Archive for December, 2011

I will be spending time with my family from now until January 3rd.  I will continue posting articles on our facebook Page, which you can access on the right, to keep you updated with interesting caregiving news.

All best wishes for a wonderful holiday season and a joyful New Year!


I’ll leave you with “some of my favorite things”:

I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas

Let It Snow!

Jingle Bells

Up on a Rooftop

It’s Beginning To Look a Lot Like Christmas

Carol of the Bells

Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree





Good news for some in-home caregivers!


UPDATE:  The White House Press Release

December 15, 2011

We Can’t Wait: President Obama Will Announce Administrative Action to Provide Minimum Wage and Overtime Protections for Nearly 2-million In-Home Care Workers

WASHINGTON – The White House today will announce new rules proposed by the U.S. Department of Labor that would provide minimum wage and overtime protections for nearly two million workers who provide in-home care services for the elderly and infirmed. Many of these workers provide critical in-home health care services such as tube feeding, wound care, or assistance with physical therapy, and deserve the protections provided under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)…

Today’s proposed rule would expand minimum wage and overtime protections by ensuring that all home care workers employed by third parties, like staffing agencies, will receive protections. It would also ensure that those employed by families and performing skilled in-home care work, such as medically related tasks for which training is typically a prerequisite, are covered. However, those employed by families and truly engaged in tasks related to fellowship and protection- such as visiting with friends and neighbors or engaging in hobbies- would still be considered ‘companions’ and will not be subject to wage protections…   Read more


Happy Chanukah! Merry Christmas!

The upcoming holidays conjure up visions of colorful lights on trees and front yard decorations, of sweet and spicy cakes temptingly sitting on festive plates, of candles’ glow playfully dancing beside a spinning dreidel.  Everywhere you look – at home, in stores, in town – you see they are all dressed in their holiday best.  With eyes wide and cheerful, the young and the young-at-heart delight in the sparkle of the season.  Oh!  What a wonderful time of year this is!

At home, we celebrate both Chanukah and Christmas.  Indeed, it is a busy time!  We do keep some semblance of sanity and reason, however, or risk overdosing on Chanukah gelt (those chocolate gold coins) to ensure our good fortune in the coming year, and on Christmas cookies and gingerbread – well, because I baked them!  We remind ourselves that the point of the holidays is to commemorate important events with family and friends, to show more kindness toward our neighbors, to simply be better people.

For Chanukah, we light the candles on the menorah that came from my husband’s home, adding one more on each of 8 nights.  As they light the candles, a symbol of God’s eternal protection, our son and daughter recount the story of how the Festival of Lights began over 2000 years ago.  And on the first night, we have potato latkes with applesauce or sour cream, just like his family did when he was growing up in Bath, Maine.  To make it our own, we added matzo ball soup to the meal because we love it!  Afterward, we give our son and daughter a small but meaningful gift, and play dreidel.  We do all of this to remember my husband’s family traditions and to celebrate the heritage he shares with our children.

Then, we await Christmas alongside our collection of nutcrackers, our tree that wears an ornament with every year that we’ve been married, and stockings hung from the mantle.  On Christmas Eve, we go to Mass late afternoon and leave a plateful of cookies and punch, or port, for Santa.   Amazingly, on Christmas morning, we always find a note handwritten by him on the napkin thanking us for the treats!  We also find, without fail, our daughter at the tree, assessing the inventory of gifts while I scramble to find my consciousness after way too little sleep the night before.  My husband then joins us in the living room if he can muster the strength.  Last year, he was too weak to walk, so our daughter set him up to Skype on his laptop from his room and brought my laptop to the table by the tree.  We Skyped as we opened the presents “together,” ooh-ing and ah-ing over the unwrapped trinkets and treasures, and eating cookies and cake for breakfast – it is Christmas, after all!

For us, Christmas and Chanukah are times to come together as a family, to applaud the ancestral yarn that binds us as we choose our own path in life.  We are different, yet the same.  And as the ways in which we celebrate continue to change – our son has moved away and my husband’s CRPS progresses – they will not diminish one bit the bonds that make us family.

May you and your family always share kindness, love and joy.

Happy Chanukah!  Merry Christmas!


The Story of Chanukah

The Christmas Story





We all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  And yet, it seems like it’s the meal that gets the least attention during the work week.  Who has time or energy to devote more than a few minutes to put something together at 6:30am?  In our house, an extra minute of sleep is hard to give up!  We have outgrown boxed cereals and most of the novelty breakfast items – our family is split right down the middle on this one.  Have you looked at the nutritional value of “toaster pastries,” cinnamon rolls or Hot Pockets?

