Fond Farewell - Harry Morgan (1915-2011)

Emmy Award winning actor, Harry Morgan has died from complications with pneumonia. Although his career spanned 60 years, over 100 movies, and included radio shows, Harry was best known for his roles on the television series "M*A*S*H" and "Dragnet."

In the video below, Harry discusses the filming the final episode of M*A*S*H.

Fond Farewell - James Van Doren (1939-2011)

James Van Doren, designer of the popular skateboard shoe company, Vans, died from cancer on October 12. In 1966, James started the Van Doren Rubber Company in Anaheim, California which made rubber-soled canvas shoes. James ran the company from 1976 to 1984 and helped to innovate the special clingy sole that made the shoe popular with the skateboard culture. The popularity of the shoe was furthered by the film "Fast Times at Ridgemont High". In the film, Jeff Spicoli, the main character, a wise-cracking, slacker, wears checkerboard Vans slip-ons. James Van Doren was 72.

Fond Farewell - Heavy D (1967 - 2011)

Jamaican-born Hip-Hop artist, Heavy D, who called himself the "overweight lover", has died due to respiratory problems. Although Heavy D was one of the top rap stars during the 1980's, with 3 platinum records in the US, his career spanned 25 years in rap, record producing, acting and singing. He worked with both Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson, and sang the theme songs for the television shows "In Living Color" and "MADtv." Heavy D was only 44 years old.

Fond Farewell - Joe Frazier (1944-2011)

American Boxing legend Joe Frazier has died from liver cancer. "Smokin' Joe" won 32 out of 37 fights during his boxing career, 27 of which were Knock Outs. In 1996, he wrote an autobiography called "Smokin' Joe: The Autobiography of a Heavyweight Champion of the World, Smokin' Joe Frazier". In recent years until 2009, Mr. Frazier owned a boxing gym where he trained young boxers. Former rival, Muhummad Ali upon hearing of his death said - "The world has lost a great champion. I will always remember Joe with respect and admiration."

Fond Farewell - Andy Rooney (1919-2011)

New York native, Andy Rooney has died at age 92. Mr. Rooney's 62-year-long career spanned roles as a reporter, writer, and producer. Andy Rooney never shied away from sharing his heart spoken opinions on controversial topics and he never pulled a punch. He even received three Emmy Awards for his commentaries. His clarity of vision was the mainstay of his 33-year-long career on the popular news series, "60 Minutes." He received a Lifetime Achievement award in 2003.

Below, Andy Rooney speaks on modern art. He has proven to us that he has earned the right to his confidence and bravado. Andy Rooney died Friday night at New York hospital after complications from minor surgery.

Fond Farewell - Steve Jobs (1955-2011)

Steve Jobs, former CEO, chairman, and co-founder of Apple Inc. has died. He fought pancreatic cancer in the mid 2000's and received a liver transplant in 2009. Steve Jobs helped found Apple computers in the late 1970s and served on the board of the Walt Disney Company. Before Disney acquired Pixar, he owned 50.1% of the animation studio. He resigned from Apple on August 24, 2011.

Apple's statement upon his death was: "We are deeply saddened to announce that Steve Jobs passed away today. Steve's brilliance, passion and energy were the source of countless innovations that enrich and improve all of our lives. The world is immeasurably better because of Steve. His greatest love was for his wife, Laurene, and his family. Our hearts go out to them and to all who were touched by his extraordinary gifts."

Books: Jeannie Out of the Bottle by Barbara Eden


If you remember Barbara Eden and "I Dream of Jeannie" this is a good read. Barbara Eden shares her story of how she began in show business, and how she landed her role on "I Dream of Jeannie." She discusses her career as she has grown older, some interactions with other stars, as well as her relationships/marriages. She also covers some very difficult topics - losing a child to drug abuse, losing a baby in the womb (stillborn), and surviving an abusive relationship.

Throughout the book, Ms. Eden recalls her mother's words of encouragement to her: "Rise above it Barbara Jean" and you can't help but realize that she has taken those words to heart. Her hard work and strength despite some very difficult tragedies is both empowering and encouraging.

Books: Transition by Chaz Bono

Chaz Bono's book is an honest, open glimpse of what life is like when
a person lives with gender identity issues. Chaz spends most of his life in a difficult limbo, before making a very brave decision to transition from Female-to-Male.

The challenges that arise from this life-changing decision are major. Chaz fears rejection by loved ones, losing his romantic relationship, and additional complications that being in the spotlight create. Chaz faces the most difficulty in his relationship with his mother, Cher, as one might imagine any person changing genders would likely face the most judgement from their parents. However, Chaz's lessons shared are worthwhile to anyone questioning gender reassignment or simply questioning what transgender means.

There is clarity, wisdom and strength that comes with Chaz's decison to transition. He makes important realizations including, "I had to start making choices in my life that were based on me, my needs, my desires..." and "It wasn't my job to make them okay; they had to make themselves okay with me."

Chaz also finds that life after transitioning is easier and a bit more comfortable in many ways. Chaz closes the book with a very positive and encouraging message "If you're letting fear stop you from transitioning, or from doing something else that you've always wanted or needed to do, then don't. Fears are not facts. With a little time and effort, they can be
overcome, worked through, and conquered."

The message in Chaz's book is pure and simple - be true to yourself.



Bono, C. (2011). "Transition: The Story of How I Became a Man."
Dutton, New York, NY.

Who is Walter Karabian?

I've been using rescued potholder for about a year. I retrieved it from my grandparents' kitchen when they moved into assisted living. My mother, who believes in keeping only new things, had already tossed out all the cast iron frying pans and skillets before my arrival. But, I was able to salvage two old wooden rolling pins, miscellaneous utensils and some potholders (like this one).

Today, as I was removing the lid to a pot of boiling beans, I became curious about the printing on this particular potholder as I set it down print-side up.

Who is Walter Karabian?

From a Google search, I found Mr. Karabian, listed on USC's History Alumni page. Walter Karabian was a California State Assemblyman from between 1966 and 1975 and is now a practicing lawyer in Los Angeles, CA at Karms & Karabian.

Obviously this potholder was a campaign giveaway during his 1960's election, and it was a clever choice, considering my family kept and used it in their kitchen ever since. Funny how one piece of bric-a-brac uncovered a small slice of California's history for me.

I continually implore my father to record stories about the mementos he has packed away in miscellaneous boxes in the garage. So much history exists within our elders that won't be accessible when they are are no longer with us. We aren't always lucky enough to have something printed on each item. I look forward to asking my grandfather his what he thought of Mr. Karabian's campaign and why he saved his potholder.
So if there is anything to take away from this clever little potholder, it's a reminder to record our stories today.

Ref:
http://dornsife.usc.edu/hist/alumni/

The Golden Age of Sex

Erica Jong’s notes how speaking about sex and seniors seems to be a taboo in mainstream media. She says, “You won’t find many movies or TV shows about 70-year-olds falling in love, though they may be doing it in real life.”


So why are younger generations surprised that older adults want to have sex?

Not My Parents
My mother, a registered RN for 25 years, refuses to accept that her parents, my grandparents, still want to have a sexual relationship even though they are in assisted living.

When my grandfather asked the nurse in their facility to help him get a prescription for Viagra, she was surprised by his request. She called my mom, to ask if my grandparents were still "sexually active", my mom emphatically denied they were and said my grandfather was crazy and to just forget about his request.

I was appalled. Having just completed the book Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Catwhich discussed sex after dementia and how patients with dementia can change to become more sexually demanding, I sent her a copy of the book, hoping she would get the idea, from a geriatrician with expertise.

