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Being Mortal

Being Mortal

FRONTLINE follows renowned New Yorker writer and Boston surgeon Atul Gawande as he explores the relationships doctors have with patients who are nearing the end of life. In conjunction with Gawande’s book, Being Mortal, the film investigates the practice of caring for the dying, and shows how doctors — himself included — are often remarkably untrained, ill-suited and uncomfortable talking about chronic illness and death with their patients.

“We’ve been wrong about what our job is in medicine. We think our job is to ensure health and survival. But really it is larger than that. It is to enable well-being.”
― Atul Gawande, Being Mortal: Illness, Medicine and What Matters in the End

 


Coral Tree In-home Care provides caregivers, old-fashioned kindness, and neighborly support to older adults who want to live at own home safely, comfortably, and as independently as possible. Since 2010 we’ve helped more than 350 families in Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Newport Coast, and neighboring Southern California communities live safer, happier lives.
Alive Inside

Alive Inside

A beautiful, amazing documentary. The ability of music to transform the lives of people suffering from memory loss (and other cognitive & physical disfunction) in this film is nothing short of miraculous. All families with a loved one suffering from dementia or Alzheimers should see Alive Inside!

Michael Rossato-Bennett‘s documentary follows Dan Cohen, social worker and founder of the non-profit Music & Memory, in his work, primarily with individuals isolated in nursing homes. Dan creates personalized playlists of music for his patients.

“Music connects people with who they have been, who they are, and their lives,” Dan says. “Because what happens when you get old is all the things you’re familiar with and your identity are all just being peeled away.”

The personalized playlists Dan offers don’t just help these men and women suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s relax or distract them from their suffering – it completely transforms and revitalizes them. The fog of memory loss is lifted and they are able to remember themselves, their lives. Their identity, their joy, their memories are restored.

“It can’t get away from me when I’m in this place,” says one woman.

And physical function is restored, too. Some patients can talk again, move their bodies, are able to walk and dance.

Part of what I found so exciting about Dan’s work is that music therapy is easy to do, and empowering – both for the patients and their families. We can make a difference in our loved ones’ lives, in a way that no medicine can. And it’s a simple as creating an iPod playlist with our loved one’s favorite music: music from their youth, music they enjoyed with a husband or wife, music from their wedding day, music they loved during easier times. So simple! As Dr. Bill Thomas says in the film, music touches the heart and soul of a patient. No medicine does that.

Various neuroscientists feature in the film. They explain the science behind music therapy.

“Music has more ability to activate more parts of the brain than any other stimulus,” says Dr. Oliver Sacks.

“By exciting or awakening those pathways, we have a gateway to stimulate and reach somebody who otherwise is unreachable,” says another. Amazing!

I also really appreciated the film’s message that our elders are important, their lives are still worthwhile and worth living. And that they should be respected for their age. We are such a youth obsessed culture that doesn’t appreciate the elderly. Just this morning I read that a TV commentator said the elderly should be euthanized! How awful! Just because our bodies and minds change and age, doesn’t mean we lose value as a human being. In fact, our elders should be all the more appreciated for their age, their wisdom, and their experiences.

“American culture is wrong,” says Dr. Bill Thomas. “There is actually life beyond adulthood. There’s the opportunity to live and grow and become elders. The aging that we experience holds in it very important learnings and lessons.”

——–

Winner of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival Audience Award.

Music & Memory: Dan Cohen’s organization. “A non-profit organization that brings personalized music into the lives of the elderly or infirm through digital music technology, vastly improving quality of life.”

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All photos courtesy of Alive Inside.


Coral Tree In-home Care provides caregivers, old-fashioned kindness, and neighborly support to older adults who want to live at own home safely, comfortably, and as independently as possible. Since 2010 we’ve helped more than 350 families in Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Newport Coast, and neighboring Southern California communities live safer, happier lives.
“A Private Singularity” by John Koethe