Since my rule has always been: no one leaves home without having breakfast, I’m constantly on the lookout for wholesome and tasty recipes that I can put together in a few minutes.  I am glad that when my son was little, he loved cereal as much as he did a hot cooked breakfast – and lunch and dinner.  Today, breakfast is about the only truly enjoyable meal for my husband because it includes some of his favorite foods, which happen to be more easily digested.  Nutrients in the grains and fruits that he still finds palatable are plentiful, fortunately, so he can enjoy these as an alternative to dinner.

Cream of Wheat is the backup plan when my husband doesn’t find regular dinner appealing.  His sense of taste has changed as a result of the medications he takes and CRPS.  Because I’m the one preparing it, I like to add different things to it to make it more interesting for both of us.  This could be coconut, pecans, berries, dried fruit, maple syrup or spices.  I use milk instead of water and replace sugar with Splenda.


Cream of Wheat with blackberries, raspberries, dried cranberries and almonds

Cream of Wheat with blackberries, raspberries, dried cranberries and almonds


Cream of Wheat

1/2 cup Cream of Wheat

1 1/2 cup of skim milk, adjust for desired consistency

sugar or Splenda to taste

Add any toppings after heating:

1/4 cup dried coconut, cranberries or other dried fruit

handful of fresh berries

1 small banana, sliced

1/2 cup applesauce

1/4 cup nuts: pecans, almonds

honey, maple syrup

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp nutmeg, cardamom, allspice


Place Cream of Wheat, milk and sugar in large microwavable bowl.  Mix gently but thoroughly.  Heat on HIGH in microwave 1 minute.  Stir.  Heat again 30 seconds.  Repeat heating and stirring until desired consistency.  Add the optional toppings.  This will be hot!  Enjoy!

You could use oatmeal instead of or in addition to Cream of Wheat.  The flavors and textures of different grains served together make a whole new dish out of the ordinary ingredients.  Follow package directions for oatmeal – I use milk instead of water for the calcium and protein.



Raspberry Bagel Delight - courtesy of Caregiving Cafe Blog

Raspberry Bagel Delight


Another impromptu breakfast happened when I discovered that I didn’t have waffles, which I had already offered my daughter as she got ready for school.  (Yes, I love concocting things for her while I still can…before she goes away to college in 1 1/2 years.)  This is how Raspberry Bagel Delight was born!

Raspberry Bagel Delight

1 plain bagel or your choice


raspberries, washed & dried

maple syrup


Toast bagel.  Spread Nutella on each half.  Top with raspberries and drizzle syrup as desired.  Mmm…


A little creativity goes a long way – especially in the morning!  Caregivers and all of their loved ones can kick start their day with a yummy breakfast that happens to be nutritious, too!


Change is inevitable.  From the instant that we come into existence until the moment that we leave this world, change is the constant in our life.  Why is it, then, that some people have such a hard time accepting it?

My teenaged daughter and I were decompressing late this afternoon after a busy theater work day for her and a busy one at home for me.  We like to watch those fashion make-over shows when we get a chance; having been born with the special en vogue-1 gene, we can’t help it!  It just so happened that the lady in today’s show was 51, but dressing like a 12-14 year old.  Stacy and Clinton were having a hard time figuring out what motivated her to dress so, and explaining to her that she really needed to present herself in a more positive light.  The lady’s response was that she liked the styles from the 1970’s and wanted to continue wearing them.  She also found grown-up clothes boring and frumpy, giving her yet another reason to wear clothes from the Juniors department.  Her daughters, however, wanted her to look like the amazing mother and person that she is.

Eventually, the lady said that she had problems accepting change.  I know that she is in good company!  I wondered then if this reluctance to change, which is forced on the caree, the caregiver and everyone involved with them, is one of the reasons that caregiving can be such a struggle.  Beside the physical and emotional demands of the role, implementing necessary alterations in a well-cemented routine can be a daunting task.  Who really wants to try some new way to do things when the one that’s been in place for 50 years has been working just fine?  The real question here needs to be: is this way still working fine with the new circumstances?

Somewhere else, I read a saying that reminds us that it is not life’s struggles that bring us stress, but it is the way that we handle them.  I think that this applies to changes and how willing we are to let go, to learn and to accept new ways of doing things.  This is a common issue with many, but especially with the elder community.  I read in an AARP article that resilience helps us deal with these changes – to accept them and to learn new ways to do things because changes have occurred in our life for which the old routine no longer works.  You need to go with the flow!

