Dealing with a loved one’s things after their death

 

Wohnungsauflösung

I confess. I am attached to my material possessions. It’s very important to me that I live in a beautiful environment and that means being surrounded by beautiful things. I have had the good fortune to inherit lovely things from my deceased in-laws. Their various art collections grace my walls and I enjoy them. But actually, at this stage in my life I would prefer to live more simply in a small, uncluttered home where I don’t need an alarm system to provide peace of mind that my beautiful things will be forever guarded and safe.

Now that my mother has passed away I have more beautiful things. But this time around, as I weathered the storms of her many health crises I was able to think about the things I would like to keep and visualize what it would actually be like to clear out her apartment. I contemplated the reality of having to face the thankless task of going through her top drawer and disposing of her most intimate things: eye glasses, hearing aids, medications, bras, and underwear. I think this exercise helped me to get through the actual tasks required after she died.

Creating a safe space for family

I invited my adult children, my brother’s wife and their daughters, my mother’s sister and husband, and a few cousins to my mother’s apartment the day after she was buried. Since everyone lived at least a thousand miles away, the “farewell party” had to be expedient. Most people were flying home that afternoon.

I asked everyone to browse through the things I had laid out on the couch and the many items, including a collection of paper weight and Lladro figurines, that were displayed in two large glass showcases. Next, we took turns choosing what we would like to take home as a remembrance of our mother, sister, grandmother, and cousin. It worked beautifully because my mother’s family happens to be one of the most “normal” families I know. No one fights, everyone gets a long–usually. And that’s how it went without petty arguing or bickering.

But my mother had a will in which she specifically indicated that I, the only daughter, was to inherit her jewelry. A couple of years before she passed, we went through her jewelry together and picked out pieces for her granddaughters and daughter-in-law. And then I found four small pinky size rings with various precious stones that were perfect for her four little great granddaughters. The will made this task easy.

Many years ago, when my mother-in-law died it wasn’t as easy. One family member got greedy which led to some bitter feelings. The key is to make a plan ahead of time. Encourage your loved ones to designate in a will who they want to inherit valuable and sentimental items.

10 tips for making a difficult, emotional process a little easier

  • Consider how much time you have. Do you need to vacate the apartment or house in one week or one year? Personally, I am glad that I had a time limit of one week. Even though the job was exhausting, I’m glad to have it behind me. Dragging it out month after month would seem to me to be even more exhausting, both physically and emotionally.
  • Get help! My aunt, her daughter and my partner, who stayed with me for the entire week, helped tremendously. I could not have done it without them. After everyone pulled out the items they wanted, it was easy for my helpers to go through things and determine if they could be sold or if they should be donated.
  • Find a non-profit agency such as Goodwill to pick up a truckload of furniture. I was shocked when several very nice pieces of furniture were rejected because of a stain or slight crack. These non-profit groups have become very picky, so be sure to ask on the phone if they will accept imperfect furniture pieces. Set a time for pick-up and ask if the items need to be disassembled before pick-up.
  • Bring miscellaneous items such as pots and pans, dishes, books directly to a non-profit organization in order to clear the space for when the bigger items are picked up, if you have the time and energy.
  • Nursing homes and continuum care facilities sometimes have a “store” on the premises that accepts used items. They often are eager to accept artwork and medical supplies such as wheel chairs, walkers, commodes, etc. If not, give these to someone in need. You might even find a neighbor on the same floor as where your loved one lived.
  • Take photos of photos to save money and space. My parents kept dozens of photo albums from their many trips. I shipped home some albums that included family life cycle events and gatherings. My brother, however, wanted all the travel albums. Instead of spending a fortune on shipping heavy albums, I removed the photos and put them in shoe boxes. My daughter took photos of the special family photos to archive.
  • Keep important papers: insurance policies, birth certificates, car titles, etc.
  • Don’t stop and read every letter or card that you ever sent your loved one. Box them up and bring them home to read when you aren’t as emotional.
  • Do not flush medications down the toilet! They get into the water supply. Boulder County’s website says: Pour liquid medications over cat litter or other absorbent material, and seal it in a plastic bag before placing it in the trash. Fill pill containers with household glue, remove all personal information from the container, and place it in the trash after the glue has dried. Cut trans-dermal patches into small strips, place them in a container, and add glue or mix them with coffee grounds or used cat litter. In some areas, you can bring medications to the fire or police station.
  • Don’t feel guilty about getting rid of stuff. The objects meant a lot to your loved one. But your memories are not contained in the favorite necklace your dad gave to your mom. Your dad’s favorite golf clubs that he won several trophies with don’t hold the same meaning for you. Your spouse’s slippers are old and ratty and it’s time to get rid of them. As we reminisce and go through our loved one’s material possessions, it is a good time to start downsizing our household and to think about our own mortality and how we want to live the rest of our life. The memories of celebrating your loved one’s life will always be held close to your heart. As you go through their items, remember the saying “You can’t take it with you.” It might just help, at least a little.

“Calmer Waters: The Caregiver’s Journey Through Alzheimer’s & Dementia” by Barbra Cohn contains a treasure trove of information on how to stay connected with your loved one, keep calm, improve immunity, reduce stress and feel happier and healthier. Plus, it includes 20 healing modalities that the caregiver can do alone or with their loved one. Available wherever fine books are sold and on AmazonBarbraCohn__

World Alzheimer’s Month eBook Sale & Giveaway Now through September 30!

