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November 2008

Making Choices On the Holidays

Thanksgiving 2008: I've been asked to re-run my 2006 message for today, and it still seems fitting, so I am doing so. Blessings to you all. Carol


I’ve been thinking of our family’s past Thanksgivings. For a number of years, the grandparents on both sides were relatively healthy, and we’d have them over for Thanksgiving. They could climb the steps – sometimes with help – but they managed.


At the time, my boys were in grade school. We had “adopted” our neighbor, Joe. He was a widower in his eighties and was totally deaf. His deafness made him uncomfortable in groups, so he chose not to come to our house for holiday meals. Therefore, my sons and I took the meals to him.

One of my sons would carry the salad, one would carry the pumpkin pie with whipped cream (they traded, because pie was more fun than salad), and I carried a plate heaped with turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes and rolls.

If it was really cold – below zero cold – we’d have to throw on a jacket. Usually, it was – oh – maybe fifteen above zero, so we’d just slip on some shoes and scurry over from our porch to Joe’s. We’d burst through the door, waving at him to get to the table, since he couldn’t hear us come in. We wanted him to eat while the food was hot. I’d poor him something to drink, we’d wave and race back home to get the meal on for the grandparents. It was busy, but very satisfying.

I did, more than once, try to talk Joe into coming over to join the group, but he made it clear he truly didn’t want to. So, we deviated from the “big, happy gathering” tradition and made our own little tradition. That’s where flexibility comes into play. People enjoy things in different ways. There is no “have to” about it.

Some may have thought Joe should have been nagged into coming into the gathering. I knew him well, and also respected his right to make his own decisions. I believe he still had a fun holiday. Earlier in the day – before I was too busy cooking – I would have had my daily visit with Joe, so he wasn’t alone all day. He enjoyed his meal the way he wanted it. He was content.

I am aware that in this wonderful, diverse world technology has created for us, some readers won’t be celebrating this day as we in Fargo, North Dakota, do. Heck, these days, even a lot of people in Fargo have different traditions and aren’t celebrating a “traditional Thanksgiving.” 

I am hoping whatever and whenever you, my readers, celebrate, you have a wonderful time.  As I said, there is no “have to” about celebrations. We each must decide what is important to us, and respect the other’s choice. Peace be with you.

Home for the Holidays: Be Prepared

Thanksgiving is, for many of us, the beginning of a string of holidays. Sometime between now and the New Year, many adult children will make an attempt to visit with their aging parents. Adult children carry with them memoires of holidays past. The sights and smells of the familiar home with Mom and Dad there to present a warm family gathering. So, when we go back to visit, even if we consciously know our parents are aging, we subconsciously expect things to stay the same. This expectation can really throw us when we are presented with reality.

Read more about going home to visit aging parents:

Alzheimer’s Diagnosis Should Be Made After Considering Other Causes for Memory Problems

A colleague of mine has, from time to time,  stopped in my office to chat about her father. I'm the "office expert," when it comes to caregiving woes. As I've listened to her talk about her experiences with her father, a couple of times I've said, "Are you sure he has Alzheimer's disease?"

She'd say, "That's what the doctor says."

Read more about Alzheimer's diagnosis and other memory problems:

Engage With Grace Provides Valuable Tool for End-Of-Life Discussions

In many ways I was fortunate as I made decisions about my parents deaths. My mother's sister and her husband were ten years older than my parents. They came out to the prairie to live near us, their only family, as aging and health problems took over their lives. We helped them through the death process. During this time, my parents made out wills and Durable Powers of Attorney for health and for money matters, for themselves. They saw the writing on the wall, so to speak, and finally got it done.

Read more about Engage with Grace:

Can the Techniques Taught in Montessori Schools Help Elders with Alzheimer’s?

Can people with Alzheimer's disease continue to learn? Most people would say that they cannot, as their short-term memory is deteriorating, and we need to hold a concept in our short-term memory before we can commit it to long term memory.  However, a story by Angela Jimenez on nytimes.com tells of a doctor who has been proving this concept to be false, at least in some instances.

Read more on Alzheimer's and Montessori:

Path Into Healing a Fascinating Journey

PathHealingOliver Sam Oliver is a man on a mission. He’s attended many deaths as a hospice chaplain. And he has an insatiable thirst for inner healing and spiritual growth. Oliver’s latest book, The Path into Healing is another fascinating journey.

In The Path into Healing, Oliver investigates the feminine side of both genders, and the trend toward integration of the masculine/feminine aspects of every human being, leading to a spiritual wholeness.

Oliver writes of how, when children are hurt, they want their mommy. In many ways, we never lose that need. The world interferes with the human need as we are forced to “grow out of it.” However, the need remains buried. Oliver’s book, The Path into Healing, is indeed a journey worth taking. The book  is available at www.pathintohealing.com.

National Family Caregivers Month Is a Great Month to Read About Caregiving

SurviveCaregivingWoodson November is National Family Caregivers Month. What better way to mark the occasion than to tell you about a gem of a book titled To Survive Caregiving: A Daughter's Experience, A Doctor's Advice on Finding Hope, Help and Health? I saw a brief announcement about this book, written by Cheryl E. Woodson, MD., and thought it sounded good, so I requested a review copy. I wasn't disappointed.

Read more about National Family Caregivers Month and Cheryl Woodson:

It's National Hospice Month: Help Support the Hospice of Your Choice

Hospice of the Red River Valley helped both of my parents die. I don't even want to think of the added misery they would have had to endure as they died, had it not been for the incredible help of HRRV. Every hospice is a little different, but they all have one mission. No one needs to die in pain. The editorial below was written by the executive director of HRRV. I'm sure this message applies to hospice organizations countrywide, so I am sharing it with you.

"Hospice Month Nov. 2008

In the midst of these challenging times, National Hospice and Palliative Care Month provides an opportunity to thank you for the ongoing privilege of caring for terminally ill patients and their loved ones up and down the greater Red River Valley area. Hospice of the Red River Valley is entering it’s 28th year of service and remains deeply committed to providing gold-standard end-of-life care.

We exist to care for friends, neighbors and loved ones who want dignified, comfortable and peaceful passings, and for their loved ones who make it possible for them to write their last chapters wherever they call home. We do this with you and for you. In the presence of a dying person, one truly stands on hallowed ground.

People who do this work often feel called to it. It is generally considered a ministry. So, to characterize this work as business, feels simply crass. Ninety percent of our reimbursement, however, comes from Medicare and Medicaid. Hospice care is part of the country’s extensive health care system, subject to federal regulations and the changing tides of administrations and congress. And, that is big business.

Like it or not, Hospice of the Red River Valley is affected by political and economic pressures, just like every other segment of health care. And, like other health care providers, our reimbursement is seriously threatened. High gas prices? Well, our patients don’t come to us: we go to them. We log over a million miles per year traveling throughout our 28-county service area. Mileage reimbursement is the fourth largest line item in our $23 million budget.

Any way you slice it, that is big business, too. In order to support our mission throughout our service area, we have an ethical responsibility to face some harsh realities squarely and to respond creatively and professionally. This we will do. What we won’t do is compromise care. We know that many counties in our area are rapidly aging. Increasing numbers of people will want and need our services. With your support we are meeting this need and we will continue to work with you to do so in the future. Thank you for entrusting the care of your loved ones to us. Thank you for supporting our mission. We are honored to be of service."