ElderCare Beacon Newsletter

ElderCare Beacon
December 15, 1999 Vol. 2, No. 13

ElderCare Online – The Internet Community of Elder Caregivers
"Tell me why – Show me how – Hold my hand" (sm)

Dear Friends,

As we celebrate this holiday season, I hope that each of you has the opportunity to look back on the year and reflect. Have you been able to take time for yourself? Is your loved one getting access to the best care and services s/he needs? Are you involving all the right people – including family members and respite workers? Remember that caregiving requires the wisdom to know when you need assistance and when you need a break.

I am happy to welcome two guest writers to the ElderCare Beacon this month: Mary Waggoner and Geri Hall. Mary is the founder of the Elderly Care Konnection website and a geriatric care manager in Florida. Geri is known by many of you as one of the leading activists on the University of St. Louis’ Alzheimer’s Disease e-mailing list. These two women bring many years of experience and compassion to caregivers.

This newsletter also includes a link to a brief survey that will help us here at ElderCare Online to develop better-focused content that meets your needs and interests. Please read the brief introduction in this newsletter and fill out the survey.

Thank you for your support and positive feedback. Have a peaceful and blessed holiday season and best wishes for 2000.

Kind Regards,
Rich O’Boyle
ElderCare Online


Monthly Feature: Planning for the Holidays by Mary Waggoner
Please Help With Our Survey
New Articles on the Website

  • Helping Your Elder Adjust to a Residential Facility by Geri Hall
  • Update – Taking Away Car Keys: Suggestions for Caregivers
  • Update – The Seven Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease

Caregiving Tip – Elderly Smoking
Recognizing Caregiver Burn-Out
Subscription Information


MONTHLY FEATURE: Planning for the Holidays
by Mary Waggoner

Many of us look forward to the holiday season. We look forward to seeing family and friends and anticipate the celebrations. However, for some the stress of the holidays looms quietly behind the cheerful exterior. This is especially true for caregivers. Demands and responsibilities of caregiving can be overwhelming any time of the year, but stress seems to mount during the holiday season.

The holiday season is often a time when we reflect on the past. For caregiving families, this can be a painful time of year. They remember the holidays before their loved one became ill or before their loved one’s personality began to change due to a terminal illness. For many families the holiday season is, therefore, bittersweet.

In some families, it is one adult child who is doing the majority of the caregiving. This situation often harbors unspoken resentment that may surface during a family gathering if not dealt with beforehand. Each adult child has separate memories of the same loved one, therefore each child approaches the concept of caregiving from different points of view. It is best to discuss differences and perceptions of caregiving before a celebration to reduce the unspoken stress that can lead to an unpleasant holiday gathering of loving friends and family.

The need to prepare a "Norman Rockwell" holiday resides in many women, who are often the primary caregiver of not only the aging loved one but also their immediate family members. The internal stress this creates often leads to depression or anger.

Below are some suggestions to help relieve the stress level and enjoy the holiday season:

  1. Set limits for yourself that you know you can keep. Begin saying "no" when you are aware you will not be able to give more of yourself without resentment. Remember no one is a mind reader. Let other family members know what they can do to help. Most people simply do not help because they are never asked.
  2. Realize it’s okay not to have a "picture perfect" holiday. Give yourself permission to only do what you can do comfortably. How the holiday felt is what will be remembered, not so much the total picture.
  3. If you are still feeling overwhelmed by all the holiday preparations, write each responsibility on a separate piece of paper and put them in a jar. Have a family member pick out one sheet of paper (or more if needed) and those are their responsibilities. Once they have completed their responsibility, tie a ribbon to your tree or other holiday symbol, to recognize the good deed.
  4. Have everyone in the family write one memory that was created with the elderly loved one that is special to them. Share the memories over your holiday dinner.
  5. If you know a caregiver who has a hard time relinquishing the immense responsibilities of caregiving and holiday preparation, perhaps the best gift you could give them is your TIME.


I have developed a short survey that I am asking your assistance in completing. As I devote more of my efforts to our online community, I want to be sure that it reflects all of your interests and needs.

Specifically, I am looking to see where you are from, whom you are caring for, what are your topical information needs and how you perceive the actual website.

This is NOT an attempt to drop cookies on your hard drive, track your clicks or amass personal information! After I collate the survey results, the information will be deleted. If you do not want to answer a question, simply skip it or cancel the survey.

I will select seven respondents for a special prize as gratitude for fully completing the survey.

I am using a web service called "Zoomerang" to administer the survey and collate the information. Please begin the survey by clicking on this link:

Thank you for participating. The survey has been closed.


Helping Your Elder Adjust to a Residential Facility: Geri Hall gives us some practical tips on how to ease the transition of your demented loved one into a residential facility. Residential Options Channel.

Taking Away the Car Keys: Suggestions for Caregivers: I have revised this favorite article in light of the American Medical Association’s recent decision to allow doctors to report unsafe drivers to state motor vehicles authorities. Home Care & Independent Living Channel.

Seven Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease: I have added more detailed information to this often requested article using Dr. Reisberg’s seven-stage scale of Alzheimer’s Disease progression. Alzheimer’s & Dementia Care Channel.

CAREGIVING TIP: Smoking and Dementia

If other caregivers out there have tips to share with our community members, please send them in. As you will see from this tip, they can be serious or light-hearted. This month’s tip comes from Marti S. in Huntington Beach, CA.

My Dad has been going downhill pretty fast over the last couple of months, but he still likes to have his cigarette on occasion. The biggest worry lately is that he has to be closely monitored when he does have the cigarette. He's been know to drop it in his lap, scratch somewhere with the cigarette in his hand, even just holding it until it burns all the way down and gives him a blister on his finger. Half the time he doesn't even really smoke it, he just holds it.

Mom and I have been debating whether to just not bring up the cigarette issue at all, but we both smoke as well and it would be difficult for us to be having one without him. Someone suggested "candy" cigarettes, but I don't think those are even made anymore!

Today's visit with my Dad presented an excellent solution. When we got outside on the patio, I handed him a cigarette, but took a little time to dig out the lighter. By the time I turned back around to give him a light, he was sitting there calm as can be, "smoking" the unlit cigarette. He would hold it, take a "drag", even flick the ashes. This went on for a good 30 minutes before he started really studying the unlit end of the cigarette, and he still didn't question it. At that point, I just took the cigarette away from him, making like I was "putting it out" in the ashtray, and we went inside for lunch.

Before leaving, I made sure to let the staff at the home know about this new little trick, hoping they could do the same thing for him whenever he wanted a cigarette. Hey, it even gave ME a good idea to try the same trick on MYSELF - might help me cut down a little at least!

Just goes to show you - Dad's still teaching me life lessons!

Marti S.
Huntington Beach, CA


Many caregivers experience burn-out, anger and frustration. Beware: This stress can sometimes lead to unintentional elder abuse.

Abuse can take many forms -- including physical abuse, neglect, psychological abuse, rights violations, or financial exploitation. And it is important that you find help if you feel that you may be too stressed before more serious consequences occur.

The American Academy of Family Physicians has produced a short video clip, "Silent Cries For Help: Coping With Caring For The Elderly," that profiles one caregiver’s experience with burn-out and her solution to the problem.

Watch the online video at http://www.broadcast.com/medialink/99-470.html. Are you interested in other video clips and broadcasts? Let us know about possible topics or online resources.


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