Inspirations from the Gloaming is the name of a column we write for the LaTienda Weekly Update. The column includes articles and musings that promote individual and community wellness.
We are never in the dark
This morning, I've been thinking about all the people in my life who are traveling hero's journeys right now - struggling with their own illnesses, saying goodbye to dear ones close to their hearts, learning to live without what feels as vital as their own heartbeats, discovering the vast depths of their own inner resources of love and compassion while caring for loved ones. These are hero's journeys for they require you to step away from the comfortable, familiar and easy. They demand you say yes to traversing in what feels like murky fog with labored steps, finding few guideposts outside yourself. Such journeys require you to go within for guideposts and direction - taking turns down brambles into anger, confusion, and resentment; until you realize you can choose turns and even create a path of more light and peace. Your courage has never felt more tested than in these unchartered paths. Perhaps you are on such a hero's journey.
As you slog through these journeys that will stretch you beyond what you thought you could ever endure, know you are not alone. You have witnesses, who even though they cannot travel these roads for you, journey with you nonetheless. Find your witnesses when you need to reach out for a hand along the way. And, know you are loved each step of the way.
As I was thinking of heroes this morning, synchronicity gifted me with this beautiful spirit - perhaps this gift was meant for you - Mer's Last Lecture.
Whole Health ~ Whole Life by Dr. Kitty - 2019
In her poem, Summer Day, Mary Oliver asked us, "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" Days, months, and years can pass; and before we realize it, we could be closing in our the final miles of our journeys. Instead of time whisking by unnoticed behind the distractions of our overcommitted schedules, let's pause and ask ourselves and one another, "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" Listen with curiosity and wonder, and then create!
To support you on this adventure in curious exploration, Kitty will be facilitating a monthly coaching group, Whole Health ~ Whole Life, at the Eldorado Fitness Studio. We will meet from 2:00-3:00pm on the first and third Friday of the month, starting March 15th. The group will be free to members and $10 per session for non members. We will use Mary Oliver's inspiring question as a launching point and consider not only what you plan to do but how you want to create your one wild and precious life? You will grow in such areas as the role of our thinking in creating our lives, transcending challenges, prioritizing, surfing through life rather than striving for balance, overcoming creative blocks, all while we support one another in creating our wild and precious lives!
In addition to this group, Kitty has returned from a year's absence and has a new coaching focus with a unique twist to benefit you! Check out her coaching services at https://www.thegloamingatsantafe.com/KittysServices.en.html. Whether you are local or around the world, she can support folks wanting coaching on making a difference in the world. She can help you create your one, unique wild and precious life!
Deep Community by Dr. Kitty - 2016
Community is a gift we give one another and create together. Elaine and I felt drawn to Eldorado to establish our counseling and coaching practice, inspired by Destiny and Steve’s vision of social entrepreneurship – honoring the interconnected and interdependent relationship between small businesses and community. Out of that vision and thanks to an Eldorado resident enlightening us to the needs of caregivers of loved ones with dementia and Alzheimer’s, a support group was born at the grassroots level over four years ago – growing so large we now meet at the Eldorado Ken and Patty Adams Senior Center, 16 Avenida Torreon (1st and 3rd Wednesday, 9:30-11:00am, Reading Room, FREE).
Yes, pain, suffering, and anger are parts of life, including within our community. But, a wise woman many of you know said recently, When you give – to yourself, your customers, your children, your friends, family, and community, you empower yourself and give others permission to do the same. There IS NO CONTROL. There is only who you want to be, how you want to live, and what you give to your dream (https://shapingdestinythebook.com/). Within Eldorado, we’ve seen a family lose everything to fire, a local shopkeeper robbed, and another have her truck stolen. We’ve also responded with open-hearted generosity, compassion, and yes – love. The Martels were gifted with shelter by a family not staying currently in their Eldorado home as they were overwhelmed with children and adults sharing - helping replace what they lost. Meeka was showered with care and hugs after the break in. Over 20 volunteers gave their Sunday to help the folks at Eldorado Country Pet move to their new home. We reach out; we connect; we care.
As Destiny said, the only thing we control is what we give. Who do you want to be, how do you want to live, and what will you give to your dream?
