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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Disappointment 100words Sun.December 30,2012

Holiday visits don't go as well as desired; gifts often show less than thoughtfulness or awareness of who we are and what we value. Longing to have everything go smoothly, we often raise our levels of expectation beyond the possible, surpassing the probable or the highly likely. Guests often say what is on their minds, listening in-laws disregarded. Teens and young adults sometimes are not participating as we might wish (if they bother to appear at all.) Remember: these perceived faux-pas are not about you. Forgive, let the snubs and slights roll away and resolve to reduce expectations next year.
Unfortunately, these disappointments take on further weight for caregivers who are generally stressed and unable to be flexible enough to shoulder the difficulties of being a host or a guest.I remember hoping that the family being present would give me some respite from always wondering where my spouse was or what he was doing. When my daughter reported that her in-law complained that my husband was "double-dipping" his potato chip into the onion dip, I was crestfallen. Why don't people understand, I wondered.
My more recent goal is to attempt to turn caregiving into comfort instead of crisis which involves lowering the bar of compliance even further than before. Whatever makes us feel comfortable is okay even if it is wearing slippers instead of shoes, eating with a spoon or even fingers, leaving the table during the meal or emitting unecessary mouth noises. Let's try to find some joy in caregiving for 2013.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Happiness December 28, 2012

Steve and I walk into the memory care facility  to see my husband Bob standing at the kitchen counter where he usually interacts with the staff, but he is facing a worker and the director of residences, who is seated on a chair receiving a neck massage from the worker. "Hey, Phyllis, do you want to be next?" Maria invites.
As I stop to greet them, Steve  walks around the group and is at Bob's side,  who turns toward Steve and says, "I am happy right here."

We all hear him, we all repeat his words, smiling. He has made us all very happy indeed. Maria explains that Bob has just had a massage; he smells from peppermint oil which I discover when he spots me and crooks his finger toward me that I should come to stand where he is.
Bob kisses me hello, holds both of my hands and says clearly, "So what are we going to do now?"

The positive interaction Bob has experienced has organized him so that his speech is clearer, his gaze is steady, his mood is light and his willingness/ability to relate have improved. We go for a short walk outdoors where the weather is too chilly to be without his jacket. As we return to the building, Bob says, "I smell peppermint," but he has forgotten the massage.

He chooses to get his jacket and his cap to walk further outdoors and then asks to go "get something to eat, the three of us," although he has recently been very reluctant to get into the car or to be very far from his home. Steve invites Bob to enter the back seat of the car where he is already seated, holds Bob's hand to reassure him as I walk around the car to the driver's seat, and Bob successfully accompanies us to the restaurant and eats his breakfast-at-dinnerime meal.

Have we reduced our expectations so low that this day truly makes us happy? No, this day shows there can be joy even with Alzheimer's disease, both for the patient and for his family.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

100 words for the holiday weekend 12/23/12

The hustle and bustle of last minute holiday shoppers reminds me of New York, where there are crowds all the time, everywhere. In Arizona, even with the influx of our winter visitors, the feeling persists of wide open spaces with room for everyone. Generally, drivers don’t move on yellow lights and wait patiently for others to enter their lane, but not this weekend. Now, folks crowd the turning lanes, swerve around on the right and speed when they finally break through the traffic. I am not in a hurry, but something inside me wants to compete for that space, make the light.
There is excitement in the air, purposefulness and determination, activity which energizes me. I understand why the polls show that people spend money easily in this environment, more money than they intend or  budget. disregarding the need to pay the bills next month whether or not the payroll tax is extended. There is a kind of competition to purchase something before the store depletes its stock that feels like a score in a sports contest. For a brief moment, the speed of life perks up and we forget the tedium of the rest of the year. This kind of gifting is easy, we can do this for our families and friends. We are tired after a day full of shopping, but it's a good kind of tired.
It is much more difficult to be there for our friends who are ailing, for our elderly parents and spouses who demand our attention when we have the least amount of expendable energy. Caring for others on a day to day basis is tiring also and enervating. It is a depleting kind of tired.
So let's give ourselves  break, take advantage of family and friends who visit and ask for some private time without the person you care for all year long. Get a visitor to remain with your loved one and go with another family member or friend to do something you enjoy, whether it's shopping, pampering, dining out, attending a movie or something else you feel you've missed out on lately. You will feel better, your caregiving will improve and your visitors will feel they have really helped you out.

Aw shucks--December 22, 2012

Resveratrol--That's the ingredient found in red wine that has been shown to be effective in preventing heart disease. I liked that finding since I love a nice glass of wine with dinner when I go to a restaurant with friends or when I invite company home, which is rare these days.
The good news is that resveratrol has now been found to have preventive properties which help our brains and fight against developing Alzheimer's disease. As I read the article the other day, I was disappointed to find that not all red wine is effective in its anti-aging properties and that in order to drink enough to get that benefit, the alcohol would defeat any positive effect.
Thus the recommendation is to get resveratrol from the food supplement store, in a pill and not from the red wine directly.

