Archive for the ‘Emotional Support’ Category

The Nine Secrets To A Long Vibrant Life

Posted on September 3rd, 2015 by karen

Blue Zone healthy habits

by Kim Keller

If you were told you could live into your 100s, with good health of both mind and body, would you be interested?

If the answer is yes, then you might want to read this article, and maybe even take notes!

According to the findings of a joint investigation by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), the National Geographic Society, and bestselling author Dan Buettner, the key to longevity — what these social scientists have labeled as “Blue Zones,” meaning communities around the globe where lifestyle choices have led to unusually long and healthy lives — is a combination of diet, exercise, family bonds, spirituality and personal fulfillment. The study explored places throughout the world where indigenous populations live vigorous and dynamic lives into their ninth and tenth decades. The researchers have examined the societal habits of these communities and noted what they have in common in the hopes of helping us all live longer and healthier lives.

The formula for longevity comprises these nine common features:

Continue Reading

20 Simple Ideas To Regain Mental Focus

Posted on August 13th, 2015 by karen

Tips for Regaining Focus

by Kim Keller

Stress and anxiety chip away at our ability to concentrate. Left unchecked, we can become paralyzed, virtually unable to move forward effectively in our lives.

Here are 20 simple actions you can take to reduce stress and regain your mental focus:

  1. Stay Hydrated — Water transports oxygen throughout your body, which in turn boosts your energy level and helps keep you alert.
  2. Wiggle Your Toes — Sounds silly, I know, but this great little “mindfulness” trick brings you back to the present moment and helps you refocus. Olivia Fox Cabane recommends this tip in her book, The Charisma Myth. Try it sometime.
  3. Create a Routine — Having a regular daily schedule simplifies life, which consequently eases stress by removing a major issue (laying out your itinerary for the day) that used to occupy your brain.
  4. Use the Mind Dump Exercise — When my brain is flooded, this exercise gives me comfort: I take 10 or 15 minutes to write down, as fast as I can, anything — anything at all — that comes to mind. It often starts with something like this: Why am I feeling SO stressed out?! I need to stop saying yes to everything! I need to get more sleep. All I want to eat is junk food! And on it goes. While the pages I create tend to be jumbled and chaotic, the exercise helps relieve anxiety and produce a sense of mental clarity.
  5. Don’t Worry AloneNed Hallowell, M.D., a bestselling author and world-renowned expert on ADHD, offers these next four tips, starting with Don’t worry alone. “Worrying alone tends to become toxic,” writes Hallowell, “because in isolation we lose perspective.” The benefit of sharing your fears and concerns is that “when you worry with someone else, you usually end up problem solving, as you feel more empowered and less alone.” So find someone to talk with and get the worries out of your own head.
  6. Get the Facts — “Toxic worry is rooted in wrong information, lack of information, or both,” explains Hallowell. Spend the time you’d normally waste on worry by getting the facts and learning what is true.
  7. Make a Plan — Use your energy to create a plan that helps you work through the problem, instead of using your energy to worry and fret. A plan will make you feel more confident and in control of your life.
  8. Think Happy Thoughts — “Thinking of things that promote warmth, connection, and happiness reduces the hormones associated with stress, fear, and anger that can impede concentration,” says Dr. Hallowell.
  9. Create a To-Do List — Trying to remember all of the little tasks on your plate takes too much mental effort. Instead, keep a list of everything you need to do, no matter how big or small, all in one place. I find it useful to review the list each night and make a smaller list that separates the items based on the tasks that must be completed the following day and those that I’d like to complete but aren’t quite as urgent. A to-do list is a great way to reduce anxiety.
  10. Use All of Your Senses — Make a point of practicing mindfulness by engaging all your senses. Next time you look at a tomato, for example, smell it, touch the skin, appreciate the shade of red, and, of course, taste it. Apply your senses whenever you can, and not just the most obvious ones. Take a moment to listen to the sounds of the day. Touch and smell things you normally just look at. Bring your entire sensory arsenal to bear on your everyday encounters.
  11. Noise-Canceling Headphone — To protect myself from distractions, I take breaks from phones, email, texting, etc., by wearing noise-canceling headphones and listening to music without words. This amplifies my focus and helps me fixate on whatever I’m trying to accomplish.
  12. Schedule Time to Worry — To avoid continual, uncontrolled worry, I find it helpful to allow myself actual worry time: I’m not going to worry about this tonight, I’m going to sleep, and I’ll make time in the morning to stress about this. It only works, though, if I make a pact with myself to devote equal time to reflect on what’s good in my life. This combination of scheduling worry time and giving equal attention to gratitude never fails to give me perspective. And comfort.
  13. Work in Small Doses — Whenever I’m overwhelmed, yet eager to be productive, I set a timer for, say, 10 minutes and then force myself to concentrate fully throughout the short time frame. When the timer goes off, I take a quick break, then I start again. At the 45-minute point, I take a longer break — 15 or 20 minutes. I’ve used this timer technique for years, and I just recently found out that there is an actual name for this approach: it’s called the Pomodoro Technique.
  14. Know Thyself — We all have times during the day when we can best focus; mine is in the morning. I try to organize my day so that anything requiring a lot of concentration and brainpower happens in the morning.
  15. Move —  Take a walk, dance, run up and down the stairs, anything to wake up your body and your brain.
  16. Get Rest — The converse to number 15 is also true. Sleep is a great healer. For the longest time I just accepted the notion that I wasn’t a good sleeper, that I wasn’t blessed with that particular gift. But in recent years I’ve come to realize that my inability to sleep well was just another bad habit I needed to break. So I’ve put a lot of thought and effort into the subject, and that prompted a number of In Care of Dad articles. These, in particular, I found helpful. Take a look. Sleep Strategies Part One and Part Two.
  17. Clean a Closet — Removing clutter and getting organized gives you a sense of accomplishment and a great lift. It creates momentum to tackle even larger problems.
  18. Memorize Something — Memorization keeps your mind sharp. Try a poem or the US state capitals. If that gets too easy, learn the lines to your favorite play.
  19. Eat Well — Reduce your sugar and caffeine intake. Eat foods that will give you natural energy, like fruits and veggies. Create a diet for yourself that reflects excellent nutritional balance.
  20. Take Time to Meditate — I know, I know, when you’re stressed out and overwhelmed, who has time to meditate? But trust me, finding 10 minutes a day to focus on your breathing and your inner calm will set the tone for you. Just get started. First thing in the morning, before your coffee, set your timer for 10 minutes, find a quiet spot to sit comfortably, close your eyes, and take in a deep long breath. Hold it for a moment and then release a long slow exhale. To get me in the proper frame of mind, I say “in” as I take that deep breath, and then I say “out” as I let go and exhale.
Continue Reading

