Tag Archives: Caregiver

A review of Still Alice: Watching a Loved One With Alzheimer’s


We welcome back guest blogger Maria Alice with her review of Still Alice: Watching a Loved One With Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease is an illness that affects its victim at the core of their being. Memory and different mental functions are compromised in those who develop the disease, and ultimately it changes them in profound ways. The award-winning film, Still Alice, centers on the hardships that come with early onset Alzheimer’s and how they affect the victim and the people that surround them. In Still Alice, family, friends, and caregivers experience life with a loved one who, one day, may or may not even remember who they are.

Alice Howland, played by Julianne Moore in an Oscar-worthy performance, is a linguistics professor – a true creature of words, ideas, and thoughts. After Alice encounters a period of memory loss and confusion, she is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. We follow her life as the disease gets worse and those around her start to become frustrated and lose hope. Still Alice shows the uglier and more difficult stages of Alzheimer’s as a person with it goes through stages of memory loss and personal deterioration. As the disease progresses, it begins to rob the victim of their dignity. Alice quickly loses the ability to perform daily functions and maintain personal responsibility and safety. Still Alice, still available on DTV and Google Play, vividly illustrates how one person can lose their former selves inside their mind and how their body can become a mere shell of who they once were.

In a common real world situation, Alice’s family becomes her caregivers. Her husband John (Alec Baldwin), her daughters Anna (Kate Bosworth) and Lydia (Kristen Stewart), and her son Tom (Hunter Parrish) all deal differently with the diagnosis of their loved one. The family accepts Alice’s condition in ways that reflect their situations and their levels of fear and insecurity about this genetic condition. The fact that they must react to her condition both as a loving family, caregivers and potential carriers of the trait adds a distinct layer of tension to the plot.

Directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland portray the disease and its path of deterioration with precision and empathy for all concerned. There are days when Alice seems like she’s who she was before the diagnosis and days when she cannot find herself. Repeated imagery of waves on the shore captures the incisive feeling about the nature of the disease – a thing that comes in waves with no two quite the same but with the same impact. However, it is the human resolution that stands. Alice learns to live in the moment and savor life.

Still Alice describes a painful descent from a lofty, comfortable, and productive life to one of searching for a most basic connection to the self. Alzheimer’s is a disease that robs one of past, present and future by breaking the connections with life events, time, and people. With effective use of imagery, photographic effects, and themes, Still Alice creates moods and very relatable scenes of the descent from high-powered professional existence. It follows a person who must struggle to overcome confusion in the simplest tasks and disconnection from the lives that matter so much.

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March 5, 2016 · 10:00 am

Bowling For (No) Dollars


Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle.  Napoleon Hill

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Photo Credit: Neny2ki@blogspot.com

The road to Spokane got a little bumpy this past week as I ended up having to rewrite Chapter 2 of my thesis.   No big deal, other than it will make this week a little more hectic as I approach my next deadline of February 22nd for Chapter 3, but the road is  clear!   Within the next week, I will have a survey to distribute and will be asking many of you to take an anonymous survey on Caregiving, Stress and its Impact in the Work Place.  My good friend, Denise Brown at Caregiving.com has graciously offer to help in this process.    Everything surrounding writing a thesis is a process, even down to having the survey approved by the department.  It been quite a learning experience.

Approaching my fifty-ninth birthday, Richard’s 2nd anniversary of his life transition, and

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writing my thesis has afforded me the opportunity to take inventory of the past while pondering what lies ahead of me in the future.  It’s pretty simple: can’t do anything about the past, not sure about the future, today is what is important.  Boy, did it take me a few years, and a lot of knocks on the head to figure this out and...to apply this little bit of philosophy to my life.   I thank my friend Sam for his sage advice, reminding me of the importance to let go and let live.

wp-1455587268733.jpgI know during Richard’s illness and especially the last six months of his life, all my attention was solely focused on him. (And I have no regrets!)  I constantly worried about tomorrow, along with worrying  about the past, while in the process of being attentive to the present. Whew…What a load to carry! Adjusting my thought process to focusing on “today” has not be easy, but I sense the transition in my thought process is changing.  Compassion fatigue is slowly withering away. 

