Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Dr. Peter Steinke writes “With anger and anguish, anxiety shares the same Latin root word—angere. It is translated ‘to choke’ or ‘to give pain by pushing together.’ The noun form of the verb is angustus, meaning ‘narrow.’

"Anxiety is emotional pain. It constricts and limits life. At the center of its painfulness is uncertainty. We can neither put our finger on what is disturbing us nor pick out a clear-cut villain who is threatening us. Nothing in specific stimulates it, and nothing in particular is its object.”

We listen to spouses and caregiving children fumble for causal explanation as they struggle to recognize and understand anxiety. Because the cause cannot be isolated, management is a challenge. Issues in their relationship may now surface as the caregiver resents anxiety’s imposition on the relationship. The dementia sufferer is no longer able to invest in the relationship and this loss causes pain.

“Because anxiety affects our thinking capacities, it diminishes clarity and objectivity. It interferes with our capacity to think creatively. We cannot stand outside of the vague dread and observe it.

“We do not know what we are afraid of, what terrifies us. In contrast to fear, anxiety is undifferentiated. It has no definite focus.”

Explanations like "it is what it is" provide little comfort. Caregivers may wait too long to seek support and help for their loved one. Dementia is not contagious, but anxiety can seep into our pores when we think we have the situation under control.

How Your Church Family Works p. 14

Monday, June 27, 2011


Caregiving for one’s spouse or parent demands giving when there are few reciprocal gifts. Disappointments and/or grudges from the past may resurface when we do not expect them. Why must you be so demanding? Why can’t you carry your own weight? It isn’t fair that you ask me to carry your burdens as well as what has normally been my own.
I’m your child and I don’t want to become your parent. I can’t handle seeing you diminished.
Irritation may cause the caregiver to walk away or respond with anger:
Explaining the schedule every few minutes;
Picking up the responsibilities from a spouse or parent who used to be independent and self supporting;
Dealing with their anger over bodily functions and bath time;
Frustration over their inability to complete simple instructions;
Frustration when they hide medication, bills, reminder post it notes.
There is awareness in the fog of dementia and the patient recognizes anger and abandonment. It is the caregiver’s responsibility to accept the inability to “fix” the dementia before retaliating. There is no shame in seeking support to handle our negative emotions before our frustrations push us over the edge.
Several of our residents have bemoaned that they never thought “this” would happen to them. “I feel like someone took the wheels off my Model T.”
The caregiver experiences similar feelings, and it’s okay.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Caring for Grace has become a meditative practice in patience. Her happiness phrase is “She’s a good one, good, good.” We slowly repeat her words when she is anxious, angry, struggling with over-stimulation. “You are a good one. Good. Good.”

When she strikes out she is telling us she doesn’t understand, and what we are doing is not acceptable. Her verbalization comes in phrases that give us clues. “I need to look over there,” could mean that she can hear talking outside the bathroom and needs assurance of her privacy. “No, no” may mean yes but she needs more time to consider the offer.

Caring for Grace I slow down, breathe quietly and smile. She is a challenge to my charge-ahead energy and a blessing, for today with Grace is a practice of now. Yesterday and tomorrow are irrelevant. Together we walk a path of being rather than production. We share joy as we observe whatever beauty of nature is outside our windows now. And we hold hands and assure each other, “Good. Good.”

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


June is half over and then we begin the second half of the year, 2011.

Life and death do not cooperate with us as we attempt to determine our direction and rate of speed. We understand in our heart of hearts that there are no guarantees. We remind ourselves that to live today for today is what we are given. But, we want more and we would like to have input in what is coming.

As the needs of our resident population change at Adagio, I too easily worry the “what ifs.” I waste time repeatedly considering possibilities when I could be mentally creative and productive on a more manageable subject. I get disgusted with myself when I realize I am “reviewing the situation” yet again.

I Binged “worry” and was given a sensible perspective from Shantideva, a ninth-century philosopher.

“If you can solve your problem, then what is the need of worrying?
If you can’t solve your problem, then what is the need of worrying?”

Jesus taught, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34

Saturday, June 18, 2011


To all the men who are fathers or who play the role of father, thank you. We celebrate you.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Little Things

Little drops of water,
    Little grains of sand,
Make the mighty ocean
    And the pleasant land.

Little deeds of kindness,
    Little words of love,
Make our earth an Eden,
    Like the heaven above.

...especially when I'm frustrated and don't feel like it....

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Our local PBS station recently aired a documentary produced by Hospice. They interviewed three people with terminal disease and a husband and son of women who succumbed to cancer. I expected a morbid, maudlin production. Instead we were shown grace and humor, encouragement and fresh perspective for living. The following quotes are obvious but often forgotten in our push for tomorrow.

“The reality is that we don’t get out of this alive.”

“We are all dying, we just don’t know the time.”

“Don’t spend all your time resisting it.”

“I’m a survivor. I don’t know how long I’ll survive, but today I am a survivor. So I’m free to do whatever I want today.”

So, Today is the day I’ve been given. My goal is to broadcast as much joy as possible while I accomplish the work I’ve been given.