Archive for the ‘Book Review’ Category

Books And Movies For Inspiration And Support

Posted on September 24th, 2015 by karen

Music Movies & Books for caregivers

by Karen Keller Capuciati

Getting engrossed in a book or a movie can offer a pleasant escape from our daily routine. But for those of us caring for another person, enjoying a book or movie seems like a luxury we just don’t have time for. It’s critically important, though, to find time for ourselves as well — and many times we can gain more than just a break from caregiving by listening to a story someone else wants to tell.

Sometimes a well-told story can bring us a smile, or a new perspective, or inspire us in a way we couldn’t have anticipated. And, honestly, even a good sitcom has the power to turn my mood around.

Over the past four years, In Care of Dad has published many helpful accounts and advisements from the health professionals at Family Centers in Fairfield County, CT, on combating caregiver and grief-related isolation. So we asked them to share some of the titles they might pass on as recommendations to their clients.

From that list:

the conversation

“The Conversation” by Angelo Volandes — This is an accessible guide to the stressful end-of-life communications with loved ones. It offers tremendously valuable advice to those of us taking care of aging parents and, ultimately, to us all. Death is never an easy topic to discuss on a personal level. In fact, many people avoid talking about it altogether, particularly when a loved one’s death is imminent. However, given that we cannot opt out of the event itself, being empowered to discuss death helps families when the unavoidable time comes. Volandes’s book is a truly valuable asset for having this important discussion.
— Amanda Geffner, MSW

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The Still Moving Story Of “Still Alice”

Posted on February 11th, 2015 by karen

Still Alice Movie Poster

by Kim Keller

I was so excited to go to the movies last Saturday to see Still Alice, the acclaimed adaptation of Lisa Genova’s wonderful debut novel of the same name from 2007, one of my all-time favorite books. And I wasn’t remotely disappointed.

Still Alice is an eye-opening and heartbreaking story about Alice Howland, movingly portrayed by Julianne Moore. Alice is a world-renowned linguistics professor, teaching at an Ivy League university and lecturing all around the world. She is in a seemingly happy marriage, with an attentive husband (played by Alec Baldwin) and three grown children. In other words, Alice is in the prime of her life, until small uncharacteristic memory lapses start to happen.

It begins with brief little moments, like forgetting what she’s about to say or overlooking an appointment. Then one day it escalates. Alice suddenly becomes disoriented while she’s jogging and can’t find her way back home. After the episode has passed, Alice realizes that she had been “lost” right smack in the center of the college campus where she has taught for years. The experience leaves her so shaken and scared that she knows she needs medical intervention. But nothing prepares her for the diagnosis she receives: early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

I know it may seem hard to imagine loving a movie about someone who is, in effect, losing her mind. It is painful to watch Alice despair as she falls deeper into the grasp of Alzheimer’s indignities. We watch her struggle to fight off the advances of the disease, and her attempt to maintain as much of her life and identity as she possibly can. She uses her cell phone alarms to help her manage her day, and she becomes consumed with memory games. One night as Alice is cooking dinner, we watch her write three words on a little chalkboard in her kitchen. After she writes down the words, she covers them up, sets the timer for five minutes, and walks away to continue making dinner. When the timer goes off, she walks back over to the chalkboard trying to recount those three words, challenging her memory as she uncovers the board. Then she erases the words and quickly writes down three more. Back and forth, back and forth, she goes.

But even with all the heartache, Still Alice is equal parts intrigue, inspiration and fascination. I recognize that fascination might seem like an odd word to use here, but both the film and book allow the viewer and reader the unusual perspective of experiencing the disease from Alice’s point of view. Usually Alzheimer’s is described by medical professionals or by caregivers, but this is Alice’s story, and she gives us a uniquely intimate seat.

I believe the movie strikes a chord because so many people fear what every little memory lapses might mean as they age. I found myself playing the memory games right along with Alice, and I was actually relieved when I got the answers right.

Although Alice needs to relinquish her university position, she nonetheless teaches us all a few valuable lessons about life. She shows us the importance of living in the moment — even after most of her memories and her identity have slipped away, we can see the joy she feels holding her newborn grandchild.

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In Care of Dad: A Look Back At 2014

Posted on December 24th, 2014 by kim

good caregiving tips

by Kim Keller

I remember when I was a kid, rolling my eyes at my parents when they’d talk in wonder about how fast time goes by. Of course, that was a long, long time ago, and here I am now thinking, where did 2014 go? I don’t roll my eyes any longer. Now I just smile knowingly.