Abundance - 2015
Lynn Grodzki has a beautiful definition of abundance. “Abundance as a concept is about a way of life and speaks to the ability to have everything circulate. It means making things happen and having more than enough. With abundance, you have a pool of energy, time, friends, business, clients, and yes, money.”
In a couple of days we celebrate our first year in business. As you can imagine, building a business has its own, at times, nail biting questions – will we succeed; do we add value to others in our service; is our service of need and use to others sufficiently enough to succeed in our practice? Being a new QuickBooks user and having amassed a reasonable amount of data in the previous 12 months, I (Kitty) applied this description of abundance to what I do and specifically how I charge for my services. Wait for it; I know what you’re expecting – higher fees right?! I was genuinely delighted with my findings – I can earn a living that meets my economic commitments and lower my fees! Individual counseling and coaching, workshops and classes are all more accessible. My hope is this will add to your own abundance, and together we can keep everything in circulation!
For more information on Elaine and me, visit The Gloaming at Santa Fe, LLC. If you are in the area, stop by for a cup of tea or coffee! You know we’re in if our Welcome sign is on the door. We are in Suite 10 of the Village Office Condos, last office by the dumpster we loving refer to as the "Release the Pain and Limitation Dumpster"!
Wishing you abundance!
Inspiring the Best! - 2015
As we approach the first anniversary at The Gloaming and living in Santa Fe, many have asked us our reflections and feelings about moving here – even asking if we had any regrets. Without skipping a beat, easily we respond we have no regrets. Indeed, we’ve never felt more settled or at home. Now that we live in Eldorado, we experience at a deeper level just how special this community is.
This year, we experienced and witnessed an abundance of care, support, sensitivity, generosity, and thoughtfulness – much of which occurred in business contexts – demonstrating a culture of socially responsible entrepreneurship that is highly personal and service oriented. Just a few of the highlights included Cheri and Doug, founders and former owners of Enchanted Leaf gifting us with a brilliant bouquet for the new office; the large number of folks who responded within minutes to move inventory for the new hardware store as well as all those customers who helped Holly move Barn Dogs to her new home; and the recent turnout for Anna as she closed her shop. One of our first friends in Eldorado, we observed Anna not only as a talented shopkeeper but a gifted and compassionate core resource for those in the area needing caregiving. She helped us identify and create a much-needed service to support caregivers of those with dementia and Alzheimer’s. When she needed to begin a new journey caring for her mother and close the shop quickly, this community turned out en masse, reducing her inventory in under a week! In fact I write this Inspirations from my laptop on a table from Anna’s shop.
A couple of weeks ago, Steve called the morning the Supreme Court decided on Marriage Equality. After re-proposing to Destiny (you can figure out her response), together they wanted to create a community celebration honoring love and commitment and invited Elaine and me to officiate a vows renewal ceremony. We hope you will join us on the patio at La Tienda at 6:00pm this Sunday to recommit, witness, support, and celebrate love! Whether you are married, in a committed relationship, or not – whether your loved one is by your side, traveling, or in Spirit – come out for a special and fun evening!
Simply put, this community inspires the best in us and we hope in you too!
EMDR: Working with You Brain’s Natural Abilities to Heal Trauma and Anxiety (Part 3) - 2015
The last two editions of Inspirations from the Gloaming described a counseling approach called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). We began the series by describing the development of EMDR and then went on to explain what a succession of EMDR sessions would look like. This week’s edition includes information that will help you decide if EMDR is right for you.
Research has shown that EMDR is an effective treatment approach for experiences of trauma and some anxiety disorders. Preliminary studies and anecdotal information show that EMDR can also be helpful for persons who experience chronic pain, cravings associated with substance abuse and addictions, complicated grief, sleep disturbances, and performance anxiety. However, EMDR is not the best treatment for everyone.
When clients undergo EMDR, the intensity of distressing or unresolved memories may increase in between counseling sessions. That means they are likely to feel more vulnerable, at least in the short run. Therefore, it is important to keep a few things in mind when evaluating whether EMDR is the best treatment for you. First, it is important that you live and work in a safe environment, so that you are not continuing to experience new forms of trauma or emotional pain. Second, it is important for you to be able to sooth any increased anxiety that might arise by effectively using relaxation exercises. If you experience difficulty calming yourself down when experiencing stress, then it will be important to develop this skill prior to undergoing EMDR. You can also work on developing self-soothing skills with your counselor or therapist. Third, EMDR may not be the best option if you experience certain physical conditions, such as pregnancy, a heart condition, respiratory ailments, or brain injury. And fourth, you are seeking counseling for one of the experiences for which EMDR has been found effective (see second paragraph above).
