Sunday, June 28, 2015

Creating Moments of Joy, by Jolene Brackey

Most families first address Alzheimer's AFTER they've been hit with a diagnosis.  Then, they go online & are easily overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information available.  Where can they get started?  My suggestion, right after they've ordered Lisa Snyder's Living Your Best With Early-stage Alzheimer's - order Jolene Brackey's Creating Moments of Joy.  

 Image result for jolene brackey

Don't just sit around, waiting for it to arrive - check out the Resource Page at her Enhanced Moments website, where you'll find a select, manageable list of recommended books & links.  
I'd quote extensively from Jolene's book, but I lent my copy to someone & can't remember who has it.  I'd love to devour it all over again.  It rocked my world.     

Jolene  "has a vision. A vision that will soon look beyond the challenges of Alzheimer's disease and focus more of our energy on creating moments of joy. When a person has short-term memory loss, his life is made up of moments. But if you think about it, our memory is made up of moments, too. We are not able to create a perfectly wonderful day with someone who has dementia, but it is absolutely attainable to create a perfectly wonderful moment; a moment that puts a smile on their face, a twinkle in their eye, or triggers a memory. Five minutes later, they won't remember what you did or said, but the feeling you left them with will linger."

 Image result for jolene brackey

Like so many people currently making a difference in how we look at & deal with challenges related to growing older, Jolene started out in an unrelated, creative field - interior design.  But what grabbed her heart was helping people live more expansive, engaged lives.  (Hmmmm.... That sounds like someone...  Oh, right - ME!)   Looking for work involving older people, Jolene was hired as  activity director in an Alzheimer's special care unit.  She had found her calling!
Jolene realized this was no simple happenstance, that God was lighting her path.  As news of her ingenuity in crafting moments of joy which touched patients, their families & care partners spread, she was asked to share her simple, incredibly effective methods with others.  

Today, Jolene'd the guiding light behind Enhanced Moments, which helps Alzheimer patients, their families & care partners navigate the journey.  

Image result for jolene brackey

On her marvelous website, can click on Tidbits to find ways to create your own moments of joy, shared by her devoted readers.  They can tide you over until the book arrives!

Having older friends who LOVE music, am especially grateful for her audio collections - Songs to Remember  & Hymns to Remember, both teaming a CD & songbook.  Blessed is the older friend whose loved ones take the time to burn CDs of their ones favorite music, who print out the words & music - powerful stuff, deep into dementia.

Image result for jolene brackey

Reading Jolene's passion statement - to change society’s attitude toward aging by inspiring minds, rejuvenating spirits, and empowering people to make a difference in the way we care for our elders - echoes my own revolutionary mindset.  Just skimming her Services page boosts my heart & raises my spirits.  Praise be, to able to point people to her book, her website, her glorious self! 
A goal for 2016 - get Jolene out to Philadelphia!  Her closest 2015 event up in Rochester, NY!  It's not possible this incredible woman isn't booked up & down the East Coast.  Jolene - we Easterners need your messages & smile & help creating moments of joy! 

Image result for jolene brackey

Reposted from older2elder...

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Taking Care of Aging Family Members - Wendy Lustbader

 Image result for Taking Care of Aging Family Members lustbader

One of the BEST, most clearly written, most lucid books ever written about the realities about taking care of older family & friends is also one of the oldest.  The amazing Wendy Lustbader wrote this waaaaaay back in 1993.  Rang as true back then as it does in its current, revised edition.  Worth every penny!

Wendy writes more as a friend than as an AUTHORITY, which can be comforting when you feel like so much is spinning beyond your control

Image result for Taking Care of Aging Family Members lustbader


Sunday, May 10, 2015

My Mother, Your Mother: Embracing "Slow Medicine"

Okay, the full title of Dennis McCullough's book is actually  My Mother, Your Mother: Embracing "Slow Medicine," the Compassionate Approach to Caring for Your Aging Loved Ones, but that seems a bit much for a subject line, don't you think?

Image result for My Mother, Your Mother: Embracing "Slow Medicine," the Compassionate Approach to Caring for Your Aging Loved Ones

Confession  - I haven't read this book.  I've only just ordered it.  But it from the reviews I've devoured, didn't want to dawdle in sharing it.  To my thinking, it's the best sort of book on aging, written by someone who gives as much respect & weight to subjective anecdotal information as  objective scientific findings.  

