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Senior Dogs – some support group information

I have had several conversations lately, both over the phone and in person on the dog beach when I have been walking Cully, about dementia* in dogs. Cully has knee replacements, so I myself am often focused upon physical deterioration for senior dogs, and when a good friend sent through some information about support groups for cognitive deterioration I thought it would be a sensible time to share this information.

This section is a taster, obviously there are many different blogs, pages, and books/articles out there, but they are a good place to start if you are unsure of what kind of information, writing style, and support group environment you are looking for. Some of the blog links are for more general senior dog ownership, but include canine dementia and/or Alzheimer’s information. Don’t forget that I am an End Of Life Doula for companion animals as well as humans – if you would like support for exploring your pet’s End Of Life choices and options I am happy to help you.

Let’s talk.

Facebook: Dogs with Canine Dementia or Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, Dog Dementia, Senior Dog Care Club –  N.B.: at least two of these are closed groups, so you will need to be approved to access the content.

Blogs: Senior Tail WaggersSenior Dog Blog,  Dog Dementia

Book: Remember me? Loving and caring for a dog with canine cognitive dysfunction (please remember that Amazon do not pay taxes in Australia, so you may be able to order this book from your local independent bookshop)

*Remember that dogs and humans have co-evolved for a very long time, and many of the common symptoms of dementia in humans – Sundowner’s syndrome, aggressiveness, vagueness, decreased activity, etc. – may also present in our dogs.

 

Vale – a Reflection on Authors and Other Loved Ones

Vale means a written or verbal farewell, that is why the term shows up on social media platforms when someone has just died.

I have had a very busy start to February, and like many of us with over-committed lives (I am still a casual-contract social science academic and taught a Summer semester intensive; the marking turnarounds are brutal!) I began to write a post and needed to turn my attention elsewhere when I had begun a post in tribute to the late author Ursula K Le Guin.

Ursula K. Le Guin_1974_The Dispossessed.jpg

It was a surprise (and chagrin-making…) to come back the blog here after far too long – more than two weeks have passed – and see that I had left my intended memorial post too late. For which I apologise unreservedly to Ms. Le Guin, who deserves all fulsome and timely tributes. The Dispossessed changed my life when I was in my mid-teens, and her work has informed a great deal of my thinking and life ever since. The Earthsea Trilogy are also wonderful and influential books, and either of these are good starting places if you are new to Le Guin’s work*. And the tardiness of my written response – my literal “Vale” – serves as a good reminder to me that my life need not be so stupendously busy, ever, that I do not take a moment or two to let people know I love and care about them, or that when an author dies I cannot make time to make full notes/write about what made they way they touched my life so vital.

Books, the written works and words, the mindset and perspective that a book/author brings to my life is essential to the way I position myself in the world – take a look at the ever-increasing number of death-, dying- and End Of Life-related book reviews here on the site. However, I also read for pleasure, and also for research – books and authors form part of my personal intellectual oxygen mix, I need them to keep living as the individual I am.

I am reminded this month, with a gap in my blog posts and a hectic schedule, to pay attention to the people who touch my life. I am going to exert time and effort for the rest of February to tell the people who matter to me that they are important. I will tell the people I love that I love them, the people I respect that I respect them. I invite you, Gentle Reader, to do the same.

Our time is finite, and we do not know if we have until next week, next month, “next time” or any sort of “later” – because time waits for none of us, no matter how busy we tell ourselves we are with all our things to do. And do not forget to walk into your bathroom, look yourself in the eye and tell yourself that you love you, too. Make time for the people you love this month, and also for the things you love… because, why not?

And hey, if you need to make time to do some advance planning for your End Of Life as a gesture to the people in your life that you love and value, I am happy to help you explore your options. Communicate your love to your important people, then get in touch with me for an appointment.

Let’s talk.

*But please, please do buy them from your local independent bookseller – Amazon does not pay taxes in Australia. Keep local businesses going.

Informal carers, the cared-for, and how an End Of Life Doula can benefit both.

