Upcoming Events

  • October 18, 2012: Luncheon Workshop, Roma”s Restaurant, Louisa, VA: Thursday, October 18, 2012, 11:30 – 1 pm. NARFE – Re-Thinking the Aging of America: What it can mean for each one of us! Contact: Kate Killum, champaign_kate@yahoo.com  
  • November 16, 2012: Luncheon Workshop, Chicken Soup for the Caregivers of Seniors Luncheon, Lake Anna Winery, Spotsylvania, VA: Friday, November 16, 2012, 11:30 – 2 pm. Fee: $15 per person; reservations required by November 13th. The program was designed to give honor to National Family Caregivers Month. Dr. Mary Ann Massey is the keynote speaker at online pokies this event. Call: 757-503-4440 to make your reservation or for more information.
  • January 5, 2013: How to be Happy TODAY on the Way to Where You are Going, a workshop for spiritual and personal growth, St. Mary”s Catholic Church, Saturday, January 5, 2013, 9 a.m. – 12 noon. Contact: Sharon Mugford smugford@stmarysrichmond.org
  • February 9, 2013: Women”s Annual Day of Reflection, St. Bede Catholic Church, Williamsburg, VA, Saturday, February 9, 2013. Contact: Pamela Rudder – pamelarudder@mac.com;  Topic to be determined by December 2012.

March 10, 2012 – Baltimore, MD – Seminar on Aging

Seminar on aging. This event is part of the Mid-Atlantic Congress on Pastoral Leadership, Baltimore, MD; Hilton Hotel, Inner Harbor

For information and registration please go to:

December, 2011 – Webinar – Details to Come

November, 2011 – Webinar – Details to Come

Featured Healthcare Professional: Dr. Mary Ann Massey

Audio Introduction of Featured Professional Dr. Mary Ann MasseyI’ve been in the healthcare business almost my entire adult life. My primary focus has been mental healthcare. What do I mean by that? To me, it means that I have counseled men and women through all stages of their maturing years; couples in crisis over love, communication, finances, children, and each other’s fidelity; families who struggle with similar issues with a higher frequency of child related conflict; and seniors looking to grow old gracefully.

Some of the seniors have no money, others never struggle financially. Some are alone while others have strong family connections. Some are confident and independent while others are frightened for their future. All of them must face life differently as they age. All of them have sought counseling to speak confidentially about issues they don’t wish to address with their family. My heart has gone out to them.

The world is changing all around our seniors. Science and technology have advanced to such an extent that our elders’ options continue to multiply each year. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Often, they don’t know how to embrace their new choices. They seek counseling to make sense of it all. Sometimes, they talk to come to terms with their families who ‘want the best for them’ but don’t receive well what my clients say they want. We work on clarifying their thinking so that they can communicate their desires better without feeling devalued by their adult children.

When my dad was in a nursing home/rehabilitation center for a year, I watched many families try to share their side of the story. In the dining room, one Sunday when I was visiting dad, a mother and daughter were sitting at a table near enough for me overhear their conversation. What I heard broke my heart. The mother was trying to tell her daughter how hard it was for her to be there, that she was lonely and lived for her daughter’s visits. She wanted her daughter to know that she’d welcome more frequent visits if her daughter could manage that. The daughter looked terribly frustrated, got defensive immediately, did not take a moment to let her mom know she understood. Instead, she dove right into her own story. She visited her mom three evenings a week, worked full time, was a single mom of three school-aged girls, and barely had time for herself. There wasn’t another hour in the week to read a book let alone come back to the nursing home. She told her mother that she felt like nothing she ever did was good enough. And there the impasse sat. Neither had much more to say. The daughter kissed her mom goodbye after dessert and told her she’d see her in a couple of days.

Incidents like the one above are more frequent in our world, whether parents live with their children or in another establishment. The mental health component of healthcare is as vital as the fields of nursing and doctoring, care managing, aides, home health caregiving, and the range of special folk who tend to the very ill or dying among us.

I met a physical therapist at a party a few months ago. She and I chatted a bit and before I knew it, she was telling me several stories that came from her patients. They wanted to talk about their families, how much of a burden her patients thought they were becoming with their many ailments, treatments, needs for doctors, et al. A week later I had a meeting with my attorneys. They specialize in elder care. When they read my book, they asked for copies to keep in their office. “We deal with these issues all the time,” they said, and proceeded to share with me heart-wrenching anecdotes. We talked about how we could collaborate so that they could respond better to those who came to them for estate planning…but needed so much more than plans to disperse their monies when they die.