For now, here's the blurb from its Amazon listing, which says in relatively few words the same thing I've read in various reviews:

Thanks to advances in science and medicine, our parents are living longer than ever before. But our health-care system doesn't perform as well when decline eventually sets in. We want to do our best as our loved ones face new complications—more diseases and disabilities—demanding further need for support and careful judgment, but the choices we have to make can seem overwhelming.

Family doctor and geriatrician Dennis McCullough recommends a new approach: Slow Medicine. Shaped by common sense and kindness, it advocates for careful anticipatory "attending" to an elder's changing needs rather than waiting for crises that force acute medical interventions—thereby improving the quality of elders' extended late lives without bankrupting their families financially or emotionally. This is not a plan for preparing for death; it is a plan for understanding, for caring, and for helping those you love live well during their final years.

And from Dr. McCullough's website:

Dennis McCullough, M.D., has been an "in-the-trenches" family physician and geriatrician for 30 years. He is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Medical School, and serves as a faculty member in the Department of Community and Family Medicine at Dartmouth Medical School. He is a member of the American Geriatrics Society, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine, and the American Medical Directors Association, as well as the coauthor of The Little Black Book of Geriatrics. He lives with his wife, the poet Pamela Harrison, in Norwich, VT.  

Image result for My Mother, Your Mother: Embracing "Slow Medicine," the Compassionate Approach to Caring for Your Aging Loved Ones

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Virus of the Mind ~ Richard Brodie

We’ve been shaken out of the magnolias.”  

 Image result for magnolia

I’ve always been particularly fond of that line, from Watch on the Rhine.  Quoted it just the other day to an older friend.  Spoken near the very end of the film, it’s my favorite moment in one of my favorite films.

That’s how I felt – in a positive way – after reading Richard Brodie’s, Virus of the Mind, about six years ago.  It was only today that I realized Richard Brodie did with memes what I hope to do with helping people of all ages live as expansively as possible – he doesn’t set himself up as the great expert, nor does he set out the scientific whys & wherefores of memetics, but simply raised my awareness that they exist & impact my life.  Profoundly.  His book made me look at everything in a fresh new light. 

How to describe a meme?  Whether working at Bryn Athyn Church School, US Healthcare, Prudential, BISYS or with older friends, my work has always involved doing what I can to directly influence individual & group memes.  Back then, we called it “branding.”  Looking back, it’s clear my job as a teacher, a physician liaison, a writer, an account executive all shared a common thread – creating an image/belief in the minds of one that would spread to many.  Aka – a meme. 

A meme is defined as “an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.” The root comes from the Ancient Greek term mimeme, which implies cultural phenomena.  Although the word is often used to describe catch-phrases, popular music & basically anything currently trending, it goes way beyond the hottest new thing going viral on YouTube or sweeping through the Internet & into general culture.

Realized – with a shock – that my brain was host to endless images of others, particularly of myself, that had been wired into my mental circuitry through childhood & early adulthood.  Realizing that freed me to step back, look at the memes that had been running countless programs that had little if any relation to reality, and reconsider.  It gave me the space to reevaluate, reconsider & reconstitute, where necessary, all of my fundamental beliefs.  Actually, all of them – period.

 Image result for magnolia

Virus of the Mind is a book for all ages.  Including my older friends in Late Adulthood.  Maybe especially.

For those seeking fresh perspectives, it can help them see how words formed our concepts which evolved into every sort of belief & ideal, 99.99% of the time without our awareness.   

Take a moment to think about your own birth family, the image & story that surrounds each member.  In our family, the most powerful meme was that Peter & Mim were the smart ones, while Mike & I were the social ones.  If I hadn’t read Brodie first, it’s possible I would never have realized that Mike & I were both social AND bright.  We never excelled because we believed the meme & never gave schoolwork our full effort.  It wasn’t anyone’s fault – it was how a variety of messages were processed by a spectrum of others.  BUT, realizing that in my mid-50s helped me step past a clearly unproductive meme AND embrace a new, positive, empowering one. 

Let me repeat that – in my mid-50s.  And it didn’t really set in until a couple years ago, in my early 60s!  I belief that adults of any age would get a lot out of  Virus of the Mind.  

Image result for magnolia

Over the years, one constant in my life is my surprise at how often older friends, especially significantly older ones, seem more aware of the existence of life patterns than youngsters under sixty.  My bet is they would get as much from reading Virus of the Mind in their 80s & 90s as I did in my 50s & 60s.  Maybe far more than me, it might help them make better sense of not only global & national events (particularly politics!), but also what makes me tick. 

