Archive for November 2015

Final Thoughts for Caregiver Appreciation Month

Please join me in appreciating Jean Lee for writing this guest blog post, on the final day of Caregiver Appreciation Month!  Thank you, Jean, and thanks to all of the people who are writing about their experiences as care partners. Let’s listen to the voices of care partners every month!

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Caregivers. We are all caregivers. As humans we care for one another, or we should. Most especially, we care for those close to us.

 

  • As a youth I loved and respected my parents, a form of caring for them in my child-like way.
  • As a young wife and mom, I cared for my husband and children.
  • As a teacher, I cared for my students.

 

But the logical timeline of maturation, love, and respect tipped topsy-turvy when my parents reached their eighties. They slowly began to lose their minds and act irrationally. I became concerned for their safety. I sought out medical treatment, and they were both diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease on the same day.

 

Over the next decade I became the parent to my parents. I gradually, painfully made decisions they opposed in order to protect their well-being. In the process, I felt guilty taking everything away from the people who had given me everything.

 

As I struggled to keep the pieces of my life together­––my marriage, my own family, my career and the care of my parents­­––I grasped for resources, but found few. I am a positive person, therefore I sought uplifting resources, but much of what I read was written with a negative undertone. I found books about the ill treatment of a caregiver by an unreasonable loved one, about adult siblings who fought, and about children who had grown up with angst toward a parent continuing through caregiving years. Even so, every time I found a kernel of truth, I felt as though I could keep going, someone else was brave enough to share this upside down world as well.

 

I came to the conclusion that sharing my story might help others.

 

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Alzheimer’s Daughter details my journey caring for both parents who were diagnosed on the same day. It is written with wincing honesty about the cruel affects of the disease, but a WWII love story held together by faith and family is contained within the pages.

 

Over the past several months, four other authors from across the country and I have crossed paths, all of us affected in some way by Alzheimer’s disease/dementia.

 

For the month of November, the five of us have joined together in recognition of National Caregiver Appreciation Month and National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month to recognize those unsung heroes, family caregivers. From each other we learned that all of us felt compelled to write our books, hoping to make a difference…hoping that we might make the pathway of others traveling this road a little less painful and lonely. Perhaps you will find comfort and support within our pages.

 

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Somebody Stole My Iron, by Vicki Tapia

 

Vicki details the daily challenges, turbulent emotions, and painful decisions involved in caring for her parents. Laced with humor and pathos, reviewers describe her book as “brave,” “honest,” “raw,” “unvarnished,” as well as a “must-read for every Alzheimer’s/dementia patient’s family.” Vicki wrote this story to offer hope to others, to reassure them that they’re not alone.

 

 

 

 

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Blue Hydrangeas by Marianne Sciucco

 

Marianne describes herself as a writer who happens to be a nurse. This work of fiction is based upon her care for the elderly. It’s a tenderly told love story about Jack and Sara, owners of a New England bed and breakfast. Sara is stricken with Alzheimer’s and Jack becomes her caregiver.

 

 

 

 

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What Flowers Remember by Shannon Wiersbitzky

 

Shannon writes this work of fiction through the eyes of a small-town preteen girl, Delia, whose elderly neighbor, Old Red Clancy is failing mentally. The aged gentleman has to be placed in a care facility, but Delia will not let him wither away. She devises a way for the whole community to remind Old Red how important he has been in all of their lives.

 

 

 

 

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On Pluto: Inside the Mind of Alzheimer’s by Greg O’Brien

 

Diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, Greg O’Brien’s story isn’t about losing someone else to Alzheimer’s, it is about losing himself a sliver at a time while still fighting to live with Alzheimer’s, not die with it.

 

 

 

 

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Lisa Kendall supports well-being in her work with Elders and their family members, as well as with professional care partners.  She is an Educator and Mentor for The Eden Alternative, has a private counseling and consulting practice in Ithaca, NY, and teaches the Fieldwork in Gerontology course for the Ithaca College Gerontology Institute.