ScottWilliamsTEDSpeaker


This TED talk  by Scott Williams (pictured above), considers the importance of unpaid carers, how much carers boost the economy (there are Australian figures in this talk), and how essential the role and work of a carer is not just to society, but for the person who is cared for. The role of carer is one that is quite familiar to many, many members of our communities – but we may be frequently isolated within that role, or not well-versed in articulating that we are carers (particularly when the role has slowly changed and  increased over time. If you are caring for someone at their End Of Life, or if you yourself are at End Of Life and would like to better understand compassionate communities and how to more effectively communicate your needs around caring, an End Of Life Doula may be just what you need.
In our multi-tasking 21st century lives, having someone to focus on the way a compassionate community of carers and supporting, loving people interact together can be the perfect stress-reduction factor. End Of Life Doulas provide a sympathetic ear, an objective and compassionate set of problem-solving skills, and in my case a background as a psychotherapist and counsellor which is useful when carers/ network members may be tired, emotional, distressed or overwhelmed.
 
End Of Life Doulas like myself often act as negotiators and communication hubs for those around someone at End Of Life, passing along information, doing research, translating medical-speak when needed, helping to arrange schedules and/or helping friends and family to better understand how to plan time and activities more effectively to fit in with busy lifestyles. 
 
I am an End Of Life Doula who can facilitate communications amongst and between carers and the cared-for, help you build a more supportive network of support, help you better understand your advance planning choices, and be a proactive member of your End Of Life community.
 
Let’s talk.

Sensible advice for holding your boundaries

It is often difficult when we are ill, stressed, overwhelmed, or any combination of these, to remember that is is perfectly fine to say ‘no’ when we need to. During End Of Life – our own, or that of someone close to us – it is particularly sensible to hold strong boundaries, and to refuse information or inappropriate actions from those around us. Even when they mean well.

A useful set of parameters is provided here – and although the article is written by an oncologist and is focused on those living with a cancer diagnosis, the parameters laid out translate well to other illnesses and diagnoses.

An End Of Life Doula can be a great asset in helping you to navigate your treatment choices and options, construct the compassionate community that will serve you best in your own personal circumstances, and to help you hold the boundaries in place when that help is needed or requested by you.

Let’s talk.

The New Year is an ideal time to revise your End Of Life advance planning documents!

Changes to legal status – like marriage, which may have some interesting and complex nuances when governments change legislation as we’ve recently seen here in Australia – are a signal for us as individuals (and as couples, congratulations!) to review our advance planning paperwork.

Here in NSW you need a will, a power of attorney, and enduring guardianship – this troika of documents will help your wishes be recognised as valid and binding, and to smooth the path of your End Of Life in both expected, and unexpected circumstances.

If in doubt, as this report points out there may currently be for same-sex couples who married outside Australia, it is a good idea to update and double-check your paperwork, and take the opportunity to review your End Of Life documentation.

I advocate for reviewing your choices and options annually, it is always sensible to ensure your planned choices, legacy, and wishes reflect your current life and self. I specialise in advance planning, and am available to help you explore your options and choices. Remember to include your pets in your planning!

Let’s talk.

CullySunWater

Bureaucratic process and documentation – not just for modern End Of Life!

As an End Of Life Doula who has several areas of specialisation, I work to remain current with changes to regulations and abreast of new information to serve my clients as best I can.

However, I also love history and research, and today I looked back in time with a quiet laugh about the way End Of Life and paperwork are intertwined throughout the course of recorded history. Over the course of this summer I am preoccupied with paperwork myself as I continue to work on becoming a registered Australian celebrant (not required for funerals in Australia at the time of writing, but still), and go through the processes of early preparation for research into End Of Life Doulas in Australia (2018’s project) and tidying up some administrative loose ends with a professional association for Doulas here in Australia. I am often thinking about the bureaucracy of End Of Life in multiple ways as I think about my colleagues, my own requirements and interests, and of course my clients and what they may want or need to know about any particular aspect of the End Of Life planning journey.

Paperwork, therefore, is all around me. Everywhere I look –  literally at the moment – I see paperwork of various stripes relating to End Of Life whilst researching paperwork and End Of Life. #MetaphorAlert

PaperworkDesk

So here are a few interesting tidbits about the intersections of End Of Life and documents. As the ancient Greeks, Chinese, and Egyptians all had flourishing bureaucracies at the beginning of recorded history, I will touch on something from each here:

In 2011 Eleni Pachoumi published an article considering the Greek Magical Papyri and resurrection of the dead, with a focus on the role of the dead as assistant (the idea for Shelley’s Frankenstein came from somewhere), and whether or not manipulation of the body equates to resurrection. The papyri purports to give the directions and spell for resurrection, so death and paperwork can serve both the living and the dead here in interesting ways.

