January is the Recombobulation Area of the Year

January is the Recombobulatin Area of the year. We go through the excitement, the rush, and sometimes the stress of the holidays and find ourselves on the other side of the season needing to put ourselves back together, clear our heads, and figure out where we are going next. If you have ever traveled through the Milwaukee Airport, you know how lovely it is to see that sign at the end of security, greeting us and giving us permission to gather our things, take the time we need to put our shoes and belt back on, and check what gate we will be flying out of for our trip. The New Year is that sign, and January is that area of benches. Now in February, we are put back together and ready to march on. We have a clear vision for where we need to go and what we would like to do and see. Hopefully, we are excited about what the next 11 months will bring.

An old grainy photo from my college days of the Delta (then Midwest) terminal’s Recombobulation Area

We all had a dickens of a time in 2020, but that doesn’t mean it was all doom and gloom. Much like life with dementia, it is never ALL bad. Where are the gifts? Where might we find joy? When we are going through a dark moment, what can we put in our back pocket to make today better than yesterday?

I limped into 2021 with the best of them. It was not a sprint through the finish line of the year, but a hobble. Many things occurred in my professional and personal life that made it so, some a direct result of the virus, others are simply part of the journey I was already on. I had the opportunity and time to think creatively, transform my work, and examine if I was on the path I wanted to journey on in the next chapter of my work and life. In the rubble of lost work, unpublished blog posts and videos, mixed in the ashes of tech issues and unfinished projects, I started a monthly e-newsletter, The Monthly Memo, I was on 2 podcasts and 3 webinars, I presented and trained digitally, I continued my education in significant ways, I invited others to help me create an Advent reflection book that was an enjoyed by 35 families, and I learned once more what it means to be a family care partner. These are the gifts of last year. What are your gifts? What joy can you find while looking back on 2020? There has to be something! Something small, perhaps? Maybe a positive life change. Finding the good, the gifts, and the joy doesn’t mean it was always pleasant or easy. Good is not the opposite of difficult.

I have felt a disconnect between what is going on in the industry, what our clients and residents want to see, and what I had to offer for a while. It felt off, and 2020 put a magnifying glass over what I was experiencing and my desire to serve to my fullest ability. It showed me new depths of how egotistical, narrow-minded, and un-creative our industry can be. But, on the flip side, is we now can see the next generation of aging and dementia professionals and their excitement and desire to enter this field. We need to foster their desires. I see the eagerness to create, to make anew, to put out into the deep. I see community care staff opening up to the idea that actives and CNAs can work together to provide enriching programs for the residents and clients. I see new thoughts about what it means to age in this country, what it means to live with dementia today, and what it means to be a care partner. We have work to do, but it is on the heels of an energy that is new, exciting, and hopeful.

In the weeks ahead, I will share my thoughts on how we might take this hope and put it into motion, and the work I am doing to take some of the first steps. I will also start publishing those backlogged blog posts, uploading those long-ago recorded videos, and as always, will continue to walk with you on your dementia journey. May we write a beautiful story for 2021.

Seniors Reap Added Benefits from Church Attendance

Guest Post

Image courtesy of Pixabay

While most of us in the church community recognize the religious benefits of church attendance, science is endorsing participation for additional reasons.  It seems researchers are agreeing that church is good for us, particularly as we age.  There are valuable contributions to our quality of life that can be measured, in addition to our immeasurable spiritual connections. 

Longer life.  A longer lifespan is just one boon of church attendance with some studies reflecting church going adults over the age of 65 a full 35 percent more apt to live longer than those not attending church.  According to Today, someone who never attends worship services is twice as likely to die prematurely than someone who attends at least once per year.  

