The adventure continues at www dot niftyfare dot net….

Well, it has been quite a busy few months – my new business, Niftyfare, is up and about to start online ordering. Niftyfare is an artisan food manufacturer specializing in restricted diets. It’s just intensely focusing the mission of this blog: trying to make the lives of caregivers more manageable and even <gasp> tasty.

handcakes on noses

Handcakes really can’t be eaten with your nose, but don’t tell them ok?

Hence, the long hiatus on Silverintogold… and now, a redirection.

I ran a successful kickstarter for Niftyfare in summer 2012,  and am now gearing up my production process to take local orders online and place handcakes in small retailers in the Portland metro area. If you’re out-of-area, you are welcome to order online, but be warned that shipping is pretty spendy.

I will return to blogging, for Niftyfare, as I will gradually spend less time in the kitchen and more on the marketing (my favorite part – yes, I ADORE doing trade shows and demos… meeting people for facetime recharges me, extrovert that I am!) So if you just can’t get enough of my commentary, like Niftyfare on Facebook for now and blog posts will follow.

If you are looking for more caregiver resources in Portland, allow me to point you to the excellent online resource directory from the Autism Society of Oregon, the work that the Village Movement is tackling on the East Side, and of course, the efforts of the folks at Elders in Action.

Be well, take care of yourself and your loved ones, and if you want a nibble, come and try a handcake!

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update and a brief pause

sorry for the brief hiatus, folks: i’m getting my new business launched in the next couple weeks at the same time my kid’s school situation is melting down, AND i’m keyboard-challenged until my kitchen mis-hap heals up. so something had to get put down, and the blog is it. as a current labor of love, it’s not either taking care of my kiddo or putting food on the table (yet?), so it’s pausing.

don’t worry, i’ll be back in a couple of weeks… hopefully with a link to my new biz, nom!!!

thanks for reading and if you have any topics you’d like covered upon my return, please email me or better yet, comment below!!

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Can Granpa go on the pony ride?

aka Alternative Health options for managing chronic conditions

When you have a chronic medical condition, many medical providers will now recommend supplementing prescriptions with “complementary” medicines or alternative approaches to improve pain and diabetes management, address insomnia and depression, and even lower cholesterol levels. This can include but is certainly not limited to:

  • Chiropractic (My grandmother suffered from vertigo for nearly a decade. Six months of chiropractic treatments did more for her than any other therapy, once she was willing to try it!)
  • Acupuncture
  • Dietary/Nutritional routines
  • Exercise including yoga, aquatherapy, hippotherapy… yep. You can ride horses and meet therapeutic needs at the same time! So the next time that special little girl asks you for a pony, she may make her case based on health benefits. I’ll be expanding on this in the future, after my mom gets back from her Tai Chi class – no wait, it’s Wed, it’s water aerobics.

This is all pretty mainstream in the NW, but unfortunately, isn’t everywhere else, which can make finding those practitioners more difficult. Also, which practitioners accept medicare? Or have experience with elders or folks with disabilities? Are affordable or accessible?

Try checking on Angie’s list, Yelp or Citydata or your preferred local blog. (if you have any suggestions, by all means, leave them below. and please, for the love of all that’s holy, say something more constructive than “she’s really nice”! it’s good to know they’re nice, but knowing what they suggested for pain management, what disability accommodations their office has, why you felt welcomed and what results you’ve had allow others to make more informed decisions.)

Most importantly, how do you convince your loved one to try something new? Well, that’s different in each family and depends on their personal view.

1. Have the suggestion come from a trusted authority, preferably their medical practitioner

2. Do your homework first – have contact info and solutions for possible logistical complications for local practitioners (ie, i can drive you across town after work!)

3. Find out if any of their friends have had good experiences, and are willing to share their success stories

4. Ask if they want a companion to go with them to “interview” the practitioner

5. Don’t give up – if they aren’t initially open to the suggestion, remember that they may be asserting their independence or meeting some other need, and be ready to offer the option again

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Security… what does that mean to you? What does it mean to mom?