Crisis Time: Overcoming Family Barriers

Posted on August 5th, 2015 by karen
Crisis Time Overcoming Family Barriers

Nonno seated in front with his family.

by Nadia Fiorita

Everyone knows that family dynamics can be complicated. Sometimes there are grievances that linger for years, and other times there are relationships that just never get a chance to bloom. But when a family faces a serious health crisis, with all its inherent pain and fear, the potential for loss casts a different light on strained relations.

My grandfather — Nonno to his 14 grandkids — was diagnosed in the spring of this year with multiple brain tumors, for which his doctor recommended immediate radiation treatments. Four years earlier, Nonno managed to survive a bout of lung cancer so serious that he was given only 3-6 months to live.

My relationship with my grandfather wasn’t as good as I would have liked. We didn’t visit him much while I was growing up due to an ongoing conflict between my parents that carried over into other family relationships. But a couple of years ago my father’s mother passed away unexpectedly, and I remember being stopped in my tracks by this. I was distressed by the realization that I would never have any relationship with my very own grandmother.  That struck me as very sad indeed.

So when Nonno’s health began a steady decline in the wake of a seizure and hospitalization following a radiation treatment, I decided to embrace the moment and make sure that Nonno did not depart this world before I had a chance to really connect with him. I felt that I needed to make up for lost time, so I made it a priority to see him as often as I could.

Continue Reading

Humming and Singing: A Daughter’s Journal

Posted on July 29th, 2015 by karen

Marianne Whitman


by Beth Whitman

Throughout my life, routine daily activities have been accompanied by the music of my mother’s singing and humming. Sometimes her humming was under her breath and sometimes she would be singing a song in her clear and beautiful soprano voice. There are many songs I know simply because Mom has sung them throughout my life.

Du Du Liecht Mir Mir Hertzen
Du, du Liecht Mir Mit Zin.
Du, do mein mir
Da daa, d da da, d daa.

I don’t think Mom ever sang the end of that song. It always devolved into da, da, da.

Some of the songs I know because Mom introduced them to us in other ways. The Swingle Singers was a group that Mom was crazy about when we were growing up. She had a number of their albums and often played them, but her favorite song of theirs was “Bach’s Prelude Chorale.” When she was particularly happy, she would often hum the Prelude Chorale.

do DOO . . .  doobie doobie doobie doobie doobie doo,
Doobie doobie doobie doobie doobie do DOO.

