Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Story of Age and Kindred Spirits...

Check out the wonderful writing of Jaja Toff in an amazingly poignant story simply titled 'Grandad' - read it here

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Order Quickly for Christmas...

Buy the carer in your life something special this Christmas.

Two excellent items we have ready to go are the famous Carer Tshirts:

and the Carer Calendar (which can start any month you like!)

Just click on the above links to view and buy.

Read our submission to the National Carer Strategy!

We have produced a submission to the National Carer Strategy.

You can download the original documentation from the Australian Department of Health and Aging site.

After reading that, please download and read our Submission Paper.

We welcome your thoughts on this.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Towards a National Carer Strategy

We are currently preparing our submission for the National Carer Strategy.

Once this is complete, we will be passing it on for consideration. In 2003 there were approximately 2.6 million carers in Australia but only 104 thousand received a Centrelink pension. That means that almost 2.5 million were left to struggle on their own.

We intend to make our voice heard to change this appalling situation.

Stay tuned because we will be making our submission available online for all to read.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

15% off Carer Calmer Calendar!

From now till November 14, you can get 15% OFF the Carer Calmer Calendar!!!!!

Just enter the special code - "lightsmith_is_on_sale_9216" (only without the quotes) when you order it. AND, wait, there's more! If you order 10 or more then shipping is free....

These offers wont last long so don't miss out!

Monday, November 1, 2010

You Can Make A Difference....

A carer at the mercy of a manipulative mother, who has chronic depression is now the victim of a justice system with no insight and no compassion. You can help free Agnieszka Miller and it doesn't cost you anything except two minutes.

At least do one of these things - you never know, it could be your sister or cousin next. Or you!

1. Vote at to make this an Issue

2. Sign the petition to reverse this unjust decision

Sign the Petition Now!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Help free Agnieszka Miller

Please sign the petition to undo the horrendous treatment of Agnieszka Miller who has been most unfairly treated by the Queensland courts.

Sign the Petition Now!

Friday, October 29, 2010

All Carers Should Condemn This Outrage

Daughter Sentenced to Five Years after Mother Dies

All carers should be outraged at the treatment that this carer has received at the hands of a justice system which clearly does not comprehend the stress and difficulties involved with caring for someone.

Here we have a carer who was suffering from chronic depression. Her mother was difficult and domineering.

Before she lost her 'cognitive functions', she repeatedly refused medical intervention, telling her daughter it was her duty to care for her. As most of us know, the 'loss' of these functions often occurs years before the medical authorities are prepared to commit themselves to any sort of judgment.

And if her ability to make sensible decisions was lost, certainly her ability to emotionally manipulate and bully her daughter was not. How many times have we seen this? How many other carers out there know this situation very well?

Justice Ann Lyons said she accepted Miller had no intention to harm her mother, but said she had a responsibility to seek help when it became obvious she could not cope. This is clearly the attitude of someone who has never been involved in such a relationship and is comparable to saying that a rape victim should have 'stopped' her rapist. Remember, this is someone who has spent years in a complex manipulative relationship and who is clinically depressed - while providing constant care for her mother.

This woman should be freed. It is enough that she has already given her life for her mother without her being further penalized.

There is much more to caring than preparation of food, shopping and calling the Doctor. Clearly the 'justice' in this case has no idea.

Oh, what happened to you, whatever happened to me? What became of the people we used to be?

It's one of the biggest challenges - Staying Me. Most people understand that those with dementia and Alzheimer's lose their memories and with them their sense of identity. But few people consider the role of the carer and the losses that they bear.

The caring role is so demanding and so emotionally draining that there's very little time left for anything else. Our interests, our hobbies, our friends - all are forsaken, are sacrificed in the name of caring for others. As time passes, there is little left of the people we were.

There's a song from the theme of an old television comedy series with a few lines that go:

Oh, what happened to you, whatever happened to me?
What became of the people we used to be?

And almost as if written for carers, it goes on:

Tomorrow's almost over, today went by so fast, the only thing to look forward to is the past

The sad thing is that if we do not take care to ensure that some of that 'past' survives then there will be nothing to sustain us during the 'caring' journey and even more importantly, nothing left of us when it is finished.

In many cases, carers are continually required to think ahead, to plan ahead - to live ahead. Today is just a flash taken up with their duties with no time for themselves. In fact, keeping a part of the past alive is in some ways the only way to keep the people we were alive.

