Welcome Ann Richardson, author of “Life in a Hospice”

By Ann Richardson

Life in a Hospice with background

Some years ago, I was taken to a hospice by a friend, who happened to be doing an errand. I immediately felt that this was the kind of tranquil place where I wanted to spend time. Soon after, I began to volunteer at a local hospice every Saturday afternoon. I did so for four years. Continue reading

Finding My Tribe

Aren’t you curious to know more? Why do you find this boring? If you could peer into my brain, you might observe these questions bouncing around.

DetailsI remember being admonished as a child for acting “too inquisitive” or alternately, “too sensitive.” As an adult I’m sometimes told that, in conversations, I either give too many details or ask for too many details, depending on whether I’m telling the story or listening to one. Or worse, I confess to interrupting someone else’s story (my husband) to add more details when I don’t feel he’s imparting enough information. Okay, so I like details! Watching movies, it’s not uncommon for me to be so engrossed in the details of the room decor or the characters’ clothing in period piece dramas, that I forget to listen to the dialog. My husband might call a movie a “yawner,” while I found it completely captivating in its minutia. And yes, I can be a bit on the obsessive side when it comes to journaling, particularly when traveling. I’m driven to record the details of our travel days, which actually sometimes comes in handy when we’re trying to remember the name of a particular place or where we stayed in any given city. While other people seek entertainment on their iPad, I’m busily recording the day’s events.

MI FarmI’ve long collected family memorabilia, particularly photographs. Some of these photos date back to the mid-1800s. I thoroughly enjoy studying the details in these old photos, imagining myself in that time period. My current work in progress is a fictional biography of my great-grandmother Maggie. For Continue reading

Turn Around, Red Robin

Last week I was reminded that answers or solutions aren’t necessarily what or even where they initially appear…

UnknownI opened the pedestrian door from our garage onto our patio to sounds of frantic fluttering and flapping, coming from our next-door neighbor’s yard. My first thought was “Oh, no, an injured bird.” As I walked closer to the fence dividing our yards, that’s indeed what it appeared. I saw a robin hopping about and frantically flapping his wings. However, when I looked more closely, I realized that wasn’t it at all. The robin was “imprisoned” inside a loop of chicken wire mesh.

In an attempt to keep his dog away from a section of our shared fence, my neighbor had installed a few feet of chicken wire. The wire had detached from one end and was partially curled over, forming an empty cylinder. Somehow the robin had skittered into this unintentional birdcage, and was now trying his utmost to batter the chicken wire into releasing him to freedom. It was easy to see the effort was causing the bird a great deal of stress and would ultimately exhaust him.

If only we could only redirect the bird to reverse direction and look behind him toward our shared fence, he’d see there was a wide opening in the chicken wire where he could easily hop out and escape his self-made prison. My husband retrieved a broom from the garage Continue reading

In the Limelight with Jennifer Brush

9781452590738_COVER.inddThis week, I’d like to welcome guest blogger Jennifer Brush, M.A, CCC/SLP. She and Kerry Mills are the authors of I Care: A Handbook For Care Partners Of People With Dementia.

Jennifer, it’s great to have you back for your second appearance on my blog. First of all, I’d like you to know how much I enjoyed reading your handbook I Care. It’s a true little gem of a book. I certainly would have appreciated having such a wealth of practical information at my fingertips after my parents were both diagnosed with dementia back in 2004.

I’d like to start our interview with you sharing an overview of I Care, along with some of the topics covered in your handbook.

The goal of I Care is to help families have fulfilling, loving, and nurturing relationships and to minimize any depression and stress they might feel when caring for someone with dementia. Every chapter has many useful and practical suggestions to help families feel empowered, rather than defeated, while dealing with the daily trials of dementia.

I Care discusses how to prepare for the future while living in the present, how to make the most of your day, where to look for help when you need it, how to communicate effectively with someone with memory loss, and where to make changes in your home so it is safe. I Care clearly explains the essential information you need to be the best care partner you can be.

Can you explain what motivated you to the write this handbook?

I’ve been working with people living with dementia and their care partners for 25 years. Although there’s a lot of information now available on the Internet for people to read about dementia, family members still have a real need for practical advice to help them Continue reading

Aged Appreciation

UnknownAppreciation: thankful recognition or gratitude

Although Mom passed away 8 years ago from complications of Alzheimer’s disease, a belated appreciation of her has slowly blossomed, especially in the past couple of years. At random moments, I’ve experienced an unmistakable yearning to hug her tenderly and voice my gratitude one more time. In earlier years, I sometimes seemed to lack the ability to show my appreciation in a way that she could relate.

