Thursday, October 27, 2011

More about Reminiscence Therapy...

There are so many good articles and places of support available to caregivers today, and when I find encouraging and helpful info I like to share it here. I always figure someone else can use a boost or a good idea about how to help with caregiving, just as I do.

Today I read a really good, detailed article about something I've found that works really well for Mama, reminiscence therapy. I've blogged about it before and am sharing this link now for you to read when you have time. The article was published today (10/27/11) at Today's Caregiver ( The title is Linking the Past to the Present - The Benefits of Reminiscing, by Kristine Dwyer, Staff Writer.

As always, hoping to encourage.

Caregiver at Home

Monday, October 24, 2011

Caregiver Village

Okay, I've just been introduced to a new concept that I think is particularly interesting. It's called Caregiver Village, and I admit that I'm a bit intrigued. I'm still exploring and learning, so come join me and see what you think. There are games you can enjoy, tips to read, journaling to help work through your thoughts or just share commonalities with others, book clubs to join and discuss, and much more.

If you decide to join, there is no membership cost during their launch phase, which will last another month or so. They're giving everyone who signs up now free membership for a year. After this period of time membership will cost $4.95 per month, or prepaid at $49.95 for the year. I understand it's easy to continue to get free membership, however, since activity on the site gives participants points which can be redeemed for free membership. Here's a link for details:

I've joined and have created my profile, and am now investigating the possibilities. I'll keep you posted.

Caregiver at Home

Thursday, October 20, 2011

In Honor of Nellie

A few days ago, Nellie, my mother-in-law of 32 years, passed away. She left behind two children (my husband and sis-in-law), seven grandchildren, and ten great-grandchildren. In a simple statement of love and appreciation for her life, we laid 21 long-stemmed coral and pink roses on her grave. There was one flower for every immediate family member including her husband of 50 years, and me. The roses were beautiful; and we think even though Mom didn't particularly love flowers or plants, she'd have liked those. :-)

Her lovely service was presided over by two pastors who knew her in her last years. They had funny and tender stories to share which made us all nod and smile as we remembered. Over 50 people attended, and the pastors got everyone chuckling when they said, "Elvis is in the building," because Nellie had of course requested one of Elvis's hymns to be played. The pastors also talked about the fact that if anyone knew her, they knew she had an opinion (and they knew what her opinion was!). They also remembered her love for music, for studying, for reading, for God.

Now Mom is finally free of her physical pain and worries, and she is Home. There's no more dementia, Alzheimer's, or frailty. If we tried to make her come back, she'd swat us and say, "No way! If I'd known how wonderful this was going to be, I'd have gotten here sooner!" Her death was quite sudden, though we knew the time was not far away. Her health had been terrible for the last year and she was beyond worn out, so her passing is bittersweet. She passed peacefully in her sleep the day after moving to hospice, so she was definitely ready to go. An aide was sitting with her and Mom did not awaken. Years ago, Mom had written instructions about what interventions she wanted and didn't want when the time came, so that helped us tremendously when it came time to make those hard decisions regarding comfort and final care. We had prayed her passing would be peaceful and are grateful God allowed that.

Nellie was born just before the Depression, was sister to three WWII Veterans, wife to a WWII combat Marine who later became a pastor, mother to a US Navy sailor during Vietnam, and grandmother to a combat Marine from OEF/Afghanistan. She served as a pastor's wife throughout Tennessee and central Georgia for 16 years. She taught Sunday School classes and Bible study classes, and she always loved being part of a choir. She had a beautiful alto voice. She had a deep and abiding love for her family, and I counted her as my friend. We all have good memories of times spent cooking together, laughing, special meals and celebrations. Every time we bake a pie or cake from one of her recipes, or cook up some fried okra (a favorite!), we'll all be thinking of Mom.

We love you, Mom, and we're so thankful you're healed now and in our Father's presence. You're in our hearts always. Thank you for your love and care, and for all we learned from you. We're glad you can sing again.


Friday, September 16, 2011

A photo of pure joy...

Here's the photo I mentioned in an earlier post about my parents' honeymoon getaway. This was 1950. Daddy was trying hard to start his 1936 Ford, but his buddies had piled some of his engine parts on the back seat. When Daddy finally realized it, they ended up taking Mama's little 1940 Chevy, which jumped out of second gear constantly. They always laughed together when they reminisced. Good memories for our family. ~Joan

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Another good resource...

I received a note from David Besnette, editor for the Assisted Living Directory. I've been browsing and reading through his site, and wanted to share it with you here.

I know many of us aren't involved in assisted living facilities yet, but I recently read that it's a very good idea to be aware of what is available before I get to that point. I definitely agree. The stress on me, as caregiver, is lessened when I know where to turn if and when the time comes.

Many years ago, my family had several experiences with assisted living facilities in both Florida and Georgia, including places where my grandmother and my father-in-law lived for quite some time. Some of the caregivers in my support group have family living in area ALFs right now, and they report about really nice experiences their loved ones and they are having.

So I'm happy to share David's site here. If you can, take some time to read his articles and watch some of the videos. Learning about AL now will save time and worry later, when we may need to act.

Caregiver at Home

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Happy 61st anniversary to my folks...

Daddy's gone now, but I still like to remember and honor my folks' anniversary when the date rolls around each August. Our daughter and I had a nice walk down memory lane with my mom this morning while we talked once again about Mama and Daddy's wedding day so long ago. Our daughter told her grandmother that she really liked the black-and-white photos of their wedding, particularly the very happy candid shot of them in the getaway car. My dad was grinning widely while he frantically tried to start the old car they were driving, and my mom was laughing joyfully. Good memories, good medicine around our breakfasts this morning. Even though Daddy's been gone almost six years already, it's fun to remember with Mama. Happy 61st anniversary, Mama. You and Daddy did good.

Caregiver at Home

A helpful article on Alzheimer's

I found a helpful article at which lists and briefly discusses ten signs of Alzheimer's, and wanted to share the link with you here. I thought it was well laid out in that it was 1) brief, 2) talked about the problem from a perspective of Alzheimer's symptoms, and 3) compared those symptoms with normal age-related memory loss.

I have printed this and am keeping it in a notebook so I can read it again from time to time. I hope the info helps you, too.

Caregiver at Home

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Why Do Elders Abuse The Relatives Who Are Taking Care of Them?

I know I talk a lot about articles I read, but there's such good information available on topics that I'm concerned about that I try to share many of the gems I find. As I've mentioned before, Carol Bradley Bursack is a go-to author for me. She's a former caregiver of multiple family members across several years, and she just kinda hits the nail on the head for me. This article about caregivers being abused by their care receiver was a hot topic in a recent conversation with some caregiving friends, so I wanted to share it here.

I definitely understand that a care receiver can be tough to live with who is either struggling with dementia or even just struggling with getting old, has a body that is failing, is losing control of their living situation, or is lonely or disappointed with how life has turned out in their old age. That person is afraid, miserable, or even bitter, and of course it shows. Perhaps everyone doesn't see it, though--I've learned firsthand that a loved one can cover the ugliness when company comes around, and they can be just charming to visitors or in short-term situations. People outside the caregiving environment look at the caregiver questioningly as if to say, "They seem sweet to me. Everyone gets cranky when they get old. I would, too, and so would you. They're fine; crankiness is normal." I've learned to expect that kind of comment from outsiders, and I don't try to explain anymore. Other caregivers get it, though. You have to walk in those shoes to understand that when a care receiver's anger or constant criticism is aimed at their caregiver, that caregiver is in for a rough ride.

I could not agree more with Carol's suggestions about how to handle this type of situation. I hope you're not having to deal with anything like this, but I definitely did with my father and had to take some of the steps Carol describes. It helped, and I recommend them if you're in similar circumstances. You can read Carol's article here.

Elders Abusing Their Adult Children Who Are Taking Care of Them

I also recommend finding a good support group in your area. It really does help to hear what other caregivers are experiencing and to collaborate with them on areas where you need some ideas or help. There's a powerful synergy in these support groups, so tap in if you possibly can. Even one day a month helps a lot.

Are you dealing with this kind of situation? Send me a note here and tell me how things are. I'll be glad to listen. Sometimes it helps just to be heard.

Caregiver at Home

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Caregiver stress

Caregiver stress. Now there's a term. As a caregiver, I am doing what I feel I need to do for Mama because it's best and safest for her, because I love her and want her to be okay and free to enjoy her senior years, and a host of other reasons. However, caregiving = stress, no matter what the situation. The amount of stress varies, but I have yet to notice its absence in any given care situation. That goes for a young mother caring for her small child or a Boomer caring for their adult parent, and everything in-between.

