Posts Tagged ‘aging parents’

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

 

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 »

Widening Circles of Support for Elders and their Care Partners

 

The rural community where my Mother grew up is saturated with extended family, and has been for several generations.  As a family history buff, I enjoy looking at the old Federal census forms and seeing the names of ancestors filling pages, neighbors living in houses strung along a country road or tucked into the mountains of Eastern Pennsylvania.

The big farmhouses of those times had a “sick room” off the kitchen, where an ill loved one could be looked after, close to the family’s heart and hearth.  With cousins, nieces and nephews, and sons and daughters all in the area, there was help to be had if and when it was needed.

Even so, it’s interesting to see that some Elders of very advanced years lived with unrelated folks as a “boarder.”

4fafe553-6123-4719-b6f9-00fdc24e92f1Nowadays our culture continues to see the “best” option for care of our Elders as that which is provided in their own homes, or living with close relatives.  Moving someone into a nursing home is seen by many as a personal and family failure.

This has always bothered me.  While we have a long way to go to change the institutional model of long term care, I do not agree that this represents failure.

I’ve seen many Elders blossom in nursing homes and assisted living.

One beautiful woman I knew came to live in the nursing home because arthritis had crippled her hands badly and left her unable to get around without a wheelchair.  Once she moved into the nursing home where I worked, she was able to explore her lifelong dream to be a painter.  The Activities staff provided her with supplies and a place to work, and she figured out a way to hold a brush in her gnarled fingers.  The art she made was glorious! (And she felt very happy to have finally liberated her inner artist!).

I’ve also known many Elders in their own or a family member’s home who nevertheless suffered from the three plagues of Loneliness, Helpless and Boredom, as defined by Dr. Bill Thomas and The Eden Alternative ™.

These families are likely to feel guilty when they “have to” place their loved one.

We’ve seen much change in recent years, with families moving far from the family home, medical technology extending life (but not necessarily well-being), and two-earner couples.  It’s no wonder family care partners feel overwhelmed!

I won’t rehash the demographics and statistics we all know so well, but I’d like to offer some thoughts from my years of experience working in long term care.

Don’t let “caretaking” overwhelm your relationship with the Elder.  There are lots of people who can mop the floors, wash the linens, assist with bathing, and help an Elder living with frailty get to the bathroom. No one can have the special family bond with the Elder that you do. You can look at family photos and reminisce about the milestone events and precious small moments that comprise your family’s unique culture and history.

If you are a spouse or partner, your loving presence is irreplaceable.

If you’re so overcome with the tasks of caring, to the point that the relationship is suffering, please reconsider. Build a care partner team for your Elder and for yourself that will honor your loved one’s preferences and still ensure their daily needs are met in a loving and respectful way.

Consider that the local nursing home is where our sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, are now working.  Let them help with the care.  You’ll find that some of these strangers will come to love your Elder and develop their own distinctive relationships with them.

You’ll also find that those young, strong backs can take on what feels burdensome, leaving you with the energy and resources to be present for your Elder in the way that only you can be.

 

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Lisa Kendall is a social work psychotherapist and clinical gerontologist, and amateur genealogist!

Please let us know your thoughts about Aging and Elderhood, and share your stories of how you’ve been able to widen the circles of support for your loved one and for yourself!

Rest and Renewal for Caregivers, in Only 10 Minutes!

In 2011, I wrote a blog post about the importance of regularly taking time away from caregiving, often referred to as “respite.”

 

At that time, I suggested that in every day, we should have a respite of at least 10 minutes or so, and in every week we should plan for an hour away, if at all possible.

 

Increasing stretches of time call for more time away… in a perfect world!

 

In the years since that post, I’ve had the privilege of presenting workshops about how to structure a mini-retreat, and I’ve continued to talk with care partners about how this method of respite works for them.

 

I’ve also learned from the latest brain science that even very small breaks, when given our full attention, can have a significant positive impact on our health and well-being!

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by AlicePopkorn via Flickr

 

Jennifer Louden’s “Woman’s Retreat Book: A Guide to Restoring, Rediscovering and Reawakening Your True Self –In a Moment, An Hour, Or a Weekend,” helps us think about what we hope to get from our retreat, and how to create one that will really work.

 

She reminds us that you don’t have to have a lot of time or money, nor do you have to actually leave town (or even the house) for a break to refresh and renew your mind, body, and spirit.

 

This is good news for care partners!

 

The basic elements for a retreat include the opening, the retreat itself, and the closing.

 

The opening of the retreat includes an act or ritual to indicate that you are stepping away from your usual day, and entering into a sacred or special space.

 

It might include a prayer or other reading, getting up from your desk, going to a corner of your home suitable for quiet contemplation, or ringing a bell.