I have no more good excuse for indulging in my glass of wine, but I will continue to do so anyway AND get a resveratrol supplement. I am paying more and more attention to the food I ingest these days. I have avoided products containing aluminum for years, but I did not know that there is aluminum in the flu vaccine. The health food store has an alternative which is base-metal free. I am increasing my chicken, beans,egg and fish protein consumption to four ounces from three at each meal and adding fiber supplements, digestive enzymes and probiotics because, as we age, our bodies are less able to produce the digestive enzymes we need, given our normal American diet. The food that doesn't digest properly sits in our digestive tract, and we become constipated or expel the food products too quickly as diarrhea.

There is much research tying our consumption of sugar to dementia, some calling Alzheimer's disease Diabetes III. Our bodies store sugar as fat when we are not active enough to use all the fuel we produce, and none of us, well, very few of us, are active enough or eat small enough portions to metabolize the sugar we eat because it is so disguised. Sugar is in all corn products,like ketchup and salad dressing for example. So even if we say "no, thank you" to some of the holiday cakes, pies and cookies, the pounds pile on from the processed foods we eat.

Adiponectin is a hormone derived from belly fat. It too, effects the brain more of women than men. As we make our New Year Resolutions this week, let's decide to look at what we are eating from our brain's point of view. There are tasty choices we can make, but we will have to decide to spend more money on the food we purchase and on perhaps buying organic fruits and vegetables and non-genetically modified foods. Look for the label NGM.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Radio show Monday, December 24th TUNE IN

Phyllis W. Palm, PhD

Will be a guest on the talk  radio show


On Monday, December 24,th  2012 at 9am mountain time, 10 am central, 11 am EST.
The title of the conversation is
Shifting Caregiving from Crisis to Comfort

Tune in: on your computer
Call in to comment 651-748-4714- share your comments and your feelings

Skype  alzspeaks join us on skype

Twitter 31/AlzSpks or tweet
In whatever way you choose

Contact Dr. Palm at 646-265-8570, facebook at Phyllis W. Palm, PhD, blog at, website, email at

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Candles 100 words for Sunday, December 16,2012

Candles, symbols of light and hope in our darkest hours, brighten my home as we celebrate the holiday the day after the horrendous life-taking of 20 children and six adult teachers in a local American school. My heart is grateful for the grandchildren who are here, safe and sound, as I grieve with all other parents and grandparents, uncles and aunts, cousins and friends of those who were so senselessly murdered with yet another assault rifle in the hands of a twenty-year old disturbed young man. Life is a gift; we never know how long we have. Let’s treasure it!
We never know what life is like for others; mostly we concentrate on our own and seldom do we take the time to appreciate what we have. Today is one of those times.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Advice from a Tree December 15, 2012

 Advice from a Tree

This poem is quoted from the Alzheimer Association Newsletter for Alzheimer’s Support Group Facilitators., Desert Southwest Chapter, Central Arizona Region .   
Stand tall and proud, sink your roots into the earth,
 Be content with your natural beauty.
 Go out on a limb, drink plenty of water
 Remember your roots,
Enjoy the view.

 At this holiday time although we decorate our homes and prepare lavish entertainments for our out-of-town relatives and friends, we also need to stand tall and proud even if we are caring for a loved one whose skills have declined since the last visit. If we pretend to hide, if we try to “protect” ourselves from the “intrusion” and advice of our loved ones, we do so at a very high cost to ourselves and perhaps to our loved ones.

Adult children and grandchildren of all ages will respond to the behavior they witness and they will perhaps withdraw if they sense the parent is less engaged than before. If visits decline, the caregiver’s life is further narrowed as well as our loved one’s life. Parents often feel that children have no need to know “personal” information. When we become caregivers that role shifts and those difficult conversations need to occur. If your roots are established, your wishes will be too.

Go out on a limb, test the waters, see if your parents or other older relatives will listen to suggestions to obtain assistance with skills of daily living, ask if they have wills and powers of attorney and medical proxies in place in accordance with the state in which they live, if it is different from your own where this paperwork may well have been written in the past.

Remember your roots, tell old stories, keep family traditions alive and enjoy the visits.