I just received an email from and linked over to read the article. It's entitled "Solving Caregiver Stress and Its Dilemma." There are many points which are helpful in deciding when/what/how to consider and prepare for someone's care situation. This is a good, practical article to read if you're considering caregiving, or are caregiving for someone who still lives on their own and you're trying to be sure they're doing okay in their current situation.

I hope this helps you, or someone you know.
Solving Caregiver Stress and its Dilemma

Caregiver at Home

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

More thoughts about setting boundaries

I just read an article on setting boundaries that I thought was worth sharing. This one examines the idea of when a caregiver needs to say "no" and the reasons one might need to do this. I thought the "I" conversations were a good example of how to talk about new boundaries. Whether you're at the beginning of a caregiving journey, somewhere in the middle and need to set new boundaries, or at a place where you feel you have to pause for awhile or stop altogether, I hope this helps you, too.

When to Say No

Caregiver at Home

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Powerful Class for Caregivers

I just did something really good for myself and wanted to tell you about it. There's a terrific support organization in my area called The Alzheimer's Project, Inc. Here's their mission:
The Alzheimer's Project, Inc. (APT) exists to provide comfort, support, and assistance to persons with memory disorders and their caregivers. APT is committed to serving the Big Bend community of Florida through education and training, in-home respite, support groups, counseling, referral to community resources, and pro-active recovery of wanderers through the Project Lifesaver program.

The Alzheimer's Project is a non-profit organization funded by grants and donations. The Alzheimer's Project is dedicated to providing relief to the caregivers of persons suffering from Alzheimer's Disease or other memory impairments. ALL services available to the caregivers are provided FREE of charge.

The goal of The Alzheimer's Project is to keep caregivers healthier, both physically and emotionally, to prolong the abilities of caregivers, and to delay institutionalization of the patients.

One of the free events APT hosts a couple of times each year is the Powerful Tools for Caregivers class. It's a six-week class that lasts 2-3 hours on one day each week, and I actually managed to attend five of the six classes. (Mama developed pneumonia during that time and was hospitalized for a week.) The three APT advocates who taught the class, Brooks Johnson, Recie Culpepper, and Elaine McConnaughhay, have been or are caregivers, and they get it. All three are dedicated to helping caregivers in every area of concern or need, and they do it with great empathy and care.

Now keep in mind, I don't love going to classes because it's just one more thing to schedule into an already full week. However, I can't tell you how glad I am that I made myself go. Not only were the materials extremely useful to me for better problem-solving and stress-reduction, but I also became friends with several terrific caregivers who attended.

One of the things we did each week was to fill out an Action Plan. We had to tell our classmates what our plan was for the next week, how often we were going to do it, and what our confidence level was that we'd actually complete it. As a class, we planned to tackle a variety of personal de-stressing resolutions. Some of us chose "me-time" such as exercise, reading, manicures and pedicures, massages, gardening, or getting away for the weekend. Some of the Action Plans were practical things like finishing taxes, deciding what was needed to sell a house and downsize, or talking to estate attorneys regarding our care-receiver's needs.

Personally, I started reading for fun every day, which is a powerful de-stressor for me. I hadn't consistently picked up any fiction in quite awhile, but now I read at least a chapter each day. My favorite Action Plan, however, was that my husband and I have started our "date days" again. During the past four-plus years of caregiving and all of the other distractions of normal day-to-day living, we'd let our dates slide. Our "me-time" had devolved into watching television together for an hour or so on as many evenings as possible, and that was all; we had basically become two ships passing in our home. My husband now enjoys planning our dates, and we head out at least one afternoon or evening each week just to have a little adventure together. It has been a breath of fresh air and very good medicine for both of us, plus there's a new synergy in our home simply because we're doing something positive for ourselves.

My final PTFC Action Plan is to attend a new support group for Active Caregivers, beginning this week. Several of my classmates have been members of this support group for awhile, and I'm looking forward to catching up with them. They've been a tremendous blessing and encouragement to me, and their caregiving wisdom is deep and abundant.

If you have any opportunity to find a caregiver support group, I can't recommend it enough. It's worth the effort, and it can bless your socks off.

If you'd like to learn more about The Alzheimer's Project, Inc., click here:

If you have ideas or tried-and-true methods of de-stressing and helping encourage yourself as a caregiver, I'd love to hear them. Please tell me what you know; we'll all benefit!

Caregiver at Home

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A great holiday article for Caregivers...

Okay, once again, I would like to share an article by Carol Bradley Bursack, which I read on this morning. I have to admit that this Christmas even when I simply anticipate what I need to do to prepare, it creates a feeling of wear and tear. In past years I'd just take a deep breath, the adrenaline would appear, and I'd motor right through all the things that needed my attention. I don't try to do a "perfect" holiday any longer--I've learned that just is pretty much impossible without a staff of dozens, or hundreds!--but I do try to do something special for every family member. This season we've all been fighting colds, and as the symptoms have lingered our energy levels have just sagged. Not an ideal start to what is usually the busiest season of the year, but I believe this is completely typical for sandwich-generation Boomers like my husband and me.

When I read Carol's article just now, I realized I was ready to have that discussion with our family and just say, "Hey, I need to scale back this year and just do what I really feel capable of tackling." I know they won't mind (they'll probably say, "Duh, we were wondering when you'd finally figure that out!") and we'll have a quiet and relaxed Christmas holiday season (I hope--that's at least the plan). That's something our family can truly enjoy and be thankful for, and we will all be able to start off the new year with some energy instead of ongoing fatigue.

For me, part of this is that I'm now in my mid-fifties and just am less spry than in past years. It takes me a little longer to get things done than it used to. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around that and plan accordingly. When I need to paint a room, as I intend to do today, I know it's going to be slow going. I'll get it done but tomorrow I'll be a little stiff and sore, and I need to expect and plan for a little extra rest if possible.

Another part is that I need to pay more attention to my own health and am trying to walk as many days a week as I possibly can. I need to both lose some pounds and just get in better shape overall. There has to be time for that, which I usually end up spending on something else that seems more important at that moment. Remember the "tyranny of the urgent?" I've tried to recognize and fight that for years, but it's a persistent, wily encroacher. I usually try to prioritize based on "good, better, best" but now I need to prioritize based on how much energy I really have to tackle each "to-do" on my list without paying a personal price.

I'm not used to looking at things in that way and it feels selfish when I do, but my goal is to be here for the long run--for my husband, my mom, and our children and grandchildren. Oh, and now that I've been a caregiver for a few years, the idea of "being here for the long run" means healthy, reasonably active (based on my age at the time), and still able to help my family by doing my part well.

Please take a moment to read Carol's article. I hope it blesses and encourages you as it did for me.

Caregiver at Home

Carol's article is here:

Keep Your Sanity This Holiday Season

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Girlfriend time is good for our health...

A friend just forwarded this email to me (below), and I thought what this professor said was a good reminder to me and worthy of sharing with you. (And yes, the friend was a woman, of course!) :-D

Not only does it help my stress levels and emotional wellbeing when I write and share my thoughts, but it helps when I sit down and visit/talk/listen with my women friends. There is something about that connection that is beyond powerful. It's just good medicine.

I hope this reminder will encourage you to connect today or this week with a good friend. Make time to share a smile, a laugh, or a hug. Tell your stories and listen to theirs. I know life gets too busy sometimes and it's hard to schedule that coffee time or lunch with a friend. My girlfriend, Rita, and I have been playing phone and text tag for weeks, and I'm the one who's dropped the ball. Regardless of how busy your schedule is, don't short-change this powerful avenue for women's stress-relief and health.

And for you men who are wonderful listeners and "sharers", thank you! Your friendships, listening ears, and ability to talk and share are a true blessing. I am glad I have all of you in my life. Now, let me go call my friend Rita and schedule that lunch, brunch, or coffee – whatever she can shoehorn into her busy life this week. It's past time to catch up!!

Caregiver at Home

Thought to share.....

"I just finished taking an evening class at Stanford. The last lecture was on the mind-body connection, the relationship between stress and disease. The speaker (head of psychiatry at Stanford) said, among other things, that one of the best things that a man could do for his health is to be married to a woman whereas for a woman, one of the best things she could do for her health was to nurture her relationships with her girlfriends. At first everyone laughed, but he was serious.

Women connect with each other differently and provide support systems that help each other to deal with stress and difficult life experiences. Physically, this quality "girlfriend time" helps us to create more serotonin – a neurotransmitter that helps combat depression and can create a general feeling of well-being. Women share feelings whereas men often form relationships around activities. They rarely sit down with a buddy and talk about how they feel about certain things or how their personal lives are going. Jobs? Yes. Sports? Yes. Cars? Yes. Fishing, hunting, golf? Yes. But their feelings? Rarely. Women do it all of the time. We share from our souls with our sisters, and evidently that is very good for our health. He said that spending time with a friend is just as important to our general health as jogging or working out at a gym.

