The ​Long Road to Recovery

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Anyone who has had or has cancer or any other chronic illness or disease knows there is a certain amount of time when they feel they are truly on the road to recovery, recovered, or have discovered their “new normal.” I am one of those people.

I was diagnosed with anal cancer in April 2017. I finished treatment in August 2017. One and a half years later, I can say I am starting to feel “recovered” for the most part – “still recovering” in other areas –– and have discovered my new normal.

My new normal includes ongoing and long-term physical rehabilitation as a result of pelvic radiation damage. I am not complaining (radiation saved my life!), I am just sharing that although some people look great after a big ordeal like cancer, there could be ongoing battles that you may know nothing about. Invisible wounds and scars are very common for people who have experienced cancer.

Recently I attended an art show, and I received a few compliments on my appearance (the picture above was taken at the end of a Hawaiian vacation last month). I know I am feeling much better physically, and my self-image is shaping up. My hair is almost all grown back and highlighted again; I am back to yoga once weekly, and I have started back on my elliptical and doing stretches and weights. I even started wearing my FitBit again. My modest goal of 6,000 steps daily is still a ways away, but at least I am working towards it.

I have also been enjoying my new “intermittent fasting” lifestyle and my relationship with food. I am feeling in control of my life and my body. It’s taken almost two years, but I finally feel like each day I feel better and better.

I am enjoying moderating and managing support groups on Facebook. The “Anal_Cancer Support” group on Facebook is doing amazingly well and has recently achieved the 10-year milestone and the 300th member. Having cancer has expanded my social network by leaps and bounds. A profound and harrowing experience can bring more people into your life – if you want it. You just have to open up and ask for it.

The “Dementia Caregiver Solutions Support Group” is also growing and the admin team recently expanded to include two new moderators who are actual caregivers. They join three professionals to moderate and keep things on track. I find comfort in knowing I have given caregivers this safe forum to share, vent, and get advice for such a difficult time in their lives.

I am also pursuing other volunteer opportunities to help me reach more people who may benefit from my experience, passion, and support. I seem to have an infinite amount of “help” to give, and I am looking for ways to do so –– in a way that will keep me balanced and not over-taxed.

I continue to write for a company called Trualta. I am enjoying my writing projects and look forward to writing for more companies and individuals as the opportunities present themselves.

I am also helping people get married, sort out their problems, write books, develop websites and more. I am starting to consider finishing up my book on aging well (this will be my fifth book!).  Where all this will take me? Who knows. The long road to recovery takes us places that we never dreamed of. I am looking forward to continuing on this journey.

Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW

 

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Caring for Parents with Memory Issues (Video; 28 minutes)

 

 

Where does one begin when memory problems become an issue with an aging parent?

Issues such as getting a diagnosis, terminology (What is the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia?), resources (Book: Caring for a Husband with Dementia; App: Dementia Caregiver Solutions for iOS; Alzheimer Society), sundowning, and managing difficult behaviours are all discussed in this half-hour video.

Check out my video interview with Nancy Baker from Healing Healthy with Nancy called “Caring for Parents with Memory Issues.”

 

Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW

 

Keywords: Dementia, Alzheimer’s, Book, App, Essential Oils

Chair Exercises for Older Adults or those with Mobility Limitations

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Photo credit: jill111 – pixabay.com

I was approached by Joseph Jones at California Mobility to provide my recommendation on how to help an older adult with dementia stick to an exercise routine. My comments are in the article 21 Chair Exercises for Seniors: A Comprehensive Visual Guide.

This extensive guide on chair exercises for older adults (or anyone with mobility issues) includes easy-to-follow videos, helpful images, and lots of great tips on chair exercises. These exercises can be adapted for anyone! Please check out the article for helpful tips on keeping active, at any age.

Age well my friends!

Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW

 

 

 

The Mighty Ant: An Anthology of Short Stories for Seniors

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I am a contributor to a collection of short stories, called The Mighty Ant, edited by Jessica Bryan. This collection will delight anyone who enjoys reading or being read to.