If you are interested in completing a full evaluation to determine whether EMDR is right for you, I would be happy to schedule a free consultation with you. I will also be happy to answer any related questions by phone (505-490-5600) or email ([email protected]).
EMDR: Working with You Brain’s Natural Abilities to Heal Trauma and Anxiety (Part 2) - 2015
This week’s article is a follow-up to the last one I wrote on how the brain takes in, stores, and processes trauma. Francine Shapiro calls it the Adaptive Information Processing Model. When it works well, our brain can take in traumatic experiences and connect them with neural memories of adaptive information ~ ways we have positively adapted to difficulties in the past. When this happens, we can appropriately access those adaptations to work through and store the traumatic memories without continuing to re-live their associated pain in the present moment. However, there are times when the traumatic memories get stuck and are unable to resolve towards a positive end. The good news is that EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) can activate the natural processing system in our brains to help us bring those traumatic memories to a positive resolution.
If you are interested in pursuing EMDR, your counselor will likely take an extended history of the trauma you experienced throughout your life. The purpose of this history is to identify memories that are useful to focus upon during EMDR sessions. Once you’ve identified a target memory, you will be asked to identify an image that represents that memory, negative emotions that emerge when you bring up that memory, a negative belief you hold about yourself, and any sensations that surround that memory. You will also be asked to name a positive belief that counteracts your negative self-belief. Let me provide an example. Let’s say someone experienced physical abuse in their past. The image may include a memory of being hit. Fear, anxiety, and confusion may be among the emotions that arise for them when they bring this image to mind. These emotions may be accompanied by heart palpitations, sweating, or panic attacks. Oftentimes people who have experienced physical abuse hold the negative self-belief that the abuse was somehow their fault. A counteracting positive belief would be something like ‘It wasn’t my fault’ or ‘I am worthy of love and kindness.’
At the beginning of an EMDR session, you will be asked to hold the image, difficult emotions, sensations, and negative self-belief together in your awareness while being guided through series bilateral stimulations. That simply means that the counselor will have you follow her/his hands as they are repeatedly moved from one side of your peripheral vision to the other. After a series of bilateral stimulations, you will be asked what you notice or what you are experiencing. Then the bilateral process will be repeated until such a time as the memory has been fully processed and positively integrated. There are two telltale signs that the processing is complete. The negative emotions and sensations are no longer present when the original image of the trauma is brought to mind and the negative self-belief will have been replaced with the positive one. The number of EMDR sessions needed will vary depending on the severity and complexity of the trauma experienced.
It is important to note that no single approach to counseling is right for everyone. EMDR is no different. In the next Inspirations from the Gloaming, I will describe important considerations in deciding whether EMDR is the best treatment for you.
EMDR: Working with Your Brain’s Natural Abilities to Heal Trauma and Anxiety (Part 1) - 2015
In my work as a counselor, I’ve noticed that most of my clients seek counseling services because they’ve experienced trauma and/or struggle with debilitating anxiety. Actually, the two tend to go hand in hand. Until very recently, The American Psychiatric Association categorized Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as an anxiety disorder. Now it is categorized as a trauma- and stress-related disorder. Regardless of the semantics of categorizing trauma, it is clear that trauma and anxiety are interrelated. Not only are they connected in the ways psychiatrists categorize mental health diagnoses, they are connected in the brain’s natural mechanisms for storing and processing information.
When a trauma or difficult experience occurs, the experience is initially taken in as images in the right side of the brain. The images are taken in as a whole, so that they remain connected to the feelings and sensations experienced during the trauma. They may even then become connected to other similar experiences that we may have had in the past. Fortunately, we have natural mechanisms for processing that information so that the images translate into stories ~ ways we can make sense or meaning from the experiences. This sense-making process is the domain of the left side of our brain. The natural healing process is most likely to work well when we are surrounded by loved ones who can help us talk about the trauma and make sense of it right after it happens and who can provide us with a sense of safety and security.
