Posts Tagged ‘Eden Alternative’

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

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

Well-Being in Old Age: How Elders Grow

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

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In the Eden Alternative philosophy, we define care as “that which helps another to grow.”

It’s a powerful way to shift our understanding of relationships, and to broaden our traditional view of care, which tends to focus on problems, and on treatment of the body alone.

When I was asking someone recently about their “support system,” they named a few people they felt close to. Then I shared this definition of care and asked “who or what helps you grow,” and the person poured out a list of resources they hadn’t thought of before.

These are the people (or animal companions) on our care team, and it all sounds like a good and positive thing. Still, I sometimes strike a nerve when I talk with people about “growth.”

“What is growth? What does that word mean?”

Dr. Bill Thomas writes about the stage of life known as “Elderhood” in his book. “What are old people for? How Elders will save the world,” and posits that growth is a part of Elderhood, as it is part of all of life’s developmental stages.

We are so used to thinking about Elderhood as a stage of decline that we overlook the many ways we continue to grow.

OMA Art by L KendallSome of us struggle with the very idea of growth in the midst of decline, or see growth through the eyes of Adulthood, where we strive to improve our job skills, increase income, or strengthen and build muscle.

These kinds of growth may or may not happen in one’s Elderhood. And we’re so use to looking at the world through the eyes of adulthood, that we may need to broaden our ideas about what growth can mean.

I started thinking about growth in the last phase of life when I had the chance to work with several people who were dying, or who were family care partners with loved ones who were dying. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by sadness and be focused on loss in this instance, but I have seen amazing healing and growth occur, even at the death bed.

This kind of healing and growth is almost always about intangible qualities, such as increasing forgiveness, wisdom, peace, acceptance, love, relationships, or one’s relationship to the Divine.

Growth is possible for people who are living with cognitive challenges, such as dementia. As care partners, we can learn patience, kindness, and forgiveness, to name but a few.  Elders may learn to accept support, let go of painful memories, and learn to express themselves with more freedom and joy.

The art that accompanies this post was done by me during a workshop by the good people at Scripps Gerontological Institute.  Their program, “Opening Minds Through Art,” (or OMA), shows us how people living with dementia can create fabulous art when we shift how we think about art itself.  Coloring between the lines may be difficult when you live with dementia, but watch the amazing transformation when Elders are given the tools and encouragement to create abstract art!  Check out this program at: www.scrippsoma.org

Have you seen someone grow in spiritual strength as their body is dying? Can you imagine growing in one’s ability to adapt to the changes brought about by aging or illness? Is there room for relationships to heal in our last stage of life?

What does growth mean to you? Who or what helps you grow?

Leave a comment about growth; you’ll be helping all of us grow in understanding!

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Lisa Kendall supports well-being in her work with Elders and their family care partners, 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.

Identity and Age

https://www.flickr.com/photos/thomasrstegelmann/1811854387/in/photolist-3L7ebK-pkc6tN-5uiz6E-64zny-5JGsnE-5P2CM3-5sQTMb-boxwhh-4FjTxT-4wkCAt-9d69qF-64zoC-38oyd9-xUiw1-4MRxcX-rkvyv-4km959-K3Y2U-K3YcW-9w9dKW-q8bgQV-4vdwk-64vP9z-2w6KQ9-4M5JNi-ABJEr-ehiBXD-5HDdD9-qXwhx-5hQGof-dSp8Ka-pQxH1b-5ZtHAE-51sFsv-7zkdyx-8KGRCA-rA7Bae-5JGshy-5JCbpZ-5Pqed4-qHyG6-oMiQei-4sMAYF-sGXftu-5rNCji-ncyBXt-hLEdup-8SoHfT-4wjQEe-8YV1Ln

Thomas R Stegelmann, courtesy of Flickr

Welcome to the second in an 8-part series of blog posts on The Eden Alternative Domains of Well-Being(TM). You can read more about these domains by clicking HERE!

