Posts Tagged ‘Elder’

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.

Elder Stories: A Veteran’s Day Rememberance

 

http://www.flickr.com/photos/walkadog/

Photo by Beverly & Pack via Flickr

One of the most gratifying aspects of my work with Elders and their care partners has been the opportunity to listen to their stories.

On this Veteran’s Day, I am remembering the very special men and women I’ve known who have entrusted me with the stories of their military service to our country.

Those tales were always deeply embedded in that person’s life history, and included stories of everyday existence and extraordinary loss; the finding of love and founding of family; the formation of lifelong occupations, friendships, and deeply held convictions.

Some of the Elders had written their life stories and wartime experiences into formal or self-published books, and I was privileged to see the world through their eyes as I read their words and shared in their reminiscences.

Others told me the secrets they’d long held next to bruised and broken hearts, and now I keep these safely next to my own. 

Still more brave men and women had now slipped into a wordless place, and their daughters and sons became keepers of their stories, I the grateful audience and reverent witness.

On this Veteran’s Day and on all days, I join the nation in humble gratitude and awe for the dedication and service of the members of our Armed Forces, past and present.

Thank you.

The True Heart of Caregiving

I stumbled onto a music video this morning that really spoke to everything I’ve loved about working with Elders and their care partners for the last 28 years.  It was so sweet and so beautifully done, I had to sit down and find a way to share it with you.

This story shows with great poignancy the deep connections that often form between Elders and those who care for them, and how both benefit from the relationship. 

Genuine, loving care is both given and received in this tender relationship! 

Loneliness, helplessness, and boredom, the three plagues of Elderhood described by Dr. Bill Thomas, co-founder of the Eden Alternative, are vanquished for both the Elder and the young man in this lovely story.

I wasn’t able to embed the video here, but I believe it is worth your visit away from my site to see Brett Eldredge’s music video, “Raymond” at youtube. 

Just grab a few tissues, click HERE, and come back to comment on your reactions to the video.   You can also visit Brett Eldredge’s website – this talented young man is raising awareness about Alzheimer’s disease.

Thanks for spending some time with me today; please visit again!

Lisa Kendall is a clinical social worker and clinical social work gerontologist in private practice in Ithaca, NY.  She is an Eden at Home Educator committed to changing the culture of care for Elders and their care partners.  Learn more about Eden at Home and the Eden Alternative at www.edenalt.org

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

Celebrating the Sacredness of Life and Death

 

Announcing a Webinar from the

Eden Alternative:

Eden Alternative Webinars

Celebrating the Sacredness of Life and Death

Panelists: Cheryl Fitzgerald, C-GNP, C-ANP; Sharon Wolff, MSW; and Richard Gamache, MS, CNHA, FACHCA

Learn how a group of people from different disciplines can work together to improve end-of-life care and how we honor death for all members of the community.  Learn about the four points of a mission statement that changed one organization’s approach: 

  • We believe death is sacred;
  • We believe that no one should die alone;
  • We believe staff, families and Elders need time and space to grieve; and
  • We honor the memory of every life we have been privileged to touch. 

Elmhurst Extended Care’s Celebration of Life program was honored by Rhode Island Quality Partners as the recipient of the Advancing Innovation in Healthcare Award in 2009.  Our distinguished panelists will share how Celebration of Life is not only devoted to improving end-of-life care, but also to celebrating the lives of Elmhurst community members.

 

Cheryl Fitzgerald, Director of Clinical Services at Elmhurst Extended Care, is a nurse practitioner certified in geriatrics and an Eden Alternative Mentor.  Sharon Wolff, Director of Social Services, is an Eden Alternative Mentor and Chair of Elmhurst’s Celebration of Life Committee.  Richard Gamache serves as Administrator of Elmhurst Extended Care.  He is also an Eden Alternative Educator and Mentor.  Join us on August 18th for this inspiring webinar experience!

Register Here!

 

When is a Crutch not a Crutch?

In our culture, we shrink from signs of weakness or disability, preferring to see ourselves and each other as strong and capable.