My two stories include “You are Never Too Old” and “For the Love of Flowers.” These are my first attempts at short-story writing.

Here’s me reading my short story called “For the Love of Flowers.”

The book is in large print and is a fundraiser for the North Carolina Chatham County Council on Aging.

Get your own copy and enjoy reading and sharing with others! The stories are also great conversation starters!

Happy reading!

Angela G. Gentile

 

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Angela G. Gentile, B.S.W., M.S.W., is a registered social worker and is employed as a Geriatric Mental Health Clinician in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She is married to Agapito and has two adult children, Lorenzo and Simone. Angela enjoys writing, reading, and travelling and considers herself a realistic optimist. For more info: www.AngelaGGentile.com

“The Memory Keeper” Will Touch Your Heart and Tickle Your Funny Bone – Book Review

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Five Stars *****

JESSICA BRYAN’S SWEET AND HUMOROUS ACCOUNTS of life with her 99-year-old mother who has Alzheimer’s disease will touch your heart and tickle your funny bone. Jessica states there is never a dull moment in the Bryan household, and you will be entertained as she writes about her experiences in an easy-to-read, conversational tone. Jessica believes “When things get too heavy, you just have to lighten the mood.”

Although it is heart-wrenching when she writes about her mother “disappearing moment by moment, memory by memory,” her stories will encourage you—knowing that caring for a loved one who has Alzheimer’s has its rewards and there is humour to be found in any situation. The photos sprinkled throughout add a beautiful, personal touch. Anyone who values the importance of love and caring for one another in difficult times (especially caregivers and family members) will enjoy reading “The Memory Keeper” (2018).

Available in Kindle and paperback on Amazon.

Angela G. Gentile

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Angela G. Gentile  MSW, RSW is a clinical social worker and author of the book, “Caring for a Husband with Dementia: The Ultimate Survival Guide,” “A Book About Burnout: One Social Worker’s Tale of Survival,” “How to Edit an Anthology: Write or Compile a Collection that Sells,” and the “Dementia Caregiver Solutions” app for iPhone and iPad. She lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba with her husband and has two adult children. For more information, visit: www.AngelaGGentile.com

Call For Submissions for Upcoming Book on Anal Cancer

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Call for Summary/Ideas – Deadline for Submissions December 10, 2017

Re: Anal Cancer (AC) Book – A Collection Compiled by Angela Gentile (title to be determined)

 

Dear Potential Co-Author,

This is your chance to become a published author and to help you promote any other work you may have (books, blogs, etc.). Your contribution to this book on anal cancer will provide your invaluable insight, advice and support to others who may be going through something similar. It could help end the stigma of this disease and educate others on the importance of the HPV vaccine.

I am putting together a collection of works by many authors. I have written two other books and they are both on Amazon. This will be my first “anthology.” This book is intended to educate, inspire, strengthen and empower those affected. I am looking for chapters written by anal cancer patients/survivors/caregivers.

At this time, I am looking for 10-20 authors to provide a total of 10-20 chapters for this self-published book. I will put my time, money and energy into making this a meaningful book for those who are affected by anal cancer. It will also be of interest for those who want to learn more about the disease. If you are successful in being selected as one of the co-authors, I will help you write and refine your chapter(s) and I will also have it professionally edited.

There is no cost to you, and there is no compensation (other than knowing you will be helping others!). However, I will ensure you get two copies of the paperback book. Additionally, a portion of the proceeds will go to charity, and we will decide which one.

I have put together a listing of chapter ideas for you to review (see FILES in the closed members only Facebook group: AC Book or ask me for a listing). If you would like to do something else that is not on the list that is fine, too.

Please submit the following information via the form below, or ask me for my email address:

1. Your Name, Full Address, Phone Numbers (Home, work, cellular), Email.

2. Summary of your idea (up to 500 words). You can submit as many summaries as you’d like. Include the topic, what you want the main points to be, and whom you think will benefit most from your story or topic. The more personal and original the better! (Have a friend or family member review and proofread if you’d like a little more feedback before submitting.) Keep in mind, your completed chapter should be between 2,000 – 5,000 words.

