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?
There is a common cultural ideal that the older one gets, the wiser one grows. Perhaps that is why we say “there’s no fool like an old fool” — by the time you’ve reached a certain age, you’re supposed to know better.
But is it true that with age comes experience, knowledge, and wisdom worth sharing?
Dr. Karl Pillemer, a professor of human development in the College of Human Ecology at Cornell University, and Professor of Gerontology in Medicine at the Weill Cornell Medical College, has been applying scientific research to this question and the results can be found at “The Legacy Project: Lessons for Living from the Wisest Americans.”
The practical advice that Dr. Pillemer and his team collected from over 1500 Elders aged 70 and over is reported on the Legacy Project website, and will be published in a book to be released this fall. It confirms the idea that Elderhood is a time of continuing growth, and that Elders have much to share with us if we will take the time to listen.
Please visit the Legacy Project site by clicking HERE to learn more, to make your own contribution, and to browse through the lessons learned on a variety of life issues.
As Dr. Pillemer says, the Wisdom gathered includes gems on “how to be happy on a day-to-day basis, the secrets to a successful marriage, tips on raising children, ways to have a fulfilling career, strategies for dealing with illness and loss, and how to grow old fearlessly and well.”
I don’t know the average age of the Elders who shared the advice learned over a lifetime, but if the average was 80 years, and there are 1500 contributors, that’s 120,000 years of Wisdom from which we all can benefit!
Here’s an ever better idea – Why not visit an Elder today and ask them how they’ve coped with life’s challenges, what they wish they could do differently, what their secrets to happiness are?
Make that phone call you’ve been putting off – your favorite Aunt is waiting to hear from you, and to share her Wisdom!
Many thanks to Dr. Karl Pillemer and his research team for taking a strength-based approach to Elderhood, and for sharing these results in such a generous way.
Lisa Kendall is a clinical social work psychotherapist and clinical gerontologist in Ithaca, NY. She is an Eden at Home Educator with The Eden Alternative, serves on the President’s Council for Family Life at Cornell University, and is teaching the Gerontology Fieldwork seminar for Ithaca College this fall.
Mrs. Jenson is a full-time care partner for her husband, who has had a severe stroke.
It’s very hard work, but she has some help in the home, as well as wonderfully supportive family, and she is able to get out for church and social activities. Every so often, she takes trips with her community group, and there is an annual family vacation, too.
Because she has health problems of her own and sleeps poorly, her children and grand-children encourage Mrs. J. to take even more time for herself, to take off for a weekend or more to really recharge, but Mrs. J. feels she just doesn’t want to do that and is uncomfortable with the pressure from her well-intended loved ones.
Part of my job is to encourage family care partners to get enough rest, so I want to hear more.
Mrs. Jenson teaches me something important when, together, we think through how she sees balancing her own need for rest and respite with her engagement as a care partner for her husband.
What we come up with is a kind of formula that is already mostly in place in the Jenson household. It looks like this:
- Every day, take a brief, but pleasurable, respite (10 minutes)
- In every week, schedule an hour or two away (special lunch with a friend, quiet time at a museum, a walk, etc.)
- Every month, take a full day for yourself
- In every quarter (every three months), set aside a truly special weekend for rest and renewal
- Annually, be sure to schedule a week for vacation!
These guidelines will look different for everyone, but could work in some way or other for all of us, whether we are caring for an ill loved one, trying to manage work/life balance, or manage our own stress and wellness.
The main point Mrs. Jenson wanted to get across to her children was that she didn’t need to leave her home or take a long stretch of time to feel refreshed.
I think this is a common myth, and one that keeps us from taking advantage of everyday opportunities to find a “little calm center” in our otherwise too-busy world.
I will be facilitating a workshop on how to create a mini-retreat on Monday, July 18th at Lifelong in Ithaca; I hope you’ll join us to learn more and to share your own wisdom about this!
Finding Rest and Renewal:
How to Create a Mini-Retreat to Soothe Your Spirit, Ease Your Body, and Calm Your Mind
A Retreat has been defined as “an act or process of withdrawing, especially from what is difficult, dangerous, or disagreeable;” or “a place of privacy or safety or refuge.”
Many of us know we need time away, but are unsure of where, how, or when to create effective Retreats. In this hands-on workshop, participants will learn how to structure personal mini-Retreats that last from ten minutes to a full day, select meaningful activities, and comfortably transition out of the Retreat, taking powerful and lasting lessons into daily life. Further resources for planning your Retreat are included.
This workshop is intended for both experienced and new retreatants, and is especially designed for those who are seeking better balance and well-being in their lives.
Register for (1823) Finding Rest and Renewal: How to Create a Mini-Retreat to Soothe… ($10 fee) at Lifelong
by clicking HERE or call Jillian Pendleton for more information at (607) 273-1511
Are you a member of Lifelong?? Join today!!
Lisa Kendall has worked for over thirty years as a health and wellness educator and mental health counselor, and has led retreats for a variety of groups. Lisa maintains a private therapy practice specializing in women’s health, aging & caregiving, chronic illness, stress, depression, work/life balance, and grief.
I remember reading once that the Ancient Celtic prescription for physical and emotional healing was “laughter, sorrow, and rest.” (If you know where I heard this, please let me know and I’ll give proper attribution!)
This weekend I was reminded of this great advice when I had an opportunity to hear the Celtic band, “Cherish the Ladies,” at a small performing arts center near my home.
