1998 President’s AwArd reciPient

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CareLinks
What Counts in Life?
dna Mae Kincaid cared for her husband, Caleb, until Alzheimer’s disease led to his death. While he was alive, she talked about her journey during a panel discussion in South Carolina. Her comments are quoted by Stephen Post in his book, The Moral Challenge of Alzheimer’s Disease. The full passage is a moving testimony of her life with Caleb before and after their story included Alzheimer’s disease. In her closing remarks, she reflected on what we learn from life experiences, not just those related to dementia. She said, “I’ve learned it’s not what you have in life but who you have in your life that counts. I’ve learned that no matter how bad your heart is broken, the world doesn’t stop for your grief.” (p. 23) I suspect that for most of us this truth lies dormant in our unconscious when times are good. I am dismayed, however, that we seem to accept and celebrate interdependence and the priority of persons in our lives mainly when adversity comes to us or someone we love. We may choose to disparage the interdependent nature of existence, or we may be joyful about this fact of creation and pursue ways to be blessed by it. The choice is ours. Care Team® members are engaged with people whose situation has made it difficult, if not impossible, to pretend or deny that thriving or surviving depends on our connections to others. Under the duress of illness or disability, the people you serve are progressively losing control over their lives and entrusting tasks that they cannot perform fully on their own to others for assistance or completion. As Care Team members, we observe the circular nature of life. When we are very young, we learn to trust others to tend to our needs. As we grow and master control over our lives, we become less dependent on others and self-reliant. Physical decline or trauma at some time in life may prompt us, once again, to rely on others for our needs and we remember or learn again how to trust others. This sequence in life’s stages of dependency, independence, and dependency describes most of the people a team serves. And, it likely will describe us at some time. In your support of others, Care Team members must demonstrate trustworthiness because people depend on you to assist with certain needs. Moreover, you should recognize how difficult it is for people to acknowledge their needs for others to accomplish certain tasks or to meet certain needs. One way for ‘help’ to be less humiliating is to do ‘with’ your care partners, rather than do ‘for’ them as much as possible. It allows them to participate as they can and to be in control of their lives as they are able. As care partners accept the presence and assistance of team members in their lives and trust you to be faithful and helpful, we all learn the truth of Edna Mae Kincaid’s testimony, “it is who you have in your life that counts.” Thank you for fulfilling our faith and morality based duties to be present to each other throughout the life cycle, especially during periods of weakness and vulnerability. Thank you for demonstrating that God’s people can be trustworthy companions during times of dependency. Edna Mae was correct, “no matter how bad your heart is broken, the world doesn’t stop for your grief.” Although the world does not stop, a broken heart or a weakened body does not have to result in being abandoned or forgotten by the world. By your presence and support,
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Volume 16, No. 3 April 2011 Interfaith CarePartners® Phone: 713.682.5995 Fax: 713.682.0639 E-mail: info@interfaithcarepartners.org Web Page: www.interfaithcarepartners.org

What Counts in Life?
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Important Events

Care Team members proclaim the dignity and worth of people in all stages in life and in all circumstances in life, especially those times of physical weakness and dependency. By your presence and support, you are learning the truth of a statement by the Russian writer Vladimir Nabokov (d. 1977), “When we’re young, we think these things only happen to other people; as we get older, we realize we are those other people.” Dependency on others probably will come to us all. You are learning how to live in those periods with grace, dignity, and confidence

as you serve people now. The value of your companionship and care to the people you serve is captured in this note from a child of a mother with dementia served by a team. She wrote, “It makes a huge difference in a person’s life to know that someone thinks they are important enough to do all the little and big things. The little things are sometimes the ones that make the biggest impact and the ones that are remembered when someone can’t remember many things.” Let us never forget our need for each other and that, in the end, the people in our lives count more than the things in our lives.

Thursday, June 30 – Alzheimer’s Care Team® Gathering Table, South Main Baptist Church, Pasadena (invitations will be mailed)

Surviving as a Family Caregiver
care of oneself may be death. For example, one in three caregivers of persons with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia dies first. The presence or intervention of team members provides a break from the stresses of caregiving. You give them time off so that they can tend to their social, emotional, spiritual, and physical needs so that they may provide the quality and length of care they desire for their loved one. Studies show that the more supportive interventions caregivers access, the better they survive during their time in a caregiving role. The respite care or breaks that you provide when with a care partner is one such intervention. A second intervention that you can encourage family caregivers to access is a caregiver support group. Sixteen caregiver support groups sponsored by Interfaith CarePartners meet monthly at different locations in greater Houston. They are called Common Ground: Caregiver Conversations. These meetings give them an opportunity to share their experiences and stories with others who are in similar situations and facing similar challenges. Please encourage the caregivers of your care partners to attend one of these meetings. Some meetings include only caregivers or persons with dementia and others are open to any caregiver. Caregivers will learn helpful tips and identify resources. They will make new friends. They will have time away from the demands of caregiving. You can give caregivers the freedom to attend a Common Ground meeting by scheduling time to visit the Continued on page 4 care partner.