I’ve lived most of my adult life in urban areas, taking reasonable precautions: doors get locked when I’m home or in the car, outside lights are left on before I leave in the morning, etc. Yet, I have still had things stolen and a few unpleasant personal encounters… and my family’s history has been directly impacted by stranger violence: I never knew my paternal grandfather, who was killed in a mugging when my dad was 14.

Killroy was here, indeed. Nasty gits with a crowbar and a bad meth habit morelike!

Despite those directly personal consequences, I still make mistakes – and sometimes, I pay for them. Recently, I was the victim of a break-in and all of my jewelry was taken, including pieces that had been in our family for four generations. Many of these weren’t things I ever wore, they were just, well, heritage pieces. Now they’re gone because I didn’t take the time to put them in a secure location.

There’s secure locations, and then there’s squirreling things away: my Grapey lived in fear that someone would take her wallet, credit cards, whatever.  Her response was to hide EVERYTHING, and usually she didn’t remember where she put it. One credit card wound up in a box of oatmeal.  She was creative, so treasure hunts were a real challenge. When I cleaned out my Dad’s apartment, I found bank statements stuffed behind the toilet tank!

Big and small lessons learned:

  • If you are prioritizing, don’t delay actions that impact irreplaceable items.
  • NOTHING is as important as your loved one’s personal safety.
  • Don’t be afraid to report things to the police.
  • Get renters or homeowners insurance and keep an updated inventory (police love digital pictures that they can bring to pawnshops to recover stolen goods).
  • A safe. At least an agreed-on location and not keeping too much on premises.
  • Connect with your neighbors – an alert neighborhood is one of the best preventions for any stranger crime.
  • But most importantly… all security is an illusion. Even if you lived in a hidden bomb shelter with a retina-scanning lock, there is someone out there who can figure out how to get in.

So manage your risks and don’t live in fear. Because it’s all just stuff, and personal safety is the most important thing.

There are also particular security challenges that arise when aging… because even if you or your loved ones stay in the same home for years, the neighborhood will not always stay the same along with you.

If your loved ones are living alone, it’s good to a security assessment every five years or so. You may go through a checklist, call a consultant, or just have a friend walk through normal routines with a different set of eyes. Many of our safety habits are things that need to be REMEMBERED, which becomes more difficult in the golden years. Locking the door behind you? Heck, did you remember to turn-off the headlights? Or get the mail?

There are some new tools that can help reinforce old habits and boost new ones (Hey, there’s an app for that, right?)

  • Checklist on the back of the door when you come inside for locking up and other habits.
  • Locks and bolts that are manageable and effective.
  • Security/Alarm service.
  • Better lighting.
  • Mace or another non-lethal response – which one depends on the capacity of the person wielding it. But if you do decide to carry something, please… make sure you practice with it, even consider taking a class in its use to lessen the chance of hurting yourself instead of the villains!

What do you do to feel more secure wherever you are? 

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Top five ways to tackle petty issues

Overheard at a recent party:

by Grant Cochrane
Is it really too scary to fill a bag with veggies? Well, maybe THIS bag…

“I love my mom, and I appreciate that she’s helping, but she eats differently from us. Having her grocery shop but come home with stuff we can’t eat is not exactly helpful.”

“Oh, I hear that, we’ve got similar issues going on. Managing my kid’s food allergies is new and scary for her, and it makes everything else more stressful… and then I have to remind her that “sucks” isn’t ok to use in front of a 6 year old!”

Just a tiny glimpse of the tensions that can quickly arise when merging generations and households. Small and petty things can become irritations and escalate into drama, especially when there were good intentions involved.

There’s a simple solution: Talk about it. Just like the teacher said on the playground! If you’ve got a problem with how someone else is behaving around you, talk to them about it. Especially a family member.

I know: it’s just not that simple in YOUR house. Because it’s YOUR family, worse than everyone else’s, right? Seriously.