AlzAuthors

September is World Alzheimer’s Month, the international campaign by Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) to raise awareness and challenge the stigma that surrounds Alzheimer’s and other dementias. In recognition of  this event, AlzAuthors has put together an eBook sale and giveaway!

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Need something to help your loved one find a purpose? How one caregiver discovered that art therapy can be rewarding and stress reducing for herself and her mom.

I’d like to introduce guest blogger Heather O’Neil of Yorkshire, United Kingdom. She graduated in 1984 with a degree in Art & Textile design and writes a blog on how art therapy can help those living with Alzheimers.  Creative Carer

Read how she has used her skills to engage her dear mother in productive and satisfying art projects. Heather and her mum are amazing!

Find more information about art therapy, including simple art projects that both caregivers and loved ones with dementia can enjoy, in chapter 19 of my book “Calmer Waters: The Caregiver’s Journey Through Alzheimer’s & Dementia.” Available wherever fine books are sold. BarbraCohn__

 

By Heather O’Neil

My mum was diagnosed with mixed dementia – Alzheimer’s & Vascular Dementia – in 2012 when she was 82. Since then I have constantly researched how best to cope with the disease and have looked for different ways to stimulate her memory and keep her active, happy and engaged despite her Dementia.

Studies show that Art Therapy stimulates the brain, reduces agitation and creates a sense of accomplishment and purpose. This has been the perfect therapy for my mum as she has always been a very creative person.

She passed on her love of arts & crafts to me and I graduated in 1984 with a degree in Art & Textile design. I have been able to introduce my inherited creativity into my caring and I was called the ‘Creative Carer’ by mum’s memory clinic!

I started our Creative Carer Face Book page a couple of years ago to share our activities & ideas. We now have followers from all over the world and have made some wonderful friends.

www.facebook.com/CreativeCarer

I spend time every morning with my mum and make sure she always engages in some form of artistic activity … from colouring to card making … shell craft to painting stones!

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My mum’s favourite hobby is making beautiful crepe paper flowers. This is a craft she enjoyed when she was much younger … I remember wonderful displays in our home when I was growing up so it has been lovely for her to be able to enjoy her flower making once again!

Due to the Alzheimer’s my mum has lost a lot of confidence and she can no longer design and cut out shapes freehand. However, if I supply a cardboard template she is happy to follow the pattern and will sit for hours cutting out pretty petals and leaves. She particularly enjoys covering wooden kebab skewers with long strips of green crepe paper to create the stems! Making the stems is an activity she can do all on her own and she can cover a pack of 100 skewers in an afternoon 😊

Together we glue the stamens and petals to the stems and once she’s done two or three with me, she’s usually able to carry on by herself! Beautiful crepe paper flowers fill the house and are a constant reminder to her that she is wonderfully creative!

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I had the idea to introduce a “Job Box” a few months ago with amazing success! My mum loves to be busy during the day but without me there to encourage and suggest activities she struggled to start any projects. The “Job Box” gives her a reminder of what she can do in the afternoon when I’m not with her. Every day I will leave her a “job” … cutting out petals for example … when I return the next morning the box will be full of her work and she’s always so proud to show me what she’s accomplished.

 

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Mum’s flowers have been greatly admired on our Face Book page and my blog and we have been asked many times if she sells them. With so much stock around thanks to the “Job Box”, I decided to fulfil her ambition of having her own little business!! On the 29th of August 2017 I opened an Etsy shop for her! We pledge to give 25% to the Alzheimer’s Society and already have made over £110 for them!! Mum’s flowers have been shipped all round the world … from the UK to America, Canada and Australia!!! Absolute proof that you are never too old to fulfil your dreams and with a little support and creative encouragement there really can be a future after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

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www.creative-carer.com

http://creative-carer.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/making-paper-flowers-art-therapy-for.html

 

10 Things to Remember if You Love a Person with Dementia

Assisting and helping elderly peopleToday is World Alzheimer’s Awareness Day. It’s a good day to repost this important article and to remind people about the book I wrote after caring for my husband who passsed away from younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease seven years ago. The book has helped so many people, which is what my intention was in writing it. “Calmer Waters: The Caregiver’s Journey Through Alzheimer’s & Dementia” contains a treasure trove of information on how to stay connected with your loved one, keep calm, improve immunity, reduce stress and feel happier and healthier. Plus, it includes 20 healing modalities that the caregiver can do alone or with their loved one. Available wherever fine books are sold and on Amazon.

It’s sometimes hard to love a family member who has dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. People with dementia can be quarrelsome, uncooperative, negative, whiney, belligerent or combative. They might get their nights and days mixed up, pace the floor for hours, wring their hands non-stop, or cry like a baby. They might ask you the same question twenty times in a row, refuse to budge when you need to get them to an appointment, or refuse to eat what you’ve made for dinner.

When the going gets tough, it helps to remember that you love the person who resides inside that body that is tight and tense and inflamed from amyloid plaque that has strangled the neurons and disrupted the neurotransmitters that allow thoughts to flow and emotions to stay even. He or she is the same person you married, the same loving parent who nurtured and guided you, the same sibling you shared holidays and outings with, or the same friend who offered a should to cry on or who helping you move to a new home.

When you’re about to lose it, walk out, or hide in the closet, stop for a moment and remember at least one of these 10 things about the person you lovingly take care of.

