The Caregiver's Beacon Newsletter

The Caregiver’s Beacon (tm)
“Tell me why – Show me how – Hold my hand”
November 21, 2004                                                                                 Vol. 7 No. 5
ALZwell Caregiver Support and ElderCare Online and
Serving the Needs of Caregivers Since 1996


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Welcome: Holiday Issues
Feature Article: “Promises, Promises,” by Mark Edinberg, Ph.D.
Holiday Resources: Homecare for the Holidays by Edyth Ann Knox
Successful Holidays: Resources for Caregivers from ALZwell
Holiday Shopping: “Surviving the Holidays and Special Occasions “ Audio Cassette
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Dear Friends,

As the Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah holidays approach, we are reminded of the importance of family and the interrelations among all family members. All too often, the primary caregiver carries the greatest responsibility for their loved one’s well-being. With the pressure to be merry and the cost of decking the halls, we know that you will be stretched even further.

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 ARTICLE: Promises, Promises by Mark Edinberg, Ph.D.

While not necessarily legally binding, promises we make to our family members bind us in many ways. Guilt, poor decisions, potentially harmful decisions, and harm to family members can all come out of promises made in the heat of a crisis, at a moment when one is fearing a greater harm to another family member, or even simply made in ignorance of what the promise might entail in the long run. Not making a promise can be difficult and require forethought about the situation. Reworking a promise once made is also an option to handling these dilemmas. Sometimes, we sometimes need a way to rework a promise when the person who extracted the promise from us is no longer able to understand us or has died.

Some common promises made to older relatives are:

o       Promising to "Never put me in a nursing home."

o       Promising never to sell the family business

o       Promising never to sell the family home

o       Promising to "take care of a handicapped or incapacitated relative

o       Promising to continue a family feud (e.g. "Never talk to cousin Ned because of what he did in 1943, and promise me you will never forgive him or his children.")

o       Promising to not take a specific course of action about a stock or investment (e.g. "Never invest my money in banks").

You can read the complete article by Mark at It includes a valuable discussion about the reasons for, and consequences of promises that we make. It also gives advice on how to “renegotiate” promises to our loved ones, as well as ways to deal with the guilt we may carry with us.

HOLIDAY RESOURCES: Homecare for the Holidays by Edyth Ann Knox

The Holidays are times of great joy, feasting and family traditions that fill us with secure and warm feelings. They are times to reestablish family ties and bonds. The Holidays are days we remember and cherish for years to come.

Yet for those caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s Disease the Holidays can be filled with trips to the doctor or the emergency room. They can be times that our loved one may show frustration, agitation or aggressive behaviors, instead of being filled with joy and good will. This can destroy the Holidays for the caregiver and the rest of the family. Many caregivers often cease participating in the Holidays altogether after a horrendous holiday.

The Holidays are times that can bring great stress for many. When you add a loved one who has Alzheimer’s Disease into the mix often the stress can become too much for both the caregiver and the loved one. You do not need to dread the arrival of the Holidays. There are ways you can still celebrate the season by making adjustments and considerations to improve your chance of a safe and happy holiday for both you and your loved one.

To read the complete article with tips on parties, holiday decorations, winter safety, and maintaining your own sanity, click here…

We also have an ongoing discussion thread called “The Holidays for Caregivers…” started by member Melissa in the ElderCare Forum at You can join in the conversation or just read up on what others are thinking…

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

We 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

HOLIDAY SHOPPING: “Surviving the Holidays and Special Occasions “ Audio Cassette

This is a wonderful tape to help you manage your grief process during upcoming special occasions, including anniversaries of the death, wedding, birthdays, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Thanksgiving and any other day that brings back the tender feelings of missing someone.

Neither time nor the calendar stop to acknowledge grief. Like it or not the holidays will come, as will our loved one's birthday, the anniversary of their death and many other special days. Once joyful times now bring memories which can be painful and lonely.

In this tape Julie Siri, a licensed clinical social worker, with over 20 years experience in the field of death, dying, and bereavement, offers gentle guidance on how to survive special days and seasons with practical advice and solutions. In addition she will take you through a tender and powerful guided imagery designed to guide you in embracing your relationship with your loved one."

This tape will educate you, enlighten you, and give you the hope and courage you need to greet each new day."

The audio cassette is available in our secure online store for $13.50 (plus $2.00 shipping and handling). You can place your order online at or call us toll free at 888-774-7655.


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