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Reflections on Taking A Break

Posted: February 20, 2017 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

After my 2-month hiatus as a result of my Dad’s passing (the subject of my most recent blog post), I am excited and inspired to bring back the blogs!  Believe it or not, I have been authoring this blog since September 2014 – typically either weekly or bi-weekly, depending on the work load at the time – and I have absolutely loved having this forum as a place to share my thoughts, speak my mind, and/or personally connect with my growing readership.

And also…isn’t it great to take a break sometimes?

If you’ve ever had an ongoing project that fed you in a special way, you may have also experienced the “dual benefit” of taking a break from it. You get to recharge your batteries, AND your love of the project grows even fonder. Over the past 2 months, I have “refilled the tank” while simultaneously missing the process of sending these personal dispatches to you all.

This phenomenon happens with family caregivers, too. As they care for their loved one living with memory loss, the demands of the role inescapably drain their energy, and they eventually desperately need a break.   Whether it’s dropping their loved one off for a day of socializing and nourishment at The Ivey, or arranging for a weekend away with friends, these caregivers end up feeling the “dual benefit” of taking such a break. Their energy comes back, AND they miss their loved one even more.

And trust me, these are both very good things.

If you are feeling the stress of caregiving taking its toll on your energy, mood, mind or body (or likely, all of the above), I urge you to take a break. A few hours, a couple days or a long weekend. Family, friends and The Ivey are potential resources for you.

By doing so, you’ll find yourself a better caregiver, not to mention a happier and healthier human.

And in my case, maybe even a better blogger 😉

(Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.)

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The End of An Era

Posted: February 13, 2017 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

Well, hello there. This is my first blog post since the holidays.

Last week, l learned of the passing of a dear former member of The Ivey. My heart went out to the family we got to know so well.  Upon learning of her passing, I realized that I am overdue in reaching out to you readers to thank you for the notes of encouragement and love you’ve sent my way, since my Dad’s passing on December 11. That morning I was also reminded that the family we all become with the shared journeys of caring for our loved ones throughout the dementia journey keeps us close, strong and grateful.

Like Mom, Dad lived with dementia the last few years of his life. Although long distance, I was able to be his “mind-caregiver” – Skyping with him 3 times per week which were orchestrated by his extraordinary Care Manager, Sharon. For 2-3 hours/day and 3 days/week, she made sure his mind was engaged through long walks, conversation, recreation and exercise, or other special activities at the health center. For my Dad and me, those memorable calls enabled us to see each other, sing and laugh together, and allowed me to monitor his health while providing great “mind care,” the hallmark of what we do at The Ivey every day.

Although I was not able to have either of my parents attend The Ivey, I am so proud of how their lives informed The Ivey’s model of care. My father was an early advocate of the concept of The Ivey and became a supporter in the development of the campus and building. When he evolved from being my mother’s loving caregiver to the gentle person who needed care, I incorporated programming ideas I learned during his 3.5 year stay at the Davis Health Center in Wilmington.  

It was mine and my brother’s honor and pleasure to walk this journey with him and be with him at the moment in time where the circle of life ends. Sometimes still sad, but at peace with his long life well lived, I am so grateful for the lessons learned from his life spent as caregiver and ultimately, as care recipient. His and my mother’s gift to me is to be able to pass on those lessons to families experiencing dementia, and help them create lives worth living and well lived throughout the circle of life. I hope my blogs can add to the work we do for the whole family here at The Ivey.  

Without parents now, as many of you may be, life feels different. Thirty years ago, when my Dad’s last parent died, he told me that it is the end of an era. Now I understand.

(Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.)

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Holiday Blessings from The Ivey

Posted: December 23, 2016 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

Merry Christmas everyone! Each and every one of us at The Ivey are sending you blessings for a most joyous holiday. Relish time with your family and friends. Enjoy some good food and perhaps a few seasonal indulgences. And above all, pause to give thanks for the blessings in your life. We count you among ours.

I’ll be back in the New Year to light up your inbox with further blog musings!

(Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.)

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Serving Up the Turkey, with a Side of Hope

Posted: November 18, 2016 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

Can you believe Thanksgiving is next week?

It always seems to sneak up on me, although I confess that I’m getting excited about it.

Of course, we’ve all experienced the expected post-meal drowsiness on Thanksgiving. I’ve always been told that it was caused by tryptophan – an amino acid found in turkey.

Turns out, we’ve been kidding ourselves.

Tryptophan can be found in almost any protein, which means our Turkey Day sleepiness is likely just a result of us eating too much in one sitting!

But I’m going somewhere much more interesting with this. Recently, I stumbled upon a study in which Dr. Nicolaas Deutz, professor at the Center for Translational Research in Aging and Longevity, was exploring the potential for tryptophan-enriched diets to improve cognition. He was focused on patients with multiple sclerosis, a disease which he describes as “almost like the brain getting older on its own” wherein “memory problems really look similar to dementia, Parkinson’s and other diseases that affect older people.”

What he found was fascinating. When tryptophan was reduced in participants’ diets, memory and cognition went down. Which begs the question: would an increase have the opposite effect?

His studies continue, as do our hopes for an eventual cure.

In the meantime, I want to pause to recognize this as yet another thing for which to “give thanks.” I’m referring to all of the wildly smart individuals around the world, people like Dr. Deutz, who are working hard to cure all forms of dementia. I’m talking about all of the individual and organizational support out there fueling such cure-focused efforts.

And just think: someday, a cure will be discovered. I have no doubt.

Until that day comes, I am grateful for The Ivey and the support, education, therapies, and friendships that we provide as a whole family solution. I am also very grateful for you, the readers of my blog, and all of your families and friends who receive your unconditional love and attention.

So, let’s rally around the table on Thanksgiving Day next week and enjoy the turkey…and the gravy…and all the fixins…for what they really are – a blessed opportunity stir up old memories and make new ones. Plus, to enjoy friends, family, fellowship, and perhaps just a bit too much food. Blessings to all of you!

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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A Walk, A Symposium, An Ecosystem

Posted: October 27, 2016 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

Did you see the size of The Ivey’s walk team for the 2016 Walk to End Alzheimer’s on September 24th? If you have previously “Liked” The Ivey on Facebook, then you might have seen the photo that we posted. It was huge!

2016-alz-walk-team132 walkers, and unprecedented family participation! Indeed, we broke all of our prior records, both for participants and fundraising. And that felt great!

But perhaps even better was the undeniable feeling of family that hung in the morning air that day. All around The Ivey’s pre-walk tailgate tent, families, staff and volunteers were buzzing about – not just enjoying the coffee, juices and breakfast foods, but also enjoying each other. Hugs were distributed liberally. Smiles and hellos were abundant. And many stories and words of encouragement were shared.

Then, as I wandered around the rest of Symphony Park, I was struck by the larger sense of family at the event. Everyone rallying together around a cause that touches us all in some way: the defeat of Alzheimer’s disease.

The following week, I attended an Alzheimer’s Symposium hosted by Charlotte Neuroscience Foundation. Its keynote speaker was Kim Campbell, wife of famous musical artist Glen Campbell, who courageously decided to publicly share his battle with the disease.

The close timing of these two important events – the Alzheimer’s Walk and the Alzheimer’s Symposium – got me present to how important it is to have such a variety of cause-focused initiatives fulfilling different needs into our community. One is focused on finding a cure, and the other is focused on addressing caregiver issues. Both are vital.

As I have been reveling in feelings of family lately, I’m so glad that this “extended family” of ours has these outlets and resources. I’m also proud that The Ivey plays its own special part as a significant resource to families throughout the greater Charlotte area.

It’s all part of our area’s “dementia care ecosystem,” and the more we participate and take advantage of it all, the better.

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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I’m Lacing Up. Are You?

Posted: September 23, 2016 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

Tomorrow morning, The Ivey staff, families and friends will be participating in the 2016 Walk to End Alzheimer’s, in support of the Alzheimer’s Association of Western Carolina. We’ll also be having our second annual “Pre-Walk Tailgate Party” in Symphony Park (the site of the walk) with coffee, breakfast goodies, custom t-shirts, and (if last year is any indicator) lots of hugs, smiles, laughs and love.

And I have to say, I’m really looking forward to it.

After a week of unrest and tension in our city, it will be so good to come together in this way. We will be rallying around a vital cause. Our shared belief that we can end Alzheimer’s disease is such a powerful connector. You can feel the solidarity in the air.

Some of us (dare I say, most of us) participating in the walk have personal connections to the disease. Others, perhaps, are more removed. But regardless, the only thing that truly matters is that we are all there in support of a common goal.

In the weeks leading up to the walk, The Ivey’s Facebook page has been running a weekly series called “Why I Walk Wednesdays” (#WIWW) in which staff members have been articulating their personal reasons for participating in the walk. It’s important for us to be open and to share why we are so dedicated to our vision of a future without Alzheimer’s.

I’m also so proud and thankful to all of those who have signed up to walk with us this year and who have contributed to our efforts. We have 128 walkers signed up for The Ivey Team and we’ve raised $12,550 (surpassing our $10,000 goal)! YES!

A special shout-out to our top 3 fundraisers: Kathryn Brady, Janice Petrone and Connie Pavlakos!

I would love to see this kind of unity playing out in many other aspects of society, too. Maybe the community-building model displayed by successful non-profit organizations and causes can be a source of inspiration for tackling our community’s other problems and challenges, too.

I hope to see you in the morning – there’s a hug waiting with your name on it!

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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A Family Affair

Posted: September 16, 2016 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

This past weekend, John and I invited all of The Ivey’s Board, staff, volunteers, and spouses or significant others to join us at Carmel Country Club for a “post-wedding celebration.” We were limited as to how many people we could invite to our wedding, so we decided to host a more intimate event for this special family to whom we feel so close.

2016-staff-party-carmel-country-clubAnd I use that word – “family” – quite deliberately. Because that’s exactly how we feel about them.

The vibe at the party was unquestionably familial, too. As I looked around the room at the conversations, the laughing, the dancing, the hugging and all the “group selfie taking,” it actually felt like I was at a big family reunion.

When I think about it, it’s pretty amazing. These are people who work with each other five days per week. From my experience, most employees don’t choose to spend their “down time” with the same people who are by their side each and every workday.  But there’s something different about The Ivey team.

Maybe it’s because we are in the business of supporting whole families.  We work hand-in-hand with each other, with our members, and with the families who have entrusted their loved ones to us. It’s just the kind of special work and unique experience that binds people for life.

Whatever the reason, we are a family. That’s a big reason why The Ivey is such a special place. You can sense that love in the air, hear it in the calming voices of our care staff, feel it in the warm touch of their guiding hands.

As we ended the party with all of us dancing and singing to “We Are Family,” it felt, well, just right.

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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Some Thoughts About Celebrity Transparency

Posted: September 9, 2016 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

Last week, we lost screen legend Gene Wilder to Alzheimer’s disease. We send our deepest condolences to his entire family.

We also learned that, years ago, Wilder and his family had chosen to not go public with his diagnosis. I was listening to an NPR interview with Wilder’s nephew, and he said this: “(My uncle) made a personal decision and then a family decision not to disclose the disease. This decision was not as a result of vanity. There were times we would go out to dinner as a family and children would light up at the sight of him and smile. And because he never lost his instinct or sense or sensibility, it occurred to him that if that disease were made public…that then after that smile, some parent may then say something about disease or sadness. And he was such that he could not bear to be responsible for one less smile in the world.”

To hear it put in these words, it’s hard to argue with their decision. It makes sense. It’s thoughtful and authentic and forward-thinking. And of course, I fully understand and respect their decision.

At the same time, I have other questions running through my mind around this. I wonder, is there value in encouraging other noteworthy individuals and their families to share their dementia journey with the world? Would it help normalize it for the rest of us?

By sharing their experiences with the rest of us, perhaps they can play a special role in obliterating the unnecessary stigma of Alzheimer’s, luring families out of their self-constructed isolation and leading them to the resources they need and deserve.

Entire communities like The Ivey await, with arms wide open, ready to help care for those living with dementia and to support the family caregivers who stand beside them. And one day, this spirit of openness will lead us to discover the cure that will ultimately end this epidemic.

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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The Olympics Are Over, But The Race Goes On

Posted: August 25, 2016 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

The 2016 Summer Olympic officially came to a close this past Sunday night.

I’m so proud of the Americans who represented our country with such skill and honor. 121 medals later (46 of them gold!), the United States is yet again basking in the glory of our amazing athletic achievement.

Of course, throughout the Games, we witnessed both heroics and scandals.

But the true importance of the Games remained intact. The world comes together. Countries, athletes, fans and viewers. We are all watching at the same time. We are cheering on those we sent to represent us. We hate the defeats and we love the victories. And we get emotional every time we hear our national anthem playing, see our flag rising, and see our countrymen and countrywomen adorned with their hard-fought medals.

The five Olympic rings represent the five continents, interlaced to represent the universality of the Olympic Games. Their five colors – blue, yellow, black, green, red – plus the white background, combine to represent all nations (as these colors appear on the national flags around the world). Every country on one flag. It’s a powerful symbol of global unity.

And still, wars and terrorism and hardships exist.

When I consider the significance of the Olympics, and its meaning in the world, I also think of its resonance with the dementia journey. Amidst the challenges and struggles and injustice of the disease, the greatest thing we have to rise above it all is our togetherness.

When we join together in support, in love, and with compassion for our humanity, we become stronger than any hardship, or any diagnosis. We become present to the privilege of being able to support each other, celebrate each other, and help each other over the finish line.

Last week, American runner Abbey D’Agostino collided with New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin, and both ended up on the ground, injured, with no chance of winning the 5,000-meter race. And then, D’Agostino helped Hamblin up so they could at least finish the race.

The world watched it happen.

This spirit of unity is what I see happening at The Ivey every day – among our staff, our volunteers, our interns, our families, and our members. We help each other up, we cheer each other on, and we keep up the good fight. Together.

I wish I could give out medals all day long.

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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Re-Entry to Reality

Posted: August 10, 2016 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

As many of us squeeze in a final vacation before the busy post-summer period arrives, we also find ourselves facing down a wide spectrum of emotions.

First, there’s the build-up to the vacation – the anticipation, the daydreaming, and the frenetic nature of trip preparation. Stop the mail and paper! Pick clothes and pack the suitcase! Set the email auto-responder! Line up pet care and plant care!

Then there’s the vacation, itself. Hopefully, it was everything you were hoping it would be. And hopefully, you took the time to “unplug.”

But for purposes of this blog musing, what’s most fascinating to me are those final days of vacation. When we feel that well-known twinge accompanied by that well-known thought: “Uh-oh. Back to reality soon.”

Psychologists have suggested that we should start planning our next vacation before our current one is over to help minimize that post-vacation malaise that’s brewing inside us at those times. Well, okay, that’s not bad advice 😉

But here’s another perspective. What if we endeavored to create an existence for ourselves that we didn’t feel like we needed to “escape” from in order to maintain our mental and emotional sanity? What if the purpose of our vacations was to further enhance our already-pleasurable lives? What if we actually felt excited when our vacations were coming to a close – eagerly anticipating our return to friends and colleagues, to lives of ease and purpose, even when our struggles and challenges exist.

So before you say I’m being unrealistic, let me first try adjusting my view of reality.

Let me try to see the world surrounding my everyday life as the kind of paradise that many people around the world would do almost anything to have.

Let me try savoring my meals – all three of them – as the gifts that they are.

Let me try taking photos around my home, workplace and city as if I’m a tourist in an exotic wonderland.

And/or let me be in the moment with friends, family, or just me, like we do (or should do) on vacation.

At The Ivey, we’re proud to play a special part in making this reality possible. Because when loved ones spend their daytime hours with us, family caregivers are able to take full advantage of their days – taking time to unplug, savor meals and be in the moment. It’s like taking a daily vacation, even if just for a few hours. And when your loved comes home to you at night, you’ll be refreshed and eager for the cherished time together.

It’s your ticket to seeing your world as a paradise again.

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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The Squalls of Life

Posted: July 14, 2016 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

It’s that time of year – when the weather can change in no-time-flat.

The most dramatic example of this is a good ‘ol fashioned “summer squall.” That’s when, seemingly out of nowhere, the sky turns dark, the wind picks up, and the rain suddenly pours down in buckets. Especially here in the south.

Trees bend in the face of these gusts. Leaves, sometimes whole branches, crash down and litter the streets. Gutters overflow. If you ask me, it’s actually a little scary.

And then, just like that, it’s sunny and quiet again.

I find these outbursts by Mother Nature pretty impressive. Perhaps because, for a few moments, I feel like adventurous stormchaser Laura Dern in Twister – except in my movie, I’m not trying to catch the storm! Nope, I’m usually headed in the other direction, just trying to beat it home!

But these instances also remind me of our fortitude as humans. Our ability to handle what comes our way. We can weather the squalls in our life. We can batten down the hatches and ride them out.

And then, we can re-emerge and feel the warmth of the sun on our skin, the coolness in the air, the gentleness of the breeze.

No severe storm can last forever. The Alzheimer’s journey can feel like a raging tempest at times. And in those moments when the complexities of life with dementia feel like they’re piling up, it can feel like we’re getting absolutely pummeled by the wind, hail, branches and lightning.

But if we hold onto our partners on the journey, we can outlast those storms together. And if we remind ourselves that things will calm down soon, we can find the extra bit of endurance that we probably need in that scary moment.

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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A Walk Down Musical Memory Lane

Posted: June 30, 2016 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

Music is such a huge part of our lives as humans. From the songs that remind of us of our favorite vacations, to the epic break-up songs from relationships past, to songs that have the power to lift our spirits or get us moving, nothing activates us quite like music.

