Nostalgia Aromatherapy

Lilac in bloom

Lilac in bloom

Our senses conjure memories of time’s past. Distinctive shapes accompany colors and casual conversation, pressing the “play” button on recordings archived in our minds and hearts.

Mom's Lilac Tea Cup

Mom’s Lilac Tea Cup

A welcomed, familiar fragrance is often associated with one who has passed. Lilac floods the canvas that is my Mother’s. The heirloom lilac tree grows just outside our old homestead backdoor where the pale, purple perfume wandered in. My Mom chose this lilac backdrop to capture many family celebrations. She spoke of lilac memories a lifetime apart in such an enchanting way; I was convinced were my own.

Lilac Extraction

Lilac Extraction

Blessed with the lilac bouquet from this tree, its essence is preserved in this carefully created extraction:

Mom’s Lilac Spirit
*Infuse in a 6 oz. colored glass spray bottle
1 dropper full of Lilac Extract
4 oz. Distilled H20
3 drops Lavender Essential Oil
3 drops Sage
6 drops Lemongrass
4 drops Geranium (Bourbon Reunion)
½ dropper full Forget-Me-Not Distillate
6 drops Orange
2 drops Neroli

Cherishing Moms’ memory on Mother’s Day, and every day we are touched by their never ending spirit, wisdom and love.  I share this tribute with you, with every spritz, or two.

Mom's Lilac

Mom’s Lilac

‘We always hurt the ones we love’

Image

Stress management

‘Why Do We Always Hurt the Ones We Love’ is a song, but unlike a country song when played backward, does not reverse out of those moments when we’ve said something we regret.  Pain is a drain.  When we feel pain, we feel a drain on our emotions, causing us to lash out.  Firing spontaneous expletives in an explosive expression communicates our primal fear and frustration. 

Communication is key –’The Caregiver’s Bill of Rights’ outlines eight important steps we can all apply to any nurturing relationship.  A retired Oncological Nurse recommends learning to develop what she refers to as “Healthy Boundaries”.  She also served as the primary caregiver for her husband of many years. This form of self-preservation is essential. ‘The Alzheimer’s Reading Room’ article “Tea and Empathy” suggests delegating and listening.  Recognize the signs and symptoms and delegate among family, neighbors and friends.  Most importantly, take care of yourself.  In a flight emergency we are instructed to put on our own oxygen mask first.  No one can begin to meet the needs of others until their own basic needs have been met.

Several of these links are directed to Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, but caregiving is often treated as a perfunctory responsibility pertinent to any relationship, regardless of medical need.  It’s alright to ask for help, in fact, it’s encouraged!  Learn to take GOOD care and say you’re sorry when necessary.  I’m sorry, Mom, and I accept your apology, too.

In hindsight: Remembering through the rear view mirror

“It is one of three things…” stated the surgeon in a sedate voice.  He methodically plotted each possible diagnosis with an accompanying semi-pedantic explanation.  “…the third of which is Crohn’s disease.”  The realization resonated with his words.  None of the possibilities sounded particularly “good”, however; I looked forward to a confirmation, whatever “Crohn’s” was.

Poppy field - Bing image

Poppy field – Bing image

The pathology report read positive Crohn’s disease. I felt an overwhelming sense of relief.  The assigned name validated the way I felt nearly all my life.  Now that I knew what I was dealing with, I could move forward from there…and I did…

“Hindsight is 20/20” was a future lesson learned as I became caregiver for both of my parents. My Mother already had a stage IV breast cancer diagnosis, then my Father slowly devolved with Alzheimer’s disease, years after my Mother’s death.  My Mother forged ahead for 23 years, teaching me the value of fortitude.  Living proof you can lead a functional lifestyle and enjoy it, diagnosis be damned.  In the following couple of years Dad lived alone, his decline became apparent.  He spent the next few years with us and in assisted living.  He, too, was high functioning, vacillating between stage 2 and stage 3 Alzheimer’s disease.

'Kaleidoscope Trees' by Bethane M. Evans

‘Kaleidoscope Trees’ by Bethane M. Evans

Genuine memories were seldom spent with each other during the wee hours of the morning, whispering while the rest of the world slept.  The lines of the calendar blurred during long, never ending days in the stark hospital rooms. We passed time indulging ourselves with Ice cream for dinner, early AM television and sharing the occasional dram of brandy while reminiscing over tea.

Finally, as Dad wandered in his thoughts, I had my fondest recollections. This opportunity allowed us to connect on a different plane.  We would travel to our own secret place, with our own language.  We even had our own secret handshake (which we always had but he still remembered it there).  Time didn’t exist and words could mean anything.  We spoke in pictures telling abstract stories we never shared.  These were the times I cherish most, when we are our most vulnerable, our most authentic.