Many of the people served by Alzheimer’s Care Team® or Second Family Care Team® members also have a family or friend caregiver primarily responsible for her or his support. Saturday, April 9 Team members are a secondary support system – Conference for or safety net that shares in the care by providing Caregivers, Christ companionship and assistance with basic daily Church United tasks. Methodist Church, When team members are with a care The Woodlands. Team partner, she or he has a break from the usual members are urged to daily routine. The care partner has time with attend for continuing someone other than the family caregiver and an education. Conference brochures will be mailed opportunity to build new relationships. You are a bridge to the community from which to teams in or near The Woodlands. Care Team a care partner is being separated by illness or impairment. You add quality to a care member continuing partner’s life which tends to constrict as illness, education event. impairment, or age limit one’s capacity to get out. Saturday, August 6 You also are a lifeline to a family caregiver. – Conference for Family members typically care for a loved one Caregivers, St. Luke’s without much complaining. Over time, their United Methodist Church, central Houston. attention and energy concentrates on the needs of their loved one as her or his condition and Care Team member dependency progresses. They often sacrifice continuing education much in their lives in order to tend to the event. needs of a family member. Their service often comes at the expense of their own welfare and well-being as they place the needs of a loved one ahead of their own. They tend to neglect their social relationships, suspend doing what they enjoy, and defer taking care of themselves, including visits to their physicians. The toll that caregiving can have may increase gradually or rapidly. A result may be that a family caregiver becomes overwhelmed. The cost of not taking
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Breaking the Ice at First Meetings
Second Family Care Team® members generally enjoy the wonderful opportunity to be with care partners in their homes. Spending time there is a different experience than with a group at the team’s congregation. Care partners generally feel more comfortable meeting new people in their own space where they feel in control of their environment and the meeting. Alternately, team members sometimes feel less comfortable because they are meeting a person who may be a stranger. This discomfort, along with some uncertainty about what to say or how to get to know each other, may cause team members to resist making these initial visits and miss enjoying a beautiful friendship. Meeting someone for the first time in her or his home actually is an advantage over a neutral setting like a congregation or restaurant. Why, because there are cues in a home that can become conversation and story starters which are first steps in building a relationship with anyone, a prospective new friend or a person being served by your Care Team. Look around the room. Do you see family pictures, accessories that attract your attention, an article of jewelry worn by the care partner, outside or inside plants? These can be conversation starters. You might comment about a picture without prying to ask who is portrayed, when taken, and what was happening? Similarly, articles on tables usually have a story attached to them. When and where was it received? What is the significance of the article to the person? A room full of plants may indicate the person’s interest. You may ask about favorite plants or how difficult it is to keep them alive? It is important not to only ask questions. Offer something of yourself as the conversation proceeds. In this interchange, there may be areas of shared interest or experience that are the beginnings of a developing relationship of mutual benefit and value. In all conversations, and especially with care partners who are facing challenges and coping with limitations, be sensitive to how the situation may feel to her or him. Do not probe. Acknowledge what you hear being said and respond in an open-ended manner which invites the person to elaborate on what has been said. You may be treated to an interesting story that develops as it is being told that provides insight and understanding of the person. Make comments and offer information about yourself that keeps the conversation going on one topic or leads to another. For example, you might say, ‘that must have been exciting and memorable.’ This sort of response gives people a chance to tell you the facts of the event, and the feelings attached to it by sharing what it meant and how she or he feels about it now. Meeting someone new in this context is no different than meeting someone new apart from your Care Team service. Relationship building is almost the same in both settings. Resist overstaying your welcome. Be attentive to signs that the care partner is tiring or becomes uncomfortable with the conversation. When you leave, it is imperative that you identify some aspect of the visit that you particularly enjoyed, found exciting, enjoyed a lot, or taught you something you did not know. Mention that part of your visit and thank the person for that. This word of appreciation acknowledges that the care partner has made a contribution to you. They did not only receive from you, they gave in return. This mutual exchange helps them to feel the developing relationship is a process of giving and receiving by all parties. It helps them to maintain self-esteem and control over their lives and circumstances. You will become more comfortable and skilled with this process with practice. All relationships are made of facts and feelings. These ‘starter’ suggestions may open opportunities to share experiences with your care partners that will enrich the rest of your life, as well as bless you now and later. As a way to practice this process at your next team meeting, you might include an exercise. Ask a team member to describe a first visit that she or he feels did not go well or was frustrating. Then role play or act out the situation utilizing the suggestions made here. Alternately, make up a scenario and ask team members to play the roles. Remember, we are all students of caregiving. Each person has unique gifts, histories, interests, and experiences that shape the formation of relationships and make each one special. We learn continuously and our skills should increase continuously. This growth helps to make Care Team membership exciting. It also provides you with skills that you can use in building friendships or relating to family members. Don’t miss these opportunities to be blessed by the people you serve.

