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Valentine’s Day: An Opportunity to Reach Out to Lonely Loved Ones

Comments Off on Valentine’s Day: An Opportunity to Reach Out to Lonely Loved OnesWritten on February 5th, 2020 by
Categories: Our Blog

By CarrieRae Shamel

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. It falls this year on a Friday;
a perfect night for a date night with your partner. Or think again, perhaps
it is the perfect day or evening for a date with another loved one?
According to the U.S. Census in 2017, 25% of Americans are widowed at age
65 or older. This could mean no one to do the traditional offerings of
Valentine’s day. So why not a surprise special event or gift for your aging
parent or relative.

Ideas include:

– a fresh bouquet of flowers
– a homemade meal delivery of their favorite dish
– a warm plate of chocolate chip cookies
– a massage
– a visit from your pet
– a card showing your appreciation for this person
– taking the time to go through a photo album

My husband’s grandmother has been a widow since 2007. Although it has been over 10 years, the holidays, including Valentine’s Day are hard on her. With tears streaming down her face, she will share euphoric memories of the ways her husband made her feel special on the holidays. Although she is
sad, there is a sense of joy in sharing these past times. Sometimes the
greatest gift of all is offering a listening ear and your compassionate presence. How long will she go on missing him? As one grief specialist said, “She will miss him for as long as she is alive”. Grief never truly dies; it morphs and varies throughout time.

One way to help alleviate grief is build new and strong relationships and
create new traditions. Perhaps a new tradition for you could be thinking of
a lonely loved one on Valentine’s Day and choosing one of the options
listed above. You do not have to spend too much time on this, nor does it
need to take away from your time with your partner (if you are in a

I am lucky that my parents are currently both healthy and able bodied. My
mother will turn 70 years old next month and my father 75 later in the
year. I am happy they have one another. I have fond memories of waking up as a child on Valentine’s Day and coming downstairs to the kitchen. Here I would find heart shaped home made fudge for my sisters and me. I never had the temperament to tell my mother that I didn’t like fudge much. Her
birthday falls two days after Valentine’s Day. Only recently did I find out
that this is her most treasured holiday. I think I will make her peanut
butter fudge, her favorite.

Happy Valentine’s Day All!

Easy Thanksgiving Recipes for Busy Caregivers

Comments Off on Easy Thanksgiving Recipes for Busy CaregiversWritten on November 24th, 2019 by
Categories: Our Blog

by CarrieRae Shamel

It is the time of year to get together with loved ones, celebrate the harvest, and find gratitude in our lives. It can also be a busy and overwhelming time. If you are a caregiver, you already experience the issue of not having enough hours in the day. Yet being the thoughtful and giving person you are, you still want to contribute to the Thanksgiving meal. You do not need to spend hours in the kitchen, nor use many ingredients to contribute. Here are some easier ideas to offer at the Thanksgiving table.

APPETIZERS…. who doesn’t love a delicious appetizer while you wait for the turkey to be done?

Cheese and crackers… I always say one thing missing at the Thanksgiving meal is cheese! And with the abundance and variety of cheese we have in Vermont, what a wonderful option! Simply purchase crackers (a variety pack is always nice), and three to four varieties of cheeses. A mixture of soft and hard cheeses is your best bet. I suggest a sharp Cheddar block, an aged local sheep’s cheese, a soft bloomy goat cheese, completed with a French Brie. You can always add some lush grapes to the mix.

Stuffed Dates…. an easy and surprisingly delicious munchie!  Purchase some dates (say 3 per person). The larger lusher ones work best. Slice the dates horizontally. Place 2 tsp. cream cheese in each date. Top with toasted pistachios. Serve now or refrigerate for later.

Olive Bites…. a big hit at any gathering! This recipe makes approximately a dozen. You will need: 12 large black or green olives, 1 c. White flour, 4- 6 basil leaves, 1 clove garlic, 1/4 cup grated parmesan, and a few tablespoons of olive oil. For a spicier version, toss in a splash of hot sauce. In a food processor, combine all the ingredients except the olives. Add enough oil so the mixture forms a cohesive ball when squeezed together.

