Our Thoughts

Are you a family caregiver? I am. In fact, With A Little Help's average staff age is 51 so several of our professional caregivers and office staff members also have family caregiving experience. Understanding both situations strengthens empathy for the natural differences in perspective of client and client's family. I originally conceived of this blog, featuring the challenges and coping mechanisms of four family caregivers, because I was curious about the issues other people encounter in family caregiving and I hoped to gain understanding that would help all readers caring for a loved one. What I found was that these narratives helped me as much in my professional caregiving career as they have in the care of my own mother. I hope you enjoy these four honest and inspiring stories. andrewAndrew Cohen, of Coho Accounting, provides care for his mother. His biggest challenge was preparing emotionally for her journey into dementia. A bright, resourceful and independent spirit, his mother learned she had Parkinson's 12 1/2 years ago but kept it in abeyance for 9 years during which Andrew was able to prepare himself for Parkinson's inevitable physical progressions.  Not all Parkinson's patients develop dementia but when Andrew's mother started experiencing symptoms it put added stress on their ability to negotiate her care and, at times, strained their communication. Where does he turn for support? "I try to remember the good times," Andrew told me. He also receives important guidance from a dear friend who is a hospice nurse and talks to friends about their own family caregiving situations...his "ad hoc support group."  Most remarkably, he founded his business, Coho Accounting, as a result of his experience with his mother's need for fiduciary support. He works now with client families going through situations similar to his own. What has he learned? Three main things: Really listen. Don't disagree with your mother (or with anyone experiencing dementia). Be willing to have difficult and honest conversations.
More than 800,000 people in Washington  are family caregivers. Nationally that number is 65 million according to the Caregiver Action Network. Yet these big numbers don't tell the whole story. Caregiving has changed. Advanced medicine and better treatments for chronic illness means that loved ones are experiencing longer lives and richer programmatic opportunities which, in turn, requires sustained caregiving lasting 5 to 10 years or more. Caregivers are being asked to manage complex medical maintenance or navigate the long term care system while simultaneously trying to keep their own lives stable and balanced. It can be overwhelming. One of the strongest caregiver support programs available nationwide is called Powerful Tools for Caregivers. "I'm one of Powerful Tools' biggest fans," social worker and Powerful Tools facilitator Carin Mack confessed. "Powerful Tools is a 6 week free intensive program that offers family caregivers the opportunity to learn new strategies for self care within a caring community," she said. Classes, held once a week, enhance caregivers' self-care, emotional balance, coping skills, and confidence. In particular, Mack noted, "The group offers ways to handle some of the most difficult emotions experienced in caregiving such as guilt, depression, anger, frustration and grief. It offers new
monica-headshot"My work as a therapeutic harpist is a service and not a performance. I don't expect any kind of recognition," multi-talented Seattle musician Monica Schley explained when she sat down to discuss her experience as a Certified Clinical Musician. Most of Schley's musical roles, such as her chamber-pop band, The Daphnes, or role in the experimental pop opera, "Now I'm Fine," involve performance and entertainment but through her service as a therapeutic musician, she says, she's found "soul purpose" and improved aspects of her musicianship. Schley began her journey with the harp at the age of 14. Since then she's gained mastery of her instrument and acquired a wide repertoire of music which will  soon debut on her first full length album "Keep the Night Dark." Her experience spans classical, chamber, rock, jazz, improvisation and avant garde. She teaches, composes, and has collaborated with dozens of musicians. Three years ago she did something different. She enrolled in a course in clinical musicianship accredited by the National Standards Board for Therapeutic Musicians. In addition to the coursework she served an intensive internship playing roughly 40 hours in hospitals and kidney dialysis centers and 20 hours in hospice. This is the first year she's been practicing with full certification. As a therapeutic harpist, Schley says, her ability to memorize music has improved and "It really opened up my ears to how I connect music and sound."
345,000 people in Washington struggle with hoarding disorder according to Governor Jay Inslee's proclamation for Hoarding Disorder Week, October 18-24. Inslee presents the case for lifting awareness and understanding family members and neighbors who hoard. What is hoarding disorder? What causes it? Who is at risk? What can we do about it? Are you or someone you know living with hoarding disorder? HOARDINGHoarding disorder is marked by a major difficulty letting go of possessions, the inability to organize them, and the acquisition of so many belongings that much or all living space becomes impeded or unusable thereby causing distress. Hoarding disorder exists on a spectrum from the sensational cases seen on television or in news to isolated incidences that grow more out of control with time. It shows up in young adulthood but can intensify in later years when age related problems interfere with functionality, memory or motivation. Hoarding disorder is a complex stand alone or co-occurring psychiatric disorder with public health implications. It isn't eccentricity or laziness and people with the disorder aren't gross or simply unmotivated. Those are myths of the past. It's distinct from collecting or cluttering. Collections are ordered and usually have a designated place. Clutter is disorganized yet doesn't block movement or overtake necessary spaces such as a stove or a bed. Neither have a major drive to collect stuff or major difficulty letting it go. Hoarding is much more complex. So, who are hoarders? Society is just beginning to understand. In the video below you'll see a profile of a former business woman in Orange County. She and her family talk about their perspectives on her hoarding disorder as they try to understand. She's the subject of her daughter's documentary, "My mother's garden."

