Thursday, July 22, 2010

Secrets to Americans Living Happily Below Their Means -- AARP Radio - Jeff Yeager

When I "went independent" recently with my career path, I had to retool my lifestyle a bit. Guess what? It really works and I'm much happier. Check this out below:

Secrets to Americans Living Happily Below Their Means -- AARP Radio - Jeff Yeager

Have a great, truly contented day!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Death of friends in the senior years

Bereavement counseling is quite prevalent, a needed sub-specialty of counseling, of course. There are some grief support groups (including spousal and child loss) in my area, although not as many as I think there ought to be. Then, especially connected with hospital settings, one can find a number of groups for those who have lost a baby or a pregnancy. And now, there are groups and therapists who work with those who have lost a beloved pet. All very necessary and commendable.

I wonder though, how much outreach is there for people whose longtime friends have passed away, especially when the deceased and the survivor are seniors? I'm thinking that, beyond the quick "Oh, I'm so sorry about your friend..." that there isn't much done to help the elderly person process their loss. After all, what do you expect? These folks are old, and old folks die someday. Surely they know that.

I was a case manager to home-bound, frail clients in Pasadena several years ago, and often saw seniors who were lonely and profoundly sad. When the subject came up about any social connections these seniors had, so often I heard, "All my friends are dead now." Their eyes would drift off, as if they could somehow make a U-turn down the road of life, and catch up with these old pals who were no longer making the journey with them. How many people, including me, were too busy to sit for awhile, and ask them to talk about these friendships, which, when gone, took a vital piece of our clients' lives with them?

My mother is now 85, and is one of the surviving members of a close, lifelong group of three friends. One of these ladies, who first met my mother when they were five years old, passed away suddenly about 18 months ago. It shocked my mother and the other friend, because they never imagined that "Betty would be the one to go first." In addition to being an unexpected and painful reminder of their own mortality, Betty's passing underscored how each of us occupies a unique position in others' psyches. When we are then permanently absent, it leaves our survivors with the task of making sense of the void. No more birthday cards or Christmas greetings exchanged, one less person who shares the web of memories that make up our consciousness...

Recently, Mom's other surviving buddy wrote a letter detailing some serious medical events, including a stay in intensive care. Now this once fiercely-independent lady has a visiting practitioner who comes in and assists her tasks with medication and bathing. Luckily, she still has friends (younger) who can do the shopping and transporting to follow-up appointments.

Mom has often expressed concern, as the span between their frequent, lively letters gets increasingly long. She has said, "At our age, it could be any time for either one of us." And, of course, Mom and I both know the "it" to which she is referring--the brief note from someone saying, "I think you're were a friend, and I'm sorry to tell you....". And that's assuming that "someone" does bother to write.

is differentiated from depression in the DSM-IV-R (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association)as an appropriate, expected expression of sadness upon the death of a loved one. If not acknowledged by the senior and any involved family, the mood can gradually worsen, and depression can set in, even mimicking mild dementia. For anyone who has been bereaved, you know that your thoughts can dwell upon the loss, impacting concentration as well as mood. If the relationship was less than smooth, the memories of the departed can become all the more complex and volatile.

I propose that those involved with any bereaved seniors test the about the dead friend, if and when he or she is willing...look through scrapbooks or photo albums, if they're brought out. Ask about letters, shared classes, common interests, past decades of history...offer to take the senior to a burial site, if it's practical and appropriate to do so. It's risky, especially at first, to know the senior's readiness to engage in such a dialogue, but far better than not acknowledging the loss of someone important to them.

I'm concerned about my mom, especially if she survives this last friend. That's why I want to not be afraid to be there for her, nor do I want to avoid saying something for fear that it's "not the right time." Through any tears and the reminiscing she's willing to show, I'll use my instincts and compassion to let Mom show me parts of her life and her self that were represented by her friend. That's how healing and resolution for our seniors can take place, and we adult children become enriched by the experience.