3. Deadline for summary submission: Sunday December 10, 2017. Submit via email in form below. (.doc or .docx is acceptable. Google Docs is also accepted.)

If you already have a completed work (between 2,000-5,000 words), please feel free to submit that instead of a summary. Ideally, each chapter will be about 2,500 words but this is only a guideline.

I will review the submissions and get back to you, either way, on or before January 7, 2018.

Thank you for your interest and I look forward to your submission(s)!

Warm regards,

Angela Gentile

P.S. If you have a Facebook account and would like to be a part of the AC Book group, please request to join!

Contact me, here:

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Angela G. Gentile  MSW, RSW is a clinical social worker and author of the book, “Caring for a Husband with Dementia: The Ultimate Survival Guide”, “A Book About Burnout: One Social Worker’s Tale of Survival” and the “Dementia Caregiver Solutions” app for iPhone and iPad. She lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba with her husband and has two adult children. She is creator of the Facebook communities – “Aging Well for Women” as well as “God, Cancer and Me.” For more information, visit: www.AngelaGGentile.com

Ways to Improve Your Memory Skills Podcast Interview

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I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Kathe Kline in March 2017 for the Rock Your Retirement Show and it went live on 23 Oct 2017. Have a listen to my 30-minute audio only podcast (it’s like a radio show) to hear me talk about various topics including tips on how to improve memory skills. You can play it off your device, or download and listen to it later. There is a freebie on this as well, you just have to sign up to get a copy of it (see link below).

Link to the interview – Ways to Improve Memory Skills

Here are links to the show in popular smartphone apps:

iTunes

Stitcher

iHeartRadio

I have also provided a Freebie for the listeners – Five Strategies to Help Improve Memory Skills.

After you’ve had a listen, please feel free to comment on the Rock Your Retirement Show interview link page (see link above), or down below, here. Or just send me a personal note.

About Rock Your Retirement and Kathe Kline.

Rock on!

Angela G. Gentile

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Angela G. Gentile  MSW, RSW is a clinical social worker and author of the book, “Caring for a Husband with Dementia: The Ultimate Survival Guide”, “A Book About Burnout: One Social Worker’s Tale of Survival” and the “Dementia Caregiver Solutions” app for iPhone and iPad. She lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba with her husband and has two adult children. She is creator of the Facebook communities – “Aging Well for Women” as well as “God, Cancer and Me.” For more information, visit: www.AngelaGGentile.com

 

 

 

Learn About Burnout at the Transform Conference

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From Burned Out to Fired Up!

Angela G. Gentile MSW, RSW

I am honoured to be one of six guest speakers at the Transform Conference to be held on February 21, 2017 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I will be presenting on my knowledge and experience with job burnout and compassion fatigue. In addition to discussing the issues of the costs of caring too much, I will share my personal story of burnout. I will offer advice, tips and solutions to nurses, social workers, healthcare professionals, students and other helping professionals on how to recognize, cope and survive in the demanding yet rewarding field of healthcare.

What better way to learn. Be inspired. Some consider it a gift from a wounded healer.

You may also want to read my eBook, “A Book About Burnout: One Social Worker’s Tale of Survival“. Paper copies will be available at the conference.

For more information on Transform, the conference, please visit Sycamore Care.

www.AngelaGGentile.com

 

 

This Self-Help Book for Caregivers Educates, Supports and Comforts

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When I titled my book “Caring for a Husband with Dementia: The Ultimate Survival Guide” (2015) I did not expect to have people mistakenly assume that I am a wife caring for a husband with dementia. The warmth and sympathy I receive from people who don’t know me personally has been incredible. I gently explain that I am not a wife caregiver and that the book is inspired by the experience I had in counseling eight amazing caregiving women.

