Monthly Archives: August 2014

Four Fabulous Ways to Lift Your Mood and Enhance Your Creativity

Breakthrough 1

Exhaustion. Lethargy. Too tired to think or create. These are some of the issues so many care partners deal with. We’ve been collecting five-minute breakthroughs, simple and easy ways to change your energy and boost your creative spirit.

What area some of your creative catalysts?


You’ve already had a latte and a cookie, and you’re still lethargic. Now is the time to get “up in arms.”

With your fingertips touching, hold your hands in front of your stomach. Without touching your torso, slowly raise your hands the length of your upper body, palms facing in. As your hands lift over the top of your head, straighten your arms, stretching them high above your head.

This simple kinesiological technique makes you more alert and helps you focus.


“I didn’t know what was wrong with me,” says Dusty. “I finally sit down to organize Mom’s medications, then two minutes later, I get up and wander around.”

Guess what–you don’t have to “sit still until you finish your work.” Give in to your desire to leave your task. Distractions are part of the creative cycle. By doing something different, you give yourself space for new creative thoughts and new energy. After a five-minute break, you can return to your task, centered, focused, and ready to be productive, at least for a half hour or so.


Remember when you were a kid and someone read you a story? You were instantly transported into another time and place.

You’ll provide your own emotional and creative transportation when you break a stuck spell by reading aloud. Pick a story or a poem that’s short and visual. Children’s stories are wonderful, for imagery, for sound, for getting to use “voices,” and for quick shots of deep truth. Read aloud to yourself or share with your care partner. Reading aloud changes your energy and frees you free from stagnation.


imgres“Don’t make faces at your brother,” they used to scold. Little did they know you were just being creative!

Scrunch up your nose. Push your cheeks up. Jut out your jaw and open your mouth dentist-wide. Bare your teeth, then stick out your tongue. Make as many faces as you can. Playing with your face muscles also plays with your mind muscles. After a few minutes, you’ll be ready to “face” the world again.


Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.


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Filed under Creativity, Taking Care of Yourself

Finding Comfort Where You Can

bear hugWhen I was in the throes of sadness following my divorce, my 12-year-old daughter came into my room and handed me a stuffed bear.

“This will help you,” she said.

At first, I had my doubts about the healing power of inanimate objects. But I soon learned that cuddling a soft bear was a calming and healing experience.

My mother created her own soothing experience when she was deep into Alzheimer’s. Here’s an excerpt from this story, from my book, Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.


A Doll of Her Own

That afternoon, while my mother is walking down the left-hand side of the corridor in the Alzheimer’s unit, tapping one hand on the handrail, and pressing the other palm on her forehead, she sees a baby doll lying on the floor. Mom’s adult diaper rustles as she bends down, picks the baby up, smoothes its curly hair and carries it with her to the dining room. There she settles in a chair and rocks the baby, talking and singing to it.

“Your mom’s fallen in love with a baby doll,” Leticia, the nurse aide, says when I visit.

Mom is sitting at the table in the small dining room, her head bent over, as if she’s fallen asleep on a long journey. I touch her shoulder once, twice and on the third time, she straightens, notices me and smiles.

I sit beside her and spread out some photographs. She is staring vacantly at a photo of her granddaughters when Leticia brings over the baby doll.

doll 2“Here you go, Frances,” Leticia says.

Mom lights up, holds out her arms and says, “You’re cute. You’re so pretty. You’re a good boy. You’re a good girl.”

I look on in amazement. I haven’t seen Mom so animated in weeks. Yet I feel a pang: I had yearned to be the one who jolted her into vivacity.

I listen as Mom continues her conversation with the baby. Maybe the ease of having someone who doesn’t talk back, who doesn’t hope you will complete a sentence, who doesn’t care if the words are missing or not right, maybe that freedom lets Mom flow with her speech.


I decide to buy my mother her own baby doll.

At the toy store, the dolls are all full of activities. One laughs when you press her belly. One has a musical bottle. Another takes your picture …

I search the aisles for a quiet doll without too many accomplishments. Finally I find a soft, rosy-cheeked baby, a good size to cradle, who boasts only an open mouth for a pacifier or bottle.

“Some little girl is going to really enjoy this doll,” the cashier says as I pay.

I smile as I envision that 87-year-old little girl who is my mother.


Mom sits in a chair in the TV room, eating strawberry ice cream out of a round cardboard container. I know better than to compete with dessert, so I wait until she has finished the last smidgen.

Then I put my hand on her shoulder. She looks at me, her eyes vacant.

“Hi, Mom,” I say. She stares at me and then she sees the baby doll.

“You’re here,” she says, her eyes widening. “My little girl is here.”

She holds out her arms and I hand her the baby.doll 3

“Bo bo bupe, tootle ootle, oop. I have my little girl,” she croons.

She smiles at me; she smiles at the doll. Does she know I’m her real little girl or is she imagining the doll as her child? At this moment, as I watch my mother come to life and praise her baby, it simply doesn’t matter.


Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.