I am in a wonderful profession. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Communication is challenging in every generation and definitely between generations. The older I get the more I appreciate the enormous differences among us in how we think, what we value, the traditions that have defined us, and the fears that compel us to cling too hard or detach too much.

I fell into this profession in a strange kind of way. When in my twenties, family members’ needs led me to Al-Anon. After several years of attending meetings, I realized I had great compassion for people but lacked the skills to really help them. Fortunately for me, I lived a mile from Syracuse University where one of the best graduate programs in the country existed. I applied, I was accepted, and I never looked back. I thrived at SU because my heart found the training that would allow me to do what I was meant to do.

What aspect of healthcare has called you? What aspects do you find challenging? Where do you wish you had more training or support? Your input on these and any other related topics would be highly valued as it our goal to build a thriving online community that may answer many questions and open the door to ideas yet unthought-of. Click here to contribute your thoughts…

Signature of Dr. Mary Ann Massey
Dr. Mary Ann Massey

“Who Will Care for Mother …”

When a double tragedy befalls a family, siblings and friends make it possible for one of them to take a six year leave-of-absence to provide round-the-clock home healthcare.

Key Points:

• Double tragedy

• Significant in-home care needed for parent

• Determination to avoid professional care

Sister Marie is 85 years old and has been an Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic nun for 63 years. Currently, she is employed as the associate to a pastor overseeing two small town Catholic churches. At the time of the story, she was an administrator in a large Catholic High School serving 4000 girls. Her mother was not considered elderly; she was 74. She was not considered sick; she worked part-time in a department store and shared a home with her husband. In a moment, her life changed forever.

Dr. Massey’s Comments…

When tragedy hits families, we never know the day or the hour. If you get sick or are struck by a car, are you prepared? Have you talked with your family about contingency plans? Do your children or selected others know your desires? Have you shared a power of attorney status with anyone yet –even if you are only in your 50s or 60s? Have you developed an estate plan, including health directives?

The double tragedy is heart-wrenching, and could throw any family off balance. Here, one parent lies in a coma while the family conducts a funeral for the other. Shock and grief surround the siblings as they discuss their options. They manage their emotions and honor each other well. Yet, families deal with tragedy differently. Some people: a) rally, but fall apart later; b) some fall apart immediately, using misplaced accusations, judgments, and hurt to mask loss; c) some let time lead to the optimal choices for the surviving parent’s care; and d) some stay in shock longer than others and have little to offer. You may be familiar with this range of reaction. Meanwhile, the surviving spouse wakes from a coma, and faces her personal shock and grief. Could you be sensitive to her situation? Imagine the challenge for a woman who went to work in the morning to come home four months later unable to speak, or to move her right side, or to find her husband waiting for her. One cannot calculate her private grief. Can we manage our own loss well enough to care for a surviving parent with respect and tenderness?

Let’s consider decision-making in this family. Shock reactions would probably determine early choices. If siblings are at odds with each other, seeds of conflict would form immediately- even if months passed before problems erupted. It’s important to guard against judgment and blame and wait for emotions to settle down. Choosing a primary caregiver takes time and discernment, often much discussion. How would your own family choose a primary caregiver? If you are not able to take that role, would you be able to talk about it with your family members? Sister Marie does not mention how she became the family’s primary caregiver choice. She does not mention how she was able to assume the duties of a nurse or doctor by reading books, observing physical therapy sessions, and asking questions. She does note the enormous support of neighbors and friends, and the availability of doctors.

Let’s talk about In-home care. This caregiver was on deck for six years. She does not speak of burnout, or the help provided by her brothers along the way. We have to presume that her success was predicated on lots of help. Caregiving work is impossible without outside support. Caregivers easily burn out early. Care for the caregiver is talked about openly these days. Support groups exist in most communities. Online support abounds. Seek help, take breaks, focus on other aspects of life when possible.