However, when the natural process is impeded ~ when we don’t have that support or when the movement of information from the right to the left side of the brain is otherwise hampered ~ the trauma and anxiety can remain unprocessed and exceedingly painful. This is when people can experience flashbacks, panic attacks, nightmares, and a host of physiological and fearful reactions to previous trauma.
In an attempt to find a way to help clients heal from these experiences, a number of years ago I came across an approach called EMDR. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. The approach was discovered and developed by Francine Shapiro. At the time, Dr. Shapiro was experiencing personal difficulty in her life. Fortunately, she had a regular practice of taking long walks, and one day she noticed that at the end of her walk, she didn’t feel quite so troubled as she did when she started out. Given that she was a researcher, she decided to pay close attention to what she was doing during those walks and realized that as she held painful or troubling thoughts and emotions in mind, she naturally moved her eyes back and forth (from right to left and then back again). In doing so, she was activating the processes of both sides of her brain. To investigate her discovery further, she designed and conducted a research study in which she asked participants to hold three things in their mind simultaneously: (1) a troubling or traumatic experience, (2) the emotions brought up by the experience, and (3) the negative belief they held about themselves as a result of the traumatic experience. While holding that memory, thought, and emotion in mind, she guided each participant through a series of eye movements. The research showed positive results. Over the years, Dr. Shapiro has continued to develop EMDR and current research shows that it is an effective treatment for trauma.
If you are interested in learning more about EMDR, look for our next installation of Inspirations from the Gloaming when I’ll provide more detail about what an EMDR session might look like today, as well as some criteria for determining whether EMDR is right for you.
Connect with Your Passions! - 2015
Do you feel connected to a larger sense of meaning and purpose for your life? Do you live consistently from your passions, that which is most important to you? Would you like to feel more connected and grounded in your passions?
Recently, Kitty completed certification training in The Passion Test. Developed by Janet Bray Attwood and Chris Atwood, this tool supports you in identifying, prioritizing, and living the passions that most support your life purpose. This highly engaging and deeply personal, even spiritual, process supports you in remembering your highest self and discovering strategies for growing your passions in your daily life. Do you ever feel disengaged from much of your daily life or feel a longing to reconnect with what matters to you most? If so, this process can help you feel empowered, inspired, focused, and energized!
Inviting Emotions into the Goal-Setting Process - 2015
Have you ever had the experience of achieving a hard-earned goal only to find that it didn’t bring you the joy, serenity, or security you had initially imagined it would? If so, you are not alone. When many of us create our goals, we think only about the end product: a lucrative promotion, a new home, or loosing a certain number of pounds. Instead of identifying goals by focusing on the end product, we invite you to begin identifying your aspirations by connecting with what you hope to feel in your life.
Do you want to bring more peace into your everyday experiences? Do you want to embody more freedom in your decisions? Would like to feel more loving toward others on a regular basis? Perhaps there are other emotions you wish to cultivate in your own life. Find some time and space, by yourself or with your loved ones, to deeply reflect on the feelings you want to nurture in your personal life, work life, and relationships.
Once you’ve identified the emotions and sensations that are most important, write out your top two or three. Then you can begin imagining the kinds of activities that would help you nurture those feelings. For example, if you want to feel more loving in your relationships, you might list some of the following activities: (1) spending time thinking about the love that already exists in your life, (2) telling others that you love them more often, (3) reaching out to someone who might need a compassionate ear, (4) letting others know when you need a compassionate ear and allowing them to be there for you, and/or (5) reminding yourself how loving you are.
If you would like to more thoroughly explore ways of integrating your emotions and your goals, we recommend reading any of the following books:
· The Desire Map: A Guide to Creating Goals with Soul
· The Passion Test: An Effortless Guide to Discovering Your Life Purpose
· Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life
· Vital Signs: The Nature and Nurture of Passion
Welcoming the New that is Emerging Within You - 2014
Traditionally, this is the time for new years resolutions. We don’t know about you, but new years resolutions seem to leave our minds as quickly as we created them. Part of the problem is that we get all these messages from outside ourselves about how we should change, and most of these messages tell us that we have flaws that need to be fixed. However, it has been our experience that real change comes from an internal desire for something new or different. Listening to that desire can help you become aware of hints and clues of your emerging future ~ that which wants to emerge from within you.