There's a tendency to think that when we are "exercising" we are doing something good for our bodies, but when we are hanging out with friends, we are wasting our time and should be more productively engaged. Not true. In fact, he said that failure to create and maintain quality personal relationships with other humans is as dangerous to our physical health as smoking! So every time you hang out to schmooze with a gal pal, just pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself for doing something good for your health! We are indeed very, very lucky. So, let's toast to our friendship with our girlfriends. It's very good for our health."

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Treatment Diaries - a great resource for caregivers...

I just learned about a new site,, and wanted to share it with you. It's a free resource which can be used both by caregivers who need to research and perhaps talk about their situation, or by individuals who have a particular health situation of their own. The site allows you to be anonymous if you wish, and you can read and/or write about your questions and concerns. For example, if you're a caregiver who is taking care of someone with dementia and you have high blood pressure yourself, then you can go to and learn/write/ask about both areas.

There is a huge list of medical conditions to choose from, so you can either identify yourself as having one of those conditions or you can research and connect in every area of interest. You can also journal in a diary. This is a very useful tool to help connect yourself with an online support community.

Thank you, Amy Ohm, for alerting us to this site. Excellent!

Caregiver at Home

Listen to a short interview with Amy Ohm here: Treatment Diaries Interview with Amy Ohm

Take a look at

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Some simple, good ideas for reducing stress at home...

I just read another good article from and wanted to share it with you. The title caught my attention because I'm feeling a little stressed this week. You know how it is--some days (weeks) are good, and some are tough. Sometimes the presence of stress can be like the ebb and flow of the tide--you notice it now, but a little later on things have calmed a bit and you feel better. Or at least that's been my experience much of the time. Then there are the "seasons" where stress is a huge companion which lurks over your shoulder all day and all night, and you just feel the pressure and can't get away from it. That's how it felt the year my father was ill with vascular dementia, because we had to fight battles constantly to keep him safe and to protect my mother as well. It took awhile after Daddy passed away before that stress monster seemed to move on, but finally it did. It pokes its head back into my life every now and then, just to remind me it's there, but it's not an ever-present heaviness right now. I'm thankful for that, but I know others are going through their "seasons" of heavy stress now. I hope the article below will help with ideas on how to clear some of that stress away, even for a short while each day. I believe caregiving stress creates a significant toll in our lives, and managing our own stress levels makes a difference in our ability to handle our caregiving responsibilities. I believe it's not enough that we survive. We need to thrive, even in the midst of the difficult seasons in our lives.

This article from is short but very useful. It points out several simple areas we can use to help alleviate stress. I was intrigued to learn that I already use some of these techniques, so perhaps we instinctively know some of the things we can do to help ourselves. For me, drinking hot tea, using scented candles or simmer pots with scented oils, and writing this blog are real tools for destressing. Background music is wonderful--I'm listening to some light classical music right now, and it's an oasis of respite that soothes me in the midst of a long day. A candle is burning near my desk and the scent is mood-lightening. I also read Scripture, pray often, and meditate on God's grace, mercy, and provision in my life. He never promised that the path would be easy, but He is constantly with me. Some days I relieve stress by just climbing into His mighty lap and hiding my face awhile, because I am always comforted there.

There are other great, simple ideas in the article which may work well for you. I hope so. Let me know what you do to destress. I'd love to hear your stories.

Caregiver at Home

Read the article here: Reduce Stress at Home

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A segue in honor of our Veterans...

Segue for our Vets, in honor of Veteran's Day! Please share with all the Vets you know.

Free Meals for Military and Veterans

1) McCormick & Schmick's For the 11th year in a row, the 87 locations in 25 states are offering free entrees to veterans on Sunday, Nov. 7th. The chain also requests military ID and highly recommends reservations. The promotion is on Sunday instead of Veterans Day, "because it allows vets to bring their families who might not be available during the week," CEO Bill Freeman says.

2) Golden Corral is offering free buffet meals - including beverage and dessert - to current military and veterans on Monday, Nov. 15, from 5 to 9 p.m. No military ID is required for its ninth annual Military Appreciation Monday, according to Dolly Mercer, national events manager. The event is held on this date, she says, "so we don't interfere with Veterans Day activities."

3) Applebee's is offering a free entree on Wednesday to veterans and all active-duty military from 11 a.m. to midnight at all 1,900 locations. Although Applebee's requests some kind of military ID, "We're not going to argue with folks who might forget to bring it," says Sam Rothschild, senior vice president of operations.

4) Krispy Kreme Doughnut Corporation is offering free doughnuts to all Veterans and active military personnel. Just visit any participating Krispy Kreme to redeem your free doughnuts. No identification required but keep it available anyway.

5) Outback Steakhouse Free Blooming Onion and beverage.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

An excellent article about setting boundaries...

Here's a very powerful and helpful article about setting boundaries in difficult or toxic caregiving relationships, written by Carol Bradley Bursack. I found this on, a favorite site for caregiver support, and definitely wanted to share it with other caregivers.

Even if your caregiving relationship is not toxic or you are not dealing with current or past abuse, there's real wisdom in this article about how to depressurize, detach, and draw boundaries. If caregivers can recognize their "child within" and understand what may both drive them and cause them pain when there's criticism from their care receiver, then caregivers will be able to help themselves carry on in a healthier, more compassionate manner by including boundaries.

Thank you again, Carol and

Setting Boundaries with Parents Who Are Abusive

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Wrestling with caregiver guilt...

Some of my caregiver friends have been talking with me about the issue of caregiver guilt. It's a pretty complicated issue because there are so many dynamics involved in each person's situation. There's no pat answer that works for everyone, to be sure.

As an only child and a people-pleaser by nature, who was raised by parents who were/are mainly people-pleasers themselves, I know firsthand that guilt about not doing whatever it takes to please someone can be pretty powerful. That's especially true if that someone is one of those parents. I was caregiver for my dad in his last year and now am caregiver for my mom, so I've had my share of trouble in this area. Five years later and I'm still learning how to handle feelings of caregiver guilt, because I always feel I could have done this or that better, or handled it better.

One thing I've had to learn is how to draw boundaries that are still loving for my care-receiver while being healthy for myself and my immediate family. Drawing boundaries and learning how to say no are healthy for me and something I have to practice to be able to continue caregiving, but boy, can the guilt be overwhelming sometimes. Thankfully my husband is a pro at helping me wrestle with my demons in this area, so to speak, and I am grateful for his wisdom. He's kind, loving, and very giving, but he also has a very calm and wise way of being able to say no when necessary, not wrestle with having done so, and not feeling guilty. As a caregiver, that's something I need to achieve more often (always would be nice).

I just read a very insightful article by Carol Bradley Bursack about caregiver guilt. It was on, a site I visit often for encouragement and to learn more about healthy caregiving. Carol's articles are some of my main go-to sources when I'm trying to figure something out about the caregiving experience, or wrestling with something at two in the morning when I should be sleeping instead. However, sleep won't come sometimes, so I surf the 'net and look for those nuggets that help me do a better job as a woman/wife/mother/grandmother/daughter/caregiver/professional person. It's part of my "online support group" routine, and it works well for me.

As a caregiver, if you're wrestling with feelings of guilt, I recommend Carol's article. I particularly appreciated her comment, "You never will do it all so well that everyone is happy." I think she has some solid advice from her own experiences, and you can tell from her stories that she's definitely worn a caregiver's shoes.

I hope this will help you. I've printed a copy for one friend who doesn't have a computer, and sent a link to a couple of others who most likely will also be reading this in the middle of the night. Hopefully they'll be able to sleep a little better afterwards.

You can read Carol's article on Stop_Feeling_Guilty

Hoping to help, hoping to encourage.
Caregiver at Home

Saturday, October 9, 2010

I'd like you to meet Norm...

I've recently learned about a gentleman named Norm, or Norrms to his Facebook friends, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's at the very young age of 50. Norm is a husband, father, and grandfather who writes about his ongoing experience with Alzheimer's. He's also British, and was interviewed by the BBC this week. You can listen to his interview here:

If you also have a family member with Alzheimer's, I recommend getting to know Norm and being encouraged by his fight, his experience, his good results with a drug called Ebixa, his books, and his poetry. There's something very special about reading Norm's own words concerning all of this.

You can get to know Norm from his blog and his website. He talks about the first signs he had, his experience of finding out his diagnosis, and what his days are like. His words are honest and upbeat, and they reveal Norm's sense of humor throughout his battle.