When I was deciding on a topic for my master’s degree final project, I decided to focus on older women. I explored what issues are affecting them, and the subject of caregiving came up quite often. I did some research on the subject and discovered that there was very little written about women who care for husbands with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia. My career as a geriatric clinician and social worker exposes me to many different mental health issues, and dementia is unfortunately a common one. I quickly became an expert in assessing and screening for dementia, and recognizing the symptoms of caregiver stress and burnout.

The short-term, individual counseling program I designed, implemented and evaluated with eight caregiving wives was very rewarding and successful. It inspired me to want to help others like the women I had learned so much from. What started out as a small booklet turned into a 16-chapter book. “Caring for a Husband with Dementia” was written specifically to help women who care for husbands who have been diagnosed with a dementing illness such as vascular dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. I dedicated this book to caregiving wives, everywhere.

Writing this book came surprisingly easy to me. I called it a “Divine Intervention.” I received help from colleagues and other experts in the field who generously donated their time reviewing, editing and offering feedback. It is a unique, informative and therapeutic self-help type of book. The book offers opportunity to make it personal for the reader. There is space for self-reflection on important questions. Don’t know what to “Google” to find your local resources? I’ll help with that, too. There is a listing of helpful and important resources, plus more.

All of the reviews and feedback I have received thus far has been very positive. Some of the more helpful feedback has been that this book is written not only for wives, but for all caregivers. I have been told this book is like a bible and it is kept at the bedside and is read every night. It’s a reference guide, a companion, and a source of education and support. It’s like a year’s worth of therapy all in one book.

I know this book has helped spouses and other caregivers. They have told me, “Everything I was thinking, feeling and wondering about was written in this book.” I am honoured to be able to help those who are struggling with the issues of diagnosis, getting help, difficult behaviours, grief and loss, legal issues and more. I have been at book signing events where even men say they want their wives to buy this book as they want them to be prepared – “…just in case.”

My hope is that this book reaches those who are in need of education, support and tips on how to survive the difficult task of caring for a loved one with dementia. It is also a great gift for someone in need.

Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW

Link to original article on #AlzAuthors, published 23 Nov 2016.

 

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Angela G. Gentile  MSW, RSW. is a clinical social worker and author of the book, “Caring for a Husband with Dementia: The Ultimate Survival Guide”, “A Book About Burnout: One Social Worker’s Tale of Survival” and the “Dementia Caregiver Solutions” app for iPhone and iPad. She lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba with her husband and two adult children. She is passionate about all things related to Aging Well. For more information, visit: www.AngelaGGentile.com

Twelve Areas to Consider When Thinking About a Retirement Community with Lifelong Services

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Image courtesy of powerbee-photo at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

(This article has been written with guest blogger, Alan Wolkenstein MSW, ACSW)

As family members age, there may come a time when an older person’s needs can no longer be met in his/her current home. It may be unsafe, there may be too many worries, or it may be stressful for all involved. For example, if Mom and Dad lived in their moderate-sized bungalow for the past 40 years, things may change dramatically when one of them passes away. Maybe Mom is now left in this house on her own, and she is overwhelmed with all there is to do. Even with family support, and the supports from other agencies and programs, Mom is still not being cared for the same way she was when dad lived with her. Although Mom does not want to move from the home she has known for so many years, sometimes a move to a more supportive environment is needed. Having this discussion can be difficult.

There are many issues that can arise with respect to an aging family member and housing needs. Illness, finances, mobility, socialization, recreation and access to services are some of the issues that may have to be considered. How does one make the right choice? Should the older family member stay in the house longer, or move to an appropriate “elderly persons housing”? Maybe he/she should move to a retirement community, or a place that also has lifelong service options. Should the person move to a 24-hour care facility like a nursing home? A good quality of life is usually the overall goal.

Conversations About Moving Can Be Difficult

Conversations about relocation may become uncomfortable and anxiety-provoking because they usually consist of making major changes in where one lives, relationships and even in family dynamics. The older person him/herself or other family members may be thinking about these issues, but the conversations may be avoided in order to prevent upset or problems in the relationship. We already know that everyone seems to have a slightly different opinion on the subject.

