Saturday, May 17, 2014

Celebrating Life

Good morning all. It's been an eventful week with a bittersweet ending. Yesterday we said goodbye to a client--a very sweet woman. The family called us in a couple of weeks ago because their loved one was in hospice at a SNF and she wanted to be in her own home.  Evie (pseudonym) had stage four cancer and not much time left. Her only regret was that she didn't have more time as there were some bucket list items left incomplete. One of her dreams had been to go to Alaska.

When we first met we talked about what she wanted to experience with us and how we could support her wishes for her last days. She didn't have the energy to entertain friends for more than a few minutes at a time and she wanted to limit who came over as she didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings if she couldn't talk.

I tried to limit the amount I spoke with her because talking and breathing was too hard--she just didn't have the breath. She also expressed to me that she didn't want people coming in--either friend or caregiver--and pitying her. She viewed what was going on as a phase of life. Evie had lived a good life and shared it with a loving husband and two wonderful brothers. The brothers were with her when I first came in to meet her and I was impressed by the caring within this family.

All of this is preamble to one of the discussions I had with Evie--that of creating honoring and celebration of a person's life in their last days. We talked about the tendency of our culture to mourn a person as they transition out of this life rather than celebrate their life. The transition of death is inevitable. The key is whether you are sharing your thoughts, memories, laughter, and gratitude with your loved one and family during the time of transition.

The reason I use the word transition is because it evokes many things for me.  It speaks to the approach of our last days, the leaving of the physical body, and the movement to the next phase vibrational existence, as well as the transition that the family experiences when their loved one is no longer with them.  Mourning is a natural part of passing but I think we best honor someone when we remember who they were, what they shared with us, what they taught us, and what they meant to us.

When my step father passed we decided to have a celebration of life rather than a funeral service.  We told the gathering of our remembrances, stories about Harry, and what he meant to us.  Nothing was off limits and we laughed and cried through the telling.  One of the comments Harry was famous for was about the use of hair conditioner. He couldn't understand why someone would wash their hair and then make it dirty again with conditioner.  This and many other stories were shared. Family and friends who couldn't attend sent letters to be read.

At the end of the celebration one of the guests came up to me and said she had never been to a service like that but that she liked it.

When I go I plan to have a big party. Like my grandmother, I'm leaving instructions for my service. Scatter my ashes in the canyon where I love to hike and then party. A New Orleans style jazz band will work well and lots of chocolate-laden foods (dark chocolate please). I'll be watching from somewhere and partying right along with the rest of you.

And to Evie, I wish you beautiful sailing and joy in this new phase of your existence. I know you are with your beloved husband once more and are a guardian angel to your loved ones left behind.  My blessings to a beautiful soul.

And to all of you, many blessings in this amazing journey we have on planet Earth.  It's a wild ride.  Have fun, laugh, and share your love.

Laura Barish

Visit us online at or call to chat 858-779-9254

Monday, May 12, 2014

Tribute to Mom

Greetings all.  Yesterday was Mother's Day and, for me, a very special day--one of great gratitude.  Last year I almost lost my mother.  She had an internal bleed that almost ended her life.  Today she is stronger and happier than she has been in several years and I get to have more time with this very special woman.

I want to tell you a little bit about mom.  She was born in Germany in 1934.  Her mother was an Irish citizen who met mom's father in the US where they were both working in the hospitality industry.  They were married and went to Cork, Ireland to see my mother's family before proceeding on to Bielefeld, Germany where my grandfather was raised.

Mom grew up in Bielefeld during the war.  Because my grandmother was an Irish citizen she was periodically arrested and interrogated by the Gestapo.  Mom has shared with me stories about walking down the road and pulling her sister in a ditch to dodge allied strafing.  The town in which she was raised was largely destroyed by bombing and she spent some time out of the city to avoid the bombs.

Mom's father was drafted into the German Army and was captured and sent to a camp in Siberia where he died.  After the war my grandmother took mom and her sister to Cork where they spent two years awaiting sponsorship to come back to the US.  Mom once told me she had the strangest accent.  Mom learned English in Ireland and initially spoke English with a German Irish brogue.