Health benefits.  Elderly church attendees appear to enjoy superior health to their unchurched counterparts.  Older adults, who attend church enjoy a bolstered immune system, are less apt to get cancer, lower the risk for high blood pressure, are less apt to suffer strokes, and enjoy a reduced risk for clogged arteries.  It appears the act of worship is at the heart of the health improvements, although scientists couldn’t pinpoint whether the gathering together as a group or if the activity itself were determining factors.  Some speculate that the cleaner lifestyle churches typically endorse may be a key, with those who attend church possibly making healthier choices such as monitoring their weight better, limiting alcohol consumption, not abusing illegal substances and not smoking.  

Social connection.  There is every reason to believe that being connected with like-minded believers is a contributing factor to these findings.  As Fitness Magazine explains, people who attend church together enjoy a shared vision for life and improved social support.  They experience a better quality of life from embracing healthy living, believing in certain social norms, and by demonstrating those norms by reaching out to each other during troubled times.  

Some theorists suggest being engaged with other worshipers means you will enjoy improved mental health and any illnesses you may suffer will be noticed by friends and family more quickly, meaning faster treatment along with more support through the healing process.  

Many fellow church-goers can spend time outside of the church following healthy pursuits.  Seniors, for example, could gather together to enjoy a healthy meal or a bit of exercise.  Those enrolled in Medicare Advantage programs, which offer access to fitness facilities via the Silversneakers Program, could even get together for an exercise session to help them stay in good shape.  Regardless of what they choose to pursue, seniors should try to engage in social activities whenever possible.

Prayerful matters.  Prayer in and of itself offers its share of benefits.  Spending time in prayer and meditation can relax your body, slowing your metabolism and brain waves.  Through those mechanisms, prayer improves health by lowering blood pressure, lowering risk of depression, stress and anxiety, reducing the risk for ulcers, and dropping incidents of migraines.  

Enjoying an active prayer life helps you maintain a positive outlook on life, weathering storms better and employing healthier coping skills when troubles come your way.  Prayer and mindfulness can improve your focus and concentration, taking you away from worries for the future and regrets of the past.  In this way it’s an asset to those recovering from addiction, which some researchers feel is reaching epidemic proportions among the elderly. 

Benefits abound!  Attending church offers more to seniors than the obvious benefits of spiritual engagement.  Participating in church can improve physical health and lengthen life while keeping seniors socially connected.  An active prayer life offers health benefits as well, both mentally and physically.  

Author: Jason Lewis

Cost Transparency in Aging and Dementia

There is a need for greater cost transparency in our health care and aging system. There is a need for us to re-examine the worth associated with various services, actives, and positions within the aging and dementia services and professions. There is a need to talk about the cost of aging! 

Five years ago, I was part of a team that developed a class for the University of Wisconsin System on the cost of aging. We sought to educate others on the hard numbers such as remodeling a home and assisted living, and the smaller costs such as care partner loss of income, community programming, and the physical and emotional costs paid by everyone on the aging and dementia journey. 

During our development meetings, it was clear that most of the group disagreed with the fact that the soft/smaller costs of aging are just as impactful or influential in a person’s life. Yet, to ignore these cost puts us back in the spiral we have lived in for so many decades. There is a cost to ignoring proper education for staff, medical teams, and families. There is a cost to ignoring the social needs of both the individual living with dementia and their care partners. There is a cost to not allowing your actives or CNA staff to work for you full time. There is a cost to thinking everyone who provides life-enrichment style programming and connections can work for free because “we have volunteers that can do that work.” There is a cost to accumulating those “warm fuzzy” certifications but never implementing them. There is a cost to associating letters after one’s name with their ability to serve in beautiful ways. There is a cost to not engaging our residents and clients, creativity, socially, emotionally. There are costs to not being transparent about the costs of aging. 

This is something that has always bothered me, putting the medical and living costs above the social, emotional, and spiritual costs of aging. I work to provide those soft costs, and yet, some of the services I provide are quite a bit of money, and I have always worked to make sure you get something out of every penny you put into the educational, life enrichment, and support services I provide. There is a cost to ignoring what I provide, how I provide it, and why it is important. I am one of many who seeks to help others in this way, and we all have put our own price and what we offer. During these past months, we have suffered, struggled, and persevered as we were the first to be thrown out the window at the start of the lockdowns. One can understand why the gut reaction was what it was, given the decades behind us, and we saw a magnifying glass on how the industry truly saw us, our perceived worth, and how much we are often the outsiders because we are not medical or clinical. We see the damage that lens has caused, and now, almost 8 months in, it is time to transform the way we age, live, and serve others, pandemic or not. 