For those directly involved, the stakes are very high, and previous attempts to have such conversations may have not turned out very well. People can feel unsure of themselves and the older adult may experience that their own wishes may be disregarded by their children who push for changes to ensure a more safe and healthy environment. Relocation usually involves downsizing, a major disruption, adjustment issues, loss, and a change in daily routines. Ultimately, it should also come with benefits that outweigh the negatives.

This may be the first time adult children have seen their parent(s) unsure of themselves, possibly afraid of the future, and even angry or refusing to participate in these talks. It seems that no matter what is decided, many feelings may be hurt and someone will feel disregarded and not appreciated for their wishes.

Conversations About Moving Can Be Welcomed

However, in many situations, the family discussions around this topic go well. For example, an older adult may want to move on. In this case, the family can come together with a unified plan that seems positive and helpful to the whole family. Then the issues become where to look, how to assess, and when to choose a place.

Making Decisions Regarding Housing Needs Can Be Confusing and Complex

For others navigating the housing dilemma, the situation is confusing and complex, and there seems to be no way to satisfy all. In the end, no one feels or experiences satisfaction. If an older person moves into a retirement community following this scenario, the likelihood of a successful adjustment is deeply compromised.

Many situations regarding decision-making related to relocating an older family member require and benefit from professional intervention. Professional assistance could come in the form of:

  • helping the older person and his/her family members choose a suitable place
  • mentor and support the family so they can choose for themselves
  • help them sort through the levels of conflict

12 Areas to Consider When Choosing Seniors’ Housing

The following are a number of questions to be used as a working outline in maneuvering through these scenarios. Each requires input and shared conversation with a guide or mentor to monitor and direct the conversations and the powerful emotions they generate. In order to get answers to these question, you (the person seeking housing and/or the person’s advocate) will have to make arrangements for tours and meetings with key people. A trusted professional or seniors’ organization can help you get a list of possible options to choose from. Keep a log of the answers so when decision time comes, you will have some notes to look back on. The questions are not listed in any rank order of importance, but as they come to our mind as we have worked with older adults and families during these potentially troubling and stressful times. As always, take with you what seems most helpful to your unique situation. Note: These questions are written for the person who will be moving. Sometimes a trusted family member or advocate (someone who knows the older person very well) can assist through this process.

1. Costs and how they will be paid for. Remember that the highest cost establishments may not be the most rewarding one. Many have entrance fees that may or may not be refundable in some degree if you leave or pass on. All require fees for their services. Ask if there are any move-in incentives. What is included in the costs (i.e., meals, housekeeping, recreation, etc.). Do they have a free or low-cost “trial stay” option? In the United States, some may take Medicare. In Canada, some of the facilities may be government subsidized. Get the facts down right. Higher cost is not always an indicator of better service and dedication to you. You may also want facts about the establishment’s financial health to guarantee their viability.

2. Location, location, location. How far is it from your family and friends? How close or far are familiar places such as services, restaurants, theatre, clubs, church or synagogue? Are there plans to establish all these in the retirement community once there, or will your time be split? Remember that connection with important people in your life is a definite component of good quality of life.

3. Values and commitment. Ask the management or representative at the establishment about values and commitment to each person. Get this from the people you talk with, not the brochures they send out. While it is good to talk to folks who are available to talk and share their experiences there, they will probably have you speak with the most satisfied members.. Ask for a list of complaints they have received and dealt with. Seek a place that shares your values about what is important in your life and maintaining a high quality of life: continuity here is also important to your quality of life. Ask what procedures are in place to ensure they uphold their commitment to these core values. Ask how these core values are implemented and evaluated. Are they open to improvements? Is there a “Comment Card” system where the residents/tenants can forward their comments and concerns anonymously? Alternatively, what avenues are in place to motivate, celebrate and encourage outstanding service and achievements by staff?