In my private practice, I invite anyone grappling with the problem of how to support their senior loved ones with bereavement and the fear and depression that may follow. Dialogue is one the most basic means of healing, but it's amazing how much it is avoided. For further information about my services, please refer to

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Check this out!

In addition to my own thoughts, I'm always on the lookout for really energizing and inspiring things to share with whoever reads my blog. Here's a clip off a really wonderful video site:

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Check out the Alzheimer’s Research Center site -146

I urge anyone whose life, or that of a loved one, read this and weigh the pros and cons of joining a clinical trial for pharmaceutical intervention. This is an important piece of the solved puzzle.

Check out the Alzheimer’s Research Center site -146: "Check out the Alzheimer’s Research Center site - 146"

Check out the Alzheimer’s Research Center site -146

I excited, as always, to pass this information along to my readers. We've got a long way to go, but we are far away from the days when patients were simply consigned to the sidelines of life and family, with symptoms dismissed as "craziness" or "senility." Check out the photos of the PET scans, which are showing us more of what we're dealing with.

Check out the Alzheimer’s Research Center site -146: "Check out the Alzheimer’s Research Center site - 146"

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Of old houses and hope for our future

I attended a meeting this evening at the Burbank City Hall Annex building, which was lightly attended in response to a mailer that had been sent to city residents within the past week.

Burbank adopted a Preservation Ordinance back in 1996, and its Plan was adopted three years later. We are approaching our city's centennial, and as a means of bolstering civic pride, the city is encouraging homeowners like me to explore the possibility of registering our residences for historic landmark status.

One of the homes featured in the power point presentation was the "Rock House" on Olive Avenue. It was built circa 1922, same year as mine. I've hit the ground running on this project, thinking that my little stucco abode might also be honored with a historic designation.

I love anything vintage, be it a wood frame house, a musty book, or an old baking soda tin. One of my favorite TV shows on HGTV has been, "If Walls Could Talk." For me, it's not really the recognition of the house being around a long time and surviving the wrecking ball. The emotional appeal is that these houses, like many people and ideas, have endured the succession of immediate crises and concerns of the decades. Who would have foreseen that the Rock House--and mine--would have come before a stock market crash, a depression, a world war, numerous presidents, and most of my family? I like to think of the workers who had their role in the construction of these houses, who they were personally, and what their own lives were like. Each historic structure that still stands is almost like a temporal reminder of those workers, and also the people who occupied them over the years. You can almost stop and hear the echoes of long-gone people in the creaking of the floor boards...

I have this acute sense of each point in our space-time construct having an eternal life of its own. Even after the people are gone, and also the physical structures, an indelible print is left on that point, changing it forever. Vintage properties are gifts from one point in time to another, almost like a bottle floating in the ocean with a note inside.

I really hope Burbank is successful in getting some homes designated as historic and preserved for the future. For one thing, having people taking pride and responsibility for the city's history is one way to foster a sense of ownership in the future. The kids of succeeding generations should know what a linen closet is, and a utility room, and see a bathroom that has those quaint, tiny octagonal floor tiles. These features shouldn't just be some overpriced restoration mock-ups. Anyone who doesn't get this experience, in my opinion, is the poorer for it.

When people see the "real things" from the past, those who lived before are also real once again.

A History of Burbank: A special place in history

A little life, lived grandly

It's about realizing when I have all I need, and if I'm a good steward, I'll continue to be sustained.

Family. Friends. A roof over my head. Music on the radio. Ability to support myself. Hope for the future. Intelligence to know the difference between the incessant fear of lack and the sustained realization of enough.

Where are the likes of Thoreau these days?

Another thing to share with my boomer readers

The following is from one of my new favorite sites,

Boomers: Coming of Age and Old Age

I'd like to think of myself as assuming a mentor role to my peers, as we boomers age and make sense of this old-er age thing.

Have a great day.

Nonfiction Writing Classes, Psychology Tutor, Creativity Coaching & Memoir Writing Classes in Los Angeles, Glendale, Sherman Oaks & Burbank CA | Valarie Cascadden is a Betterist on Betterfly.