Use this mixture to spread around each olive, forming like a crust. Bake for 12- 15 minutes in an oven set at 375 degrees F. Let cool and enjoy!

I hope you will try some of these ideas. They are guaranteed to not take a lot of time or ingredients, yet be a delicious addition to the Thanksgiving meal.

CarrieRae Shamel

Light Emerging From Darkness

Comments Off on Light Emerging From DarknessWritten on July 23rd, 2017 by
Categories: Our Blog

The beauty of this morning’s Vermont sunrise struck me as a metaphor for our lives and work. Things can seem so dark and without hope at times and yet the light eventually emerges. Elder Care Connections of Vermont was created to offer support and solutions to those feeling overwhelmed with their own care needs or struggling to care for an aging relative. Our joy is great when we are able to help others to find the light in even the darkest of circumstances. The truth is that no situation is ever hopeless, no matter how it may feel in the moment. Knowledge, caring, solutions and support are beacons of light in uncertain times. If you need us, we are here to help.

I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness because it shows me the stars.

-Og Mandino

When Mother’s Day is Complicated…

Comments Off on When Mother’s Day is Complicated…Written on May 13th, 2017 by
Categories: Our Blog

Mother’s Day can be a challenging day that can evoke feelings of grief, sadness and a desire for a different reality. Many people have complicated relationships with their moms. Still others have lost their mothers through death or estrangement. Many mothers who have lost children are grieving their loss on this day as well.

Having worked with hundreds of families over the years, and having families of our own, has taught us well that there is no such thing as a perfect or “normal” family.

Here are a few tips to make Mother’s Day as easy as possible if you are struggling:

  • Accept what is. When faced with a difficult situation, we often unknowingly worsen our pain by running from it, denying it or fighting it. Peace & healing are possible when we can finally allow ourselves to accept the reality of our situation.
  • Recognize that we all share a need to feel appreciated, loved and nurtured. If you did not have this kind of relationship with your mother, make a point of doing something special for yourself on this day. If you are missing your mom, do something special in honor of her.
  • Get outside and enjoy “Mother Earth”. The forecast in Vermont says it will be rainy on Sunday but even so, finding time to get outside, even briefly, can work wonders. It’s a gorgeous time of year in Vermont and spending time marveling at the beauty of the green grass and budding & flowering trees all around us can serve as a beautiful reminder that our hard times will pass and that we are all part of something greater.

Sending you love on Mother’s Day.

-Annemarie & Nancy

Elder Care Connections of Vermont

Fun Ways to Enjoy Summer With An Aging Relative

Comments Off on Fun Ways to Enjoy Summer With An Aging RelativeWritten on July 4th, 2016 by
Categories: Our Blog

Summer in Vermont is so fleeting but so beautiful. Many of us know older people who are active and healthy and this is the goal of all of us, to be healthy and active for as long as possible. Activities such as swimming, hiking and biking are exhilarating this time of year. But how do you help an elderly loved one enjoy summer when they are no longer able to do the things they once loved? It takes creativity, patience and compassion but here are some ideas:



  • If your elderly family member is still able to get outside with help, taking them out for a beautiful country drive or down to the lake to watch the water and boats can be a lovely change of scenery and provide opportunities to reminisce.
  • Sitting outside together and enjoying the natural beauty and fresh air together.
  • Going for a boat ride or ferry ride together.
  • Berry picking.
  • Creating a raised garden bed where you can plant seeds together and watch the miracle of growing veggies or flowers as the summer passes.
  • Going out for a creemee together.