I know that it’s not always easy to change, but change we must when the need arises.  The articles below offer tips on how to do it.

Accepting Change

12 Practical Steps for Learning to Go with the Flow

10 Ways to Become More Resilient

Caregiver Resiliency



One of the most unmet needs of caregivers is the lack of easy activities that they can do with their carees, according to a study conducted by the National Alliance for Caregiving in collaboration with AARP (Caregiving in the US, 2003).  While many carees have Alzheimer’s and may require simplicity in the activities undertaken, many others have physical limitations that may need a slower or modified way to carry them out.  Still, some care recipients are elderly but mobile and fairly active, allowing the caregiver to engage in a wider variety of diversions.

To address all of those different needs, I have found some activities that a caregiver can do with the care recipient.  They include art, music, exercise, gardening and pets!  Some tips to help make this a successful and enjoyable pastime are:

  • maintain safety
  • consider ability level
  • ensure comfort of the caree
  • preferences, like louder or softer music
  • finishing a project in one attempt is not necessary
  • don’t overwhelm her/him with choices or instructions

For instance, someone with mobility issues may benefit from a short walk or a card game instead of dancing.  Lower volume may be more enjoyable and less overwhelming than loud music.  Crafts or painting may require your initial guidance, but do maintain an adult approach rather than treating your loved one like a child.  Above all, exercise patience and make the best of your shared experiences.

The links below offer a variety of activities that your loved one and you can enjoy!


47 Posts of Fun Activities for the Elderly Who are Young at Heart

My Elderly Parent Has Dementia: What Activities Can We Do Together?

Meaningful Activities for Alz Patients *
* Linking Disclaimer: The Alzheimer’s Association is not responsible for information or advice provided by others, including information on websites that link to Association sites and on third party sites to which the Association links. Please direct any questions to

Who’s Minding the Children?

As the holidays approach, I can’t help but notice the little children while I walk around the shops.  I see parents carrying curious toddlers as they cruise past the decorated store windows at the mall, moms pushing sleepy infants in their strollers loaded up with shopping bags, and placid kiddies with a look of resignation as they parade around the produce section confined to an inescapable shopping cart.  I remember when my son and daughter were little and I’d cart them around just like that.  And I think of how precious they are and what a huge task we take on to shape these little lives into “decent human beings.”

On my son’s first check-up, his pediatrician told me two things about parenthood that stuck with me through all these years:

  • give him love
  • the days are so long and the years, so short

At first, when she handed my beautiful cherub back to me, who was crying after being checked over, and she told me to give him love, I wasn’t sure of what she meant.  Of course I’m giving him love!  But thinking about it now, I think she meant to show him love.  To console him, to hold him close to me, to put him at ease in that strange and sterile room, to make him feel safe in my arms.  That, I did!

Toward the end of our visit, she talked about adjusting to life with a new baby and how sometimes, things didn’t go as we had planned.  She told me that her children’s pediatrician had passed on to her how the days are so long and the years, so short.  I understood about the long days even then!  But it is now that I see just how short the years are, and how we need to give them love no matter what!  I see my son and daughter in the little munchkins I see running about, playing, asking questions, riding in carts.  Wasn’t it yesterday that we were at the pediatrician’s office?  Twenty-four years gone in the blink of an eye!

We were blessed to have had 2 healthy children, but I know that that is not always the case for all families.  I see students who ride motorized wheelchairs arriving by bus at school and others who are escorted by aides or parents as they walk into the building.  I’m happy to see that they are getting an education like everybody else, and that people are available to provide support as needed.  In addition to schools, organizations also offer many types of assistance for children with disabilities or learning disorders.  As parents, we want all good things for our children.  The links below provide resources, assistance and guidance for parents of children with special needs so that they may grow and flourish to the best of their abilities.