On my website I list my prices when I can. I hope that you will take the time to think about where you have placed your money as a care community or organization, and what it has done for you and those you serve. Then, think about how, by support people, such as myself, and allowing us to help you do your job to your fullest capacity, we can be better and enact the change we have all been talking about for years. We need to look beyond the hard costs of aging, incorporating the soft cost. We need to think about how we value our greatest and most impactful employees and contract workers, and we need to be honest with ourselves about what cost we are willing to pay to cultivate a community living fully alive. We are called to do more than keep people alive, we are called to help all of us live. 

Home – Revisited

Home, a topic that comes up more than we can count when talking about aging and dementia. We are constantly on the quest to find the best response to the question, “I want to go home” and we prance around with discomfort when the question, “Is it still safe for my loved one to live here” comes up. I, myself, have shared posts and thoughts about home more times than I can keep track, yet, here we are again.

Home. It has a different meaning this year, doesn’t it? Now, after months of spending more time in our home than out in the world, the relationship we have with the walls that surround us has changed. With a magnifying glass now on in our care communities, we have a different feeling for our elders and how we care for them.

I have heard from several of you that you are now reflecting more deeply on what home means to you and how you might want to make changes (both physically and communally) to your home. I have heard stories about how this time has caused to you ask the question about finding roommates, seeking out extra care via a home health aid, or are now thinking about moving in with other family members/inviting them into your home, feeling the strain of loneliness. Some of you have escaped your home, to live somewhere else during this time, and long for your home in a new way.

I encourage you to explore ways to improve this place that provides you with shelter and safety from the unknown. I invite you to use your creativity to improve the community you live in. I ask you to use your imagination and to take this time to think about how you might want to age in place or make plans to live in a community. Some questions to think about include:

Can any place be home?

What do we do when our home no longer feels like home? What steps do we take to make it our home?

How can your home be more than a place where you eat and sleep?

How are you creating home with your family?

Are you being called to co-create a home with someone? What does that co-creation look like?

What needs Mercy and Joy in your Home?

What 6 words describe your home? Your desired home?

If you could change one thing about your home, what would it be?

What senses are triggered when you think of your childhood home? What smells come to mind? What sounds? Sights?

Who do you want to greet you when you arrive home? Do you want someone to greet you? What does that greeting look like?

What is one item in your home that brings you comfort? What is one item that you would not miss should it go missing? What is one item you would like to pass down?

What is missing in your home right now?

What does home look like when the world is in chaos? When the world is at peace?

Can an observation of your home tell the world who you truly are? Or, teach you about yourself?

Where can you find Wonder within your own home today, tomorrow, and each day for the rest of the year?

Does your home have a specific feeling for each season?

These moments of reflection can help us become better care partners, community care staff members, and helps us to not only plan but articulate our plan for how and where we want to age. 2020 is the year of Home and maybe we will be better off because of it, having gone through a transformation process, building a new relationship with Home.

Dates That Stick With Us

The dates that stick out in one’s mind can signify multiple experiences and trigger memories year after year. These memories that work their way into our conscience can be harmful when obsessed over, joyful when the thought of with gratitude, or be simple reminders of who we are and the paths we have taken. July 14th, 2005. May 2nd, 2008. December 30th, 2011. January 15th. 2012. What do these dates signify? They are all related to my grandmother’s dementia. They are all memories that could turn negative, but instead for me, propel my work forward in ways unimaginable. Without the experience of “also being the granddaughter of someone who lived with Vascular Dementia,” my career may be full, but not rich or colorful. They are dates that signify my grandmother’s diagnosis, the last day I visited her in her home, the last day I saw her, and the day she passed away. Through these experiences and the reflection of the events of these 4 dates, I have been given a gift that enables me to be present for others in ways that go beyond the fear and sadness of dementia.