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In 1984 I worked in an Adult Day Program that served people living with dementia, and also had a fair number of people attending who lived with Parkinson’s disease. One of the things that really jumped out at me at this time of my career was how differently our staff care partners thought about and interacted with the Elders, as opposed to how the family seemed to see them.

A woman I’ll call Helen had a beautiful smile and often struggled to get the right word out. I could usually get what she was trying to tell me by watching her gestures, and she sighed with relief when I offered the misplaced word.

Helen was always well-dressed, lipstick in place, and she carefully carried her purse on her arm. She had worked as an accountant in her career, and she enjoyed sitting behind the director’s desk. She looked completely at ease next to the large adding machine!

I loved Helen, appreciating her playful spirit, and the way she laughed when someone would dance with her. One day I had the ladies gather in a circle in the side yard and we tossed a Nerf football around. Helen placed her handbag carefully at her feet, and proceeded to have a great time with our silly game. No rules, just fun.

Helen’s family members were often tearful when they dropped Helen off at the program, and explained how hard it was for them to lose the “old Helen,” the mother and wife who had been so sharp in her work and careful in her dress. Now Helen couldn’t tell one end of a sweater from another, and needed help getting it turned right-way around.

Which identity was truly Helen?

Here is a place where we want to “embrace the power of ‘and,’” as Dr. Bill Thomas says in his book, “What are Old People for: How Elders will Save the World.”

A big part of Helen’s identity was about her past: her work, her relationships, her special skills and talents. Knowing her history helped us understand why she was so attracted to the big desk and its adding machine. AND a big part of Helen was the desire to connect she brought to the program every day: the painstaking conversation, the laughter, and the dancing.

I always honor the grieving process a family experiences when a loved one lives with dementia and the changes it brings, AND I am here to say that there is tremendous joy in seeing who the person is now, and getting to know them as they are, now.

Sometimes it felt like Helen and the other folks in the day program needed some time away from their dearest loved ones, where the sadness and frustration couldn’t help but reflect in their eyes. I believe they needed an environment where they could be accepted and loved for who they are now, and that can be easier for someone who is not a close relative or long-time friend.

We may be seen by the people around us in different ways, depending on the relationship and the context. It’s another way to understand how a care partner team can work together to both give and receive care from one another, and help us express the many facets of our identity!

How do you support identity for Elders who live with dementia? How about your own identity – are you able to do the things that connect with your innermost self, or have you pushed some part of yourself aside to cope with the challenges of caregiving? Please share your stories with our community in the comment spaces below.

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Lisa Kendall supports well-being in her work with Elders and their family care partners, 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.

Accept the Gift

TrellisI don’t feel good today.  I’ve had a cold, and it’s getting old.  I’m into the coughing stage, and it gives me a headache.

On a day when I don’t see clients and there is nothing that HAS to get done other than a brief (and welcomed) meeting with some of my colleagues from The Eden Alternative™, you would think I could be grateful for the time to rest and recuperate.

Not me!  Like a dope I held onto the belief that I “should” be working, not resting.  This nagging guilt kept me at my computer, but the lingering cold prevented me from doing anything creative or constructive.

The result was that I didn’t get anything done, AND I didn’t rest, which was clearly what my body wanted, craved, and needed.

I’ve been trying to be better about this, but today I backslid big time.  I didn’t even realize it until I finally came outside to an unseasonably comfortable July day.  As I settled into an Adirondack chair, I could hear a whisper on the breeze, mingling with the gentle sound of my windchimes.

“Accept the gift.”

Accept the gift!

Accept rest.  Accept peace.  Accept the gift of a no-stress day to allow rejuvenation and renewal.

I might have let the day go, but I will embrace this cool summer evening. I will listen to the birds, watch the bunnies, and feel the breeze against my skin.  I will let my body relax and heal.

I will accept the gift.

 

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Lisa Kendall is a social work psychotherapist and clinical gerontologist who needs a nap more than she needs to go on about her work right now.  Thanks for reading, and if you’ve gotten this far, please feel free to share what you’re doing on this summer day to “accept the gift!”

 

 

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!

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 www.carepartnerconnection.com.
  • 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.

 

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.

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