After she finished the book I asked her about it. She conveniently ignored (or 'blocked out' as she put it) the story about the couple and the change in sex life after dementia. She said she didn't want to think of her parents that way.

I encouraged her to allow my grandfather's request to fill the prescription. I tried to reason with her that even though my grandmother was always an innocent Golden Girls "Rose Nyland" type before dementia, perhaps she is now more of a "Blanche Deveraux". She had a laugh over it, but it wasn’t enough to sway her. My thought is that sex and seniors is a difficult topic when the seniors in question happen to be your own parents.

Grandma's Boyfriend
My husband's grandmother had an intimate relationship with a wheelchair-bound man at her assisted living home. When she found out the man was actually seeing many women in the facility at the same time, she was very upset by it. She withdrew from the relationship and hid from her neighbors for a couple months. The pain in learning her boyfriend had many girlfriends was compounded by the fact that she seemed to be the only one who didn't know it. His other girlfriends even teased her about it.

Although she wanted to break up with him because she wanted a monogamous relationship, she decided not to. She figured it was worth more to her to keep the relationship. Her boyfriend died last month after a relationship that lasted several years, and although she conducted his funeral, she never did tell his family about their intimate relationship. She did however confide to us that while she was glad to have known him, she won't be doing that again.

New Books
What is wonderful is to see books like Joan Price’s, “Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud About Senior Sex” bringing to light the topic of ageless sexuality in light of the physical changes that occur with aging. In the book, she not only includes readers' stories, but also information from 45 sex experts, doctors and health professionals.

New Risks: HIV/AIDS
An additional consideration for seniors having sex is the increasing number of HIV and Aids cases occurring. These generations were not raised with all the safe sex education and marketing that the younger generations take for granted. A recent article says that by 2015 the majority of HIV/Aids patients will be 50 years of age and older. The new health focus will be to help seniors protect themselves from contracting the virus and from passing on the virus. It will be important to get seniors tested for HIV with quick, discreet home test kits to hopefully stop the spread of the disease, to provide better distribution of information to older adults about safer sex, and to better advertise senior prophylactics alongside products already aimed at active seniors, like Viagra.



References:
http://www.newjerseynewsroom.com/healthquest/sex-and-seniors-get-erica-jongs-attention
http://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/20110806/LIFESTYLE/110809620?Title=-8216-Senior-sexpert-8217-shatters-a-sexual-taboo&tc=ar

Memorial Art Therapy

Art and its Usefulness as Therapy

Art is a form of communication, traditionally a visual language or assemblage of marks, sounds, ideas or feelings, which may not be communicable as interestingly, or provocatively in written form. Art therapy is a branch of art focused on an individual’s subjective, introspective experience of creating the art. The soothing and cathartic experience for the maker of the art and its lack of expectations make it an accessible and sought after form of therapy for those seeking emotional release from a grief experience.

Art therapy assists the bereaved to gain insight about themselves through the making of art. The art therapist conducts not to critique the art produced, but to evaluate and support survivors’ needs to come to terms with an emotional trauma that is otherwise too painful to investigate through other forms of therapy. The art provides a space of projection, a filter for comfortable self-examination that can be enjoyable and approachable for all participants.

Although we all share a human experience, because of culture, social stratification, the individuality of experience requires the establishment of a baseline from which to evaluate emotional wellness, world constructs, attitudes and outlook. Art media serves as a tool of experiential control for therapy. Additionally, symbols reveal associations and metaphors. Under the guidance of an art therapy counselor, the bereaved can use various media to express feelings related to their grief that would otherwise be too difficult to confront in a safe and or approachable manner. The art allows them to separate the event and or feelings from themselves to gain insight and perspective.

Working with Bereaved Couples

“Change creates loss and grief is how we react.” When one person in the relationship is ready to move on but the other is not, one person can crush the other’s self-esteem or prevent the grieving person from working through their grief at a healthy pace. Unreasonable expectations can lead to animosity and negative or destructive behavior. Working with couples to achieve understanding is of utmost importance because an unhealthy recovery from bereavement can lead to the disintegration of the relationship. Inadequate social or psychic support in events such as SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), conflicted feelings after a suicide, or ambiguous unresolved losses like a kidnapping or runaway, often manifest in difficulties in sustaining the relationship. These types of loss are especially traumatic on relationships due to a lack of coping skills. Results from these losses may be low self-esteem, depression, questioning of one’s own faith, sleep disorders, poor impulse control, drug abuse, and other types of chronic emotional pain.

According to Rogers, “Grief is inherent in living – a part of our human experience. It does not need to be ‘fixed,’ ‘treated,’ or ignored. Grief needs to be lived as a normal emotional response to loss. It will be unique to each of us and there is no ‘normal’ timetable to ‘complete’ the process. Emotional trauma can lead to unhealthy coping behaviors that further put strain on relationships. Signs that a loss is not fully being resolved are mummification of the deceased’s room, or intense psychological responses to the deceased’s name coming up in conversation. When a partner’s mourning process is disregarded by the other partner, their family, and or friends, the misunderstanding leads to isolation, and intense psychological pain.

According to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief theory, grievers heal at different rates, passing through the stages of grief inconsistently. Each person will process grief differently and this can lead to problems in communication, resulting in negative interactions. For example, one spouse may be in denial of a loss and unwilling to accept the truth, while bargaining with God to bring back a lost loved one. The other spouse who has accepted the loss may have fallen into a depression. Consequentially, neither is able to meet on the same level with the loss and their inner world is threatened, with feelings of helplessness and isolation. This can sometimes lead to self-destructive behavior or betrayal, with the added risk of the relationship ending.

Sometimes a spouse can be a reminder of a traumatic event or loss. He or she may physically look a lot like the lost love one or he or she may have broke a sacred confidence that will never be regained. Bereavement can also be tied to an addiction, incarceration, domestic abuse, gambling, infidelity, etc. One may not bear to see, hear or be reminded of them without flashing back to the distress. In such cases, if the relationship is to survive, couples must find a new normalcy of living and establish a mutual respect and understanding of each other’s grief surrounding the loss event.

Couples can share unresolved anger and guilt through art making. Art allows survivors to objectify pain and healing from their bereavement through discussion and symbolism. Art allows the bereaved to express issues that may never have been addressed. Therefore, the survivor recovers because the making of art gives power to the artist. The introspective nature of the art necessitates nonjudgmental discussions in a safe, and supportive environment. Although the loss event may always be lying silently under the surface, relationships can emerge stronger when grief issues are transcended.

Group Dynamics

Bereavement groups bring trauma survivors of diverse personalities together in a dynamic setting of openness and self-expression. However, to maintain a healthy healing environment for group members, art therapists must manage the various strengths and weaknesses to provide effective therapy sessions. Therapists must be cautious about dysfunctional personalities to prevent them from derailing activities and must also place a priority on keeping the calm, therapeutic atmosphere necessary for effective grief work to be accomplished. Effective therapy groups collaborate well together and support one another to achieve their individual and collective emotional growth and wellbeing.

The bereavement coordinator may not have much flexibility as to who is a part of the group. Group members will often be of varying levels of maturity in their grieving process and personalities may clash due to the dynamic material engaged in the therapy work. Thus “in the various weekly sessions with each new expressive art there may be discussion on reconstruction of meaning.” The individual personalities within the group can add to facilitating or impeding growth. One goal as an art therapy group facilitator is to recognize group members’ emotional states and personal limitations, which reactions are normal or abnormal, and how to guide group activities towards promoting growth, personal wellbeing, and a supportive environment that facilitates grief work being undertaken.
In discussing group dynamics, Rogers (2007) discusses different personality archetypes encountered in the bereavement group setting including:

• The Advice giver – Use of domineering language
• The Self Righteous Faith Moralizer – Use of guilt or supernatural unknown to manipulate behaviors.
• The Talker – A self-absorbed person who monopolizes the group’s time seeking approval.
• The Challenger – A person who looks for fault with everything.
• The Small Talk – A person who uses chitchat to avoid uncomfortable topics.
• Speaker of the group - An overpowering personality speaking out of turn and thereby taking over the group.