In the dawn of this new year, we invite you to reflect on that vision in order to best support creating this future. We invite you to reflect on your greatest strengths as well as those aspects of yourself that may no longer serve you as you walk into your new future. For example, what habits, beliefs, or assumptions might you be ready to leave behind as you move forward? What is your grandest vision of your highest self that you would like to create in the coming months? Perhaps you may want to create a vision board with images or words that capture the future that awaits your creation.
During these cold, blustery winter days, we wish you warmth from the creative fires burning inside of you that will inspire you to create an extraordinary new year. May you be surrounded by synchronous moments that support you in your creations.
Keep Climbing - 2014
Balancing Your Way Through the Holiday Whirlwind - 2014
The holidays can be a wonderful time for connecting with family and friends in meaningful ways. At the same time, they can result in greater stress, loneliness, and exhaustion. Sometimes, the pace of shopping, cooking, and hosting parties can be great fun and, at the same time, feel overwhelming. What pace is best for you this holiday season? For example, if you struggle with lower energy or difficulty driving at night, would briefer visits during the day and shopping online be easier for you? Would it be easier for you to attend a gathering rather than host one? If you are someone who enjoys all the activities and festivities, but find yourself tiring out, it may be important to take some time for yourself to regenerate in whatever way works best for you. It may mean a quiet morning by yourself, engaging in some breathing or yoga exercises, or taking a hike on scenic trail in the area. We invite you to be aware of your own physical and emotional energy levels as you move through the season. Doing so can help you be more present and centered as you spend time with yourself and others.
With the advent of Thanksgiving, consider reflecting on your own intentions and hopes for this holiday season. For you, what are the things to which you most look forward and what are your greatest struggles? What could you do to feel empowered to create a joyous holiday season, whatever that may look like? If you are someone who loves being around people during the holidays but are far away from family and old friends, with whom in your life could you get together? For example, while living away from family, I used to hold an annual tree-decorating party, inviting friends and new acquaintances to come over and make ornaments and decorate the tree. We had a blast! The tree was decorated with ornaments from a variety of religious and cultural backgrounds. It was much more beautiful than I could have created on my own.
Some have found it helpful to create their own meaningful rituals. For example, I can remember a time when I was living away from home and was unable to afford a trip back during Christmastime. I had a wonderful celebration, getting together with a Jewish friend of mine. We created our own special kind of ritual honoring both traditions. While it was a much smaller gathering than I usually had, it also gave me the time and space to be more reflective about the meaning of the holidays for me. If you were to create or revise your own holiday ritual, what would it look like? Who would you like to invite to share in it?
In this Thanksgiving season, we are deeply grateful for our families and friends scattered across the country as well as our new friends in Santa Fe who already feel like family. We feel humbled by the beauty surrounding us each day. May each of you feel wrapped in love as you create special moments filled with joy and laughter. May we all share our abundant gifts to create a more peaceful and harmonious world.
Counseling or Life Coaching...What's the Difference? - 2014
What is the difference between counseling and life coaching? We often have this question posed to us, particularly by people who are not very familiar with life coaching. Interestingly, life coaching is relatively new profession that has some overlaps with counseling, and important distinctions as well.
Having its early roots in both the business world and positive psychology theories, coaching is a personal service designed to partner with you in visioning and realizing a whole life designed around your values and priorities. It’s about helping you take your life from good to great! Life coaching takes a 360 degree perspective, attending to your multiple roles, commitments, and goals. As the client, you direct this process. Some examples of reasons people seek coaching include: re-evaluating life goals at midlife, visioning your next chapter after retirement, re-careering, enhancing personal and professional relationships, and addressing burnout and life balance issues.
While coaching helps you take your life from good to great, sometimes life doesn’t even feel good. At times, the emotional pain you have experienced throughout your life may get in the way, and perhaps even cause personal and relational suffering. If this sounds or feels familiar to you, counseling can be helpful. Counseling is an accepting and affirming relationship in which you process and resolve experiences, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that have fostered stuckness in your life. It is a place where you can pause and focus on your own personal and/or relational healing. Counseling has helped clients work through experiences such as debilitating anxiety, depression, grief and loss, relational or societal trauma and abuse, relational conflict, transformations in personal identity, and struggles related to addictions.
