50 Million American Caregivers face challenges. We’re sharing solutions.

This Week’s News

Tell friends about this new online resource section, We Are Caregivers. Got questions or suggestions for stories we should share? Contact us at [email protected].

Joining with the Solutions Journalism Network to help caregivers

OUR PUBLISHING HOUSE is making an ongoing commitment to collaborate with the Journalism Solutions Network (JSN) to encourage news media coverage of helpful ideas for America’s more than 50 million caregivers—especially those who serve as lifelines for aging men and women. In this story, we report on the JSN’s efforts, then we link to the new JSN website that showcases recent reporting—and finally we share a video-preview of our own important contribution to this network: the new book “Now What? A Guide to the Gifts and Challenges of Aging.” 

Catholic Nuns are in decline, but they’re also a font of creativity

PATRICIA MONTEMURRI, one of the veteran writers who contributed to the new “Now What?” book just published a major magazine-style overview for The Detroit Free Press exploring the challenges facing Catholic women religious. The headline on her story captures this fascinating article’s theme: “What is the future for Catholic sisters? There isn’t just one answer but there is hope in what is happening in Michigan and the nation.” (PLEASE NOTE: We apologize in advance if you cannot see this story. We are aware that the Free Press website has a paywall that bars non-subscribers from seeing much content. However, the site does allow a very limited number of articles to be read. Patricia’s feature story is so compelling, we’re hoping you’ll be able to read it.)

Pastoral Caregiving in America’s Struggle for Justice

CAREGIVING TAKES MANY FORMS and clergy across the United States devoted prayers and spiritual counsel for worshipers over the past week as the trial over the death of George Floyd nears its conclusion. One that especially caught our eye was this eloquent pastoral letter from Bishop David Bard, who oversees United Methodist congregations across Michigan and Minnesota. Bard’s headline: Repairing the Breach, Restoring the Streets.

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Assuring a Joyous Ramadan; a Vatican teaching document—and shaping your spiritual legacy

Weekly News, April 12, 2021

Pandemic Precautions Can Assure a Joyous Ramadan

AROUND THE WORLD, a huge caregiving challenge is emerging in Muslim communities approaching their second Ramadan in the midst of the COVID pandemic. After last year’s enforced separation during this joyous month of gatherings, many people are especially eager to see relatives, enjoy big dinners when the daily fast ends at sundown, and return to mosques. In this story, published in the Dearborn, Michigan, newspaper, our author Najah Bazzy (who contributed to our new guide for caregivers, Now What?) explains some of the steps Muslims of all ages are taking this year to assure a safe and joyous month-long festival.

Download the Vatican’s ‘Old Age, Our Future’

OUR COLLEAGUE IN ITALY, journalist Elisa Di Benedetto (who also contributed to Now What?), recently reported on the Vatican’s efforts to raise awareness of the millions of older men and women around the world who need additional assistance. The Vatican’s latest teaching document, called Old Age, Our Future, is 11 pages long and was published to spark conversation about this moral imperative—especially since the COVID pandemic has affected caregiving relationships. Care to read and share this new document? A PDF of the Vatican text is free to download from a link in Elisa’s story, which was published by the International Association of Religion Journalists.

What Will Be Your legacy? Learn to write a ‘Spiritual Will’

BILL TAMMEUS, one of our nation’s leading journalists and the author of the new Love, Loss and Enduranceis extending a virtual invitation to anyone who would like to participate in a class he is teaching at 7 p.m. (CDT) on April 22, 2021, via Zoom. The class title is How to Write Your Spiritual Will. Bill explains: “In a last will and testament, people list the valuables they are giving away. But in a spiritual will, they pass along not their valuables but their values—to children, grandchildren, friends. Which is to say that they communicate to those who follow them what was important to them, how they drew meaning from life, what they stood for. I will be leading a Zoom class on how to write your spiritual will. Sign up by emailing me at [email protected] and receive some resources to be used that evening. Questions? Email me or call me at 816-926-0366.

 

Video News about Caregiving; Writing Your Spiritual Will—and ‘When om can help you take care of Mom’

Weekly News, April 5, 2021

Tell friends about this new online resource section, We Are Caregivers. Each week, we will be sharing headline news to help America’s more than 50 million caregivers—as well as everyone receiving their care. Got questions or suggestions for stories we should share? Contact us at [email protected].

Stream our ‘Now What?’ launch video

YOU CAN SPARK DISCUSSION WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS, which may encourage local efforts to help caregivers in your community. What is this video? Front Edge Publishing co-hosted a national launch event via Zoom to showcase many of the contributing experts, non-profit agencies and institutions helping to connect families with the new book, Now What? A Guide to the Gifts and Challenges of Aging. We designed the launch event (and resulting video) as a series of short talks by nine experts and community leaders. Please, take a look and share this video with others.