Fifteen years ago today my grandmother was diagnosed with Vascular Dementia. – I have already shared her story of approaching her diagnosis before, but I think one thing is important to share with all of you as I know many feel unnecessarily guilt after their loved one receives a diagnosis. Her journey toward a diagnosis showed us the many signs. Signs that not everyone was willing to see. She gave us little red flags, that when combined with her history of high blood pressure, gave us the answer was in front of us. I feel at first we skimmed over the little details and the big picture of what was changing for her. We all can miss the signs, and for some family members, it takes until their loved one need full-time care for them to see the fullness of what their loved one is going through and the dementia journey they are now walking. I know for my extended family, that is true, and some didn’t even fully embrace the reality of my grandmother’s journey even after she passed away. – This day was the day that a shift started to form inside of me. For several years, dementia and geriatrics were in my mind as a potential population, to work within whatever form my career would take. I loved working with people decades older than myself. I enjoyed the conversations and the ease of connection that occurred. I would spend my service and campus ministry hours with this population but on this day, it became more than volunteer work and a future professional direction, the story became personal. I knew, somehow my 16-year-old self knew that this was going to be a profound chapter in my life. I have used this experience and the experiences of witnessing my extended family interact with my grandmother, succeeding, and sometimes failing to maintain a relationship with her, to help other families during this chapter in their lives. I take these moments with me as I help others as they seek a diagnosis and wonder what the best path forward might look like for their loved one.

I think about the last day I visited my grandmother in her own home. A home that also sheltered me from time to time. A home she built with her husband, raised her family in, and she experienced great sorrow and great joy within those walls. I didn’t know this was going to be the last time I went to visit her like this, how many times do we know when the last time will be? I take that moment with me. The reflecting on a chapter now closed has helped me be present for those who are visiting their loved one for the first time in a care community, hearing the statement, “I want to go home” and wondering how to respond. I see where our care systems have left a gap in serving the families and loved ones of those now on their list of residents. I understand the emotions that can swell up and come out in forms of anger, tears, out-lashes, fear, and avoidance, and to not simply dismiss these individuals as a “problem family,” but as a family needing someone to walk with them, to listen to them, and to help guide them through this chapter of life. I understand the feelings of wanting the best for a loved one in a skilled care community and quickly blaming the staff for how a situation was or was not handled. This is not to say our care communities don’t have a long way to go in improving the way they show up for their residents and families, but I recognize that it is not always about what a care community did or didn’t do. I take these moments, and the memories of my family’s journey through this process, and work to listen and see the family and their needs during this time.

December 30th, 2011, was the last day I saw my grandmother. I was home from New York for Christmas and wanted to visit Grandma one more time before I left. There was something in me that knew this would be the last time. I remember walking out of her room that day and thinking, “If this is the last time I see my Grandma Marie, I will be okay.” It was a fantastic visit and one I will always cherish. It was a good day for her, and that is likely the greatest blessing I received that year. I was at peace. Not everyone gets that closure, those final moments, nor does everyone accept the invitation to say good-bye to their loved one. But, through this experience, I can be available to those who fear they just saw their loved one for the last time. Who wish they could have that closure and be around during that final “good day.” I can help them through these moments regardless if it is wondering about the future or reflecting on the last moment they missed or were present to the experience. This is where the beautiful work of storytelling and letter writing can come into play, to create those moments of closure, to re-write the ending, and even though it is not reality, it is a window for healing regardless of the relationship’s complexities, and how it ended.

