Meema blog

Connect with Someone You Care For: Begin with "Hello In There"

"Hello In There" is a sad but beautiful song about growing older and being alone by John Prine.  The picture it paints might seem pretty bleak at first.  It strange, though: as sad as this song appears to be, there also seems to be something hopeful about it at the same time.  All he's asking us to do is to pay attention and connect with someone we care for, literally to say to them, "Hello." It's pretty classic Prine.  If you're not already a fan, you should at least give the recording below a try.  And if you are already know him, take this opportunity listen to this tune again and appreciate his genius.  It works because his character cares about connecting with his wife of many years, Loretta.  And it works on us because we empathize with him.

Practical Ways to Combat Isolation Using Meema Stories

These days the internet and mass media are filled with stories about protecting one another, especially our elders, from COVID-19.  And many of them also warn about the unintended consequences of keeping our parents or elderly friends safe, particularly the impact of social isolation and feelings of loneliness.  Almost without exception, narratives such as this one on STAT refer to the same simple solutions:  talk frequently on the phone, try video, and write letters

Call to Action: Engage Your Loved Ones Now (video)

Our story about "On Golden Pond" continues to surprise and delight me. How such a difficult subject about family relationships in the context of aging, death and dementia reliably spawn such meaningful conversation about life? I had a chance to share it over Zoom with my cousin Roz last week. We were able to react to the story as it played, stopping the playback on several occasions to react to it, to talk about it. And when it was done, we easily talked for an hour about the things we observed in the story, how it made us feel, and what we remembered or associated with the film from 1981. But then, as we were wrapping up the call, Roz helped me see something new. I realized how sharing Meema Stories can be more than simply rewarding and meaningful: it can also be URGENT.

AARP Thanks Family Caregivers in Time of COVID (video)

In this sweet and beautifully produced video, AARP thanks the 48 million dedicated family caregivers for their care and service. The pictures and music are beautiful, of course. For sure they express the gratitude we feel for our family caregivers. And they may even capture some of the intrinsic rewards of caring for a spouse or a parent. Unfortunately, they don't come close to representing how hard it is to care for someone we love with a chronic condition, sometimes for years on end.

Beyond Caregiving, Companionship Connects Us All

It's easy to see the fragmentation in eldercare today.  Like the our healthcare system as a whole, so many of these services seem to be optimized around service delivery, commercial transactions, compensating for deficits -- fixing what's broken -- rather than keeping us well.  It's as if these services were designed around coping rather than caring, despite the nomenclature.  On the other hand, although it can be more difficult to see, there is plenty of eldercare that regularly takes a broader and more holistic view.  There are caregivers of many stripes who strive every day to guarantee the social, psychological and emotional wellbeing of the individuals in their care, as well as their biological needs and physical security.  It's not surprising to hear these caregivers referring to themselves not just as 'caregivers' but also as 'companions.'  Companionship is (or should be) part of caregiving and has the potential to connect us all.

Conversation Starters: No Place Like Home

If the Wizard of Oz moves us, there's a good chance it can move our care companions as well.  And if we're all moved and are able to communicate those feelings in a conversation, given the themes in the film, there's a good chance it'll deepen our connections with one another.  But how to get started?   We've learned from our own experience and by observing experts that we cannot proceed directly to this goal, say, by asking direct questions.  A personal connection can only emerge from authentic conversation and that cannot be forced.  Instead, what seems to work is volunteering an authentic, personal story and then allowing our partners in conversation, our care companions, to reflect on their own and respond on their own. 

Using Meema Stories to Create Meaningful Connections

Caregivers in a variety of settings can use Meema Stories to create more meaningful connections with their spouse, parent, client, resident or patient.  It sounds almost too good to be true, doesn't it?  Can it really be that easy?  Can anyone do it?  How does that actually work in practice? 

COVID, Remote Caregiving and Zoom on

Caring for older adults, whether they are a spouse, a parent, a client or a resident, has always been hard.  But now with Covid and concerns over spread of infection, face-to-face interaction has become a risky proposition and the danger of social isolation and loneliness has become even more serious.  The phone is a precious tool in times like these. 

But is that enough?  Day after day?  For years?  What's a caregiver to do to change it up?   

Enter Zoom.

The Life Cycle of a Frog? Really?!

Early in November of 2019, I started to work on a Meema Story about science. I was looking for engaging stories about physics, earth science, chemistry, biology, ecology: whatever might stimulate reminiscence and conversation related to science experiences for companions in the context of caregiving. I decided to try a story on the life cycle of a frog.