The ancient Egyptians, creators of an excellent bureaucratic system, had a collection of over 200 spells for the scribes to draw from for a papyrus scroll when creating a Book of the Dead for an individual. Instructions for navigating the afterlife were complex and tailored to an person’s preferences and lifestyle in the lived world. In this instance, the scrolls worked primarily to serve the dead in the next world, although there is an argument that the living may have been consoled by the instructions provided in the scroll as well.

Some ancient Greeks (of the Orphic tradition) paid scribes by the letter (Oh! What a time to be a writer!) to create lamellae in gold foil, providing stonking evidence, if there were any doubts, that purchasing one’s way into a better after-life is not a modern claim to fame. Wealthy people would have been virtually guaranteed entry into Paradise as they could afford more fulsome testimony as to the ‘pure’ state of their lives and genealogy in comparison to poorer persons who could not afford many words. Claiming relation to deity was considered desirable and effective in gaining access to the ‘good’ VIP areas of the afterlife in many ancient belief systems, including that of the Greeks. Some theorists consider the lamellae as ‘passports’, exhorting the gods to permit the bearer to enter the better areas including Paradise and the Elysian Fields and striving to ensure that Tartarus (structures of punishment and levels of reward in the afterlife are old constructs, too), whilst others consider that the lamellae were mouth coverings that would ‘speak’* for the individual in the afterlife. The claimed link to the Orphic tradition in the lamellae by some scholars – contested as real by researchers of the ancient world for almost a century now – is a fascinating aspect of this story, but one I will consider in another post as there are also cross-overs to ancient Egypt and it can be somewhat involved…

China, another nation with an admirable bureaucratic system, also has paperwork for the End Of Life, however the paperwork involves etiquette instructions for the intermediary (male head of the family) between the living and the dead. Strict protocols and rituals were involved in this Confucian practice, although the book cited here concerns a more ‘approachable’ translation of the original texts in the 12th century by Chu Hsi, which would have been easier for families at several levels of society to read and follow. Simplified paperwork is a good thing.

We in the 21st century must have the correct paperwork for concluding the End Of Life process; we must follow bureaucratic and administrative processes to the letter in order to ensure that End Of Life is smooth for those remaining behind us. Some of us are not able to move forward in grief or mourning until all the paperwork is finalised, so underestimating the import of planning or lack thereof is to be avoided whenever possible. Sometimes the paperwork takes a long, long time and there is nothing we can do about the timeline, but for family the wait can be excruciating. The relative of a friend died alone from unknown causes, but as soon as foul play (murder, etc.) was ruled out by the Coroner’s office the case fell far down the priority list for processing and releasing the outcomes of testing and autopsy. The family waited for six weeks before finding out the true cause of death and the release of the body for funeral and cremation – the stasis created by the delay in paperwork intensified the struggle the family had in coming to terms with the unexpected death, and altered their mourning journey irreversibly.

Paperwork surrounds us, even when it is not as obvious as the work desk I currently have in front of me the paperwork is still there. Bureaucracy is still implacable. It is sometimes fun for me to think about how paperwork and process at End Of Life have gone together in the past, and I hope it is for you sometimes, too (otherwise why would you have read this far?) – however I also bear in mind that advance planning of as much ‘paperwork’ as possible is essential in our modern society. We can make grieving, mourning, and processing as simple as possible for our loved ones – and it is a very tangible way to caretake our loved ones and those we leave behind after our End Of Life.

Advance planning for your End Of Life will not hasten anything or change anything in negative terms for you and your family; you may be surprised to know that it is often quite the reverse. People who plan their paperwork for End Of Life almost universally experience a better quality of life because the bureaucracy/paperwork is sorted and you are able to focus your time and energy on the projects, people, and events that bring you pleasure.

*On a side note, I myself think about advance planning documents in just this way; our wills, and memorial letters, books, films and artworks ‘speak’ for us even after our End Of Life.