The therapist’s understanding of these common personality manifestations is vital to plan each session to avoid dangerous situations. As Rogers points out, “as family, friends, and caregivers, the only gift we have to offer those who are grieving is the quality of our attention.” So an art therapist must manage the personalities of their groups as well as facilitate effective therapy. “Combining the support of the group and the use of physical and creative activities offer the grievers what they need most: acceptance and nonjudgmental listening.”

As Rogers points out, “the final session is Ritual, which is designed to bring the course together and allow healing through creative expression and ritual.” A grief group session may be closed out with the making of art and or a review of the art created. This art may be related to the discussions of the day, and can be an enjoyable conclusion to each session that group members will look forward to. The repetition of the activity also allows members to collect their thoughts and investigate feelings and or ideas in a group setting and nonjudgmental collective manner.


Ref:

Rogers, E. J. (2007). The Art of Grief: The Use of Expressive Arts in a Grief Support
Group. New York, NY: Taylor & Frances Group, LLC.
Kubler-Ross, E. (1969). On Death and Dying. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster


Books: Making Rounds with Oscar by David Dosa, M.D.

In Making Rounds with Oscar, geriatrician Dr. David Dosa focuses on the nuances of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Of Dr. Dosa's patient stories, I found most intriguing the story of a woman with dementia named Ruth Rubenstein and her doting husband, Frank Rubenstein. I have focused on the details of their relationship as chronicled by Dr. Dosa, as it clearly illustrates how dementia affects relationships from diagnosis through decline.

Diagnosis
“I had to look into the eyes of the eighty-year-old woman I had just examined and ruin her life.” Dr. Dosa is examining Mrs. Rubenstein to determine if she has dementia. Couples like Ruth Rubenstein and her husband Frank have a symbiotic relationship whereby one can deflect the questions to the other. So when asked about her favorite restaurant, Ruth does just this – she has her husband answer the question. Dr. Dosa is not deterred by this attempt at covering up her memory loss, and moves on to asking her next to draw a clock from memory. Ruth does this after some coaxing. However, when asked to place the hands at 2:45, she puts the little hand at the two and the minute hand half way between the 4 and the 5.

Next Dr. Dosa asks her how many four legged animals she can list in one minute. Ruth lists only 6 and cat was listed twice. When asked to spell the word ‘world,’ Ruth is able to do so quickly and accurately but she cannot spell it backwards, and gets only two of the letters in place when she tries.

Privately, Dr. Dosa asks her husband more specific questions including if she has done anything dangerous in her everyday living, like leaving the bath running, leaving the stove on, having car accidents or fender benders, or if any other changes in her behavior have occurred. This particular section reminded me of a good friend whose mother had consistently been hitting the curbs and sometimes parked cars at her assisted living facility. My friend had the hardest time convincing her mother to give up driving. Independence is hard to part with, but the dangerous facts spoke for themselves. My friend finally scheduled a meeting with her mother’s doctor, so together she and the doctor could address her health issues in relation to her ability to drive.

Aging and Memory
During Dr. Dosa’s examination of Ruth she tries to insists her memory loss is simply because she is old, but memory does not decline due to simple aging. Here, Dr. Dosa touches on the fact that “age really has nothing to do with memory, and problems with memory are never normal aging.” In fact, many problems like arthritis, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, adult-onset diabetes, and some cancers are contributed with aging, simply because they usually occur in people’s senior or elder years. Interestingly, these are not strict aging related health issues, but rather the effects of years of build-up in the body, allowing the problems to surface in later life. For instance, if one has smoked for 50 years of their life, it makes sense that the damage would in time catch up producing perhaps emphysema or lung cancer in one’s 60’s or 70’s. In fact, my grandmother who began smoking at age 16 did not get emphysema until she was in her early to mid 70’s.

Decline Begins
Dr. Dosa chronicles the decline of Ruth’s mental health via dementia. First Ruth’s memory impairs her social graces and embarrassed by her memory loss, she withdraws from her friends. The withdrawal causes a depression, which is then treated by medication. Next Ruth becomes unable to complete household chores, meals are frequently burnt, simple recipes become too difficult to manage, and her husband Frank must resort to hiring a maid and ordering meals out.

Romance Flourishes
What is interesting is that despite this decline, the Rubenstein’s relationship remains loving and dementia even spices up their love life. Dr. Dosa said, “One day…Frank pulled me aside…like a young teen sheepishly buying condoms for the first time, he asked me if I had any samples for something that might help his impotence." Frank was having trouble meeting his wife’s sexual demands, which Dr. Dosa explains is not unusual for married couples when one has dementia.

Caregiving Becomes Too Difficult
However, as Ruth’s mental decline gets worse, it becomes apparent to Dr. Dosa that Frank can no longer care for her. Frank appears unwashed, disheveled and exhausted. Although Frank takes offense at Dr. Dosa’s suggestion that he put his wife in a skilled nursing facility, he takes the suggestion to heart and hires an in-home caregiver.

Health Declines
Not long after, Ruth contracts pneumonia and is hospitalized. Her memory impairment makes the hospital stay difficult. She wanders about in the middle of the night, gets “tangled in her IV tubing” and falls “awkwardly to the floor.” The fall leaves her with a broken hip requiring surgery. The surgery leaves Ruth with more health issues. She “suffered a pulmonary embolus and became less stable.” When her breathing becomes difficult, they intubate her. Her health does eventually improve but it leaves her too weak to walk and her husband Frank must consent to place her in the skilled nursing facility.

Appetite Declines
In the skilled nursing facility, Ruth stops eating and loses 10 pounds. Her husband insists that she is seen by a gastroenterologist, and refuses to consider hospice. She again contracts pneumonia and returns to the hospital. During this stay she is given strong medications to calm her. Eventually a one-to-one aide is then assigned to keep her from getting up from the bed and falling during the night.

She returns from the hospital, but is too confused to eat and refuses to do so. Intravenous fluids are required to sustain her. She experiences a confused delirium and agitation from hospitalization and refuses to eat. Her husband Frank insists that she must eat, and requests a feeding tube. However, Dr. Dosa kindly reminds him “When your wife was still able to speak her mind she told me she didn’t want a feeding tube to help her with her nutrition. Shouldn’t we honor her wishes?” Frank agrees with Dr. Dosa to honor his wife’s wishes, but begins to cry saying, “Doctor, I’m not ready for her to go.”.

Misconceptions About Feeding Tubes
Here, Dr. Dosa explains the misconceptions with feeding tubes and how they are the point of contention with most families. Most people believe that the feeding tubes prolong life, but Dr. Dosa points out that there is “no place for feeding tubes in terminal dementia. Objectively they have never been shown to increase a person’s length of life or reduce the number of episodes of pneumonia. Feeding tubes are not without their side effects.” Although people believe that not feeding a patient is “cruel and unusual punishment”, Dr. Dosa points out that “loss of weight at the end of life is a natural by product of the body shutting down as it prepares itself for death. People at this stage do not perceive hunger or thirst the way someone who is healthy” does.