My grandmother suffered from mental illness and alcoholism and Mom found herself on her own not long after getting to the US.  With all of this turmoil and change, Mom managed to graduate from high school at age 15!  She met my father and married at age 18.  Dad was 36.

We were raised in Maryland.  When I was 8 Dad was diagnosed with stomach cancer.  He was able to fight it for five years but it got to the point where we knew he could not survive.  Mom went back to school, knowing that she would have to support her three children.  She got a degree in dental hygiene from Howard University and then went on to get both a Masters and PhD on a full ride from Johns Hopkins.  She was an epidemiologist, with her last job running research studies in AIDS and breast cancer for the Army.  Mom was also a CDR in the Public Health Service.

Mom is the person that is always there for me.  She has been my ceaseless cheer leader in growing my business and has always been my inspiration.  And, like all mothers and daughters, we have had our challenges and conflicts but, despite it all, I could not be more grateful to have this incredible woman in my life.

So, in the shadow of this Mother's Day, I encourage you to think about your own mother.  What was she like in her best times?  How did she help shape the person you are now?  What kind of frustrations did she insert into your life that pushed you to go that extra step to rise above?  What are the many blessings she presented to you?

Mom turns 80 later this year.  I truly never thought we'd see this year together but I'm very excited to help her bring in this next decade of her life.

Mom wants to write her story--it is an incredible one.  I'm excited to be a part of the telling!  Hopefully you'll see a book with her name on the cover within the next year or so.

Have a wonderful week and many blessing to our moms everywhere!

Laura Barish

Wednesday, May 7, 2014


Good morning readers.  I just got a scam call and I want to make you aware of it so that you may caution your friends and loved ones.  The call came from a blocked number from a gentleman claiming that my "windows" computer is sending error codes to his server and that it is very critical.  I thought this was very funny because I don't have a windows computer, but I played along. 

It got to the point where I said to him that he was calling from a blocked number and, because of his accent, was probably calling from India and this all sounded like a scam.  He hung up, which was my indication that indeed it was a scam.

We didn't get far enough into the conversation for me to find out what kind of information he was going to attempt to extract from me.

So, what could have happened if I had cooperated?...

1.  He could have gotten enough information to perpetrate identify theft.
2.  He could have gained direct access to the files on my personal computer.
3.  He could have gotten an virus installed on my computer that could either transmit files or information from my computer, installed a keystroke tracker and gotten access to my online passwords, or installed software that would have used my computer as a host for invading other systems.

The lesson for all is to NEVER give out ANY information about your computer.  Never give someone remote access to your computer (unless you know them personally).  Never trust unsolicited calls inquiring about personal information, computer issues, banking, credit cards, etc.

I hope this post helps you to avoid these scams.  If you ever have a question about someone that is calling, use that as an indication that it is not a legitimate call and hang up!

Be well and have a great day.

Laura Barish

Call us if you'd like to discuss our Adult Day Program or our in home services.  We'd love to chat.  858-779-9254

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Amazing Brownie Recipe


It's Sunday and I'm eating cashews while trying to come up with a blog topic.  When all else fails, turn to food!   

On the second Wednesday of every month from 5-7pm AltaGolden holds a dementia support group.  This month's support group is on May 14.  A couple of years ago I did a 3-month series that discussed the importance of food in brain health.  At the first month's meeting we watched some videos and discussed the information.  The second month provided a speaker on nutrition; and for the third month I made dinner for all attendees based on the hunter-gatherer diet, also known as the paleolithic diet.  The recipes included kale salad with healthy and tasty fixing and a dressing made of lemon and braggs liquid amino, chinese chicken salad, a tossed salad, and desserts that fit in with the program.

My favorite of the desserts is the following brownie recipe.  In fact, it is so good, that it has become my all time favorite brownie recipe.  It's fudgey and delicious and I hope you enjoy.  I'll continue share other recipes when I have writers block.  P.S., this recipe is also kosher.

To learn more about the paleo diet watch this video by Dr. Terry Wahls who cleared her symptoms of MS through diet:  PALEO DIET.