If your loved one is no longer able to go outside or is in bed much of the time, you can still help them enjoy summer in the following ways:

  • Bring them fresh summer fruits or fruit juices like fresh lemonade to enjoy.
  • Share old stories about favorite summertime memories.
  • Use aromatherapy with summer scents such as lilac, rose, strawberry, and geranium essential oils to inspire happy summertime memories. You can apply a few drops of essential oil with a mild unscented cream and massage it on your family member’s hands or feet or simply let them sniff the essential oil to bring about positive memories.
  • Listen to summertime inspired songs together such as “One Summer Night” by the Danliers or “In the Good Old Summertime” or anything by the Beach Boys.
  • Set up a bird feeder outside their window and discuss the birds that you see.


These are just a few ideas to get you started, if you have any more to share, please let us know! We wish everyone a happy and healthy summer!


Do you have plans this Saturday?

Comments Off on Do you have plans this Saturday?Written on January 27th, 2016 by
Categories: Our Blog




Come Join Us This Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016!

Vermont Maturity Magazine is proud to present the 21st annual Vermont 50-Plus & Baby Boomers EXPO on Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016 at the Sheraton Hotel and Conference Center in South Burlington, Vermont.

Hours are 9 a.m.- 4 p.m. and ticket prices are $5 at the door or $4 in advance by calling 802-872-9000.

We at Elder Care Connections of Vermont will be there! Come by our booth to say hello! Enter our raffle for some cool prizes.

The EXPO is open to all ages and offers more than 90 exhibitors and an exciting roster of informative seminars and workshops, dance party with DJ Charlie Rice, Musical Revue by the Lyric Theatre Company Singers, demos, live entertainment and more!

We’re excited for the Neil Diamond Tribute Concert at noon in the Emerald Ballroom! Come and join the fun! Hope to see you there!


Nancy and I a few years ago at a previous Expo.

We always have so much fun and never know who we might meet.

Hope to see you on Saturday!

Befriending Grief

Comments Off on Befriending GriefWritten on January 2nd, 2016 by
Categories: Our Blog




My journey of befriending grief did not come easily. Every time I lost someone I love I had this sense of being sucker punched by life and then reunited with Grief.

Yes, Grief, and I were very old acquaintances.

With every loss I began to visualize Grief as an unwelcome and unexpected visitor arriving at my doorstep with a loud and insistent knock.

I always seemed to be caught unprepared and lounging in my PJs whenever Grief arrived.

The concept of befriending Grief came to me after I realized my years of fighting Grief had not been overly successful. The endless arguing with Grief at my front door fell on deaf ears. The protesting about how messy the house was and the fact that I had not been expecting company never worked as Grief always stormed past me and settled on the sofa, swiftly unpacking it’s numerous and heavy suitcases all over the house.

Fighting Grief or pretending it was not really there never worked for me.

Loving it and befriending it has been my only answer. Loving the sadness, and emptiness and anger- seeing it all and loving it all and carrying it with me as I would a wounded child has helped.

I now see Grief as my traveling companion, a testament to how deeply I have loved. Together we are a wise, empathetic, and powerful pair, we easily recognize the fear and sorrow and heartbrokenness in others who also carry Grief.

Grief has made me stronger, less superficial, and more able to embrace joy. I am able to welcome whatever feelings arise and love and accept others in a more unconditional, less judgmental way. It allows me to be a greater blessing to others and to remind them that they are never alone.







A Beautiful Day For An Important Cause

Comments Off on A Beautiful Day For An Important CauseWritten on October 28th, 2015 by
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Sunday, September 20, 2015 was a beautiful day at the Shelburne Museum for the annual Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s™. The purpose of this popular event is to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer research, care and support. Currently, more than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s and that number is expected to grow to as many as 16 million by 2050. It is not overstating it to say that a tsunami of health care needs related to Alzheimer’s will occur if no cure is found soon. We see in our daily work the impact of Alzheimer’s disease on those afflicted and their family and friends. Our best and brightest elders are being impacted by this disease in record numbers, and it is heart breaking.


