Reframing Negative Emotions When Life Throws You A Curve

Posted on February 10th, 2016 by karen

Help When Life Throws You A Curve

by Alana Pietrantuono, LMSW

When a loved one falls seriously ill, family members are faced with an unexpected turn of events, one that likely alters the plans they had spent their entire lives constructing. Accepting these changes is a challenge for anyone — they can leave you feeling as though your life has come to a screeching halt.

Joyce, a 35-year-old nurse, was on the verge of purchasing her first home. She had worked hard for many years and finally saved enough money to realize the dream of owning her own place. But when the health of her father, Charles, a 74-year-old Parkinson’s sufferer, took a turn for the worse, Joyce was forced to put her plans of home ownership on hold.

You see, Joyce had been her dad’s primary caregiver ever since her stepmother, Janet, passed away two years before, and it became clear to her that some serious sacrifices would have to be made in order to help her dad. She felt she had two choices: she could either quit her job and move in with her father to take care of him full-time, or continue working and spend the money she had saved for her condo to pay for his around-the-clock care at home. Charles would not consider moving to a nursing home, as he insisted he was still grieving the loss of wife and didn’t want to leave the house where he and Janet had lived together.

Joyce, for her part, was utterly destroyed by the loss of her home-owning dream. And while she felt guilty about this overwhelming emotion, she still couldn’t deny feeling angry and cheated. “I never thought that this is what my life would become,” she said at our first meeting. “I can’t even cope! But I can’t imagine leaving my father either. I would be a terrible daughter.”

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Preparing To Get Alzheimer’s

Posted on January 25th, 2016 by karen

Karen's Origami Crane

by Kim Keller

I was watching a TED Talk by global health consultant and writer Alanna Shaikh when she suddenly announced, “I’m preparing to get Alzheimer’s disease.”

What? Why on earth would you consign yourself to such a future? And how do you possibly prepare for such a cruel disease? I was definitely taken aback but also intrigued, so I decided to keep watching to find out more.

Alanna’s belief, it seems, stems from her father’s AD diagnosis back in 2005. He had been showing signs for about five years, and now he’s deep in the embrace of the disease, needing help to do everyday simple tasks like eating and dressing. Alanna reports that her father “doesn’t really know where he is or when it is” any longer.

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Five Wishes: The Aging With Dignity Guide

Posted on January 15th, 2016 by kim

Rosey landscape

by Kim Keller

The decisions we made still haunt me. And I suppose they always will.

It’s not that I think we made the wrong choices. In fact, I’m certain we made the right ones. What I can’t shake is the belief that my father should have been leading the discussion about his own healthcare choices.

Instead, he wasn’t even a participant.

My dad had a living will. So my parents thought they were covered when it came to the recommendation, “Have a discussion with your family about end-of-life issues.”

But missing from that recommendation was the word “thorough” — as in, “have a thorough discussion about end-of-life issues.”

The living will only told us that Dad didn’t want to be kept alive by artificial means. What the document never anticipated were all of the other more likely scenarios that could develop. When some of those unforeseen events did ultimately play out, it was too late to secure his input and guidance.

Making these critical decisions for someone we loved so much, such as stopping aggressive medical treatments or starting hospice care, was a major impetus in the creation of In Care of Dad. My sister Karen and I wanted to spread the word: Have those end-of-life discussions before it’s too late, and make them meaningful!

Which often prompts people to ask us, “So how do I do that?”

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To Drive Or Not To Drive, That Is The Question

Posted on December 12th, 2015 by karen

by Joan Blumenfeld, MS, LPC

Driving with my dear old friend, Sarah, was becoming scary!

One evening, Sarah picked me up to go out for dinner. On the way, as we approached a red light, she was chatting with me and not paying attention to the road and we bumped right into the rear of the car in front of us. Thankfully no one was hurt, and neither car was damaged. The scariest part was that Sarah seemed to have no idea of the danger into which she had put herself, me and the occupants of the other car.

Her car was taking on an increasing number of small scrapes and dents. She was getting lost on her way home on familiar roads that she had been driving for years. The police were called four times in six weeks to locate her.

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Meditation For Health

Posted on December 3rd, 2015 by karen

Single Cloud

by Karen Keller Capuciati

When friends tell me about their health issues, I often suggest they start meditating. And I usually I get a look that says, That’s nice, Karen, but I need a real solution to my problem.

But research on this topic is actually beginning to flourish. The National Institute for Health (NIH) is exploring the benefits of meditation for conditions as varied as asthma, panic attacks and heart disease, and there have been promising results. A number of studies indicate an actual cardiac benefit from various meditation techniques, while other research has demonstrated that meditation may indeed reduce the symptoms of anxiety, depression and chronic pain.

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Saying Goodbye: A Daughter’s Journal

Posted on November 18th, 2015 by karen

Marianne & Beth Whitman

In loving memory of Marianne Whitman, we are re-running this blog written by her daughter Beth for In Care of Dad two years ago today.

by Beth Whitman

I was thinking about last Monday, when I visited Mom. It was dinner time, and I noticed that she was holding her cup of chocolate milk up to her lips, and trying to drink, but she couldn’t figure out how to tip the cup so that the milk would get to her mouth. I put my hand on hers and helped her tip the cup. She drank deeply, almost finished the whole thing in one go. I refilled the cup, and again she couldn’t figure out how to tip it toward her mouth. So I helped her again. And after a couple of times, her hand began to remember the motion and she was able to do it herself. But she put the cup down, and when she picked it up again her hand had forgotten.