If you find that your wounds are getting in the way of your ability to thrive, counseling may be most useful to you. If you reflect on your life and have areas in which you want to stretch and grow, life coaching may be the best fit. We believe each person deserves to heal and thrive. You have within you unique gifts and talents that make a difference in the world. We are here to collaborate with you to identify, nurture, and express those gifts!
What about me? - 2014
What about me? It seems the needs of the caregiver fall easily through the cracks on any given day. For some, it means never taking a break, while for others it means putting off their own medical treatment. Without replenishing yourself, you are vulnerable to diminished emotional, mental, and physical health, and your relationships may suffer as well.
Before addressing ideas for self-care, consider your own beliefs, assumptions, and habits around tending to yourself. Throughout your life, how regularly have you considered yourself a priority? What messages and rules have you learned about the various roles you occupy, such as wife, husband, mother, father, daughter, and son? How have these messages influenced your own self-care? To what degree do you believe you need to shoulder the burden of care on your own? How willing are you to ask for and receive help? As you reflect on these questions, you may discover clues to how your beliefs about your roles influence your willingness to care for yourself. You may be out of practice recognizing your own needs. Attending to yourself compassionately is as important as your care for your loved one.
People can be creative in designing self-care that works for their interests and circumstances. The following are some ideas to inspire your own creativity. They include both regular practices and self-care strategies to intervene in acute situations. What replenishes you? Perhaps it is taking a walk, getting lost in a novel, talking with a friend on the phone, watching a comedy, taking a nap, or exercising. Consider for yourself what regular practices rejuvenate your spirit and energize you. It may be helpful for you to develop practices that require different amounts of time. For example, what could you do to attend to yourself if you had 10 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour, or half-a-day? Create a self-care wish list that you could turn to if a bit of time opened up? If a friend offered to sit with your loved one for a few hours, check your list for a movie you’ve been wanting to see.
How large is your resource network? Who knows about your family’s challenges? Your resource network can include friends, family, neighbors, acquaintances from your spiritual home, fellow community members, and service providers. The broader and deeper your network, the greater chance you have for support. If you have few friends or family in the area, how could you expand your network? For example, attend a support group; reach out to neighbors; or contact someone from your spiritual community. You may be able to identify people who will come sit with your loved one to give you a break, or they may help prepare a meal or assist with errands. You could return the favor if they need support. This model honors our being interconnected and caring for one another.
Finally, what helps you in acute situations? Typically, these are high-stress times that may call for a “time out.” What helps you relieve high stress in which you may only have a few minutes? For example, would it help you to walk around the neighborhood for 10 minutes? What about screaming into a pillow? Whatever your method, it’s about releasing pent up energy.
Hopefully your self-care practices will rejuvenate and refresh you. Consider reaching out for help if you struggle with allowing yourself nourishing attention or if your coping strategies cause more harm to self or others than care. May you recognize and honor your own self-worth and gift yourself with loving compassion.
Making End of Life Arrangements Early - 2014
In her witty memoir, Can’t we Talk About Something More Pleasant?, Roz Chast recounts her family’s preference for denying any unpleasant conversations. This became a challenge when trying to talk with her parents about aging and end of life issues. Perhaps you have encountered the same difficulty in your own family.
Addressing end of life arrangements early can be empowering for both the person who is dying as well as their family members. It takes the guess work out of critical decision-making once the person is no longer able to participate in the conversation. For example, when I (Elaine) had this conversation with my dad, I found out that he really didn’t want a funeral at all. Instead, he wanted us to have “a party on the beach with wine,” and then sprinkle his ashes in the ocean. In retrospect, it felt wonderful to be able to celebrate him in the way he wanted.
Talking about these decisions even before family members are ill or dying can be a wonderful way to get used to talking about end of life issues. For example, long before either of my parents had life-limiting illnesses, we (Kitty and her parents) spent an afternoon creating to-do lists with names and phone numbers of family and friends to be called at the time of their deaths. My parents also crafted their own obituaries. This was a very low stress afternoon because we could have these conversations outside of a context laden with emotion when they were ill. Several years later, at the time of each of their deaths, I was able to pull out those to-do lists and obituaries, and my tasks were much easier at a time when I was consumed by grief. If I had to make those decisions then, it would have been much more difficult and painful to do, and likely I would have overlooked important details.