(And I can personally testify how amazing the music was at my wedding and reception two weekends ago!  Everyone was on their feet dancing and having a ball.)

In recent years, there have been a number of significant projects and programs aimed at demonstrating and leveraging the power of music for the benefit of individuals living with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Recent movies like Michael Rossato-Bennett’s Alive Inside or Glen Campbell’s I’ll Be Me are moving testaments to this power.  In the true-story movie about Glen Campbell, he had recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and was told to hang up his guitar and prepare for the inevitable. Instead, Glen and his wife went public with his diagnosis and announced that he and his family would set out on a “Goodbye Tour.” The film documents this amazing 1.5-year journey as he and his family attempted to navigate the wildly unpredictable nature of Glen’s progressing disease using love, laughter and music as their medicine of choice.

My parents loved music and I inherited that profound love of music.  For years, we have embraced the magic of music at The Ivey. All week long, our members sing, dance, enjoy a variety of musical entertainers, participate in Music Therapy sessions, and even take advantage of our new iPod Music Program. Stop by The Ivey at any time and you just might think you’ve wandered into a concert hall.

One of the common themes that runs through all of these musical offerings is that the individual’s music of choice, by and large, tend to be the songs from their teens and early-twenties. These are the songs that stick with us. The tunes to which we have the deepest emotional connections. Dementia typically spares the part of the brain that retains these strong musical memories – perhaps a small show of mercy from an otherwise merciless disease.

And if you think about it, this phenomenon is likely true for you, too. Think about the songs from your teenage years, your college years, and your first few years as a 20-something. For me, these would include great songs from Motown and the beach. Consider some of the perky songs that I chose for my wedding reception: “Everlasting Love” by Natalie Cole, “With This Ring” by The Platters, and “Love Train” by The O’Jays.

So I’m curious: what were your favorite songs from those times in your life? How do those songs make you feel when you hear them today? And how is that feeling different from the way you feel when you hear songs from other times in your life? It’s different, right? Please share with me by clicking HERE.

All of this to reaffirm: music is beautiful and powerful and the ultimate connector during our lifetimes. I hope you’ll enjoy this upcoming patriotic weekend by singing some familiar songs with your loved ones – rousing tunes such as our national anthem, “God Bless America,” and “America The Beautiful.”  I’ll bet you everyone will know the words!  Happy 4th!

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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The Countdown Is On

Posted: June 15, 2016 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

Earlier this year, some of you may have read a story in the Charlotte Observer (you can read it HERE) about how John Moore and I came together through our own individual experiences losing loved ones to Alzheimer’s disease. How The Ivey became Ground Zero for our combined focus on serving Charlotte families and the greater Charlotte community facing down this devastating disease. And how from our shared passion grew an entirely new and unexpected love.

And now, on June 18th at 5:30pm, John and I are getting married. Yup, our Big Day is almost upon us! 🙂

This new chapter in our lives is proof positive that the universe works in wonderfully mysterious ways, and the journey of life can be sweet, indeed. The path is winding, my friends, and you never know what love, light, joy and delights lie in wait for you around each bend.

Some may say I’ve arrived late to the matrimony party; step inside these wedding day heels of mine, and you’ll feel in your heart just how perfectly-timed it is.

After our wedding, I’ll return to your inbox with more weekly musings. Until then, enjoy your warm June days and the sweet surprises in your life.

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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Memorial Day: A Call to Remember

Posted: May 27, 2016 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

Despite the fact that summer doesn’t technically start until June 21, many people consider Memorial Day to be the unofficial start of the season. Many of us will celebrate by gathering with friends, firing up the grill, and catching some rays over the long weekend.

It’s also an important time to become present to the meaning behind this holiday’s name.

The “first ever” Memorial Day was May 30, 1868. Union General John A. Logan declared it an occasion to decorate the graves of Civil War soldiers. By the late 1880s, the day was officially named “Memorial Day.” It actually wasn’t declared a federal holiday until 1971. These days, it’s always observed on the last Monday of May.

The day is an opportunity to pause and honor the men and women who perished fighting for our country and for our freedom. They served with immeasurable bravery and selflessness – a debt that can never be repaid. And so, we visit their graveyards and war monuments. We bow our heads as our President lays wreathes on soldiers’ graves in Arlington National Cemetery. We gather together with our fellow citizens at parades and other Memorial Day celebrations in our cities and towns across the country. We fly our flags at half-staff.

These are the things that we do, because nothing can ever come close to sufficiently thanking and honoring these heroes and their families.

Many amazing veterans have been or currently are members at The Ivey. It is a great privilege to serve them and to care for them each day. Together with them, we also pause in deepest gratitude for the sacrifice made by their fallen brothers and sisters.

With an abundance of love and appreciation, I hope you enjoy your weekend, enjoy your family and friends, and enjoy the liberty that these remarkable Americans have made possible for us.

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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You Need the Rain to See the Rainbow

Posted: May 20, 2016 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

It’s been a rainy week in Charlotte, hasn’t it? And the forecast is calling for more rain this weekend!

So, let’s check in on this. How are you feeling? Disappointed at the lack of sun? Perturbed that you’re being robbed of warm spring days? Annoyed that you need to find your Vitamin D somewhere else?

You wouldn’t be alone. Many of us prefer the clear skies over the gray ones, and the dry weather to the wet stuff. But I’d like to offer another perspective. What if a rainy day was the new sunny day?

Huh? No, I haven’t lost my marbles.

I guess what I mean is: what if we flipped what’s predictable on its head? Sure, it’s easy to wake up on a rainy morning, peer out the window, and say, “Ugh. What a yucky day!” Left on autopilot, most of us would react that way. It’s kind of how we’re wired.

But what if we woke up on that rainy day, peered out the window, and said, “Rain! Yippee! Maybe I’ll see a rainbow today!”

This is the beauty of life, after all. The ups and the downs. The happy and the sad. The tough times and the easy moments. We can’t fully appreciate one without fully experiencing the other.

Plus, what a gift to be here in the first place to experience this one-time-only-never-to-be-repeated-in-the-history-of-time rain shower. The alternative is…well…you know, not being here.

And let’s bring this on home for a moment. Dementia can be sad. Really sad. And caregiving is hard stuff. Really hard. But gaze hard enough through the falling raindrops and you just might catch a glimpse of a rainbow. It might come in the colorful form of a dear friend, a helpful family member, a manicure, a milkshake, a beautiful piece of art, a favorite song, a good cry, the overheard innocent words of a child, or a whiff of fresh bread baking next door. It might be a moment of obvious happiness and clarity from your loved one – something that gives you the feeling that he or she is understanding and enjoying that moment. Regardless, if we are open to receiving them, joy and blessings dance around the trials and tribulations of life.

Perhaps I’ll catch you out there dancing in the rain this weekend!

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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Giving of Your Time While Doing What You Love

Posted: May 13, 2016 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

Whether you knew it or not, we recently celebrated a special week – National Volunteer Week – which was established by Points of Light, the world’s largest organization dedicated to volunteer service. The week was dedicated to inspiring, recognizing and encouraging people to seek out imaginative ways to engage in their communities.

Truthfully, we try to do that year-round at The Ivey! And there’s been a lot to celebrate here on the topic of volunteerism!

Last year, we formally established our volunteer program by calling it The Barretta Circle (named in honor of our longest-tenured volunteer, Tony Barretta). Since then, under the guidance of Program Development Coordinator Jen Olin Sexton, our volunteer team has grown to 23 amazing individuals! That’s over 600% growth in our team of generous volunteers!

During a typical day at The Ivey, we’ll have two or three volunteers join us for 1 – 4 hours each.  Sometimes a volunteer will lead something as specific as a weekly golf breakout group for men. Others will pitch in on a more general basis, like helping out in the kitchen, working with our sales and marketing team, or simply spending time with our members individually or in small groups.

Put simply, our volunteers are crucial to The Ivey model. The more people we have on deck, the more we can keep our members active and stimulated, especially in relation to each person’s specific cognitive ability. Our care team is already amazing, but our merry band of volunteers makes them supersonic!

One of the beautiful things about giving of your time is that you can choose a cause or activity that you already enjoy. Not only does it make the recipient happy, but you’re doubling the amount of happiness that you receive! Giving to Others + Sharing What You Love = Unbridled Joy!

We are continuing to grow The Barretta Circle, and we would LOVE for you to consider joining! Perhaps you have a little free time in your week and have been looking for something fulfilling to do. Maybe you have kids coming home from college for the summer who are looking for some soul-feeding experience for the resume. In addition to volunteer needs, we have summer and fall internships available. Contact Jen Sexton at Jen.Sexton@theivey.com for more info or to apply.

We are so grateful to each person who gives of their time and talent to help make The Ivey the incredibly special place that it is. Not only do I personally appreciate it, but so does my staff, my board, our members, and their loving families.

And…Happy Belated National Volunteer Week to you!

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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This Treasured Thing Called Flow

Posted: April 13, 2016 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

Are you in The Flow?

To which you might reply: Um, what on Earth do you mean, Lynn? Well, think of The Flow as similar to another more widely-used phrase, “Being in the zone.”

Check Wikipedia, and you’ll read that Flow is “the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, Flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does.”

The Flow can often be evasive. We WANT it, especially when we have something that needs to get done. But even beyond the practical benefits of this sought-after state of mind, we also desire it because it feels so good. When was the last time you were so into something that you lost all track of time? When you enjoyed pure, unadulterated attention and delight with something. When your cares and stress melted away.

Maybe it’s where the adage “Time flies when you’re having fun” comes from. Fun might be part of the equation.

But too often, this concept gets hijacked by something else much less enjoyable. You see, “complete absorption” takes on a whole new meaning when that thing absorbing you is caregiving. Serving as a family caregiver to a loved one living with Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia can, quite literally, take over your entire life. Allow it to, and you can kiss that preferred version of The Flow goodbye. In fact, you’re lucky if you find time to focus on yourself for a few fleeting minutes.

So, for those of us in demanding caregiving roles, how do we swing the “Flow Pendulum” from one extreme to the other? How do we go from being inescapably entrenched in navigating the choppy waters of memory loss, to actually giving ourselves the time and space to enjoy this gift of The Flow?

First, we need to re-capture an awareness of the things we love – those things that bring us personal joy. It may have been so long that we’ve actually forgotten about these things! Then, we need to create a support team around ourselves so that we can hit the Eject Button from time to time and go partake of those joyful things. Also, we need to dial up our self-care so that when we actually do have some time for ourselves, we have the capacity to let go, ease ourselves into the river’s current, and surrender to joy of The Flow.

Sound like a dream? Unachievable? Chasing a unicorn? I understand. It’s hard to see beyond your own nose when you’re feeling trapped in the caregiver box.

Come talk to us. We have resources. We know some tricks. And we know how you’re feeling.

As said in Field of Dreams, “There comes a time when all the cosmic tumblers have clicked into place and the universe opens itself up a few seconds to show you what’s possible.” A conversation with The Ivey might be that last cosmic tumbler, waiting to click into place just for you, opening you up to your life as it’s meant to be lived. With ease. In The Flow.

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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Celebrating Life in Every Step

Posted: March 17, 2016 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

Have I mentioned how much I admire a local non-profit organization called Playing For Others?

They’re an extraordinary group, providing a space for teens to explore and answer the questions, “Who Am I?” and “How will I give of that?” through programming in Personal Development, Service, and the Arts. Their leaders, staff and teen participants alike – Charlotteans of diverse ages and backgrounds – are doing amazing work.

Last year, at their “Connecting Charlotte” event, the teens honored The Ivey with a powerful spoken word piece that moved me and most of the audience to tears and cheers.

And last Saturday, they honored The Ivey yet again, at a signature event they called “HeARTbeat” – highlighting 12 local nonprofits through music, dance, slam poetry and visual art. The Playing for Others teens created and performed original works of art in honor of The Ivey, as well as other Charlotte organizations like 41percent, Behailu Academy, Bright Blessings, Changed Choices, Charlotte Bilingual Preschool, InReach, Institute for Philanthropic Leadership, Queen City Forward, RAIN, Safe Alliance and Teen Health Connection.

This time, their tribute to The Ivey came through the power of dance! In a really fun and gorgeously choreographed 1950s swing number, the teens brought our organization and our members to vivid life on the stage!

As the teens danced their hearts out in front of an excited audience at the McGlohon Theatre, they were really honoring everyone living with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Through their fancy footwork, they spoke on behalf of each and every person battling the disease. As if to say: I’m still here. I have a rich and storied personal history to share. I’m still doing what I love to do.

At The Ivey, we keep this mindset top-of-mind along every step of the care journey with our members and their families. Even if communication becomes difficult, even if physical abilities are hindered, a vibrant life exists inside. Memories are there, and lifelong loves are not lost.

In a way, the PFO performance on Saturday night reminded me of what I’ll call the “dementia dance” – the one in which we move through time with our loved ones, take turns leading, and celebrate life in every step.

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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The Sun Is Shining, and It’s Shining On You

Posted: March 3, 2016 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

Have you felt it in the air? You aren’t imagining it. Spring is coming.

A touch of warmth in the breeze. The occasional bud on a tree. More Charlotteans riding around on bikes or driving around with the top down.

As humans, we’re hard-wired to experience the approach of Spring through the lens of rebirth and rejuvenation. And this tends to lift our spirits and fill us with feelings of optimism and happiness. Smiles involuntarily spread across our faces at the very thought of mercury rising, time outdoors, and vacation plans in the works.

There have been times in my own life – especially during my mother’s Alzheimer’s journey – when I wished these feelings could be bottled up and taken in doses. Anyone caring for a loved one living with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia can tell you that “positivity” often seems like a fleeting thing. The challenges can be great, the sadness can be intense, and the overall experience can track as full-on surreal.

But the more I learned to give in to the river’s current and make the most of the journey, the more my perspective changed. And now, in watching The Ivey’s members, families and care staff live gloriously “out loud” on their own journeys, my mindset is fully fixed on the “glass is half full” approach.

Recently, I read a wonderful post that captured this shift in attitude. You can read it HERE, which also includes a fascinating chart from Dr. G. Allen Power’s book, Dementia Beyond Drugs: Changing the Culture of Care. This post and the accompanying chart goes hand-in-hand with my/our more positive approach to dementia care. It places a premium on the individual, their current capabilities, their potential, their independence, their connection to the people and world around them, and the unique and powerful roles of their family members and other care partners.

I love this approach. It’s stitched into the very DNA of The Ivey. It is unapologetically hopeful and expectant, bright and buoyant, confident and faith-filled.

In a way, it’s an approach that feels a lot like Spring.

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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Peer Pressure Is Good. Give In.

Posted: February 26, 2016 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

How often have we been told that peer pressure is a bad thing?

peer pressureYup. It’s a bonafide Golden Rule of childhood. We heard it over and over again from our parents, teachers and other adults. “Don’t do something just because everyone else is doing it.” “Stand up to anyone trying to make you do something that doesn’t feel right.” “If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you jump, too? Huh? Wouldja?”

And hey, who am I to argue? In most cases, it’s a pretty good rule of thumb. If the people around you are pushing you to do something that just doesn’t feel right in your heart, you usually can’t go wrong by saying no, stepping away, and let those other fools learn something the hard way.

But it turns out that this whole “peer pressure is bad” thing isn’t entirely true everywhere. At The Ivey, we take an immersive approach to socialization. And we have some members who – in other circumstances – might avoid physical exercise, dining with friends, playing fun games, singing, dancing, making art, or generally being social with their peers. But when they find themselves immersed in our fun, social and active environment, they naturally find themselves doing these things, and loving it. Not to mention, the healing power of such socialization has been proven in studies time and time again.

Now that’s what I call Positive Peer Pressure!

For an aging loved one needing daytime care or oversight, such peer pressure simply doesn’t exist at home, when they are isolated from peers during the day. It also doesn’t tend to happen often in residential living facilities or nursing homes, where the environment is less immersive than The Ivey. Participation rates plummet when you need to knock on the individual’s door and ask them to join in the activities happening down the hall.

All of this to say: I welcome all the “peer pressure” that happens in our nurturing place here. If that means that our members and care staff are a motley crew of mischief-makers, then more power to ’em! They’re having an immensely positive influence on each other – and so far, I haven’t gotten any angry calls from home  🙂

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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Our Lives As Movies

Posted: February 5, 2016 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

Last week, I wrote a blog post about the passing of celebrities, how such losses affect us, and how these people live on through their enduring bodies of work.

Soon after, we received a beautiful note from a reader. It moved me so much that I want to share it with you. She wrote that my post had…

“…made me think that not only are ‘famous’ people the ones we should think on, but the everyday folks that touch our lives in a kind way every day.  I’ve learned over the last few years, to never wait to say something to someone, or to do something ‘for’ someone until later. Don’t put off the sweet, loving and kind acts in life. Tomorrow could be too late.

“I lost my Mom a year ago this past November. She was my ‘Best Friend,’ and my Dad was ‘My Hero.’

“One of the last things my Mom said to me was that she would live on through me.  I pray every day that I can be half the wonderful woman she was in life.

“I also got to tell her she was my Best Friend, and she replied, ‘You are mine.’ Heaven has a beautiful angel.”

These touching words resonated deeply with all of us here at The Ivey. When the time comes that we must say goodbye to a dear friend, we always find ourselves reflecting. Did we say everything we wanted to say? Did we shower them with boundless love, sweetness, and kind acts? We must always strive for the answers to these questions to be a resounding “Yes!”

This generous reader’s words also got me present to another notion: the everyday people that populate our days are the real “famous people” of our lives. Our family, friends and acquaintances are the stars of our story. The words we say to each other, our script. Indeed, our moments, days, months and years connect together like frames of a (hopefully) long movie strip. If we were to reel it up and play it back, an epic drama of life and love would play out before our eyes.