People with dementia and Alzheimer’s often feel:

  1. Embarrassed when you say, “ I just told you . . ..” Instead of reminding them that they forgot what you told them a second ago rephrase it, breaking it down into a simple sentence . . . or completely change the subject.
  2. Fearful because they don’t see things spatially the same way we do. Their sense of space is distorted and their vision gets skewed, not because there is something physically wrong with their eyes. But rather, the brain interprets what the eyes see, and when the brain doesn’t work right our perception gets distorted. Two things you can do to help are to put extra lights in dark areas of the living quarters and remove throw rugs in order to reduce falls.
  3. Lonely because they can’t communicate well, or some of their friends have “jumped ship.” Set up times for family or friends to visit or take your loved one on an outing.
  4. Confused because they don’t understand why they can’t drive anymore, or why they can’t go for a walk alone, or why they can’t remember where they live or what their son’s or daughter’s name is.
  5. Angry because the keys to the car have been taken away, or because they get frustrated when they can’t express their feelings or thoughts.
  6. Sad because they can’t read a book or newspaper, or can’t manage to engage in their favorite hobby or sport.
  7. Anxious because they can’t move as fast or get dressed by themselves or put on their shoes easily. Or, because they hear sounds that are disturbing or are bothered by someone else’s behavior.
  8. Nervous because they have lost their sense of balance and feel unsteady on their feet. Or because they don’t like the feel of water on their skin and don’t want to bathe and don’t want to be forced.
  9. Frustrated because they can’t write a check, figure out how much tip to leave, or remember how to use the TV remote control.
  10. Paranoid because they think someone is stealing their money or prized possessions.

When all else fails, take a deep breath and put on some music. It almost always uplifts the spirit—for both the caregiver and the person being cared for.

Please subscribe to my blog for more informative articles like this. Thank you!

12 ways to make sure your loved one is safe in a nursing home

 

Nurse serving food in nursing homeIt’s horrific and tragic that eight residents of a nursing home in Hollywood, Florida died this week as a result of dehydration, respiratory distress, and heat-related issues.  The nursing home administrator Jorge Carballo said “The Center and its medical and administrative staff diligently prepared for the impact of Hurricane Irma. We took part in emergency management preparedness calls with local and state emergency officials, other nursing homes and health regulators. In compliance with state regulations, the Center did have a generator on standby in the event it would be needed to power life safety systems. The Center also had seven days of food, water, ice and other supplies, including gas for the generator.”

But clearly something was wrong, very wrong. One man who learned about his mother’s death from a report said communication with the staff had always been difficult, so it did not strike him as unusual that his calls were not returned. Lack of communication is a big red flag.

My husband spent a little over two years in an assisted care facility, and my mother lived in a continuum care facility for seven years. Here is what I learned from my experience as the primary family caregiver responsible for making decisions about their care.

  1. If you anticipate that your loved one will be going into a nursing home or assisted living facility in the near future prepare months in advance. Visit a number of facilities in the area where s/he will live. Once you shorten the list to two or three, drop in unannounced so you can observe how the patients are treated. Supposedly, the best time to “drop in” is Saturday evening when there are fewer staff members around and visitors are not expected. Your senior services ombudsman will know which facilities have had complaints filed against them and can give you an idea of which ones to look at based on your family’s needs.
  2. Notice if residents are crying out for help, are in distress or appear dehydrated, and if their needs are attended to quickly. Be aware of odors (especially ammonia or urine) and whether the halls, dining areas, and residents’ rooms are clean.
  3. Once your loved one makes the transition into a home, get to know the staff—as intimately as your time allows. By making a personal connection with the people who care for your loved one, you will become more than a familiar face.  Professional caregivers make little income, have a huge responsibility, and are often the people who know best about the patient’s needs and status. These are people with families of their own. Ask about their child’s sports team or dance class. Ask about their grandchild’s birthday, etc. Your personal interest in their life will be appreciated and they will naturally develop an interest in your loved one and your family.
  4. A friend of mine visits his wife in a nursing home every single day, bringing her fresh berries or cut-up melon because the home doesn’t provide fresh fruit. It’s not practical for everyone to visit a loved one every day, but when you do, bring something nutritious such as fresh fruit instead of sweets. Fresh fruit is usually easy to eat and provides vitamins and antioxidants that help prevent colds and flues.
  5. Make sure water is provided throughout the day–not just that it is available but that it is offered. Seniors often lose the signal that they are thirsty and dehydration can be a serious problem for the frail and elderly.
  6. If your loved one is incontinent, make sure there are plenty of adult diapers in the room and that s/he is being changed regularly. Urinary tract infections are a serious problem with this population and staying dry and clean is a key to preventing them!
  7. Be on the alert for bruises or sores. A bed sore can lead to a systemic infection and death. Speak to the attending doctor or nurse immediately if you notice a sore that is not healing. A bruise can indicate that your loved one has fallen or, in the unlikely but not unheard event, that s/he has been abused.
  8. Sit with your loved one while s/he eats in the dining room. Is she able to feed herself or does she sit there not knowing what to do with her sandwich? If it is a problem, make arrangements with one of the staff to help her.
  9. Does your loved one require oxygen? Nursing homes are required to have generators in case of power outages such as during a hurricane. Familiarize yourself with the provider of the oxygen that your loved one receives and make sure the company is equipped to provide liquid oxygen for use when there is no power.
  10. Remove all loose rugs and obstacles in the room that your loved one might trip on. Also, place a lamp in easy reach of the bed so s/he doesn’t fall while trying to turn it off or on.
  11. My husband lost numerous pairs of glasses when he was in the assisted living home. Leave at least one extra pair with the floor nurse, and keep an extra pair at home.
  12. Know who to talk to if you have a question or concern. Over the years, I had to speak with the director of the facility where my mother lived several times. Don’t be shy and don’t be afraid of making a nuisance of yourself. Your family might be paying big bucks for the care you expect. If something is not agreeable to your loved one or your family speak up. Most of the time the director will be appreciative to hear your concerns and the matter will be quickly remedied. If not, contact the regulatory agency in your state to file a complaint. On this page you’ll find contact information for each state and territory. We provide information (where available) so that you can: 1) file a complaint about a nursing home; and 2) find additional nursing home information provided by a state.