January 15th, 2012, was the day my grandmother passed away. A day we will all experience, but one we can take a moment for pain or a moment for joy. Because I have experienced the loss of a loved one with dementia, wondering what those final years would have been like without the disease, I am able to sit with others who wonder the same thing and help them unpack the gifts of dementia and the relationship with their loved one. I have been able to sit with people as they drown in feelings of guilt because they feel a sense of relief the person is no longer alive, they are no longer a care partner and can start to reassemble life without this individual. I have been able to sit with others as they feel great regret for how they walked (or didn’t walk) with their loved ones. I sit with others as they reflect on a life that may or may not have been a positive person in their life, and come to find the gifts of that relationship.

Yes, the dates that stay with us can be powerful dates that become our guides, holding memories of our past, transforming how we engage with the world in a positive light, if only we allow for our lives to be transformed. What dates stick out for you in your life? Are you allowing them to impact your life for good?

Changing Roles: The Care Partner’s Journey

We all play multiple roles during our lifetime. These roles can be a care partner, sibling, parent, grandchild, student, peer, employee, artist, gardener, friend, and the list goes on. While on this dementia journey we frequently get stuck in the role of the care partner. Stuck in a place that does not allow us to live fully alive. Stuck in a place that can cause us to become disoriented, unfamiliar with ourselves once the role is stripped from us. This puts a strain on us mentally, physically, relationally, and spiritually. We sometimes forget the other roles we are called and created to play. When we are stripped of our dementia care partner role, along with it we sometimes lose the role of son or daughter, sister, spouse. This loss of roles can bring its own level of stress, anxiety, feelings of being lost, feelings of a daunting personal unknown journey and purpose. The grief that enters into our narrative, opens the gates for so many other emotions and thoughts about our own lives as an indivuals and in relation to others in our family and community. The role of care partner often comes without warning, without an invitation, we fight it, play with it, become accustomed to its presence, and then on some unknown day in an unknown way, it is stripped from us as fast as it arrived. If we allow ourselves to remain stuck with a single role, how do we discover the next single step in our lives?

The role of a family care partner is slightly different than that of a professional care partner. We don’t enter into it having prepared ourselves for the role. There is no formal education, internship, graduation, and first job with someone set as your guide. No, it shows up without that training and we must seek it out, oftentimes our experience become the best teacher, and those moments when we feel like we are going to snap, our hardest test. Our graduation, the day our loved one passes away. All of this without being able to clock out at the end of our shift, on 24/7. Has very different tone to it, right? There are many twists and turns to this role, and we cannot watch another person for a character study. Each care partner is on their own track, but all apart of this same dementia ensemble. The cast of your own journey? You, your loved one, your loved one’s professional care team, and Dementia. You play together, working through trials, blocks, and triumphs. You play off of each other, learning each other’s personality, skillset, and needs. You learn how to work in unison in order to walk this dementia journey to the best of your ability. You learn to find the moments of joy, and you find the limits of our physical and mental capability. You are selfless in your acts, and may at times both bless and curse the moment. You give, and sometimes you lose yourself to this single role.

For many care partners, we see other beloved roles stripped from us as we learn more about our role as care partner. Our loved one’s needs increased and we need to spend more and more time with them. We selflessly serve our loved one, only to find ourselves losing the role of a friend, co-worker, even mother, spouse, or father. As dementia progresses and we find ourselves the sole keeper of our shared memories, the role of daughter, grandson, sister, or brother, fade. These roles, of course, are still there, still inside us, still wanting us to create new stories with us as the lead player. As our time no longer becomes our own, our roles as artist, gardener, lay minister, coach, sneak off in the middle of the night. We lose ourselves in the service of another. We selflessly love those who (maybe) once cared for us. This is good, and the family care partners are never thanked enough. Sure it is in some way part of the deal of being a human being and a member of a family, but this journey asks of us things we wish to never ask for, or be asked of during our lifetime. We find ourselves standing alone with our loved one in the story, the only roles being care partner, loved one and dementia.

This is only one narrative of what can be on this dementia journey, and while parts of our society think that there is nothing we can do to improve the balance of roles while caring for our loved one, that simply is not true. We can do many things. We can do little things. We can do great things while still playing the leading role of the care partner.