When the stars of our real lives depart us, may we always be left with feelings of gratitude, fulfillment, warmth and love. Despite the unpredictable plot twists of life, we can help ensure this by thoughtfully and consciously continuing to write our own scripts – the same way the reader and her Mom beautifully declared their “Best Friendship” to each other, before it was too late.

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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Missed, and Never Fully Gone

Posted: January 28, 2016 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

As The Ivey serves more and more individuals living with dementia, it stands to reason that we also experience more losses throughout the year. We think about our friends often and miss them all the time.

And with 2015 disappearing into the distance of our rear view mirror, we move into the new year with full hearts, honoring those we have recently lost.

For many, the “In Memoriam” segments also produced during this time of year (known to some as “awards show season”) is the part of events like The Oscars that people anticipate the most. When a celebrity passes away, it’s jarring. As a society, they become such a part of our cultural landscape that we sometimes assume that they will always be with us.

Perhaps this is because they are presented to us through mediums other than IRL (“in real life”). We see them on the silver screen, hear them on our car radios, even welcome them into our homes by way of our televisions. The work they do moves us emotionally, touches us deeply, and adds to the language of our life.

And so they become real to us. Like an acquaintance, they show up from time to time with their voice, their lines, their lyrics, their looks. Hello there, Favorite Actor. Great to see you again. It’s been a while.

So when we wake up to the news that Natalie Cole or David Bowie or Alan Rickman or Glenn Frey has left us – as happened with all of these beloved figures recently – we are often sideswiped with a feeling of surrealism.

And once the disbelief wears off, sometimes we actually feel sad. Some even depressed. After all, they were a part of our life, and now they aren’t.

But wait…

They are.

This is one of the beautiful gifts given by these remarkably talented humans. They become immortal through their gifts and their works. Frey and Cole left behind catalogs of great recordings, including a certain unforgettable one that Natalie did along with her Dad’s voice. Rickman continued gracing us with his acting and directing talents in recent years. Even Bowie left us one final album just prior to his departure. So we can continue to revel in their genius through their enduring bodies of work.

And these losses also represent more opportunities to exercise gratitude in our lives. After all, as one widely-circulated tweet expressed: “If you’re ever sad, just remember the world is 4.543 billion years old and you somehow managed to exist at the same time as David Bowie.”

Godspeed, famous friends.

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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A Small Change That Could Enable a Big Change

Posted: January 8, 2016 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

One of the Oxford Dictionary’s definitions of the word resolution is “A firm decision to do or not to do something.”

We make a lot of firm resolutions this time of year, don’t we? But what’s our true intention?

By and large, New Year’s Resolutions are “fuzzy” at best. For example, we resolve to eat better, but what we’re really saying is that we aim to eat better. We want to eat better.

But are we really resolved to eat better?

I wonder if we should consider retiring the word “resolution” altogether and replace it with something more reasonable. A word that both empowers us to hit our goals and also acknowledges that we are human beings who are allowed to strive imperfectly toward those goals.

What if… we made New Year’s Intentions, instead?

One of the Oxford Dictionary’s definitions of the word intention is “a person’s designs.” Wow, now THAT is a concept I can get behind.

We can design our days, our plans, our lives – but also be open to the fluidity of life. This means exercising compassion with ourselves. It means keeping our eyes and hearts fixed on what we want, while cradling ourselves in the loving embrace of self-empathy on those days that we don’t walk the path perfectly.

This is especially important for individuals serving as family caregivers for a loved one living with dementia. In the face of such a challenging role, embracing an intention exhibits so much more self-compassion than shackling yourself to some rigid resolution. You’re human. You’re doing the best you can. And you deserve a little “loving leeway” in your life 🙂

I invite each of you to convert your New Year’s Resolution into a New Year’s Intention. You might just find that building such malleability into your goal will help you get that much closer to it.

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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’Tis the Season for Time Travel

Posted: December 18, 2015 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

For the second year in a row, we were treated this week to the beautiful voices of Charlotte Catholic High School’s Honor Choir, as they visited The Ivey to serenade members and staff alike with beloved Christmas carols and holiday songs.

Charlotte Catholic Honors Choir 020Led by Dottie Tippett (a veteran choir director and member of the CCHS faculty), basking in the glow of these young ladies’ vocal talents has quickly become one of our favorite annual traditions!

As the sweet sounds of their renditions resonated throughout The Ivey, one word kept coming up for me. That word was: Timeless.

The songs they were singing were truly timeless numbers. Songs like “Carol of the Bells,” “The First Noel,” and even more contemporary tunes like “What a Wonderful World.” I mean, just consider the timelessness of a lyric like this:

The colors of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky,
Are also on the faces of people going by.
I see friends shaking hands, sayin’, “How do you do?”
They’re really sayin’, “I love you.”

“What a Wonderful World” has the soul of a Christmas carol. As far as I’m concerned, it should be added to the holiday canon from this point forward!

These songs are the closest things to time travel that we are ever likely to experience. Their melodies and words possess the power to transport us to other times and places – childhoods, yesteryears, bygone eras. They dig deep and uncover “forgotten” memories – like torches shedding light on treasured moments from the past – many of which we have inadvertently packed away and put out of our minds.

The more the passage of time and the complexities of our daily lives conspire to push our precious memories further into the background, the more grateful I become for these timeless holiday songs. During this time of year, they are like magical keys unlocking dusty old boxes full of priceless antiques – always in our possession, but too easily forgotten.

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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Creating People Who Lead, Give and Care

Posted: December 10, 2015 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

On November 11th, I joined several staff members and friends of The Ivey at a very special event in Charlotte. It was called “Connecting Charlotte,” a celebration of Charlotte non-profits, hosted by a wonderful organization called Playing For Others.

Playing For Others is having an immensely positive impact on teens throughout our city. Their year-round programs are “cultivating the next generation of innovative leaders, philanthropists, and compassionate human beings.”

The Ivey was one of the evening’s honorees, and we were treated to an incredible spoken word performance by PFO participant, Will Struckmeyer. (You can watch the entire performance on Facebook by CLICKING HERE.)

It was a powerful tribute. One of the standout lines in the piece was, “”The Ivey…a place that preserves my memories in a way that actually works.” It was truly amazing.

After the celebratory event, I found myself thinking about PFO’s mission, and about the “next generation” that they are grooming to live compassionate lives. It’s a mission that really speaks to my heart, and it feels immensely aligned with some of the reasons that The Ivey exists, too. To enhance people’s lives. To bring more compassion into the world.

And furthermore, let’s consider the fact that members of The Ivey were once teenagers, themselves. As were their caregivers. They were once “the next generation.” To me, it’s very moving to think about the cycle of life, and the way it plays out in front of our eyes every day, all around us.

I’m so appreciative for the honor that PFO founder and executive director, Jen Band, and her entire organization have bestowed upon us. Moreover, I’m deeply grateful for the difference that they are making in the world. Because from where I sit, the more people we have in the world who are leading with strength, living lives of generous giving, and exhibiting boundless compassion for their fellow man, the more beautiful this thing called Life can be.

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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Beauty On Display

Posted: December 3, 2015 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

Recently, The Ivey’s first-ever “pop up art gallery” was in full force in our front library. For five full days, the room exhibited beautiful pieces of art created by the hands, hearts and minds of our members – and some originals and reproductions were also for sale in our “gift shop.”

Pop Up Art GalleryThis remarkable collection of work was created by our members in weekly Art Therapy sessions – a big part of our multidimensional Life Enrichment program. Led by art educator and professional artist Lela Kometiani, our members regularly roll up their sleeves and dive into fun projects that encourage creative self-expression through painting (especially watercolors), clay work, glass painting, silk painting, and more.

And when you pour this much heart into your art, it certainly deserves to be shown off!

I absolutely loved watching our members walk into “the gallery” throughout the week to see their own gorgeous work and the work of their friends on display. It was equally powerful to witness their family members tour the gallery at the beginning or end of the day, as they would see for themselves the creative energy and vivid artistic expressions alive and well inside of their loved one living with dementia.

As I’ve said before, we are big advocates of Dr. John Zeisel’s dementia care philosophy, outlined in his book I’m Still Here. It’s why we use evidence-based activities such as those built into our Art Therapy program to actively leverage our members’ existing strengths, promote cognitive stimulation, encourage socialization, and slow down the progression of the disease.

But something else vitally important was represented in that pop-up gallery.  Something more than the clear benefits of Art Therapy for cognitive function, sensory stimulation, fine motor skills, therapeutic movement and blood flow to joints. Something that extended beyond all the science.

What was truly on display was the beautiful humanity of our members. Each of them with life journeys to recount, personalities to share, and talents to admire. They have many thoughts and feelings and opinions to express. And art is one way for that dialogue to happen. When they apply a brush stroke to a page, or mold a lump of clay with their hands, or draw a figure with a pencil, they are communicating with us. Sharing who they are. Speaking their truth. Giving us the gift of themselves.

And as they say in the gallery world: that is priceless art.

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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Putting the Fun in Fundraising

Posted: November 13, 2015 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

A few weeks ago, a group of friends headed westward toward Asheville. They were en route to their annual tradition: a golf tournament in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina. The name of their yearly event is “The For Charity Golf Tournament.”
2015 FC Tourney_big check photo
What’s great about this affair is that they choose a different charity to raise money for each year. Usually, they identify a charity to which one or more people in the group have a connection. For their 2015 tournament, they chose The Ivey.

Their personal connections to The Ivey are varied. Don Olin is The Ivey’s board chair and also runs our weekly “golf breakout group” with our members. Matt Olin is a member of our marketing team. Patrick Keenan’s sweet mother was a former member of The Ivey. And nearly all of them know someone in their family or network who is living with Alzheimer’s or some other form of brain failure.

What I love about what they do is the way it underscores that giving can be fun. In fact, it should be fun.

President Bill Clinton once said, “…when we give what we can, and give it with joy, we don’t just renew the American tradition of giving, we also renew ourselves.” This suggests that the pure act of giving, alone, feeds our happiness in a uniquely powerful way.

But then, when we double-down on the fun – by joining together with the people we enjoy, by combining the fundraising with an entertaining activity, by focusing our efforts on a cause that we all believe in – that’s when the happiness quotient starts to multiply exponentially.

When they returned from the mountains, we accepted their generous check with huge smiles and grateful hearts. Moreover, I’m hoping more and more people follow their lead by being proactively creative in doing good in our community.

So gather with some friends, have some fun, raise some funds, and then give it all away. You’ll feel amazing, and you’ll change lives. And nothing feels better than that.

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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In Spite Of

Posted: October 17, 2015 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

Great days in spite of the rain: The Alzheimer’s Walk on September 26, and my niece’s wedding on October 3.

Because of the enormity of rain we began experiencing in North and South Carolina, those two days had the potential to be very bad hair days…not to mention a walk organizer’s or bride’s worst nightmare!  So, catch a glimpse of how a little tweak of attitude can make a rainy day, SUNNY! It’s all in the mind…and heart.

On the morning of the 2015 Alzheimer’s Walk, there was a little something extra that made this walk special. In truth, I still can’t quite put my finger on it.

  • It might have been the fact that The Ivey’s team consisted of a record-breaking 80 people who signed up and showed up to walk with us!
  • Or maybe it was the resulting recording-breaking (for us) ~$5,000+ raised for this devastating disease and the need for a cure.  I was bursting with pride!
  • Or was it the rain, causing you to bring either a poncho or umbrella to keep hair, clothes, and skin dry? Or after placing the umbrella under the table and adding an extra shirt for warmth, you went headlong into the walk, knowing you’d be soaked to the bone by the end. (For the record, I was the latter, and yes, a very bad hair day resulted.)

But here’s the beautiful thing: we had a really wonderful and fun time, in spite of the rain.  Hugging and laughing with so many of our members, so many family caregivers, and so many dear old friends (one whom I had not seen in years) generated a palpable energy in the air – the sort of collective spirit and energy that you feel when big-hearted humans gather together for a cause.

The following Saturday, and the entire 4-day wedding weekend, was all set to be disappointing due to the predicted deluge of rain.  Actually, there was potential disaster if Hurricane Joaquin made a wrong turn and veered over to the southeast coast of NC.  And the first round of rain wasn’t even hurricane-related!  My niece was understandably fretful, but because of the calm demeanor and excellent planning of the reception venue’s organizer, she learned that generators were on the premises and all gassed-up.  So, not to worry – except for hair, makeup, beautiful dresses….but that was my worry!

Drizzly, light rain abounded on Thursday and Friday, but guess what happened on Saturday?  The sun came out!!  It was a beautiful day…as a matter of fact, a picture-perfect fall day.  Hair, makeup, and dresses were flawless…and the best thing of all:  a very happy bride, groom, and family for a beautifully traditional ceremony.  As for Aunt Lynn (me), it was an event for the memory book with all smiles and a large ballroom full of friends from years gone by, with big smiles, hugs, and “remember when’s.”

In retrospect, those two recent weekends filled my heart with pride, happiness and love, in spite of feeling the rain against my skin – sensations seemingly at odds with each other.

In these two monumental events in my life, I recognize something new: the “in spite of” attitude. In our daily lives, we need this new attitude often:  Is it possible to enjoy a day at the office in spite of challenging people and situations?  Is it possible to enjoy a dinner out, in spite of a novice server? Is it possible to enjoy the holidays, in spite of a family’s challenging dynamics?  Is it possible to treasure the time with a loved one, in spite of the fact that he or she lives with Alzheimer’s disease, and in spite of the emotional, logistical, and financial impact it has on the entire family?

Sometimes, I think these “testing circumstances” – the rain, work, bad service, family dynamics, or even dementia diagnosis –are thrown in front of us as gifts…incidental opportunities to accept, learn, grow, forgive, or reprioritize. Perhaps seen as delicious challenges served up to enrich the multi-course meal that is our life, they can be received as once-in-a-lifetime chances to appreciate the full experience of life’s now (the good, the bad, and everything in between)…and still have fun, in spite of it all.

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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What’s This Thing You Call ‘Balance?’

Posted: September 23, 2015 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

Labor Day has come and gone, and while many people consider that to be the official end of summer – technically speaking, it’s not true. The last day of summer was actually yesterday, September 22nd. So we can finally put away the sunscreen, hang up the sunhat, and welcome autumn to our doorstep!

That makes TODAY – September 23rd – the first day of fall, also known as the Fall Equinox. You may have heard of it…but what exactly is it?

Autumn EquinoxAccording to timeanddate.com, it “occurs the moment the Sun crosses the celestial equator – the imaginary line in the sky above the Earth’s equator – from north to south.” This differs from the Spring Equinox, which occurs in March when the sun shines directly on the equator.

We all know that the longest day of the year is in the summer, and the shortest day of the year is in the winter. But the Spring and Fall equinoxes are when day and night are equal. These are moments that have long been interpreted to mean that the world is in balance.

To me, what a wonderful moment to pause and reflect:  Is your world in balance?

Most of us would quickly answer with, “Uh, are you kidding me? No!”

And most of us would be right. After all, “balance” is an elusive thing, isn’t it? Whether it’s work/life balance (something I’ve heard of) or a balanced diet (something else I’ve heard of), the average person considers the concept of balance as something akin to a unicorn or a leprechaun – a wonderful thought, but in truth, a mythical thing. (This feels especially true to individuals involved in the care of a loved one with dementia.)

However, what if we could we could capture a small sense of balance in our lives? What would it feel like? How could we do it?

Perhaps one of the keys is to foster a perspective of gratitude in our lives. Or in Autumn-ese, call it undergoing an “inner harvest.” Indulge in self-reflection. Think about your achievements and experiences so far this year. What challenges have you endured and grown from? Take some time to appreciate these gifts in your life.

I think fortifying a sense of gratitude can help offset the normal stresses and anxiety of life – be they related to caregiving, careers, or anything else. We certainly can’t make all of our stresses disappear, but we might be able to balance them out with a mindset of deep thankfulness for our blessings.

So, summer vacations might be over. The kids are back at school. Leaves are beginning to change and temps are beginning to drop. Now’s the time to gather up your inner harvest.

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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Get Out There!

Posted: September 3, 2015 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

In the forthcoming edition of The Ivey’s bi-monthly newsletter, there is a short piece about the beautiful grounds of our campus, and how our members have the benefit of receiving certain rehabilitative therapies either inside the building, or outside in nature and the fresh air. Under the watchful eye and guiding hand of one of our amazing on-site Genesis Rehab therapists, walks around our paved path that wraps around the building has multiple benefits for health, wellness and mood.

Many of us take for granted our freedom to go out into nature whenever we want to – to enjoy fresh air, sunlight, plants and trees – but it’s something for which we should truly be grateful. (Many seniors with dementia can’t – or shouldn’t – be outside on their own due to risks like wandering.) Getting outside has the powerful ability to make us feel better, relieve the stresses of everyday living, and recharge our batteries courtesy of Mother Nature.

In fact, more and more studies are showing that being outside is not just essential for our physical health, but also for our mental health.

When you consider the fact that many people living in the northern hemisphere suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (due to a lack of bright sunlight during the winter months), you begin to see just how important getting outside into the bright sunshine is for humans. This is perhaps even more true for people living with dementia.

I, for one, always notice a significant improvement in how I feel after being outside in the daytime light for a bit. I’ve taken notice of the sights and sounds of the world around me; I’ve breathed in the fresh air; I’ve taken in some Vitamin D; and I’ve allowed my mind to slow down and refresh from the pressures of the day. Imagine the benefits to someone living with cognitive decline!