Once someone becomes a full-time carer for a friend or relation, they slowly but surely re-define themselves as 'a carer'. The old person with their interests and their life first learns to take a back-seat to this 'new' person until eventually the old is completely forgotten.

Where does that leave us when the role of carer ends?

And how does that sustain us on that journey?

It is critical to hold onto 'who we were' - or more specifically, 'who we are'.

"Staying Me" is not an option or a luxury - it is a necessity.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Memory Books - More Than Just Photobooks

Photobooks are a wonderful invention - a printed photo album that you can hand around or get multiple copies of for family and friends. In addition to creating DVD slide-shows, photobooks really are must-haves for any family.

But it is important to remember that for those with memory issues, photobooks can actually just be a source of frustration and irritation. In some cases they may recall the people in the photographs but not be able to identify them by name. Alternatively, they may not remember anyone in the photographs or where the images were taken. Either way, the experience can be one of distress rather than of pleasure enjoyment that you might have expected.

Essentially, photobooks (and photo albums) can often be passive in terms of memory because they provide a single access path - the visual associations with the image.

Memory Books however use a combination of words and images to help the rediscovery of latent memories. The books then go further by encouraging the reader to record the memories that they have in the book. This not only reinforces the memories and helps to preserve them, it also then operates recursively on the next review of that page to both reinforce those memories as well as potentially bring out other linked memories.

Memory books are active stimulators of memory.

By drawing on an individual's particular life experiences, they are personal windows into their past. They are both a journey forward (chronologically) as well as a journey past (rediscovery). Unlike photo books which usually only contain snapshots, the memory book may contain other items such as birth certificates, letters and other meaningful and significant milestones in the individual's life.

Memory books are far more than just photobooks. They are a living link to who we were - to who we are now.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Have a Seniors Moment - A Great One!

For the rest of the week (ending on 31st October) in Geelong, there will be a Seniors Exhibition at Osborne House.  It runs from 10am to 4pm each day and is very much worth a look.

There is a fantastic display of good old fashioned 'stuff' which will bring memories flooding back.  "Remember this..." will definitely be your catch phrase!

Also, there's an amazing photo display by the Corio Bay Camera Club which also includes a slideshow of images that will make your jaw drop!

In fact, there's so much to see that you'll want to come back for more.  As one lady was overheard to say today - "I enjoyed it so much, so very much".

We will be manning a table there too, so there's yet another opportunity for Geelong people to get to know the products and services we have to offer to help you in the quest of 'Staying Me' - it's all about memories which fits the theme of this whole exhibition beautifully.

Make sure you come along this week - you'll be missing out if you don't!

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

2010 Back to Steiglitz Day a Great Success!

Everyone who attended this year's Back to Steiglitz day voted it a resounding success!

We had a wonderful time and were so lucky to be able to showcase some of our products and services. "It's all about Memories" was our buzz word and very fitting for the day too.

It was our pleasure to have donated a beautiful canvas print of the Steiglitz Hotel which was raffled off to a very lucky visitor.

But if you missed us there then stay tuned because we are about elsewhere this week.  It's all about memories and we aim to help you to keep yours!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

24th October - Steiglitz Day!

Join us down at Steiglitz today (24th October) where we'll be showing off all the wonderful things we can do to help you to 'stay you'!

We'll have examples of Memory Books and the Relaxation CDs as well as sets of the Memory Game available for purchase.

And quite apart from us, there's always plenty to see at the Back to Steiglitz day!

Ultimate Relaxation!

Being a carer - it's pretty stressful! Most carers know that but a recent investigation by a local university found that carers actually had the highest levels of stress of all those surveyed - including the long term unemployed. It's no wonder that they also have the worst health as well.

Of course, in many cases carers are working excessive hours - hours that no union would tolerate. They have no 'annual leave' or 'long service leave' and in general don't even get weekends or public holidays. Even where community-based services are provided, the carer is still 'on-call' for any circumstances out of the ordinary.

And we wonder why they are stressed?

Relaxation CDs can be a very useful tool in managing stress levels, but the reality is that most are ineffective. Many of the so-called 'relaxation' CDs actually rely on pleasant music which serves only to stimulate rather than relax. We all like listening to music and it certainly can help relax to a degree but it's important to realize that most music will only relax you to a certain level, at which point it actually keeps you stimulated.