And then there were the old standards from the Gilbert and Sullivan musicals from the days when Mom was in the orchestra pit. She played the viola, and wherever we lived, Mom was a member of the local orchestra or played in string quartets with other musicians she met through the orchestra. I used to spend hours after school in the empty auditoriums listening to the cast rehearse.

Continue Reading

“Deathiversaries” And Post-Death Birthdays

Posted on July 16th, 2015 by karen
death anniversaries

Cynthia’s dad in 2010.

We are pleased to share this blog with you. It first appeared on Cynthia’s WordPress site in April 2015.


by Cynthia Greb

What do you call a birthday when that person is no longer on this earth? I guess it’s still the anniversary of his birth, although we are no longer counting the years he has lived.

Dad’s birthday is April 30th. I wrote the first draft of this piece back in February on the first anniversary of his death. But then I set it aside to read it and revise it later. And “later” turned into another month. And now I’m dusting it off one more time.

It’s not easy to remember death.

There are so many wonderful, wonderful things to remember about Dad: his teasing and horsing around; his affection for his wife, kids, and especially his grandchildren; all his years of hard work supporting his family and never complaining; his love of naps; the way he always had time for his family; his dedication to the churches he attended and served; all the little vacations we took together; his love of food; his gregarious personality; his gratitude; his love of nature. I could go on and on. But sadly, I seem to be stuck in an endless review of his last few months.

If he had started to drastically decline and then simply continued that decline, I think I could have accepted that. After all, death comes to each one of us, and after several years suffering the indignities of Alzheimer’s, I’m sure, at some level, he was more than ready to let go of this life. As a matter of fact, for several months, while he was still living in his home, he would repeatedly tell us, “I’m ready to go home. Please take me home. Please take me home.”

We had thought he was confused and couldn’t remember that this was his own home. We tried in vain to convince him that this was the home he’d built with his own two hands when the rancher had become too small for his burgeoning family. We pointed to all the pictures of the family on the mantle. We said, “See? There we all are! This is your home.” But it made no difference. He was caught in a sad loop, not realizing he was in his own home.

At least that’s what we thought at the time.

Continue Reading

If Only There Was A Second Time Around

Posted on July 9th, 2015 by karen

If Only There Was A Second Time Around

by Kim Keller

As another anniversary of our father’s passing — July 16th, to be exact — approaches, my sister Karen and I find ourselves once again filled with regret for all the lessons learned, far too late in life, about how to help someone you love through serious illness.

Dad’s health issues lingered for quite some time, but during the last year of his life, he deteriorated at a tumultuous pace. It was a painful ordeal, and if it were possible to go back in time, Karen and I would do many things differently.

We would have more actively:

  1. Insisted that our father seek better medical care earlier in his illness. The critical lesson here: sometimes you just have to travel farther for better hospitals and doctors. Dad made his choices based primarily on location, and while we often questioned the quality of his doctors and their related facilities, we weren’t comfortable pushing this point with him, until it was far too late in the game. Given what we now know, we would have kept researching hospitals in the region until we found a teaching hospital with MAGNET status. Teaching hospitals generally attract higher caliber doctors, and a MAGNET designation indicates an impressive level of quality care bestowed upon patients by the nursing staff. Naturally, there are great hospitals that are not teaching facilities, as well as many without MAGNET status, but it’s an excellent place to start.
  2. Focused on how Dad could reduce the amount of medications he was taking. He had lots of specialists, especially as his health unraveled, and each doctor added a new prescription or two. Not enough attention was paid to the possible side effects and adverse interactions caused by combining so many medications. In fact, rather than scrutinizing the burgeoning list of drugs that were being pushed at our father, each new medical issue that cropped up heralded another new prescription. Given what we know now, we would have discussed the medication list with all the various specialists, starting with these five questions: (1) Are any of Dad’s symptoms a possible side effect of another medication? (2) What are the potential side effects of each drug? (3) Is this drug safe and/or effective for someone over 65? (4) Are there any issues to watch out for when this drug interacts with Dad’s other current medications? (5) Is there any harm in changing Dad’s diet and/or exercise regimen rather than prescribing another new medication? And to help us with our own research, we would have used, which is a great tool for fleshing out medication problems.
  3. Talked with our father about end-of-life issues. Dad already had a living will in place, so we thought we were covered in this important area, but we were wrong. We soon discovered that many common scenarios needing to be fully vetted are not handled by the average living will. For example, do you continue with aggressive treatments when they can’t cure you but can only sustain a bedridden life? Not an easy question to discuss, and we certainly never discussed this as a family, but at a certain point late in the illness, Dad was no longer able to give his input, and continuing treatments no longer held any promise of recovery. We decided to maintain the full-on treatments, but we’ve never been sure this was what Dad wanted. If we’d known back then about the critical importance of a wide-ranging end-of-life discussion, we would have used It’s an important resource that walks you through the fundamental questions that every family needs to consider.
  4. Established ourselves as coordinators for keeping track of all communication between and amongst the various medical personnel and caregivers attending to Dad. Karen and I just didn’t understand, at least not at first, that someone had to pull together all the various pieces of information relating to Dad’s care, from medication mandates and treatment instructions to exercise orders and diet alterations. Counting on the medical teams to coordinate and communicate was not realistic. We eventually learned to keep track of everything and to communicate everything. There was nothing too big or too small. Here are some of our charts and checklists.
  5. Created a support team around us to help us anticipate needs, develop a plan, make better decisions, and clue us in on available resources and tools. Frankly, back then we didn’t even realize we needed a support team, other than our father’s medical attendants. Dad had been sick for so long that we never would have believed we were facing his final year. Without a support team, we spent way too much time being reactive, putting out fires, floundering with decision-making. If we could do it all over again, without the pain and torture that Dad surely experienced, we would’ve reached out to people who had been down this path before. There are many places to start building a team: in-home care agencies, for example. Or local religious organizations, many of which have outreach programs, geriatric care managers, and senior centers. When we finally did build our team, we were relieved and finally confident that we were making sound decisions. We didn’t understand at that point how close we were to the end, but we were at least able to spend our time in a far more important and valuable way: loving our father and enjoying every last minute with him.
Continue Reading

