‘Andrew Jenks, Room 335′ a moving documentary

I was a bit skeptical when I stumbled upon this film on Netflix. A documentary made several years ago by some college kid who takes up residence in an old folks home for a month? How insightful and meaningful could it be? Well, happily I was wrong, and I found this simple yet powerful documentary, Andrew Jenks, Room 335 quite touching.



As anyone knows who has ever stepped foot inside a senior care facility before, there are so many wonderful characters just waiting to have their stories told. I saw bits of my mom and others I have known and lost in the residents at Harbor Place. I’m sure you will too.

There are a couple of big takeaways from the film. First, just because people are old or in poor health doesn’t mean they have lost their personalities or their humanity. They should not be forgotten or shut away by society. That brings me to the other big message in the film, which is that seniors are lonely. I know this all too well with my mom. It was sweet yet sad how excited the residents were to have this young man to talk to for a month. That need for human connection is strong and so many of these residents are just wasting away, their insights and memories dying with them.

So definitely worth a watch (keep the tissues handy!) It is nice to see the younger generation take an interest in the welfare of the older generations, I hope that is a trend that continues to grow.



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Time makes some wounds less painful

Here is a realist take on grief. Time does help. Time is like a new layer of skin that develops over a gaping wound. It takes awhile before the wound is covered, and even then, that new protective layer is quite fragile. But if tended to properly, that new layer of skin will completely cover the wound and most people will never know you had an injury. Even if no physical signs remain, you will remember the wound.

That’s how I feel this year, as I approach the third year anniversary of my father’s death. As I’ve mentioned, I’m back working in the same building as I was on the day he died. All of the same Christmas decorations are back up. I’ve been struck with bouts of wistfulness and flashbacks to that day when I got the call that my father had died. But the black cloud isn’t quite as dark as it was the last couple of years. Of course, nowadays concern for Mom takes up a lot of my thinking time. But still, I know part of this is the natural grieving process.

There is no timetable. For some people, it may take a year, for others several years, and frankly, some people may never escape those black clouds. None of us should be judged by how we grieve. Of course, if we think loved ones are in danger of hurting themselves or others because of the weight of their grief, then action should be taken to intervene and get them help. But the grieving process is very personal. While it may help to read books to know the stages of grief, etc., it truly is one of those things you don’t fully understand until you experience it.

How have you handled your grief over the loss of a loved one? Has the passage of time helped?


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“Who helps the person that’s the helper?”

Joy Johnston:

Very moving. The focus is more on professional caregivers, social workers, etc. but can still apply to any of us dealing with family trauma and grief on a long-term basis.

Originally posted on Caregiving With Courage:

Just watched this trailer and was struck by how applicable it is to so many parts of my experience. Not only am I a part-time caregiver for a loved one, I am a social worker who listens to the heartbreaking and distressful stories of, essentially strangers, day after day.

Secondary trauma is something that, in my opinion, has not been looked at as closely or studied as in-depth as other forms of trauma, but can cause lasting effects nonetheless (if not dealt with in an appropriate manner).

There are so many topics that need to be explored more in-depth, secondary trauma, compassion fatigue, contagious stress, all of which I intend to explore more this month! Stay tuned, learn with me. I am not an expert on these topics by any means, but I will share with you my research on what these things mean for the caregiver and how to…

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Bittersweet holiday

As I’ve written before I’m sure, Thanksgiving was my dad’s favorite holiday. He loved turkey! My dad was not one to get too excited about food normally, so it was a big deal to watch him devour slice after slice of turkey.

While I can still recall those fond family memories, they are unfortunately overshadowed by that Thanksgiving three years ago. Dad was in the ICU, clinging to life. I was trying to figure out when I should fly out, because I was working the entire holiday weekend. The nurse said he could pass in two hours or two months, there was no telling. As soon as I arrived to work on Black Friday 2011, I received the call from a nurse, frantically asking me if they should pull the plug on my dad’s life support.