You can reach Lisa at (607) 351-1313, or via email at crossroadscounseling@hotmail.com

 

The Number One Killer of JOY (and final Domain of Well-Being)

Welcome to the final installment in a series of blog posts on The Eden Alternative Domains of Well-Being(TM). Read more about these domains by clicking HERE!

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I often write about the holiday season with a reminder that many people do not experience the holidays as joyful. Indeed, people can suffer throughout the year from loneliness, helplessness, and boredom (the three plagues discovered by Dr. Bill Thomas), and the heightened expectations of the holidays surely exacerbate the plagues.

“Joy” is the last (but never least!) one of the Seven Domains of Well-Being as defined by The Eden Alternative, and we all need Joy for true well-being.

Joy seems like an emotion we all understand instinctively, even though who or what gives us Joy may vary from person to person.

Our capacity for Joy also seems to vary. I was thinking the other day about a remarkable trip I made with my Mom and one of my sisters a few years ago. We’d gone to New York City to see the Van Gogh exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “Starry Night” was on display, and I couldn’t wait to see one of my very favorite paintings.

While I truly appreciated the special exhibit, what I recall most about that day was my emotional reaction to two other things I saw in the museum.

The first was an installation of Islamic art, and the rich jewel-tones and intricate designs of textiles, tiles, and other objects took my breath away.

The second was a permanent exhibit of an Egyptian pyramid, an elegant structure that had been taken apart and reassembled in a spacious hall. As I sat on a bench nearby, I felt I could smell the ancient sand and stone, and a pervasive sense of awe enveloped me. I sat for a long time, appreciating peaceful BE-ing in that light and airy space.

The beige and cream pyramid touched me as deeply as had the vivid hues of Islamic art.

I know that being in the presence of such beauty inspired a sense of awe in me, but I clearly see the Joy I was feeling, too, and that’s the main emotion I experience when I recall those wonders.

We’re surrounded by a universe of natural and man-made wonders, but don’t always feel Joy-full.

What can get in the way of such joy?

  • A sure-fire way to choke out Joy is to keep moving through life at a break-neck speed. Today is Black Friday, and even at home I am inundated with loud ads, busy e-mails, and confusing codes. It’s hard to notice the little things, the simple pleasures that truly bless us with Joy, amid such a hubbub.
  • We might miss out on joy if we don’t have the freedom to go where we want to, or to be with companions who will share and hold the experience with and for us. Helplessness and Loneliness, two of the plagues, can easily kill our Joy.
  • Painful memories may lead us to believe that we can’t, or don’t deserve, to feel Joy.

In my work as a therapist and clinical gerontologist, I meet many people who experienced abuse or neglect as they were growing up. They took in messages that they were unworthy, unwanted, or unsafe.  These messages and the difficult emotions that surround them can flare when we face special challenges such as our own health problems or the illness of a family member.

Looking back over the domains of well-being, it’s easy to see how abuse or neglect can damage any of these areas. Remember that the Eden Alternative Domains of Well-Being™ include:

  • IDENTITYbeing well-known; having personhood; individuality; having a history
  • GROWTHdevelopment; enrichment; expanding; evolving
  • AUTONOMYliberty; self-determination; choice; freedom
  • SECURITYfreedom from doubt, anxiety, or fear; safety; privacy; dignity; respect
  • CONNECTEDNESSbelonging; engaged; involved; connected to time, place, and nature
  • MEANINGsignificance; heart; hope; value; purpose; sacredness
  • JOYhappiness; pleasure; delight; contentment; enjoyment

Unfortunately, painful memories are more common than we think. The good news is that there are sound approaches to foster healing, no matter how long ago we actually had hurtful experiences.

I will be writing more about the impact of trauma across the lifespan, and the importance of healing during the stage of life known as Elderhood, as I prepare for a presentation on the topic at the next International Conference of The Eden Alternative.

If you haven’t done so yet, please stay connected by liking my Facebook page: click HERE. You’ll always get a link to new posts that way.