Health, Love & Appetite Appear to Return
Some days later, Ruth’s delirium improves and she starts eating again. She and Frank are seen walking down the hallway holding hands. When their anniversary date comes up, Frank asks for privacy so he can be alone with Ruth. Dr. Dosa notes that “requests for privacy between patients and spouses are not uncommon…they’re a married couple. Just because she lives here doesn’t mean that they don’t have needs.” Interestingly, what Dr. Dosa finds out from the head nurse is that another male patient has been spending a great deal of time in Ruth’s room and that Ruth likes his attention.

Spouse Forgotten
Within a few minutes of husband Frank’s arrival, Ruth screams and rushes out of her room. “The look on her face was one of pure terror and she ran past us without stopping.” Her husband Frank calls Dr. Dosa into the room and explains their relationship and what just occurred.

Frank and Ruth had met at a concentration camp in 1943. They spent nine months together until they were sent away to different camps. Before the separation they agreed that if they survived, they would look for each other to meet at a church courtyard in Frank’s hometown. That date they met up was 63 years ago that day; this was the anniversary Frank had come to celebrate, but instead of a celebration he was met with a shock. “’For the first time since that day, Ruth does not know who I am.’” When he bent to kiss her forehead, he said “’in her eyes all I could see was terror…I was a stranger to her. She just started screaming…I put my hand up to comfort her and she slapped me in the face. Then she got up and ran out of the room.”

Existential Death

Frank then said, “Doctor, in my mind my wife died today…please just make whatever is left of her [life] comfortable and don’t let her suffer anymore.”

Somatic Death

Frank never returned to the nursing facility after this day, and within a few weeks, he died of a heart attack. Ruth outlived him by just a couple of months, and without any children, “her lawyer was the closest thing she had to next of kin.”

Although Dr. Dosa’s chronicle of the Rubenstein’s relationship is not met with a happy ending, it is an honest portrayal of how dementia takes its toll on patients and their families.

Dosa, D. (2010) Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat. New York: Hyperion

Happy 100th Birthday Lucy!

Today Lucille Ball would have turned 100 years old. It's hard to believe she's been gone over 22 years, having died at age 77 in 1989. Lucy still seems very much 'with' us. She has remained with us throughout the years due to the success and syndication of her and husband Desi Arnaz's television series 'I Love Lucy' which originally ran from the fall of 1951 to Spring of 1957.

I grew up watching 'I Love Lucy' in re-runs, and later on purchasing the entire series on DVD. I've memorized most (if not all) of the dialogue and often (almost daily) refer to different portions of episode story lines when reflecting on things that happen in my own life. I believe the success of 'I Love Lucy' was not only due to the extraordinary talents of Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Vivian Vance and William Frawley, or to the brilliant foresight of Desi Arnaz to film the episodes with 3 cameras simultaneously on durable 35mm film, but to the quality of the show to accurately depict American life.

Although the show was in actuality fictional, many of the story lines were simply an exaggeration of real life. They poked fun at the ups and downs of life in America. I've often wished I'd been alive during the run of 'I Love Lucy.' The 1950's era society of 'I Love Lucy' detracts nothing from the messages we see in the show. Society is still society, and people in it still contend with all the ups and downs portrayed so many years ago in the series, making 'I Love Lucy' a timeless piece of work. It remains the longest-running show to continually air in the Los Angeles area, for over 50 years after it ended. Thus, we can only expect that Lucille Ball 'Lucy' will continue to 'live' on through this show for many years to come.

Books: If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won't) by Betty White

In If You Ask Me, Ms. White explores her a variety of life experiences and favorite stories. Sections of interest specifically exploring aging and health were the sections on “Growing Older,” “Health,” “Loss,” and the last chapter titled, “I’m Eighty-Nine?”

In “Growing Older,” Ms. White opens with the idea that “if one is lucky enough to be blessed with good health, growing older shouldn’t be something to complain about. It’s not a surprise, we knew it was coming – make the most of it.” She goes on to say, “So you may, not be as fast on your feet, and the image in the mirror may be a little disappointing but if you are still functioning and not in pain, gratitude should be the name of the game.”

In “Health,” Ms. White discusses maintaining her weight: “I make it a point to never let my weight vary more than five pounds in either direction.” About vision she says, “I wear glasses to read or to drive.” For her exercise regimen, she has had the luxury of having “a two-story house and a bad memory, so all those trips up and down the stairs take care of my exercise.” Ms. White also keeps herself busy with crossword puzzles, which she subscribes to monthly. She refers to this as her “mental gymnastics.” She attributes her good health in avoiding sickness and colds to her daily vitamin C dose. She attributes her endless energy to her father, who was also very energetic and reflects on how hearing problems isolated her father in later life. “My father never enjoyed parties and avoided them whenever possible. He always said he couldn’t hear anybody in a crowd.”

In “Loss”, Ms. White says, “I think the toughest thing about loss, and the hardest challenge is the isolation you feel in its aftermath. You spent so much time sharing your life with someone, talking through issues, even disagreeing about things, and all of a sudden there’s a hole. There’s nobody there and you think, Well, who’s in charge? My God it’s me. I have to make the decisions. I can’t share the decisions any longer. And that’s tough because you don’t fully trust your own judgment.” The loss of Ms. White’s husband, Allen Ludden, left her compassionate and willing to reach out to others experiencing the loss of a partner. With regard to fan mail, she answers personally on just a few topics. “There are a few categories…to which I do respond, those who have just lost a life partner and need to share their pain with someone who has been through it.”

In her last section, “I’m Eighty-Nine?”, she says “One thing they don’t tell you about growing old – you don’t feel old, you just feel like yourself.” She goes on to say, “But I don’t get depressed as the number climbs. Perhaps because I don’t fear death. To some it is such a bete noire that it ruins some of the good time they have left.”


White, B. (2011) If You Ask Me: (And of Course You Won’t). New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

Books: Not Becoming My Mother by Ruth Reichl

In Not Becoming My Mother, Ms. Reichl explores her mother’s life history as she reads through a box of her mother’s old letters and diaries. Her journey through the box uncovers important life lessons that her mother strove to share with her.

Ms. Reichl finds that her mother, Miriam, grew up in an era that was less open to women to pursuing careers other than care of the family and household. One of the first letters she finds addressed to her mother, from her grandfather tells Miriam, “She was smart but it did not really matter. She was handicapped because she was not pretty. And she would be a failure if she never married.” Miriam was discouraged by her parents to study medicine and instead was encouraged to and received a degree in music.

After receiving her music degree Miriam instead opened a bookstore. “It was a bold move for the time. The day the shop opened Miriam’s mother’s good friend…sent a note of encouragement and congratulations: ‘I admire the intelligence and courage that you are manifesting in the venture. You are showing what girls can do in this, our age.’”

Her bookstore allowed her to correspond “with some of the most interesting minds of her day. Authors thanked her for critiques of their books.” However, despite Miriam’s independent success and intellectual achievements, her parent’s wished only marriage for her. “’How we pray for you to meet Him;' “’Happy New Year and may you find the Mr. Right. It is our one prayer and hope and we think of it every moment’; ‘There was a new moon last night, and I prayed and prayed for Him. I dream that you will find a mate.’”

In time, Miriam does marry, and “she described the marriage as ‘tempestuously unhappy,’ but women of that time did not walk out merely because they were miserable. And they certainly did not walk out when there were children.”

Miriam remarries around World War II to Ms. Reichl’s father. “The war years were a good time for strong women. Dad was to old to be called up, so he moved into her small apartment…My parents pooled their resources, found an investor and created a small publishing company to produce handwritten literary books.” Fortunately, it is in this second marriage that Miriam has found someone who encourages her intellectual pursuits and entrepreneurial efforts. Together the couple produced “a twelve–volume series called ‘The Homemaker’s Encyclopedia.’”