Maybe they’ll be shaken out of their magnolias, too.  Maybe, like me, their blooms will be better than they could dare dream.

Image result for magnolia

originally posted on

Friday, March 13, 2015

appropriate guilt - How To Be An Adult

 Image result for feeling guilty

Fear has a use, anger has a use - even guilt has a use.  Although I would use the term regret in lieu of guilt, or at least appropriate guilt.  

How many times have you ever heard guilt used as a positive?  Okay, am willing to see David Richo's point that appropriate guild is our natural, healthy response to going against what we know to be right, act contrary to our integrity.  It is supposed to be experienced, acted upon, and released.  NOT held onto for all time!

Fascinated that David describes guilt as a belief or a judgment, not a feeling.  "Appropriate guilt is a judgment that is self-confronting & leads to resolution.  Neurotic guilt is a judgment that is self-defeating & leads to unproductive pain."  Resolution, reconciliation, restitution & accountability are associated with the first; punishment - our own or another's - & blame with the second.

 Image result for guilt

While none of us are immune to neurotic guilt, we can be on the alert, to know the difference between it & appropriate guilt.  Guilt that hangs around, makes us feel badly - especially about ourselves, seems endless is neurotic.  On the other hand, appropriate guilt is temporary, vanishing after we admit what we did, stop doing it, make appropriate amends, then affirm in words & action that we won't do it again.  

It helped my mother to realize - almost 70 years later - how deeply she felt she'd let her father down by not saving his life.  She was ninety years old, but still part of her was experiencing his death through the perspective of a teenager.  If she hadn't been swept so unexpected with waves of guilt over his death, she wouldn't have realized how long she'd held onto that bottomless grief & irrational sense of responsibility.  She was able, finally, to go through the steps & release the guilt, although never the sadness.

 Image result for feeling guilty

An NCIS episode from Season 11 touched on the sadness that can come from guilt & a beautiful way it was resolved.  I'd recap it here, but would hate to ruin a excellent story well-told & acted.

In preparation for seeing The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, I popped a double bowl of popcorn & settled down with John to watch our video of the first.  It also features a story of life-long, misplaced guilt that's tenderly resolved.

Both stories dealt with neurotic guilt, ultimately released.  How wonderful it would be if we all had such a wonderful outcome.  I think about my mother, who carried the guilt of her father's death with her to almost the very end of her own life, a guilt she didn't consciously realize was an acid in her heart.  

Neurotic guilt loves drama & nourishes it.  Our best defense against it to remember that there is use in feeling accountable, but none in placing or taking blame.  Blaming self or others can feel good, very drahhhmatic, but leads nowhere.  

Mantra time - admit, amend, affirm; admit, amend, affirm;  admit, amend, affirm.  And feel the release!

Image result for hands butterfly

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Atul, YouTube and "Failure & Rescue" - BLISS!

 Image result for new yorker festival 2012 atul gawande

Not simply another "must-read" New Yorker article by Dr. Atul Gawande - a YouTube video of him presenting his 2012 Williams College commencement speech at that fall's New Yorker Festival! 

Why the "must-read" designation?  As Atul points out, what is true for hospitals is true for all of us - failure seems less tied to how well we initially handle situations using knowledge acquired in schooling, training received on our jobs, and more on turn situations around when things go sour.  The medical term for this is "failure to rescue," a term coined by researchers at the University of Michigan.

The Michigan researchers discovered that hospitals with the best outcomes didn't do a better job at minimizing risks & keeping things from wrong, Their post-surgery complications rates were practically on par with other hospitals.  Where they stood out was in rescuing patients after a complication.  They're better at rescuing patients who took a turn for the worse.  

As Atul put it, "More than anything, this is what distinguished the great from the mediocre. They didn’t fail less. They rescued more."
Image result for rescue
Atul succinctly captures something I'd love to share with youngers striving with such love & devotion to help aging loved ones experience a life as full & rewarding as possible, with oldsters striving to stay engaged with all that is around them.  We can't avoid calamities, but we can stay focused on doing all we can to turn them around.  

As the Michigan study showed, success isn't in the ability to avoid risk & calamity, but in how we respond when risks kick in & a good outcome turns bad, in our ability to keep moving forward.

(originally posted on older2elder)

Image result for university of michigan mascot