I was able to be with both of my parents during the most critical times of their respective illnesses.  They treated and cared for me all of my life, in their own unique ways.  My Mother’s nurturing, maternal approach and my Father’s cultural, alternative approach complemented how I was able to be there for them.  It is what I was taught, it is what I know and it is what I practice in my work and home – because it works!

Give a care – When you become the parent of a parent

Image

‘The Lorax’ by Dr. Seuss

I have been a caregiver advocating for the elderly community for 40 years.  This is from where we learn most, and learn best.  This practical education has enriched my awareness providing insight applicable both as a caregiver and a patient.

While undergoing medical tests, I spent weeks on the geriatric floor of the hospital which characterized the population with GI disorders.  I was barely 18.  I felt comfortable surrounded by those older and wiser, with whom I had become familiar and relied on to nurture me in my time of need.  I was relocated to the “Juvenile” wing, (as in juvenile delinquents).  It was assumed I would be more comfortable among those my own age.  My entire treatment was dedicated to maintaining calm, resting my gut and curbing physical and mental activity.  First, teens don’t sleep.  Secondly, teens are invincible, especially in the face of death.  Youth with stage 4 cancer, extreme eating disorders, grand mal seizures and severe Crohn’s disease.  These “kids” had literally lived in hospitals and had multiple surgeries under their belts. The rock music and medical marijuana filled the air day and night.  Having just been plucked from 6 short weeks of my first semester at college, THIS was dorm living!  Ironically, I needed the rest, I longed for peace and quiet.  I wanted everything to stop.

Sensory overload is what we all are subjected to from birth to death.  Used as torture, it is especially cruel while our bodies are expending all its energy to heal.  Our focus is distracted and the symptoms become amplified.  Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias are not exclusively for the elderly.  No one of any age is immune to the insidiousness mental confusion and cognitive dissonance creates in the mind.  There is no mechanism to process nor comprehend external stimuli, which is often perceived as a threat.  Caregivers need to help themselves before they can even begin to consider helping others.  Learning empathy is essential.  The Alzheimer’s Association developed an on-line course designed for all caregivers called EssentiALZ.  An affordable, invaluable tool for everyone, supporting organizations endorse EssentiALZ to help us better communicate needs to have an effective, continued relationship with those we may be dependent upon, or those who may depend on us.

Advance Planning Can Help You and Your Family

Elders wishes were more likely to be known and respected when nurses of other health workers guided them through the planning process.” Paul S. Mueller, MD, MPH, FACP Journal Watch’, April 13th, 2010

You are your best advocate

Image

“A Healthy Philosophy”

Today, on day 4 of the ‘Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge’, I am sharing a resourceful approach to autoimmune disease, the inflammatory process and pain living with complexities Crohn’s disease brings.  I began my professional health care advocacy decades ago when first advocating for myself.   “A little learning is a dangerous thing…” wrote Alexander Pope in 1709. The contemporary interpretation in this case holds true that a small amount knowledge gives one the sense of “perceived expertise”.  Drink it in because a lot of knowledge is empowering.

Crohn’s is a compound disease, presenting all systems of the body affecting many aspects of life.  Infinite resources are readily available to us through the internet for support and education including; on-line chat rooms, e-books, studies, blogs, articles, webinars, philosophies and various organizations. Additionally, many resources provide specific information about local chapters, targeting other communities specializing in Crohn’s disease and associated autoimmune disorders, for a spectrum of treatment modalities.

The following abridged directory offers a foundation of understanding for everyone affected by the challenges living with Crohn’s disease.  Beyond the physiological needs, individual considerations may range from respite care, care giving, emotional support, and/or financial assistance.  There is an ever changing supply of knowledge and approaches waiting to be explored.

  1. Living with Crohn’s Disease: http://www.livingwithcrohnsdisease.com/
  2. Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Americahttp://www.ccfa.org/
  3. Crohn’s Forumhttp://www.crohnsforum.com/showthread.php?t=36285
  4. IBIShttp://www.ouribis.com/
  5. GreenMedInfohttp://www.greenmedinfo.com/
  6. Metagenics IBDhttp://www.metagenics.com/medical-foods/health-conditions/inflammatory-bowel-disease
  7. Orthomolecular Healthhttp://orthomolecularhealth.com/
  8. Elsevier.com: http://www.elsevier.com/s/search.html?profile=_default&form=sitesearch&collection=elsevier-meta&query=Crohn%27s+Disease#
  9. Life Beyond Pain: http://lifebeyondpain.blogspot.com/2009/03/current-thought-on-pain-reduction-in.html