From my page:

Nonfiction Writing Classes, Psychology Tutor, Creativity Coaching & Memoir Writing Classes in Los Angeles, Glendale, Sherman Oaks & Burbank CA | Valarie Cascadden is a Betterist on Betterfly.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Depression may increase risk of dementia, study says

One study for my readers' consideration:

Depression may increase risk of dementia, study says

Connecting the dots between my teaching, writing, and therapy

I think I'm developing a bit of a side niche here, and I'd like my friends/readers to help in its development. As I've mentioned, I'm on now, promoting services as a creative and academic coach. Primarily, but not exclusively, I want to help students of the "mature" demographic to write effective papers and dissertations.

Another inspiration I had recently was to assist people with letter-writing. This is a vital tool, both to express one's feelings when face-to-face contact is just too overwhelming, AND to communicate expectations in the business world. Anyone remember Cyrano de Bergerac's intercession between his unrequited love Roxane and her true love interest, Christian?

Letter-writing is powerful when the sentences and paragraphs are skillfully crafted; otherwise, a communique can just get deleted from the email inbox, or sadly shredded...and thus a piece of someone's soul goes unacknowledged. There are just too many messages floating around in our world of media overwhelm -- making your message heard and understood by that other person is vital!

The same care needs to be taken with business letters, be they complaint letters about unsatisfactory service. Over the years, I've crafted "bitching" to a fine art, so that it has impact, but maintains dignity!

The actual letter is just one step in the actual process, and I can coach people in how to navigate the steps to being heard. Stay tuned online to hear more about this service...

In my work with seniors and their families, I find that writing in the early stages of decline can be beneficial. We hear of people making video recordings of their thoughts, to be passed along to succeeding generations. Shortly after a dementia diagnosis, while the senior still has the physical and cognitive ability, writing down one's thoughts in a simple journal could benefit the patient AND the family who sees them slipping away. Again, I'll have more information I'll share with my readers in future posts.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Recommended reading

While I was watching a DVD for my CADODTS course, I was reminded of the following:

I'm sure I put this on a previous post, but it's a now-classic book for caregiving families.
I'm now a CADODTS (Certified Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementias Treatment Specialist). As a "baby-boomer therapist" (of midlifers and their own elders), I'm always proud to get more knowledge to be of service to my clients!

Friday, July 9, 2010

The A-Bomb

I've had periodic insomnia since I was a teenager, and it's frustrating to stare at the red digital numbers of the clock tick by the minutes, excruciatingly slowly, even if it is to the sweet melodies of KUSC. So, I got up and did that previous post.

I also worked on a home-study course I'm completing for continuing education units (CEU's) for my license. Once I'm done (very soon), I'll be able to add CADODTS to the alphabet-soup of credentials after my name. This stands for Certified Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementias Treatment Specialist. In plain English, I'll be better able to serve clients and families with whose lives Alzheimer's is interfering. Since I market myself as a psychotherapist specializing in work with the midlife and aging "baby-boom" population, this extra layer of expertise makes a lot of sense. Much of what I'll continue to do, besides my already-supportive counseling, is to help senior clients and families explore their process and demystify it through education. I already am well-connected to many senior service agencies and case workers, especially after working five years in Senior Care Network through Huntington Hospital.

I have some dramatic family history related to Alzheimer's. In 1996, my uncle died after a long struggle with the disease. He and my aunt had been married just a little over sixty years. Roger experienced much fear and depression in the first few years after the initial diagnosis. He had been a lawyer, a local judge, and ultimately a New York State Supreme Court Justice. Together, he and Sis had led a full life with children, grandchildren, an active social life, and getaways to a beach house they owned in Canada.

Roger saw what lie ahead, and the sense of powerlessness over its progress ran counter to his lifelong self-concept of intelligence and competence. Sis, the devoted wife, cared for Roger. She reluctantly placed Roger in a skilled nursing facility in the final days, when he became enraged and tried to strangle her. Sadly, the toll was not just taken on Roger; Sis soon died of a heart attack. The family said that she probably "worked herself to death taking care of him."