Over the years while writing this blog, I’ve focused most, if not all of my attention of my writing about Richard’s illness and our life together. While I did the writing, Richard and I conversed regularly about the next topic to post on the blog.   This blog was one of the many things that we enjoyed doing together.  Now I write in memory of Richard, anticipating what lies ahead for me. 

I think one of the reasons life after caregiving has been so difficult for me is because my perceive purpose in life changed at the time of Richard’s life transition.  I am now just learning, thanks to my friend Sam, that is not the case.  My purpose in life is to take care of myself too.  Like so many other caregivers, my life got caught in the shuffle of the day-to-day responsibilities of being a family caregiver. You lose yourself in the midst of caregiving: somehow, one has to get their life back.  Sometimes you do have to look into your past to wp-1455586923324.jpgfind your future. 

Part of my past includes bowling professionally in the mid 80’s. Traveling on the Pro Bowlers tour was quite an exhilarating experience. Most people who know me today would be surprised to know that underneath my perceived laid-back personality, was (is) a very highly competitive, emotional bowler. When  asked about my bowling career, I always use a baseball analogy, “great at the Triple-A level, just could not get over the hump to be successful in the major leagues.”   (I will leave the reasons for that for another blog post.)  The last professional tournament I bowled was in 1987 in Baltimore, MD., and while I dabbled from time to time in league bowling, I have not picked up a bowling ball since I last bowled in a  league in 2001. That changed just a few weeks ago.

My friend Sam encouraged me to start bowling again with some of his friends who go to the lanes on a weekly basis.  Reluctant at first, (and fearful that my arm might fall off after my first throw), I decided to give it a go.  Since that first endeavor to the lanes a month ago, I have been bowling now 4 more times.  Even without my own bowling ball and shoes, I have had a blast and will look forward to getting in better physical shape so I can bowl more games this year.

I have heard some suggest that those who do not learn from the past are destine to repeat it. I understand the meaning behind this statement. What I have learned from my recent past is not to live in fear and isolation.   However, what if we looked into a part of  our past in order to help us find meaning to the present, and to our future?   Many people over the years have asked me why don’t you bowl?  Life-long bowling friends have said to me, “I can’t believe you don’t bowl anymore.”  Yet for some reason, my friend Sam got me to bowl again and I will be forever grateful because I learned a lesson about having fun again and more importantly, letting go of fear and isolation.

Sam is kind of in the same lane I am in, his partner of 19 years passed away in March of 2015, yet his grief process is different from mine.  That is to be expected!  However, through his grief process, he has helped me along the road to step outside my isolation and comfort zone.  Bowling was the key that has started the engine: Somehow I think Sam knew that! 

Now, I am not saying that I am going to go out and get in shape an bowl a few tournaments again.  But who’s to say that I can’t do that…I am not fearful anymore!  I bowled for a living for a number of years, now bowling has reminded me how to enjoy life again.  In planning your future after caregiving ends, take a step back and remind yourself to enjoy life to the fullest, even if it means taking a look at your past.  Along the way, I hope you find a Sam in your life to help open the lane for you to your present and future.

I’m not bowling for dollars anymore, however I am bowling to get my life back, which far exceeds any monetary  value.

Chris MacLellan is affectionately known as “The Bow Tie Guy” in many caregiving circles and  is the author of “What’s The Deal With Caregiving” and the host of “Healing Ties” radio program.

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Symbolism In Communication


What we have once enjoyed we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.  Helen Keller

Now that I am on the road to Spokane, I have quite a bit of stories to share.  During our Caregiving journey I found it was not only important to share our story, but soothing too! While I always will feel part of the vast community of Caregivers, the bottom line is that my role has shifted from caring for someone else to caring for me.  Learning how to care for yourself when coming out of Caregiving is going to be different for each one of us.  I continue to embrace my life after caregiving has ended, some days are better than others.

