The Caregiver's Beacon Newsletter

The Caregiver’s Beacon (tm)
“Tell me why – Show me how – Hold my hand”
December 23, 2005                                                                                 Vol. 8 No. 3
ALZwell Caregiver Support and ElderCare Online and
Serving the Needs of Caregivers Since 1996

One of the deep religious and spiritual messages of all time is how we establish a balance between Ourselves and Others. We are unique individuals and at the same time we are part of larger communities of families, nations, and the world population. Where do we draw the line between individuality and community? How do we take care of ourselves while taking care of others?

A wise rabbi once said, “Who are we if we only think of ourselves? We are selfish and egotistical. Who are we if we only think of others? We are not ourselves.” The challenge is to find the balance between the two and therein gain wisdom and enlightenment. It goes without saying that this is easier said than done. We constantly have messages and pressures to behave a certain way (You’re a woman, YOU should be caring and loving all of the time). These messages and pressures are not always fair or sincere (How many dutiful SONS do you know?). But the point is not to gripe or point fingers. There are always plenty of opportunities to do that.

The point is: This is the situation that you have before you. You have two choices: You can ignore/fight it or you can work through it. Facing the situation forces us to find that balance between Ourselves and Others: Giving fully, but also keeping your own identity; enhancing someone’s quality of life, but also improving your own well-being; holding someone’s hand through difficult times, but also allowing yourself to walk the same road with them. This is a rare opportunity to encounter a deep spiritual and religious experience (dirty diapers and all).

Finding that balance is different for each individual due to the unique family, healthcare, and personal situations of those involved. Not everyone (in fact few of us) will be the 24/7 caregiver to the very end. It’s natural, normal, and perfectly OK to help for a limited period of time and then move on to residential care. You are allowed to be angry, upset, sad, and frustrated. Nobody is the perfect Fairytale Caregiver. The experience will not always be pleasant or enlightening.

The Christmas and Hannukah holidays are particularly difficult to many people, no matter what their caregiving situations. There is pressure to be merry, to enjoy being with your family, to spend lots of money, and to participate in all of the seasonal activities. The pressure often leads to depression and regrets. Add on all of your caregiving responsibilities, and it can be a recipe for overextending yourself. But within this crucible you have the opportunity to do what you do best, and to make a difference in the life of your Loved Ones, if only for a short period of time. Remember to take time for yourself and avoid becoming overextended.

I provide this message as Food for Thought. I have included our article on “Homecare for the Holidays” by Edyth Ann Knox and a “Successful Holidays Resource Center” or other useful articles. You are welcome to comment on this in our community message board, The ElderCare Forum. I hope that you can take from it a core message of positive experience and help each other to find that balance.



Feature Articles: Tips on… Quitting Smoking by Rich O’Boyle
Successful Holidays: Resources for Caregivers from ALZwell
Book Review: Hard Choices for Loving People by Hank Dunn
Healthy Aging: “Successful Aging: Optimizing Life in the Second Half” by Dr. Sol Stern and Rich O’Boyle
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FEATURE ARTICLE: Tips on… Quitting Smoking by Rich O’Boyle

Cigarette smoking causes 1,000 Americans to die each day. It is the single most important preventable cause of death in the United States. One of every six deaths in the United States is related to smoking. Smoking is a proven health hazard, and there are clear benefits to quitting. There is no safe cigarette and no safe level of smoking.

If you are among the estimated 25 million Americans who smoke, you are increasing your risk of death from many major diseases. For example, you have double the risk of dying from coronary heart disease as do those who never smoked. You also greatly increase your risk of lung cancer and several other cancers--mouth, throat, bladder, pancreas, and kidneys. Stomach and duodenal ulcers are more likely to occur, less likely to heal, and more likely to cause death in smokers than nonsmokers. Diabetics who smoke greatly increase the risk of poor circulation to their hands and feet, which may lead to gangrene.

If that doesn’t scare you, I don’t know what will.

The point of this article is to provide you with positive suggestions for improving your success of quitting smoking. Quitting smoking will be one of the most positive changes that you ever make in your life. It will have ripple effects that you will feel almost immediately and for years to come. I know that because I quit smoking after being a heavy pack-a-day smoker. I also know that it’s possible because someone close to me quit after being a FOUR-pack-a-day smoker – if she could do it, so can you!

This is not going to be easy. But I can promise you that when you do reach your smoke-free goal, you will look back proudly on the hard work that got you there.

Read the complete article, including recommended readings, related articles, and the best online resources for stopping smoking and quitting for good at

SUCCESSFUL HOLIDAYS: Resources for Caregivers from ALZwell

As the Winter Holidays sneak up on us, I want to provide you with a handful of really helpful articles designed to give you pointers for enjoying the season with getting too stressed out. Of course there is no surefire way to have a stressfree holiday because every family is different, and every caregiving situation has its own unique stressors. The key is to identify those stressors in advance, and deflect or neutralize them.

We draw on numerous sources for the articles in our Successful Holidays Resource Center, including:

- Holiday Hints from the Patient’s Point of View
- Healthy Holidays from
- Celebrating the Holidays When Home Is a Nursing Home
- and several others

I invite you to take a look at a valuable audio cassette that we have for sale in our new online store. “Surviving the Holidays and Special Occasions” is a supportive tape for people who have experienced the loss of a loved one. Julie Siri, a licensed clinical social worker, has years of experience with death and bereavement. She provides discussion as well as guided imagery on the tape to help you cope with the pain of loss that you may be feeling around the Holidays.

You can read more about the tape and order it from

BOOK REVIEW: Hard Choices for Loving People by Hank Dunn

Don’t be underwhelmed by this short, 46-page booklet. I was expecting a thick book with numerous references and endless examples when I bought it online. Instead, I found a concise and easy to read (despite the smallish typeface) discussion of all of the major (and minor) aspects of end-of-life decision-making.

Topics discussed include:
- Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR): survival rates, burdens of CPR, CPR and the frail elderly patient;
- Artificial Hydration and Nutrition: the cases for and against artificial feeding, the difference between withholding and withdrawing, artificial feeding and the dementia patient;
- Hospice and the "Comfort Measures Only" Order: end-stage dementia, optional medical treatments;
- Making End-of-Life Decisions: advance directives, questions to help make a decision; and
- The Journey to Letting Go: religious and spiritual issues, giving up and letting go.

You can read the complete review, including a table of contents and other recommendations at

For other book reviews, excerpts, interviews, and chat transcripts, visit the ElderCare Bookstore at We have dozens of useful references for you, including about 300 hand-selected caregiving books.

HEALTHY AGING: “Successful Aging: Optimizing Life in the Second Half” by Dr. Sol Stern and Rich O’Boyle

The impact of the physiological changes of aging is determined by the attitude of a person as he/she ages. “Successful aging” is an attitude relatively new to western culture. Taoism and other eastern philosophies, however, have long promoted this concept. Successful aging stems from and results in an enhanced quality of life. People who age successfully are healthy, energetic people leading active, vital lives. By staying healthy, fit, and engaged with life, older people contribute to society and maintain their self-esteem.

From about the age of 30, physical and mental abilities inevitably begin to decline. The good news is that this process can be slowed down. In the book “Successful Aging,” John Rowe, M.D. and Robert Kahn, Ph.D. describe how to make the best of our later years. Their recommendations are based on the MacArthur Foundation Study of Successful Aging.

Read the complete article, along with practical easy-to-follow suggestions to stay fit and healthy as you age at


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