What Will Be Your legacy? Learn to write a ‘Spiritual Will’

BILL TAMMEUS, one of our nation’s leading journalists and the author of the new Love, Loss and Enduranceis extending a virtual invitation to anyone who would like to participate in a class he is teaching at 7 p.m. (CDT) on April 22, 2021, via Zoom. The class title is How to Write Your Spiritual Will. Bill explains: “In a last will and testament, people list the valuables they are giving away. But in a spiritual will, they pass along not their valuables but their values—to children, grandchildren, friends. Which is to say that they communicate to those who follow them what was important to them, how they drew meaning from life, what they stood for. I will be leading a Zoom class on how to write your spiritual will. Sign up by emailing me at [email protected] and receive some resources to be used that evening. Questions? Email me or call me at 816-926-0366.

Stressed? Mindfulness May Help!

MINDFULNESS MAY HELP!—WXXI’s Morning Edition host Beth Adams’ new story is headlined: When ‘om’ can help you take care of Mom: Meditation, mindfulness useful tools for many caregivers. If you visit that link, you can read a text version, complete with photos and links to other resources, or you can listen to a 9-minute audio version of Beth’s story . This report was produced through the New York & Michigan Solutions Journalism Collaborative.

 

Stream our ‘Now What?’ launch video to spark discussion with family and friends in your community

WATCH IT HERE. THEN, SHARE IT WITH FRIENDS.

49 Minutes. 9 Voices. Lots of Helpful Ideas!

In late March, 2021, Front Edge Publishing co-hosted a national launch event via Zoom to showcase many of the contributing experts, non-profit agencies and institutions helping to connect families with the new book, Now What? A Guide to the Gifts and Challenges of Aging.

We designed the launch event as a series of short talks by experts in everything from how to get your congregation more involved in helping local caregivers—to how to get more value from hospice programs in your part of the country. You’ll find a longer list of this book’s many topics below.

Click the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

PLEASE, JOIN US IN SHARING THIS NEWS

Already, dozens of men and women with wide-ranging expertise devoted a year to collecting and organizing the helpful information in this book for America’s more than 50 million unpaid caregivers—and also for Americans who are experiencing both the gifts and the critical challenges of aging, first hand. Quite frankly, pretty much all of us can benefit from this new book.

Topics included in Now What?

  • You Are Not Alone: Connecting in healthy ways with our community
  • Our Allies: Organizing a successful team
  • Our Gifts: All of us have strengths that give our lives meaning
  • Our Service: Using our unique talents to create meaningful change
  • Saging, Not Aging: A transcultural perspective on our gifts as we age
  • Going Online: Safety connecting with friends and family on social media
  • Caring for Our Caregivers: More than 50 million Americans devote their lives to our care
  • Connecting with a Congregation: Joining a congregation is a healthy step
  • Mobility Matters! Should we stop driving? And, if we do, what now?
  • Home Safe Home: Making sure “home” equals “healthy”
  • Emergency Preparedness: A 10-point safety list to help you sleep soundly
  • Don’t Throw that Away! Downsizing and the challenges of hoarding
  • Hidden Challenges and Helplines: Identifying easily overlooked issues before they become crises
  • A Trip to the Doctor: Plan ahead to make the most of your healthcare team
  • Directing Our Care: Advance directives, power of attorney, living wills and DNRs
  • Enjoying Life: Having fun is healthy!
  • What Is Hospice Care? Finding comfort and peace at the end of life

Order from Amazon by clicking on the book cover, above. Or learn more about this project—and ways to order this book in quantity for groups—by visiting the book’s main resource page:

HealthyAgingBook.com

 

 

 

Seen a bride and groom wash each other’s feet?

Foot Washing:
As a wedding ritual?

Foot washing by UK artist Dinah Roe KendallBy BENJAMIN PRATT

After a long career in ministry, I was astounded when I first heard the idea.

A friend said, “I attended a wedding recently and for the first time witnessed a mutual foot washing by the bride and groom. Have you ever seen that?”

“No,” I said, “I am flabbergasted, but I love the idea of including a foot washing for all that it symbolizes.”

Since that conversation I have asked many clergy and friends about the idea, and nearly all were as surprised as I by the concept. I extended my question to some of my colleagues in the ReadTheSpirit circle of writers and, finally, I did begin to get some responses from others who have seen this idea taking hold. Paul Hile, a young caregiver who occasionally writes columns about his experiences with his wife Grace, says that they have attended more than one wedding where a foot washing was included.