When they sold their publishing company, Ms. Reichl’s father encouraged Miriam to find other work “but after the war jobs for women were not easy to come by. In fact, women who worked were considered unpatriotic. ‘You women and girls go home, back to being housewives as you promised to do’, trumpeted an army general in a widely televised speech in the background you can hear the men cheering wildly.” “All of those smart, competent women sat at home, twiddling their thumbs and telling their daughters how much they had enjoyed working during the war.”

Miriam “took on volunteer jobs…doing stints at the Red Cross, the Girl Scouts, UNICEF, the Silvermine Guild of Artists, the Metropolitan Museum and the New York Public Library.” Her mother was “still in search of a meaningful career.”

Through the stories of her close friends’ experiences, Ms. Reichl’s mother worked to express thoughts on marriage and the importance of career work to her daughter. One of friends, Flora took over her husband’s business upon his untimely death, and made the company more successful than it was when he ran it. “’The business is four times the size it was when Lou [her husband] was alive. The funny thing is that if Lou hadn’t passed away she would have just been another bored housewife.’” Another friend, Claudia lost her drive to live after her husband died in an accident. In time however, Claudia bounced back, returned to her earlier career, and became “very busy, traveling endlessly around the world.” Her mother said, “’Claudia has a career. She does exactly what she wants and answers to no one but herself’…That was all she said. It was enough.”

In late life and after the death of Ms. Reichl’s father, Miriam “filled her life with all the things that she had always wanted – art, music, people – and freed herself from everything that did not make her happy…For the happiest years of her life, Mom relied almost entirely on herself.”

In the last chapter, “Gifts”, Ms. Reichl sums up the important lessons her mother taught her. “In her own oblique way Mom passed on all the knowledge she had gleaned…Work was her most basic lesson: Using herself as an example, she made me see that working is as necessary as breathing. Mom’s strongest belief was that ‘it is what we are made for’ and she was convinced that those who are not useful can never be satisfied. She tried to make me see that a job was not enough; she wanted me to have the meaningful career that she herself had yearned for.” On marriage her mother taught her “it works only when it is based on mutual respect between to people who encourage each other to live up to the best in themselves.” Ms. Reichl closes with “I began to understand that in the end you are the only one who can make yourself happy. More important, Mom showed me that it is never too late to find out how to do it.”

Reichl, R. (2009) Not Becoming My Mother: And Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way. New York: The Penguin Press.

Domestic Violence & Children

Children have a high propensity to misinterpret situations, and need their perceptions about events validated. Different kinds of events call for different kinds of intervention and the insidious effects of chronic domestic violence have impact on the development and mental health of children exposed to abuse. We reviewed some of the methods for addressing the behavior during/ post abuse and consider here some of the generalities about the many conflicts that can arise in shared custody relationships.

According to Lundy Bancroft in his book, When Dad Hurts Mom, Helping Your Children Heal The Wounds of Witnessing Abuse, the deeper you delve into the child’s experience, the more you will be able to make them feel that you are holding them through their confusion and distress. Children experience domestic violence by seeing incidents happen or witnessing the after effects of an altercation, hearing the incidents take place, witnessing the impact on the survivor, and sensing the atmosphere of intimidation. But children’s interpretations and perceptions matter as much as their experiences. Children will often blame themselves for parental disputes and so it is important to learn what they understand about what had happened and to clarifying the feelings/meanings which they had assigned to events witnessed. Without exaggeration or over promising validate, reassure and clear up misconceptions. Most children hide their feelings, and as a result may exhibit abnormal side effects triggered by things that happen around them, confuse, or generate a strong emotional reaction. Researchers have found that a range of behavioral problems is common. Therefore encourage children to talk about their feelings and traumatic events explicitly to validate their sense of reality.

In fact, the emotional effects of witnessing domestic violence can be similar for children exposed to violence on a battlefield in that both groups endure loss, uprooting, and separation. But it may come as a surprise that the effects of domestic violence should be looked at as potentially more emotionally damaging to the survivor. Consider “symptoms of PTSD from crisis and domestic violence fall into 3 groups (Re-experiencing, Avoidance & Numbing; & Increased Arousal) here “Type 1 Traumas” are defined as responses to single, sudden, unexpected stressors and “Type II Traumas” long-standing, chronic stressors (e.g., chronic family violence). That “Type II traumas may result in secrecy and silence, (i.e. sexual abuse) Contrasts clearly with dramatic public events (i.e. disasters), Type II traumas.

Where children of war suffer along with adults collectively in an open setting, domestic violence survivors suffer privately and leading to stresses associated with disenfranchised grief. One can imagine the isolating effects embarrassment of sharing feelings may put on the survivor, and therefore recover take more time and additional therapy. “When much of what they heard and saw was remarkably similar to what the children of war heard and saw, these children were forced to endure their pain and sorrow in secrecy, silence, and isolation.” “Children Exposed to Domestic Violence” Helene Berman. Note, children who are able to “renew ties with at least one family member experienced fewer post-migration difficulties than those who lacked any family contact.” It reinforces that even though the separation of the abuser/survivor may be unavoidable for the adults involved, and even though the most dangerous time for the survivor is the period in which they are leaving the abuser, It would still very important for the children to maintain some semblance of the family unit. In allowing a child to maintain their relationship, we keep them feeling secure in their identity as apposed to separating children from an abuser can cause a fixation of thought, and that it is healthier for children caught in domestic violence situations to maintain contact and visitation (although forbidding communication with the survivor). Further, “Children of war typically experience “Cultural Bereavement” and subsequent identity problems as they strive to reconcile conflicting cultural values and beliefs” (Eisenbruck, 1988)

Sometimes an abuser may use visitations to undercut the survivors efforts, and attempt to create post-separation difficulties on the survivor. Survivors are encouraged not to speak badly about the abuser to their children. Researchers have found that the closer children feel to the abuser the more deeply hurt they are by their mistreatment. Here children may do an about-face and blame the survivor reproachfully asking them to forgive the abuser. Studies have also found that the closer children feel to the survivor, the better they do and that the better the children understand what is happening, the easier/healthier the situation can be. More work must be done to investigate the scope of broad effects domestic violence, and recognize the seriousness of the attention needed to access its effects on society.

Love After Dementia

In “Voices of Alzheimer’s” and the Caregiving.com article “Do We Need a POA for Love?” both cover the idea of love after dementia and the ethics of relationships outside of marriage when one spouse has dementia.

The article says “More and more family caregivers are sharing their stories of dating and falling in love with someone other than their spouse.” I found similar sentiments expressed in the book “Voices of Alzheimers.”

“Some of my wife’s friends were upset when I started seeing another woman after Julia went to the nursing home, but I was so damn lonely. I had missed going to concerts and parties for several years. I needed the social life, but it never goes very far. These new friendships don’t hold a candle to the wonderful relationship Julia and I had developed over so many years.” (Husband, p.66)

“There were many problems with my husband’s illness, but one of the biggest was one I couldn’t talk about – he lost interest in sex. I ended up having an affair that ruined several friendships and made me even lonelier. I am thankful I was not more self-destructive during this period.” (Wife, p.66)

“If I just had somebody of my own age group to talk to …I mean, I don’t think that you are violating any of your vows, having somebody you can talk to. I wouldn’t mind having another female, quite honestly, to talk to. Go out and have a beer together.” (Brad, Husband, p.65)

The article “Do We Need a POA for Love?” shares a link to a video about CBS News Correspondent Barry Petersen and his wife Jan who has advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease. He has since added a new love to his life, Mary Nell, and they together visit and befriend Jan in her residential facility. Mary Nell’s quote is interesting when she says, “The reality is I am a widow. The reality is that he is married to a woman who doesn’t remember him. And so we exist in our own universe of this very peculiar new American family.”