The mother’s journey was painful. She improved with daily rehabilitative therapy. Then, suddenly, she had another stroke, never spoke again, and became a bed patient. She got out of bed with the help of a Hoyer lift. She had a feeding tube. She lived two more years with very limited ability. What a spirit of survival must have guided her. What a massive amount of love must have encouraged her along the way. Many caregivers would emit their frustrations, feelings that the loved one readily observes, understands, and then reacts to. How often do you involuntarily make matters worse by venting feelings on those in your care? In my therapy practice, I notice that it happens frequently when folks are weary and their charges are demanding. What I am not privy to is the response, mostly internal, of the one receiving the wearied looks, sighs, sharp tones, and grunts. They are probably ready to die, to give up, but it is not their time. They look at us and know they are a burden. All families would benefit from talking with each other about their feelings. “I bet you want to die, mom?” and “I think you want me to die, daughter/son.” After acknowledging the truth in these statements, consider the freedom that comes from candid conversations. “Yes, sometimes I get very weary. It’s a hard job caring for you. But I love you and I don’t want to lose you. Life is challenging for you, too. Let’s try to enjoy this time more.”

Sister Marie talked with her mother often using a blinking eye signal. Her love and patience guided the ‘conversations.’ What would you do?

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Dr. Mary Ann Massey

“When the Call Came to Care for Dad…”

A son built his own life far from his hometown where he knew his father was well cared for by other family members. After his wife died, he remarried, and continued his phone relationship with his family. Ten years later, the son was called on to become primary caregiver for his dad, and also to honor a deathbed promise to his first wife.

Key Points:

• A Deathbed Promise

• Building a New Life

• An Urgent Call About Dad

• When family needs mandate a change in plans

Dr. Massey”s Comments…

Dennis joined the military as a young man, taking him away from his hometown in NJ. After that, NJ became the place for family visits. After 30 years of marriage, he lost his wife to cancer. He met and married Brenda 11 years ago. She was a widow from NE with 2 school-aged children who lost her husband at age 45 to a freak work accident.

Dennis has a brother in NJ who is battling cancer; his sister-in-law has been one of the primary caregivers for her father-in-law for years. Now, she cares for her husband, too. Last year, she told Dennis that caring for both these men was overwhelming. “Please take Dad,” she said. Dad is 95. Dennis retired several years ago and built the home of his dreams on a lake about a five hour drive from NJ.

Dennis has been a good son, even from a distance. Still, his relationship with his father was not what we would call intimate. Yet, he immediately understood that it was his turn. With his wife’s ready agreement, they signed on to become his father’s primary caregivers. When it became clear that dad would need a nursing home, they researched well, found a good fit for him within a half hour’s drive from their home, and incorporated him into their lives in a personal way.

I want to emphasize the importance of this change both for the dad and for his son. Many families online casinos find themselves in Dennis and Brenda’s position. They may not manage the transitions well; they may not grow in relationship with their parents. They may or may not honor, value, or visit their parents with the regularity and care that Dennis has demonstrated. When lives are interrupted to incorporate an aging parent into daily activities, the challenges impact everyone. Parents often require emotional presence when they are old, fragile, and perhaps frightened about change. If families add caregiving to very full lives, they may or may not be attuned to the parent’s needs and miss the emotional component. The parent may or may not see their child’s needs.

It takes some vision about how to manage the care to survive transition times. The transition is not meant to be the sign of the future. It’s a temporary and often awkward or disquieting disturbance of the status quo in order to re-balance into a new status quo. If it is managed poorly, it does become the sign of the future – because the parent comes to distrust the care, feels like a burden, knows he or she is unable to care for self, and adds depression to the list of symptoms.

Dennis and Brenda were on the same page. She was open to caring for her father-in-law with her husband, reducing his challenges by 50%. Dennis’ readiness to lend himself to the care eased his father’s fears; his practical nature saw the adjustment as a problem to be solved. And so they all solved the problem. They have evolved a plan that exists today. It works for them.

Some folks in Dennis’ position may not be retired. They may still be working, not free to visit and care for emergencies. Of course, this is a greater tactical and emotional challenge. Adding more to schedules and being emotionally grounded enough to shift gears to add a needy person to their lives is and will continue to be a challenge for families. We must talk about it openly, find the sticky places, see them as problems to be solved, and hold dear the person who is aging. Can we do that with love and respect for the elderly? ‘We can do it’ many will say, but can we do it in such a way that the aging parent feels the care?