Spring Cleaning
Collect and send broken or used cell phones and electronic devices to Interfaith CarePartners for recycling. The average time for consumers to change phones is 18 months. A lot of phones are stored waiting to be trashed or recycled. Other electronics that can be recycled are laptop computers, wireless modems, iPod, Wii, Xbox, digital cameras, Play Stations, and Game Cubes. Since the project began, 1,319 phones, several laptops, and game devices have been recycled. The proceeds help us to serve you and others. Why not lead a collection drive in your congregation, club, or workplace? A drive in your congregation can publicize the team’s service to prospective care partners and new team members, protect the environment, eliminate clutter in homes, and support the good work of Interfaith CarePartners. Thank you for your help!

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Care Team Anniversaries (January – June, 2011)
AIDS Care Team® Brentwood Baptist [21] St. Cecilia Catholic [24] Wheeler Avenue Baptist [22] Kids’ Pals Care Team® Brentwood Baptist [8] Second Family Care Team® 1st United Methodist, Missouri City [6] Augustana Lutheran [6] Bay Area Unitarian [6] Bellaire United Methodist [13] Christ the King Catholic [7] Christian Tabernacle [1] Congregation Beth Israel [14] Congregation Emanu El [16] Cypress Trails United Methodist [2] Holy Comforter Lutheran [13] Holy Covenant United Methodist [3] Houston’s First Baptist [2] Independence Heights Assistance Ministries [5] Jordan Grove Baptist [6] New Life Temple [6] Northwoods Presbyterian [5] Park Place Community [11] St. John the Evangelist Catholic [8] St. Mary United Methodist [3] St. Monica Catholic [9] St. Paul the Apostle Catholic [3] St. Rose of Lima Catholic [6] True Light Baptist [7] Alzheimer’s Care Team® 1st Presbyterian, Kingwood [2] 1st Presbyterian, Pasadena [3] 1st United Methodist, Houston [18] 1st United Methodist, Pearland [4] Advent Lutheran [2} Brentwood Baptist [18] Chapelwood United Methodist [5] Christ the Good Shepherd Catholic [6] Cypress United Methodist [5] Epiphany of the Lord Catholic [6] Friendswood United Methodist [1] Immaculate Conception Catholic [6] Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic [7] Klein United Methodist [5] Living Word Lutheran [2] Memorial Drive Presbyterian [18] Northwoods Presbyterian [10] Palmer Episcopal [5] Park Place Baptist [15] St. Cecilia Catholic [6] St. Leo the Great Catholic [1] St. Mark United Methodist [15] St. Martin Episcopal [12] St. Paul the Apostle Catholic [4] St. Rose of Lima Catholic [5] St. Theresa Catholic, Sugar Land [7] Woodlands United Methodist [4]

The many forms of care that Care Team members provide truly are lifelines to care partners and family caregivers.

Surviving

A third type of support you provide to family caregivers is socialization. Their friendships and social time typically suffer as they concentrate on the needs of a loved one. Sharing coffee or tea in the home, enjoying lunch out, shopping together, or other enjoyable activity create an opportunity for routine conversation to grow into a strong bond of friendship that will provide a link

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to the world again after their service as caregiver is no longer needed. The many forms of care that Care Team members provide truly are lifelines to care partners and family caregivers. Your presence and assistance certainly add quality to the lives of the people you serve. And also, you may be saving lives, as well. Thank you for being lifelines and adding to the emotional, spiritual, social, and physical survival of caregivers!

701 N. Post Oak Road • Suite 330 • Houston, TX 77024 • 713.682.5995

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