Windows-Live-Writer-Advice-from-the-experts_11BFC-happy_hour_thumbWhile caring for her mother with Alzheimer’s disease, my friend Andrea used to host “happy hour” every Wednesday night for friends and neighbors at her Westlake Village home.
Andrea’s mom, Fran, attended happy hour too. Fran shared her artwork with visitors and thrived on the interaction with others. Andrea began happy hour to give her mom the gift of socialization. What happened next was a bit of destiny.
Frequently during those weekly gatherings, after Fran had gone to the den to rest, topics of caregiving came up.
The group of us had rich conversations about the things we never thought we’d be doing for a loved one, the guilt associated with placing a loved one in a facility and the lessons we learned along the way that could be of help to others.
It was a special thing Andrea did on many fronts. In the act of helping her mother, she created her own support group. Unintentionally, this group began educating one another on their own insights about caregiving.
But Andrea didn’t stop there.
Toward the later stage of Fran’s dementia, Andrea spent a lot of time struggling to communicate with her mom.
A singer, Andrea played music from her mother’s past and watched Fran come to life.
Today, Andrea has gathered a rich catalogue of music from the early 20th century and visits facilities, reaching seniors through the language of music.
But she didn’t stop there either.
After her mom died in July 2012, Andrea took some time to grieve. Not long thereafter, she felt a calling to share what she’d learned in caring for her mother. Andrea was trained to become a hospice volunteer.
Was it providence, karma or fate? Maybe it was one of these, but I think it might have been something else.
Revisiting the painful loss of her mother from a different, empowered perspective allowed Andrea to make sense of her own trials and tribulations.
It also uncovered insights that proved valuable to others going through the same thing.
I know my friend’s actions are what inspired me to volunteer for Senior Concerns and then go on to lead the organization. The great thing about this: Andrea and I are not alone.
In interactions with our community, I’ve seen a great number of experienced caregivers who have focused their understanding and skills to work in the field of senior care and caregiver support.
To these individuals, this is not a job but a calling.
For over 13 years, Sue Lindemann cared for her husband with early onset Alzheimer’s.
She later become a founding board member for the Ventura County Alzheimer’s Association, served two terms on the State Committee for Public Policy and Advocacy, and runs a twice-monthly support group at the Goebel Adult Community Center in Thousand Oaks.
Charna Posin cared for her husband, who was dying from pancreatic cancer.
At the same time, she found herself in the role of caring for her 91-year-old mother, who needed to transition from independent to assisted living.
Charna now works as a senior advocate at Senior Concerns. She’s also a patient advocate, certified senior adviser, Heart Touch volunteer and speaker with Vitas Hospice.
Viki Kind cared for her mother, who had a massive stroke; her father with vascular dementia; and her aunt with multiple sclerosis, and she’s currently caring for a sibling who has a traumatic brain injury.
Viki is a clinical bioethicist, professional speaker, hospice volunteer and the author of the award-winning book “The Caregiver’s Path to Compassionate Decision Making: Making Choices for Those Who Can’t.”
All three amazing women will be presenting their caregiving insights in a presentation titled “Advice From the Experts: What I Wish I’d Known About Caregiving,” from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Tues., June 24 at Senior Concerns, 401 Hodencamp Road, Thousand Oaks.
The seminar is intended for all caregivers, whether new and experienced, local or long distance.
Seating is limited. To reserve space at this important seminar, please call Senior Concerns at (805) 497-0189.
Light refreshments will be served.
A $10 donation is requested to cover the cost of program materials.

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