Remembering A Life, Moment To Moment

Posted on July 1st, 2015 by karen

The Rose!! by Helen Forsyth Richardson

This July marks nine years since Dad passed away. Here’s one of our favorite pieces honoring him.


by Kim Keller

A couple of weeks ago I came upon this quote:

We do not remember days; we remember moments.” It’s attributed to Cesare Pavese, an Italian author, poet and critic.

Well, I quickly thought, of course that’s true, but I never really absorbed the idea that an entire lifetime of hours and minutes and seconds could be distilled down into the moments we recognize as our memories.

After my father died, I was shattered and for the longest time I obsessed over his final days, replaying them over and over in my head. I started to worry that those painful memories might end up being my permanent record.

But that’s not how it turned out.

With time, the awful heartache eased, and now Dad shows up regularly in my life, in the most unexpected places. Each time it’s a wonderful little surprise, and I rarely see the triggers coming.

The smell of Old Spice will do it. I can see my dad chuckling at that and insisting, “Kim, I stopped wearing Old Spice back in the 70s!”

Maybe so, but that smell still takes me instantly back to my childhood, sitting on the toilet seat, watching my dad shave and splashing his face at the end with Old Spice.

Continue Reading

Transforming A Life One Room At A Time

Posted on June 17th, 2015 by karen

smooth ALF transitioning

by Karen Keller Capuciati

After one of the meetings I have every month with a group of geriatric care professionals, Kathryn, a gerontologist, was telling me what she had done for a client named “Rosie,” who had recently transitioned from post-operative rehab, where she was recovering from a femoral fracture, into an assisted-living facility.

Kathryn described how she had transformed an empty room at an ALF into a home for her client. I was touched by the lengths that Kathryn had gone to — in my opinion, she went above and beyond the normal bounds of her profession in making sure that Rosie’s new home was as nice and comfortable as it could possibly be.

“Rosie loves the outdoors,” Kathryn told me, smiling at the recollection. “So I loaded the big picture window with flowering plants, and colorful vases that I filled with flowers. Then I bought a brightly colored flowered quilt, a high-back chair and ottoman that is really cozy — in blue, Rosie’s favorite color. I also brought over some of Rosie’s artifacts and knickknacks to have in her new space.” Kathryn smiled again. “It’s a real joyful room.”

Kathryn couldn’t bring too much from Rosie’s home, but she took what she thought was important, such as the antique secretary desk. Rosie had worked her whole life as an administrative assistant, so Kathryn figured that having her desk in the new home, with lots of shelves and compartments and stacked drawers, would be a point of familiarity and comfort for Rosie. Kathryn knew intuitively that Rosie would enjoy sitting at her desk, reading the newspaper, writing cards and letters to friends. It would give the room a point of warmth and familiarity.

Kathryn was detailing the Rosie situation because of an earlier group discussion about how long it often takes new residents to get acclimated to an unknown facility. It’s no surprise really — imagine being moved into a building full of strangers, sometimes against your wishes, sleeping in an unfamiliar bed, eating in a dining room while surrounded by faces you’ve never seen, being given a routine that’s wholly different from the one you’ve been living for years. It feels like the comfort of home has been ripped away from you.