And at the end of December, my parents would sit around and reflect on all that had happened that year. I thought it was kind of silly then, living in the past and all, but I see the wisdom in that now, too. You should always bring along the lessons and whatever good life has to offer.

In that spirit, here’s a look back at In Care of Dad in 2014:

 

“I will never leave you — no matter what happens I will always be with you.”

Unbeknownst to both of us at the time, those would be the last words my father would ever say to me. That one sentence would carry me into my fatherless future, like a road map to guide me on the sometimes perilous, sometimes heartbreaking, always blessed journey of my life.

— Ann Meyers Piccirillo, Always Your Daughter, January 22, 2014.

 

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Survival Lessons For Life’s Toughest Challenges

Posted on October 22nd, 2014 by karen

Survival Lesson by Alice Hoffman

by Kim Keller

“Write your troubles on a slip of paper and burn it.”

This is one of the many pieces of advice from bestselling author Alice Hoffman, in her new little gem of a book called Survival Lessons. I keep this book, filled with Hoffman’s words of wisdom, right next to my bed. In fact, after reading Survival Lessons for the first time, I bought extra copies to give to all my friends. If I could afford to buy this book for every person in the In Care of Dad community, I would — it’s that good!

But, since I can’t afford thousands of copies, I’ll just tell you about it instead.

Best known for her two novels, Practical Magic and Here On Earth, Hoffman said she wrote the non-fiction Survival Lessons because it’s a book she wished she’d had when she was faced with a breast cancer diagnosis more than 15 years ago. Devastated by the news and overwhelmed by the prospects of the treatment process, Hoffman explained that she went “looking for a guidebook. I needed to know how people survived trauma.”

“It happens to everyone,” she said, “in one way or another, sooner or later. The loss of a loved one, a divorce, heartbreak, a child set on the wrong path, a bad diagnosis. When it comes to sorrow, no one is immune.”

Hoffman never did find that guidebook she was looking for, but, after surviving many of life’s challenges, she decided that she finally knew what the guidebook should say. And, as the author of some 30 books, who better to create this much-needed volume? She set out to write the book she had needed those many years before, a book that she herself would want to read if she were ever again faced with a devastating life challenge.

Survival Lessons, published last year, was the result.

The book is broken down into bite-sized chapters, each with an empowering preface, starting with “Choose,” as in Choose Whose Advice You Take, Choose How You Spend Your Time, Choose To Love Who You Are. Although there are so many circumstances in our lives that we have no control over, Hoffman helps us remember that we have the power to choose how we approach those challenges.

The book is also chock full of illustrations and tiny bits of poetry, and even offers a few important extras, like a brownie recipe that Hoffman claims will make you “forget your sorrows.” Survival Lessons is compact and easy to finish in one sitting, which is important when you’re feeling truly lost. Not only are the words valuable, but so is the act of completion. Finishing a book makes us all feel that we’ve accomplished something, and that we have the potential to accomplish more.

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The Breast Cancer Toolbox: Ensuring The Best Possible Outcome

Posted on October 15th, 2014 by karen

thinking of you

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so we at In Care of Dad proudly rerun this invaluable blog by breast cancer survivor Christine Taylor about the many tools she found to both empower her healing and assuage her fears during the time of her treatment as well as the many years since.  

 

by Christine Taylor

A cancer diagnosis can easily destabilize your life and leave you feeling out of control. You become extremely busy trying to make all your important life decisions, worrying about yourself and your family, your finances, your job, your treatment options. You feel an overwhelming need to put things in the right place, in the best possible position for the future.

I had breast cancer a few years ago, and as soon as I heard the words “It’s cancer,” I knew I had a lot of work ahead of me. I launched myself into the full-time pursuits of gathering as many tools and resources as I could find and taking the best possible care of myself — physically, mentally and spiritually — to help ensure the best possible outcome. Naturally, I learned a great deal about what was useful and what wasn’t, so if I were creating a toolbox today, comprising the very best items for dealing with a new diagnosis of breast cancer, it would surely include the following:

Peace, Love and Healing by Dr. Bernie Siegel
Peace, Love and Healing is a beautifully written exploration of mind-body communication. Using anecdotes and scientific research, Dr. Siegel writes about the innate ability in each of us to participate in our own healing. Based on common traits he has observed throughout his long career as a cancer surgeon, in patients who thrive in the face of a grim diagnosis, Dr. Siegel writes, “Love and peace of mind do protect us. They allow us to overcome the problems that life hands us. They teach us to survive . . . to live now . . . to have the courage to confront each day.” This book was a source of strength and comfort for me during my experience with cancer, and I continue to appreciate its hopeful and empowering messages to this day.