The most important thing you need to know about eating wheat

Production of wheat, collageI admit it. I love bread and pasta. But the next time I’m in a restaurant, I will think twice before grabbing a chunk of out-of-the-oven baguette. And it’s not because I’m gluten sensitive or counting calories. It’s because that delicious, mouth-watering bread probably contains poison.

Before a plant dies, it puts out a large number of seeds to make sure it perpetuates itself. Monsanto, one of the world’s evil empires, supplies farmers with glyphosate—the main ingredient in the herbicide Roundup. Farmers douse it on wheat, corn, oats, beans, and other crops before harvesting because it helps dry the crops, which in turn helps the plant produce seeds. This process called desiccating began in Scotland in the 1980s by farmers who had trouble getting wheat and barley to dry evenly, according to Charles Benbrook, Ph.D., who published a paper on the increasing use of glyphosate. The crop is killed with glyphosate a couple weeks before harvest to speed up the drying of the grain.

The problem is, we are being poisoned, folks. Glyphosate is a carcinogen.  Its job is to kill weeds, but it is also killing us.

According to EcoWatch A growing body of research is documenting health concerns of glyphosate as an endocrine disruptor and that it kills beneficial gut bacteria, damages the DNA in human embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells and is linked to birth defects and reproductive problems in laboratory animals. Other studies have found that glyphosate causes liver damage and many scientists believe it causes cancer.

Not all farmers understand that the chemicals they are using are carcinogenic. One farmer who wished to remain anonymous made this observation. “I think farmers need to realize that all of the chemicals we use are ‘bad’ to some extent,” he said. “Monsanto has done such an effective job marketing glyphosate as ‘safe’ and ‘biodegradable’ that farmers here still believe this even though such claims are false.”

Lentils, non-GMO soy, corn, flax, rye, triticale, buckwheat, millet canola, sugar beets (the source of white sugar), and potatoes are also sprayed with glyphosate before harvest. Glyphosate has also been detected in honey, baby food, and oatmeal products such as Cheerios.

The FDA and USDA jointly test the food we eat for hundreds of toxic chemicals to make sure our food is safe. In 2016 the two agencies did a study that detected glyphosate in 85% of all food tested! Then a strange thing happened. The agencies stopped tested for glyphosate without an explanation, although it was most likely because of pressure from Monsanto.

Because of strong input from the public, doctors and scientists, and environmental and health groups, the FDA began testing again for glyphosate in our food this past June, 2017. The results are not pretty. Glyphosate has been found in hundreds of popular American processed products including some of Whole Foods’ 365 Organic products.

There is NO safe level of glyphosate in our food.

What can you do?

Probably the only way to stay clear of glyphosate is to eliminate all processed foods from your diet, never eat in a restaurant and eat only organic foods. That is not going to happen for most families. But it is important to familiarize yourself with the products that have been found to contain glyphosate and to eat organic whenever possible.

Click on this link to see analysis of the presence of glyphosate in some popular foods:  Five Samples of General Mills Marked As Follows:

If you consider yourself to be gluten sensitive, unless you have been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease or Celiac disease, you might be sensitive to glyphosate and not gluten. Individuals who report that they can’t eat pasta made in the U.S. can eat pasta made in Italy, where the pre-harvest use of glyphosate – a process known as desiccation – is banned.. For another viewpoint on the topic of eating wheat check out Dr. John Douillard’s new book “Eat Wheat.”

Become an activist

  • Alert your friends and family to the dangers of glyphosate.
  • Contact the companies that manufacture your favorite processed foods and tell them you will stop buying their products unless they can guarantee the ingredients are free of glyphosate.
  • Let your senators and representatives know that you insist on the vigilant testing of foods for contaminants by the FDA and USDA.
  • Support health and environmental groups such as Food & Water, EcoWatch and Food Democracy Now.
  • Shop at groceries stores that sell only organic products.

 

12 ways to ensure end of life peace for our loved ones and ourselves

White Bird in Clouds

A couple of years ago, Mom and I talked about facing the end of her life. I asked her if she had a good life and she said, “yes.” I asked her if she had regrets and she said, “yes.” But she didn’t want to talk about that. I told her I would do my best to be with her at the time of her passing. I was, and I am thankful that I fulfilled my mother’s wish and my promise to her.

Just two weeks ago my beloved mother passed away from pneumonia. Pneumonia has traditionally been called “the old man’s friend” because a frail elderly person typically loses consciousness and passes fairly easily in sleep. Although it was not easy watching my mother drown in her own fluid, she appeared to not be in pain. Her breathing was labored for hours, and then she sank into a state of peaceful acceptance as her last breaths came in whispers until the last tiniest breath sealed the finality of her life. 

I’m relieved that I had made the funeral arrangements with my brother a year ago. At least I didn’t have to deal with that on the day that the earth stopped spinning and I forgot to drink water as I faced a new reality of living in a world without a mother. I am also relieved that I made arrangements with Chevre Kadisha, the Jewish Sacred Burial Society. Many religions have complex codes of conduct for survivors and very specific rituals and customs that have been carried out for centuries. Harvey Lutske writes in The Book of Jewish Customs that the practices and customs rabbis established for survivors to observe following the death of a loved one help the survivors “cope with their loss, continue with their lives, recover emotionally, pay respect to the dead, and perpetuate the memories of those who have gone before us.”