VFW National Home for Children

National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities – Organizations by State

National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities

Children’s Disability Information

Types of Learning Disorders and Their Signs

Children with Disabilities – Travel Tips

Federation for Children with Special Needs

Support for Families of Children with Disabilities

Benefits for Children with Disabilities


The following updates announce benefits for veterans and their families to help them transition into civilian life and work, as well as adding telephone support for spouses of returning Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans:


Wounded Warrior Careers: It’s Ability, Not Disability That Counts

November 11, 2011


“…In response to these challenges [of transitioning from military into civilian life], the National Organization on Disability (NOD) launched the Wounded Warrior Careers Demonstration to identify and implement new approaches to career transition for Veterans with disabilities. NOD’s research showed that severely Wounded Warriors need specialized career transition assistance.”   Read more




National Organization on Disability

Wounded Warriors Career Demonstration




VA Introduces Make the Connection: Shared Experiences and Support for Veterans

November 14, 2011


Make the Connection, a new campaign launched by the Department of Veterans Affairs, is creating ways for Veterans and their family members to connect with the experiences of other Veterans – and ultimately to connect with information and resources to help them confront the challenges of transitioning from service, face health issues, or navigate the complexities of daily life as a civilian.”  Read more


Make the Connection

VA Mental Health Services

National Resource Directory



Spouse Telephone Support Program Demonstrates Improved Quality of Life

November 18, 2011


“The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is implementing a telephone support program to help the spouses of returning Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans, after a pilot telephone support program showed significant reduction in stress for spouses. The spouse telephone support program, which is part of VA’s Caregiver Support Program, builds spouses’ ability to cope with the challenges that reintegration to civilian society can bring, helps them serve as a pillar of support for returning Veterans, and eases the transition for families after deployments. “   Read more


National Resource Directory – Family & Caregiver Support




DoD Releases Updated Compensation and Benefits Handbook

“The Department of Defense (DoD) recently published the updated Wounded, Ill and Injured Compensation & Benefits Handbook, a comprehensive resource guide describing compensation and other benefits Service Members and their families would be entitled to upon separation or retirement as a result of serious injury or illness.”  Read more


National Resource Directory –  Benefits & Compensation


Traveling with elderly parents or disabled relatives during the holidays, or at any other time, is best done with advance planning and preparation.  A little extra thought given early on to anticipate what might come up and to how to make the trip smoother on everyone goes a long way.

For starters, knowing that hotels, airports and airlines can accommodate persons who need a little help, you can engage their cooperation when you make your travel reservations or when you check in at the ticket counter.  They can provide a wheelchair to travel long distances at the airport or let you board the airplane before the crowds.  Airlines may be able to issue you a pass to allow you to wait with your loved one at the gate if you are not traveling as well.  They can also have one of their staff waiting for him or her at the gate upon arrival, and a wheelchair, too, if you request it.  So, be sure to ask!

One of the main things to keep in mind when deciding what you will be doing is your loved one’s abilities – physical and mental.  Chances are that a busy itinerary that goes on all day may not be ideal, no matter how exciting the places are. Breaking the activities into simpler or shorter ones will make them more enjoyable for all.  Alternating walking with relaxing in a sculpture garden, tea house or even people-watching in an urban park will stretch out the day more pleasantly without feeling like you’re missing out on something.  Take advantage of this quiet time to enjoy the moment in each others’ company, reflect, laugh, remember.

Remember, too, any medications (and water) that will need to be taken while you are out and about.  A few snacks in your purse can also help everyone last a little longer until the next meal.  (I actually do this for myself, but they have saved the day for others more than once!)

Click on the links below to find more helpful tips on traveling with elderly parents (or relatives) or with loved ones with disabilities.

Do you have your own tips to share with other caregivers?



Top 10 Travel Tips for Traveling with an Elderly Parent

Nine Tips for Accessible Travel by Your Elderly Parents

RV Camping – Traveling with Elderly Parents

How to Plan a Trip with Aging Parents

How can I travel safely with a parent who has dementia?


Because life happens, I want to post some important phone numbers for when family caregivers need help asap.  Some of these numbers are for state or county agencies, but they may be able to guide you or direct you to another agency that can help you.

Remember to make your caree’s doctor and staff part of your caregiving team.  They can best direct you to provide the appropriate care.  If your situation is not urgent, you can leave a message for the nurse to get back to you.

If you feel you need help, or that your loved one is having an especially hard time, please get help before an emergency occurs.  Help is available!


If it is a true emergency, or you are in emotional crisis or suicidal, you can call 911

or 1-800-SUICIDE [1-800-784-2433].



Veterans Crisis Line   1-800-273-8255  Press 1


Hands-on Help for Family Caregivers

Alzheimer’s & Dementia Crisis Line  1-800-209-4342

Alzheimer’s Community Care   1-800-394-1771

Crisis Clinic phone numbers  – Kings County, Washington

Crisis Clinic  – Kings County, Washington

Washington (State) Information Network 2-1-1  – community resources