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Caregiver Tools: Top Five Resources

Posted on June 18th, 2014 by karen

Caregiver Tools

by Karen Keller Capuciati

Here is a Top Five list I simply had to share — my favorite caregiver resources that I put together for Mary Underwood, Vice President of Memory Care and Resident Experience at the beautifully appointed Maplewood Senior Living in Westport, CT. Mary is putting together a resource library — books, CDs, DVDs, and websites — for professional and family caregivers alike.

It’s a thoughtful gesture on Mary’s part that will no doubt be highly useful. Knowing what resources are available is the first step in making one’s arduous caregiving duties go a little smoother.

It was not easy narrowing down the extensive list to only five resources, so stay tuned for more top picks.

  1. Eldercare Locator is a nationwide public service that connects aging Americans and their caregivers with community resources. Whether you’re looking for home-delivered meals, help dispensing medications, transportation to various appointments, adult day-care or respite programs, Eldercare Locator will help you find the resources available in your ZIP code. Visit eldercare.gov or call 800-677-1116.
  2. Health Journeys is a guided-meditation clearinghouse, offering CDs or downloadable meditations to assist with many of life’s health challenges. Fight Cancer, Healthy Heart, Successful Surgery, Ease Pain, Healthful Sleep are just a few of the available titles. These meditations provide the kind of supplemental support that we need to actively participate in our own health and recovery.
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Life With Pop: The Lost Watch

Posted on November 19th, 2013 by karen

Pop's lost watch

An excerpt from the book, Life With Pop: Lessons On Caring For An Aging Parent, by Janis Abrahms Spring, Ph.D., with Michael Spring.  

 

January 5, 2002

Seven-ten, Saturday morning. The phone rings. It’s Pop.

“I can’t find my watch,” he declares. “The girl must have taken it. What’s her number?”

I can hear the anxiety in his voice. The “girl” is Ann, his caretaker — the devoted nanny who comes in weekday mornings for an hour to get him up and running. She’s a responsible, intelligent woman in her midthirties, with a warm olive complexion that rivals Halle Berry’s. If Ann is dishonest, then Dad is a 007 agent.

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Chromotherapy: Using Color For Health

Posted on November 14th, 2013 by karen

Fall Color 2013

by Karen Keller Capuciati

The autumn colors have been extraordinarily vibrant this season here in Connecticut. I have been entranced by the beauty and intensity of the azure blue sky and amber color as sunlight filters through the leaves.

It just feels good, abundant, grounded and warm. In contrast, fast-forward to the winter months in New England and the environment becomes gray and dull. After awhile, so do our spirits. Part of this is the cold, but mostly it is the absence of color because even the brilliance of white snow lifts our spirits.

We can all relate to how color effects our emotions, but did you know that color could assist with healing our bodies as well? Color healing, known as chromotherapy, is not new. It’s been used since ancient times, and there are many ways to practice the art.

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The Patient’s Checklist

Posted on November 12th, 2013 by karen

The Patient's Checklist

by Kim Keller

Consider this:

“A hospital patient, on average, is subject to one medication error per day.”

— Preventing Medication Errors, Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, 2007

Or how about this one:

“Every six minutes a patient dies in an American hospital from a hospital-acquired infection — an infection acquired after admission — usually from a health-care worker’s failure to simply wash his hands.”

— Hospital Acquired Infections, americansmadandangry.org

These are frightening statistics but not surprising, at least not to me. That’s because both my parents have been victims of countless medical snafus. My father’s medical ordeal was so chaotic and painful that, after his death in the summer of 2006, my sister Karen and I made a pact to dedicate ourselves to helping other families with their own medical challenges. Such was the genesis of In Care of Dad.

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Life With Pop: The D Word

Posted on September 5th, 2013 by karen

Life with Pop

An excerpt from the book, Life With Pop: Lessons on Caring for an Aging Parent, by Janis Abrahms Spring, Ph.D., with Michael Spring.

 

September 29, 2005

I’m at the hospital by nine. My heart is pounding — and breaking.

Dad lies stiffly in bed, unable to lift his head, so I draw my face up close to his and take his hand. We spend a few minutes chitchatting, warming up. He may not be alert for long, so you’d better get into it now.

“Dad,” I say gingerly, “we need to have a serious talk about what’s happening to you.”

He seems to be listening with every nerve in his body. I speak as slowly and gently as I know how, for his sake, and mine. “The reason you got pneumonia is because when you swallow, the food drips into your lungs.”

I look into his eyes to see if he’s registering what I’m saying. He’s with me every step of the way.

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