I've just ordered two of Norm's books, Me and my Alzheimer's and More Than Words: Poems written and spoken by an Alzheimers sufferer. If you're caring for someone with Alzheimer's, Norm has an amazing story to tell and I hope you are encouraged.

People like Norm who have real stories about their dementia or Alzheimer's experiences, whether their own or those of someone for whom they are caregiver, have become part of my support group. I don't always have time to go to my local meetings (and yesterday I was busy running errands and forgot it altogether, so I'll have to wait a month!), but I need the ongoing companionship of people who are walking in the same shoes I am. So we encourage one another online, and it helps tremendously. If you'd like to join in our online support group, you can find us on Facebook here.

Thank you, Norrms. I'm so glad you're sharing your story with us.

Caregiver at Home

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Enjoying a little "me" time...

Okay, I have to admit I'm playing and having a little bit of fun today. I've just located a few Facebook pages for Alton Brown and one of his shows, Good Eats. I never remotely expected to like or ever watch television programs about cooking, but watching some of his shows (and a few other television cooks) has helped me relax. It has become part of my "me" therapy. How strange is that?

It's true, though. I enjoy watching the shows, though sometimes I just fast-forward through them if I'm short on time, and copy recipe ideas for future meals. It's a little pick-me-up during the day, and in turn, I use the knowledge I've gained to help me cook better for Mama and my family. I think my family likes it, too (most of the time, unless I choose to make a recipe that they think is kinda strange).

This week I tried a sauteed shrimp and cheese grits recipe I saw on one of Alton's America's Best shows. I don't love cheese grits as a rule, but the presentation of this dish at a Charleston, SC restaurant just looked so yummy that I had to try it. It was a hit, and I know the next time we're in Charleston, we'll definitely drop in and try their signature dish firsthand.

So when I'm watching Alton and the other celebrity chefs, I'm learning something new for my own edification, planning a future vacation stop, relaxing by cooking something fun and different in my own home, and surprising Mama and my family by trying out new recipes that both nourish and delight them. It's a win-win for me.

Okay, so I'll admit this is kind of an odd pastime, but it works. It falls within my available timeframes, skillset, and interests, and best of all, it's relaxing and rewarding. As a caregiver, it works great during this season of my life. It amazes me how a simple hobby can help alleviate caregiver stress and burnout, one recipe at a time.

What are some of the things you do for "me" time? I'd love to hear your ideas and I'd also love to know how it helps you as a caregiver.

Thank you for sharing!
Caregiver at Home

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Honoring our Gold Star Mothers today...

This note below was shared with me today, and I wanted to share it with everyone else in honor of military moms and families everywhere. I am a Blue Star Mom (our son served four years in the USMC, deployed twice, and is now home), but my grandmother was a Gold Star Mom. Her youngest son was KIA at Normandy on June 8, 1944. On that day, her Blue Star turned to Gold, and it changed her life and her family's lives forever.

In honor of all Gold Star mothers everywhere.
Blessings, ~Joan

Gold Star Mothers Sunday -- September 26, 2010

With loving thoughts and heart felt prayers for our Gold Star Mothers, our country stops to honor and remember sacrifices made, hearts broken, lives given. The last Sunday in the month of September is set aside in our nation to pay tribute to the brave and loving mothers of our country's fallen military heroes.

May we pray together today for hope to fill each Gold Star Mother's heart, comfort to fill her days, and peace to fill her soul. May she rest in knowing that the pride she has for her hero shines out to others through her life.

Remembering our Gold Star Mothers on their day of honor,
With Prayers and Love,

Rev. Lin McGee
National Chaplain
Blue Star Mothers of America

Friday, September 24, 2010

More thoughts on reminiscence therapy...

First thing I had to ask myself was what reminiscence therapy was. As a caregiver, I'm learning a lot of new terms. Google gets a workout on my computer as I try to figure all this stuff out, and if the idea seems helpful for caregivers, I try to post about it here.

Evidently, a main form of reminiscence therapy is using a care receiver's photographs to give them good things to think about. You can create a wall of photos that they see when they wake up, or you can make an album. I've written before about making a digital photo frame for Mama, and that a photo album she can hold and carry around works better for her. Probably has something to do with her age, as books are more familiar and comfortable than electronic gadgets that she doesn't understand (and is afraid she'll break somehow).

Today I read an article on EldercareABCBlog about seniors and their memories, and wanted to post it for you here. I liked how this author shared what had happened with his mom and himself, and how he eventually realized what made those long-ago photos so precious to his mom.

The article's author, Bob Kohut, says, "It seems to me one of the biggest problems those of us who find ourselves in senior caregiver roles have is the fact we have no experience of what it’s like to be old." Bob's article helped me to better understand why Mama clings to the past and loves to talk about it constantly.

Good food for thought for me, as Mama has been pulling out photos more often and has created a collection for me to do something with, complete with her notes about the who and when in each group. She's more and more interested in photos of her growing-up years and early married life. I definitely plan to make her a small album for Christmas. And I also plan to sit down and have her tell me the stories for each picture...even though I've heard them many times before.

Here's the article: What'sWrongWithSeniorsClingingToTheirMemories?

A few days ago, Bob had another article about reminiscing, and I wanted to share it also. The bottom line is that remembering the good times is good medicine for our seniors. ReminiscingWithYourSeniorLovedOnes--ItWorks

Do you have a story about how photographs have helped your care receiver? (Isn't there a better term than care receiver?) If so, please share it here. I'd love to learn from you.

Caregiver at Home

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A little humor is good for the caregiving soul...

Okay, I've been talking about how important it is for us to keep a good sense of humor. That's true for life in general, but I find it to be particularly good medicine for the caregiving soul. We've been sharing funny moments on our Facebook page, and many other caregivers have great stories about things the loved one they're caring for has said. We also end up with a lot of good quips and quotes from the grandkids. A couple of days ago, our granddaughter made me laugh out loud with an unexpected comment, and I thought it might make you laugh, too...

Our little granddaughter is three, and earlier this week she was over for a visit. She had a new pair of shoes, and after they finally began to feel a little "new" and tight, she kicked them off. We were sitting on the couch together and she stuck her little bare feet next to my bigger bare feet, and with all seriousness in the way that only very little children can manage, she asked me why my feet were bigger than hers. I told her, "My feet are bigger than yours because I'm old, and you're new." She looked me over from head to toe for a couple of moments, then said, "Grandma, my feet *are* new!"

Cracks me up. Does anyone remember Art Linkletter's show, "Kids Say the Darndest Things?" I loved that show when I was young, and now I know exactly what he was talking about! :-O

I'd love for you to share some of your funny stories here. I'll definitely save them so I can come back and re-read them when I need an extra dose of humor. On those extra-busy or sometimes frustrating caregiving days, a good chuckle is good medicine!

Caregiver at Home

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Mini-strokes, TIA's...and nursing homes...

This week's been tough for our family. My husband's mom is being moved to a nursing home after what seemed to be more TIA's (mini-strokes, essentially) and several days of hospitalization. It's a 20-day stay for now, and my husband and his sis have been visiting area nursing homes to see what looks best for their mom. We had hoped it would never come to this, yet for Mom's safety's sake, here we are.

While that was going on, I received a link for Frena Gray-Davidson's article from BoomerToBoomer Online, entitled "Finding the Perfect Care Home for Mom." You can read the article here: www.FindingThePerfectCareHomeForMom

Frena writes candidly about the feelings one has when faced with nursing home decisions, and the bottom line issue for knowing when it's time to make that move. Frena also includes helpful tips for choosing a desirable nursing home. Once again, I was grateful for her information. She writes many very helpful and encouraging articles and books for caregivers. (I've included a link for Frena's blog below.)

I don't know anyone who wants to have to visit nursing homes and choose one for their loved one. We don't know how long Mom will need nursing home care, or whether she'll improve. When these kinds of health concerns begin to occur, it's just a day-to-day wait-and-see outlook, or that's been our experience so far. This is the fourth time one of our elderly family members has needed nursing home care for dementia, and it is our immediate family's fifth experience with dementia to date.

I read recently that old age is not synonymous with memory loss, and I hope that is true. Several family members have achieved significant old age, and not all of them have experienced dementia. Most have, but it's not uncommon for our family to live well into their nineties.

In the meantime, we are thankful that God is there and we can crawl up into His "lap" and just hide awhile. We know He will get us through this, and bring good somehow from a terrible situation.

How is your loved one doing? How are you? Are you doing okay? What are you learning as a caregiver? I'd love to hear your story.

Hugs to you all.
Caregiver at Home

Frena's blog:

BoomerToBoomer Online:

Friday, September 10, 2010

Remember to laugh...