If you’re a family caregiver, I invite you to become more intentional about fitting some “outside time” into your day. It will reap major benefits for your physical and emotional stamina. Furthermore, I encourage caregivers to bring their loved ones outside, too. Walk around together, dig in the garden, or simply sit and watch the changes of light, shade, sun and clouds, plants and wildlife. You’ll be amazed at the positive effect the sunlight and fresh air will have on them.

Jessica, The Ivey’s lead rehabilitative therapist, says that when she is walking outside with our members, they will often reminisce about family walks, taking the kids to school, and other wonderful memories.

Clearly, it’s great for the body and the brain! So get out there into the sunshine. It will brighten up your day. And if you bring along your loved one, it’s a gift that will brighten their day, too!

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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A Short Video with a Lot To Say

Posted: August 21, 2015 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

Yesterday, we posted a video on The Ivey’s Facebook page showing one of our members, Lacothia, singing and dancing with one of our favorite regular musicians, John Leon Lewis.

I watched this video over and over again. And not just because I loved hearing them belt out “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” and seeing them sashay around the room together.

I also couldn’t take my eyes off of them because what they were doing reminded me of the dementia journey, itself. When we dance with a partner, we take turns leading and following. We find our rhythm. We move in sync. We connect. We break out on our own sometimes. We show courage. We have fun. We inspire others.

Sometimes, we even get into that blissful state known as “flow” and just let life carry us forward.

And often, we find that we are more coordinated and graceful than we first thought.

This will be a short blog post today, because I want the singer-dancers to speak for themselves. But I hope when you watch the video, you’ll think of the many people in our community going through the dementia journey with their partner. Maybe you are one of those people.

Hold each other. Lead and follow. Enjoy the moments.

And two-step your way through the song that Life is playing for you right now.

You can watch the video by clicking HERE.

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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Big Significance Comes In Small Packages

Posted: August 14, 2015 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

If you are reading this blog, you no doubt realize that I believe the Universe conspires to give us messages that help guide our everyday lives.  We only have to pay attention to the signs.

Turtle on patio

Look closely, he’s there!

Latest case in point: an Eastern Box Turtle, likely 7 or 8 years old, who somehow made his way up onto my back patio this week.

Mind you, there’s not a creek or body of water anywhere near my house. Wherever he came from, this little fella was determined to seek me out.  My dog Lacey was as mesmerized as I was by this unusually beautiful creature.

At first, I was more concerned about how I was to help this beauty find its way back to its hiding place and get some water. (My initial idea was to fill one of Lacey’s bowls with water…then I laughed at the thought of a turtle drinking water from a dog’s bowl!)  Then I stopped to contemplate the bizarre-yet-inspirational meaning of a turtle walking across my patio at 6:50am in the bright beautiful sunlight of early morning. As the little guy was heading off, I went off to the internet to learn more about the significance, and to enjoy a few moments of self-reflection.

Of course, now I’m dying to share with you what I’ve learned!

His head had lots of amazing colors!

His head had lots of amazing colors!

If a Turtle has crossed your path, “he is usually giving you the message that slow and steady wins the race,” one website says. “Pay attention to details in your current project and take your time with it. Don’t be tempted to skip steps or take short cuts…Just trust in the process and stay in the moment.”

This is wise advice for all of us. Whether you’re running an organization, running your family, or caring for a loved one living with memory loss, we are faced with challenges and complexities each and every day. It’s important to slow down and take everything at its own pace. By doing so, you can catch your breath, take your next steps with more confidence and intention, and realize innovative solutions.

The Ivey has become one such solution for many Charlotte families. By allowing us to care for their loved one during the day, the family caregiver has the opportunity to slow down, maintain a healthy pace, and continuously rejuvenate for the long dementia journey. And the sooner they partner with us, the better for everyone.

Another benefit of slowing down: you’ll be able to pay attention to the world around you, and you’ll have a better chance of noticing the signs that show up just for you, just when you need it! As when the graceful owl perched outside my office window at The Ivey last November, I don’t subscribe to the idea of coincidences. Knowing that life is full of synchronicities and signs from the Universe, I knew right away this week’s beautiful turtle was a sign for me to stop and pay close attention to all the extraordinary wonders occurring in my life, both personally and professionally, right now for me.

So walk your path with peace, patience, emotional strength and grounded determination – even amidst the chaos of life. That’s the way of the turtle. And it’s something that certainly resonates with every family we work with at The Ivey.

Thanks for the perfectly-timed message, my hard-shelled new friend!

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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You Missed An Important Holiday!

Posted: August 6, 2015 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

Guess what? A really important holiday happened recently, and you totally missed out.

For that matter, so did I!

Turns out, National Parents Day is celebrated annually on the fourth Sunday in July. Similar to a combination of Father’s Day and Mother’s Day, National Parents Day is a day to honor your parents, show appreciation to them and celebrate family.

And just so you know that I’m not making this stuff up, allow me to provide a bit of history here. Originally introduced through a bill by Republican Senator Trent Lott, this holiday was established in 1994 when President Bill Clinton signed a Congressional Resolution into Law (36 U.S.C. § 135) for “recognizing, uplifting, and supporting the role of parents in the rearing of children.”

Dig a little deeper (see also: Wikipedia), and we learn that the United Nations proclaimed June 1 to be the Global Day of Parents, “to appreciate all parents in all parts of the world for their selfless commitment to children and their lifelong sacrifice towards nurturing this relationship.”

Yup, in a classic American move, we decided to create our own holiday, too.

But to be honest, every day feels like National Parents Day to me! Many of you know that nearly a decade ago, I developed The Ivey as a tribute to my mother who lived with Alzheimer’s disease, and to my father who was her loving caregiver. Today, my team and I are actively caring for Moms and Dads at every conceivable stage of their dementia journeys. We are engaged in daily partnership with their grown children, working as a united front to provide Mom and Dad with the care, comfort, pleasure and dignity that they’ve more than earned.

Dementia is a whole family disease requiring whole family support and whole family unity. That sort of unity also makes way for priceless opportunities to express whole family appreciation for the parent or parents that made that family possible in the first place.

So even though National Parents Day 2015 has come and gone, I invite you to celebrate it today! Call up your parents and thank them for everything they’ve done. Or if they are no longer with us, reminisce about the good times you had with them.

I doubt anyone will call you out on being late.

To all parents out there, Happy Belated Parents Day!

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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Don’t Like to Exercise? Find a Lifehack!

Posted: July 24, 2015 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

I admit it: I don’t like to exercise. I get bored. And so I avoid it.

But that doesn’t mean that I don’t understand the benefits of exercise. So increasingly, I find myself looking for ways to “trick” myself into getting the body moving and the heart pumping.

To borrow a relatively new term, I’m always on the lookout for “lifehacks.”

According to Wikipedia, Lifehacking refers to “any trick, shortcut, skill, or novelty method that increases productivity and efficiency, in all walks of life. The term is primarily used by computer experts who suffer from information overload or those with a playful curiosity in the ways they can accelerate their workflow in ways other than programming.”

In the context of my own life, it would mean a clever way of fooling myself into sweating a little.

Once you realize the true value of a good lifehack, you find yourself looking for others. Lately, I’ve even been able to build a lifehack into my Dad’s life. As traditional physical therapy hasn’t yielded the results we’d like to see in his recovery from a recent stroke, I’ve lined up a personal trainer for him. This will give him fun “outings” to look forward to (AKA, the gym) and fun “activities” to do (AKA, balloon toss game). He will look forward to both, in spite of the fact that they are really exercises to help him stretch, build muscle tone, and strengthen the affected side of his body.

Basically, it’s Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy disguised as fun. (You should see his juices start flowing as he gets more and more intent on hitting that balloon hard!)

Come to think of it, we’ve built some pretty clever lifehacks into daily life at The Ivey, too. One that immediately comes to mind: Cornhole. Our members love to play this game every week. It always sparks a playful, competitive and supportive spirit among the membership, with hoots and hollers all afternoon!

But really? It’s a wonderful example of how we cleverly build Occupational Therapy into our daytime Life Enrichment programming at The Ivey. Cornhole provides great movement for the upper body, warding off muscle atrophy, promoting balance, and even slowing down the progression of dementias. Yup, it’s a workout dressed up as play, leveraging the proven benefits of exercise in fighting off their disease.

In fact, Cornhole has become such a part of our culture at The Ivey that we’re even having a Cornhole Social next week, in which eight members of The Ivey will be paired up with eight staff members for what’s sure to be an exciting tournament. Families of The Ivey’s members will be on hand to watch this no-holds-barred bean bag brouhaha and enjoy some snacks and conversation with each other.

Which means Cornhole is also an effective lifehack for socialization. SCORE!!!

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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Making An Impression By Making It Real

Posted: July 17, 2015 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

Earlier this week, I made a priceless investment in The Ivey by sending our entire staff (at different times, of course!) to attend the Teepa Snow sessions that were held at CMC in Concord.

Have you heard of Teepa Snow? If not, the time has come for you to get to know her.

Teepa Snow

First, she’s a fellow North Carolinian. A graduate of Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill, she and her husband call Efland, NC, home. So you already know she’s good people!

Seven years ago, she was education director at the Alzheimer’s Association in Eastern North Carolina, conducting about 140 local workshops a year. (In fact, my father and I attended one of her workshops in Wilmington after my mother was diagnosed).  But as to be expected with someone as gifted as Teepa, the speaking requests started pouring in from all over the country (and the world). Now, she’s on the road about 300 days a year, giving presentations and workshops based on her Positive Approach™ to Dementia Care technique.

Her three decades of experience as a Registered Occupational Therapist has certainly given her an abundance of insight and expertise on dementia care. But sitting in the room with her on Monday, I was struck by another amazing thing: her delivery style.

Teepa is like a Master Thespian, worthy of comparison to Meryl Streep and the other great actresses of our time. As she gives her presentation, she slips in and out of portrayals of individuals living with dementia, perfectly embodying them and bringing them to life before our eyes.

When she does, we witness our loved ones on stage. We see the familiar behaviors, the speech patterns, the changing energy, the words and phrases. We recognize the world of emotions – confusion, joy, fear, love, anxiety, serenity, anger, happiness, curiosity, all of it.

As a teacher, Teepa truly “shows” rather than tells. As a result, her presentations are imbued with all the hilarity and heartbreak that living with dementia brings with it.

Basically, it was REAL. And that’s the magic of Teepa Snow. She understands deeply what we are all facing. Truly understands. And she hands over her wealth of information in a way that actually sticks with us. She makes a lasting impact, which allows us to then apply our new knowledge toward providing the best dementia care possible.

I’ve been a career-long advocate of investing in staff development. My team’s “time with Teepa” not only enhanced their own amazing skill sets, but the benefits will continue to ripple out to our members and to the families that love and care for them.

Thank you, Teepa. Come back soon!

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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Caution: Moments May Be Larger Than They Appear

Posted: July 10, 2015 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

For many of us, it’s hard to get excited about the little things. Somewhere on the road to adulthood, we lose that impulse.

Think about it: a child will successfully navigate pulling on a sock, tying a shoe, or stacking some blocks, and they react as if they just won the lottery. It is unbridled, pre-grown-up, unapologetic joy.

How does that slip away from us? Where does it go? Perhaps it has to do with the immense expectations put upon us, which gradually but inevitably mount as we get older. Expectations around chores, homework, grades, summer jobs, getting into college, dating the “right” people, choosing the “right” career path, and on and on. As the responsibilities increase in number and magnitude, those little things that brought us big bursts of happiness as kids start to seem like, well, nothing worth celebrating.

But the other day, I found myself filled with euphoria and cheering aloud as a result of a few small steps. Literally. They were the steps of my Dad, who has been essentially unable to walk unassisted since his recent hip surgery.

Post-surgery transfers and ambulation have required caregivers, hoyer lifts, and prayers. But then, last week, my brave Dad stood up, held his walker tight, and made his way across the room on his own.

Those few small steps later, I was on top of the world. It was the kind of unbridled, unapologetic joy that I remember feeling years ago – brought on by the now-seemingly small things that actually might not have been as small as we think.

In caring for our aging loved ones, there are an infinite number of “small things” that can bring us deep, unexpected bliss. Realizations. Insights. Accomplishments. Progress.

And if our loved one is living with Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia, those priceless little gifts might come in the form of a shared glance, a knowing look, a tender touch, or a shared laugh or memory.

So celebrate the little triumphs. They are huge.

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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Celebrating Independence Every Day

Posted: July 4, 2015 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

Today is Independence Day – a time for gathering with our fellow citizens to celebrate the gift of living in a free society. For you, maybe that means going to a parade, enjoying some summer fare on the grill, or taking in the breathtaking fireworks at night. In essence, it’s the birthday of our country – marked by the signing of a certain document stating that we are all “created equal.”

That’s the immense blessing to which we proudly raise our koozies this weekend.

But want to know something I’m equally proud of? At The Ivey, we celebrate independence every day! When I envisioned this organization a decade ago, I knew I wanted to create a special place where adults living with memory loss could have the best of both worlds: a safe, nurturing haven during the day, coupled with the treasured comfort, familiarity and independence of being at home at night.

(Trivia Break! Did you know that The Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence is claimed by some to be the first declaration of independence made in the Thirteen Colonies during the American Revolution? Inspired by that same trailblazing spirit and quest for independence, The Ivey is Mecklenburg County’s only Memory Wellness Day Center!)

When it comes to our aging loved ones, it’s a different kind of independence that we seek. It’s not really the Merriam-Webster definition of independence, which is “the quality or state of not being under the control of, reliant on, or connected with someone or something else.” That’s great if you’re an American colony interested in severing your political connection to Great Britain, but not totally applicable to living out your senior years with as much freedom, joy and dignity as possible.

In fact, we want to stay connected to our aging loved ones — and keep them connected to us — because that sustained connection can make all the difference in their lives. It can mean the difference between a secure, comfortable “aging in place” arrangement, or another option that might make our parent or spouse much less content. It can mean the difference between them feeling loved, supported and “seen,” or feeling abandoned, lonely and misunderstood. It can mean the difference between them truly thriving in the face of dementia, or giving in to the disease as it progresses.

Along with my staff, let me say how grateful I am for the honor of giving the gift of independence to our members and their families year-round. Have a safe and happy 4th with your friends and loved ones!

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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How To Beat The Doggone Heat

Posted: June 26, 2015 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

Today may be the hottest day of the year so far – but fear not, the weatherman says we’ll be getting a break from this oppressive heat soon! Until then, it’s important to stay cool. And if you have an aging loved one, it’s especially vital that you be proactive in helping them beat the heat, too. Not doing so could lead to dangerous conditions such as dehydration, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke.

Don’t despair! Our canine friends have given us plenty of ideas on how to “chillax” and not let rising temperatures win the day. Perhaps the following examples will inspire you to think creatively about ways to keep you and your loved one cool…or maybe they’ll just be a comedic distraction from the elevated mercury outside. Until it drops, we’ll keep The Ivey’s AC working overtime.

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Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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My 10 Favorite Quotes About Dads

Posted: June 19, 2015 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

With Father’s Day this coming weekend, I spent some time with my Dad in Wilmington earlier this week. The drive home is always sad for me as I yearn for times gone by, which made me begin thinking about all of the Dads who are members of The Ivey – fathers with many years of humanity under their belt. Decades of working hard to help support their families. Trying to set good examples for their children. Committed to staying strong, calm and confident, even if they have no idea what the next step is. Now, I see the admiration in the eyes of many of The Ivey’s families…the grown kids who are now committed to giving Dad the comfort, care and dignity that he has more than earned. Thinking about all the Dads at The Ivey and their loving families pulled me out of the sadness.  The opportunity to share in and support their journey fills me with joy and gratitude.

It also occurred to me that I’ve heard so many quotes about fathers over the years that I decided you might enjoy some of my favorites. So in celebration of Father’s Day – and in loving honor of my Dad and all of the Dads in our lives (whether here with us or gone before us) – here are 10 of my faves, in no particular order:

“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.”  – Mark Twain

“My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.”  – Jim Valvano

“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.”                    – Umberto Eco

“Fatherhood is great because you can ruin someone from scratch.”  – Jon Stewart

“I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.”  – Sigmund Freud

“It is much easier to become a father than to be one.”  – Kent Nerburn

“He didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.”  – Clarence Budington Kelland

“Do I want to be a hero to my son? No. I would like to be a very real human being. That’s hard enough.”  – Robert Downey Jr.

“Lately all my friends are worried that they’re turning into their fathers. I’m worried that I’m not.”  – Dan Zevin

“A father carries pictures where his money used to be.”  – Author Unknown

That last one might be my favorite! (Right, Dad?!) Happy Father’s Day to all fathers out there. And families, hold them close, look them in the eye and tell them how grateful and proud you are.

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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Shared Values = Allies in Memory Care

Posted: June 11, 2015 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

This past Tuesday evening, we were honored to host Dr. Jonathan McKinsey, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry for Carolinas Medical Center-Northeast, as our special guest speaker at The Ivey’s Community Education Program.  We know Dr. McKinsey well because some of our families have needed the services of his unit during their loved one’s dementia journey.

That night, in a room packed with Charlotte’s community of families who have loved ones living with dementia, we all benefited from his expertise about how to handle difficult behaviors associated with the disease.  We learned from real world examples about why certain behaviors happen, both physiologically as well as emotionally.   His relatable examples were sprinkled with humor about his childhood growing up around seniors (as his mother was the Executive Director of a nursing home in Florida, and his precious grandmother lived with dementia in his home).

Our audience called his talk “extraordinary.” They were glued to their seats for the entire 2.25 hours, and as they engaged Dr. McKinsey with their many questions, his wealth of information became even more impactful for everyone in the room.