Roger died 48 hours later, unaware that his life companion was already gone...

As I told a friend recently, who said he had always tried to "fight off getting Alzheimer's," this disease does not discriminate. Even the most gifted, talented, and deserving of us are at risk -- and therein lies the cruelty of Alzheimer's. Among my favorite celebrities that come to mind are Rita Hayworth of old Hollywood films, and the beloved Star Trek character "Scottie," James Doohan.

Aas we baby-boomers age, we're next at risk. And frankly, I'm terrified--for myself, and for my loved ones who would be responsible for my care if I fell to the A-Bomb.

So you see, my mission to help in the cause of Alzheimer's research and treatment is as personal as it is professional. And once more, I put out the call for anyone who wants to join me on November 7th for the Memory Walk in Century City, check out my walker page at Please feel free to type in my name to search for my walker page, and make whatever donation you feel inspired to and/or join my walking team!

Let's start conquering Alzheimer's in our lifetime!

What's up with me?

People are seeing many sides of me on this blog site. It's astonishing, even to me, how many interests and passions are coming forth as I create this thing.

The MFT (marriage and family therapist) aspect emerged back in 1996, and after years of internship stints, I was licensed in 2005. I hung out my independent shingle in 2007, and have been building my practice, one client at a time, since.

My clients' care is very special and important to me. Restless soul that I am, however, it was never my intent to confine myself to private practice. Many of my most inspiring professors have had their own offices, bringing their rich anecdotes into the classroom and bring the theory alive. I wanted to follow in their footsteps, honoring their contributions to my own development. Thus, I embarked on my teaching career as an adjunct psychology professor at National University in 2008. As I stand behind the podium, I see myself in each of the students' faces, their expectations and plans echoing mine a decade and a half ago.

Writing has always been a yearning for me, with my article ideas demanding to be in relationship with me. The words and ideas take on lives and energy of their own. They mirror what has happened, as well as providing suggestions as to what might be next. Ideas are the genesis for yet more.

In addition to creating my own work, I've always enjoyed assisting classmates and friends with piecing together theirs. It's not just tutoring and editing, but also doing real healing work by releasing the blocks to their self-expression. That's why, on top of everything else I'm trying to do, I have become associated with the site. As each of us endeavors to tell his or her own story, it puts into place a piece of the human puzzle, and validates someone's soul.

On some level, the combination of all these roles makes sense.

It's very late, and I need some sleep. I just wanted to share some thoughts...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Join my walk on November 7th in Century City

This cause is near and dear to my heart.

Long-Term Marriages End, Late-in-Life Divorce, Boomers, Separation, Pepper Schwartz -- AARP

I actually think the "till death do us part" can be harmful, if it's seen as a sentence rather than a loving covenant. Marital strife, denied and unresolved, could also be yet another source of late-life depression.

Long-Term Marriages End, Late-in-Life Divorce, Boomers, Separation, Pepper Schwartz -- AARP
From one end of the spectrum--lifelong joy--to unanticipated pain:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

I just couldn't start off the day without sharing this:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Monday, July 5, 2010

Making peace with some of my exes

So, here I go, into another post-holiday work week.

My kitty Tiggy is on my lap, my coffee is at my right hand, and the sounds of KUSC are wafting through my home office. Eventually, I'll put myself together and venture forth to see some clients, do some work-related errands, and then come back here to what I've come to think of as my "command center."

As you can guess, I like words--their origins, and how they are constructed. They can be masterfully woven into so many patterns, morphing fluidly, almost imperceptibly, like the subtle hues and undertones of an oil painting. In one's observation of the interplay, one can get swept up into it without even being aware...