Final gift of love

My mother’s body was lovingly washed by a group of women in a ritual called Taharah. This cleansing requires several people because the entire body must be washed and moved from side to side in a specific way according to Jewish law. Afterwards, a huge amount of water is poured over the body and passages are read from the Song of Songs. The people performing the Taharah ask for forgiveness in case they performed some indignity. The body is then dressed in a cotton or linen shroud and put into an unadorned, pine coffin. Typically, someone sits with the body or “met” until internment. This is called sitting Shimira, and it is often done in two-hour shifts around the clock. The person reads psalms or prayers silently or out loud, or meditates while a candle burns continuously at the head of the coffin.

Buddhists also incorporate a cleansing of the body and a vigil into their mourning ritual. Families are often invited to wash the body of their deceased loved one. Washing a corpse enables you to become intimate with death in a way no other thing does. It’s hard work, but it’s an important way to honor the dead, said one Buddhist minister.

Death is the great equalizer

To the question, “What is the value of death?” the Jewish rabbis answered, “If nothing ever died, we, the human race, would not learn how to value time. Life’s finiteness is earmarked, and ended, by death. And learning to face death may be life’s greatest challenge.”

As hard as it is, we can take control and manage the death and dying of our loved ones. We can do things that make sense to us and provide us with comfort. Kim Mooney, the Board President of Conversations on Death, and Director of Community Education for Tru Community Care, Colorado’s first hospice, says, “The more you’re involved in the death and grieving process, the more we’re able to be in touch with that innate place in ourselves that tells us how to live. It’s the fear of death that makes us live. And it’s the terror of death that makes us run from the experiences that will teach us.”

As painful as it is,’ says Mooney, grief work and dealing with the death of a loved one guides how you’re going to live your own life. “We’ve skewed our relationship to death in this society,” she says, “but we can’t walk away from it. If you don’t do the work around it, you will somehow diminish the quality of your life. Grieving is a life-long process. Our lives are a series of gains and losses. Learning how to grieve, and incorporating a loss and moving on is critical to being able to become a mature, spiritual person because it implies an acceptance of what life is.”

I am an expert at grieving because of my significant losses. But this time will be different because I lost my mother, my primary connection to the world. This time is especially profound because no one can replace a mother. It will take time before I don’t have the thought to call her, to check in with her, to make sure she is okay. And even though I have children and grandchildren, I will always ponder the profoundly unique love that binds a mother and child in remembering my own sacred relationship with my mother.

In listening to the sweet words and stories that so many people told me after learning of my mother’s passing, I am reminded that it is how we make people feel—not what we accomplished—that is what we remember about a person. Death once again serves as a teacher to remind me that we are here temporarily, and that as my teacher loved to say, “Do not trust the time. Life is short, make it sweet.”

These personalized rituals can provide comfort and ease the intense pain that accompanies death, dying and grieving:

  1. Have a heart-to-heart talk with your loved ones before they get too ill. The Five Wishes is an easy-to-read end-of-life document that helps makes the difficult discussion about what you would like your end of life to look like.
  2. Hospice is a free palliative service offered by Medicare/Medicaid that supports the dying patient as well as the family
  3. Play music that the dying person loves, sing hymns, chant, etc.
  4. Dress and wash the deceased and dress the body in a white linen shroud
  5. Muslims typically share their prayers with the person who is dying before encouraging the dying person, if possible, to say or listen to the words, “I bear witness that (there is) no god except Allah; One is He, no partner hath He, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His Servant and Messenger. Once the person has passed away, the next step is to perform the ghusl, (similar to the Jewish taharah) or the washing of the deceased’s person body. The ghusl can can be done by most adult family members of the same sex as the deceased. After the body is washed, it is then enshrouded, typically in plain, white cloth.
  6. Have a meaningful farewell service
  7. Honor the loved one at different times during the year
  8. Build memory books
  9. Finish what the deceased person didn’t
  10. Write letters to the deceased and writing them back to yourself
  11. Donate a toy for the age of a baby or child who died to “Toys for Tots
  12. Write a life story

 

Lonely? Two easy ways to make meaningful connections that might just help you live longer.

Bringing Back MemoriesBarbraCohn__

“Calmer Waters” contains more great information on how to stay connected, improve your immunity, and reduce stress. Available wherever fine books are sold and on Amazon.

I’m no stranger to loneliness. When I moved cross-country as a college student to a place  that was as foreign to me as if I had time-traveled to a different century, I didn’t know a soul. It didn’t help that I had transferred my second semester sophomore year after everyone had established their group of friends. I’ll never forget the feeling of being alone in the world, not having a friend to confide in or hang out with. Having moved from my hometown where I grew up surrounded by many relatives and a strong support network, I felt like an alien who didn’t know which foods would sustain or poison me. That experience has allowed me to understand what loneliness is and how it can trigger a downward spiral to depression. Now we are hearing from the medical community how devastating this “aloneness” can be.

Studies are showing that loneliness might be a bigger health risk than smoking or obesity. In fact, loneliness and social isolation is considered not just a psychological issue but a medical one that can actually kill you. According to a far-reaching study (meta-analysis of scientific literature on the subject January 1980 to February 2014) conducted by Brigham Young University, social isolation and loneliness is as dangerous to health as smoking 15 cigarettes and drinking six ounces of alcohol a day, and increases one’s likelihood of death by 32%.