“A Private Singularity” by John Koethe

I used to like being young, and I still do,
Because I think I still am. There are physical
Objections to that thought, and yet what
Fascinates me now is how obsessed I was at thirty-five
With feeling older than I was: it seemed so smart
And worldly, so fastidiously knowing to dwell so much
On time — on what it gives, what it destroys, on how it feels.
And now it’s here and doesn’t feel like anything at all:
A little warm perhaps, a little cool, but mostly waiting on my
Life to fill it up, and meanwhile living in the light and listening
To the music floating through my living room each night.
It’s something you can only recognize in retrospect, long after
Everything that used to fill those years has disappeared
And they’ve become regrets and images, leaving you alone
In a perpetual present, in a nondescript small room where it began.
You find it in yourself: the ways that led inexorably from
Home to here are simply stories now, leading nowhere anymore;
The wilderness they led through is the space behind a door
Through which a sentence flows, following a map in the heart.
Along the way the self that you were born with turns into
The self that you created, but they come together at the end,
United in the memory where time began: the tinkling of a bell
On a garden gate in Combray, or the clang of a driven nail
In a Los Angeles backyard, or a pure, angelic clang in Nova Scotia —
Whatever age restores. It isn’t the generalizations that I loved
At thirty-five that move me now, but particular moments
When my life comes into focus, and the feeling of the years
Between them comes alive. Time stops, and then resumes its story,
Like a train to Balbec or a steamer to Brazil. We moved to San Diego,
Then I headed east, then settled in the middle of the country
Where I’ve waited now for almost forty years, going through the
Motions of the moments as they pass from now to nothing,
Reading by their light. I don’t know why I’m reading them again —
Elizabeth Bishop, Proust. The stories you remember feel like mirrors,
And rereading them like leafing through your life at a certain age,
As though the years were pages. I keep living in the light
Under the door, waiting on those vague sensations floating in
And out of consciousness like odors, like the smell of sperm and lilacs.
In the afternoon I bicycle to a park that overlooks Lake Michigan,
Linger on a bench and read Contre Sainte-Beuve and Time Reborn,
A physics book that argues time is real. And that’s my life —
It isn’t much, and yet it hangs together: its obsessions dovetail
With each other, as the private world of my experience takes its place
Within a natural order that absorbs it, but for a while lets it live.
It feels like such a miracle, this life: it promises everything,
And even keeps its promise when you’ve grown too old to care.
It seems unremarkable at first, and then as time goes by it
Starts to seem unreal, a figment of the years inside a universe
That flows around them and dissolves them in the end,
But meanwhile lets you linger in a universe of one —
A village on a summer afternoon, a garden after dark,
A small backyard beneath a boring California sky.
I said I still felt young, and so I am, yet what that means
Eludes me. Maybe it’s the feeling of the presence
Of the past, or of its disappearance, or both of them at once —
A long estrangement and a private singularity, intact
Within a tinkling bell, an iron nail, a pure, angelic clang —
The echo of a clear, metallic sound from childhood,
Where time began: “Oh, beautiful sound, strike again!”

 


Coral Tree In-home Care provides caregivers, old-fashioned kindness, and neighborly support to older adults who want to live at own home safely, comfortably, and as independently as possible. Since 2010 we’ve helped more than 350 families in Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Newport Coast, and neighboring Southern California communities live safer, happier lives.
K-9 Companions for Independence

K-9 Companions for Independence

This morning Brad and I attended a meet-and-greet at Newport Beach’s Oasis Senior Center with Canine Companions for Independence, a California non-profit that provides assistance dogs for people with disabilities.

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Receiving some puppy love from sweet Cajun, an eight-month-old assistance dog in training.

Canine Companions at the Newport Beach Oasis

Another assistance dog in training, Patches, and friends at the Oasis.

We are looking to adopt a therapy dog, or puppy/dog that could be trained to be a therapy dog to visit with our clients, as well as at hospitals, nursing homes and rehabs.

Animals can offer us incredible support! I remember reading an article in the New York Times some years ago, “Creature Comforts” about exotic service animals: parrots, monkeys, etc. and the amazing care they provided their owners. An African Grey parrot named Sadie travels around with her owner Jim in his backpack and is able to talk him down whenever he is on the verge of a psychotic episode: “It’s O.K., Jim. Calm down, Jim. You’re all right, Jim. I’m here, Jim,” she says. And she can sense one of Jim’s episodes coming on well before he can.

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Brad chats with one of Canine Companions for Independence’s kind volunteers.

Those of us who grew up with pets know that there is a particular experience of love and acceptance that animals can provide. According to Web MD, studies have shown that pets can help relieve depression, reduce heart rate, reduce tension and improve mood. And that is what we are hoping we might be able to provide our clients with a therapy dog.

For some of our clients, caring for an animal has become too difficult with age – having to bend over to feed or pick up after a pet, walking them daily, etc. – and they’ve had to give much-loved pets away. I’m hoping that our therapy dog will be able to offer them that joy again.

 


Coral Tree In-home Care provides caregivers, old-fashioned kindness, and neighborly support to older adults who want to live at own home safely, comfortably, and as independently as possible. Since 2010 we’ve helped more than 350 families in Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Newport Coast, and neighboring Southern California communities live safer, happier lives.