Beating the summer heat.

Are you staying hydrated during these hot days?  At 90 degrees, most of us are at risk for heat stroke if given enough time in the sun.  Seniors need to be even more careful.  Many medications actually put people at greater risk for heat stroke; heart medication and blood pressure medication can interfere with the body’s ability to cool off in these warm summer months.

In order to cool down, our heart rate increases to bring blood closer to our skin.  From there, wind, sweat, and evaporation remove heat from the body.  Heart and blood pressure medications interfere with that process, making it more difficult for the body  to regulate it’s temperature.  This can turn into a dangerous situation for anyone–and seniors are even more at risk.  Seniors are more likely to have chronic health conditions that change the body’s response to heat, and may be on medications that contribute to dehydration.  In fact, some studies have found that 40% of heat-related fatalities in the U.S. were among people over the age of 65.

There are several things you can do to help protect yourself, and your loved ones this summer.  For starters, STAY HYDRATED!  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say, “But I hate water!”  Fine–that’s okay–drink something else, then!  Juice, seltzer water, herbal tea…anything nonalcoholic!  You will never be able to beat the heat if you don’t replace all the fluid your body is losing throughout the day.

Check in on your neighbors, parents, and grandparents.  Make sure they’re staying safe, and watch them for signs of confusion, weakness, or sickness.

Monitor your (and their) activity level.  Even a simple walk in the shade in this kind of heat can be too much for someone.  Make sure you and your loved one are dressed appropriately.  Wear light colored clothing and ensure that sweaters and long pants are saved for the nice, cool air conditioner.

Stay indoors during the mid-day hours.  If you’re taking mom to a BBQ, or out to run some errands, do so before 10am or after 6pm when the air will be cooler and the sun less intense.

Rest.  Rest, rest, rest!  Make sure you and your loved one are laying low on these hot days, and taking the time to put those feet up.  (That will help with the swelling in your ankles, too!).  Dreaming of an afternoon nap?  Take one!  Save the wild moments for later on in the evening…

Finally, know the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.  Need a reminder? Symptoms can include the following:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Paleness
  • Muscle Cramps
  • Tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fainting
  • Skin: may be cool and moist
  • Pulse rate: fast and weak
  • Breathing: fast and shallow

If not managed appropriately, these symptoms can quickly progress to these…..

  • An extremely high body temperature (above 103°F)
  • Red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating)
  • Rapid, strong pulse
  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU CAN DO IN EITHER OF THESE SITUATIONS IS TO GET MEDICAL ATTENTION AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. Heat stroke is a very dangerous medical condition and can cause death if it is not treated. 

So please, take good care of yourself and your loved ones during these hot days of summer!  And when it feels completely unbearable and you don’t think you can take one more second of the heat, just remember: THERE ARE ONLY 172 DAYS UNTIL…….

Nahhhh….I can’t say it!  Just enjoy the summer and drink up!




Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

My grandmother used to make world famous grilled cheese sandwiches.  She would use white Wonder bread, and slather the sides with real butter.  In between those pieces of bread would be orange slices of cheese…the kind that came in singles and I would get to peel the plastic off of them and would always eat a slice or two as I waited for my sandwich.  And then she would create magic.  I don’t know how she did it–patience, perhaps.  I tend to cook things on my stove at really high temperatures because I hate to wait.  My grilled cheese sandwiches never look like hers did–with crispy edges and gooey cheese pouring out of the two triangles she would serve me…I almost feel like I’m sitting at her kitchen table right now waiting for one.  And she’d serve it was a glass of cranberry juice mixed with ginger ale.  It was heaven.

That piece of heaven was ripped away from me in one fell swoop, one day at her condo in Manchester.  I had moved in with gram when we learned that she had Alzheimer’s disease, with the hopes of being able to keep her in her own home for as long as possible.  This one afternoon, she asked if I wanted a grilled cheese sandwich and I immediately went from a 23-year-old hipster to a 5-year-old on Christmas morning, anxiously awaiting her new Barbie doll sports car.  I threw myself into the kitchen chair and waited, anticipating the sweet, creamy, crispy treat that was about to come my way.  But what was placed in front of me was not a sweet, creamy, crispy grilled cheese sandwich.   My gram’s world famous sandwich was burnt to a crisp.

This was a defining moment in her illness for me.  It was around this time that I started to feel overwhelmed…like I couldn’t handle the depth of her illness…like I needed to get out.  And I loved my sweet little gram so much–it was hard to think that I couldn’t just “suck it up” and help out.  I hated myself for this for a long time–hated that I gave up and moved out…but I started to realize that I wasn’t a terrible person for not being able to manage the emotions of losing someone I loved to dementia.  It wasn’t just that I couldn’t clean up after her, or give her medications on time, or help her back to bed when she got out in the middle of the night.  I couldn’t be there to watch her decline and deteriorate.  My heart couldn’t handle the every day reminders that I was losing her.