There's been a discussion on Facebook recently among the caregivers I'm a part of, and we've been talking about how vital it is to keep a sense of humor every day. Sometimes it's hard to do, and some days it's a little easier. It all depends on what's happening around you. On one particular day, my father added a permanent dose of humor into our lives, though I doubt that was his intent at the moment...

Daddy and Mama lived in a fairly busy area near downtown Orlando, in what became an old and well-established neighborhood during the 52 years they were there. They'd seen the neighborhood grow from dirt roads when they moved into their home in 1953 to having the same area become surrounded by some major traffic paths to and from downtown. By 2004, a lot of rush hour traffic would speed by on the block behind their home and on a busy side road that was just one house over.

One day, Daddy evidently felt a need to slow things down. He headed out in his trusty old blue-checked flannel robe, carrying a blowdryer. He didn't say a word to Mama, who probably thought he was napping or watching television as usual.

Now whose blowdryer it was is a mystery to me, because I took mine with me when I married and moved out 30 years earlier, and Mama didn't use one. She still did pin-curls, or at best she'd use foam rollers. Somehow Daddy got his hands on this handy little tool, though, and I guess he thought he'd use it to change the traffic pace a little. He never did approve of fast traffic, and the constant zooming bothered him. So he walked to the end of their block and planted himself comfortably on the sidewalk near the busy side road, and began to aim the blowdryer at oncoming motorists. They would slam on their brakes and slow down, much to Daddy's delight. He was 85 at the time. I guess he must've believed the drivers thought he was a traffic cop waving a radar device. I personally think they wondered about the white-haired guy in the blue-checked flannel robe and slip-on sneakers (signature dresscode for Daddy when he was lounging at home), and why he was pointing a blow dryer with dangling cord and shouting, "Slow down!"

Whatever the case, it worked, and he was greatly satisfied with himself.

Needless to say, he cackled over that for quite a while. Thankfully he retired from his traffic monitoring post before anyone sent the real police after him, and he headed home safely. I suppose he figured he may have been 85 years old, but he could still make a change in the world around him.

I heard about this from a neighbor who witnessed it, and from Daddy himself later on. I wish I had seen it myself...but I'm sure I would have stopped him from doing it in the first place, so he probably was glad his family didn't catch him and spoil his fun.

I still laugh out loud when I think about it. I guess the moral of this story could be, "Are you missing a blowdryer? Do you know where your loved one is right now?"

These were some of our family's early signs that Daddy was "different." Later when the dementia was diagnosed, life got pretty serious and complicated. He's gone now, but he'd chuckle to hear me tell this, I'm sure. In fact, I can still picture that impish grin when he was particularly proud or amused about something. Good memories of a terrific guy.

Tell me some funny stories that have happened in your caregiving experience. It definitely helps to chuckle a bit each day; it's good stress management!

Caregiver at Home

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Intergenerational caregiving works...

I've just begun reading a book titled Dementia Beyond Drugs: Changing the Culture of Care, by G. Allen Power, M.D. I'm learning a great deal already, but one thing that really caught my attention immediately was the foreword by Dr. William H. Thomas, which talked about intergenerational care. Dr. Power talks briefly about a particular dementia facility which allows mothers and children to come for play dates. The dementia patients there apparently are responding very well, and there is more study going on regarding this subject. I look forward to learning more, and will report on the book here when I finish reading it.

We experience the blessing of intergenerational care here in our home, and our family all sees a distinct elevation of pleasure for my mom when our little granddaughter comes over. She is Mama's great-granddaughter, and soon will be four years old. There's always a lot of laughter and snuggling, "chase me!" and "find me!" going on whenever our little joy is here. Mama stops everything, and I mean everything, to spend time with her great-grandbaby, and they adore one another. It's a mutual admiration society, to say the least. At the same time, Mama's next older sister (just turned 90) is experiencing a huge amount of joy with her great-great grandson, who will be two soon. She helps care for him, and he knows and loves her dearly.

I know this probably wouldn't be the case across the board, as nothing works best for everyone, but I've seen firsthand the blessings of having the young and the old enjoying time together. We all laugh a lot more, and with more abandon. The little one knows she's loved and adored, and the elder one knows she is special, too.

Anytime our granddaughter arrives in the door, she immediately takes stock of who's present. If Mama's not in sight, we all hear an immediate "Where's Weeze?" (Most three-year-olds can't say Louise all that well, and Weeze has stuck, much to Mama's delight and pleasure.) All in all, it's good medicine for the entire crew here, and for Mama in particular. We feel very blessed to watch this time of joy in Mama's life.

Do you have an experience like this one? Tell me about it, please! I'd love to hear from you, and how things work in your situation.

Caregiver at Home

Saturday, September 4, 2010

In honor of...

I'm writing this in honor of my dad, who passed away five years ago today. I attended my father's passing along with my mom, husband, and daughter. Daddy didn't seem to know we were there, but we kept talking to him and holding his hands, and telling him we loved him. We all believe he could hear us and knew we were right there with him. We encouraged him to let go, so he could go on Home and not be ravaged by dementia anymore. We're still remembering you with joy, Daddy, and we love you always. We're teaching your great-granddaughter about you now. When she sees your picture, she knows you're "Papa" even though she's only three. She'll love the funny and sweet stories about you that we'll tell her as she gets older. You were a sport model and we miss you every day, but not the way you were at the end. We know you are healed now, and for that we are all content that your journey is over. Mama is doing really well, though she misses you always. If I could talk to you a moment, I'd tell you that I'm doing my best to make sure Mama is safe and happy. I look forward to seeing your smile again one day.

Carol Bradley Bursack wrote a new article about attending her uncle's passing, and about how caregivers are human. Again, her writing blessed and encouraged me as I remembered Daddy's passing, and I was grateful to read it. And while I hated to have Daddy go, I was thankful that his final, terrible struggle was over.

I also agree with Carol that as caregivers, we are often tired, and we don't have enough time for all the balls in the air that have to be juggled on top of caregiving issues, like our own paid jobs, children, spouses, our own health, etc. These are truly the core of the matter. I find that I have to make time for my husband and me to have some "us" time, now that Mama lives with us. Sounds kinda funny, but our almost-retirement years are very full, and sometimes a little overwhelming...but when a loved-one's health takes a turn for the worse, as in Daddy's case six years ago, it's easy to be overwhelmed, and not just a little.

Caregiving requires prioritizing and juggling like nothing I've ever done before, so I appreciate Carol's article. Thank you for helping us consider this and make our individual plans.

Many thanks to all of you who write and share your caregiving experiences and suggestions for others who walk in the same path with you. I am grateful for you all.

Caregiver at Home

If you'd like to read Carol's latest article, click here:
Carol's Article

Friday, September 3, 2010

Having meals with our elders...

I read a good article yesterday about the importance of sitting down to the table together for meals. I have to admit that my husband and I tend to plate our food and then head for the recliners so we can relax while we eat, but I notice that Mama is always ready to pull out the placemats and set the table for meals. When our extended family is here, or any friends, we do just that unless we're tired from working outside (think mowing days when it feels good to put the feet up as soon as possible!). When I read this article, I was both surprised and mindful that having meals together makes sense.

This is an area I need to get better at, but I do enjoy sitting down and discussing the day, or whatever is on anyone's mind at that particular moment. It's nice to visit and be social, and we end up talking about the food and just enjoying one another's presence and conversation. It's a small thing, but I think it's more important than I have realized. We practiced this when our kids were growing up, but I suppose it just seemed that with three adults in the house, the tradition wasn't that big a deal. However, I think it's time to restore that family tradition and set the table more often. Even if it's just Mama and me at mealtime, we can sit together and visit. Besides, I get a lot less food on my clothes when I'm sitting up straight! Less laundry...see, it's an immediate benefit! I can also tell that Mama enjoys the companionship. Her family always ate together when I was growing up, and they still do as much as possible. My parents and I always had our supper together too, which was a nice and comforting way to end our busy days.

I found this article on when I was surfing the 'net about caregiving. This may be something you already do all the time. If not, I hope you are helped by the info, too. Tell me what you think!

Caregiver at Home

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Senior Resources List for Tallahassee/Big Bend Area

I found an excellent list of services and agencies available in the Tallahassee/Big Bend area for caregivers. The list is several pages long, and encompasses numerous aspects of caregiving, including support groups, health care agencies, elder law legal services, fitness, housing, hearing and vision information, end of life concerns, and much, much more. There are several printable charts for phone numbers of agencies. The entire document is 43 pages long, so if you don't need everything I recommend finding the particular pages you're interested in and just printing those.

The City of Tallahassee produced this document, and I really appreciate what they've put together to help us.