There are several end of life arrangement that can be helpful to address as early as possible. They range from legal decisions to personal preferences. The following are examples of some of these arrangements:
- Last Will and Testament, including arrangements for any pets
- New Mexico MOST Form
- Power of Attorney
- Health Care Surrogate
- Financial or Trust arrangements
- Obituary, including preferred photograph and preferred newspapers with contact information
- Preferred funeral homes with contact information, preferences about cremation or burial, and what the person would like done with their remains
- Gathering any family cemetery information with contact information and plot details
- Memorial service details
- List of persons to call at the time of death (update periodically)
- Any other personal decisions relevant to you and your family
If your family is like Roz Chast’s and has a difficult time broaching these subjects, here are a few ideas for starting the conversation. You may designate one family member to act as a liaison instead of having a family meeting. That family member can explain why having the conversation early can be helpful, gather pertinent details, and keep other family members informed. If your family is one that prefers to do things together, you can set aside a time to have this conversation around a shared family meal or gathering. The idea here is to place this conversation within a context of a fun, enjoyable, and intimate family time. If you anticipate this being a stressful or awkward experience, you may want to avoid doing this at a restaurant or other public place! While initially awkward for me, I (Elaine) have found that after having these conversations with family members, I thought more deeply about my own end of life and what is most important to me at that time. Both of us put together our own estate documents after doing this with our parents.
In our society, it seems talking about death and dying is somewhat taboo. Yet, these are very real aspects to each of our lives. Having end of life conversations as early as possible can lesson the stress, pain, and awkwardness in order to open the door to these conversations becoming part of our everyday lives.
When Caregiving and Receiving Require Shifting Roles - 2014
Have you ever had the experience of shifting roles with a family member? For example, I remember the first time I transitioned from being a child to taking on a more parental role within my family. Expectations changed, interactions were different, and the role shift was met with mixed reviews. It held both benefits and drawbacks. On the one hand, I was being recognized and respected as an adult with more significant responsibilities and was glad I could help in the situation. On the other hand, at times, I was rebuked like a child for fulfilling the demands of those additional responsibilities. In other words, when I was expected to act like the parent, sometimes I was punished like a child. It is common among caregivers and receivers to experience a sometimes rocky transition to assuming new roles.
The following are some of the ways in which a caregiver role is different from other roles such as spouse, sibling, child, other relative, or friend. A spouse is used to perhaps a more mutual and egalitarian relationship. Each give and receive based on each other’s needs. For spouses who have raised families and are entering into retirement, they may be looking forward to creating together a new journey focused less on demands and more on enjoyment. Adult children may balance multiple roles such as spouse or parent. They may welcome the opportunity to interact with their own parents as grandparents to their children – a time in which the adults are able to focus attention on watching the children grow. This is a time when grown children and their parents can enjoy one another as adults, sharing a more mutual relationship. Relatives or friends may be used to roles in which gathering with their loved ones is based around enjoyable times, such as holidays or parties. They may not be used to a role of significant responsibility for their loved one or friend. When you enter a caregiving role, you may experience grief and loss over the qualities of your other relationship. For example, persons who caregive their spouse may miss the spontaneity, shared activities that are no longer possible, and a focus on life together rather than illness. Caregivers may feel resentful for caregiving and the loss of their own independence. For example, some caregivers may mourn the loss of their ability to do the things they would normally do (e.g., go for walks on their own, visit friends, go to the movies, etc.) without having to worry about leaving their loved one alone. Caregivers may also struggle with feeling guilty and torn with mixed feelings – love for the other person, feeling sad about their loved one’s illness, and grieving their own losses. Both caregivers and receivers have to get used to a level of intimacy in personal care that may cross familiar boundaries of privacy. For example, people needing care may need help with dressing, bathing, toileting, eating, reading, and even speaking.
Perhaps less addressed is the complex process someone receiving care experiences. They have their own illness with which to contend and all the related implications for their lives. They may be used to being independent, contributing equally in relationships, serving in influential roles in the community, and seeing themselves as healthy, vital individuals. They may experience grief and loss over letting go of roles, responsibilities, and abilities. People receiving care may feel resentful, angry, and guilty for needing to be more dependent on others, seeing themselves as burdens. This may be acutely traumatic in the case of a sudden injury or illness. Also, this may be devastating for someone loosing the cognitive abilities they used to possess. Finally, someone with a terminal illness is having to deal with relying on others as well as bringing their own life and relationships to a close. For both care receivers and givers, watching and being someone deteriorating over time can feel very draining and exhausting.
