Monthly Archives: January 2014

Noticing Your Own Shooting Stars: The Creativity of Being a Care Partner

Several years ago, we spent an evening in Zion National Park in Utah looking for shooting stars.

“There’s one,” someone said.star

“I see it!” someone else said.

I saw only the regular stars, which were also gorgeous but not quite as exciting.

“I can’t see any shooting stars,” I finally confessed.

“Here’s how you spot a shooting star,” our friend Ron told me. “You soften and widen your gaze and stare off into the middle distance. You’re looking at everything and nothing. That way you’re open to that sudden flash of light and movement.”

I didn’t see the flash of light from a shooting star that evening, but I did have an idea flash. Looking for shooting stars is like inviting out creativity. You open up your focus, relax, put yourself in receiving daydreaming mode and wait for something marvelous.

Three Tips for Noticing the Stars

For me, the art of being a care partner was an exceedingly creative endeavor. Much of the time was fraught with focus, dedicated to detail. But when I remembered to soften and widen my gaze, I was able to see my mom for the star she was, even when she seemed light years away.

Here are some tips for your own personal “star-gazing:”  star gaze

Sit quietly with the person who has dementia. If appropriate, hold hands.

Let go of  your history and your expectations. Appreciate her just as she is.

Open your mind and heart: be receptive to whatever flashes of light may come your way.

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Tune in to the Benefits of Music: Four Noteworthy Tips

This morning, “My Girl” is playing in my head. Yesterday’s tune was “You are my Sunshine.” Music has always woven through my life, a gift from my father, who in his earlier years, worked as a DJ at various radio stations.

Music often worked its magic with my mother during her Alzheimer’s journey. This short excerpt from my story, Bringing Magic to Life, takes place in a memory care unit.

***stardust2

Rochelle sticks in another tape and soon Stardust is playing.

Mom looks up and I offer her my hand.

“Want to dance?” I ask her.

“What else,” she says, standing up.

My parents have danced to this song many times, my mother coaxing my father onto the dance floor. I hold hands with Mom and move back and forth to the music. She laughs and does the same. I twirl her, and she walks around in a jaunty little circle. For a moment, her energy and charm have returned. I feel like I have found my long-lost mother. …

***

Four Ways to Inspire Melodic Moments

Dr. Glenn Smith, a board-certified clinical neuropsychologist who specializes in Alzheimer’s disease, recently wrote about Alzheimer’s and music in the Mayo Clinic newsletter. (MayoClinic.com)

He writes:

“Limited research suggests that listening to music can benefit people who have Alzheimer’s disease in various ways.senior music

For example, music can:

  • Relieve stress
  • Reduce anxiety and depression
  • Reduce agitation

Music can also benefit caregivers by reducing anxiety, lightening the mood and providing a way to connect with loved ones who have Alzheimer’s disease — especially those who have difficulty communicating.”

Here are a few of his suggestions:

  • Think about your loved one’s preferences. What kind of music does your loved one enjoy? What music evokes memories of happy times in his or her life? Involve family and friends by asking them to suggest songs or make playlists.
  • Avoid overstimulation. When playing music, eliminate competing noises. Turn off the TV. Set the volume based on your loved one’s hearing ability. Opt for music that isn’t interrupted by commercials, which can cause confusion.
  • Encourage movement. Help your loved one to clap along or tap his or her feet to the beat. If possible, dance with your loved one. senior dance
  • Pay attention to your loved one’s response. If your loved one seems to enjoy particular songs, play them often. If your loved one reacts negatively to a particular song or type of music, choose something else.

To learn more about Dr. Glenn, visit http://www.mayoclinic.org/expert-biographies/glenn-smith-ph-d/BIO-20025110

For more about the benefits of music, read Dr. Glenn’s entire article.

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/music-and-alzheimers/AN02184

To see our HERO Project that features music, visit

http://thecreativityconnection.com/html/tuning_in.html

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Let Go and Notice the Answers

For me, part of being a care partner is letting go of worry and control and being open to intuition and flow.  Here is a story from my life where I almost didn’t notice I was “in the flow!” Has this ever happened to you?

Opening to Answerslet go

 “Some people think it’s holding that makes one strong — sometimes it’s letting go.” -Unknown 

Driving to the writer’s conference, my hands were sweating and my throat was tight. I had given workshops before, but I felt very nervous about this one. What if I had nothing to say? What if nobody learned anything? What if they looked at me with bored and indifferent eyes?

As I drove down 55th street, I thought, “You have prepared and you are going to do your best. Now it’s time to ‘let go and let God.’”  I took a deep breath and felt a little better.

Then my inner worrywart boomed, “You could have tried harder, practiced more, done more research. You don’t have one original thing to say.” By the time, I pulled into the parking lot the steering wheel was damp with my sweat.worry

The conference was held in a mid-town church and the lobby was bustling with people.

“Your room is down the stairs and to your right,” the woman in charge told me.

I walked down the stairs and to the right. I saw a bathroom and a coat closet. I  opened one door into a maintenance room, stacked with toilet paper and paper towels, brooms and mops.  Then I noticed another room: tucked into an obscure corner — it was a small chapel. I walked in, taking in the serenity, the rich maroon color of the chairs, the soothing pattern of the stained glass windows. I felt calm and centered in this room.  I tiptoed to the pulpit and stood behind it, like I had something holy to say.stained glass

Then I realized, I was going to be late for my class, Frantically, I retraced my steps, but I couldn’t find any room large enough for a class. I raced upstairs and found the woman again.

“I can’t find my room,” I told her. “There’s only a chapel in that area.”

“That is your room,” she said, “You’re teaching in the chapel.”

I walked back down slowly, smiling all the way.

My prayer, to let go and let God, had been answered in a most concrete way. I had almost been too busy worrying to notice.balloon

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The Power of Ones: Three Simple Intentions to Light up the New Year

One Nurturing Bite

Ron looked over at me as I took a bite of my Coconut Bliss chocolate vegan ice cream.

“Can you help me fold the laundry?” he asked.

“I’ll help soon. But right now, I’m pursuing my goals.”

He raised his eyebrows and I pointed to my ice cream bowl.

Yes, dear reader, I had wisely set a goal at the beginning of summer to eat ice cream.   ice cream

(And I know vegan ice cream probably may not sound good to you, but this brand is actually delicious!)

Usually my goals have to do with self-improvement or helping others. But something whimsical and self-nurturing popped into my mind when I stated my summer goal in front of a group of family and friends in laMay. I have never had a more delicious goal. I have never been more pleased to sit down and work on my goal. Now, I’m trying to decide, what is my goal for this glorious New Year?

jar of blessingsOne Wonderful Moment

My friend, author and psychologist Karen Rowinsky, has given me a terrific idea. Last year she created a “Wonderful Moments Jar.” Every time she had a joyful or meaningful experience, she jotted it down on a scrap of paper and tucked it into her designated jar. At the end of the year, she read through all her moments and had a deep sense of joy and connection.

I’ve already started my 2014 jar. Just giving myself the invitation to record wonderful moments is already making me more conscious of the every day blessings.

One Meaningful Action

Another friend, Joanne Stout, inspired me with her intentions for this year. She wrote:

1.  Take an action that makes a difference, no matter how small, in someone’s life

2.  Take an action that makes a difference, no matter how small, in your own life.  I find that number one triggers number two.  small actions

One with Wondering

I am stepping into this year with these small but mighty intentions. For me, they enrich both life and of caregiving:  nurturing yourself; noticing the gifts in the moment; and reaching out to make a difference.

I’m always ready to add to my list of “one-derment.” What are your intentions for this year?

wonderment

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