If you live elsewhere, try contacting your local caregiving and city agencies to see if a similar document is available for your community. If not, think about trying to compile the list for others and post it on the Internet, or send a copy to your community agencies so they can share the list with other caregivers. Together, we can make a difference in one another's lives.

Hoping this helps you as much as it does me.
Caregiver at Home

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

More about caregiver stress...

One of the websites I go to for consistent support and encouragement is Minding Our Elders ( Carol Bradley Bursack is Editor-in-Chief and her articles always speak to me. I read one today titled "Caregiver Stress Can Make Carers Feel Trapped: What to Do?" and wanted to share the link with you so you can read it too. Carol offers some very practical and solid understanding and advice in this short article, so if you're in need of a little thoughtful help, read on:

I particularly relate to Carol's thoughts about being heard. I think that's one main reason why I blog about caregiving. I write first for others who may need to know someone is out there doing what they do, or close to it, and how it's going. Some days it's great, and other days it's not so great, and I've learned that is normal. When you're caregiving, sometimes you're unsure what the new "normal" is. It definitely changes from chapter to chapter of your care-receiver's level of need, but "normal" now is not what normal was before my husband and I became caregivers. It takes a lot of learning and some serious adjusting. I used to sit at one or two in the morning on those nights when I couldn't get to sleep (or would wake up after a couple of hours and couldn't get back to sleep) and end up combing the Internet for information and help. Sound familiar? For me, finding an occasional connection to someone's caregiving experience and learning from them was a godsend, and still is. I have very limited time to leave home for support group meetings, so connecting on the Internet definitely helps.

The second reason I blog is to "talk" to others out there who are themselves looking for information and who can relate to how things are going. I hope that being as transparent as possible will help someone who is just starting down this path, or who, like me, may have been caregiving for a little while. I try to share what I know by blogging because it appears that many people in our culture are shouldering the role of caregiver, and we need one another's input to learn from and improve our situations. I grew up watching my grandparents (three of the four) end up living their final years in nursing homes, and I'm not anxious to have my own mother go through that if we have any say in the matter. I had to make that decision for my father because of the type of dementia he had (he became very aggressive toward others, my mom particularly), and it was a very painful decision to both make and live through. We did the best we could do, however, and I still believe that is true. I also know I don't want to have to repeat that particular decision if we have a choice. It seems a lot of folks feel the same way and are willing to become caregivers as the primary option for their loved one. If I can share anything that encourages a caregiver somehow, then that is important to me.

One other reason I write is that I think better when I write things out--writing helps me process my thoughts and figure out/solve problems.

So keep me posted and let me know how you're doing. I don't know about you, but our household is looking forward to a bit cooler weather (okay, a lot cooler!) so we can enjoy being outside more. I wish you a wonderful September!

Caregiver at Home

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Big Bend Area Support Group Meetings & Schedule/Location Info

Okay, I've talked about the support group I attend, and I'm serious about suggesting those to you because of the help you can receive. First, it's really good to be able to take a few moments for yourself, once in a while. Second, it's incredibly helpful to listen to and talk to others who are walking in your shoes. They may be far ahead of you on the path, if you're new to caregiving, or they may be alongside or new on the path themselves. You may be able to help and encourage them by your experience(s), and they may be able to do the same for you. I find both to be true.

At any rate, I received a schedule of the Big Bend Area Support Group Meetings from Patrick Buerkle of Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare's Neuroscience Center. Judy Shipman and Patrick are the facilitators/coordinators of the monthly support group I attend, and Patrick kindly shared with me the schedule he put together. I told him I wanted to put this on my blog so that hopefully others can find it and refer to it when needed.

We are very blessed to have many support groups available in our Big Bend Area, including Franklin, Gadsden, Holmes, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, and Madison Counties. There's pretty much something for everyone, and I'm still learning about more and adding them to the list. There are groups ranging from Caregiving as a whole, to Multiple Sclerosis, Brain Injury, Parkinson's, Stroke Support, Alzheimer's, and more. Since meeting places are spread across several counties, hopefully you will be able to find one that fits your location.

If you look on the bottom left side of my blog page, you'll find the schedule. If you have any questions, additions, or corrections, please email me at and I'll update the list. Check back from time to time to make sure you have the latest info. I will do my best to keep this up-to-date.

I hope this helps someone else as much as it has helped me.

Caregiver At Home

Monday, July 26, 2010

How's it going?

I wanted to update everyone and say hello. It's been a busy but good summer here so far. We've had a huge family reunion that stemmed from a 90th birthday party for Mama's sister, and that took up pretty much all of June. We had a blast, and I think my aunt was both surprised and pleased. She's pretty quiet, but the fact that all of us who planned the surprise aren't dead and buried is a pretty good sign that she had fun, and hopefully we're not on her list for making her the center of attention for a day. Time will tell!

It's hot as blazes here--or hot as July, I should probably say. We've been enjoying gymnastics with our granddaughter (Mama loves going to the gym and watching the young children try to figure out all the moves and equipment, and she's always the number one fan for her great-gran.) and we've also enjoyed welcoming home our Marine son, who has received his honorable discharge after four years of active duty, including two deployments overseas. We finally have all the family in the same state for a change, and we've had wonderful chaos for a couple of months. It's settling down at last, but autumn promises to be another busy season. So for right now, I'll just take a moment and enjoy today.

We've celebrated Mama's 85th birthday in style, and that included the traditional first watermelon cutting for the summer. We also grew several cantaloupes in the backyard garden, and Mama is outdoing all of us with her pole beans and okra. I can grow a pretty mean marigold, it appears, but my tomatoes are pretty dismal. The cukes are producing well, though, and the new garden area is actually producing some pretty good-looking cabbage. That's a first for me, and I'm about to begin making a lot of slaw, it would appear.

The main thing I wanted to share was that I've gotten involved in a local support group, and I really want to recommend that to you. If you're not going to a monthly or regular group meeting so far, try to find one if you can. It really helps to hear other people's stories of their caregiving. The successes and trials I hear others talk about helps me put things into perspective, gives me new ideas, and also lets me know I'm not alone. I really appreciate my group. It's is organized by one of our local hospitals and hosted at a local nursing home. That particular hospital has a Memory Disorder Clinic, and the staff brings a lot of information and help to the table each month. Attending the monthly meetings is something I do for me--for my own mental health and to help me in areas of caregiving where I need more ideas or information. I was feeling some burnout, particularly as the bologna in the middle of a busy family "sandwich." Thankfully, attending the support group meetings has helped allay the burnout.

Are you attending a support group? If so, let me know what you know. If the group has helped you, tell me about that. I'd love to hear more.

Blessings, and enjoy your summer!
Caregiver At Home

Sunday, May 2, 2010

This is it in a nutshell...

Oh, man, oh, man, I just read this article from and it is truly the heart of the matter concerning caregiving.

I hope this helps you. It sums it up in a nutshell for me. Well said, and thank you!

Caregiver at Home

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Encouragement for Professional and Family Caregivers

Well, I can't believe it's been so long since I last posted, but it's been crazy hectic here with multiple dental/periodontal/doctor visits in the last six weeks. Mama is doing fine after having some oral surgery and several follow-ups. Surprisingly, it was time for blood pressure medicine to make it's debut in her daily pill caddy, and I was sorry to see that happen. As it turned out, my mom's older sister (exactly 5 years older) had to begin a BP regimen the same day. That was kinda strange, but thankfully they both seem to be doing well.

I read another great encouragement from Gary Barg, Editor-in-Chief of Today's Caregiver (, and I wanted to pass it along to you. Gary was addressing both professional caregivers and family caregivers, and I thought what he had to say was valuable.

Another area I've gotten involved in here is a local caregiver support group. The group is sponsored by our local hospital and hosted at a local nursing home. I remember when my father was ill with progressive dementia and how important and helpful the group was at his facility. That was five years ago, and I find myself in need of group support again. Thankfully there are several programs in my area, including an Alzheimer's training group that I'll talk about in my next post. I'm on the waiting list for the next class and have heard excellent things about it from several individuals.

In the meantime, blessings, and take care of yourself as you take care of your loved one.

Caregiver at Home

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Another passion...

I want to segue today and encourage another group of folks. I can't stop thinking about this with all of the current news from Afghanistan. I will return to caregiving on my next post, I promise!

I have many passions, but one that is very near and dear to my heart is to encourage moms/wives/family/friends of our U.S. military. I'm a Marine Mom of an awesome young man and, along with my husband, have attended several deployments and homecomings at Camp Lejeune, NC. Our son is in his final few months in the Corps, and will soon be a civilian again. However, the fresh memories and experience of having a son deployed as an infantryman to Afghanistan makes me continue to think about, pray for, and want to encourage military families wherever they are. Sending care packages to A'stan and waiting and hoping for a phone call, however brief and static-filled, was our mode of operation for many months in 2008-2009. When I hear the news about the fighting that's going on, it still rocks my heart for those here who wait to hear from their loved ones. Even though our son has been home nearly a year, we never take it for granted when we see him or hear his voice. Hardest of all, we continue to remember and honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our safety and freedom. We will not forget.