Something happen recently that I haven’t shared because it has been difficult to put into words, yet alone perspective.  In telling my story to a few close friends’ (which I will get to in a little bit), they reminded me of the story of the yellow butterfly.  Are you familiar with the symbolism of the yellow butterfly?  For instance, in the Christian tradition butterflies in general, symbolizes the resurrection. The caterpillar dies and lives again in th (2) a new more glorious form. In Scotland and Ireland, a yellow butterfly near the departed means the soul is at peace.  When I told my story to my two friends’ (at different times) both recounted their own story about a yellow butterfly in their life, and how a yellow butterfly appeared out of nowhere when they were in the midst of feeling sad about the loss of a loved one.  In both accounts, I was told of the comfort the yellow butterfly brought to my friends and the message they conveyed to me was similar to the beliefs what our friends in Scotland and Ireland believe: the soul is at peace and you can be at peace too! 

I’m sure all of us at one time or another have thought long and hard about life after death: Do people communicate from “the other side” and if so, how?  Friends, just like you, have told me from time to time, their stories of departed loved ones “communicating from the other side” in some form or another.  The latest “after-life communication” story recounted to me is about a special paper towel dispenser in the form of a light house, which when  tapped on top, displays a bright red light followed by a loud bellowing sound of a ships’ horn. The lighthouse towel dispenser can only turn on when tapped on top, yet after the passing of my friends’ husband, there has been instances where the lighthouse simply turns on itself! (That bellowing sound of the ship horn will get your attention.) Does this phenomena have meaning?  Is it my friend’s deceased husband communicating, or is it just a chance event…what do you think?

Richard was a firm believer that “once the lights went out, that was it!” He did not believe in life after death and he did not believe there was communication from “the other side.” Even though my seminary professors would be aghast to hear my say this, I do believe that people who have gone before us, do communicate to us in some form or fashion.  On December 11, 2015…it happen to me! 

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On December 11, 2015 I received a text message (see above) from Richard’s phone which has been disconnected for over  18 months.  Startled, I did not know what to think of this text. When his picture popped up on my cell phone text message screen I had to do a double-take!  Technological glitch? Phenomenon? Message from the other side?  Or as I have come to accept, my yellow butterfly.   

butterflybutterfliesinsec_23727There is no rhyme or reason to this “text” message: no message inside the text, just his smiling face on my screen.  My phone carrier can’t explain it because his old numbers are not in service, and if they were, “how would the new owner know to text my number” the tech said?  I have been cautious to share this story because I have had a hard time understanding the meaning of this text message – that is until I think of the meaning of the yellow butterfly!

As most of my family, friends, radio show listeners, and readers know, I have struggled since Richard made is life transition. Two-steps forward, one step back. Trying to find my place and identity has been challenging since Richard made his life transition.  I do know finishing the Masters degree will be a big boost to my confidence!

During my course of study at Gonzaga in Leadership and Communication, we have looked at the many different communication theory’s, as well as many different forms of communication. However, there is no communication theory  that explains the phenomena of the yellow butterfly better than faith.  I cherish this “message” because I do believe in this form of communication. I don’t know if I will ever get another “text message ” from Richard, but what I have learned from this message is a simple reminder that there is never an ending, there are only new beginnings and Richard is at peace, and I can be at peace too!

“On The Road To Spokane” is my story leading up to graduation in May at Gonzaga University.

Chris MacLellan is the host of “Healing Ties” Radio program and the author of “What’s The Deal With Caregiving”

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Moving To Acceptance


The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Lao Tzu

I’m not sure there is a moving company one can call when you are preparing to move to acceptance.  Moving to acceptance is one of those moves you have to do on your own.  Sure, it is important to receive some help during the move, but in the long run, moving to acceptance is a journey that you have to travel on your own and in your own time.  Moving to acceptance does come with a few bumps inlights the road. While on the move to acceptance, there will be days when the roads will be smooth and the sky so blue that you feel you’re just a stones throw away from completing your move to acceptance. Those days will be quite beautiful! Then there will be days when those darn red lights appear at an intersection which just stops you in your tracks!  That red light just seems linger on and on which makes you want to beat on your steering wheel and scream to the top of your voice so that you can continue on your route. (Those are the days during this move when screaming is Okay!) When you get a red light that just seems to linger, this is a good time to take a break from your move before you run out of gas, because when you run out of gas, you never get to move to acceptance.