The process of saying goodbye happens over and over again in little ways. But today it happened a big way. Today she died.

I did not wake up this morning expecting to have my mom die today.

I feel somehow a little guilty.

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A Beer For Estelle

Posted on November 13th, 2015 by karen

beer sunset 2

by Lisa Bassi

Before we get to the beer, I should give you a little background.

Along with a friend of mine, I teach a chair-yoga class every week at the local senior center. We have had up to 20 students in our group — all of them are over 80 and four are well over 90. They are as engaged and committed as any group of students I teach. They are all increasing in strength, breathing ability and flexibility. Some of them struggle with certain motions, some aren’t too sure of right and left, and some can’t always hear us describe the poses, but they make do, helping each other out with an occasional “The other left, Madge,” or “Pick up your foot, Nancy.”

One of our students, Estelle, is the mother of my friend and co-teacher, Lee. Estelle is one of the students who is struggling with cognition and getting a bit frail, but her smile lights up the room. She encourages other students and always tells us how great each class was.

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Breaking The Alzheimer’s Code: One Hundred Hankies For Joe

Posted on November 6th, 2015 by karen

alzheimer's providing security

We are happy to re-post this very special blog from August of 2014.

 

by Karen Keller Capuciati

I’m at the Alzheimer’s Association’s Annual Education Conference, held a few months ago in Cromwell, Connecticut. Jolene Brackey, the keynote speaker, is what you might call an Alzheimer’s visionary. After graduating from Iowa State University, Jolene began working as an interior designer but soon came to realize that she was more interested working with the people at the Alzheimer’s special care unit across the street from her design firm. She enjoyed the interaction with older people and began formulating her own unique ideas for helping people with dementia live in the moment.

She walks out into the audience and chooses a gentleman entirely at random. She asks him for his wallet and keys.

As the man dutifully hands over the items, Jolene declares, “I’m just going to place them up there behind my podium for a few hours. Okay? So that you don’t lose them.”

The man seems a bit confused but willing to play along.

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Caregiver Salvation: A Delicate Balance

Posted on October 29th, 2015 by karen

Caregiver Stress

by James McGinn, LPC, NCC

“My mom had always been fiercely independent and self-sufficient all of her life,” said Deborah, who, like many of my clients, was struggling with the increasing dependence of her elderly parent. Deborah’s mom, Helen, had been a proofreader for Springfield’s Republican newspaper for decades. Although her retirement in 1986 was bittersweet, Helen was at least partially comforted by her lifelong passion for reading, which brought her to the local library several times each week. As Helen grew older and less mobile, her library sojourns became less frequent, but, fortunately, the librarian with whom she’d built a friendship would drop books off at Helen’s home on her way to or from work.

Sometime around the year 2000, when Helen was in her early 70s, she began to experience distortions in her vision that was eventually diagnosed as macular degeneration, a progressive worsening of the eyesight due to retinal damage that accompanies old age. Macular degeneration can be slowed with vitamins and supplements but has no medical or surgical cure — blindness is the unfortunate prognosis. It’s a disease that regularly impacts millions of people around the world, but it hit Helen particularly hard. Reading had always been her refuge: she’d been able to compensate for the deterioration of other abilities and functions by maintaining an active mind through her love of books, as well as by completing the crossword puzzles in the newspaper everyday. Now, however, with her sight degrading, Helen was at a loss as to how she would cope with her steadily increasing limitations and maintain what little independence she had left.

Deborah had been an active support for her mom for some time, assisting her with errands and transportation needs, but she decided it was time to take on more responsibility for Helen’s daily care. While the obvious solution in cases like this is for the child, or children, to step in as the primary caregiver, it’s a complex and stressful arrangement to say the least. In addition to handling a multitude of duties on behalf of an aging loved one, a caregiver must also contend with the reversal of the parent-child dynamic, as well as the parent’s emotional response to losing their independence and stature. In other words, aside from supervising Helen’s finances, medical treatment, and daily routine, Deborah also had to face Helen’s injured psyche, which the older woman often expressed as criticism and displeasure with her daughter’s decisions.

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Forgive, Release, Let Go

Posted on October 22nd, 2015 by karen

Forgiveness Stone

by Lisa M. Wolfson

I have always been an advocate for self-improvement and growth, but in recent years, as a breast cancer survivor, my desire to make necessary changes has become a priority. I’ve come to realize that inner peace is at the core of maintaining a happy, healthy life.

Struggling with situations that don’t serve me well, but often feeling guilty about letting go of them, has been a continuing source of disquiet for me. Harboring resentments for the actions of others has brought me down and into a dark place. I would tell myself “let it go.” But how do I accomplish that?

When someone’s behavior hurts us or makes us angry, we may hold onto a resentment for the person or situation they’ve created or helped to create. We think of forgiveness as a timid act, an act of giving in. We focus on the source of our pain and decide that forgiving the person who caused that pain allows them to win. What we overlook is that dwelling on the pain hurts us more, lowering our energy, overwhelming our concentration, and undermining the better angels of our nature. In short, the act of holding onto pain hurts us more than it hurts anyone else. It holds us captive and renders us helpless.

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