Isolation and feeling alone has also been shown to contribute to depression, cognitive decline, the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, and poor recovery from illness and surgery.

Two programs that help seniors and caregivers connect on a personal level

Senior Center Without Walls

Senior Center Without Walls is a telephone-based national program that offers free weekly activities, education, friendly conversation, classes, support groups, and presentations  to individuals 60 years or older anywhere in the United States. There are activities occurring throughout the day, every day.

Play a game, write a poem, go on a virtual tour, meditate, share a gratitude, get support, and most importantly, connect and engage with others every day. SCWW is a community consisting of participants, staff, facilitators, presenters, and other volunteers who care about each other and who value being connected. All groups are accessible by phone and many are acessible online.

Katie Wade, program manager, says SCWW offers 75 options. People can join a particular group, call in the same time each week, hear the same voices on a regular basis and make friends. This has a positive impact on their emotional and physical life. “The gratitude activity, which is offered twice a day, is especially popular and well attended,” says Wade. “Participants share something they are grateful for. This allows for an increase in social connectedness. We also have fun and intellectual programs that help individuals feel valued, stimulated and engaged, and sometimes we invite presenters from the outside in.”

Wade points out that Senior Center Without Walls is not just for people with mobility concerns. We get folks who are active, people who are married and individuals in a co-housing situation. Anyone can feel lonely, she says. “We take a survey every year and the results indicate that 85% of our participants feel more intellectually stimulated and  socially connected. And on a daily basis, we get calls of gratitude from participants who say, ‘this program saved my live,'” says Wade.

Senior Center Without Walls is an award-winning program of Episcopal Senior Communities. For more information: SCWW@jtm-esc.org 1-877-797-7299 (also known as 1-877-797-SCWW)

Circle Talk

CircleTalk is a structured conversation program guided by leaders trained to inspire sharing among the participants. It follows a customized curriculum that engages older adults in meaningful conversations through creative activities. Director Deborah Skovron explains that the program is modeled on Rachael Kessler’s Passage Works Institute which works with school districts throughout the United States to teach teacher how to create safe, positive environments in which students are free to experience deep connection to themselves, others, and the world around them.

“Rachael asked me to take the principles of her model and create a program for seniors,” explains Skovron. Now, after eight years of development and refinement, Circle Talk has six programs running at any given time in senior living communities in Boulder, Colorado. A trained leader guides the one-hour circle following the same six steps, says Skovran.

  1. 10-12 people sit in a circle and get name tags.
  2. The group settles down by being led in a brief meditation.
  3. The leader does a warm-up activity asking simple questions such as, “What was your favorite game as a kid?”
  4. Next, the leader connects to the previous week by saying, “Last week we talked about . . .”
  5. The main focus of the week is introduced. A topic might be something like “What’s an important moment in history that helped inform who you are today? i.e. the first man on the moon, the Depression. How did it impact your life?” This leads to questions and conversation.
  6. The leader ends with a ritual such as asking each person to pass a message to the person sitting next to him/her, passing a squeeze, giving a “word” for the week, etc.

“My favorite thing is finding out no matter what age people are, they still require connections to other people and to themselves to remember who they have been. Circle Talk really allows for that opportunity,” says Skovron.

Skovron’s goal is to make Circle Talk available nation-wide. For information about volunteering, becoming a certified leader, donating, or participating in Circle Talk, visit CircleTalk. Circle Talk programs are thoughtfully designed conversation groups. They make it possible to form new relationships, providing a chance for reflection and self expression that many thought were lost to them forever.

Could leaky gut cause Alzheimer’s?

Leaky Gut Syndrome - Irritable Bowel Syndrome

When I took my husband to a “holistic” neurologist almost two decades ago she questioned him for hours about his medical and lifestyle history. Together, we came up with a hypothesis that my husband’s Alzheimer’s could have been triggered by his life-long inflammation issues and digestive problems. As a child Morris suffered from eczema and severe asthma. He was an allergic adult with poor digestion.

We theorized that Morris had leaky gut syndrome caused by intestinal permeability. Although this is not typically taught in medical school, the term “leaky gut syndrome” is being studied more and more as people complain of various symptoms such as bloating, gas, food sensitivities and unexplained aches and pains.

Basically, the syndrome occurs when tight junctions in the gut, which control what passes through the lining of the small intestine, don’t work properly. Inflammation in the gut, due to poor eating habits, low levels of healthy intestinal bacteria, infections, intestinal parasites, over-use of medications (especially NSAIDs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), and imbalanced gastric juices can all lead to a weakening of the intestinal lining. Tiny breaks in the tissue lining can result in leaky gut syndrome, allowing protein molecules to travel via the blood throughout the body all the way to the brain. Antibodies attack the proteins which are viewed as foreign enemies in the blood bathing the brain, which results in inflammation.

(Chapters 20 and 31 in “Calmer Waters: The Caregiver’s Journey through Alzheimer’s and Dementia” contain more information about ayurveda and nutrition that calms down the nervous system and supports immunity.)  

What is Inflammation?
Inflammation is part of the immune system’s response to defend you against microbial
infections. It is the body’s first line of defense against the invasion of microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses, and it is activated rapidly after infection. The microbes are detected as foreign to the body by immune cells such as macrophages, which literally means “big eater.” Macrophages engulf foreign microorganisms and then release cytokines and chemokines that attract other cells that help in regulating the infected or affected area. Blood flow to the area is increased, which you notice when the area around a cut swells, turns red and feels warm. These are all signs of external inflammation. The chronic internal inflammation caused by leaky gut can result in inflammatory conditions leading to a host of diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease.