Often, the very tools that might keep us independent, such as a cane or walker, are refused because they seem to represent frailty.  In reality, these assistive devices can make walking safer and prevent falls, allowing the greatest possible independence!

I was thinking about how hard it is for many Elders to accept the need for a walker or cane, or even the use of a wheelchair for trips out and about, and how troubling it is that our society has such strong prejudices about the use of such devices.

Then I realized that I have held the same deep biases about self-care and doing the things I need to do to stay healthy and strong.

As a health care professional, I’ve learned the hard way that I have to practice what I preach about taking good care of my mind, body and spirit, or I won’t be able to care for my family, clients, and friends.

Photo by Nick J Webb via Flickr

  • Have you ever felt guilty about getting a massage, considering it a luxury rather than part of your stress management strategy?   
  • Do you take time to plan and enjoy healthy, nutritious meals?
  • Are you getting regular, enjoyable exercise?
  • Do you have hobbies outside of work or caregiving that delight and inspire you?

These things are not “crutches,” they are important tools to keep you healthy and strong and able to stay in service.  Give them the priority they (and you!) deserve, and schedule time for them in ink on your calendar.

We’ll continue to talk about this, because too many professional care partners and family caregivers are suffering from over-load and are vulnerable to stress-related illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, and depression.

Please write me a comment (below) to let me know what you will do to take care of your SELF this week!

Mandalas for Elder Caregiver Stress?

by Felipe Venâncio via Flickr

A few years ago I was preparing for surgery, and a therapist colleague suggested I get some Mandala coloring books to color during my recovery.

Mandalas are circular designs, often associated with Hindu or Buddhist meditation, and the designs can be quite intricate.  Once I started looking, I realized that many cultures from around the world have beautiful circular designs connected with their spiritual practices.

I was especially drawn to the more complex designs, and found that I felt serene and my mind seemed to calm while I filled in the tiny spaces with colored pencils, and it was also an easy, no-mess project to set aside if I got tired.

Once back at my caregiver counseling job, I started suggesting the idea to family members who often struggled to find ways to relax during their stressful days.  Several were very intrigued with the idea and immediately recalled long-unused art supplies or neglected coloring books already on-hand.

If you are taking care of an older or ill loved one, or are just looking for a way to calm your mind in the midst of a hectic day, try coloring Mandalas.  You can find the books through your local bookseller, local arts & crafts store, or print some pages online for free at  http://www.coloringcastle.com/mandala_coloring_pages.html

Let me know if this works for you, too!

Stormy Weather

A lady at the garage told me there was a tornado warning in our area this morning, a rare thing in Ithaca.  I couldn’t confirm it, although we are expecting thunderstorms this afternoon.  It reminded me of another July day several years ago when a summer storm took down about a third of the huge, beautiful maple tree that graces our side yard, breaking our hearts, but thankfully, not our cars or our necks.

The same storm had blown over a favorite flowering tree in a neighbor’s farmyard.  She and her husband had lived on their property their entire married life, raising cows, pigs, children, and grandchildren.  Now Jean* was the full-time caregiver for Bob,* whose stroke left him in bed and unable to care for himself.

Whenever I visited, Jean lamented the loss of her tree, talking about how strong it had been, how tall, how sturdy.  She just couldn’t believe it was gone, uprooted by the summer wind.  Her grief for the tree continued; she mentioned it every time I called, and seemed unable to get over it.

Jean was a doting wife and meticulous care partner for Bob, and it was clear she was as madly in love with him as the day she met and married him.  Bob was often confused, but always liked to flirt with female visitors, and in his occasional confusion would tell me that he’d been out cutting wood that day, or tending to the pigs.  In his mind he was as strong and as busy as ever. 

One day I watched Bob lying in his bed and Jean hovering over him, adjusting his blankets and teasing him. 

It was in that moment that I realized I was looking at the Great Tree on the farm, the one that had been felled, and for whom Jean was grieving in the deepest, most hidden part of her heart.

*All names and identifying details in this story have been changed to protect privacy.  Lisa Kendall is a clinical social worker who works with Elders and their Care Partners, and is an Eden at Home Educator.

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