There is no GPS device that will help guide you on the move to acceptance however, from time to time, there will be many kind folks who will join you on your ride to help keep you on your path on your move to acceptance.  These “riders” often appear out of the blue sky, and when you need them the most.  They don’t mind helping you with your move, because they see your road from a different perspective and know just what to say, and just what to do while you are on your move to acceptance.   What is great about these “riders” is they reconnect you to your route after those nasty red lights stop you in your tracks so that you can continue on with your move to acceptance! 11410888-smooth-road-ahead-good-times-recovery-yellow-street-sign-1is84y6Some of these “riders” might be on their own move to acceptance, some might have already arrived at acceptance. There will be a “rider” or two who will jump in the car with you who you haven’t seen in a while, yet even after many years have gone by, you pick up just where you left off with these “riders” and your friendship is in full sail again. Heck, you might even pick up a friendly “hitchhiker” along they way, someone you do not know, who pops into your life when you least expect it, who has experienced their own move to acceptance and would like to share their route with you.  All these “riders” have their own place in the vehicle and tend to stay just long enough to ensure you stay on the correct route in order for you to move to acceptance.

 The great thing about moving to acceptance is that you do not have to take the interstate highway to arrive at your destination. Moving to acceptance is better suited for those country roads where you can drive at your own pace, and most importantly, in your own time. There will be days on your move to acceptance where you will want to pull off the road and take the scenic route: Do it! The scenic route will be filled with views of wonderful memories which will help you on your movemoving on to acceptance. Cherish the scenic view! As you get closer to your destination, the scenic views will be like a picture book that sits on your coffee table, however, this book will be forever yours, always entrenched in your memory, always with you on your move to acceptance.

Moving to acceptance can be difficult, but it is a worthwhile move! What is great about this move to acceptance is not only the terrific views, the awesome people you meet along the way, but the ultimate – arriving at the destination with all the memories of the this great move still intact!  Is there a specific “sign” that you have moved to acceptance? No, not really because the “sign” you have arrived at acceptance will be different for each one of us, and that is Okay because all our routes on our move to acceptance will be different, too. Yet a tell-tail-sign that you are getting close to arriving at acceptance is when those scenic views turn from sadness to joy, and you begin to accept, after your long journey in search of what you need – you come to know and understand that what you have been searching for while on your move to acceptance, has, and will always be, in your heart and forever at home with you. This is when then you know, first hand, that you have made your move to acceptance because you now realize and accept that the one you are missing the most, will always right beside you!

Wishing you and yours a Happy Holiday Season

Listen and see our video chat with  Denise Brown from Caregiving.com  as Denise interviews me about Moving to Acceptance After Caregiving ends by clicking here!

wpid-wp-1448113432219.jpegChris’ Book, “What’s The Deal With Caregiving” is available on Amazon by clicking here!

 

 

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When Caregiving Ends


Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. Ralph Waldo Emerson

AARP’s monthly bulletin arrived in the mail and I have to say, it is impressive.  There are plenty of wonderful stories about Caregivers, terrific wpid-wp-1447734881364.jpeginformation and quite a bit of wonderful resources to help Caregivers on their journey.  November’s AARP Bulletin is a must for all Caregivers! As I paged through the magazine, I looked to see if there might be an article or two that might fit my current role as a Caregiver.  I sensed something was missing?   Thinking that I might find the information I was looking for, I moved over to AARP’s massive website and navigated to the Caregiving section and noticed about 2/3 of the way down the page an article on Coping with Loss – One Step At A Time.   I was sadden to see that the article was more than a year old!