I still struggle with this…especially now that she’s gone.  I still wish I had been able to hang in and give her more of my time.  Maybe it was all part of the plan because watching her go through the long term care system brought me into nursing, and pushed me to make it better for others going through this.  It’s hard–it’s a hard decision to make when it comes time to place your loved one in the care of someone else.  I think we are often of the mindset that we want to do it, because no one will be able to do it better than us.  And we push ourselves to the max to do everything we can for everyone else…but we forget about our own self.  I wanted to be that person so badly for my gram, and for my family…but in the end it was too hard, and it hurt too much.

It hurt when I got frustrated with her…or when she became upset with me.  It hurt when I couldn’t redirect her…or when I couldn’t cheer her up.  When we finally got her into a place that specialized in memory care, I was able to sit with her at the piano again, and sing songs together.  My mom and I could take her out for meals, and we could laugh together.  Our time together became so much more meaningful, and seeing her was a joy…something that I looked forward to again.  I’ll never forget the day I left, and she was no longer able to speak, but she looked at my face, and rubbed my cheek, and stared into my eyes for what seemed like minutes…smiling.  When I turned around, my mother and I had tears streaming down our cheeks.  That woman was something amazing.

I’m forever thankful that I had that time with her, in her home, spending our evenings drinking wine and watching game shows.  I helped put her to bed, make her breakfast, helped her feed the ducks and squirrels…and there were so many hours where she would sit on the couch and listen to me bang away at the piano, or the guitar that she had given me.  I was never any good…but she loved every minute of it…and that’s what I’ll remember.

And I’m forever thankful to the wonderful place where she eventually ended up.  They made her smile, helped her walk, and gave my family and I the peace of mind that we so desperately needed.  We wanted her to be as safe, and as well-cared for as she could be, and that put my life onto  a path I never would have guessed.  Making the decision to allow someone else to care for your loved one is one of the hardest decisions you might make.  I firmly believe that it was what was best for my gram and I…it helped us to feel like I was her granddaughter again, and that was a relationship that was so important to both of us.

So my plea is this: don’t ever feel that you’re wrong for thinking you can’t do it all…or that you need more help.  Don’t ever feel like a failure if it all becomes too hard.  It is hard.  Taking care of someone with dementia can at times be almost impossible.  It’s a disease…and illness…and it takes a village.  There are people who can help; whether it’s respite, companion care, or just someone who can sit with you and help you navigate the system.  There is support for caregivers, and support for those with dementia…and there are places that specialize in memory care and quality of life.  You’re not alone in the battle, and there are people who understand more than you know.  So go ahead and lean on them…that’s what we’re here for.



(Above: me and my sweet Rita at Shady Glen, our favorite lunch spot.)




When we opened our Namaste Room, my friend Sara Daly called me for a tour.  Sara co-owns Waterfalls Day Spa in Middlebury, and I was excited to get her input on our new spa-like room.  I was not expecting the proposal that I received at the end of our tour: Sara had recently begun the patenting process for their new  a’chromatherapy™ program, and she wanted to bring it to EastView.

Our Namaste Room is a place for relaxation for people with advanced dementia.  It’s a room filled with recliners and fish tanks, soft lighting and music, snacks and blankets.  People can go in any time they’d like to rest, have their nails done, and get a massage.  It’s a high-touch environment meant to stimulate the senses, and when the doors close behind them, the person is met with gentle smells and sounds of nature that invite them to close their eyes and relax.

The Waterfalls Day Spa a’chromatherapy™ program is a “unique sensory journey” that utilizes the combined power of aroma, color, and guided meditation to create an overall sense of well-being and balance.  This special combination of sensory stimulation is the perfect addition to our Room, and has proven to be an incredible tool for stress relief and relaxation with our residents and staff.

With the addition of the Namaste Room and a’chromatherapy™ program, we are seeing a reduction in stress and anxiety levels in our memory care neighborhood.  Dementia can be a noisy and confusing disease, but something magical happens when we bring someone into our Room, tuck them into a recliner, close the doors, and start a meditation.  We have seen a reduction in the use of pain medications, and psychotropic medications that are used to treat the behavioral symptoms of dementia.  Our specially designed environment has helped us have better success with distraction and redirection when residents are upset.  Often times, when we show someone the meditation pictures, they are able to stop focusing on their pain or fear, and instead begin to remember times they were in the forest, at the beach, or watching a sunset.

The a’chromatherapy™ program has been a hit with our staff, as well.  The guided meditations have been used before staff meetings and before shifts.  Employees are calmer and feel more comfortable speaking openly with coworkers and supervisors, and work together to problem solve and negotiate.  Employees are able to use the meditations during their breaks, or any time throughout their day if they are feeling stressed or upset.  It is essential that staff provide a calm environment for people with dementia, and the addition of these two programs gives everyone the opportunity to find some calmness and peace in their day.

