the Elder feel less alone.
You can learn about Naomi Feil’s approach at her website; just click HERE.
An easy book to get you started with this technique is “Talking to Alzheimer’s: A Simple Way to Connect When You Visit with a Family Member or Friend,” by Claudia Strauss. It’s a small book written for everyone, with easy to understand examples of what to say, and what not to say.
Truly hearing an Elder who lives with dementia is a powerful way to honor them and help them connect with you and ensure that all their needs, physical and emotional, can be met.
Please be aware that if you purchase books from the above links, a small percentage of the cost will go to support this website.
Be sure to leave your name and e-mail in the box at the top left of this page, so we can make sure you receive new blogs and updates about resources! You will also receive my free report on “The Art & Science of Elder Care: 12 Tips to Help you Transform Your Caregiving.”
Lisa Kendall is a clinical social worker and clinical gerontologist in private practice. She teaches for the Ithaca College Gerontology Institute and is an Educator for The Eden Alternative. Lisa speaks on Aging and Elder Care issues around the country.
It’s been a while since I last wrote, but a lot has been going on with me and Crossroads Counseling and Consulting.
I’ve added a new service you will want to know about; Care Partner Coaching is now available worldwide for a limited number of professional or family caregivers.
I have been busy with trainings for The Eden Alternative in upstate New York and Wisconsin, facilitating a “Certified Eden at Home Associate” training and “Dementia Beyond Drugs.” I also appeared as a panelist on a webinar for The Eden Alternative on “Facilitating Empowerment,”
I will be appearing on Chris MacLellan’s “Be a Healthy Caregiver” Blog Radio program on Tuesday, July 9th at 1 p.m. Eastern time. Don’t worry if you miss it, this generous and committed care partner archives all of his programs! Chris has also written a blog about the show, which you can read HERE.
Private counseling services are still available at my Ithaca, NY, ADA-compliant office. Availability is tight, so contact me soon if you are interested. You can feel better!!
I trust things are going well with you, and hope to hear from you about how you’re doing on your care partner journey!
As always, you can reach me at email@example.com or (607) 351-1313.
A lovely Elder I knew, (I’ll call her Mary), was really struggling with the care needs of her husband, who was living with a number of debilitating illnesses. As the holidays approached, she became more and more anxious about how to manage the many tasks and roles she had already taken on, and wondered how to work Christmas into her “to do” list.
One of Mary’s traditions was to bake a special kind of cookie, one that took several hours and many steps. That year, she just couldn’t face the chore.
When I asked her what the most meaningful part of this holiday tradition was for her, she didn’t hesitate to answer that it was spending time with her college-age grandsons.
Looking at this activity from the perspective of what was most meaningful, Mary quickly realized that the heart of the event was spending time with those growing young men.
She knew that they enjoyed being with her, too, and confided that her hungry family wolfed down the treats and probably never gave a second thought to the amount of time and preparation she’d invested in baking.
It was easier for this Wise Elder to change how she managed the task once she’d identified what was most important and meaningful. That year, she chose a much simpler recipe, and enjoyed her special time with the grandsons. Mary had freed up precious time and energy for the other things she really wanted or needed to do.
What is the heart of this holiday season for you? If you are feeling overwhelmed, prune away the things that don’t bring you joy. Consider changing the way you do things so you can enjoy the holidays feeling more at peace and well-rested.
The SIDS Foundation has created a nifty chart that an help you identify what and how to include in your Holiday celebrations, what things you can change, and what things you might choose to let go this year. Try it out below.
As you work with this information, consider that important question: what is meaningful?
And let me know if you made any changes, and how it’s going for you!
Holiday Stress Assessment for CaregiversHOLIDAY JOB LIST Would the holidays be the same without it? Is this something you want to do differently? Do you do it out of habit, tradition,free choice, or obligation? Is it a one person job, or can it be shared? Who is responsible for seeing that it gets done? Do you like doing it? Decorating the tree. Contributing to special funds. Baking holiday cookies. Exchanging holiday cookies. Making long lists of what needs to be done. Going to office or school parties. Making homemade holiday gifts. Sending holiday cards. Buying something special to wear for the holidays. Going to cocktail parties. Doing your holiday shopping. Seeing people you never see any other time of the year. Helping or encouraging your children to make some of their gifts. Having the house clean … clean! Decorating different rooms of your home. Providing “quiet-together” time for immediate family. Buying gifts for co-workers and teachers. Attending special or traditional church services. Attending special activities for children. Preparing special traditional foods.