Over the last year, I have worked on developing the 3-Dimensional Care Partner Project. Some of you have joyfully assisted me with your input and your playfulness, and in doing so prove there is more to this care partner role than we have currently discovered. I want to share this with all of you over the next few weeks a new story, a new narrative, and a new way of playing the multiple roles we were created to play. I hope to spark new thoughts about what you still CAN do while never negating the struggles and demands of being a care partner. This project was meant to be rolled out in phases over the next year, a book, a podcast, a workshop, and a theatre process, but this year has other plans in mind. Starting next week, I will share with you a segment from the unedited book, leading to rolling out this project a new way. It is important to find ourselves again, living fully alive. The question was asked a few weeks ago by the women at Abiding Together, “What titles are you called to live further into? What does growth in those areas look like?” I think these are questions we can all ponder as we enter into becoming 3-dimensional care partners, living fully alive in the roles we were uniquely created to live.

Emotional Memory

It was not talked about, I never saw the program or ticket, but I knew. I could remember.

When I was little my parents took me to see a local theatre production of Rogers and Hammerstein’s, Cinderella. I was too little to remember anything that happened, from where we sat in the theatre, to which theatre we were in, to what dress I wore, yet I remember. These memories are not from seeing the program, or photographs from the day, or having conversations about it with my parents. There was something special about that experience that tapped into my emotional memory, pulling me in and allowing me to become apart of its narrative, or for it to become apart of mine. The power of storytelling, sound, sight, smell, touch, and creativity all were engaged during that experience, that has allowed me, almost 30 years later to remember this live theatre experience. I think it is why, when asked about my “start” in theatre, in aging, in therapeutics, I respond with this answer, speaking to that time when my parents took me to see something that tapped into my emotional memory, my creativity, my imagination. This experience pulled out of me an emotional reaction, giving something that should have been forgotten, life. 

What is it about some elements of our life that we remember so vividly, so purely, so warmly without the aid of family stories, photographs, or other prompts that enriches our lives? This is it that allows each one of us to have experiences where are emotions run with such strength that it can almost outpace dementia? This is sort of a messy question, but truly, do we understand the full power of emotional memory? Do we know how we can use emotional memory to help someone living with dementia, live fully alive?

Early on in my work with dementia, I recognized the power emotional memory could hold, long before I knew anything about its research and support, the instinct and the results I saw were more than enough. As I worked to become relational with others in a way that would not require them to remember my name, title, the reason for being with them, I found ways to help them tap into that part of there lives, and frequently we found a common connection, a place of beauty, a place of warmth. The emotional memory, and engaging the senses, are, for me, the two pillars of successfully working with those living with dementia. Filled out with creativity, imagination, and seeing the person for all they have and can continue to be and become, these two pillars are powerful! I saw how when we created something new, together, even if it was a reflection on something we both loved, a bond was formed and even on the bad days when one would not remember me, I would bring up our shared connection and suddenly I was no longer someone to fear, to fight with, to be alarmed by, but someone to smile with, to hold hands with, to spend a moment with as we move to the next part of the day. In a small way, I was recreating that theatre experience for us, by creating something that didn’t require logical or linear thinking. I normally fight for logical and critical thinking, but this is an area where the emotions are the shining star. 

There is a great emphasis on improv and dementia right now. Programs are popping up all over the country and beyond. It is used both as a teaching tool for care partners, but also as programming in Memory Cafés, Life Enrichment calendars, and in partnership with community organizations. Last summer I wrote about these programs and my opinion about them remains strong. As we look for tools to help us understand emotional memory on a very simple level, engaging in improv workshops for those living with dementia shows us what each person can do, can remember, and can engage with and in. It always amazes me how someone can transition from not remembering much about their life, to telling me the full story of their college career, their parents, their 40th wedding anniversary, simply and clearly, by allowing the creativity and movement of play bring out stories that cause you to forget about dementia. These stories are not always joyful however, the stories of war vets often come out and haunt you as you move through the workshop and head home. It shows us where we are lacking in care for those living with dementia who are also veterans.