 

Once inside this retreat space, which Ms. Louden calls the retreat container, you engage in an activity you’ve planned, and which fulfills or contributes to your intention for the retreat.  If you’re feeling stressed, you’ll want to connect with a feeling of relaxation.  If you’re tired, you may want to do something that will energize you!

 

This could be a few moments of silence, mindfully listening to your breath.  It could be taking out your journal to write some lines about how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking, at that very moment. If you like to draw, your retreat space could hold some art supplies for you to play with.

 

Perhaps 10 minutes of wild dancing will provide an energy (or attitude) adjustment.  I used to do this with my daughters at the end of the school day, and we found it vented all sorts of cranky energy, and made us laugh.  Really hard.

 

Ideally, a retreat will connect with all of the senses, so consider doing something for the body (breathe, stretch, or handle a cool, smooth stone); for the sense of smell (fresh flowers, cinnamon, eucalyptus, a vanilla or pine scented candle); your sense of hearing (the gentle tinkling of a bell, music, or silence); and vision (have something pleasant to look at).

 

The closing is often a mirror or reversal of the opening ceremony.

 

If you started with a bell, end the same way.  If you lit a candle, blow it out.  You are signaling the end of this special time, even when it’s only been ten minutes, and a return to routine.

 

These simple steps bring our awareness to a mental and physical space where we can renew our energies, manage stress, and keep fit for the Elder care journey.

 

Jennifer Louden’s book is a true treasure trove of ideas, providing important information on how to prepare for a retreat of any length, how to create emotional and physical containers for your experience, and consider what to do (and not do!) on your retreat.

 

You’ll want to have your own copy of this book; you can purchase it now on the Crossroads Counseling Bookstore by clicking HERE.

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How do you rest and renew yourself?  What works best for you?

What will you try today?

Leave your comments and share your experience with others!

 

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Lisa Kendall is a geriatric social worker with a private counseling and consulting practice.  She teaches, trains, and facilitates a variety of different retreats. 

Celebrating Thanksgiving with Loved Ones who Live with Dementia

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.

Autumn Tree SunsetInstead 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.

Care Partnership: Creating Meaning in the Giving and Receiving of Care

Monday, November 18, 2013 

10AM-12PM

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 theiLisa's Kitchenr 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 lisa@lisakendallcounseling.com for more information or to schedule a training.

News from The Crossroads

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.

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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 crossroadscounseling@hotmail.com or (607) 351-1313.

 

Take care,

Lisa K.

Holiday Caregiver Stress: Finding the Heart of the Season

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Photo by paulapaulac via Flickr

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 Caregivers

HOLIDAY 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.

 

A Radical Alternative to New Year’s Resolutions: for Caregivers & the Rest of Us!

You've seen the lists. Maybe you've made one yourself, or are thinking about it. Eat better... Exercise more... Organize the house... If you're anything like me, there is a strange mathematical formula that applies to efficiency in one's daily life. Here's how I think it works: Read the rest of this entry »

Eden at Home Trainer Certification Workshop: September 25-27, 2010

Coming to Pennsylvania!

EDEN at HOME

Creating Quality of Life for Care Partner Teams

Training Certification Workshop

Host: Community LIFE

702 Second Avenue, Tarentum, PA

September 25-27, 2010

Eden at Home Educator: Lisa A. Kendall, LCSW-R, CSW-G

Register NOW!  Space is Limited

 

Working together, empowered care partner teams help to ensure the independence, dignity, and continued growth and development of our Elder care partners and each other. 

What does EAH Trainer Certification offer?

After training, Certified Trainers inspire care partners, both within their organization and out in the community, to:

  • Reframe perceptions of aging and disability
  • Work together to reduce stress & burnout
  • Build strategies on strengths, rather than limitations
  • Develop meaningful connections with each other
  • Create opportunities for all to give as well as receive
  • Communicate effectively & thoughtfully       
  • Share joy, hope, wisdom, spontaneity, & respect
  • Prevent loneliness, helplessness, & boredom for all on the care partner team

To learn more about Eden at Home, join us for a free informational webinar: 

September 14th

Click HERE to register 

 

Who may want an EAH Certified Trainer on staff?

Non-profit organizations, state agencies, home health organizations, faith-based organizations, Area Agencies on Aging, hospitals, hospices, senior centers, care management, adult day services, independent living communities, and long-term care organizations with home health outreach or an interest in supporting ongoing needs after rehabilitation.

 What is the workshop cost?

Early Bird:      $385 per person until Sept. 14, 2010

Group:           $360 for multiple attendees from same organization

Regular Fee:  $435 per person, after Early Bird deadline

 

Fees cover 3 days of training, our scripted EAH Trainer’s Guide, additional reference materials, and food.

 

Questions?  Contact Meredith Burrus at education@edenalt.org

 

*** CEUs available with the National Association of Social Workers and National Association of Boards ***

 

Register HERE or by calling 512-847-6061

Rural Gold

Photo by Rory Martin via Flickr

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