©1995-1996-1997-1998-1999, SIDS Network, Inc. < http://sids-network.org >All rights reserved. Permission to use, copy, and distribute this document, in whole or in part, for non-commercial use and without fee, is hereby granted, provided that this copyright, permission notice, and appropriate credit to the SIDS Network, Inc. be included in all copies.
One of the things that keeps me working in the aging services field is the camaraderie of my colleagues. They demonstrate a tremendous commitment to and appreciation for Elders and their care partners, an awareness of the Elders’ stories as sacred treasures to be held by us with care, and an intuition that the health care system in which we all work is terribly broken.
It was my honor to meet with such a group of dedicated peers recently, at the “Best Practices in Home Care Showcase.” The event was hosted by the Steuben County Office for Aging in the Southern Tier of New York, the Steuben Senior Services Fund, and NYCONNECTS. Attendees included representatives of home health organizations, case managers for senior apartments, advocates for people living with developmental disabilities, the faith community, and wise Elders.
They are all seeking better ways to serve Elders and their families, and thirsty to work together in a way that honors the need of everyone involved to grow.
It can be a big challenge to introduce the philosophy of The Eden Alternative to a group, when time is limited and the important work of culture change is the goal. With the “Eden at Home” initiative, we are helping people recognize how culturally pervasive ageism contributes to the three plagues of loneliness, helplessness, and boredom; introducing a new definition of care as well as the concept of empowered care partner teams (with the Elder at the center of decision-making); and showing how the antidotes to the plagues can be applied in home and community-based settings.
The talk culminated with a showing of a powerful, person-directed “video care plan,” with thanks to Haleigh Jane Thomas and her parents, Dr. Bill and Jude Thomas.
Even with limited time, these concepts speak for themselves. Knowing there is a philosophy that provides a framework for every member of the team, (Elder, family, and professional alike), to speak a common language and truly make the shift to person-directed care can invigorate a community.
There is a lot of buzz in Steuben County about the possibility of hosting a Certified Eden at Home Trainer workshop in 2013, and many at the “Best Practices in Home Care Showcase” indicated they would attend.
This three day workshop cultivates culture change agents for participating organizations, while providing the tools needed to offer Care Partner Workshops in our agencies and for the wider community.
Have you participated in an Eden at Home training yet? With the vast majority of Elders living in their own homes, in retirement communities, or with family members, the implementation of The Eden Alternative principles can accelerate the pace of culture change and transform care for all of us.
There are currently Certified Eden at Home Trainer workshops planned in Las Vegas, NV, and Toledo, OH. Find out more HERE
Lisa Kendall is an Educator for The Eden Alternative, teaches for the Ithaca College Gerontology Institute, and manages her own counseling and consulting practice in Ithaca, NY.
Like many people at year’s end, I am both looking backward to reflect on all that has happened, and forward to the opportunities and blessings of a new year.
We often generate a list of resolutions for the fresh start we feel with the coming of a new year, but just as often leave our good intentions behind after a short burst of “self-improvement.”
This year, I’m trying a completely different strategy.
This year, I will strive every day to do two simple things to bring my past and future together into a single moment of BE-ing.
First, I will cultivate a practice of gratitude. I will start and end my day by meditating on the many blessings I have in my life. This will focus me on abundance rather than scarcity, and helps keep me humble.
Second, instead of a daily “to do” list, (I am a great list-maker!), I will take a moment each morning to jot down what and how I want “to BE.” This idea comes from Elyse Hope Killoran, whom I heard speak at a recent conference presented by Casey Truffo.
When Elyse suggested that I think about what good service to others feels like, the following words came to mind: grateful, joyful, abundant, light, happy, accomplished, and balanced.
By consciously choosing to BE these things, I make decisions and act from that place, and my vision for my professional practice and for my private life becomes a reality.
Elyse recommends that we change the traditional idea that if we DO certain things, or HAVE what we want, we will then BE the person we’ve always wanted to be.
She teaches that we BE first, then DO. Only then will you HAVE what you want and need.
Elyse says, “If we have a big enough why, the hows and wheres will take care of themselves.” I am reminded of Stephen Covey’s encouragement to work on BE-ing, to cultivate gratitude, to see the world as abundant, and to live a life according to personal principles. He develops all of these ideas in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People.
Creating a “to BE” list might be one of the most powerful ways to start the New Year!
Will you try this practice and let me know how it works for you?