Here’s my top five ways to tackle intergenerational household communication issues:

  1. 3rd Party. Everyone usually plays nicer when there’s a neutral party around. Just make sure everyone is clear about their roles and agenda so no one feels ambushed.
  2. Write it out first. Helps clarify your thoughts. If you’re a exterior processor, talk to a friend or even to yourself while you’re out walking before having the actual conversation.
  3. Get to the bottom of it. Is it really about the petty stuff? What are the feelings that are coming up that make *this* so difficult?
  4. Rule of Five. Balance saying something negative with five good things. And if you can’t find five honestly nice things to say, you’ve got bigger issues than this particular annoyance.
  5. Don’t be negative. Treat the behavior as a creative problem solving exercise – how else can this be done that will work for everyone?

Bonus: If you’ve got family history that makes this difficult, try starting off by acknowledging that.

And of course, no blaming/labeling language. It’s not that someone is “always being a jerk”, but that when they do XYZ behavior, it makes it difficult for you to manage your response.

You know all this. You are smart, well-read, savvy adults. But when we interact with our loved ones, they push our buttons in ways that no one else can. My nine-year worked me over yesterday until I was frustrated enough to give myself a time-out, and I then had to walk away from an email from a relative as all those “buttons” were already lit-up!

So use this list to remind yourself and see if it helps next time the meds get forgotten, or there’s junk food in the groceries, or the cats get left out overnight…. what do you find helpful to keep yourself from getting TOO annoyed?

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The view from the kid’s table

Do you remember those big family dinners in the 70s? When segregated family holiday feasts meant all of the younger set that could feed themselves got their own table sans the good silver and tipsy conversation? Really.

We watched our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and even older cousins from a lower perspective…and wondered what was so special about being at the grownup table?

Well, guess what? We ARE the grownups now. We have kids, we have parents and some of us are still lucky enough to have our grandparents around, creating four generations of dynamics, relationships, history, customs, traditions and social baggage to manoeuvre at family gatherings. But we also have our own gifts, skills and perspective to bring to the “grownup table” now.

When negotiating caregiving and quality of life issues for family elders, we have a unique voice: we love them, unlike a stranger or professional. Yet we don’t have a lot our parents complicated issues involving independence, repressed resentments, changing roles etc. We can be a voice of reason, encouraging as much autonomy for our loved ones while respecting the resource limits the rest of the family has.

If discussions become difficult around end-of-life issues or even daily logistics, consider bringing your unique voice to the table to help everyone create a win-win situation – whether it’s respecting the terms of a living will, or figuring out who’ll cut the grass.

From across the country, I was able to say goodbye to my grandmother over the phone… and tell her it was ok to let go, she had done her best and we all loved her but didn’t want her to hurt. I know she heard me: I heard her breath catch, then ease for a moment. Powerful and healing for both of us.

A lot of Generation Xers (or in-betweens) often feel disempowered in caregiving discussions, especially from a distance – but you do have a lot to offer. Be gentle with your parents, as you’ll be in their shoes soon enough, but don’t hesitate to be another ear to listen and another voice of reason for *everyone*.

And remember, the kids burping down at the plastic-wrapped table will be *your* caregivers someday… try to model for them how you’d want to be supported.

Things Adult Grandkids can contribute (besides the obvious things like money and daily chores):

  • gently but firmly advocate for whomever isn’t being heard: whether it’s your parents or your grandparents depends on the dynamics in your family!
  • keep reminding everyone that balancing between resources and independence is going to require compromise from everyone
  • bring more information to discussions (take the time to research options online, make calls, etc)
  • offer to advocate with any professionals (nurses or other healthcare staff, nursing home staff, etc) you may be able to keep your cool and establish a rapport better than your exhausted/stressed-out parents!

What suggestions do you have on special approaches that adult grandkids can contribute?

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April Events (in PDX) for Caregivers/Seniors/Parents of kiddos with disabilities

There’s just so much going on, it’s exciting and I just *had* to do a special post to give y’all a heads-up:

The Village Movement comes to Portland:
“According to the founders of the other villages we have spoken to, the first step to getting villages going here in Portland is to begin holding parlor meetings and getting potential founders and stakeholders together.
To that end, we are inviting anyone who is interested in helping get a village started in their PDX neighborhood (no matter where in the Portland metro-area,including Hillsboro, Lake Oswego, Beaverton)to join us at a “parlor meeting” on: Sunday, April 15 at 3:00pm or Thursday, April 19 at 7:00pm at our home is SE Portland (Mt Tabor/Montavilla border) (If you would like to come to either of these meetings, please let us know.
Thanks so much,
Chana and Richie” Email them at for directions)
PS. If you haven’t already done so, you may want to go to website and check out the resources page. In particular, use the links to read articles and go to the other Village websites (Beacon Hill, NEST in Seattle). At the parlor meetings, they will be sharing info from the Beacon Hill Founders’ Manual.