Approximately 70% of your immune system cells are found in your gut.

In one study, researchers found that when they compared healthy mice to mice with induced Alzheimer’s symptoms the sick mice had a different composition of gut bacteria. The researchers also studied Alzheimer’s disease in mice that completely lacked bacteria to further test the relationship between intestinal bacteria and the disease. Mice without bacteria had a significantly smaller amount of beta-amyloid plaque in the brain. (Beta-amyloid plaques are the lumps that form at the nerve fibres in the brain and are considered the main culprit of Alzheimer’s disease.)

To clarify the link between intestinal flora and the occurrence of Alzheimer’s, the researchers transferred intestinal bacteria from diseased mice to germ-free healthy mice. They discovered that the mice with the unhealthy bacteria developed more beta-amyloid plaques in the brain compared to the healthy mice.

“Our study is unique as it shows a direct causal link between gut bacteria and Alzheimer’s disease. It was striking that the mice which completely lacked bacteria developed much less plaque in the brain,” says researcher Frida Fåk Hållenius, at the Food for Health Science Centre.

The important thing to note here, though, is that the bacteria found in the “Alzheimer’s” mice was abnormal. It was not the healthy bacteria crucial to healthy immunity and digestion in the human body.

Other recent studies are pointing to possible links between Alzheimer’s disease and infections. As reported by Gina Kolata in the New York Times (May 25, 2016), Harvard researchers  reported in the journal “Science Translational Medicine” this hypothesis: “that a virus, fungus or bacterium gets into the brain, passing through a membrane — the blood-brain barrier — that becomes leaky as people age. The brain’s defense system rushes in to stop the invader by making a sticky cage out of proteins, called beta amyloid. The microbe, like a fly in a spider web, becomes trapped in the cage and dies. What is left behind is the cage — a plaque that is the hallmark of Alzheimer’s.”

David Perlmutter, MD, a neurologist, author and Fellow of the American College of Nutrition, offers this interesting article about probiotics as being a possible  tool for reversing Alzheimer’s disease. http://www.drperlmutter.com/reversing-alzheimers-with-probiotics/

Researchers evaluated 60 patients with Alzheimer’s for 12 weeks. First the group went through a blood test to determine their levels of highly sensitive c-reactive protein (hs-CRP) a powerful marker of inflammation. They also took the mini-mental status exam (MMSE), the most commonly used cognitive assessment tool for memory impairment.

Half the group was given a placebo, with the other half taking a probiotic milk containing the probiotic species, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, Bifidobacterium bifidum, and Lactobacillus fermentum. The results of the study were stunning. The placebo group showed an increase in hs-CRP, an inflammation marker, by an impressive 45%. In the group taking the probiotic, hs-CRP actually declined by 18% indicating a dramatic reduction in inflammation.
Dr. Perlmutter says, “But here’s the truly exciting news. Over the 12 weeks, the patients in the placebo continued to decline mentally, as you might expect. Their MMSE score dropped from 8.47 to 8.00, a substantial reduction. But the group on the inflammation reducing probiotics actually demonstrated, not a decline in brain function, but an actual improvement, with their MMSE scores going from 8.67 up to 10.57, and that’s a huge improvement. Again, not only was their mental decline stopped in it’s tracks, these individuals regained brain function!

He continues, “The message here is that inflammation is directly determined by the health and diversity of our gut bacteria, and this has major implications in terms of brain health, function, and disease resistance. Recognizing that inflammation is the mechanism underlying not just Alzheimer’s disease, but Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, coronary artery disease, and even cancer means that the findings in this report may have wide implications.”

Healing the gut. . .reducing inflammation

It seems there might be a two-pronged approach to healing the gut by reducing inflammation and restoring beneficial bacterial.

  1. Restore beneficial bacteria
  • Eat fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi, Sauerkraut, apple cider vinegar, and Japanese foods like miso, kombucha and natto.
  • Take a daily probiotic such as Garden of Life’s Raw Probiotics Colon Care or MegaFloria Probiotics, or check out the reviewed probiotic supplements at The Best Probiotic Supplement site.
  • Take L-glutamine, an amino acid, which is essential to a healthy immune and digestive system, heals leaky gut and reduces sugar cravings.

2. To reduce inflammation

Reduce consumption of foods that are known to cause inflammation

  • sugary drinks and desserts
  • white flour products
  • fried foods
  • artificial sweeteners and additives
  • vegetables oils such as canola, sunflower, soy, corn, safflower or palm oil which have a high concentration of the inflammatory fat omega 6 and are low in the anti-inflammatory fat omega-3. Instead, use olive, avocado, walnut and coconut oils.
  • saturated fats
  • meat—reduce your consumption and try to eat only grass-fed beef and chicken that is free-range
  • alcohol

 

It also helps to reduce your stress, get a good nights’ sleep, drink plenty of water, and exercise!

 

10 Summertime eating tips to help caregivers keep their cool

Concept of healthy vegan dessert

It’s summertime and the livin’ is easy—or at least we’d like it to be. If you’re tired and stressed out from caregiving, here are some tips to help you stay cooler in summer.