My role as a Caregiver changed on March 9, 2014 when my partner, Bernard Richard Schiffer passed away. When Caregiving ends, lives are transformed forever.  All of a sudden, Caregiving is over and what is there left to do?  Immersed in  the care of someone else, now the (former) family Caregiver is learning to live life differently, learning to be a caregiver to themselves.   There are two aspects to Caregiving that is similar, there is a beginning and and end to Caregiving and in most cases, we are not prepared for either of these life events.

As we continue to celebrate National Family Caregiving month and recognize family Caregivers across the nation, I have to wonder if we are not missing an entire segment of family Caregivers whose Caregiving journey has ended. Filled with first hand experience that can be beneficial to family Caregivers,  we are learning to be a Caregiver to ourselves.  When Caregiving ends, its uncharted waters, but when we swim together, the distance to good health and happiness is not too far away.

I’m creating a life to love after Caregiving ends through advocacy, leadership, writing, radio, travel and cruises!

Chris MacLellan a former family Caregiver and is the host of Healing Ties Radio and the Author of “What’s The Deal With Caregiving.”

Our 2015 Pulitzer Prize Nominated Story In Sickness and In Health: A Couple’s Final Journey, still resonates today!

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Because You Care: Wear Green on April 17th


 

 

 

 

Because You Care: Wear Green on April 17th!

Loneliness and isolation are some of the common side effects when caring for a family member or friend.  Yet wouldn’t be great if you could somehow spot another family caregiver in the crowd to lend support, or to simply give a ‘high-five!’  Well, Denise Brown from Caregiving.com and her vast network of family Caregivers are pledging to wear green to bring awareness to the family Caregiver experience on April 17th.

Learn how you can get involved in this nation wide event by tuning into Healing Ties Radio on Wednesday April 8th at 7:00 pm (EDT) on Health Cafe LIVE!  You can also visit Caregiving.com  for additional information on this terrific event to support family Caregivers. 

Not available to listen live?  NO WORRIES!  Healing Ties is available on demand on our Healing Ties iHeart Channel by clicking here! 
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Managing Your Caregiving Day


Join us on Wednesday, March 11th at 7 pm EST on HealthCafeLive.com as we welcome Amy Goyer and Toula Wootan to Healing Ties Radio.  Both accomplished Authors, Public Speakers, and recognized as Caregiving experts, Amy and Toula blend their own personal caregiving story with soothing words of wisdom to help us manage our Caregiving day.  On Wednesday’s show, we’ll chat about 5 important priorities and lessons learn to help all Caregivers manager their day. No matter where you are on your Caregiving journey, be it ‘Juggling Work and Caregiving’ or finding those ‘Love Stories and Timeless Tips’, Amy and Toula are two family Caregivers who know the meaning of care.   Listen in and learn how Amy Goyer and Toula Wootan are creating Healing Ties all around us!

 To listen live at 7:00 pm (EST) simply click here! 

Not available to listen live?  NO WORRIES!  All our episode are are available on our Healing Ties iHeart Channel by clicking here! 

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The Eden Alternative: Seven Domains of Well-Being


Join us on Wednesday, March 4th  at 7 pm EST on HealthCafeLive.com as we welcome Lisa Kendall from Crossroads Counseling & Consulting to our show. Our popular culture’s notion of     success seems to focus on how much money we make, how busy we are, and how healthy and slim our bodies feel.  Caring for a loved on who is ill, and coping with life after Caregiving may bring us to a different frame of mind, one where we confront the reality of aging and changing abilities  while seeking to understand the deeper lessons of life and love.  Join Lisa and Chris as we explore The Eden Alternatives seven domains of well-being how you can use them as a guide to greater satisfaction, no matter where you are on your life and Caregiving journey. Lisa Kendall is someone who is creating “Healing Ties” all around us!

To listen live at 7:00 pm simply click here! 

No available to listen live?  NO WORRIES!  Healing Ties is available ON Demand on our iHeart Channel by clicking here! 