I thought of these dementia caregivers/spouses who are essentially pre-widowed. They have lost their spouses in mind due to dementia, though they remain living in body. They seem to be caught in this middle ground where life is in a holding pattern. They can’t move on and yet they can’t stay the same.

One person in the book says, “People around me are also now unsure of their role; when you have a disease you are supposed to either get better (then they can all cheer) or get progressively worse and die (and they can properly give you care and mourn). Everyone is poised for some type of action, and there is nothing to do for them; they are unsure of how to support this leaky boat which will eventually sink but for the moment is caught on a sandbar.” (JanMina, patient, p.47)

I don’t think it’s fair to impose preconceived ideas of relationships/marriage on caregiver spouses going through a slow death of a dementia stricken spouse. Their needs for love and companionship are important and vital to their health. These are individual ethical decisions that each spouse must make in their own situation. However, I felt that the author of the article brings up a very interesting point when it comes to the children of these marriages. She questions the idea of designating “advanced directives” if you will, to address the wishes of the spouse in a way that would put the family at ease.

“If the daughter knew that her mother would be okay with her father dating, then would this knowledge comfort her today? And, if the mother had expressed different wishes, well, then, would the husband have chosen a different course of action? Along those same lines: If the daughter knew her mother did not want her father to date and then her father did, would this have given the daughter the courage to speak up and discuss her concerns with her father?”

I found these ideas and ethical topics to be very thought provoking, difficult to weigh in on as they are so individual and impossible to pass judgment on as an outsider. All in all, the issues are important and worth considering.

Ref:

1. http://www.caregiving.com/2011/07/do-we-need-a-poa-for-love/
2. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/06/20/sunday/main6600364.shtml
3. Peterson, B. (2004) Voices of Alzheimer's: Courage, Humor, Hope and Love in the Face of Dementia.

Fond Farewell - Amy Winehouse (1983 - 2011)

British singer-songwriter, Amy Winehouse, best known for contralto vocals in R&B, soul and jazz styles has died at age 27. Ms. Winehouse won 5 Grammys for Best Pop Vocal Album, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, and Best New Artist in 2008. After her Grammy wins, her Grammy winning album 'Back to Black' rose to #2 on the charts.

The news of Ms. Winehouse's death hit fans hard, as it became Twitter's #1 trending topic, representing 10% of worldwide tweets (equating to about 20 million Twitter users.) Additionally, many celebrities that knew Ms. Winehouse shared their messages of grief and goodbyes over Twitter as well.

A private funeral for family and close friends will be held on July 26, 2011 in London, England.

Fond Farewell - Sherwood Schwartz (1916 - 2011)

TV Legend and Creator of "Gilligan's Island" and "The Brady Bunch", Sherwood Schwartz, has died at age 94. Although he set out to begin a career in biology, his writing for Bob Hope's radio show quickly changed his course toward comedy writing. He received an Emmy award in 1961 for the Red Skelton Show and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2008.

Fond Farewell - Betty Ford (1918 - 2011)

Former first lady, Betty Ford, has died at age 93. Mrs. Ford was a well known leader of the Women's Movement, an activist for the Equal Rights Amendment, a Pro-Choice supporter and raised awareness of breast cancer following her own mastectomy in 1974. In the 1970's she raised awareness of issues surrounding addiction when she bravely announced her own battle with alcoholism. She established the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, CA in 1982, for treatment of chemical dependency. In 1991 Mrs. Ford was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and in 1999 she received a Congressional Gold Medal.

Remembering Jim Morrison - 40 Years Later

Several hundred fans and former members of the band, The Doors, gathered this last Sunday, July 3, 2011 to remember lead singer, Jim Morrison, who died 40 years ago in 1971.

Although Jim Morrison was just 27 years old when he died, he fit a notable career into his short life as a successful musician, songwriter and poet, as well as a filmmaker and actor. Several of his books of poetry continue to remain available publication. The Doors records have sold over 35 million in the USA and over 100 million worldwide and in 1993, the band was inducted into the "Rock and Roll Hall of Fame."




Dementia: A Focus on the Good

Today was a good day. I had the privilege of spending 3 hours with my grandparents at their assisted living home in Southern California, after not seeing them since September of 2010.

I was happy to find their health and cognition was better than I expected. (I always imagine the worst as I live at a distance and phone calls are difficult due to hearing.) Although my grandmother (who has dementia) could not remember some things we brought up (her former job, my husband’s grandmother), she did remember me and told me how happy she was to see me. She even told me she loved me as she patted my arm. It was about 2.5 hours into my visit at that point, and came as a complete, but wonderful surprise.

This is what fascinates me about dementia and Alzheimer’s. I recently read a book about Oscar, the cat that seems able to predict death in a dementia ward of a skilled nursing facility. The geriatrician who wrote the book interviews families, and all the families commented on the selectivity of their loved ones’ memories. For many, feelings seem to be immune to the memory barrier of dementia. One particular family spoke of how when their mother and aunt ended up with dementia and were in the nursing home at the same time, they decided to place them in the same room because they’d always been close and lived together in the past. Although the sisters could not recall their own names, or each other's, somehow the feelings they’d had toward each other remained. Their rapport and connection was apparent even during the throws of dementia.

I often waiver between regrets, wishing I done more with my grandma while she was cognizant, wishing I’d listened more closely, recorded more stories, never been a rude and rotten teenager. I must live with all these regrets, but somehow today it felt that her dementia has bought me the forgiveness I was never able to allow myself. She can’t remember the bad; she just remembers the good. It’s a lesson to me. There are so many things I would be wiser to let go of.

I am grateful for what I have learned in how to deal with dementia. During my visit today, I didn’t correct my grandmother. When she said, “I don’t know”, I said, “That’s okay” or “It’s not important.” When she clapped her hands or drummed her open palm on the table, I made eye contact and smiled. I believe what I have learned of dealing with dementia allowed this visit to be one of the best visits I’ve had with my grandmother since dementia took hold.

Fond Farewell - Peter Falk (1927 - 2011)

Famed Actor and New York native, Peter Falk, has died at age 83 from cardiorespiratory arrest, caused by complications with pneumonia and Alzheimer's disease. Falk is best known for his 4-time Emmy award winning role as "Columbo" on the long running television series. His was also successful on the big screen and the stage. He received Oscar nominations for roles in both "Pocketful of Miracles" with Bette Davis in 1961 and "Murder, Inc." in 1960. He received a Tony Award in 1972 for "The Prisoner of Second Avenue" by Neil Simon.

A bit less known about Peter Falk was his great love for figure drawing. He supported local artists and started a private drawing club with some of the best artists in Los Angeles, California and became an accomplished artist himself.

Peter Falk Discusses his life, career and book in the video below:

Remembering Judy Garland: 1922 - 1969

On June 10, 2011, Judy Garland would have turned 89, if not for her early death at age 47 in 1969. Judy Garland packed a very full career in to her short life, active as a singer for 45 years of her life and acting for over 38 years. Judy was a legend of song, screen, stage and television. Although she acted for over 38 years of her life, one of her best remembered films was her starring role as Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz."

Judy Garland died of an accidental Seconal drug overdose on June 22, 1969 in London, England. Nearly 20,000 people came to her viewing at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel in New York, NY. At her funeral, the eulogy was given by actor, James Mason. She was laid to rest in a crypt at Ferncliff Cemetery, Hartsdale NY.