1 stick sweet butter, softened (or coconut oil)
1 cup sugar (or substitute 3/8 C of stevia)
5 eggs, separated
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped (not chocolate chips) 
8ounces finely chopped or ground almonds (I like the almond flour from Trader Joe's)
Pinch of salt

Cream butter and sugar together. Mix in egg yolks.
Melt Chocolate over double boiler (or over saucepan over saucepan with simmering water). Cool and add to butter mixture. Add finely ground almonds.
Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. Fold into batter.
Pour into 9" square greased baking tin.
Bake in a preheated 350 oven for 45-50 min.
Cool and cut into squares.

Well, that's it for now.  Enjoy your chocolate fix and have a great Sunday!!!

Be well.  Many blessings to you always.

Laura Barish

And don't forget to visit us online!!!  or call us to chat any time.  We look forward to hearing from you.  858-779-9254

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Dementia - Validation and Redirection

Happy Saturday!  The last couple of weeks have been extremely busy and my writing to you has tapered off.  Today's topic is getting back on track to our series of working with people with dementia.

A very important technique for working with dementia is called Validation and Redirection.  Whether on a conscious or unconscious level, one of the things I have experienced is the struggle by clients to retain some degree of control over their lives as their cognitive strength decreases.  As caregivers we often experience this as resistance to simple requests or suggestions.  From the client perspective, it is the ability to control their environment.

Think about putting yourself in the shoes of someone who is having increasing difficulty in making decisions, understanding circumstances, and knowing how to handle a situation.  Something as simple as deciding where to go for dinner can become insurmountable.  A husband asks his wife, 'where would you like to go to dinner?'  The wife can no longer remember the names of the different restaurants in the area, let alone her favorite.  She may not even remember her favorite cuisine, such as Italian or Greek.  She may become combative as a way to hide the fact that she can't remember, which may express as, 'Why are you asking me such a silly question?  I don't want to go out!'  The agitation may continue to increase as the situation does not feel resolved in her own mind.

The way out of this is for the husband to validate and redirect.  An example may be, 'You are right.  That was a silly question.  What was I thinking?  It's much too early to think about dinner.'  Whether or not it is too early is irrelevant.  The idea is to validate the wife's feelings and create a feeling of closure about the issue.  And the next time do not offer options.  Simply tell them where you would like to go to dinner.

One of our clients came to me with the issue that his wife kept telling him that he was trying to divorce her.  This wasn't true but it kept coming up again and again.  He addressed this by turning the tables a bit.  He begged her not to leave or divorce him because he loved her so much.  It worked!  He has faced other challenges but with each one we discuss what is going on and come up with a strategy to address it.

Sometimes the issue is related to significant time and space disorientation.  One of our clients thinks he is living 30 years in the past.  We work with him from that perspective.  You cannot tell someone who thinks he is at his office that he is 30 years older and in his home.  You have to validate and redirect.  Sometimes that redirection will be to make up a story of needing his advice about a problem he can help solve.  If you try to tell him the truth about his situation it will most likely increase agitation and not re-orient him.

Whenever you are dealing with resistance from your loved one just remember the old Star Trek adage, resistance is futile.  Resistance from either you or your loved one will also increase stress for both of you.  Your resistance may stem from the idea that you have to convince them of the truth of the situation.  Resist that urge!  The kindest thing you can do is to validate.  It will make your life a lot more peaceful.

I've had clients express that they feel bad about lying to their loved one.  Yes, there are times that you will not be telling the truth but, in this case, the truth will not set you, or them, free.  Just be kind.  If you can help them to be happy and peaceful that is the kindest thing you can do.

One of our clients keeps saying that she wants to go home to her parents.  Her husband tells her that is a great idea and that he is working with a travel agent to get everything scheduled.  Her parents are long gone but she will not remember the lie from one hour to the next and, in that moment, the idea of going home gives her peace.  Validation and redirection.

Have a wonderful rest of the weekend.  Back to you soon!

Laura Barish

Visit us online at

Would you like to visit the Memory Center Adult Day Program?  We would love to see you.  Just call to make an appointment for a no-obligation visit.  858-779-9254