Joanie Madden’s Irish wit made me laugh all through the performance.
The ballads and the Irish whistle sounded so wistful, it touched a deep sadness in me and brought tears to my eyes.
The music and dancing, traditional as well as original, was the best I’ve heard or seen in a concert, and completely took me away from my daily cares.
Laughter. Sorrow. Rest. It makes sense to me.
We know that laughter is great medicine anytime; numerous studies show that laughter decreases stress, improves social bonds, and boosts our immune systems.
We rest if we’ve been ill, and when we’re going through a severe emotional trauma, we lose our energy and often take to our beds. (One way to view depression is as a natural mechanism to keep the body at rest so it can heal from injury).
What might not seem so intuitive is the Celtic advice about Sorrow. Aren’t we told to look on the bright side? Use positive affirmations? Get over it already???
Actually, denying our sorrow or holding in our feelings of sadness will only cause them to become “stuck” in our mind and body, and can lead to symptoms such as headaches, gastric upset, and muscle aches and pains.
As we learn more about mind-body medicine and take a gentle, holistic approach to self-care, we can see that making space to express Sorrow is an important component of any healing regimen.
In the coming weeks we’ll be looking at some different techniques that support the expression of Sorrow and other emotions we often think of as “negative,” so we can make room for all that is good and find the balance and wellness that we seek.
In the meantime, I would love to hear your comments about this bit of Celtic Wisdom.
And be sure to Laugh when you can. Cry when you need to. Have a l-o-n-g nap.
And put on some great Celtic Music!
Lisa Kendall is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with a special interest in supporting self-care. In addition to her practice in Ithaca, NY, Lisa is a sought-after speaker, retreat leader, and an “Eden at Home” Educator committed to changing the culture of care for Elders and their care partners.
This is one New Year’s resolution you must make and keep, without delay!
Everyone over the age of 18 should plan ahead for their medical care, and consider who will speak for them if they can not speak for themselves.
It’s not enough to have a signed Health Care Proxy form (in some states, this may be called a Power of Attorney for Health Care); many people sign the forms then misplace them, or never have the important conversations with loved ones that give guidance about values and preferences.
“Sharing Your Wishes” is a comprehensive approach that can walk you through four steps that will ensure that your loved ones understand your health care choices.
The steps in this approach include:
1. Think about what is important to you and how you want to receive care
2. Select a person to speak for you if you are unable to speak for yourself
3. Talk about your health care wishes
4. Put your choices in writing
The form itself is easy to complete and doesn’t require a notary or lawyer. It can be difficult to talk about these issues, though, especially if you or a loved one is dealing with a chronic or serious illness.
The Sharing Your Wishes website has easy-to-use materials and videos that fully explain each step and support you and your loved ones in having these important conversations.
Many counties in Central and Western New York have local Sharing Your Wishes Coalitions where more materials and support can be found; their names and phone numbers are listed on the website.
If you are outside the area, contact your local Bar Association or Area Agency on Aging for more information.
Please visit the Sharing Your Wishes website at www.sharingyourwishes.org for more information about this important topic today. Make sure you and all the adults in your life have appointed a Health Care Agent, and have started to have these important conversations with your loved ones and with your health care providers.
P.S. Don’t hesitate to consult with a counselor if you need more support; dealing with chronic or terminal illness is very stressful and you don’t have to deal with it alone.
Peace and Wellness to you and yours in the New Year!
Lisa Kendall is a licensed clinical social worker with a private practice in Ithaca, New York. She is a trainer for the Tompkins County Sharing Your Wishes Coalition.
Sharing Your Wishes is sponsored by the Community Health Foundation of Western & Central New York.
Has a little voice been whispering to you about something?
Maybe your cough hasn’t gone away, and you haven’t called your physician yet. Or what about that loose railing on your porch? You think of getting out the toolkit every time you feel that wobble, but you just haven’t done it yet.
There is a little voice in each of us that will whisper hints and reminders of what needs to be set right to make our world a safer and more balanced place. We usually know when we need to see a doctor for a cough, a strange-looking spot on our skin, or some other minor malady. We know when we’re eating poorly, are in a toxic relationship or an unsafe environment.
We may call that voice many things: our higher Self, our better Angels, ”the Universe,” or God.
When we don’t listen to that whisper, the Universe may have to raise her voice a little, just to get our attention.
If you trip on the porch, maybe you’ll finally fix the darned thing. Your inner knowing is really pressing you to do something now! If you don’t repair it, something more serious may happen. How long will you wait to do what you know is right and necessary to prevent a catastrophe?
I’ve talked about this phenomenon with my friends and colleagues. As humans, we do seem to get many hints about what we need to do to keep our lives in balance. We often have competing agendas, however, and it’s easy for us to rationalize our way past the whispered hints and even the warning cries of the Universe!
Has the Universe been knocking on your door about something in your life that is out of balance? Perhaps you are so overwhelmed that you feel the Universe has backed you into a corner! Maybe the noise in your life is so loud you can no longer discern the direction you need to take to find your way home.
Listen to your inner knowing, your higher Self, the Universe. If you need someone to support you in finding the way back to balance, contact a physician or mental health counselor, pastor or friend.
May 2011 be the year you begin to hear the whispers again, and live in harmony with the Universe.
Lisa Kendall is a licensed clinical social worker in private practice in Ithaca, NY
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