The more I ponder this idea, I am grateful. And, I am challenged.

How about you?

Pope Francis certainly seems to understand the challenging symbolism of this act. One commentator used the phrase “beautiful iconoclasm” to describe Francis’s public appearance last year to perform a foot washing ritual at a juvenile detention facility where the inmates who he served on bended knee included a Muslim girl. This was the first time the world’s news media paid any attention to his approach to this ancient discipline, but it turns out—in later news reports—that he had a longstanding practice back home in Argentina of foot washing in jails, hospitals and caregiving facilities, including pregnant mothers and AIDS patients.

Foot washing as a symbol of humility, hospitality and service has been a part of many faith traditions for centuries. It grounds a relationship in equality and promotes humility towards—and care of—others. We are told of Jesus performing foot washing in John 13: 1-17, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” The Qur’an says “For Allah loves those who turn to Him constantly and He loves those who keep themselves pure and clean.”

In our ritual-starved society, mutual foot washing as a wedding symbol could deepen our life-long commitment as marital partners as we live “for better, for worse, in sickness and in health.” Remember, love is what you go through with someone, as I have written before.

As a caregiver for my wife during the last few years, I have often had to attend to her bodily needs when she was not able to do so. At other times in our marriage, she has reciprocated. Simple daily gestures of love and care demonstrate our commitment to be here for each other through the muck and mire of life’s needs. We are not in this journey alone; we are on the journey together as equals.

When we celebrate a marital union, the inclusion of mutual foot washing could deepen and dignify the marital commitment to be life-long caregivers and receivers on life’s journey. With so many of us living longer lives, the vast majority of us will likely become a caregiver of our partner. But, caregiving and receiving can be part of our lives early in the marriage also.

So what better way to symbolize our long term commitment to love, service, hospitality, presence, and hands-on equality than including mutual foot washing in our wedding ceremonies? This single, prayerful, powerful symbol could deepen wedding celebrations significantly.

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(This column was originally published at www.WeAreCaregivers.com and can be reposted and shared with this credit line.)

Rodney Curtis: What I wish caregivers knew

By RODNEY CURTIS

Attitude.

That’s everything, really. The relationship between the person who needs the care and the person who is trying to give it: It all depends on attitude.

When I first learned that I had acute leukemia—and, then, all the way through my long stays in the hospital, losing my hair and eventually a bone-marrow transplant—I heard from people these words: “I can tell you’re going to make it through this. It’s in your attitude.”

And it was.

That's Rodney hugging a friend in the summer of 2010 in the midst of his leukemia.

That’s Rodney in the baseball cap hugging a friend in the summer of 2010 in the midst of his leukemia.

Remember, “attitude” works both ways. First, there is my attitude—my perception of what I was dealing with and how I would relate to the people around me.  I am a true believer that the way you approach this whole experience says a lot about the outcome you can expect on the other end. Heather Jose calls her memoir about becoming a “cancer thriver,” Every Day We Are Killing Cancer. When she was diagnosed, she wrote those words on a little sign and carried that sign with her as a kind of motto, wherever she went.

What we are saying is: You have to approach this with your own passion, your own interests, your own personality behind it. Like Heather carried her sign—I carried my humor. I used a lot of humor, but that’s me: I love humor.

Maybe your thing is music—so you carry your music with you, wherever you go. I met a guy who decided his weeks in the hospital were his job and his hospital room was his office. Every day, his work—his job—was to get better. He thought of the nurses coming in for various reasons as co-workers coming into his office to help him do his job.

Second, the attitude of your caregivers is just as important as your own attitude. Get them on board with you. Because I loved humor, my caregivers loved to play along. I remember one day, the phone in my hospital room rang and it was a nurse, who was somewhere else at that time, laughing and saying: “Rodney Curtis! Turn on channel 7—STAT!” There was something funny on the TV that she wanted me to see. Because they knew my attitude, caregivers could become a part of that, too.

You’ve got to be honest and open.

If you suddenly find yourself needing help—let’s say you’ve just heard the diagnosis: “Cancer.” Well, I can tell you: It’s a mistake to step back from your friends and all the people who love you, if you can possibly avoid that. The best attitude includes reaching out to all the people around you. Use your connections. Use your social media. I mean, just think of all the tools and software and devices we have today to keep in touch! It’s brilliant.

And, in the first experiences you have in the role as a caregiver, you should be reaching out, too. Don’t be shy. Don’t pussy-foot around. Ask questions.

Here’s what happens all too often when someone is diagnosed with cancer: People hold back and are afraid to ask questions. They’re thinking: Ohhhh, Rodney’s got cancer. I shouldn’t ask him about it! But I’ll tell you: I’m sure that people imagine far more horrible things, if they don’t ask and don’t talk honestly with you—than anything I could tell them.