Early on in my work with dementia, I recognized the power emotional memory could hold, long before I knew anything about its research and support, the instinct and the results I saw were more than enough. As I worked to become relational with others in a way that would not require them to remember my name, title, the reason for being with them, I found ways to help them tap into that part of there lives, and frequently we found a common connection, a place of beauty, a place of warmth. The emotional memory, and engaging the senses, are, for me, the two pillars of successfully working with those living with dementia. Filled out with creativity, imagination, and seeing the person for all they have and can continue to be and become, these two pillars are powerful! I saw how when we created something new, together, even if it was a reflection on something we both loved, a bond was formed and even on the bad days when one would not remember me, I would bring up our shared connection and suddenly I was no longer someone to fear, to fight with, to be alarmed by, but someone to smile with, to hold hands with, to spend a moment with as we move to the next part of the day. In a small way, I was recreating that theatre experience for us, by creating something that didn’t require logical or linear thinking. I normally fight for logical and critical thinking, but this is an area where the emotions are the shining star. 

For A Time Such As This

We were created for a time such as this! In our ever-changing world, we were created with this moment as part of our narrative. As the Dementia Letters Project community, now is the time for which we will thrive together. Now is the time when you can share with younger generations the beauty of your strength, your joy, your hope, and the stories of your life.

The Dementia Letters Project was created for a time such as this! It was created as a way to share something we felt compelled to share about our dementia journey, for ourselves, for dementia, for our families, for our community. During this time I have been sending out my own letters to family, friends, and to residents in care communities, to share a moment of light in the darkness. 

As artists and storytellers, we were created for a time such as this! We were created to create and this moment has inspired or has provided us with the time, to create what our heart has longed to put out into the world. Some of us are creating new things each day, each hour, some of us are dreaming of the art we would like to create but have yet to open our ArtBin. No matter where you are, you are right where you need to be, doing what you need to do. Sometimes simply daydreaming about all the things that inspire us brings greater joy into our lives than actually creating something new. I trust that someday your art will make it out and on to your canvas, paper, or through your fingers and onto the keys. 

We were created for a time such as this! No, this is not a declaration of punishment, of despair, or ugliness. It is a declaration of the beauty of the human spirit to survive, thrive, and grow no matter what the world may look like at any given moment. This can be hard. It can be hard for everyone no matter what age or status in life one may be currently living. But, for the care partner, there is a special moment of prayer and gratitude that goes out to you! 

As family care partners your world has been thrown off, that routine you worked hard to develop and keep is no longer possible. Life has gone virtual and not all of us were equipped to make such a move. There are homes without a computer or iPad, or even an internet connection. Some families now have children home full-time needing assistance to attend school via online classes, with parents trying to care for their children and help their parents stay connected. Some programs don’t work via Zoom, which cannot simply flip the switch. Some programs can work, but we may be struggling to navigate the new world feeling disconnected, anxious, and out of sorts as we work a video call. And then there are our own emotions, worries, and health. We are navigating the dark unknown during a time such as this. 

As professional care partners, you are on the front lines, you are navigating a world that many of us may not understand. You are caring for our loved ones and community members, doing your best to make sure they don’t get sick while now trying to also figure out how to engage and create with the residents. You are meeting them, quite possibly, in true person-centered/relationship-centerd care form. You are learning new ways of becoming relational with those you serve. You are forced to become relational with the residents in ways beyond a task list, in ways beyond the role you initially signed up for when to took this job. And because of this, our care communities can make this moment a moment of transformation into a new way of living. Yet, this time is painful, dark, and scary. You may not see the growth, only the dwindling resources, the fear of getting sick yourself and bring it to your family at home or your residents. You fear a spread of illness, on top of the many other concerns you might have during a “normal” time. You are exploring a new world during a time such as this. 