Video of Judy Garland's Funeral (below)


Remembering Rue McClanahan: 1934 - 2010

On June 3, 2010, Golden Girl Rue McClanahan passed away after a stroke and subsequent brain aneurysm. She was best known for her brilliant comedic work that earned her an emmy in 1987 on "The Golden Girls," where she played lusty Blanche Deveraux. In addition to the "The Golden Girls", Rue appeared in live theatre, in several films, and on several television shows including recurring roles on "Another World", "Maude", and "Mama's Family".

Remembering Rue (Video)

Fond Farewell - Dr. Jack Kevorkian

Dignity in Dying advocate, Dr. Jack Kevorkian, has died at age 83. Dr. Kevorkian fought for American freedom and rights at end-of-life. Although his 2008 congressional run in Michigan did not amount in a win, he did receive nearly 9,000 votes. Aside from his end-of-life rights activism, he was also a painter and jazz musician.

Dr. Kevorkian's Last Interview:




Books: Growing Up Again - Life, Loves, and Oh Yeah, Diabetes by Mary Tyler Moore

Mary Tyler Moore provides great insight into learning to live with Type 1 diabetes, including lifestyle moderation, the benefit of diabetic therapy dogs, risks associated with diabetic neuropathy and retinopathy, as well as family challenges that can arise between the newly diagnosed diabetic and loved ones not familiar with the disease.
Mary Tyler Moore’s approach to life with Type 1 diabetes incorporates a balance and sense of humor that is both refreshing and inspiring.

Remembering Dennis Hopper: 1936 - 2010

On May 29, 2011, it will one year since the passing of Dennis Hopper, a legendary American Film Actor and Director. His long career included many notable films including, "Easy Rider" (which he directed), "Apocalypse Now", "Hoosiers", "Rebel Without a Cause", "Giant" and "Blue Velvet".


Dennis Hopper died on May 29, 2010 from prostate cancer. His funeral was held June 3, 2010 at San Francisco de Asis Mission Church in Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico. He was buried in a traditional Native American burial style at Jesus Nazareno Cemetery, Ranchos de Taos, NM.

Remembering Dennis Hopper


Dennis Hopper's Funeral Day

Remembering Gary Coleman: 1968 - 2010

On May 28, 2010, a brain hemorrhage ended the short life of beloved actor Gary Coleman at age 42. Gary Coleman appeared on the long running NBC series "Diff'rent Strokes" during the 1970's and 1980's.  In 2003, he grabbed 12,488 votes when he ran in the California recall election to replace Gov. Gray Davis.

Sadly, although it is now one year since his death, no funeral or memorial have been held for Gary Coleman since his cremation on June 17 of 2010 per his wishes expressed in a 1999 will. Presently a legal battle is holding up release of his ashes while his former wife, former business associate and adoptive parents await the Utah District courts decision as to who the executor of his estate is.

Remembering Gary Coleman (Video)

Books: Cancer Schmancer by Fran Drescher

Ms. Drescher experiences classic symptoms of uterine cancer, though it goes undetected for over 2 years even after visits and examinations by 9 doctors. Fortunately, her vigilance paid off. The story of her plight is informative, encouraging and a good resource for women's health and wellness.

Fond Farewell - The Oprah Winfrey Show: 1984 - 2011

Today marked the end of an era for American television. After 25 years, Oprah Winfrey ended her long-running, successful talk show, "The Oprah Winfrey Show." Although the show began as more of a "tabloid" talk series,  she moved on to stories that touched the lives of more Americans by covering topics on health, relationships and self-improvement, just to name a few. She also interviewed celebrities on the charities they were involved with. The Oprah Winfrey Show remained the number one talk show in ratings since its debut in 1984.  Oprah Winfrey now plans to spend more time on her new television network, OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network).

Fond Farewell - Randy "Macho Man" Savage

American professional wrestler for World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and World Championship Wrestling (WCW), Randy "Macho Man" Savage, has died in a car crash in Seminole, Florida, at age 58. Early in his career, he played as a catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, and later as an outfielder for Cincinnati Reds and Chicago White Sox. Savage had a successful 23 year wrestling career, which ran from 1973 - 2005, during most of which, he was accompanied by Miss Elizabeth, his manager and later wife.

Remembering Fallen Officers During National Police Week

It's National Police Week (May 15 - 21). Started back in 1962 by President Kennedy, the week recognizes the service and sacrifice of U.S. law enforcement. Last year, about 160 police officers were killed in the line of duty throughout the U.S.

Below is a Candlelight Vigil in honor of fallen officers.

"How to Die in Oregon" Film Discussions & Interviews

Film "How to Die in Oregon." by Peter D. Richardson debuts on HBO on May 26.

In the video below, Filmmaker Peter D. Richardson talks about his new documentary
, “How to Die in Oregon.” (This video includes an interview with Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin.)

The below is audio from Director Peter Richardson leading Film discussion Panel Wednesday, May 11th at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland, Oregon where more than 700 people were in attendance.

"How to Die in Oregon" Screening by HBO

The HBO and Compassion & Choices Screening of Peter D. Richardson's Documentary "How to Die in Oregon" on May 11, 2011, drew a packed house at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland, Oregon. The film was followed by a panel discussion from those who appeared in the film and the director. If you haven't seen the film yet, you should. Please view the trailer below for more about the film.

Fond Farewell - Actress & 'Body Snatchers' Heroine, Dana Wynter

Actress, Dana Wynter has died at age 79. Although her film and television career spanned 4 decades, she is best known as the heroine in the original "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" film. Ms. Wynter died of congestive heart failure, May 5, 2011 in Ojai Valley, California.

Watch for Ms. Wynter in her most famous role, shown in parts of the video clip below.

Fond Farewell - Former Bolivian President, Lidia Gueiler Tejada

Former Bolivian President, Lidia Gueiler, has died at age 89. She was the only woman ever to have been Bolivia's president, in office between coups d'etats during 1979-80. Before her presidential term, she served 8 years in Bolivia's congress from 1956 until 1964.

Remembering Lena Horne: 1917 - 2010

On May 9, 2010, Ground breaking, singer and actress, Lena Horne, died due to heart failure. The New York native became one of the first black performers to sign a long-term contract in Hollywood and became an internationally famous singer. She was awarded 4 Grammy Awards, 1 Tony Award, an NAACP Image Award, and more.

Remembering Lena (Video)


Lena Horne's Funeral (Video)

History of The Early Pets

The Ancient Egyptians kept many animals as household pets, including cats, dogs, monkeys, gazelles, and birds. They trained dogs, hawks, and mongooses to hunt with them. Monkeys and cats are often depicted on the walls of tombs, seated beneath the chair of their owner. Scenes of hunting and pictures of favorite hounds are common motifs on tomb walls. These paintings often had magical properties, ensuring that these pets, could join their masters after death. Small faience and wooden models of dogs have also been found in tombs.

Pets were not only present as paintings or models. The mummified bodies of pets have also been found in tombs. The ancient Egyptians mummified reptiles and animals such as dogs, apes, bulls, rams, and even an occasional hippopotamus. A certain Hapymen, buried at Abydos, was so fond of his pet dog that it was mummified and wrapped in linen, and placed at the side of his feet in his coffin. In the Valley of the Kings, in tomb KV 50, a pet baboon and a dog were placed so that they glared at each other in preparation for battle. Two women, Isitemkheb D and Ankhshepenwepet had pet gazelles (or in the case of Isitemkheb D an ibex) buried with them. However, one of the most common animal mummies in Egypt was the cat.

The Ancient Egyptians made animal mummies for four main reasons:
  • Mummified food
  • Favorite pets (such as a gazelle)
  • Sacred animal mummies
  • Mummified animal offerings

Learn Continuous Chest Compression CPR

Developed at the University of Arizona's College of Medicine, Continuous Chest Compression CPR, is a hands-only CPR method that doubles the chance of surviving a heart attack. One of its additional benefits is that it does not require mouth-to-mouth contact.