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You can also register now for the 8th Eden Alternative International conference!  Please visit HERE for more information.

And finally:

Healing Painful Memories during Elderhood

Listen to my talk on trauma-informed treatment approaches and strategies on WRVO public radio by clicking HERE

 

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Lisa Kendall supports well-being in her work with Elders and their family members, as well as with professional care partners.  She is an Educator and Mentor for The Eden Alternative, has a private counseling and consulting practice in Ithaca, NY, and teaches the Fieldwork in Gerontology course for the Ithaca College Gerontology Institute.

You can reach Lisa at (607) 351-1313, or via email at crossroadscounseling@hotmail.com

 

 

Gratitude and Meaning: What’s Important to You and Your Elders?

What gives your life meaning? Do you know what is meaningful to the Elders in your life? This is a wonderful question to ask at the upcoming Thanksgiving Day table! Do so with an open heart, really listening to the answers and withholding judgment. Remember that “Meaning” is unique to each of us, and may change over time. Read the rest of this entry »

Connectedness and Well-Being for Elders

Welcome to the sixth installment in a series of blog posts on The Eden Alternative Domains of Well-Being(TM). Read more about these domains by clicking HERE!

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From the time we are born, we need to feel connected to other people.

Babies who don’t have a sense of connection to their caregivers can suffer from neurological changes that impede their growth, development, and health over the course of their lifetime, and they may even die from “failure to thrive.”

In this brief video, Dr. Edward Tronick shows how distressing “disconnection” is:

 

The truth is, we survive as individuals, families, communities, and as a species because of the myriad ways we support, connect, and cooperate with one another.

The mythical ideal of “independence” that prevails in the west leads us to shun or shame those who appear to be “dependent.” Ageism and able-ism keep us from seeing the reality of “interdependence” that underlies human existence.

We also tend to crave connection with places, things, and ideas. We cherish “home,” and we treasure objects that represent our various connections. We hold close our philosophies, religions, and world views that we feel connect us with others, with nature, and with the universe.

Who or what satisfies your own need for connection? Does the care you give to others interfere with, or enhance, your sense of connection? What about the Elder in your life… is there a sense of genuine connection to people, places, and things at this time in their life?

Please share your thoughts, and connect with our community!

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Lisa Kendall supports well-being in her work with Elders and their family members, as well as with professional care partners.  She is an Educator and Mentor for The Eden Alternative, and has a private counseling and consulting practice in Ithaca, NY.

You can reach Lisa at (607) 351-1313, or via email at crossroadscounseling@hotmail.com

Is Cognitive Screening Part of your Routine Physical Exam?

In honor of National Memory Screening Day, I am proud to host guest blogger Jean Lee, author of "Alzheimer's Daughter." Jean raises awareness about the importance of screening for cognitive health, just as we do for blood pressure, diabetes, and routine cancer screenings. Read the rest of this entry »

Caregivers and Servant Leadership

In honor of National Caregiving Month, I am proud to present a guest blog from Chris MacLellan, a friend, colleague, and fellow advocate for family care partners.

A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way ~ John C. Maxwell

In November we celebrate National Caregiving month and it is always a good time to reflect and reconnect with good friends along the road during our Caregiving journey.  As I read through many of the national organization who are running promotions this month to signify National Caregiving month, I started to think about my role as a family Caregiver and what being a family Caregiver meant to me. Being a family Caregiver taught me a number of valuable lessons, but the most important lesson I learned was after Caregiving was over, and that is importance of self-care.   It is common for family Caregivers to lose themselves in the midst of Caregiving because our focus is so intense on our Caree.  Now 18 months after Richard made his life transition,  I am learning how to take better care of myself, (It is an up hill battle, that I will eventually win!)

Just recently I have come across a new meaning for family Caregivers, one that I have learned while finishing my masters degree in Leadership and Communication at Gonzaga University and that is the connection Caregivers have to Servant Leadership.  With my ministerial background and theology training, I had been looking forward to my class in Servant Leadership.  I was not disappointed.