We were created for a time such as this. We were created to grow, to transform, to love, and to care. We were created to create something new, be it in the fine arts, or in our community, or in the world of health care. Our differences have been magnified, but so has our collective humanity and goodness. We are walking the unknown journey towards an unknown end, but we are walking it together as human beings in communion with one another. While we see the true colors of many leaders and peers, disagreeing with or being encouraged by what we see, it is our task to respond with compassion, prayer, and understanding as they too are scared, struggling, and wondering if what they are doing is enough. Now is not the time to criticize, but to support and understand in a time such as this.

We were created for a time such as this, to dream and to hope, to find joy and to allow ourselves to mourn. The world has been through darker times, so we frequently hear, and that does not always help. But we have the strength of our human spirit, and we can see the light along this unknown journey, and together we will walk to support each other, to encourage each other, and to live during a time such as this. 

We Are An Easter People!

Easter morning has passed, the tomb is empty, and the celebrations we had in our new small way have come to a close. We as a world may have not found our collective Easter Sunday yet, but that does not mean joy cannot ring as loud as the church bells on Sunday morning.

We are an Easter People! 

We are an Easter People! 

No events of the world can take that Truth away from us. No events of the world can take away Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection. No events of the world can put out the light that shines only because of Christ. 

Our Lenten Journey was not what we expected. Our Holy Week strange and unknown. Our Easter lacking in its usual earthly splendor. For me, it was an Easter without the usual beautiful holy moments, yet it still held joy, hope, and beauty. It was an Easter without Hughes Chocolates (oh how I miss you!) and without the great music that fills the church, yet, it was an Easter of hope. I recognized many friends finding new ways to make Easter special this year. We need that! I saw families still dress up and call in family that could not physically be at the table to share a meal. I saw parents find new traditions filled with laughter and fun. I saw families come together in prayer and share with friends how it brought the family closer together. I saw people get creative, prayerful, and seek light in the darkness. This brings us hope. This shows us that Christ’s death and resurrection still live in our hearts with the recognition of the gift and beauty of that act. This brings joy, as it brings color to our strange world. This brings faith as we find new ways to grow in faith when the very strength of that faith is being challenged. 

I invite all of you to continue this journey of faith through the Easter Octave and Season, for it is this time, without a day set aside when we risk losing what we have gained, what we have created. So when the glimmer of Easter starts to fade, remember, “Do not abandon yourself to despair. We are Easter people and Hallelujah is our song.” – JPII

I will see you later this week when our regular Dementia Letters posts resume. Thank you for walking this Lenten Journey with me.

Our Holy Week Journey

It is Holy Week. It will look like no other Holy Week we ever expected or wanted to live. Separated from the sacraments, the traditions, the beauty of this time does not mean that we are separated from Christ and the greatness of the events of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday. We are called during this time to find Christ in ourselves, find ways to live in holiness, in prayer,  in beauty. We are called to seek our own cross, ask God for the strength to carry it, and ask God to take our sufferings and do good with them, offering them up for those in our life who might need our help, or the souls of those whom we have lost, or for the world. Take up your cross and follow the Lord! 


Rest in the Lord, for He is waiting with open arms to hold you close.

Allow God to nourish you when you feel dry, for He desires to see you Fully Alive.

Rely only on Christ when you are empty to provide you with the graces you need to move closer to Him.

Be open to the Holy Spirit to guide you when you are lost, to help you navigate times of hardship, crisis, tensions, and loss. Ask the Holy Spirit to keep you in line with the will of God.

Find a moment of Joy each hour of the day, each morning when you wake up, each week when you would normally be gathered in faith.

Create with the Lord! Create the light we seek. Create room to continue to grow in faith, hope, charity, through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

Co-Create with God

Rest in the sharing of a meal, the reflections of Christs Passion, and the Waiting for Easter Morning. 

This Week’s Journal Question:

In what ways can I create space for the holiness of this week in my own home?


Lord, take this week and transform it into beautiful holiness, creating in me not a heart of anxiety, but a heart of peace and rejoicing in your great gifts.  Amen.