I’m now back working in the same newsroom I was that day when I received that terrible call. Every now and then I’ll glance to that corner of the room and remember the pacing I did that day three years ago, trying my best not to completely freak out from the stress. I’m once again working the holiday, but from home this time. Thankfully I won’t have to mark the anniversary of those painful memories at the office.

So Thanksgiving is bittersweet for me. I still enjoy the food and try to focus on the happy memories. Life, and death, does not pause for holidays.

I hope somehow, somewhere, Dad is enjoying a few big slices of turkey.


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The Most “WANDER-FULL” Time of the Year!

Joy Johnston:

A good reminder for those gathering for holiday celebrations soon.

Originally posted on Georgia Chapter Blog:

­The holidays are almost here…is your loved one wearing their MedicAlert + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return jewelry?

My name is Kim Franklin and I have been working with the Alzheimer’s Association as our Safety Services Manager for eight years now.  During the holiday season, I usually see an increase in wandering incidents.  At this time of year we tend to be around family and friends, coming and going from many events and things can sometimes get a little loud and exciting.  These busy times can often be more confusing for someone who has Alzheimer’s or dementia.  Their day-to-day routine may be thrown off by holiday gatherings and events and there may be crowds of unfamiliar people around. (Remember – even close family and friends can be unfamiliar to persons with more advanced memory loss).

All of the holiday hustle and bustle is often the perfect storm that leads to an…

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Guilty of a totally unnecessary caregiver panic attack

So about 30 minutes into my flight to visit my mom, I took my phone off airplane mode to enable my Bluetooth headphones. (I know, slap my hand, that is an in-flight no-no.)

When I did so, I noticed the voicemail icon was lit up. When I went to see the time the voicemail was recorded, it was when I was at the airport, so I was surprised that I had missed the call. When I checked the phone number of the missed call, it was my mom’s home phone number. In fact, there were two missed calls from her, about 30 minutes apart.

plane sky

If Mom was calling me early in the morning, something HAD to be wrong.

Even though I knew it wouldn’t work, I tried to access the voice mail. No-go, despite my phone still showing a 3G signal.

Fortunately, the plane did not suffer from any issues due to my actions.

But for the rest of the flight, I was frozen with terror. My mind began spinning with all sorts of worst-case scenarios. Knowing Mom has been suffering from this mysterious ailment (most likely a hernia) for some time, I feared she had developed more severe symptoms. She called me wanting to know if she should dial 911 and now was waiting in agony for my reply. Or she had called 911 and was being taken to the hospital and I was several hours from arriving! There was nothing I could do up in the sky but wait it out. I had a two-hour flight, but it seemed like 20 hours.

Finally, we land and I immediately turn my phone back on. I listen to the voicemail. It was from the airport shuttle, confirming my ride. Whew, ok, that was a relief. (They usually call to confirm the day before.)

But what about the mysterious phone calls from Mom’s number? I called her when I got inside the terminal and all was (relatively) well. She had not called me. When I thought back on it, there were no missed calls from the shuttle company. Somehow, my phone read the shuttle number as my mom’s number (same area code, but quite different numbers.)

The point of this story? Caregivers have enough real crisis situations to deal with. Don’t invent imaginary ones, especially when you up in the clouds, helpless to take action.


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National Caregiver Month: Honor a caregiver

In addition to being National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, November is National Caregiver Month. It’s only fitting for those of us who have cared for a loved one with dementia that these two recognition events occur in the same month.

While caregiving, both family and professional, needs much more recognition than just a designated month, this is a good time to get the conversation started about how important caregiving is to our society.

My mom, who was a wonderful caregiver for my father who had Alzheimer's.

My mom, who was a wonderful caregiver for my father who had Alzheimer’s.

The Alzheimer’s Association is marking the month by allowing people to write a personal tribute on their website.

I’m marking the month by making a visit to my mother, who has been dealing with some recent health setbacks. Caregiving in action!

To all of you in the blogosphere who have shared your caregiving stories, thank you. Together we can raise awareness and help each other through this challenging journey that is always full of surprises.

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