For me, the most exciting part was hearing this revered medical expert speak the same language as we do here at The Ivey:

1.) the “person living with Alzheimer’s,” not the “Alzheimer’s patient” – in other words, just because you are living with a disease doesn’t mean that you ARE that disease;

2.) the importance of communicating with the entire family about the disease process as it progresses and his commitment to doing so with every patient’s family – because it really is a whole family disease, and effective management requires whole family support;

3.) the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to care – managing this disease requires both a pharmacological and non-pharmacological approach to balance the health and personal care needs with the mind-care needs of the whole person living with dementia;

4.) the importance of seeing the humor in dealing with the disease and the lifelong learning opportunity that comes from taking part in the world of someone living with Alzheimer’s or dementia – indeed, our loved ones can still teach us lessons if we listen and pay attention.

With great pride, I felt affirmed that The Ivey’s philosophy and approach to care, life enrichment, a nurturing environment, and whole family support is indeed the best solution for memory wellness.

Having Dr. McKinsey at The Ivey feels like we have a new member of our family.  Common passions. Shared values. And the unwavering conviction that behind the disease is a unique human being, who we love, who we respect, and who deserves to be treated with boundless dignity.

We are proud to serve alongside him.

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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In Retrospect, It Was Retrograde

Posted: June 4, 2015 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

This past Sunday, I came into the office. It was just going to be for a few minutes because all I was going to do was move files from one cabinet to another as part of a clean-up project.

So here I was early Sunday afternoon, in to do a little organizing.  But it soon transformed into a major purging project…because why just “transfer” old stuff when it’s really no longer needed? A few productive hours later, I wondered: what just happened?

Then, it occurred to me:  the planet Mercury is in Retrograde! Yep, we are smack in the middle of it as it started on May 18 and runs through June 11.  Those of you who know me have heard me discuss this interesting phenomenon over the years.  From making me feel indecisive, to changing course several times, to encouraging me to purge and let go of the old so the new can come in, I have found that I am deeply affected by these periods of time.

So, what is it actually and how does it apply to our lives? A good definition comes from The Old Farmer’s Almanac:

“Sometimes the other planets appear to be traveling backward through the zodiac; this is an illusion. We call this illusion retrograde motion. Three times a year, it appears as if Mercury is going backwards for about three weeks. This time is traditionally associated with confusions, delay, and frustration. Perhaps Mercury’s retrograde periods causes plans to go awry. Or maybe, it’s an excellent time to reflect on the past. Intuition is high during these periods, and coincidences can be extraordinary.  The planet Mercury rules communication, travel, contracts, automobiles, and such.  So, when Mercury is retrograde, remain flexible, allow time for extra travel, and avoid signing new contracts. Review projects and plans at these times, but wait until Mercury is direct again to make any final decisions.”

Many associate this phenomenon with technology breaking down. Computers freeze up, calls get dropped, cars die. But as stated above, much of Mercury Retrograde’s greater impact is on transportation and communication – both of which involve getting people and things from one place to another.  If you think about it, signing new contracts are about communication and agreement. (By the way, I’ve heard it’s okay to finalize a contract during this time if communications were started prior to retrograde.)  And technology is about transporting communication easily and fast, right?   And then there’s the literal version of transportation problems – e.g., the tragic train derailment in Philadelphia, which occurred on May 13th, during Mercury Retrograde’s “shadow period.”

But what about reflecting on the past?  In a recent Huffington Post piece, the author says that a Mercury Retrograde period is a time to say goodbye:

“Retrograde is like being in a parking spot, and having to shift into reverse in order to drive away from where I came from, to drive on to where I need to go. Does it feel like I’m going backwards for a moment? Yes. I have to, so I can leave the past behind and go forward in life.”

That’s what I did on Sunday with my unplanned purge. My heart and mind inherently knew that I needed to clear out a lot of outdated stuff in order to make room for new and exciting things to come in. The same goes for many families out there who are facing big decisions. They have loved ones living with memory loss, and they are trying to decide the best next step, the best care decision, the best choice for their parent or spouse.

My advice? Review, do research, but sleep on it for a week, if at all possible. Mercury goes direct on June 12!

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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What I’ve Learned from My Dog

Posted: May 26, 2015 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

In the earlier years of The Ivey, Lacey, my Lacey11.5 year old Bichon Frise used to sleep under my desk – awaiting another invitation to go sit in a member’s lap, or to help clean up the dining room floor after breakfast or lunch, or to greet arriving visitors with wagging tail.  Oh, the interesting messages that lay in wait for her as she gleefully sniffed her way from staff to member to staff.  These days, our membership at The Ivey has grown to levels that preclude her from having the freedom to grace the halls unattended, so her attendance is now sporadic. Yet, that doesn’t stop her from looking at me hopefully as I leave the house each day without her. While these hopeful looks break my heart, I know she quickly moves on to the task of a good long snooze, and the promise that tomorrow I might change my mind and take her.  Sometimes I do.

Lacey is a true friend and companion, a constant source of love and amusement, and even more so, she’s taught me some of my greatest life lessons. Here are a few:

1.) Allow your authentic feelings.  Do you ever waste time hiding your true feelings, and as a result, not get what you really want or need in life?  Whenever I leave town for a trip, Lacey stays with my friend Charlene.  But when I return, Lacey lets me know how she feels about this trip I took away from her, by giving me the cold shoulder for a little while.  Upon my arrival, her tail wags a little slower than usual as she meanders out to greet me.  When I pick her up to love and snuggle, she sniffs to make sure it’s me – and then, to my awe and disbelief, she turns her head away!  Anyone who witnesses this routine always laughs, because it’s so funny to see me get “dissed” by my own beloved Lacey!  That’s okay with me, though, because I know the cure: hug on her and stay close for awhile.  Then we both get a good dose of love and connection.

2.) Follow your instincts. When Lacey feels like she needs to slow down, rest, or even take a nap, she does it. And if she has a cold coming on, she does it even more (or perhaps her body simply makes her). By contrast, how many of us think, “I need to slow down,” but keep moving through our days and weeks at breakneck speed? How many of us feel that we need more sleep, and yet we crawl into bed later than we should? I love the fact that Lacey is in tune to what she needs, and more importantly, acts on those instincts. It’s a lesson that we could all take to heart. Our lives might just be healthier, easier and more enjoyable if we did.

3.) Enjoy the journey. Like many dogs, Lacey loves to “go.” She knows the word, whether said or spelled.  She may not know where we’re headed – and she may not even care – but she certainly enjoys the trip there. We’ve all heard the adage, “Life Is a Journey, Not a Destination.” Dogs really live this beautiful mantra. We can try to plan our lives right down to the tiniest detail – sometimes we’ll hit our goals, and sometimes reality has other ideas in mind. The one thing that we actually can control is to allow ourselves to enjoy our journey, no matter where it takes us.

Most of the families at The Ivey embody these life lessons wholeheartedly.  No one counts on living with dementia. And yet, unfortunately, too many people find themselves in that very position. The families who manage through these challenges the best are the ones who allow themselves to have their authentic feelings, listen to their instincts so they get what they need, and commit to enjoying the twists and turns of the journey along the way.

I am grateful to be a part of their journey.

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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The Meaning of Rosemary

Posted: May 17, 2015 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

Recently, we held a brief ceremony on the grounds of The Ivey to dedicate our new Reflection Garden in memory of our former member, Paul Stevens, who passed away last year.

Thanks to the generosity of his wife, Brenda, her gift in memory of her husband made it possible to create this new quiet retreat of comfort and continuous renewal on our campus. The centerpiece of the garden is a gorgeous wooden bench, positioned where one can sit and overlook The Ivey – as we know Paul is doing every day.

It was an honor to emcee the ceremony, reminisce about Paul, and dedicate the garden and bench.   Attendees each received a sprig of rosemary and used it to bless the bench and garden with water. Why rosemary?  A symbol of remembrance, love and friendship, rosemary is the perfect choice for a blessing at The Ivey because it is said that eating the sprigs helps with maintaining memory!!

Brenda also said a few words, which truly moved us.

“The Ivey staff has such a caring heart and loving nature,” she said. “You all kept Paul with us longer.”

He’s still with us, in our hearts and minds, as are each of our members whose lives touch us and bless us.

It’s very therapeutic to pause and remember the people who grace our lives. We remember Paul: his love of running, his collection of special coins and Civil War medals, his great smile and cute dimples, his kind heart and true gentlemanly nature.

And we’re so appreciative that Brenda paused and remembered us, too, with a gift to help us create a space for quiet reflection on the many important and special people who come through our doors. Sadly, we have lost too many recently, but now we have a space for staff and family to go for remembering, thanks to Brenda and Paul.

So the next time you’re at the grocery store or Farmer’s Market, pick up some rosemary. Let its unique aroma fill the rooms of your home with memories of friends and family – both with us and passed – and fill the spaces of your heart with love and thankfulness.

Then come by The Ivey for a contemplative sit on our new bench. The flowers are blooming, the garden is fragrant, and the view is beautiful.

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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The Mother of All Holidays

Posted: May 7, 2015 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

As Mother’s Day approaches, most of us are filled with love, remembrance and gratitude.

I know I am.

As I mention in our forthcoming newly-revamped newsletter, I have discovered that gratitude is a life-changing attitude, especially in my role as founder and leader of a not-for-profit organization like The Ivey.

It certainly changed my life over 12 years ago when I was able to leave corporate America to help my Dad care for my Mother, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. I remain grateful for my Mom, who showed me through the greatest sacrifice of all – in essence, her life – that I needed to blaze a trail for a memory wellness solution that could help other families struggling through living with memory loss.

Mothers are known for sacrificing everything for their children. In many ways, it’s how they are hard-wired. And as our loved ones age, an interesting role reversal begins to happen, in which the grown children then begin to sacrifice much of themselves in the interest of Mom or Dad’s comfort, security, well-being and dignity.

These are deep, instinctual expressions of familial love, playing out over the mysterious journey of life.

As I have said many times before, The Ivey stands as a tribute to my Mom – the greatest thing I could create to honor her life, her sacrifice, and her beautiful soul.

But it also stands as a tribute to every Mom out there. The Moms who packed our school lunches, washed out skinned knees, cried as we pulled out of the driveway heading off to college, and guided us through the various trials, tribulations and adventures of our relationships, careers and life changes.

These are the Moms that have dedicated their lives to loving us up, giving us hope, making us laugh, driving us crazy, calming our hearts, pointing the way, and empowering our lives.

So during this “Mother’s Day Week,” I extend my sincere gratitude to all of the individuals and families who have helped make The Ivey a continual reality for nearly a decade and running.  Your gifts of membership, friendship, time, talent, and treasure have made a major difference in the lives of all of us!

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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Moving Is No Fun. Or Is It?

Posted: May 1, 2015 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

I’ve recently returned from vacation, during which I helped a friend move into a new house and get settled.

We all go through so many transitions in our lives. Some big, some small. Some joyous, some difficult. Moving is certainly up there with some of the bigger transitions we undertake.

As boxes were unpacked, I began thinking about the fact that each time we experience a major transition, we leave something behind and it changes us.

It’s a concept that is beautifully explored in Judith Viorst’s book, Necessary Losses. In it, she discusses the idea that such losses are necessary for personal growth. For example, transition into maturity means leaving behind the protection provided by our mother. Transitions through other stages of life mean leaving behind certain definitions of who we are (or think we are), stepping into new identities that become the “new you,” and allowing new chapters of our lives to begin.

Of course, I can’t help but relate these themes back to a natural transition that most of us don’t like to face: aging. As we grow older, we can find ourselves (perhaps with a lot of resistance) “losing” our image of ourselves as young and immortal. But in truth, we can remain full of life and vitality as we age. In fact, Viorst would argue that the aging process itself offers us many opportunities for positive personal growth and change, even in the latest years of our lives. Now that’s an idea that I celebrate!

With every unpacked box and every picture hung, I thought about other transitions of life. The ending of relationships and the beginning of new ones. Job moves and career changes. The movement of a senior from isolation at home to socialization at The Ivey. And of course, the joyful births of new babies and the sad passings of loved ones.

These are all gifts from which we can learn.  Unsettling as they can sometimes be, embracing lifelong learning from our gifts keeps us young and vibrant.

You know what they say: moving is never fun. But I just might disagree. In fact, I think I’ll revel in watching my friend finding his new house slowly but surely becoming his new home.

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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It’s Vacation Time

Posted: April 8, 2015 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

Say ‘hello’ to one of the shortest blog posts I’ve ever written!

You see, I’m in the middle of my self-created “Spring Break Week,” and I’ve been doing my best to cut the cord from technology so that I can truly refresh. But still, I didn’t want the week to go by without at least touching base with you.

Granted, I’m on more of a stay-cation. I haven’t whisked off to some exotic location. I’m still here in Charlotte, helping a friend move and get settled.  I’m also using the week to enjoy a little R&R, even catch up on errands (which can feel luxurious when you have the time to do them at your own pace).

But I’m setting down the metaphorical Mai Tai for a moment, to remind you of a simple truth that’s easy to forget: taking a break is good for everyone. And I mean everyone. (I’m looking at you, caregivers and workaholics!)

After all, that’s one of the main reasons that The Ivey exists. To give family caregivers a break. A chance to tend to their own lives and care for themselves, while we care for their loved ones.

So if you haven’t done so in a while, I hope you’ll follow my lead and carve out some downtime for yourself. Unplug. Breathe. Sink into a quiet place. Take a day trip. Read. Lunch. Nap. And for goodness’ sake, don’t check your email! (I promise, it will be there when you return.)

I’ll be back on the scene in no time. Until then, wishing you a beautiful week…and wish you were here!

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply…once I’m back from vacation 🙂

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Every Day is a Good Day to Laugh

Posted: April 1, 2015 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

Did you make it through April Fool’s Day without being fooled?  Ha! I hope not!

I say this not because I want you to be pranked in front of your friends, family, or co-workers, but simply because I want you to laugh more.

Years ago, I spent time meditating with one of Charlotte’s finest Gurus. (Some of you may know him.)  Let me tell you, this is a man who teaches, preaches and exemplifies the benefits of laughter in our lives.

His special practice reminds you that laughter is the best medicine for stress relief, improved communication skills, team building, and increased productivity. And Catherine Ripplinger Fenwick, author of Healing With Humor, tells us that “Your body cannot heal without play. Your mind cannot heal without laughter. Your soul cannot heal without joy.”

Gratefully, I hear laughter all day at The Ivey. Our staff making our members laugh; our members making our staff laugh; and our members making each other laugh. Even (and especially) in the face of challenges, laughter must be a key component for everyone involved in the dementia journey.

As is often the case, I learn great lessons from The Ivey’s members. I take “life cues” from them. Being around such mirth during the day is a great reminder to stay open and alert to the humor all around me, at all times. Because these are all gifts – all opportunities to heal ourselves.

Just this past weekend, I was hopping around my car radio dial and landed on a hilarious episode of NPR’s Car Talk. Of course, I knew it was a rerun, as co-host Tom Magliozzi died recently of complications related to Alzheimer’s disease. He was 77. But as I laughed along with them, I realized what a gift it is that the many years of episodes recorded by brothers Tom and Ray (AKA, Click and Clack) will continue to be re-broadcast for our listening pleasure. (Hopefully, if we’re really lucky, for many years to come…remaining with us as key comedic players in our own daily healing.)

So as April Fool’s Day 2015 comes to a close, let’s take the sage advice of others who are wise, and laugh our way to a healthy mind and a healthy body. It will keep us energized and grateful along life’s journey.

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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Dogwoods in Our Midst, All Year Long

Posted: March 25, 2015 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

What a gorgeous week in our city of Charlotte! We’re officially into spring now, and if puffy white clouds seem to be hovering ever-so-closely to the ground these days…well, you’re likely catching glimpses of our famous blooming dogwood trees. dogwood

Of course, the dogwood is our beloved state flower (Trivia Alert! It has enjoyed this prestigious standing since 1941.)  But for this native Carolinian, it’s also a thing of mystery and nostalgia. There is just something about this amazing tree that triggers my heart and mind.

Case in point: I was driving down Sharon Lane, where a long line of dogwoods were showing off their brilliant white blooms. I found myself feeling grateful; wistful; energized; introspective; and perhaps even a tiny bit melancholy. Clearly, if you’re open to it, nature’s beauty can be an impressive emotional stimulant.

Then it occurred to me that I see a similar beauty every day, in the faces of The Ivey’s members. Where was this connection coming from?  I was compelled to dig deeper; I wanted to know more about the dogwood, and why it was reminding me so much of my ongoing experiences at The Ivey.  Enter, The Google…

  • The showy petals of the dogwood “flower” are actually modified leaves. The real flowers are the small, growths at the center of the bloom. My inner-poet was moved! To me, our members are the true flowers in our lives, surrounded by all of these beautiful “petals” – family, friends and our caring staff – designed by nature to protect and serve them.
  • Legislators noted the dogwood’s omnipresence throughout the state when they bestowed it with its “state flower” status. Our state has a similar profusion of people living with Alzheimer’s or other types of memory loss. From the mountains to the coast, they are growing in number, and deserving of our awe, our attention and our resources. Furthermore, the abundant dogwood tree is quite susceptible to numerous diseases. So strong in number, yet so fragile – just like the seniors we serve. It was a great reminder of how crucial our roles are in keeping our loved ones safe and healthy.
  • And there’s another uncanny, if regrettable, parallel: we only seem to notice the dogwood in early spring, during its extravagant show. But in truth, they’re always here, always beautiful. It reminded me of certain family situations we see, where the senior is only paid meaningful attention on birthdays or holidays. I wish I could convince those families how lucky they are to have access to their loved one’s beauty all year long! The dogwood may adorn our streets and lawns with dazzling white in the springtime, but it also puts forth stunning green foliage in the summer, orange-scarlet leaves with clusters of red berries in the fall, and artistic silhouettes against the winter sky.