Then, if you want to help—step up and suggest something. Get specific. I know that people have different responses to this issue. From my own experience, I think it’s best when people who want to be good caregivers come up with real things they can do—and then offer to do these things, specifically.

Here’s an example: You can go up to a friend who needs help and you can say: “Hey, if there’s anything you need, just let me know.” And, yeah, that’s an OK expression of concern.

But I think it’s far better to say: “Can I make you dinner tomorrow night?” And then, “Is it OK if I make this for dinner?” Or, you could say: “Can I mow your lawn on Saturday?” Or, “Could my buddy and I come over and rake your leaves today?”

By offering specific suggestions, you’re telling the person what level of help you’re offering. You might hear back: “No, I really don’t need that.” Still, it gives that person who needs the help a good chance to say, “I don’t need that—but, I really could use this! How about doing this, instead?”

The real question is: Will we close ourselves off and back away from life and from other people? Will we become the patient in the bed? Will we give up our personalities? Or will we try, as best we can, to remain ourselves—and to help each other get through this.

To me, that’s attitude.

Changing the Tune at the ‘Organ Recital’

By THE REV. DR. BENJAMIN PRATT

Pipe Organ consoleHelen, my mother-in-law, died at age 94. One of my delightful memories of her was her chortles when she recounted the evening gathering of folks for dinner at her retirement home. Someone might share an interesting memory or event of the day. But most often each person would share an update on chronic ailments involving any number of body parts.

“We’re starting the Organ Recital,” Helen would laugh.

You might be chuckling, too, assuming that these recitals are limited to the aging, but I observe them among all groups. Something in us wants to tell our stories. It is absolutely fascinating to me how the discussion starter dramatically changes the tone of an experience.

I’ve sat through my share of Organ Recitals, haven’t you? Sometimes it’s a healthy sharing of concerns in the forefront of our daily living. Of course, it works best if everyone gets to participate—and the listening is genuinely supportive rather than prone to advice.

But consider this, if you’d rather change the program in your group.

Tired of all that focus on organs? I’ve found that a single question tossed up in the group, like the opening coin toss at the start of a game, can have considerable effect. It can be as simple as asking about how the plants are doing in someone’s apartment, or a remark about flowers viewed through the window, what birds have been observed around the grounds—or who visited recently. This is the stuff that connects and binds us and dispels fear and isolation.

A close friend recently told me, “I got a circle of folks in my parents’ assisted-living home to start talking about Finnish saunas the other day. We had an old Finn in the circle and, before we knew it, we were rip roaring along about saunas, beloved trips, the woods, wood gathering, starting fires—on and on. We danced verbally around a crackling fire and formed community by sharing stories.”

Just yesterday a Home Depot employee came to our house to inspect some work. We ended up telling each other stories. He told me he was the only person of color in the school when, as a teenager, his family moved to Pittsburgh. One student constantly picked on him, and he finally confronted the bully, telling him to meet on the football field at lunchtime to settle this matter.

The bully was a member of the football team, and the captain of the team attempted to keep the “rumble” from happening. Students “from the other side of the tracks” gathered behind the one person of color while the football team supported the bully. A truce was reached without a fight when the bully, forced by my new acquaintance and his football buddies, got on his knees and apologized.

I was suddenly shaking hands and congratulating a man for his courage, a man I had only met 20 minutes earlier. We knew each other through that story. A bridge was built while standing on it.

Something deep in us wants to sit around the literal or verbal campfire or dinner table and tell stories or listen to others. We become members of the long train of story-telling families. We know ourselves and each other by our stories.

th Carrie Newcomer Quaker singer songwriterAs I was finishing this column, I discovered a kindred soul in singer-songwriter Carrie Newcomer in a new ReadTheSpirit magazine interview. Talking about the power of personal stories, Carrie says:

“I love how we’re different, as people. In our whole country there’s no place like Ann Arbor, Michigan, there’s no place like Minneapolis, no place like Asheville, North Carolina—and there’s no place just like Bloomington, Indiana. Places are so rich and diverse.

“Yet, at the same time, everywhere I go—every single place I go—if I sing a song about love, about family, about kindness—simple human kindness—or if I sing a song about hope—and not Hallmark card hope but the kind of hope where you wake up in the morning and you get up and really do try to make the world a better place—then my song is immediately recognizable in any community where I’m singing all around this world.

While Organ Recitals have their place, perhaps there are ideas in this column that will help you change the program in your circle.

We all can start singing a wider range of tunes.