Words take on lives of their own. Propaganda (social, religious, political), print ads, the conversations we have throughout our lives. Like the visual stimulus of the oil painting, each leaves its "thumbprint" on our psyche--positively or negatively. They carry what we therapists sometimes call "feeling-tones." If you remember the last time someone said something either really loving, or really hurtful, you can probably remember not only the words, the tone, but also the impact, both emotionally and physically.

That's why we therapists are concerned with issues like verbal abuse, or the systemic (and often dysfunctional) way couples or families communicate with each other. With each word, and its reaction from another person (think of Newton's third law of physics), reality is being created and built upon (word-by-word, one "brush stroke" at a time).

The same principle applies with our inner dialogues. It's so important to look at how we take care of ourselves by our inner messages. Let me share some:

The prefix "ex" is defined as "outside, or away from." When I hear this, my mind conjures up almost anime-like fonts and colors, harsh blood-red and black.

EX - cuse, EX - clude, EX - cess, EX - haust

Could these words might suggest that we spend much time putting our cognitive and emotional powers outside ourselves, to leave it up to others (like our families, coworkers, significiant others)how we react to our world? At any time in human history, this time most of all, such learned helpless is dangerous.

But--here's another "ex" -- ex - ist, "to have actual being." Some teachers would include this in their lessons about mindfulness.

My point is that we all have life-long relationships with these "exes," and still others. It's up to each of us to become conscious of them and form appropriate ways to deal with them.

We'll talk about this, and other things, more...

Have an aware day.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

"The Secret Powers of Time"

A wonderful thought from one of my favorite scholars, Philip Zimbardo:

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Shopping, etc., at 7 AM (or as early as you can)

It's nice to beat the pre-Fourth of July crowds. True, it's a trade off, because instead of dodging people with carts full of beer and chips, you have to bob-and-weave around the crates and the the early morning crew stocking the shelves. The staff at the store today were pretty accommodating, and even said to me, "Just let us know if we're in the way."

I've always been an early riser, and I find it pays off in avoiding lines, waiting, and irritation. Patience has never been one of my major qualities, and I find trolling for parking around the ATM to be a major time-waster. Isn't it interesting that retired folks, or those with independent work schedules (like me)seem more likely to find the momentum to get up-and-at-'em before the 8 or 9 AM stampede? Far better to get home--or to your holiday destination--and let the rest of the town figure out which of the grocery lines are creeping along the "fastest."

As I hinted in my previous post, the universe doesn't graciously grant us time, nor do we happily "find" it. Running our lives like a business, we have to simply block it out, and take our appointments with ourselves (and our well-being) as seriously as we do the trips to the doctor or the office.

Again, enjoy the weekend! No -- savor it! That's my "assignment" to you all today.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Happy Independence Weekend to all!

I've posted a couple of items that I liked. One was called "Learn How to Benefit from Play," and another was "Benefits of Being a Slow Study."

It's important that we budget time in our lives for down-time to have enough physical energy, and so that our minds function efficiently. Have you ever noticed, when you've pushed yourself beyond your normal capacity, how you find yourself making errors, getting irritable or emotionally fragile, forgetting pieces of data (names of those you know well, appointments, where you last put your keys, etc., etc.)

That's when it's time to stop and rest. Rest and recreation are not self-indulgent time intervals. In fact, the word "recreation" suggests "re-creation" or "re-building." It's NECESSARY -- so STOP being a martyred workaholic! It gets old -- for you and those close to you (how many times do they hear, "Oh God, I've got so much to do!"). So what? Think you're going to get some kind of medal when you've worked yourself into an early grave or medically-mandated leave?

Declare your independence from a no-win mindset and learn to TAKE TIME OFF. You may find you're more productive in the long run.

Mindful Teaching and Teaching Mindfulness: A Guide for Anyone Who Teaches Anything



Thursday, July 1, 2010

Synchronicity and convergence...I'm getting inspired to do another article/book because of the inputs I'm getting from colleagues and clients. In this piece, I'd like to explore the impacts of Alzheimer's on multi-generational relationships. Especially, I'd like to discuss young kids who have to care for a demented relative, and how that affects their own lives....