So, enjoy the dogwoods this week. But remember: it’s not a fleeting thing. Like a loved one still with us, they are here to be enjoyed, admired and loved every day.

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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Let The Music Play

Posted: March 16, 2015 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

Once a week, our friend John comes to The Ivey to sing songs to our members and dance with them. It is always one of the week’s true highlights for our members, not to mention our staff, too!  John’s repertoire is wonderfully eclectic. From Broadway show tunes and jazz standards, to Golden Oldies, Motown and R&B – it’s like melodic time travel, with the notes of his sweet voice wafting through The Ivey whenever he’s here. Did I mention that he dances while he sings and actually starred on Broadway?

But even more enjoyable to me is watching the members during these now-weekly “Music with John” events. They are singing and dancing, moving and grooving like teenagers again. Even members who at other times tend to be more quiet and introverted really light up!  Feet and fingers tap to the beat.

I’ve wondered: why?  Because music has power and is the true connector…for all of us!  I love music of most any kind. My parents loved music. Both sang in the church choir.  Both played the piano and sometimes they played duets which made us all squeal with delight.  During the last couple of years of my mom’s life, my Dad would play hymns and familiar tunes on the piano for her.  She would smile and hum and then sing along.

Mom loved The Sound of Music and especially Julie Andrews’ melodic voice.  We saw it in the theater together seven times during my childhood!  I loved it, too…and I still do! Even today, I want to watch it every time it is on TV and every time we play it at The Ivey.  Once when she was having a bad day, I played the DVD and she immediately sat up straighter in her chair, focused on the music, and said of Captain Von Trapp, “He falls in love with her when she sits on that silly pine cone at her first dinner.”  I was astounded at her memory of that part of the movie!

Fast-forward eight years, and my Dad has found his voice again.  It began last year in early May.  As he is in a nice nursing home in my hometown of Wilmington, I have engaged a Care Manager to take care of his mind: visit with him three times per week, participate with him in the activities on campus, eat lunch with him, and Skype with me each visit.  In anticipation of Memorial Day last year, she started singing patriotic songs, encouraging him to sing — and nearly a year later, they have a brand new song to sing for me each time we Skype.  I am completely amazed at how he remembers every word and carries the tune so well with his baritone voice.  The memories he has are making new wonderful memories for me now.

I’ve followed with great interest the research and discoveries around the benefits of music with Alzheimer’s patients. On the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America’s website, I found this explanation: “When used appropriately, music can shift mood, manage stress-induced agitation, stimulate positive interactions, facilitate cognitive function, and coordinate motor movements. This happens because rhythmic and other well-rehearsed responses require little to no cognitive or mental processing. They are influenced by the motor center of the brain that responds directly to auditory rhythmic cues….”

It’s no wonder that music is the very thing that can penetrate the mysteries and depth of the human mind in a way that no other drug, treatment or therapy has yet to do. We should (and will) continue to harness its glorious power as a way to enrich the lives of those living with memory loss, communicate with them, comfort them, heal them, and show the world that they are still with us, alive inside and out.

(On a related note, mark your calendar to join us on Tuesday, March 31st at 2pm or 6pm for The Ivey’s next installment of our free Educational Series. This one is called Music Therapy and Memory: Reaching Past and Present Through Song, and will be an interactive presentation about the benefits of music therapy for enhancing short-term and long-term memory and improving quality of life. Come and learn how you can bring music into your loved one’s life…or just reconnect for yourself.)

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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Born To Teach

Posted: March 6, 2015 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

Occasionally, a staff member at The Ivey will bring in one of their children to visit with our members. And each and every time, our members light up with new joy.

As I watch both the children and our members interact, smile and laugh, I think of the journey of life – from young to old, from innocence to experience, from carefree to responsibility – and how marvelous it is when people from different parts of the “age spectrum” share time together.

What is it about children that activates older people in such wonderful ways? There are the obvious answers: a reminder of our own childhood, the beauty of youth, and the innate energy of a happy-go-lucky youngster absorbing the world around them. Whatever it is, I always welcome and encourage opportunities for our members to bask in the glow of children and their healing energy.

But the other day, I was thinking deeper about all of this. Children are here to teach us things, especially family caregivers. And to be sure, there are lessons we can learn from them that can shed light on our own journeys caring for our loved ones living with memory loss. For example:

  • Play, Play, Play More – There are so many fun ways to maintain connection with your loved one. Play games. Make art. Tap into the power of song, dance, comedy, drama and reading to communicate with each other, even when verbal skills are diminished or gone. At The Ivey, we putt golf balls, play cornhole, and engage in lots of other fun activities that keep us feeling young and alive.
  • Use Your Imagination – When someone living with Alzheimer’s or other type of dementia talks about something that’s not really there, we have a choice. We can push back and insist that there are no pink monkeys in the backyard, or we can engage our loved one in a playful conversation about where they came from and what the heck they’re doing back there! Over the years, I have found that stepping into their world provides much more connection, ease and joy than insisting that their world is an illusion.
  • Love ‘Em Up – Much like children, nothing makes our loved ones feel safe and secure like a warm hug, a gentle kiss, or a soft stroke on their arm as you sit together. The benefits of touch are vitally important.  And it’s another non-verbal way to stay connected. So hold them close and wrap them in your love. It’ll feel good for both of you!
  • Let It Go – Children have a remarkable ability to release their feelings about something and then move on. They don’t stay “attached” to circumstances the way we do as adults. In fact, the younger they are, the better they are at this! Just look at how a toddler can go from throwing a tantrum one moment to playing cheerfully the next. Whenever possible, we can choose to do this throughout our caregiving experience, too. We can choose to avoid arguing with our loved one, and we can choose not to take potentially-hurtful words personally. As the disease progresses, we have more opportunities to remember that they are not their disease.

And let’s not forget that, as with children, a good education is crucial! Learning as much as you can about the progression of Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia can give you new perspectives, cultivate empathy, and help you care for yourself every day. (The Ivey has an on-site educational library open to anyone who wants to learn more.)

So here’s me raising a sippy-cup in gratitude for the priceless, joyful miracles that children represent in our lives. Play on, kids!

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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Making A Difference

Posted: February 27, 2015 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

As you’ve probably heard by now, Julianne Moore won the Julianne Moore's Oscar winOscar for Best Actress last Sunday night, for her breathtaking turn as a woman facing down Younger Onset Alzheimer’s disease. It is an amazing achievement for a talented actress with an already-esteemed career.

Her acceptance speech added more fuel to the national conversation that she and everyone involved in Still Alice have ignited. With golden statuette clutched, Moore said, “So many people with this disease feel isolated and marginalized. One of the wonderful things about movies is that it makes us feel seen and not alone. And people with Alzheimer’s deserve to be seen, so that we can find a cure.”

Indeed, it is about being seen. And heard. And understood. And making a difference. When I blogged last month about Meryl Comer’s new book, I asserted that the time has long come for us to be open books ourselves – to lift the veil and drag our personal experiences with Alzheimer’s out into the light. This is how we will support each other. This is how our loved ones will feel seen. This is how we will know that we are not alone. This is how we will develop new ways to treat, slow down and stave off the disease, hopefully and ultimately discovering a cure to end it once and for all.  This is how we will make a difference in this life.

In this spirit, I want to again express my sincere thanks to a few of our member families who have recently spoken with the local media about their journeys.  Their courage to become open books for the sake of others who are in the same situation is inspiring and makes a difference.  As I participated with them in their interviews, it was heartwarming to hear their special stories.  The honor and dignity with which they handle their challenging situations of living with loved ones who live with Alzheimer’s, is nothing short of amazing.  I am honored to be a part of their extended family and to walk on their journeys with them.

It’s movies like Still Alice, the book that sparked the movie, the book by Meryl Comer,  and our own membership of extraordinary people who live with Alzheimer’s – not to mention their families who love them – that make me so proud to have been able to make a difference, too.  Thank you for giving me that honor.  It is a gift.

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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Will She Win Tonight?

Posted: February 22, 2015 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

Tonight is Oscar Night, and the smart money is on Julianne Moore to win the Best Actress statuette for her riveting role as a woman facing down Younger Onset Alzheimer’s disease in Still Alice.

I, for one, hope she wins. Her portrayal is authentic, moving and as human as they come. And a win for her would further bolster the much-needed awareness and understanding of Alzheimer’s that Still Alice has been bringing to this disease as of late.

I watched her performance in awe last week, when I attended the opening night screening at the Manor Theater (with whom we’ve partnered to help promote the movie). Of course, I made sure to arrive a few minutes earlier than usual so I could catch The Ivey’s new 30-second commercial up on the Silver Screen! And once the film began, one of the many things that struck me was how true-to-life it is. We have members at The Ivey living with Younger Onset Alzheimer’s (please take a few minutes to read the recent press stories about two of them HERE and HERE), and I can tell you that the filmmakers truly captured the circumstances, issues, feelings, dynamics and complications that memory loss brings to those living with it and the families surrounding them.

I don’t want to give away too much (no “spoiler alerts” here!), but I do want to offer my kudos to the film’s makeup artists.   Now normally if you leave a movie talking about the makeup, something’s wrong…like seeing a play and then complimenting the sets and costumes. But in this case, the work they did perfectly complimented the Oscar-worthy performance of the star. As Moore descends deeper and deeper into the disease, she transforms physically before our eyes. She goes from a vision of vibrancy and life, to someone we do not recognize. But she’s Alice. Indeed, she is still Alice, at every moment.

This is such a crucial lesson for all of us. When we see changes happening to the physical appearance of our loved ones living with Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia, it can play tricks on our minds and our hearts. We think they are disappearing on us. But they’re not.  We think they don’t see us or know us or hear what we say, much less understand us, but they do. They are still very much here, experiencing life differently, mostly through touch and the feeling of love. Love conquers all barriers.

For so many reasons, I hope you’ll go see this movie while it’s playing here in Charlotte for the next few weeks. As part of our mission to be a leader in dementia care, support, resources and education for the Charlotte community, The Ivey is pleased to offer you FREE movie passes to see Still Alice. Learn how to claim your FREE VIP PACKAGE by visiting www.theivey.com/still-alice-4.

And good luck to Julianne Moore at this evening’s awards ceremony!

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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Dean Smith: Cutting Down the Net

Posted: February 10, 2014 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

During this time of year, many people get very excited about college basketball.  I do and always have.  I grew up with parents who loved to watch their teams on TV or in person in those frenzied arenas known as Carmichael, Cameron, and Reynolds.  They are called something different now.  Only one is named for the great, and now late, Dean Smith.   Ah, the Dean Dome.

My college days were spent at another school (East Carolina) in large part so I would not have to break my allegiance to the Big Three (Duke, NC State, or Carolina) and I could cheer for any of them when they played outside their Triangle.   My Dad went to Duke.  His Dad had a long and fulfilling career at NC State.  My brother, sister-in-law, and their daughter all went to Carolina.   What else could I do but go somewhere else?  How could I choose?

Yet, one coach among those schools stood out for me.  Dean Smith.  Not because of the legendary stats, wins and records that he left in his wake – but because his approach to life made him inspiring, the only one among the lot whose very way of doing and being would truly give me pause and cause me to think about life.

Throughout his entire life – day after day, season after season – he ascended the ladder of life and snipped free the net of social injustice. For him, that was the true victory, the most precious title of all.   Each thread of the net was met with the power and sharpness and strength of his gentleman’s blade, and he was deliberate and loving in the way he cut through any injustice he encountered.

Racial inequality. Objectification of women. Nuclear proliferation. Snip, snip, snip. If a political issue stood in the way of other human beings being treated equally, he bravely climbed the rungs and sliced through the binds.

Smith lived life knowing that every single human was created equal. That no one is more important than anyone else. That there is no room for egos in the Big Game.   He served his players, his school and his state as a coach, mentor, friend, leader, father figure, trailblazer and unending source of awe and inspiration.

And he’d be the first to tell you, it was never about him. Even as he prowled the sidelines under the blazing white fluorescents of packed arenas, he shunned the spotlight. He led by this example, and instilled into his players a mantra of unselfishness that will always serve as the definitive example of Teamwork.

His was a mantra that we can apply to all aspects of our lives. In our families. With our friends. At our jobs. In service to our communities. Especially here at The Ivey.  Pass the ball. Point in acknowledgment.  Team and our members first, for the greater good.

And in the final plays of his life, he negotiated a memory-debilitating disease with all the grace and dignity of his greatest games.

We will never forget him. He will always be missed. And his lessons will endure forever.

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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Give a Little Time, and Get a Lot Back

Posted: February 3, 2014 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

Here’s me and our executive chef Andy Brown (L) presenting Tony Barretta with his award!

Recently, I had the distinct pleasure of honoring a dear friend of The Ivey in a special way.

The Ivey’s official volunteer program has been newly named The Barretta Circle – its name inspired by Tony Barretta, The Ivey’s longest-tenured volunteer. And I was the lucky one who got to surprise him with this awesome announcement at our Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon!

Tony has (and always will) hold a special place in my heart. He has diligently and selflessly donated his time to The Ivey for many years now, serving as the right-hand-man to our executive chef, Andy Brown.  Having run a café of his own before, Tony’s volunteer work here is well suited to his interests. From peeling potatoes to dishing out soup, his donation of time to help our staff and members brings him a special joy.

He’ll also be the first to tell you that “retirement is overrated” and that you should spend your time doing something you feel good about. “The Ivey is that for me,” he likes to say.

This year, we’re looking for more Tonys! Well, he could never be replicated, but we do have a goal of dramatically increasing the ranks of volunteers here at The Ivey. Of course, you don’t have to be retired like Tony in order to volunteer your time.  And guess what? There’s something in it for you, too! Consider that:

  • We humans are fundamentally wired for meaning, making volunteering a radically life-enhancing practice.
  • We humans flourish as we live into our capacity to relate to others.
  • We humans are capable of relating to others with deep curiosity, empathy and respect; it is this manner of relating that is vitally enriching to all of us. Volunteering as a practice provides an opportunity for this more meaningful relating.

Just a few days ago, I witnessed a beautiful example of friendship, meaning and purpose in life that occurred when a friend gave the gift of his time to another friend.   One of our members was celebrating his birthday and became very sad that he could not remember his age.  His sadness was evident from mid-morning up to lunch.  I called a close friend of mine who has known this member for a long time and asked him to come visit with the member for lunch.  He was there in a flash.  The staff and I noticed an immediate, remarkable change wash over our member as he recognized his friend.  Both began relating to each other with deep affection and respect. Clearly, the time spent visiting and relating was deeply enriching for both of them.

Volunteerism is just as good for the Giver as it is for the Receiver. In fact, donating your time for a cause that you care about can help make you:

  • Happier – acts of kindness raise your levels of serotonin, a natural chemical in your body that is responsible for improving mood.
  • Healthier –volunteering has health-promoting benefits, such as lessening symptoms of chronic pain and heart disease.
  • Wealthier – for some, wealth is not measured in dollars.
  • Wiser – from providing you with new perspectives on life, to diversifying your friends and social circles, to cultivating gratitude for your blessings, there are few activities that allow you to grow mentally, emotionally and spiritually as a person like volunteering.

So, what are you waiting for? We have many fun and valuable opportunities for you to serve our members! If you or someone you know would like to volunteer time with us each week, please contact Jen Sexton at Jen.Sexton@theivey.com or 704-909-2070.

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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ALSO WORTHY OF YOUR ATTENTION:

–> Watch our website, Facebook page and next week’s blog post for announcements about an exciting promotional initiative that The Ivey is doing in conjunction with the upcoming Alzheimer’s-themed and Oscar-nominated film, Still Alice.

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Like Baseball? Well Then, “Like The Ivey!”

Posted: January 21, 2015 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

FB ad image

This week’s blog takes you to Facebook and the chance to win great tickets to a Charlotte Knights baseball game at the BB&T Ballpark, courtesy of The Ivey!   The seats are incredible “Home Plate Club” seats and include a VIP parking space!!   How, you ask?  By participating in our just-launched, “Like Us on Facebook” campaign!

Because we have so many resources to share, so many stories to tell, and so many families to help, social media has become a great way for us to keep spreading the word about all the amazing things happening here. Families who care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other form of dementia need to know that they are not alone and that we are here to help.  And you can help us help them!

I’m sure most of you know that the way social media works is that the more friends/fans you have, the larger your platform becomes for sharing those resources, telling those stories, and helping more families.

So here’s how our contest works:  THIS WEEK ONLY, anyone who “Likes” The Ivey’s Facebook page will be entered into a drawing for two free tickets to a 2015 Charlotte Knights baseball game, plus free parking right next door to the BB&T Ballpark! Again, these are two spectacular “Home Plate Club” seats, with the best views of Uptown Charlotte and access to a climate-controlled buffet-and-bar lounge directly behind home plate!

You may already be one of our cherished Facebook friends. If so, THANK YOU!

Now, would you help us out again? Please invite your Facebook friends to “Like” The Ivey’s Facebook page this week.  Please go to our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/TheIvey.memorycaredaycenter) and on the left-hand side, you will see an area that says “Invite your friends to like The Ivey.” Just underneath that, click on “See All Friends” and then click the “Invite” button next to each of your friends’ names.

You can also write a post on your own Facebook page letting your friends know about this contest. Who knows, one of them might win those Charlotte Knights baseball tickets and then invite you to the game with them!

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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Lifting the Veil

Posted: January 6, 2015 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

As I was reading the recent book review in the Charlotte Observer of former TV reporter and producer Meryl Comer’s book, “Slow Dancing With a Stranger: Lost and Found in the Age of Alzheimer’s,” I was struck by the power and TRUTH of her message.