Other options include 'guided' relaxation techniques where a 'calming' voice tells you what to do to relax. This can sometimes be effective in terms of physical relaxation but mental relaxation usually involves not constantly listening to someone. Some people even find these guided techniques quite irritating.

But there is an alternative. There are a few relaxation CDs which actually do help you to relax - and to do so deeply and restfully. Relaxation is possible - even for you!

Our range of CDs rely on natural sounds with non-intrusive music that soothes rather than stimulates the brain. Using a technique known as 'brainwave entrainment', they induce delta brainwave patterns for natural relaxation.

It is actually possible to snatch a fifteen minute break and, with the help of our especially designed CDs, obtain a level of rest and relaxation you didn't think possible.

The CDs are priced at $33AUD each plus postage and our current range includes:

  • Natural Sleep Inducement
  • Natural Stress Relief
  • Sleep Deeply
  • Calming Massage
  • Relax Peacefully

    As with all relaxation tools of this nature, you should not use them while driving or using machinery.
  • Friday, October 22, 2010

    The Memory Game - Game On!

    In creating our Memory Game it was important to come up with a memory stimulation tool that didn't feel like some sort of test. We all hate tests and anyone with memory issues has good reason to dislike them especially. Only someone who has had the experience of futilely trying to remember something that consistently evades them can really understand the frustration.

    But the memory game isn't like that.

    It consists of 70 cards in a golden 'treasure bag' - rather fitting when you consider that memories literally are our treasures!

    Each card poses a question, mainly relating to a person's early life experiences. The entire question set have been specifically designed to stimulate old memories. It is an active process of rediscovery and, importantly, reinforcement. The more we recall our older memories, the more likely we are to retain them. And you might be surprised at what people can recall!

    How you play the game is up to you - there really are no rules. You might just pick a different card every day and actively explore the memories associated with it. Or you could decide to spend ten minutes or half an hour and make your way through however many cards that may take.

    An ideal way to play is to alternate the questions. So you, as a carer, picks a card and poses the card's question to your loved one. After some reminiscing, they then pick a card and ask you a question. The wonderful advantage of this is that everyone can benefit. Not only are memories being rediscovered and reinforced, but there's also the potential for much more fluid social interaction.

    Carers, it must be said, are very vulnerable with respect to their own memories. Because of the stresses of being a carer added to the focus of your attention which is always and at most times of the day aimed towards the person you care for, it is all too easy to lose your self and your memories. The wonderful thing about the memory game is that it helps to re-focus you on your own past and your own memories.

    The Memory Game is also an excellent ice-breaker for those who, all too often, find satisfying communication difficult with those that they care for. Due to age or social differences, there can often be little in common and by its nature, the Memory Game creates opportunities to share memories. Those who find their caring role stuck in some communications rut may benefit immensely.

    To sum up, the Memory Game is:

    • a 70 card set in golden treasure bag
    • Specially formulated questions
    • Stimulates the recall process
    • Rediscovers old memories
    • Reinforces memories
    • Works for both loved ones and carers
    • Great ice-breaker & conversation starter
    • Large print enables everyone to play
    • Play one card a day or twenty
    • No rules, No Losers – Only Winners

    The game costs only $15 plus postage.

    Tuesday, October 19, 2010

    We're Going Back to Steiglitz ...

    October the 24th is 'Back to Steiglitz' day and we'll be there, so if you're in the local area, drop by. The day is always brilliant and this year will be no exception.

    Apart from having a tent'n'table where you can check out our products and services, we have also donated a number of postcards taken at last years day by The Lightsmith as well as a canvas print that will be raffled in the local pub.

    You'll kick yourself if you miss it!

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    Saturday, October 16, 2010

    NanNy's Quite Befuddled...

    Dementia is an extremely difficult condition for adults to cope with. Anyone who cares for someone with dementia knows how frustrating and sometimes inexplicable their behavior can be.

    Imagine the difficulties then, faced by children.

    Explaining away the often strange behavior of an older relative to a young child can be a daunting task - just how do we explain something anyway when we ourselves do not fully understand it?

    Liz Dowsett's wonderful story NanNy's Quite Befuddled... provides an excellent vehicle for just such a journey. In simple yet clear language using the wonderful illustrations of Janece Callaway, this book is an excellent and entertaining look at a grandmother's dementia through the eyes of her grandchild.

    The book is available to order online or talk to us directly via the CONTACT US tab if you are in the Geelong-Werribee area.