Nancy organized and raised money for this important cause as captain of Team Nolting, in honor of her mother, Ann Nolting, who passed away from Alzheimer’s. Nancy’s 89-year old father, Hal Nolting, proudly and strongly walked with many family and friends in honor of his beloved Ann. All members of Team Nolting wore our brand-new gorgeous purple I Remember You™ T-shirts.




It was an incredible day filled with love, hope, community and support. These are all key ingredients in caring for those we love with Alzheimer’s. We will continue to pray for a cure and work hard to increase awareness about the need to fund and support research to find a cure. Until a cure is found it is part of our daily work to help those with dementia and their families to obtain the highest quality of life and support possible.


Why We Love Working With Families

Comments Off on Why We Love Working With FamiliesWritten on June 18th, 2015 by
Categories: Our Blog



I am the youngest of five children and Nancy is the youngest of seven. As the youngest in our families, we were able to watch and learn a lot about family relationships. We are both born observers and over time we learned which ways of interacting with others worked well and which ones did not. We learned to understand and get along well with all kinds of personality types and to try to see everyone’s perspective. These strengths guided us to do work that we found meaningful and that would help others.

We are both well acquainted with loss and know that life can throw curveballs in an instant. We both know how vital it is to have strong support, people who believe in us and who can help us find answers during the unclear and challenging moments in our lives.

Our goal in our work is to help add clarity and calm to situations that feel confusing and stressful for our clients and their families. Underneath all the confusion and stress, we strive to resolve problems in a loving way. It is truly a gift to be able to work with such amazing individuals and their families. We feel like the luckiest people on earth to be able to do this work every day.




A Positive Approach™ to Care

Comments Off on A Positive Approach™ to CareWritten on May 4th, 2015 by
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Two weeks ago I attended an incredible conference on dementia care led by Teepa Snow. Teepa Snow is an occupational therapist and advocate for those living with dementia and other forms of brain change. Her Positive Approach™ to Care techniques are a practical and structured approach to the complexities of brain failure. It is her personal passion and mission to improve the culture of dementia care worldwide. The conference was three hours away in Northampton, MA. I drove three hours each way in the pouring rain to see her but it was so worth it. Over two hundred other professionals attended also, each of us eager for a greater understanding of dementia and how to better care for people with dementia.

Teepa walked us through the six brain functions that are first affected by dementia, which she also referred to as “brain failure” and pointed out repeatedly that when someone has dementia, their brain is actually dying. Here are the six functions:


  1. Impulse control. In the past the person may have thought to himself or herself, “Oh that person has pretty hair” when meeting a new person. When impulse control goes, the person may actually verbalize, “You have pretty hair “and reach out and grab the other person’s hair upon meeting a new person.
  2. Taking in data, processing it, and reaching a conclusion. People with dementia are no longer capable of such complex brain functions.
  3. Making choices. Offering too many choices or yes/no questions can be overwhelming to a person with dementia. Asking yes/no questions are difficult because when asked a yes/no question most people with dementia will say “no” as they most often do not understand the question and “no” is seen as a safer choice.
  4. Initiate, sequence correctly through a task, finish the task, and move on to something else. Thus a person with dementia may be unable to get dressed, brush teeth, and eat a meal without reminders and cueing.
  5. Self-awareness. They are no longer able to accurately look at themselves and understand their strengths or what may trigger them.
  6. The ability to see another person’s point of view.


Knowing which brain functions are impacted first is helpful so we can stop having unrealistic expectations of what people are capable of understanding. Teepa spoke about how it is our job to change our approach with people with dementia if it is clearly not working for them. We need to focus on what they can still do and what parts of the brain remain intact. The power of music and much loved familiar songs that can stir up happy memories, the calming power of gentle touch, holding their hand using a “hand under hand” technique, using simple positive phrases, asking the person to help you with care tasks rather than telling them what to do are all simple ways to create peace and a higher quality of life for everyone.

You can learn more about Teepa Snow at www.teepasnow.com