I first encountered "Dotty's Ten Tips for Communicating with a Person Living With Dementia" when it was published within a blog at The Art of Alzheimer's in July of this year. Authored by Dorothy DeMarco and originally appearing at the Alzheimer's Reading room Dotty's Ten...

Falls are the leadiCaution signsng cause of injury-related hospitalization for older adults. If you're 65 years of age or over you have a 1 in 3 chance of falling. More than 12,000 people in Washington are hospitalized for a fall each year causing skilled nursing stays,  loss of independence and fatalities at disturbing rates. So, starting now, September 23rd, National Falls Prevention Awareness Day, please take a minute to consider the information offered to help you and your loved ones  stay safe from falls. Falls aren't a normal part of aging. For the most part they're preventable which means that your awareness and proactive decisions make a difference. The risk factors that cause falls are known and can be addressed in three steps:
blooming-front4Home Care agency professionals and service providers gathered at the 9th Annual Washington Home Care Association's "Blooming With The Boomers" Conference Tuesday at the Lynnwood Convention Center. Record numbers of home care professionals and service providers attended. During the two day event, September 15 and 16, participants exchanged information about best practices and strategies for managing business while also learning how policies and laws are shaping home care. With A Little Help's Director of Business Development, Shawn D'Amelio, who chaired the Conference Committee for last year's successful event, leads the Committee again this year.
"Today, grandparents continue serving as quiet heroes in every corner of our country. From reading bedtime stories to their grandchildren to volunteering in their communities to acting as primary caregivers, they work hard each and every day while showing love and kindness to their families and those around them. Let us continue to show them the same, and let us forever honor their tremendous efforts to nurture, guide, and drive us in all we do."   obamaThose are the words of President Barack Obama in his 2015 proclamation of Grandparents Day, September 13th. Obama speaks from experience. He, President Clinton, and several other famous and successful people grew up
marathon-runners-1024x681Do you run? Walk? Bicycle? If you do, you're part of the reason that Seattle consistently ranks in the top ten fittest cities. If you need some motivation to join the crowd the National Institute on Aging has launched an annual program called Go 4 Life. Go 4 Life promotes physical activity to improve quality of life for older adults. This isn't just about urging couch potatoes to move this is a drive to bring exercise to everyone whether you have arthritis, live with dementia, suffer depression, experience low vision, or just feel too busy. Tap into the movement and improve your health--- it's Go 4 Life month!
This guest post is authored by McKenna Grimsby, Marketing Chair for the Alzheimer's Association Washington Chapter Seattle Walk. alz banner The Alzheimer's Association Walk to End Alzheimer's is the world's largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer's care, support and research. Held annually in more than 600 communities nationwide and 16 locations in our region, this inspiring event calls on participants of all ages and abilities to reclaim the future for millions.