Filed under Caregiving, Communication, Creativity, love

Taking Care of Yourself by Reaching Out

“I’m too busy to even begin to think about doing anything more – even reaching out.”

images-1When I read Yosaif August’s blog, I really identified with this sentence. Yosaif  is the author of Coaching for Caregivers: How to Reach Out Before You Burn Out.

Here are some of his words of wisdom:

“When we’re exhausted or on overwhelm, how do we begin thinking about doing anything beyond what we’re already doing? And reaching out certainly sounds like a major bit of doing.

“But, I’d like you to consider the idea that reaching out is not just another item on a ‘to do’ list. It’s on a different kind of list, a ‘to be’ list. This item on the list is about being connected. About being receptive to the web of connections that can make our tough times much more endurable and our better times much more enjoyable.

“Take a few moments and imagine yourself being open to receiving the love and support that is flowing towards you. Try this even if you don’t quite believe it right now. Relax into it. Imagine your antenna beaming out, letting people know you are in receptive mode. Relax into it.  balance

“Opening up more to love and support is a great way of taking care of yourself.”


I was lucky; during my caregiving journey with my mom — when I was too exhausted and shy to reach out for help — a dear friend reached out to me.

When Maril asked, “Can I go with you to visit your mother?” I felt like a flutter of angels had gathered around me.

“Really?” I asked. “You want to see Mom with me?”

She did. I prepared her for our visit, describing Mom’s various moods. Maril did not seem shocked, worried, or afraid. I told her about walking into the sometimes chaotic energy of the locked Alzheimer’s unit. She simply nodded as if this were an ordinary occurrence, which, for me, it was.

The day of our visit I felt lightness inside; I was eager to share my secret world with my friend.

When we arrived, Mom was sitting at a table in the dining room with a magazine in front of her. She looked pretty and serene and she smiled when we came in. We sat next to her and Maril took her hands.

“How are you Fran?” Maril said, looking into my mother’s eyes.

“Well I you know the scatter of it all,” my mother answered.

“I do know the scatter of it all. How are you getting along here?”

“Like a diamond in the sky,” my mother said.  diamond in the sky

As I listened as my mother and my friend talk, I was proud of my mother’s poetic and eccentric answers, proud of the way she engaged in the conversation. And I was grateful that my friend was able to listen to her words and intuit their deeper  meaning.

“I enjoyed seeing your mom,” Maril said, as we drove home. “I’d like to go again with you sometime.”

The visit was a huge gift for me. Seeing Maril engage with and appreciate my mom  reminded me of my mother’s many talents and facets. This knowledge later helped me get through those moments when my mother seemed faraway or lost. My friend reminded me — there are so many ways to carry on a good conversation. All you need is attention, intention, and love.

Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

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Filed under Caregiving, Communication, Creativity, Inspiration, Relationships, Taking Care of Yourself

“Where Words Fail, Music Speaks”

“Where words fail, music speaks”

Hans Christian Andersen

We invite you to experience an uplifting cinematic exploration of music and the mind. Alive Inside’s inspirational and emotional story left audiences humming, clapping and cheering at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award.

If you are not in Kansas City, Click here to look for this film in your city. 

If you’re in Kansas City, please join us on Friday evening, August 15th at 7:00 at the Tivoli Theater for the premiere of Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory.

Alive Inside 2 Alive Inside 1








Here is a trailer, which has already received more than a million hits: Click here for a Preview of Alive Inside.

Alive Inside follows social worker Dan Cohen as he fights a broken healthcare system to return a deep sense of life to those living with memory loss.

Filmmaker Michael Rossato-Bennett chronicles the astonishing experiences of individuals around the country who have been revitalized through the simple experience of listening to favorite music. He reveals the uniquely human connection we find in music and how its healing power can triumph where prescription medication falls short.

The film features illuminating interviews with experts including renowned neurologist and best-selling author Oliver Sacks (Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain) and musician Bobby McFerrin (“Don’t Worry, Be Happy”).

Invite Music & Memory into Your Life

“Music is an outburst of the soul.”

Frederick Delius

Dan Cohen’s Music & Memory program has a simple yet profound tenet: Figure out what music people love and let them listen to it.imgres-1

This involves creating a personal playlist. Ideally, each song evokes an interesting and positive memory. 

Here’s a song from my playlist:

I am pushing my cart through the neighborhood grocery store when the background music permeates my thoughts. The strains of Summer Place transport me to my growing  up home in Memphis, Tenn. I see myself, age 12, sitting at my beat-up old upright piano, clunkily accompanying myself as I sing. My mother is perched on the piano bench, singing along. “There’s a summer place,” we croon. We do not have great voices but we sound good together. “Where I’ll be safe and warm.” The song offers a moment of respite during a period when Mom and I are not getting along well. Singing together makes us smile and laugh. And now, in the grocery store, in front of the heirloom tomatoes, I smile as the song envelopes me once again, connecting me with my mother, my childhood home, and that piano I earned by doing chores (including picking bag worms off our neighbor’s bushes for a penny a worm.)

images-1What about you? What are the songs that weave through your heart and into your memory?

“Music is the language of the spirit. It opens the secret of life bringing peace, abolishing strife.”                      — Khalil Gibran



Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

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Filed under Caregiving, Communication, Creativity, Inspiration, The Arts