According to the ancient Indian system of Ayurveda our body consists of three main elements or doshas—Vatta, Pitta and Kapha. Pitta consists of water and fire. It’s hot, so during summer when the temperature rises we want to eat cooling foods. Eating cooling foods not only keeps us from overheating, it reduces the tendency to get irritable, impatient and angry.  (Chapters 20 and 31 in “Calmer Waters: The Caregiver’s Journey through Alzheimer’s and Dementia” contain more information about ayurveda and nutrition that calms down the nervous system and supports immunity.)

COVER.indd

 

1) First and foremost, stay hydrated. It’s especially important to make sure you and your loved ones are getting enough liquids because when we forget to drink we can become dehydrated quickly, which leads to other health problems. It’s also crucial to keep the brain hydrated in order to maintain mental alertness. Drink plenty of water and stay away from carbonated and caffeinated drinks. Herbal teas, and fresh fruit or vegetable juices are great in summer. Just remember that fruit juices are high in sugar and calories.

  • 2) Enjoy the bounty of summer fruits and vegetables. The summer fruits such as peaches, apricots, cherries, watermelon, cantaloupe, and berries are especially good for helping the body reduce the fiery heat of summer. According to Ayurveda, some of the recommended summer vegetables include cucumber, green leafy vegetables, green beans, squash, zucchini, asparagus, beets and eggplant.
  • 3) Sprinkle on the herbs and spices. They’re easy to use and contribute added flavor and antioxidants to your diet. Cooling spices include cardamom, coriander, fennel and tumeric. Cooling herbs include cilantro, mint and dill.
  • 4) Avoid hot, sour and salty foods including fermented food, red meat, and greasy and spicy food. Excess pitta aggravates the tendency towards heartburn and gastric hyperacidity.
  • 5) Here’s some good news—Ayurveda recommends ice cream during the hot summer months! So by all means, enjoy! Dementia patients are especially fond of ice cream. If the person you are caring for refuses to eat or eats very little, try serving ice cream. It contains protein, calcium and calories, and it’s easy to serve and eat. If weight gain or cholesterol is a concern, select a dairy-free version of America’s favorite dessert. Rice Cream, Coconut Bliss and Soy Delicious make delicious non-dairy, frozen desserts.
  • 6) Cooling grains include amaranth, barley, quinoa, rice, tapioca and wheat. Use them in salads mixed with veggies. One of my favorites is quinoa salad. Cook 1 cup of quinoa. (Be sure to rinse it first to remove saponin, a naturally occurring chemical that coats each grain to ward off insects. It has a strong, bitter flavor. And yes, it is a pain to rinse quinoa. First soak it and then place it in a very fine mesh strainer and rinse.)  Sauté onion and zucchini, add a handful of fresh corn cut off the cob, mix with the quinoa. Add fresh tomatoes, black beans, and a dressing made with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Delicious!
  • 7) Make your own granola. Once you do, you’ll never go back to buying store-bought granola, which is typically filled with sugar. Plus, it is expensive. Oats, almonds, and coconut are all cooling. First toast 1/2 cup of slivered almonds on a cookie sheet in the oven. Watch carefully so they don’t burn. Add to 4 cups of oats, along with 1/2 cup coconut flakes, 1/4 cup coconut oil, 1/4 cup maple syrup. Add 1/2 tsp of cinnamon, if desired. (Cinnamon is warming, but a little bit won’t hurt.) Stir and bake at 325 degrees for about 20 minutes. Add raisins if desired.
  • 8) For added protein, top your salads with these cooling legumes: garbanzo, pinto, white beans, azuki beans, and black-eyed peas.
  • 9) If you eat meat try to avoid beef, chicken, and pork during the hot months and use cooling meats such as buffalo, turkey rabbit or venison instead.
  • 10) My roses are bursting with fragrance and beauty. Roses are especially cooling and ff you have rose bushes that are free of chemicals, here’s a special treat to make: Rose Petal Jam. It’s fun and easy and the person you are caring for might even like to get into the act. It’s also very cooling and pacifies irritability. Spread it on toast, put a teaspoon on top of a scoop of ice or add it to warm milk for a yummy nightcap. (see recipe below) You can also make a rose petal lassi using a tablespoon of rose petal jam. Or use the delicious recipe below to make the classic, cooling Indian-style milkshake.

Rose Petal Jam

Ingredients

  • ◦ 1 cup fresh rose petals (must never have been sprayed with any chemicals)
  • ◦ 3/4 cup water
  • ◦ 1 lemon, juice of (1/4 cup)
  • ◦ 2 1/2 cups sugar or evaporated cane juice crystals
  • ◦ 1 package pectin
  • ◦ 3/4 cup water

Directions

  1. Puree rose petals, 3/4 cup water and lemon juice in blender until smooth.
  2. Slowly add sugar.
  3. Blend till all sugar has dissolved; (leave in blender) Stir 1 package pectin into 3/4 cup water, bring to a boil, and boil hard for 1 minute. Pour mixture into blender with rose petal mixture until well blended.
  4. Do this very quickly – it sets up FAST!! Pour into small, sterilized jelly jars.
  5. Let set for 6 hours, till firm.
  6. Will keep one month in refrigerator.
  7. Freezes well.

Rose Water Lassi

  • 2 1⁄2 cups plain yogurt
  • 1/2-teaspoon fine sugar
  • ¼ tsp of ground cardamom
  • 2 teaspoons pure rosewater
  • 3⁄4 cups Ice water
  • 1 cup Ice cube cracked
  • Fragrant rose petals for garnish

Blend the yogurt, sugar, cardamom, rose water and iced water in a blender for 2 minutes. Add the ice and process for another 2 minutes. Pour the lassi into tall, refrigerated glasses and garnish with rose petals. Chill out and enjoy!