Robert Greenleaf is known as the founder of Servant Leadership and once said: “The servant-leader is servant first. It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is a leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions.”   While our class in Servant Leadership often focused on Business, Managers and Work Place Culture, I often commented in our classroom discussions about how Caregivers are Servant Leaders, because of our role to serve first, to advocate, to be the voice for those who could not speak, to put ourselves second.

Some of the characteristics of a work-place driven by Servant Leadership is that staff is fully engaged, feel a strong commitment to the cause, find purpose and have passion.  Servant Leaders are mindful of the whole, while understanding wpid-wp-1419526540344.jpegthat people have to feel empowered, lovable, connected and contributing.  I see quite a bit of philosophy entwined with Servant Leadership and Caregiving. Caregivers are commitment to the cause, and do find purpose and have passion to care.  Caregivers are mindful of their Caree, while understanding that their Caree needs to feel empowered, loved, connected and contributing.  Caregiving and Servant Leadership goes hand-in-hand because of the innate ability to think beyond our self.

In essence, we are all Servant Leaders in training and our training in Servant Leadership is on going, it never stops. Servant Leadership is about relationships.   Even after Caregiving has ended for me, I still in training, learning how to care for myself while in the midst of being present to my family, friends and co-workers.  Caregiving and Life After Caregiving is about Relationships!

I see the connection to Servant Leadership and Caregiving, do you?

Oh and what did being a family Caregiver mean to me? It meant the world, as we were fortunate to have some of the most meaningful conversations while spending every second, minute, hour, day, month and year together.  I would do it again with him all over with no regrets!

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Chris MacLellan is the Author of “What’s The Deal With Caregiving”

and Host of “Healing Ties: Creating A Life to Love After Caregiving Ends.”

To purchase the book, simply click here!

 

Security and Well-Being in Elderhood

Welcome to the fifth installment in a series of blog posts on The Eden Alternative Domains of Well-Being(TM). Read more about these domains by clicking HERE!

 

After my Grandfather died, just before Christmas in 1994, our family discovered that my Grandmother was having trouble with her memory. At first the doctor thought she was having problems because of grief or depression, then she began to believe that drug dealers were working in her basement, and that airplanes were taking off from her yard. She was calling the state police to come help her.

It must have been a terrible time for her, and I know it was hard on my Mom, who became her long-distance-primary-caregiver. Thankfully, one of my cousins was able to stay with her for a time, giving both my Grandmother and my Mom more peace of mind.

Grandparents Belles Christine and Diane Jackson PAGrandma had married young, and she and her husband were devoted to each other. After his death, we’d found a cross-section slice of tree in the shape of a heart, inscribed with their initials, that we believe my Grandfather had found and cut and carved as a Christmas gift for his wife.

Eventually my Grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and she moved into a lovely personal care home near her house. The terrifying hallucinations stopped, and we were able to visit without worry that she was alone and frightened.

Security is one of the “domains of well-being,” and it’s easy to see how important it is that we feel safe.

I think living in the little Cape Cod-style house she and my Grandfather had built together felt so cozy and warm for all those years because they had each other. My Grandfather provided a wonderful sense of security for his family. When he died, Grandma was truly alone, and her own home was transformed into a place of loneliness and fear.

Security is about knowing that there is someone else there when you need them, about knowing the people that provide your care, and their knowing you.

Who or what helps you feel secure? Can you think of a time when you didn’t feel safe, or imagine a time when your older loved one might have felt “insecure?”

Share your thoughts on “Security,” one of The Eden Alternative’s Seven Domains of Well-Being™, and click HERE to read more about it in the Eden Alternative White Paper on the topic.

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Lisa Kendall supports well-being in her work with Elders and their family members, as well as with professional care partners.  She is an Educator and Mentor for The Eden Alternative, and has a private counseling and consulting practice in Ithaca, NY.

You can reach Lisa at (607) 351-1313, or via email at crossroadscounseling@hotmail.com

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