While caregiving and receiving can be a very difficult and painful time, there are coping strategies and resources that can help. If the caregivers and receivers can be open and honest with one another with how they are feeling at any given time, they can work through many of these challenges. For example, if the person receiving care can express anger or resentment at being more dependent, he or she may avoid having these emotions build up unnecessarily. Both caregivers and receivers may need times when they step outside of those new roles and fulfill their former roles. For example, spouses may need to enjoy one another on a date night that does not revolve around care. They may also need time and space alone. Additionally, it can be very helpful to ask family members and friends in the community to pitch in and help (e.g., driving to doctor’s appointments, visiting so a caregiver can have a break, etc.). This can prevent the weight of the responsibilities falling on one person alone. Finally, relying on your sense of humor can go a long way to ease stress and anxiety. For example, while we helped care for my dad, his toilet overflowed related directly to some bowel issues he was having. Imagine a bathroom filled with nurses, a maintenance man, my dad, and Elaine and I all wondering what to do next. We ended up all laughing hysterically at the situation as we tried to stop the flooding toilet (the solution involved my sticking my hand in the toilet!). Our laughing with Dad put the situation into an amusing perspective and, as a result, he maintained his dignity and respect. Given the millions of surreal experiences in processes of both receiving and giving care, laughing heartily can make many of them bearable.
If you are a caregiver who is looking for a support group in Eldorado, The Gloaming at Santa Fe, LLC will be offering a free ongoing open support group.
- Support Group for Caregiver’s with a Family Member Who Lives with Alzhemer’s or Dementia, 1st and 3rd Wednesday of each month, from 9:30 – 11:00 am, at the Ken and Patty Adams Senior Center, Reading Room, 16 Avenida Torreon, Eldorado
Neighbors Helping Neighbors with Alzheimer's - 2014
In our culture, how many of us were raised valuing self-sufficiency, taking care of our own, and keeping our struggles to ourselves? How many of us suffer in solitude, not wanting to burden our neighbors or friends? Yet, surprisingly, it is common for others to care and want to assist, if we only ask. We have an opportunity to create the kind of community in which compassionate support is readily available, and neighbors look out for each other’s needs. In such a community, each person can both give and receive care.
This type of support can be so important for families who care for loved ones who live with Alzheimer’s or other life-altering or limiting conditions. Perhaps you have wanted to extend a helping hand but are not sure how. After speaking with several community members caring for family members living with Alzheimer’s, we learned of a few simple actions that can really make a difference. The following are things to consider when you see a neighbor out walking:
- Does the person look confused about where she is going?
- Is he walking without a hat or a water bottle in hot weather?
- Is she wearing appropriate shoes and clothing?
- Is he walking in a place that seems appropriate (e.g., a walking path vs. the middle of the road)?
- If you know her, does she recognize you when you stop to say hello?
- When you speak to him, is he able to engage you in conversation? Does he repeatedly ask the same questions or make inappropriate comments?
If you feel concerned about someone you see out in the community, here are some possible actions you can take:
- Consider pulling over and asking if you can help.
- If you do not know him, introduce yourself and ask his name.
- Offer to give her a ride home. If she doesn’t know where she lives, look for any identifying information (e.g., ID bracelet or necklace). If you find any identifying information, give the family member a call and let him or her know their family member is with you and you are bringing her home.
- If he doesn’t know where he lives and he does not have any identifying information, the following contacts may be helpful to you:
- Emergency Fire, Ambulance, Sheriff: 911
- Non-Emergency Sheriff: (505) 428-3720
- El Dorado Fire and Rescue Service: (505) 466-1204
- ECIA Security: (505) 204-2945
- Senior Center: (505) 466-4029
- If you are able, consider staying with her until she receives help. If your time is limited, call 911 and stay until emergency services arrive.
Together, we can create and nurture a community that is responsive to one another’s needs. Two ways in which we are responding to a call for caregiver support are the following complimentary support group.
- Support Group for Caregiver’s with a Family Member Who Lives with Alzhemer’s or Dementia, 1st and 3rd Wednesday of each month, from 9:30 – 11:00 am, at the Ken and Patty Adams Senior Center, Reading Room, 16 Avenida Torreon, Eldorado