Fond Farewell - Madelyn Pugh Davis Writer for 'I Love Lucy"


Madelyn Pugh Davis, one of the writers of "I Love Lucy," has died at age 90. She worked on comedy scripts for over 50 years with Bob Carroll Jr., including over 400 television programs and 500 radio shows. Together they were nominated for 3 Emmy Awards for their "I Love Lucy" writing. She also wrote for Lucille Ball's radio show "My Favorite Husband", "The Lucy Show", "Here's Lucy", "The Luclle Ball-Desi Arnaz Show" and "Live With Lucy."

Fond Farewell - Orrin Tucker, Bandleader


Orrin Tucker, the famous bandleader has died at age 100. One of his most famous songs was "Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny, Oh!" in 1939. He formed his band in 1933, in which played saxophone and sang the vocals until Wee Bonnie Baker started singing with them in 1938. Over his career, Orrin made over 70 records, 6 of which sold more than 1 million copies each.

Fond Farewell - Sidney Lumet, Director

Prolific New York director, producer & screen writer, Sidney Lumet, has died from lymphoma. In a successful career spanning 7 decades, he directed over 50 films. Some of his best known works include "Dog Day Afternoon," "12 Angry Men," "The Verdict," and "Network", all of which he received Academy Award nominations for. He was also awarded a Lifetime Achievement Academy Award in 2005.

Fond Farewell - Legendary Actress, Elizabeth Taylor

Legendary British-American actress, Elizabeth Taylor, has died from congestive heart failure. In a successful career spanning 7 decades, she received 3 Oscars, performing in such notable films as "Cleopatra", "Who's Afraid of Virgina Woolf", "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof", "Giant", and "The Taming of the Shrew." She was also founding national chairman for American Foundation for AIDS Research (amFAR). On March 24, she was buried at Forest Lawn in Glendale CA, in the same cemetery where friend Michael Jackson is interred.

Fond Farewell - Bombshell Actress, Jane Russell

American bombshell actress, Jane Russell, has died from respiratory difficulties. She is best known for her film work from the 1940's & 1950's, including "The Outlaw" and "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes." She also sang with the Kay Kyser Orchestra and was hailed for her singing and comedic talent. She also performed humanitarian works by campaigning for adoption and adopted children. Her public funeral was held March 12 at Pacific Christian Church in Santa Maria, CA.

Dementia is Identity Theft

Over the past few years, my grandmother has steadily declined into dementia. Although she is still with us in body, she is no longer with us mentally. The grief I feel over losing her began with those first episodes of her mental decline and continues to plague me in different ways as the disease takes hold in more destructive ways.


The loss of my grandmother began when she started to forget the little things. The woman who baked me a birthday cake every year from scratch, no longer even remembered to send a card, much less baked period. She could scarcely recall small things like where I was living at the time. (I’d moved a few times as her decline began.) When I would call, she’d often ask me to stop by for dinner even though she’d long before stopped cooking. This also illustrated the fact that she had forgotten the logistics of where we were in relation to each other. (I was in the Midwest, and she was on the west coast.)


A holiday visit later that year confirmed grandmother's dementia was progressing. She had begun to regress into a childlike state. She was unable to wait for the family to leave for a restaurant, but began taking cookies from a cookie jar. While the family chatted before heading out to a restaurant, she continued to interject “When are we going to eat?” When my mother arrived, she said to her, “You’re so fat.” When my mother poured glasses of wine, she asked for one even though she had not drank wine for over 20 years. (Once she got the glass of wine, she clearly did not want it, she just didn’t remember she didn’t drink it any longer.) When I returned an uneaten serving of chips into their original bag, she copied me and began returning her uneaten portion of chips back into the bag as well.


Just three months after that visit, when her health took a sharp downhill turn, she was no longer caring for herself as she once did. The woman who refused to leave the house before reapplying lipstick and some perfume, the woman who had her hair styled once a week and got manicures every other week, now had not only begun neglecting her appearance, but also stopped showering altogether. Together my mother and I had to help her to wash and dress herself. The woman who cared for mom, and then me, the woman who helped raise me when I was young, now required our care as the “adults”.


Around that same time, she had begun requiring the use of diapers during the night. She could no longer awaken in time to use the restroom in the bathroom at night. Even now as she is in a good senior care facility, she continues to say its too much trouble to shower. She also continues to refuse to have her hair styled or cut, although she did agree to let the manicurist paint her nails “Munsters” green (a color my grandmother chose). A conservative woman, I only ever saw her wear various shades of pink on her nails. I would have found it amusing if it weren’t so damn depressing.


When we went through my grandparent’s house to sort items out once she was moved to the senior care facility, I found that personal hygiene items I had been sending her as gifts over the last few years (perfumes, cosmetics, skin and hand care gift sets), sat either barely used, or completely unopened. It saddened me to see the items I knew she would have enjoyed in earlier years, the things I handpicked to gift her, weren’t even valuable enough to take with her when she left her home.


I grieve the loss of the opportunities I will never have again because my grandmother’s dementia has changed her from the functioning person she once was. I will never learn how to make her buttermilk pancakes from scratch nor her baked chicken or many of her Midwest styled recipes she knew by heart. I will never get to learn more about her family history. I will never again have the opportunity to shop with her to pick out things, from the most special (my wedding gown) to the least important (a bed comforter). Knowing these things will not happen again has led me to hold onto her old cookbooks and the last items we shopped together for, back when she was still herself.


I am angry with myself for not making the most of those opportunities when I had them. I’m angry for not learning how to cook the dishes she excelled at. I’m angry for not writing more family stories down, and for those I did record, for losing them. I am remorseful for the one time I refused to eat the birthday cake she baked me because I was being an obstinate teenager, refusing to cheat on my low-fat diet. I cannot change any of these things, and that saddens me greatly.


In many ways, the loss of opportunities is what saddens me most of all. My grandmother is still here, and could potentially have still contributed to sharing her knowledge and experience with me if she hadn’t had dementia. No one sees these things coming. We see the life expectancies lengthening, and devoid of any serious illness, we think our loved ones are going to be here for years to come. Perhaps this is denial. Nevertheless, with that mindset we never get to make the most of each and every moment. I wish I had.


These days, I fear visiting my grandmother for I am afraid of how much worse she will have become. On a visit in September last year, I was shocked to find she no longer knew who my husband was, even though she was my one and only matron of honor in my wedding just a few years earlier. (I had no bridesmaids or maids of honor, just her.) On my father’s visit a few months earlier, she was able to connect the fact that he looked like someone she'd known, but she didn’t realize it was indeed him. Although she did recognize me on my visit, I could not truly have a conversation with her because she says very little, smiles and every few minutes pats her hand on the table or taps fingers on the table. During our luncheon at her senior care home, she said she wasn’t hungry, then proceeded to take French fries off my plate. She ordered a slice of blueberry pie and when my husband’s apple pie arrived, she wanted that instead. Throughout our visit she continually asked who my husband was.


What I have found interesting in this experience of grief is how it continually keeps changing. Each time I adapt to one loss, I face an entirely new one. I have adapted and adjusted through the grief of accepting the littlest things lost (my forgotten birthday, her no longer cooking or shopping), to the grief of seeing her own care of herself and the ability to function decline. I’ve adapted to the grief of seeing her forget people in the family, to the grief of finally accepting that the opportunities I’ve lost with her are gone and will never reoccur. My grief continues to change and evolve as I see her dementia slowly taking hold in more destructive ways. I grieve the loss of her memory as it continues to fade away and I grieve the loss of my grandmother as the person she once was.