Please know I'm praying for you and with you, and for your Marines, sailors, soldiers, and airmen and women wherever they are. Please thank them for their service on my behalf. They are American Heroes.

The place I get my news of Afghanistan--Michael Yon is an embedded reporter who will tell you the truth about how things are going:

A favorite music video--we proudly display a round USMC bumper sticker on each of our vehicles, so I get what Chely Wright is singing about:

A terrific support group for Marine families is Tampa Area Marine Parent Association (T.A.M.P.A.). They've been a godsend to our family as we have travelled the military service path, especially during deployments:

If you want to email me to talk, please do. I continue to mail care packages and do other small acts of service in an effort to help our deployed troops and veterans. Having someone to share the ups and downs of having a loved one in the military was and is critical. I get it. Let me know how you're doing.

Caregiver at Home

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Alzheimer's Disease Community

I wanted to let you know a little more about the Alzheimer's Disease Community on Medpedia. Jennifer Hawkins introduced me to Medpedia this week, and she wrote:

The Community has article pages, discussion boards, a Q&A feature, links to related Communities of Interest on Medpedia (like the "Elder Care Community"), links to medical/health groups related to Alzheimer's Disease, and a section for "Related News & Analysis" where your blog and other dementia/caregiving related blogs appear. We just last week launched a new Clinical Trial feature that makes information on related topics readily available in the communities. You can see the search results for "dementia" in Medpedia's clinical trials feature here:

You can dig into more Alzheimer's topics at:

There are also communities for other health concerns such as heart, thyroid, breast cancer, adult ADD and ADHD, fibromyalgia, diabetes, and more. If you need to learn more about any of these areas for yourself as the caregiver or for your loved one, you can ask questions and receive answers here, or read what others have written. I like the fact that there are many health-related areas in one place, and there are people who can share what they know about a variety of topics I have questions about. Caring for Mama requires me to learn about all kinds of issues. Currently I'm trying to come up to speed on diabetes, which is a new concern.

I hope this helps you, too! Please let me know what you know.

Caregiver at Home

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A new resource, and a great help!

Another important resource I've found is Janice Wallace's Caring For Caregivers site and her Understanding Dementia site. Janice is The Eldercare Coach, and she's created a wealth of valuable information for caregivers. Below, I've included one small excerpt from her January newsletter. It was a good heads-up and reminder to me of foundational caregiving attitudes and issues. Reading them prompted me to review and adjust some of my approaches, so thank you, Janice. I needed to think of these things.

I hope you are encouraged and find these sites to be a help in your situation. I'd love to hear what you think, so let me know what you know!

Caregiver at Home

Here's Janice's article:

Pace Yourself!
Nothing like the flu to make me consider our common humanity. As I stretched like a wet noodle the length of my couch, I thought about my plans for the week and knew I had to let go. What was right in that moment and for the next few days was to rest, get better and not spread my germs to others.

I'm a great one for imagining that I'm the boss of everything. The great lesson of an illness whether it's your own or that of a family member is the reminder of what exactly you are and are not the boss of.

You are not the boss of the person you are caring for. I know considering that you may be making all sorts of decisions and taking care of all sorts of tasks that you may seem like the boss of the person you are taking care of. There may be times when you have to override the wishes of your family member to make sure that he is safe. Even with all that said, your family member, at the heart of things, drives your decision making. In your busyness remember that the essence of your family member's values and beliefs should govern the decisions you make and the actions you take on her behalf.

You are not the boss of your caregiving situation. Now I'm not saying this to take away your power. There is a lot that you are the boss of that I will get to in the next paragraphs yet there is a lot about your situation that you cannot control. Illness or aging has taken center stage in your family member's life and your life. It's important to ask yourself regularly what you are trying to control. I've seen caregivers break their hearts trying to control the course of a serious illness and even stop death.

Ok now let's talk about what you are the boss of.

You are the boss of your feelings. You can choose the feelings and how you react to what is happening around you. Do your best to put a gap between your reaction and a difficult situation. That small gap may be all you need to take a new attitude toward what is happening right now. At those time when you find yourself stuck in a negative loop of feeling, pause and shift consciously to a slightly better feeling. It takes time and practice to stay in tune with your feelings and shift gears. Over time you will feel the benefits.

You are the boss of your commitments and schedule. This may be the most controversial thing I'm saying in this newsletter. With the multiple demands and needs of the person you are caring for, your other family responsibilities, your career and more, you don't have much choice or time in your schedule. To gain more flexibility, be thoughtful about what you say yes to. Find ways to leverage yourself by carefully considering what requires your personal attention and what you can delegate to someone else. Do your upmost to stay organized and maintain proper records when caring for your relative so you do not waste time looking for information. Most importantly ask for help early and often.

Will you join me in taking a step down from the boss of everything? By looking more clearly at what you and cannot control, you give yourself more control and more power in a difficult situation.

For more information, contact:
Janice Wallace, the Eldercare Coach
Certified Grief Recovery Specialist
Phone: 415-661-3271
Caring for an ailing family member?
Supporting a relative with Alzheimer's disease or other dementia?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I've received information from Sharon Brothers of aQuire Training Solutions concerning an online caregiver training course that her company now offers. I am going to take the course and look forward to its benefits. Hopefully it will increase and enhance my knowledge and ability to care for my mom here at home. Though I'm a daughter who's now taking care of her mother, as time goes along I find there are many caregiving areas which end up needing a little extra help so that daily routines progress smoothly and well. How much does a caregiver get involved in those daily routines? What happens when things begin to change, and the caregiver needs some idea as to how to respectfully get more involved in order to continue helping or protecting their loved one? I look forward to gaining knowledge with this training course for just these types of situations.

I am including Sharon's article about the program here. Hopefully it will spark some ideas and questions for you, too. Let me know what you think, and I'll keep you posted as I take the course.

Caregiver at Home

Caregiver Training Adds Value, Reduces Stress
by Sharon K. Brothers, MSW

The work of a caregiver is tough, whether you’re a family caregiver or a paid professional. Hours can be long; work can be demanding and thankless; financial rewards are few.

A new study reported this month in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (Jan. 4, 2010 “Enhancing Caregiver Health: Findings from the Resources for Enhancing Alzheimer’s Caregiver Health II Intervention.”) finds that for family caregivers, access to practical skills training not only helps them provide better care, it reduces their own personal stress and feeling of burden.

The loved one being cared for benefits, too – with as many as 2 ½ more years at home before admission to a care facility, according to multiple recent studies.

Professional caregivers, especially those working in home care or assisted living settings, often face challenging client-care needs with minimal training. Many states require little if any training for caregivers working in these settings. In Washington State, voters in 2008 approved a bill requiring a significant increase in caregiver training when they realized that hair dressers or dog groomers require more training than professional caregivers.

Training not only prepares the caregiver for the tasks they need to do for clients, it also helps reduce their anxiety, increases confidence in their jobs, and improves their sense of professional competency and worth. An additional result of an investment in training is a significant reduction in the turnover among caregivers – one of the most important measures of quality care for families.

Families looking for caregiver support in the home often struggle to evaluate the quality of caregiver skills. Experience is one measure, but solid, verifiable training is a component that, for many, has simply been unavailable, especially training for work in an unsupervised home care setting.

Training for caregivers is no longer out of reach of the typical family or professional caregiver. Many communities offer classes; high-quality online programs are available for individuals who cannot access or schedule classroom based training.

One such online program is offered by the Institute for Professional Care Education (, a school licensed by the Oregon Department of Education that is dedicated to providing accessible, engaging, effective caregiver training. Their Personal Care Aide Certification course sets the standard for online training for both family and professional caregivers. The online nature of the course makes it accessible any time of the day or night, any place an internet connection is available. The school is currently training students throughout the U.S. and Canada, and as far away as Fiji.

To preview a lesson from the Personal Care Aide Certification course, go to the website, where you can also register and enroll in the course. The cost for the full 40 hour Personal Care Aide Certification course is an affordable $219.95, and is covered by most long term care insurance policies.

For more information, contact or call toll free 877-843-8374.

The Institute for Professional Care Education is a division of aQuire Training Solutions, a company dedicated to providing training and support to all caregivers. Learn more about aQuire at

For more information contact:
Sharon K. Brothers, MSW
President & CEO
aQuire Training Solutions

Friday, February 5, 2010

A new book about Alzheimer's and memory loss...