She was born in a time of little. As a child, farm work was the only extra-curricular activity she experienced outside of school. On the other hand, while I was growing up as the only child still at home, it was quite the opposite. Mom did everything in her power to offer me as many experiences and opportunities as possible in our small town. At various times Continue reading

Imagine

According to Albert Einstein, “Imagination … is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”[1]

images-3It was late afternoon when my doorbell rang. I peeked carefully out the window and there stood a clean-cut young man. I thought, “Uh oh, a magazine salesman,” but something moved me to open the front door anyway.

“Hi, My name is Mikhail.” He turned slightly to point behind him at the sidewalk steps leading up onto the walkway to our front porch. “I’ve long admired those steps and I’m wondering if it would be all right to stand on them next Saturday when I propose to my girlfriend?”

“Whaat?” That wasn’t what I’d expected him to say. Far from it! “You want to propose on the steps leading up to our walkway?” Was I hearing correctly? This was a first!

Continue reading

Empowering patients to understand their health

It is my pleasure to welcome guest blogger, Nathanael Geman, Co-Founder & CEO of the new medical search engine for patients, MedNexus.

new_logo_resizedExciting new developments are happening in Medicine every day but patients are flooded with information and cannot keep up with the latest evidence. Navigating the sea of information available online can be daunting at best, and dangerous at worst.

A close family member of mine has been suffering from Crohn’s Disease for over 15 years. He was struck in his mid twenties and had to undergo countless surgeries. His journey from doctor to doctor, hospital to hospital without any relief highlights the lack of consensus on courses of treatment and the heterogeneity of care. After years of looking for a long-term solution to help manage recurring infections, he came upon an online article highlighting a simple day-to-day approach that immediately provided relief. This was not a Continue reading

An Encore For Love

4This post must begin with a confession…for a good part of my life I believed “older” people lived on a different emotional planet, an asexual planet devoid of romance, free from desire. It didn’t seem feasible to me that someone in midst of their golden years could actually experience all those tingly feelings that come from the infatuation of a new love. However, I also never deduced exactly when it was that this human characteristic was lost, but certainly by the 8th or  9th decades! Surely the feelings experienced when pheromones flooded our bloodstream were limited to those of us under a certain age. Surely.

I am elated to report, with the bold crash of a dozen cymbals, how gravely mistaken I was. It’s been with a sense of pure delight that I’ve been witness to my dear friend and neighbor falling in love. Oh, did I mention that she’s at the tail end of her 70’s  and he’s in his mid-80’s? Even though they’re now further along life’s path, her description of the emotions experienced strike me as precisely the same feelings as anyone who’s ever fallen in love.

I’ve learned there’s even a scientific explanation for these feelings and it’s all about brain Continue reading

Transformative Touch

images-2Did you know that as we grow older, our sense of touch diminishes? Sure, I knew that eyesight and hearing often decline, along with our sense of smell and taste, but it was news to me that our sense of touch declines as well. According to a recent *article in AARP, by the time we’re 80, we’ve only a quarter of the touch receptors we had at 20. Because it’s so gradual, many of us may not even notice this loss. While our sense of touch may lessen, our need for touch certainly doesn’t!

Think of what happens to infants that are left untouched–they often do not survive. All human beings need touch. That includes the elderly. Sadly, something else that often diminishes over time is the opportunity for touch. Spouses die, children and grandchildren are far away and the elderly often find themselves living a singular, mostly “untouched” life.

Both my parents had dementia. Mom had Alzheimer’s and Dad, Parkinson’s-related dementia. They lived nearby me in an assisted living facility and I clearly remember what Continue reading

Beside the Point

Redundancy: superfluous, unnecessary, extraneous, beside the point

Unknown

An encounter while visiting my daughter and her family gave me my first-ever opportunity to personally experience age-related redundancy. Never before have I felt so beside the point.

One afternoon,  we walked to a nearby park. Her family had lived in the area for only a few weeks, so there were lots of new people to meet. One of those new neighbors and her children were at the park too, and we began a conversation. First came the introductions. That past, the neighbor looked directly at my daughter and said, “So, how long will your mother be here?” as I stood right beside her, suddenly feeling like chopped liver. It jolted me. Hadn’t I read about this…the marginalization of the elderly? Wow. Was I now an “elderly?” This alone was tough to swallow, without suddenly also feeling I’d become invisible. My daughter answered the woman’s question, while I was left speechless and staring. Quickly searching my own memory, I wondered if I’d ever treated someone this way. It was with a sense of remorse I realized that I was, indeed, guilty. As caregiver to my parents, how many times had I disrespected them, talking over their heads with health care providers or caregivers, treating Mom and Dad as if they were superfluous? How unthinkingly easy it had been! Continue reading