living your best to the end

Bringing Creativity into Clinical Practice with Older Adults.

It was a day of music, arts and drama, of passion and compassion, entitled, Bringing Creativity into Clinical Practice with older adults. Bringing creativity into a Clinic Day brought relief and hope to many working with Dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. The presentation was refreshingly unlike most clinical education and on breaks, we were greeted by a Drum Circle, lead by Terri Segal, Expressive Arts Therapist, Not just a demonstration, we were encouraged to pick up a percussion tool and join in. A combination exercise and mental health break. Another presenter – a psychiatrist –  showed photography assignments from nursing home residents, whose average age was 87, entitled: “A View of the World though the eyes of the Elderly: I’m 90 going on middle Age.” One of the photos – a self-portrait assignment – won first prize at an art show: it had been submitted anonymously and the winner surprised everyone when she wheeled over to accept. Robin Glazer, Director of the Creative Center: Arts in healthcare, in NYC was quick to point out that her ‘arts’ are not the same as Art Therapy. “There is no agenda here. It’s de-stressing and fun. We have excellent artists who are flexible and design their approach to the audience. For example, in a group of Japanese elders, our artist started with simple Japanese brush strokes: something they’d be familiar with.” She told of her own experience – which she attributes to honing her observational skills through art appreciation: “I was invited to Grand Rounds at a hospital that one of our artists is at. I saw a young man with an unexplained...

Dementia and Alzheimer’s Patients share hope and humour

“I’m 62. I was diagnosed at 46. You do the math” Christine Bryden, Person with Dementia 16 years of living with Alzheimer’s and Christine Bryden’s making the audience of 300 laugh and cry at A Changing Melody: A learning and sharing forum for persons with Early Stage Dementia and their partners in care. No surprise that Alzheimer’s is the second most feared disease (Cancer being #1). What I learned from the Forum helped put that fear into more practical perspective.   On overcoming fear and stigma: Fear of what others may think often prevents getting diagnosis. Get in early and get help early! Your life has meaning. Focus on relationships based on love and connectedness. Don’t let fear mask your worth. Reach out over the barrier of stigma to help overcome fears. (author’s note: doesn’t that apply to many health issues?) (An example from an audience member) “I talk to people in airplanes about having dementia. At first, they simply don’t believe it.”  (love it: educating a captive audience) From Mary McKinley, Canada (who organizes social events at retirement home, she uses an online journal set up by her son.) “Feeling is, we with dementia have no insight. That is so wrong! I have to use drugs to help deal with anxiety in others. Noise and sound are amplified. Multiple conversations are  really hard. Part of my brain that controls anxiety has no sense of proportion; Key words are: SLOW DOWN! The processor in my brain is struggling. When I need I quiet time, hiding out in the bathroom is a solution. However, my brain doesn’t send ‘bathroom’ signals....

Personal Support Worker (PSW): caring at life’s end

Dealing with grief and End of Life as a Personal Support Worker Guest Post by Natrice Rese It’s something that you are prepared for as a student.  It is understood that as a caregiver, a PSW, you will maintain a distance, a separation, a formal kind of relationship with your clients and residents. But when you actually begin the job you quickly find out that it is not quite as easy to deal with when you can put faces, names and personalities to the residents you care for.  Close connections bring an affection for your clients and vice versa.  Personally I found it hard to be at a distance: When you give total and personal support to residents you can’t help but have feelings of friendship, protection, and empathy that is by nature what a caregiver has in his or her “toolbag”. I recall one particular lovely lady who was often in my care in the facility where I worked.   I will call her “Mary”. Mary had brilliant silver hair and very blue eyes, lots of smiles, laughs and mischievous looks. She was obviously loved by her family and had visits often. Mary was dealing with many issues: she endured a stroke that limited her movement and mobility.  She also had dementia so she needed a lot of support, smiles, hugs, and conversation. Although Mary was confined to a wheelchair she was able to roll her chair around the halls and with one hand surprisingly strong. She was as continually busy as a small child is, always on the move, always into something – often trying to exit through doors, enter...

Obituaries and those who write them

I’m noticing new approaches to obituaries Defying a history of somber and factual, I’m seeing welcomed injections of humour – including obits written by the deceased.  Before, of course. This means leaving blanks as you can see from above picture. Walter George Bruhl Jr. of Newark and Dewey Beach DE is a dead person, he is no more, he is bereft of life, he is deceased, he has wrung down the curtain and gone to join the choir invisible, he has expired and gone to meet his maker.He drifted off this mortal coil on March 9, 2014 in Punta Gorda, Florida. His spirit was released from his worn out shell of a body and is now exploring the universe.He was surrounded by his loving wife of 57 years, Helene Sellers Bruhl, who will now be able to purchase the mink coat which he had always refused her because he believed only minks should wear mink. – McGroarty Achieves Room Temperature! Kevin J. McGroarty, 53, of West Pittston, died Tuesday, July 22, 2014, after battling a long fight with mediocracy. He enjoyed elaborate practical jokes, over-tipping in restaurants, sushi and Marx Brother’s movies. He led a crusade to promote area midget wrestling, and in his youth was noted for his many unsanctioned daredevil stunts. A thoroughly irate woman decided to use her obit to vent: It pains me to admit it, but apparently, I have passed away. Everyone told me it would happen one day but that’s simply not something I wanted to hear, much less experience. Once again I didn’t get things my way! That’s been the story of...

A mother, a daughter and Ovarian Cancer: “Love you so much.”

When Karen Greve Young gave me the hot-off-the press copy of ‘Love you so much: a shared memoir’ she explained: “Sometime into my mother’s treatment for ovarian cancer, we decided we wanted to do something meaningful.” Told by both daughter and mother, the title of their memoir is Victoria Zacheis Greve’s standard email sign-off. Email proves its worth in this memoir: over the four and a half years from diagnosis to death, email connected mother and daughter who were living half a world away, and email connected Karen with her father, brother, aunt and friends. These practical, poignant, personal exchanges offer a real picture of living under the cancer cloud. But they also show how life must go on, including falling in love, marriage, graduations, promotions, retirement, across-the-ocean and back travels, and infertility. In an example of the strength they drew from one another Vicki – whose survival strategy includes trying to be unfailingly positive and determined ­– writes Karen: “Keep up your spirits. If I can lick cancer, you can conceive a child….Love you so much.” Throughout the memoir love, support, respect, tenacity and humour ring true: Vicki addresses emails ‘Dear pushy little sister’ and, depending on the context, signs off as MOB (mother of the bride) and CA (co-author). Also shared is the grim reality: “All I want to do is to feel better and live to see my grandchildren – I truly don’t think either one is in the card for me. In the meantime, I’m trying to live as normally as possible with a deepening depression and flagging energy.” Karen’s correspondence, her narrative and the...