An estimated 87 percent of people living with Alzheimer’s are cared for in the home setting by family members over age 50 – “and we caregivers are the keeper of the secret,” she says. “As women, we were trained to be stoic and swallow our pain and really not talk about it. This is permission to say: ‘This is a cruel disease, and we have to stop it.’ My goal as an advocate is to change the conversation. It’s unacceptable for our future.”

Comer speaks from deep experience. Two decades ago, Comer’s husband, Harvey Gralnick, MD, held a high position at the National Institutes of Health when he was diagnosed with younger-onset Alzheimer’s. Her mother was also subsequently diagnosed with the disease. So Comer gave up her successful journalism career to become a full-time caregiver. Now, she heads the Geoffrey Beene Foundation’s Alzheimer’s Initiative.

As we enter this New Year, I honor Comer’s story and I embrace her words. The time has long come for us to be open books, to lift the veil, to drag our personal experiences with Alzheimer’s out into the light. We shouldn’t expend energy covering it up or trying to keep it a secret. We should be sharing all we can and supporting each other, with all the love and transparency that we can possibly generate.

The Ivey will soon be releasing a series of short videos intended to serve this very purpose – sharing each other’s stories, building a supportive community, and inviting everyone to approach us, without hesitation, for help, guidance and advice.

Speaking of “open books,” The Ivey has purchased copies of Meryl Comer’s new book, which will be given to the first 10 people who sign up for a free tour of The Ivey. It’s a chance for you to step into our community, to see the support that is available for you and your loved one with memory loss, and to begin a vital conversation that will make the Alzheimer’s journey not just survivable, but life-affirming.

Just CLICK HERE to request a tour of The Ivey, and if you are one of the first 10 (we’ll let you know!), your free copy of “Slow Dancing With a Stranger: Lost and Found in the Age of Alzheimer’s” will be waiting for you when you arrive.

You’re not alone. Far from it. I hope to see you soon.

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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ALSO WORTHY OF YOUR ATTENTION:

–> Make plans to join us next Tuesday, January 13th at 2pm or 6pm for The Ivey’s popular Memory Wellness Speaker Series. This month’s presentation is entitled “ART THERAPY FOR BRAIN POWER: The Effects of Art Therapy on Cognitive Function” and will be presented by Lela Kometiani, Art Educator. Admission is FREE but pre-registration is requested by calling The Ivey at 704-909-2070. For family caregivers, free care is available for loved ones during the workshops (with advance notice)…please call The Ivey to arrange.

–> We’re about to launch our Facebook “Like & Share” campaign! Have you Liked us on Facebook yet? If not, step into The Ivey’s social network to see photos, watch related videos, and stay up to date on events. You can find us online at https://www.facebook.com/TheIvey.memorycaredaycenter

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The Secret to Keeping Your New Year’s Resolution

Posted: December 31, 2014 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

I’ve made a lot of New Year’s Resolutions over the years. The usual suspects have been:  exercise more; stick to a reasonable budget; work less/play more. Sometimes I’ve succeeded, sometimes I’ve gotten halfway there, and sometimes I just ditched the whole shebang by the end of Week Two!

Apparently, I’m not alone. A recent study by the University of Scranton showed that 45% of Americans usually make New Year’s Resolutions, yet only 8% of people are successful in achieving them.

What’s the deal? Well, I’m no clinical psychologist, but I’d wager part of the problem is in what we’re choosing, or perhaps how we’re choosing. The same study revealed that the most popular resolutions are as follows:

1. Lose Weight
2. Getting Organized
3. Spend Less, Save More
4. Enjoy Life to the Fullest
5. Staying Fit and Healthy
6. Learn Something Exciting
7. Quit Smoking
8. Help Others in Their Dreams
9. Fall in Love
10. Spend More Time with Family

Hey, some of those sound familiar! But wait a minute. What if we decided to choose our resolutions in a new way? Try this…

Ask yourself:  What are your three highest and most noble commitments?

Then ask yourself:  What three things do you spend most of your time doing?

If there isn’t a lot of alignment in your answers to these two questions, this might be a great place to look. If each of us could spend more time committed to whatever we consider to be our highest and most noble commitments – whether or not they appear on the above list – it would be a year very well lived.

For me, in no particular order, they are:

1. Begin and end each day with gratitude
2. Seek to live a balanced and healthy lifestyle, one day at a time
3. Serve others with acts of kindness each and every day

There, it’s public now. I’d love to hear yours, too.

Friends, I’m raising a glass to a 2015 filed with love, happiness, prosperity and alignment for us all. Happy New Year…and GO PANTHERS!

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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ALSO WORTHY OF YOUR ATTENTION:

–> At the buzzer! There’s still time to make a year-end gift to The Ivey during our annual fund drive. As a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization, the intentionally affordable cost of membership at The Ivey allows us to serve more families in our community, yet covers less than half of our operating costs. I am very grateful for your generosity of any amount that is meaningful to you.  You can make a gift online HERE and help us make miracles happen for more and more Charlotte families living with Alzheimer’s or other dementias.

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A Thought for This Holiday Week

Posted: December 22, 2014 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

It’s Christmas week, a time when many of us become nostalgic for earlier days. We recall fond memories from when we were children – or perhaps from when our children were children – and these reminiscences are as much a part of our individualized holiday ambiance as the trees, garland, lights and ornaments.

Let’s remember that our aging loved ones are living links to those times. As we visit with family this week, carve out some special time with a senior loved one in your life. Take her by the hand. Look into her eyes. Hear her stories from long ago. Hear them again and again and again, each time as if it’s the first. Luxuriate in being in her presence. Because she is the past incarnate – a living, breathing vault of memories, recalled or not – and a spectacular reminder of who we are, where we came from, and how far we’ve come.

Each of us here at The Ivey extend best wishes to you and yours for the remainder of this holiday season…and beyond.

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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Giving Yourself the Present of Presence

Posted: December 18, 2014 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

Call me a perfectionist.

I confess:  if I eat ice cream at home, I eat it directly out of the pint. And it’s the darndest thing, but as I eat it, the outside edges of the ice cream tend to get soft and melty first. And, of course, that should be taken care of. So I diligently work my spoon around the cardboard and extract those melty sections.

Once I make my way around, I notice that some of the outside edges are getting soft again. Without even thinking about it, I am compelled once again to circumnavigate the inside of the pint and clean up any melting ice cream.

At this point, I’m on auto-pilot. My brain is elsewhere, but my spoon keeps doing circles, determined to leave no melty sweetness behind. Until, of course, I look down and realize that I’ve chiseled the ice cream down to a skinny freestanding column in the middle of the carton. (Which I promptly cover and shove into the freezer.)

How often do we go on auto-pilot in our lives? When do we miss opportunities to slow down and savor the gifts that come our way each and every day? With a brand new year rapidly approaching, I invite you to “ride the brakes” and really become present to everyday opportunities to relish delights and bathe in gratitude.

Close the laptop or turn off the iPhone to have a genuine conversation with a friend. Between stores at the mall, sit down for a few minutes to observe with curiosity the limitless variety of people with whom we coexist. Volunteer to spend time with seniors or some other cause that you’re interested in. Stay in your car in the driveway until that entire amazing song that you’ve always loved is over.

I’m not saying put down the spoon. I’m saying thoughtfully enjoy each bite.

This holiday season, the best present you can give yourself is to become present to the many gifts in your life.

Many wishes to you for a wonderful, loving and joyful holiday time with family and friends!

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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ALSO WORTHY OF YOUR ATTENTION:

–> Speaking of gratitude, please do yourself a HUGE favor and watch THIS SHORT VIDEO. And then bookmark it on your computer so you can re-watch it anytime you catch yourself going on auto-pilot, or taking beautiful things for granted, or whenever you simply need a reminder of how miraculous your life really is.

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Someone Just Gave Us Flowers…and His Name is Joe

Posted: December 10, 2014 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

What better way to reach the heart, and to connect with memories, than through the tradition of giving flowers?  And this sweet guy named Joe – Trader Joe – has recently done this for us.

You see, we’ve been eager to launch a pilot Nature Program as a part of our rapidly expanding and enhanced Life Enrichment programming and activities. So when the Charlotte-area Trader Joe’s supermarkets recently offered to donate free flowers and plants to The Ivey every week, we knew it was time to officially kick off this new program!

And let me tell you, it has become an instant hit with our Members. Many of them have enjoyed gardening as a past or current hobby – so as they arrange these flowers and plants into beautiful creations, they are able to reconnect with this lifelong love of theirs. They engage motor skills, spark creativity, and foster socialization – all of which have proven therapeutic value for individuals living with Alzheimer’s or other dementias. And even Members without the green thumbs (yes, even the men!) really got into it. Check out these photos!

But what I love the most about this program is the healing nature of it. If language skills decline while one traverses their dementia journey, the language of flowers remains powerful – a way to express love and gratitude when the words are escaping us. Working with plants and flowers takes a nurturing touch, attention to detail, and a desire to care for something beautiful – all instincts that, when awakened, trigger healing powers within us.

There are so many beautiful lives thriving at The Ivey. Surrounding them with fresh, vibrant, living things feeds that energy. It brings more smiles to their faces, laughter to their voices, movement to their hands and fingers. It triggers memories, encourages communication and “opening up,” and it stimulates new relationships.

In short, it grows the heart and feeds the soul.

And for playing their wonderfully unique role in helping to make this happen, my personal thanks goes out to Trader Joe’s for their ongoing support of The Ivey.

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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ALSO WORTHY OF YOUR ATTENTION:

–> It’s not too late to make a holiday gift to The Ivey during our year-end fund drive! As a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization, the intentionally affordable cost of membership at The Ivey allows us to serve more families in our community, yet covers less than half of our operating costs. I am very grateful for your generosity of any amount that is meaningful to you.  You can make a gift online HERE and help us make miracles happen for more and more Charlotte families living with Alzheimer’s or other dementias.

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Today is the Perfect Day to Give to The Ivey

Posted: December 3, 2014 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

It’s that time of year – a time to celebrate generosity and to give. We just kicked off our annual year-end fund drive with batches of letters to the good people of Charlotte and beyond. The mailman loves us this time of year, because we’re helping him build those biceps with an extra-heavy box of outgoing mail!

During this season of gratitude, I am personally thankful for the generosity of so many people over the years. This priceless support has come to The Ivey in many forms – donations of money, time, talents and passion – and has made our very existence possible. It has also made possible the following recent achievements:

  • Consecutive months of record enrollment and attendance this fall, a testament to our exciting growth
  • Being chosen by The National Adult Day Services Association (NADSA.org) as a site visit destination for its national conference, elevating The Ivey as a bar-setting model of care
  • The Fall 2013 acquisition of the adjacent parcel of land for the creation of two Family Care Homes – a first-of-its-kind respite care solution anchored by a day center for Charlotte families

As we celebrate seven years of caring for families and their loved ones living with Alzheimer’s or other dementias, I am also grateful to the hundreds of people who have turned to us for their care solution thus far. As a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization, the intentionally affordable cost of membership at The Ivey allows us to serve more families in our community, yet covers less than half of our operating costs. With no drug cure in sight, the number of families who need the unique, non-pharmacological daytime services we provide is rising exponentially – which means now, more than ever, we need your contribution. By donating to The Ivey, you can help make miracles happen for more and more Charlotte families, each and every day…miracles such as:

  • Memories once thought lost, ushered back by one of the nearly 16,000 warm, delicious and healthy homemade meals served this year
  • Strength, balance and independence restored by the healing hands of our on-site physical, occupational and speech therapists
  • “A-ha” moments for family caregivers, as they find desperately needed answers and support from our expert staff or at our popular monthly speaker series

As we move into our eighth year of service, I hope you will consider making a holiday gift during our year-end fund drive, and I am very grateful for your generosity of any amount that is meaningful to you.  You can make a gift online HERE.

How will your donation benefit seniors in our community? It will allow loved ones to enjoy the serenity of our safe and secure campus, receive nourishing meals throughout the day, and help cover the costs of Genesis’ world-class licensed therapists providing our members with crucial rehabilitation services.

As you cherish the memories of loved ones or make new ones during this season of celebration, I would be grateful if you would consider including The Ivey in your year-end charitable giving.   With your support, we can continue to improve the lives of more and more Charlotte families, helping them keep their memories intact, keep their loved ones close to them, and keep their love of life alive and well.

And from the bottom of my heart:  Thank You.

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Look Whoooo’s Outside My Window (Part Two)

Posted: November 29, 2014 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

I hope your Thanksgiving Day was full of warmth and deliciousness, and that your weekend is full with new memories and leftovers. Last week, I shared with you a photo of a beautiful owl perched outside my office window at The Ivey – with the promise of a more detailed story to come soon! Well, here it is…

During this time of Thanksgiving, there’s a reason why this owl is so meaningful to me. For the past decade, owls have been a recurring symbol in my life, appearing when I least expect it (and usually when I need it most!).

Back in 2005, I was in the early stages of developing The Ivey in honor of my mother, who was living with Alzheimer’s disease. It was also around this same time that I started learning more about signs and spirit guides – in fact, I was reading every book on the topic that I could get my hands on.

One day, my neighbor took a picture of an owl sitting on top of my townhouse. There was something very moving about the scene; I was filled with the feeling that he was up there for a reason. Soon after, while visiting some beautiful lodge-style homes on Lake Wylie for inspiration on The Ivey’s construction, I walked into the upstairs bedroom of one of the homes and realized that the room was decorated with a multitude of owls. And by multitude, I mean they were everywhere!

From that time forward, owls of all shapes, sizes and forms kept appearing to me.

For instance, in October 2008, as I was facing down some major business decisions, I sat with a friend at my dining room table. Peering out into the rainy afternoon, my friend suddenly exclaimed, “Look!” Sure enough, an owl was sitting on the top of the brick wall in my yard, staring at me for an hour and a half. And I could sense he could see something that I couldn’t. He could cut through the energy of the moment, clear through the clutter and see that everything was going to be alright. It was a powerful experience.

To this day, my good friend the owl continues to show up. Whether he’s nestled away in the limbs of a Christmas tree as I dig through our storage unit with The Ivey’s professional decorator, or the owl decorations that were seemingly everywhere during a recent shopping excursion, or the one conspicuously sitting all day outside my office window last week, I’ve grown to enjoy the owl’s omnipresence in my life and tap into its personal meaning for me. Heck, I recently learned that our amazing COO Janet LeClair has been collecting owls since childhood. Just another clear sign that she was destined to be on our staff, if you ask me!

Yup, he’s been delivering to me a clear and consistent message throughout the years. A message of faith and trust. The owl has always come during times of change, when I find myself inching into fear. He shows up to remind me that if you choose instead to live in love, things always work out the way they are supposed to and for the greater good. It’s about tuning in to the signs that are given to us each and every day, if we simply pay attention and are open to them. It’s about absorbing the fact that when something appears to us over and over again, it’s probably the universe speaking to us!

What lessons can we learn from a nocturnal creature that can see what other’s can’t? Well, perhaps we all have this same powerful gift, too. For example, I think we are the only ones who can truly see deep inside ourselves and assess what needs to change in our lives.

In essence, all of this is not about the owl – it’s about what the owl means to me. And to you.

The Ivey continues to be an incredible spiritual journey for me. It’s nice to have my feathered guides along the way.

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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Look Whoooo’s Outside My Window

Posted: November 20, 2014 by Lynn Ivey, CEO
Our Very Own Caregiver

The view from my desk. He’s been there all day.

Sometimes, something happens that changes the course of our day…or for that matter, our week/month/year/life.

Take today, for example. I was preparing my weekly blog post for you, when I suddenly looked up from my desk and noticed a visitor outside my window.

It’s not my first encounter with the owl. And I’ll share much more with you next week about what I mean.

But for today, I’m setting aside my planned blog in favor of sharing with you this photo of our wonderful guest – our very own caregiver here at The Ivey – and everything this guest brings along: intuition…wisdom…clarity…change…inspiration…guidance. But again, more on this next week.

Until then, enjoy the view. And just for a moment, consider the signs that are available to us each and every day, all around us, if we’re simply open to receiving them.

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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ALSO WORTHY OF YOUR ATTENTION:

–> Have you seen Jim Carrey’s inspiring commencement speech to the recent graduates of Maharishi University? If not, it’s worth your time…not to mention, a good primer for my blog post next week!

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What Autumn Teaches Me About Aging

Posted: November 11, 2014 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

As I was heading down Sharon Amity last week, I found myself driving through a ticker-tape parade of yellow, red, orange and purple, as the gorgeous trees lining that particular street shed its leaves. These are magical moments, when I get the chance to witness the miracle of nature and the beauty of our fair city of Charlotte, The Shady Lady.

As the colors blurred by me (honestly, I wasn’t driving THAT fast), I also found myself thinking about how different aspects of autumn can also inform our journey of getting older:

1.) Autumn can show us how to age with grace – Mother Nature doesn’t fight it, and perhaps we shouldn’t either. The fall will come around, each and every year, and it’s as inevitable as our own aging process. So as we age, we could display our beautiful changes, in all their natural glory.

2.) Autumn reminds us to embrace warmth – as the temps dip down, the cozy stone fireplaces at The Ivey heat up. The fall weather is a great reminder to seek out and accept warmth in its many forms: a soft blanket, the guiding hand of a friend, the loving hug of a family member. My caring staff at The Ivey always have their arms wide open, ready to deliver a good squeeze!

3.) Autumn encourages us to roll with the changes – during this time of year, lots of things are changing all around us…from the weather to the window decorations to nostalgic music and higher Duke Energy bills (!).  These are cues that it’s time to pull out our favorite sweaters, make lists of holiday gifts, and look forward to visiting family and friends. We could view aging through the same lens: change is good, and our changing bodies are actually inviting us to celebrate life!

