Archive for April 2014

Changes at the Crossroads

Lisa PixlrI think I’m having growth spurt.

Before you check out my “middle-aged middle” and start giggling, let me say how grateful I am to have so many opportunities to learn and grow, professionally and personally.

(Now you can giggle!)

I continue to learn every day from my clients and colleagues, family and friends, and my “tribe” of followers on this blog and on my Facebook page, Lisa Kendall Counseling.

In the past year I’ve also taken advantage of some powerful professional development opportunities, including:

  • Webinar series on brain science, mindfulness, and meditation offered by the National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM).
  • An online course offered by NICABM to help mental health and other wellness professionals learn how to use technology to have a bigger impact and greater influence in the community.  I am now on LinkedIn and Twitter (@LisaKCounseling), and am working at getting up to speed (slowly) with both.  I’ve also created a second website to offer educational materials for all members of the Elder care partner team at
  • My own team now includes a Virtual Assistant, (thank you, Darby Miller!), who makes it all possible.
  • Coaching with the Soul Guide, Dr. Pamela Moss helped me clarify my mission and purpose, and to let go of limiting thinking!
  • An online course on how to get my book published, with therapist, speaker, and author, Bill O’Hanlon. I’ve made an important shift from saying “Someday I’ll write a book” to “I’m writing a book!”
  • I’ve made new friends and expanded my network of like-minded colleagues, good and smart people committed to person-directed care and the importance of self-care for each of us.
  • I am studying “Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing” (EMDR) with Andrew Seubert from Clear Path Healing Arts Center.  It’s an approach to healing trauma that is already making a difference in my clinical practice.

There are some big events coming up, too:

  • Next week I’m heading to the Eden Alternative’s International Conference in Nashville, TN.  Two years ago I was a speaker there, and I’m looking forward to the flow of being a participant.   More learning!  More friends!  More collaboration!
  • Later in May I’ll be at the first Care Management Summit at Binghamton University, speaking about “care partnership” and what it means to create a culture of meaningful care.

In the coming weeks I’ll post more about what I’m learning and applying, and invite you to join our conversation about how we can promote well-being for each of us, no matter what our age or role.

Thank you for being a part of this tribe (our own Care Partner Connection!); I would love to have you invite your friends and colleagues, too!

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Lisa Kendall is a social worker with certification in clinical gerontology and over 30 years’ experience in aging and Elder care.  Lisa has a private practice in Ithaca, NY, teaches for the Ithaca College Gerontology Institute, and serves on the Cornell University President’s Advisory Council for Work and Family Issues.

 As an Educator for The Eden Alternative, Lisa facilitates trainings around the country to improve the quality of life for Elders and their Care Partners, and is a popular speaker for both professional and family audiences.


When Elder Care Hurts: Caring for Elders who have been Abusive or Neglectful

I was working as a consultant and referral resource for family caregivers when I received one of my most memorable calls.  On the other end of the line was a mid-level manager for a large corporation, and I could hear panic in his voice as he rushed to tell me his dilemma.

“I got a call from a hospital in Atlanta,” he said.  “They’re telling me my father is there with a broken hip, and they told me to come and get him.”

He paused and took a deep breath.

“That man was an abusive drunk,” he continued.  “He abandoned me and my whole family when I was only fourteen.”

His voice cracked and trembled as he struggled to keep his composure.

“Sad” by Jako Jellema

“I went to college, got a good job, and I’ve raised a nice family.  I was determined to do everything that he didn’t do, and I’ve been successful.  Now I feel like I’m fourteen again!”

He wept openly on the phone, gripped by all of his childhood feelings of hurt, loss, and shame.

My heart broke for the boy who had worked so hard to become a man, for the man who was desperately trying to reconcile the demands of the moment and the terror that had seized him from the past.

We talked for a bit, and I realized that he needed permission to say “no” to the hospital’s discharge plan.  He needed reassurance that there were services available to care for his father, and that it was OK for him to set this boundary.  He needed support to deal with the difficult choice he was making.

The hospital didn’t know the situation, and the default discharge plan was to send their patient to his only son, even though they were separated by decades and distance, and by hurtful deeds that had been plastered over with diplomas and certificates and mortgages, but never really healed.

That day, I learned in a visceral way that many people provide care to older relatives, not because they want to or because they can, but because they feel they have to, no matter what.

  • Some children of abusive or neglectful parents simply opt out of providing care when the time comes, and while no one came blame them, they are often criticized by other family members for “not helping.”
  • Others engage in caregiving in a last-ditch attempt to gain approval and gratitude from a parent who has never been able to give it.
  • Still others provide care because it fits with their personal values and sense of morality.  They may say, “I would never treat another human being the way my Mother treated me.”

We know the stresses of caring for an older loved one can negatively affect one’s physical and emotional health.  Now we’re seeing research on how caring for a family member who has been abusive or neglectful can add even more risk for family care partners.

If an adult survivor of childhood abuse chooses to engage with a parent who has been (and still may be) abusive, they are likely to confront the ways that their family of origin has affected them.

Recent brain science shows us that children who are abused or neglected are changed by the experience and may be predisposed to chronic illness, obesity, anxiety, depression, and addiction.  There are social consequences to early deprivation, too, including lower academic achievement and socio-economic status.

The good news is that some relatively simple approaches can reverse those damaging effects and improve quality of life, and help survivors cope with caregiving if that is what they want to do.

It’s critical for these caregivers to connect with emotional support for themselves, and to obtain adequate help with caregiving.

With proper support and the development of a care partner team, there are possibilities for family and individual healing that can cascade through generations previously wounded by abuse and neglect.

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Do you know of situations where someone provides care for an Elder who has been abusive or neglectful?  Please share your ideas about what helps them cope in the comments section below.

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Lisa Kendall is a clinical social worker and gerontologist with a private practice in Ithaca, NY.  She has a passion for supporting Elders and their care partners, and offers trauma-informed treatment to adult survivors of childhood abuse and neglect.

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