Tag Archives: aging

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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“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.

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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

 

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

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Making a List: Including Fun in the Caregiver’s Journey

“You need to do something fun,” a friend said.

“I’m too tired to think of something fun,” I said.

tiredMy parents were going through a particularly hard time; my mother’s behavior had gone beyond the scope of assisted living and they had advised that she go into a psych ward to have her medications re-evaluated. My father was worn to a frazzle and we were both unnerved by Mom’s zombie-like appearance as the doctors tried to figure out the correct combination of medicines. Fun seemed like a word from another planet.

Yet I realized my friend was right: I needed to do something that would cheer me onward.

Creating Fun-Sized Options

So early one morning, before I was tired or confused or sad, I made a list of little items or activities that gave me a sense of well being.

At first, the list was small—I was too brain-worn to think of much:

Eat chocolate.

Read for pleasure.

Do a crossword puzzle.

Walk outside.

Talk with people I cared about.

chocolateI crammed the list into my pocket and when I thought of something new, I jotted it down.

During the next week I added:

Listen to Dancing Queen.

Hold a stuffed bear.

Collage.

Go to yoga.

Sleep late.

Dance to Dancing Queen.

dance

Making Time for Fun While Still Being a Very Responsible Person

That weekend, I vowed I would do three things on my list. I ate chocolate (OK, that was an easy one, but I had to start somewhere!), talked with a friend, and read two chapters of a mystery.

I felt lifted up, as renewed as if I’d had four hours in the spa. And I still was there for my parents, my work, and other life responsibilities. So I continued the process of adding to my list and incorporating one fun thing into every day.  Sometimes it was only part of a crossword puzzle or creating a three-minute collage while I was on hold with my mother’s doctor. But even those few minutes gave me back a part of myself and allowed me to more fully appreciate my interesting and chaotic life.

Q for U:

How about you — what are the small fun things on your list?         And are you giving yourself time to do them?

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The Caregiver’s Recipe for Prevention: An Ounce of Spice and a Whole Foods Mediterranean Diet

“My mother has Alzheimer’s. What can I do so I don’t get the disease?”
Frequently worried caregivers ask Marwan Sabbagh, MD, author of The Alzheimer’s Prevention Cookbook: Recipes to Boost Brain Health, that question. Dr. Sabbagh is a geriatric neurologist, dementia specialist and the Research Medical Director of the Banner Sun Health Research Institute in Arizona.  He understands the concerns and fears of caregivers and he is able to offer them hope.  the-alzheimers-prevention-cookbook-cover_lg_mini

“The changes in the brain that lead to Alzheimer’s or dementia start 25 years before the first day of forgetfulness,” Dr. Sabbagh says. “The dementia is at the end of the disease, not at the beginning.”

The more he researched the impact of spices and food on the brain, the more he realized the importance of diet in boosting brain health.

Foods are More Effective than Supplements in Protecting the Brain

*   The nutritional values of food are well researched; the nutritional value of supplements varies widely from company to company.
*   The body can break down food into small, transportable molecules that can permeate the brain’s protective barrier and reach the brain with the nutrients still intact; supplements aren’t as easily broken down and often cannot penetrate the blood-brain barrier.

“The road from our mouth to our brain is long and winding. Because of the way we digest food and nutrients, the best source of neurotransmitter precursors is almost always food; supplements are much less reliable,” Dr. Sabbagh writes.  foods

Caregivers Need Nourishing Foods
“Caregivers take the disease on the chin,” Dr. Sabbagh says. “Their stress levels are higher than the people with Alzheimer’s.”

This stress weakens the immune system and puts them at risk for illness and disease.

Five Ways to Boost Your Brain Now

*   Spice Up Your Life and Increase your Antioxidants

The spices that add the biggest boost of healing antioxidants include
cloves, oregano, rosemary, thyme, cinnamon and turmeric.  Add turmeric to your eggs. Sprinkle cinnamon into your coffee or smoothie. Include rosemary in your salad.

spice spoonscinammon

*   B is for Brain Health

“The three most important vitamins for brain health are B6, B9 and B12,” Dr. Sabbagh writes.
For B6, eat sunflower and sesame seeds, pistachios, bananas, spinach, and vegetable juices.
For B9, nibble on broccoli, kale, lentils, peas, and strawberries.
For B12, eat eggs, shellfish or fatty fish. For vegetarians, take  a supplement.

*   Dine Mediterranean Style

Reduce red meat, decrease saturated fats; add more fish and fruits and vegetables. The more fruits and vegetables, the healthier the brain.

*   Believe it Can Happen

“You have to make a commitment to incorporate healthy eating into your life,” Dr. Sabbagh advises. “Part of this is psychological. If you believe this is hard, that belief will make it hard. It you believe that a whole foods diet is part of who you are and how you live, you can easily weave healthy eating into your life.”

*   Don’t’ Wait: start today.
***

Q for U:

How do you add nourishing foods and spices into your daily diet?

***

For more information about boosting brain health, visit Dr. Sabbagh’s website:

http://www.marwansabbaghmd.com

Read his book The Alzheimer’s Prevention Cookbook: Recipes to Boost Brain Health, written with world-famous chef Beau MacMillan.


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