4.) Autumn teaches us to enjoy the passage of time – sure, it’s getting colder out, but that also means that the holidays are around the corner, the lattes are teeming with rich fall flavors, and the roasted root veggies are showing up on menus all around town. If time didn’t keep moving forward, we’d never get to enjoy these lovely, nourishing, joy-inducing things. And so it is with our aging process: if we didn’t get older, we’d never get to experience the once-in-a-lifetime joys of being a senior.

With that, I think I’ll go out for another picturesque drive around town while the branches still have a few colorful leaves hanging on. Then, back to The Ivey for a bowl of homemade soup and a round of hugs.

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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ALSO WORTHY OF YOUR ATTENTION:

–> Many thanks to those of you who were able to join us last week for The Ivey’s Memory Wellness Speaker Series November installment entitled “Vision, The Brain and Dementia.” It was a fascinating presentation by Dr. Gaskin. For those who missed this great event, we will be posting a video of it in our online Educational Video Library soon.

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Tom Petty Was Right

Posted: November 4, 2014 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

I was reading a piece in The New York Times about the complexities of diagnosing dementia, and it had me reflecting back. Prior to my Mom’s official Alzheimer’s diagnosis, my Dad assumed that she simply had an irreversible case of C.R.S. – that is, “Can’t Remember _____” (I’ll let y’all figure out what that stands for on your own!). It was only after years of increased signs and signals that we realized a professional assessment was necessary – leading us to the real truth, as well as real strategies for her treatment and care.

These days, when a family brings a loved one to their primary care physician with memory loss concerns, they rarely get the instant answers that they crave. That’s not because the doctor wants to – trust me, there’s nothing a good doctor wants more than to give a patient or family the answers and options they need. But because it requires a series of thorough screenings to accurately diagnosis a dementia, physicians are often left in the less-than-enjoyable position of offering a “walks like a duck, talks like a duck” conclusion. The family has definitely taken the right first step by going to the doctor and discussing what they are noticing. And yet, they’ll likely leave with a neurologist appointment scheduled for a couple months later. As Tom Petty says, the waiting is the hardest part.

I have some good news, though. More and more senior care physicians are partnering with The Ivey as a perfect resource for families in the interim. Because we offer a battery of dementia-specific screenings and assessments, families can turn to us for answers, guidance and support even as they await their neurology appointment. They can delve into our library to begin their own research, speak with our staff of caring experts, and begin to explore a community of families who have been through similar journeys and love to help others facing down similar questions and challenges.

I have always felt that “staying in action” is a helpful tactic when unknowns abound. Screenings and assessments, seeking insight from a community that can relate, and taking advantage of a multitude of community resources can do a world of good while awaiting the next step in the diagnosis process.

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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ALSO WORTHY OF YOUR ATTENTION:

–> Make plans to join us this Wednesday, November 5th at 6:00pm for The Ivey’s Memory Wellness Speaker Series. This presentation is entitled “Eye Care and Dementia.” This topic will be presented by Dr. Gaskin, and will feature the latest information on retinal imaging testing for early detection of Alzheimer’s. Admission is free but pre-registration is requested by calling The Ivey at 704-909-2070. For family caregivers, free care is available for loved ones during the workshops (with advance notice)…please call The Ivey to arrange.

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Your Choice: Family Glued, or Family Feud?

Posted: October 23, 2014 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

I like to think of The Ivey as one big, happy family. That might sound cliché, but it’s true. Our Members, their families, our staff, and even Charlotte’s growing network of senior care professionals – it really does feel like an extended family to me.

Perhaps this is only natural. After all, we are serving Charlotte families. We work closely with them – hand-in-hand – to provide a trustworthy, top-notch daily care solution for their loved ones living with Alzheimer’s and other types of memory loss. The vast majority of our incredible staff members have personal experiences with dementia in their own families, so there’s a distinctly supportive, familial vibe here at The Ivey. We bring compassion and understanding to the conversation.

Today I am thinking about certain families at The Ivey that inspire me. These are family members who are truly working together in harmony, making care decisions that are in the best interests of their loved one, and turning to us regularly for information, insight and guidance.

I particularly love when I see siblings working together, firing on all cylinders, committed to the same vision of wellness and happiness for their Mom or Dad. Even when disagreements arise (which they certainly can), these siblings adopt a thoughtful and judicious approach – hearing each other out, weighing the pros and cons, and using an unselfish, democratic process to arrive at decisions on various things.

Obviously, this isn’t always the case. Caring for a parent can be an emotionally charged experience with the potential to start a sibling feud or add to an already existing one. Thankfully, from my standpoint these instances are the exception, not the rule. And when they do arise, The Ivey’s expert staff can often help get everyone in sync and on the same page.

Sometimes it’s just a matter of agreeing on a core set of values and interests that can serve to guide all care-related decisions that the group will be making together. Other times, these experiences can also serve as opportunities to clear the air or heal old wounds among family members.

Whatever the circumstances, it’s inspiring to see families come together as a united front in order to preserve the dignity and enhance the quality of life of their loved ones.

Families working in loving collaboration with each other? Yup. It’s a beautiful thing, and it makes my heart sing.

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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ALSO WORTHY OF YOUR ATTENTION:

–> In case you missed this month’s great presentation by Laura deMilt of Genesis Rehab Services, The Link Between Walking Ability and Memory, as part of our increasingly-popular monthly speaker series at The Ivey, you can catch it (and share it!) via our newly-launched Educational Video Library.

–> Make plans to join us Wednesday, November 5th at 6:00pm for the next installment in The Ivey’s Memory Wellness Speaker Series, entitled “Eye Care and Dementia.” This topic will be presented by Dr. Gaskin. Admission is free but pre-registration is requested by calling The Ivey at 704-909-2070. For family caregivers, free care is available for loved ones during the workshops (with advance notice)…please call The Ivey to arrange.

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Beyond Medicine, Providing a Way of Life

Posted: October 17, 2014 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

A recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine brought some intriguing information to light. The study is entitled “Patients with Advanced Dementia Continue Receiving Medications of Questionable Benefit,” and was led by Jennifer Tjia, M.D., M.S.C.E., of the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Bottom Line? More than half of nursing home residents with advanced dementia continue to receive medications of questionable benefit (including medications to treat dementia) at substantial financial cost – about $800 every three months. The most commonly prescribed medications were the dementia therapies cholinesterase inhibitors (like Aricept) and memantine hydrochloride (like Namenda).

There have been amazing developments in the world of dementia drugs – lots of progress, lots of challenges. And certainly, advancements in pharmacological solutions will continue to play a vital role in improving treatment.

Here at The Ivey, we’re proud that our unique non-pharmacological approach to care also plays a vital role. We surround our Members with compassionate and insightful professionals who believe in a holistic approach to dementia care. Full health screenings and comprehensive care plans help ensure that they are getting everything they need at each and every stage of their dementia journey. And close ongoing monitoring of each Member’s tailored care regimen helps us identify if a Member is getting something that they don’t need (i.e., a superfluous drug) or needs an adjustment to their plan. We exist to compliment and contribute to a dignified and quality way of life for people living with memory loss due to Alzheimer’s or other dementias. It’s a way of life that values being empowered by wellness, knowledge and happiness.

Imagine if the nearly 54% of the 5,406 study participants with advanced dementia who “received at least one medication of questionable benefit” had the opportunity to attend a center like The Ivey earlier on, when their symptoms first began to show or immediately upon diagnosis. They would have benefited from a unique, research-based approach to care, one that embraces the proven value of such things as wellness programs, social engagement, mental, physical and creative stimulation, and family resources and support – all with no additional drugs. These approaches have been shown to slow the disease’s progress and greatly enhance quality of life…which is why we always tell people, “Start Sooner, Remember Longer.”

Like turning a massive ocean liner, degree by degree, studies like this one are slowly-but-surely helping to encourage the medical community to embrace a more inclusive approach to care. In fact, The Institute of Medicine now recommends clinicians minimize drug interventions for advanced dementia, “and instead focus on maximizing quality of life.”

To that I say, “All aboard!”

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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ALSO WORTHY OF YOUR ATTENTION:

–> Many thanks to those of you who were able to join us earlier this week for The Ivey’s Memory Wellness Speaker Series October installment, “The Link Between Walking Ability & Memory.” For those who missed this great presentation, we will be posting a video of it online soon. In the meantime, you can read a related article HERE.

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Find the Humor, and You’ll Find Endurance

Posted: October 7, 2014 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

Of the many joys in my life, getting to know the families at The Ivey is way up there at the top. And I know my entire staff feels the same way. Recently our Marketing Director, Vikki Hunley, was enjoying a funny moment in the front lobby with a family caregiver, Chrisanne, and Vikki felt compelled to tell Chrisanne how much she enjoyed her humor. Chrisanne replied that besides The Ivey, humor was the only way she gets through it all. This struck us as a pretty enlightened perspective on life, and so we asked her to write down some of her thoughts about living with someone with Alzheimer’s.  Here’s how she responded (I think you’ll appreciate the humor in it as much as I do):

“What do you do when your strong, independent mother has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and has to move in with you? Do you fall apart? Panic? Curse the God that let this happen?  The answer: all of the above. But what I didn’t expect was the humor that comes with it all. Yes, I said humor. I know it sounds awful that I should find anything funny about the situation, but I do. My whole family does. Let me explain.

“After years of trying to find out what was going on with our mother’s mind, she was finally diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. She was living alone and still driving, but we were concerned about her safety. We checked on her regularly and helped her with tasks around the house. During this time, my husband and I were in our 6th week of celebrating our youngest leaving the nest, and we finally had the house to ourselves. Then mom was hospitalized for pneumonia and COPD and was no longer able to live alone.  After looking at all of our options, we decided that she would have to move in with us. (“Only 6 weeks of freedom? Are you kidding me? Is this some kind of cosmic joke? We raised our kids…prepared them to move upward and onward…how could this now be happening?) Every emotion ran through us, but we knew what had to be done.  Mom moved in. And that’s when the fun began.

“For starters, Mom was a smoker for over 60 years when she came to live in our non-smoking home. We decided to give her four cigarettes a day, plus an e-cig.  Well let me tell you, give a person with memory problems an e-cig and be prepared to spend five hours of your day looking for it. It got so bad that I had to tie a string to it and clip it to her clothes. (Imagine a pacifier holder for a smoker.) I sent a picture of it to all the grandchildren; they got a real kick out of it. It helped for them to laugh and enjoy the silliness of it all when they were so worried about the grandmother they were slowly losing every day. Even Mom thought it was funny, which really made us feel better.  What she didn’t find funny was the fact that we gave her only four real cigarettes a day. So she started trying to smuggle in cigarettes from her friends. Once, when my son and his friend were home for a visit, she tried to bum smokes from them, too. Not to be outdone, my husband took to using a pink highlighter to color Mom’s four cigarettes bright pink every day. That way we knew if she was smoking contraband or not. She wasn’t happy, but we all got a laugh about her and her “pink ladies” going out for a smoke. This power struggle went on until she was hospitalized again for pneumonia and forced to give up all smoking products.

“Luckily, my brother and his kids live nearby – so after a month at my house, we decided it was best for my sanity (and my husband’s) to share custody of Mom. Now, she switches homes every Sunday. We knew it was going to be confusing for her, but we also knew we didn’t want to place her in an assisted living facility yet. What we didn’t count on was the ten times a day that she asks when she is going to the next house. The other day, she asked my brother so many times that he wrote it on her arm so she wouldn’t forget. Mom thought it was funny to get her own “homemade tattoo.”

“The stories are endless. Every once in a while, Mom adds to the fun with a witty comeback that cracks us all up and reminds us of the Mom we use to know.

“Every day brings new adventures, good and bad, some funny, and others not so funny. As a family, we love and support each other on this journey. We know that each day brings us closer to the day when Mom won’t remember us and disappears into herself. Until then, we choose to find the love and laughter in the simplest things.”

How perfectly lovely. Chrisanne, her brother Byron and their entire family have such a great sense of humor with their Mom – and Mom plays right along. If you can practice staying open to the funny things that naturally accompany life with Alzheimer’s or other types of memory loss, then you will find yourself expanding your bandwidth, growing your tolerance, and stretching your endurance. It’s amazing what you can handle when you tune in to the comedy of life and openly celebrate the absurdity of it all.

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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ALSO WORTHY OF YOUR ATTENTION:

–> Speaking of humor, take 20 minutes to listen to this wonderful segment from the radio show This American Life about some family caregivers who are using the rules of improvisational comedy to enjoy their time with Mom more. (BTW, we’re in touch with Karen who is featured in this story, and we’re hoping to bring her to The Ivey for a workshop later this year. Fingers crossed!)

–> Make plans to join us Tuesday, October 14th for the next installment in The Ivey’s Memory Wellness Speaker Series: “The Link Between Walking Ability & Memory.” More information available HERE.

–> Read about an interesting new study on the impact of resilience in aging, in which scientists are “examining the ability of resilience, or the ability to navigate adversity in a manner that protects well-being, to buffer the impact of chronic disease onset on disability in later life.”

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It’s All About the Cortisol

Posted: September 30, 2014 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

At the bottom of last week’s blog post, I shared a link to a recent Reuters story about another eye-opening study on the stress of caring for a family member with dementia and the stress-relieving benefits of having support during the day.

The research team used cortisol level readings to drive the study, and the findings are pretty telling. In short, during stressful times (which caregivers know all-too-well), your cortisol levels may go too high or too low compared to what is considered normal range. This can lead to feelings of “burnout,” depression, cognitive problems, a suppressed immune system and other illnesses.

But the study went a step further to shed light on the immense benefits that family caregivers get from building in a daytime care solution for their loved one. Specifically, having a safe and loving sanctuary like The Ivey – where the family member living with Alzheimer’s or other type of memory loss can spend some of their days – has a direct physiological impact on the caregiver’s cortisol levels, leading to a reduction in stress, improvement in immune system functioning, and more enjoyable days overall.

The study also showed that “better cortisol regulation began in the morning, even before the study participant’s loved one left for the day.” Seems the positive effects of having a daytime care solution in place are measurable even before and after the loved one’s actual day(s) spent there. Now that’s a gift that keeps on giving!

I’d like to give each and every one of those super-smart, white-coated scientists a huge hug, because I celebrate any research that helps prove what we see each and every day here at The Ivey – that family caregivers who partner with us to help care for their loved one during the day are ultimately happier, healthier people who are able to truly enjoy their time with their loved one and be fully present with them when they are together.

Maybe we should re-brand The Ivey Memory Wellness Day Center as “The Ivey Cortisol Control Center.” On second thought…nah. But I do want more and more family caregivers in Charlotte to truly understand the lasting physical and emotional benefits of taking advantage of our services – not just for your loved one, but for YOU!

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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ALSO WORTHY OF YOUR ATTENTION:

–> In case you missed last month’s fascinating presentation by Dr. Weeks, The Impact of Sleep on Memory, as part of our increasingly-popular monthly speaker series at The Ivey, you can catch it (and share it!) via our newly-launched Educational Video Library.

–> Make plans to join us for the next installment in The Ivey’s Memory Wellness Speaker Series: The Link Between Walking Ability & Memory. More information available HERE.

–> If you didn’t catch the recent 60 Minutes segment, Living to 90 and Beyond, about a groundbreaking research study called “90+” then do yourself a favor and watch Part One and Part Two HERE.

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If We’re Going to Talk Cost, Let’s Really Talk Cost

Posted: September 24, 2014 by Lynn Ivey, CEO

Recently, the Charlotte Observer picked up a New York Times piece by Jane Brody entitled “Dementia makes picking a nursing home harder.” It was a good read. But something about it was also nagging at me. It was the omission of the affordable alternatives.

I realize that the story was intended to speak specifically about nursing homes. But the inherent risk in introducing such a narrow conversation is this: it holds back our continued development in how we consider care solutions for our loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia. The days of nursing homes being the default answer are long over, but our culture is still getting over its handwringing habit and un-learning our age-old approach to dealing with “the problem” when it rears its head in our families. We are still getting used to widening our field of vision so we are able to actually see and assess the other options – ones that actually hit the elusive sweet spot of affordability, quality, wellness and independence.

One of Brody’s key messages – the exceedingly true statement that “more expensive is not necessarily better” in dementia care – would have been a perfect occasion to expand the conversation in this way. Why limit the cost analysis exercise to just nursing homes – comparing the cheap ones to the expensive ones and then scratching our heads as to why price might not correlate to quality? Why not seize this opportunity to show just how true the pricier-doesn’t-mean-better mantra really is? Adult daily care from The Ivey and other centers in Mecklenburg County is far more cost-effective than nursing homes. In fact, The National Adult Day Services Association reports the average cost per person for adult day services is $16,900 annually, versus $77,380 for nursing homes. That means you’re stretching your care budget nearly five times as far, and also getting an arguably superior service and experience for it. And for families weighing in-home care, The Ivey provides a blend of the professional care services, life enrichment, healing socialization and family engagement not possible with home care alone.

Whenever possible, our loved ones truly deserve the best of both worlds:  a safe, nurturing sanctuary during the day, and the comfort of family and home at night. If we can have it all – and all for less than the cost of any nursing home out there – then we shouldn’t be spending valuable time readjusting our blinders. We should be taking them off.

Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.

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ALSO WORTHY OF YOUR ATTENTION:

–> Make plans to join us for the next installment in The Ivey’s Memory Wellness Speaker Series: The Link Between Walking Ability & Memory. More information available HERE.

–> Read this Reuters story that underscores The Ivey’s benefits to family caregivers: Adult Daycare Eases Stress on Dementia Caregivers.