4. Religious affiliation is only part of the equation. Try not to select by religion alone. You may find the system falls far short of meeting your overall needs. While many families share they receive much comfort if the community is of their religion, this does not guarantee a successful placement.

5. Processes in place to ensure a warm welcome and adjustment. What processes are in place to help you or your loved one transition into their system and become part of their “community”? Who is the “go-to” person if there are questions?

6. Supports to help with the adjustment. How will they assist you or your loved one in coping and adapting to their environment? You or your loved one may find it more complicated and anxiety-provoking to move through the process of adjusting there. Who are the staff and what are their qualifications to do this with you or your loved one?

7. Availability of care and counseling after a major life stressor. Many people and families seek out a place following a serious loss to them, such as death of a loved one; illness; financial problems; or diminished ability to provide activities of daily living (ADLs). Attempting to adjust now can strain an individual’s ability to cope and adapt. How will the community provide care and counseling? Does administration view the need for counseling as necessary for enhanced quality of life for some tenants/residents? Is this included in the overall fee? Is it an add-on expense? If counseling is an additional expense (versus an available built-in service), administration does not view this need as a normative cost to them.

8. Counseling and advocacy for relocation concerns. Most people have some degree of ambivalence and uncertainty about such an important move. Who is there to smooth the way and champion their concerns?

9. Counseling for family members. What family counseling services are available to your family? Not all of us have made our amends with our family, dealt with the issues that cause us strife and worry, and resolved any family guilt or anger between members.

10. Regular assessments to assist with adjustment. Are there regularly scheduled assessments of how you or your loved one is coping and adapting? Who are the people and what are their qualifications?

11. Health services. Your health is crucial. How do they incorporate physicians, nursing, and allied health services into their system?

12. Future care needs. What does the facility offer in terms of long-term care needs? Do they adhere to an “aging in place” concept? Meaning, if your health or condition declines, do they continue to support you in their facility, or do you have to move again? Ask them how long you could stay, and what are the reasons you may be asked to leave (“Exit-criteria” or reasons for “eviction”).

We have listed for you 12 areas of concern we feel are important. There are certainly more and some may be equally as important or more important that any on this list. Think for a moment what they might be for you or your loved one. You may be surprised how these questions and concerns bring other ones to the surface. For example, is there a pet involved? Is the pet welcomed?

Reconsidering a Move

What if you began to rethink about your loved one remaining in their home? What services would they need? What services would they accept? Where would the funds come from? Is this just a temporary measure, and if so, would it give everyone time to breathe easier and simply let the person remain in his/her home for a little while longer? Would this be reasonable for a family with many different opinions? Would it be reasonable for an older person who may perceive these service providers as strangers intruding their home further solidifying their sense and awareness of growing frailty and needs?

Seek Professional Consultation

Consider a consultation by a specialist during this challenging time. Seek out someone who has the experience and expertise to guide you and your family with and through this process. Meeting with this person can illuminate a path that you may not have thought of, and provide guidance to see you through.

Many older adults and their families find selecting appropriate seniors’ housing and the accompanying transition somewhat stress-free. Many do not. If your loved one or family is finding this transition difficult, there is help available. There are many fine people in the community to serve you. Start by discussing with your loved one’s mental health professional or doctor. Start by making an appointment.

We wish you and your family well.

Alan S. Wolkenstein, MSW, ACSW
Clinical Professor of Family Medicine (Ret.)
University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health
Wolkenstein and Associates, LLC
Mequon, Wisconsin, 53092
Alan.Wolkenstein@gmail.com

Angela G. Gentile MSW, RSW
Specialist in Aging

 

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Angela G. Gentile  MSW, RSW. is a clinical social worker and author of the book, “Caring for a Husband with Dementia: The Ultimate Survival Guide”, “A Book About Burnout: One Social Worker’s Tale of Survival” and the “Dementia Caregiver Solutions” app for iPhone and iPad. She lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba with her husband and two adult children. She is passionate about all things related to Aging Well. For more information, visit: www.AngelaGGentile.com