Kristi Maxwell of Health Professions Press has told me about a new book that's being published. Kristi wrote:

We have published a new book that I think might interest you and your readers. It's entitled Let's Look Together: An Interactive Picture Book for People with Alzheimer's and Other Forms of Memory Loss by Rae-Lynn Cebul Ziegler.

Using the principles of sensory integration, occupational therapist Rae-Lynn Cebul Ziegler presents photographs that trigger multiple and varied sensory reactions (tasting, hearing, touching) for maximum mental engagement. These reactions open the door for conversation and reminiscence and pave the way for a meaningful interaction. Each photograph is displayed alone on the page, without words. This helps the viewer stay focused on the image and interpret, react to, and discuss it in whatever way it is experienced in that particular moment—every page is a failure-free activity.

You can read more information about this book online at

I am definitely interested in the book and look forward to receiving a copy. I'm interested in it not only for the sake of dementia/Alzheimer's patients and their caregivers, but for those who suffer from memory loss due to TIA's (Transient Ischemic Attack), particularly combat veterans. I'm a member of Tampa Area Marine Parent Association (T.A.M.P.A.), and TIA's are something combat-vet families are familiar with due to combat-related injuries their vets have received. Memory problems are central to this issue, and hopefully this book will be a help for TIA, also.

If you get a copy of the book, please let me know how it helps you or your family member. Thank you!

Kristi, thank you so much for the heads-up on this new help.

Best wishes,
Caregiver at Home

Friday, January 8, 2010

An excellent reminder and heads-up

I just read this post on on the ElderCareABC site and wanted to share it. I thought it was an excellent reminder and heads-up to those of us who care for others, and also for those who care for us.

Perhaps one of the most constant battles I have, and probably many or most other caregivers have, is not being blindsided by a "fix-it" personality. "I can fix it by taking care of..." and we're off to the races before realizing the cost. Maybe there's a better way I could have gotten something done--or helped someone else get it done--or realized I wasn't the right one to do it at all, and now I've exacerbated the situation.

If you're thinking about becoming a caregiver, count the cost. If you're not sure what that might be, then talk to others who are caregivers and listen carefully to their thoughts. Realize that you don't know what you don't know. Don't be afraid to ask the hard questions, and don't shy away from being very honest with yourself up front. Taking care of the caregiver is just as important as taking care of the loved one, but it's something many or most of us tend to put aside till "later."

I learned a lot about what not to do after taking care of my father through his final year and those lessons took a serious toll in many areas, not the least of which was my own health. Going to caregiver support groups helped a LOT during that time, but I mainly tend to learn from my own experiences. I know more about myself and caregiving now, and feel I do a better job balancing the care for Mama and my own responsibilities and needs this time around. It ain't easy, though, so take care of yourself while you're helping your loved one.

If you are thinking of caregiving, keep in mind that you can't fix everything. Focus on what you truly are capable of doing consistently and well. Be honest with yourself--totally honest--and then do whatever you decide to the best of your ability. If you need outside help, don't fret--ask for it.

I hope this article encourages you, too.

Caregiver At Home

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Newfangled Christmas ideas vs. old-fashioned gifts

I remembered this after I posted and wanted to share it here. Last year I made the mistake of buying one of those digital photo frames for Mama, and she looked at it once all year (when I showed it to her after loading tons of her favorite photos). It was a really nice digital frame and I love it, but I realized then that regular photos she can hold in her hands are more enjoyable to her than the digital frame. So this year I’ll put together a Great-Grandma’s Brag Book with pictures of her and our little granddaughter. That way she can tuck it in her purse and look at it whenever she wants to--the old-fashioned way. So I’m still learning as I go, but hopefully this year she'll enjoy her gift a little more, which will mean a lot to me!

Caregiver at Home

Holiday Ideas for our Seniors

I read a great article just now and wanted to share it. The title is "What Seniors Want for the Holidays," and I think it's a pretty good list of suggestions.

We've gotten my mom a personal-sized electric throw to tuck around her legs and feet while she sits and reads or works on her crossword puzzles. That's another thing I need to get for her stocking--some new crossword puzzle books. I noticed that Mama's hands and feet are colder more often than they used to be. She was recently diagnosed with another physical problem, so I try to be aware of how cold or warm the house is, or her room in particular. The little heated throw will feel really nice, I think. There will be another couple of items for her Christmas gifts, but all in all our family is just spending time together, eating a really nice meal and having good snacks for watching football and old movies together, and not a lot of gifts. We'll also have a just-turned-three-year-old in the household this Christmas, and that will be Mama's best gift of all--time with her great-granddaughter, who is the *new* apple of her eye! :-D They have a mutual admiration society, and it's really awesome to watch their relationship grow. Sweet, sweet, sweet.

What are your plans for your Christmas? Do you have any ideas to share for great gifts for seniors? If so, please share them with me!

Caregiver at Home


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Here's the bottom line...

I thought this was a wonderful quote to sum up what caregiving is all about:

"A friend hears the song in my heart and sings it to me when my memory fails."
~ Pioneer Girls Leaders' Handbook

How are you doing? What are your challenges today?

What is the one thing that helps you most as you continue to take care of your loved one?

This helps me continually: "Don't take it personally."

Caregiver at Home

Saturday, October 24, 2009

What's the best advice on caregiving you've received?

I was thinking about caregiving yesterday afternoon after Mama returned from a few days at my aunt's house (her older sister--Mama is 84 and her sister is 89--they're quite a pair!). Mama was sitting at the table working on a project and just full of chatter about the things she'd been doing the last couple of days. I was reminded of the best advice I'd ever received about caregiving, which came from a beloved, long-time friend named Marlene, whose mother lived with her for about ten years. Marlene's mother died a little over a year ago at the ripe old age of 91, but she'd had progressive Alzheimer's for the last few years. The final two years were very difficult as the disease pretty much stole her mom away, but she continued to live with Marlene and her busy family. It was a typical sandwich-generation caregiving situation.

Marlene's main regret after her mom passed away was that on those busy, busy family days, she had not taken the time to listen to her mom's daily chatter about whatever had been on her mom's mind. As happens to many older folks, the conversation becomes very familiar, with stories being told over and over again, sometimes daily, sometimes hourly if they have some sort of dementia. Marlene felt bad that she would become weary of the repeated stories, and would sometimes change the subject so as to move on with whatever was pressing at the moment. She shared with me one day after her mom had died that she wished she had taken the time to let her mom just talk about whatever was on her mind for at least some time each day, even if it was just half an hour or so, and that she would have listened. It wasn't that she had to listen to know the story, since she could recite whatever it was by memory. It was that her mom needed to talk and have someone hear her.

I've thought about that many times since, and as Mama chattered away yesterday, instead of pushing on to do the chores that seemed pressing at the time, I stopped and chatted back. I try to do that every day, just so Mama feels like she matters and her stories matter. I can recite the stories by memory, too, but I've learned that that's not the point. It's the listening and relationship that matter to the person who's wanting to talk.

What is the best caregiving advice someone has shared with you?

Caregiver at Home

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My Other Mom

My mom-in-law, whom I call Mom (she's my dear "other Mom") has had a series of TIAs (transient ischemic attacks) in the last month. It's sad and troublesome news, and requires some changes in our family. Mama lives with my husband and me, and Mom lives about four hours away. My sis-in-law is moving back to Mom's area to help take care of her. We're hoping that Mom will be able to manage on her own sufficiently well that no other changes have to take place. She lives in a great place and we don't want to move her. Mom doesn't respond well to changes, so moving would exacerbate an already difficult situation. Also, Mom is having severe problems with one eye, and that's causing sight problems which add to her worry and tension.

Old age is not for sissies. That saying seems to prove more and more true as I grow older and our parents continue to age.

God gives us the grace to walk each part of this path, but I wish our moms didn't have so many struggles. It's hard to see them not be independent and capable any longer. It's hard for them to be in these situations, much less hard for anyone else to watch.

Good reasons to take care of ourselves. One thing I continually try to do is keep my own stressors at a minimum. Some days I don't have a lot of say-so when the troubles come tumbling our way, but I do try to keep certain standards in my busy day/life to help me respond well.

One standard is to get enough rest. Some days that's more sleep; other days the rest has to wait. But I try to sit down and read, nap briefly, or at least close my eyes and breathe deeply. That helps me much more than it sounds like it would. I've discovered that slow, deep breaths are very helpful in my battle with tiredness, stress, or tension.

Another standard is to try to eat well. I try to get enough fruits and vegetables daily; preferably fresh. I try to incorporate whole grains into our diet, and leaner meats.

These are a couple of things I do.

How about you? What are your best tools for destressing or getting extra rest?

Caregiver at Home