    Thursday, October 14, 2010

    Carer Calendar

    Life as a carer is one long hectic list of things to do, places to go - but how many of them are for you?

    As a carer you are in charge, sometimes sole charge, of looking after someone else but who looks after you?

    It's impossible to stress how important it is to look after yourself - after all, who will be there to provide the care that you do if you are no longer able?

    This calendar just offers twelve steps into another world - just for you. If only for a brief moment they are your passport into a place and a time where caring is not part of your life. A guilt-edged guilt-free break that will help you to keep on helping others. Don't you deserve at least that?

    Click either image below to step through the months of bliss that await you...

    Mind Your Memory Expo Success!

    Well, the Mind Your Memory Expo 2010 was a great success and a wonderful opportunity to engage carers, those with memory issues and other workers in the industry.

    We shared a table with Alzheimer's Australia as well as the author of a wonderful children's book NanNy’s Quite Befuddled... - more on that in a few days!

    The talk by Dr Mander, a local geriatrician, was excellent and the team provided a clear and friendly illustration of the pathway of needs and services that someone who may be suffering from Dementia in one form or another might take.

    Because we were sharing a table, we had to minimize the number of items that we wanted to put on show, but that didn't stop us showcasing our Memory Books and our first retail launch of our Memory Game.

    Just check out the photos below:

    Panel discussing the dementia journey
    StayingMe at the expo

    Wednesday, October 13, 2010

    Come and join us at the Mind Your Memory Expo!

    Come and join us at the Dementia Agency Network Group's "Mind Your Memory" expo on the 14th October.

    The guest speaker is Dr Mander, local geriatrician, and carers can enjoy some time out with free massage and reflexology.

    Staying Me (under the umbrella of Videoscape Productions) will be there - so come along and check us out. We'll have our Memory Books, the new Memory Game and more so you've nothing to lose but heaps to gain.

    It starts at 10am and runs through to 3pm on Thursday, October the 14th at the Geelong West Town Hall, Pakington Street, Geelong.

    Don't Forget!!!!!

    Saturday, October 9, 2010

    Position Vacant

    One of the biggest problems faced by carers is the loss of their own identity.  All too easily the first thing to be lost when you start caring for someone else is the person that you were.

    Carers are often required to work or at least be on call, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.  Their first and foremost concern is to provide a safe, happy and healthy environment for those that they care for.

    Imagine this job ad in your local paper

    You might think that's rather a joke - and it is a bit tongue-in-cheek.  But essentially it is quite true.  When you are a full time carer, it is 24x7 and there are no holidays.  You don't get public holidays - any services you might have secured to help you out actually don't operate on public holidays.  You don't get annual leave.  You don't get long service leave.  You don't even get sick days off. 

    This leaves no time for the carer to spend with themselves or their family.  And yes, some carers are also caring for a family - it isn't always one-on-one.  And it can get even more complicated - for example, sometimes a wife must provide care for a husband with a stroke and a mother with dementia.

    Even when there is just one person with an issue requiring care, any free time the carer has is usually diverted to their family. Carers with no other family usually have absolutely no help at all and subsequently no time at all.

    When you are a principal carer for someone, it is frequently a story of loneliness and isolation.

    There is no free time for friends.  The duties of being a carer often means a day is badly fractured even when you are not needed to be present continuously.  A half-an-hour or even an hour is generally not sufficient to start any task unrelated to caring.   What little time there is available must be dedicated to sleep, personal grooming and hygiene, eating and so on.

    There is no time for anything else.

    Add to this the simple fact that the relationships enjoyed before this carer role arose are slowly but surely eaten away.  Child becomes parent, parent becomes child - although even this is an over simplification.  The love, the relationship, the sense of bonding is altered, sometimes destroyed, as the carer battles to maintain the life of someone who is perpetually degrading - possibly physically, possibly mentally, frequently both.

    This is why the carer so often loses all sense of who they actually are.  The person that they were before they embarked on this long road of service becomes efffectively extinct. They are left as semi-automatic robots whose health - mental, physical and emotional - continuously degrades.

    And when the caring role ends, what is left?

    The answer is nothing.

    But it doesn't have to be like this.

    This is the point of StayingMe.

    This blog - and the small business behind it - is here to help carers and those they care for to live better, fuller lives.  To retain at least some small part of who they were - to help them in the challenge which is 'Staying Me'.