 

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Pulitzer Prize Nomination: A Posthumous Birthday Gift


Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead. Oscar Wilde

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Photo Credit: Carline Jean Photographer for the Sun-Sentinel

Today, January 24, would have been Richard’s eighty-fourth birthday. Last year we celebrated with a small group of friends at one of our favorite stopping grounds, D’Angelo’s, in Fort Lauderdale; it was a fun-filled evening that everyone will always remember.  One of my favorite photos from our story, ‘In Sickness and In Health: A Couple’s Final Journey was snapped at D’Angelo’s last year.  Anticipating those delicious Petit Fours, you see us both peering into the box, as if we are playing a game of peek-a-boo.  While I forget how many Petit Fours were in the box, I do remember that by the next morning, the box was empty!

This week comes the word that our story, ‘In Sickness and In Health: A Couple’s Final Journey’ has been nominated by the Sun-Sentinel for Pulitzer Prize consideration.  I think it is fitting that I share this information with you today on what would have been Richard’s eighty-fourth birthday.  Both modest, yet very accomplished, Sun-Sentinel journalist Diane Lade and photojournalist Carline Jean told our story in a very loving way that has touched over 400,000 people worldwide.  I am thankful because the story has provided me with a very special memory that will last a lifetime.

Those who knew Richard knew him to be a private person.  For him to agree to do the story was his gift of love, care, and commitment to me.  I return it two-fold.  I am reminded of some sage advice that I have received along the way since Richard’s life transition: ‘The feeling of missing him will get softer, but the love you shared will always be strong.’  I think of these words of wisdom quite often, especially today on his birthday with this special news, reminds me how strong love can be in one’s life.

My faith tells me that I will see him again; my mind tells me that he is forever pain-free; my heart tells me that he is right next to me.

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Superstars: Diane Lade and Carline Jean

I thank Diane Lade and Carline Jean for telling our story through the lens of love, care and commitment as that was the true story of our life together.  In my book, they have already won; they also won Richard’s heart along the way, too.  For without their demonstration of professionalism, along with the love, care, and commitment they showed to us on this journey, Richard never would have felt comfortable, especially over the last few months,  to continue with the story as the cancer took over his body.

Richard said to me just a few weeks before he made his life transition, “Diane and Carline are going to have quite an end to their story.”  That Sunday afternoon on March 9, 2014 when Richard made his life transition, he waited for Diane and Carline to arrive in order to say his goodbye to two people who he allowed into his heart.  Richard let very few people into his life, and in his way, by this very deserving nomination, Richard’s love, care, and commitment, continues to give back to the people he loved, cared and trusted the most.

Congratulations to Diane, Carline and the entire Sun-Sentinel Staff who worked on this project.

Diane Lade and Carline Jean will always have a special place in my heart.

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Filed under Esophagus Cancer, LGBT Couples, LGBT Seniors

Creating The Life You Love


We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do. Mother Teresa


Join us Wednesday, December 17th at 7:00 pm (est) on Health Cafe Live for a conversation with nationally recognized and award-winning speaker, Judy Ryan.
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Judy Ryan

Judy is the founder of Life Work Systems and has been delivering personal and professional development services since 1999.
LifeWork_Logo_PRINT On Wednesday’s episode of Healing Ties, Judy Ryan and I will be discussing the topic of Creating the Life You Love because there is nothing more important than enjoying the life we have, whether at work, at home, at school, in our communities, and with those we have, no matter what circumstances we face.  This topic is timely for anyone listening, especially our Caregivers.  As Judy says: “Now, you (Caregivers) are a group that knows what is really important and you are hungry to enjoy living into your most loving, expanded human potential.”
To listen live at 7:00 pm (est) simply follow this link to Health Cafe LIVE W4HCPROOF3
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Cannot listen live?  NO WORRIES!  Healing Ties in ON DEMAND at iHeart Radio by clicking on the iHeart Icon download
TieHands ‘Healing Ties’ is a radio show about your Health, Happiness and Prosperity, hosted by Chris MacLellan, ‘The Bow-Tie-Guy.’  Interested in being a sponsor of the show, contact Chris at TheBowTieGuy@HealingTies.com.  Healing Ties is apart of  the Whole Care Network

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