Continue Reading

Five Simple Strategies For Living With Dementia

Posted on June 10th, 2015 by karen

Alzheimer's caregiver tips

by Kim Keller

Sometimes it’s the simplest action that has the biggest impact. That’s why I love these five “good ideas” to help anyone who’s caring for a loved one with dementia. Take a look.

  1. The Magic of Music — Music, as we’ve come to learn, has a powerful and transformative effect on those with dementia. Check out the movie trailer from this must-see documentary, Alive Inside, and you’ll see what I mean. It’s relatively easy for you to try out — just put together a playlist of your loved one’s favorite music and load the songs onto an iPod shuffle (or any other device with simple controls). To get the biggest benefit, the music should be listened to with earplugs or a headset, in order to minimize potential distractions and allow your loved one to be totally engaged by the music. By the way, Alive Inside is now available for purchase on DVD or iTunes.
  2. Create a Routine — Have a routine for daily activities like eating, exercising, bathing, sleeping. The discipline of a routine tends to provide calm and focus, and no energy is wasted on superfluous decision-making.
  3. Calling Cards — One of our contributors, Colleen Lanier, gave us this great suggestion: create calling cards for your loved one. Handing a stranger a card that alerts him or her to your loved one’s impairment can discreetly reduce the potential for awkward and/or misunderstood moments. Alzheimer's caregiver tips
  4. Sundowning Strategies — “Sundowning” is a psychological syndrome that entails increased confusion and restlessness among patients with some form of dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s. The term itself refers to the most common timing of the confusion. Finding simple activities, whether it’s helping with household chores or playing a board game, can help to ease problematic behavior. Dr. Paul Raia, a regular contributor to In Care of Dad, provides some important insight into sundowning here.
  5. Safe Return — The Alzheimer’s Association has collaborated with MedicAlert to create a nationwide emergency response program called “MedicAlert® + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return®” which provides a bracelet or pendant for your loved one to wear at all times. The jewelry is inscribed with the words “memory impaired” and an emergency hotline number that operates 24/7, as well as any critical medical information. So if a loved one goes missing, you can call the emergency number and immediately set in motion a search by law enforcement and personnel from the local Alzheimer’s Association. The emergency hotline operators also have full access to all pertinent medical information. The registration is simple and can be done online. The cost, as of this writing, is $55 for the first year, with a $35 renewal fee each year thereafter, plus a $7 shipping fee for the bracelet or pendant. Another consideration is “Comfort Zone,” a GPS tracking service linked to your family’s home computer that monitors your loved one’s whereabouts at all times. The information can also be delivered through text messages. This service is $42.99 per month, with a $45 activation fee. This monthly plan also comes with the MedicAlert + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return package mentioned above. There may be an additional fee for shipping and handling of the jewelry. Here’s more information from the Alzheimer’s Association.


Kim Keller is the Co-Founder of In Care of Dad. She lives and works in New York City.



Continue Reading

Facing Off With Reality: How Did I Get So Old?

Posted on June 3rd, 2015 by karen

How Did I Get This Old?

by Myra Marcus

I was sitting at an outdoor café recently, next to a small group of women in their 80s. They were deeply engrossed in conversation and since I was within earshot, I decided to eavesdrop — unobtrusively, I hoped. They were celebrating the birthday of one of their group, and the conversation had veered to the subject of aging. There was a moment of silence and then I heard one woman blurt out, “How did this happen? How did we get to be this old?”

I asked myself that same question and tried to stave off the inevitable dread that comes with the topic. I told myself that I wasn’t like those women. I was “only” in my 60s, not in my 80s like them, but I was nonetheless overcome with panic, and even a bit of self-reproach for having moved about in my life, flitting around, oblivious to the fact that all our lives are finite and temporary. I should have been more attentive to the unavoidable eventuality all along, I know that, but as long as my mother was alive, I could always pretend that death was still at least a generation away. Unfortunately, my mom died about a year ago, and my generational protection disappeared. Now, just writing about my mortality causes me to shudder with fear. I have to force myself to take a few yoga breaths just to calm down.

So it seems that I’m on a mission to redefine my relationship with my own aging. Getting older is inevitable, I recognize that, but that doesn’t make it any more tolerable. Do you know that I used to purchase a full-priced movie ticket rather than take advantage of reduced rates for seniors? Just for fear of being “outed” as an old person? The sense of shame at belonging in the senior segment of the population was too much for me to bear. With each birthday, though, the despair has loomed larger and closer, with that same recriminating query of “How did this happen?” echoing in my mind.

Continue Reading