The challenge is complicated by the fact that our elderly come from a different generation. They want things done their way, too. They don’t like change either, and they want to tell their adult children how to do their jobs. They may be less articulate than they used to be; they may be grumpy and critical; they may be demanding; or they may not be able to speak at all except with their eyes. This and other complications to managing well the transition times with our elderly (forced on us or lovingly chosen) will continue to emerge over the next 30 years. We really must talk about family relationships, our own set lives, and how to manage what life asks of us in the name of another’s care.

I’ll close this commentary with a note about Dennis’ deathbed promise to his first wife, who was an only child – hence, her concern about her mother in later years. It’s a testimony to Dennis’ moral character that he would honor her request to care for her mother until the end. Brenda’s respect for family freed her from even a hint of jealousy that might exist in another couple. Dennis was free to openly love and tend to his former mother-in-law to the end. And, so he did.

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Dr. Mary Ann Massey

“My heart skipped a beat …”

After celebrating a 50th wedding anniversary, staying by his wife’s side through 8 years of cancer and chemo, and laying her to rest, a 75 year old man finds love again at a widow/widower’s group meeting.

Key Points:

• Cancer interrupts a couple’s plans for their retirement… some!

• Death takes a spouse of 50 years

• Fate brings new love to an aging well couple

Read Dr. Massey’s Comments…

What stands out in this story for you? Bill was a loyal, loving husband of 51 years. He learned more about cancer than he ever expected or wanted to. Then, when his wife pre-deceased him (which neither of them expected), he fell in love again. There are three parts to this story – all equally important.

First, Bill lived a long and happy married life with his first wife. They had four children, and traveled often. This is important. Couples strengthen each other by sharing activities like walking or cooking, by making time for travel or fun dates, or quiet, intimate moments to enjoy each other. I encourage all of you who want to age well to avoid the ruts in the road. It’s easier than we want to believe for couples to go their separate ways, enjoy separate vacations and hobbies, and miss the opportunity of loving each other differently and even more sweetly as they age. Bill and his wife did not miss the opportunities. Good for them.

Second, the couple was not yet retired when the first bout of cancer struck. And four years later, just when they must have thought they’d beaten the beast, it struck again, this time affecting many organs. Again, as was their way, they rallied, attended support groups, even hosted some groups in their home. They stayed active, managed their travel excursions around the chemo sessions, and enjoyed whatever time God provided. Yet, I am sure that they were both weary, that the wife smiled harder than she felt, and that Bill put on a happy face when he saw how much effort it was for her to move. Courage and love mix together when caregiving is with a spouse. When the husband is asked to tend to his wife, he has to dig deep into his male mind to find the female warm fuzzy words that bring comfort. And he has to come to terms with his own feelings and fears with each step.

Third, never give up on love. Bill was 75 when he met Joanne. It was the first widow/widowers meeting for each of them. Interesting, each had to be coaxed to attend. A man who loved one woman well was invited to love a second as well. They had a ‘carpe diem’ courtship, each aware by reason of their spouses’ deaths, that time was not on their side. Yet, their positive spirits have given them 7 years already, and the rest remains a mystery. What is not a mystery is the joy these two share in each other. Bill is my godfather and uncle. It has been a pleasure to spend time in their company.

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Dr. Mary Ann Massey


By Dr. Mary Ann Massey

Caring for the sick or elderly takes its toll on the caregiver. Who tends to you? The question has been asked thousands of times in recent years. Here, we ask it of you, our audience. As you respond, we will share your comments with others. We want you to tell us how you take breaks,find time for yourself, and regroup. We also know that finding time for yourself when a loved one is ill or incapacitated, is challenging. So, share your frustrations, too! We will share your stories, your successes and casino online your regrets through our polling system. Please take a minute to share. Our goal is to highlight the power of communication, the effectiveness of speaking truth, and the fruitfulness of sharing the journey with others who understand – or need to understand.



By Dr. Mary Ann Massey

Welcome, healthcare professionals. Here, we are devoted to you and your needs for respite, self-care, and renewal when the work you do takes its toll. We realize that you get paid for what you do, that this is your job or profession, and that you go home at night, leaving your patients to the care of others. Still, the amount of love that you give out during the day can take its toll. The loss of life that you experience regularly after tending to good people who are now in the presence of God, needs an outlet. Many of you put your hearts and souls into your work and are weary. Come, let”s share the journey, focus on you for a while, and help you shed some weariness.

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