Sunday, December 9, 2012

Passion 100 words for Sunday, December 9, 2012

  Verdi’s opera Un Ballo in Maschera vividly portrays  differences between men and women in a  love triangle. King Gustavo feels love in his heart for his best friend’s wife, so he acts on his feelings and declares himself to her, regardless of the risk or potential cost involved. Amelia asks instead for a witch’s potion to cure her of her feelings for the king, desiring to remain a loyal and protected wife. Many people long for new passions and become bored with their ordinary lives. Is this a morality play meant to show the tragic outcomes of following one’s dream?
When we are caregivers for our beloved spouses, no  path leads to anything but tragic outcomes. If we feel moved to declare our affection we are often misunderstood or even ignored; we strive to remain loyal, loving and kind, remembering for both of us the fondness and love in the past. At holiday time, we decorate the house, prepare traditional food and attempt to feel as if everything is normal, but of course it can’t be. One partner is a shell of what he or she used to be. We go through the motions, we put on a good show, but there is a hollowness inside where true love once resided.
How do we fulfill ourselves when we are providing good feelings and activities for our loved one if these activities are no longer rewarding for us? What do we do with our feelings of disappointment which are often present at holiday time, even without Alzheimer’s disease getting in the way? Depression often accompanies the holidays as we see revelers and carolers on television celebrating and gifting each other when we feel alone. How do we keep these feelings from turning into anger directed at our families and friends whose attempts at helping us are so well-meaning?
It is definitely true at holiday time that we need to reach out to someone who understands what we are experiencing, true friends, family members who "get" what we are feeling and especially to an Alzheimer support group, preferably in person, but also available online and in chat rooms where we can get immediate feedback from a peer. Relating our stories with other caregivers helps them to cope as we are supported in knowing we are not alone. We have all been there; we know how difficult our lives are right now. Sharing our feelings lightens us, we feel less guilty and most of all we feel supported, cared for, taken care of, by others who are caregivers themselves.
And what about our dreams and passions that have been put on hold since our partners developed Alzheimer's or other life-limiting, personality-stealing illness? Figure out a plan that will permit you to pursue your old dream or forge a new one. Find a companion to stay with your loved one, budget your funds if necessary to get yourself some free time to learn to study to DO something for yourself!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012 new resource 12/4/2012

I spoke with a charming woman on the telephone today. Her name is Lori La Bey and she is the voice on the website and on an online radio program on which she has invited me to be a guest, discussing my book Put That Knife Away.
She asked me for several talking points and the following are what I sent her:
Talking points
1. Reasons for writing Put That Knife Away
a. writing my feelings on paper helped me sort them out and taught me a new skill
b. sorting out difficulties with the medical diagnoses and medications helped me to see how complicated it is to have an illness that no one wants to label and for which no one has a cure.
c.I felt so alone with my husband's personality challenges, I thought I could help other caregivers not to feel as alone as I felt.
d. I thought I could help other adult children look more carefully at their parents and assist more if they see one is clearly covering for and protecting the other from scrutiny.
e. I also thought that the general public could become more sympathetic to the cause of Alzheimer's research and donate money as well as pressure the government to do more to find a cure.
2. I am on a bandwagon every chance I get to suggest that folks get their financial and legal paperwork in order, before they are faced with this issue of one partner or parent becoming incompetent. Especially since our retirees often live in different states from the one in which they may have originally signed wills, powers of attorney, medical proxies,etc. It is awful that widows whose names had not been on their primary home mortgages now face foreclosure because their names were not on the documents.Different states have differing laws regarding elder care issues. Please check the laws out in your state and have these difficult conversations with your spouses and children.
3. Put That Knife Away tells my story and the story of others I met in support groups in New York and in Arizona. It shows that support groups are important for caregivers to show you are not alone with this huge problem. My book has been called " a support group within two covers."
4. Many caregivers die before the person for whom they are caring. We deny ourselves the care we need for physical as well as mental problems. Who would then care for our loved ones? In my book, I add a chapter on shopping for purses in Chinatown to show that my friend and I really needed a morning off. Caregivers need to care for themselves and family members need to recognize this issue. The old adage that the spouse is there and is managing is not enough. Adult children need to be emotionally supportive even if the spouse is part of a second marriage.
5. Even with a loved one having Alzheimer's disease, there are still many years of pleasure and purpose that spouses, parents and adult children can provide and enjoy together. See how Bob thrived when we moved into a larger apartment and he had his sewing machine back and he replaced the quarter-round molding on the floors and refinished the doors and the brass fittings.
If you think of other subjects or ideas for this broadcast which will take place on December 24th in the morning, please let me know.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

100 Words for 12/2/12 Balance

When I am emotionally off-kilter, at first I do not know what is wrong. After gaining five pounds, I begin to realize there’s an issue here. I’ve been stressing about developing Alzheimer’s disease myself and that’s a big deal. Bob is much less able to communicate with me, which hurts a lot. I know that. I’ve been working on the Holocaust memoir of my grandparents, grappling with the torment of their seven years of walking-- hiding and hungry. I need to cope better and relieve more of this stress than Zumba provides. Do I need the structure of Weight Watchers?

I do need to finish writing this part of the book and turn to more pleasant pursuits of the grandparents’ successful transition to life in America with their children and grandchildren all safe, but I know the next book which will be about my husband’s  and my experience with the senior care industry will also be stressful to write well. No one can remove the stressors in life; my retired friends seem to manufacture them. Some stress over their golf score, others micro-manage their stock portfolios making changes with each political shift of the wind. Some stress about their families, worried about potential outcomes they can neither predict nor change.
I believe it is all about balance which of course is not original; the Book of Ecclesiastes said it first:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
 a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

Let’s try in this hectic holiday month to seek balance for ourselves and peace in our minds and hearts.