I feel really good about having these tools in our pocket to help combat the symptoms of dementia.  We’re able to provide our residents with holistic treatments that help them feel more in control and more at peace.  Our staff experience less burnout when they are able to break away from their day to day tasks and provide people with soothing treatments, experiencing first–and secondhand–the benefits of the Namaste Room. I’m so thankful that Sara had the idea to bring a’chromatherapy™ into our world, as it has helped improve the quality of life for all of us at EastView.




Happiness is…

Where does happiness come from?  They say it comes from within (who the heck is “they,” anyway?) …and I partially believe that.  We need to “stay positive”–see the glass as “half full”–love ourselves–share our love with others–and if we do all of that, we should be happy.  Right?  Well what if we’re not?  What if life has dealt so many blows that we can’t find that happiness anymore?  Or that the chemical structure of our brain changes so it becomes almost impossible for us to be happy organically…then what?

I think of our culture today and how mindful we are about exercise, pesticides, brain health…and how advanced modern medicine has become.  It’s remarkable to see people living, and living well, into their 80’s, 90’s and 100’s.  This shift has led to a few different thought processes that I hear on a pretty regular basis.  The first is, “I hope I can live that long!”  We see people who are active and enjoying life, and we want that for ourselves.  Another group of people may feel slightly ambivalent and will take what comes, not really reaching for it, but not fighting against age, either.

What I hear most often is not either of those two intentions.  Most frequently I hear, “I hope I don’t live that long.”

I can only speak about the situations that I have encountered, and this is by no means meant to be a generalization.  But if we are to be honest about life at 80, 90 or 100, we have to think about loss.  How much has a centenarian lost in their life?  Friends, family, independence?  Perhaps mobility or the capability of making ones own decisions?  These losses can be detrimental to one’s spirit–to their soul.  The inability to decide when to eat lunch, or when to shower, can make it or break it for some.  And when someone has encountered so much loss, is it fair to wonder why they’re not happy?  Or to judge them because of it?

I hope that I am someone who can take life as it comes, and find the lemonade with all the lemons.  But even the best of us reach a point where we’d rather just lay down and rest after being knocked down more times than we can handle.

Erik Erickson’s 8th stage of Psychosocial Development is Integrity vs. Despair.  It is in this stage in life where Erickson claims someone reevaluates their life…looking back over successes and accomplishments.  If they are satisfied with all they have done, they feel integrity.  If they are not satisfied…if they feel that they did not leave their mark or accomplish their goals…they feel a sense of despair.  I absolutely agree with Erickson, as I have seen this many times.  This despair is heart-breaking for family and friends to see, and it is challenging to manage for all involved.

What can we do?  How can we help our loved ones struggling with depression or hopelessness?  I think it’s about understanding and empathy.  It’s about allowing the person to talk about their feelings, and asking them the hard questions.  Think about carrying a log up a mountain.  You want to do it by yourself–you want to show others that you can. But how relieved are you when someone comes up next to you and carries the other side?  By giving someone the opportunity to express their true feelings about life, you’re helping them to carry the burden.  By really hearing them when they express that this life is not acceptable to them anymore, as opposed to quickly responding with “Oh don’t say that!”– which tends to be our gut reaction–this empathy opens the pathway for more honest communication.  And only then can you truly realize how you can help someone be happy.

I know we’re not always going to make everyone happy, and this type of conversation might not happen overnight.  But we need to keep trying, and talking, and remembering that everyone is different and has different needs and wishes.  There may be times when nothing we can do can make someone smile…but we should go down trying.





It’s a Good Day

It’s a good day when you get to do something that you love.  This morning started before the sun came up, with a cold run up Snake Mountain.  There’s nothing like the view from the top, and on this particular morning, the sun was just a teenie bit brighter than the lights of Port Henry.  I took a moment to catch my breath and headed down, looking forward to what the day would bring.

I walked through the parking lot of EastView, through the doors, and down the hall where I could smell eggs and toast, and could hear laughter.  Some of the greatest caregivers I’ve known were scurrying into rooms with sing-song voices, helping our friends and family to get ready for the day.  There was soft music playing in the dining room, coffee brewing, and smiles all around.

“Work” is defined as exertion or effort, and yet it doesn’t feel that way here.  It feels like a second home; a place where we are lucky enough to spend time making others feel good.  This is a place of safety and security; of health and happiness; of friends and family; a place where our biggest focus is improving the quality of life for those we serve.  We laugh and cry together, and spend some of life’s most significant moments together.  It’s an honor to be here–an honor to be invited into the lives of everyone in our community.

I’ll end my day with my rowdy kids, but I’ll still hit the pillow feeling rejuvenated.  It’s exciting to think about what lies ahead.  We’re dedicated to making our presence known in our community, giving back to Addison County and its’ members.  We want to reach out and educate–to help families have hard conversations–to empower YOU with knowledge so that you can make the best decisions for yourself and your loved ones.  So stay tuned!  And thank you for letting us be a part of your day.