Feel the Spirit at the Franciscan Center:
Care Options for Older Adults
An exploration of the types of care that are available and how to be an informed consumer when looking for housing and health care options. Laura Engle, a spiritual minister on staff at the Franciscan Center, has over 25 years experience in long-term care settings. She has worked in a variety of settings including nursing homes, assisted living, adult foster care and continuing care retirement communities. During this session we will investigate the basic characteristics of the senior housing and care options available in our state. We will discuss the key points to consider when and if it becomes time to make a decision to move and walk through the basics of a “functional assessment” that a geriatric professional uses when advising a patient and their family.  We will conclude with a consideration of some of the ideas advanced by Wendy Lustbader in her book Counting on Kindness: the Dilemmas of Dependency.
Date:  Thursday, April 19th, Time:  10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. or 6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m., Cost: $20 per person
Facilitator: Laura Engle

The Labyrinth as a Spiritual Practice for Caregivers
Enriching one’s life with a spiritual practice on the labyrinth deepens and enriches our experiences in daily living. For caregivers, the demanding physical and mental support that you give to others can often catch up with you through fatigue, stress, or neglected self-care. Come for an evening and allow the labyrinth to hold you. To carve out the space and place that can nurture your soul and recharge your batteries. Reconnect with joy and your own wonder of the meaningful work you do. We will share our own care giving journeys and discover strategies on how this spiritual practice may deepen and refresh our call.
Date: April 26, Time: 7:00-9:00pm, Cost: $35 per person
Facilitator: Mary Jo Saavedra

What the Hospice Folks Say:
“I Don’t Know What to Say: Practical Ideas for Supporting Someone Who is Seriously Ill”
Have you ever been uncertain about what to say to a friend facing serious illness? This presentation by facilitators from the Providence Hospice Community Care program includes suggestions for what to say or not say, and what to do or not do when calling or visiting seriously ill friends or their family members. The seminar will offer simple and effective tools that will help us turn our compassion into action. Please sign up calling the church at 503-252-5720 or by sending an email to by Friday, April 6 (we must have a minimum of 8 participants.) The program is free and refreshments will be served. Friday, April 13 from 1:00 to 3:00 pm St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, 11229 NE Prescott St., Portland, OR 97220

From Boom! Boomers and Beyond media:
Talk with other seniors about how to talk to your doc
When your doctor has 15 minutes for you, but you have more than 15 minutes worth of health concerns, what do you do? The nonprofit organization VIEWS (Volunteers Involved for the Emotional Well-being of Seniors) will host “Talking With Your Doctor, A Conversation” on Tuesday, April 17.
The free event runs from 2 to 3:30 p.m. in the community room at Silvercrest, 1865 N.E. Davis St., Portland. Join other older adults for this conversation to learn how to prepare yourself for talking with a doctor or other healthcare professional. To register, call Brenda at Silvercrest, 503-236-3208.

Forum focuses on building community for all ages

The three leading candidates for Portland mayor will talk about their views of age-friendly cities and address issues of aging and livable communities at a forum Saturday, April 7, hosted by AARP Oregon and Elders in Action. The Portland Mayoral Candidate Forum and Community Conversation takes place from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the DoubleTree Hotel, 1000 N.E. Multnomah St. in Portland. It is open to the public. Mayoral candidates Eileen Brady, Charlie Hales and Jefferson Smith have all committed to attend. The candidate forum is from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Before and after that event, attendees will be asked to answer polling questions intended to identify priorities they associate with building an age-friendly Portland and to discuss their top priorities. AARP and Elders in Action are soliciting questions to ask the candidates. Submit your questions online at To reserve a seat for the forum, register at or call tollfree 1-877-926-8300.

For parents of kiddos with special needs:
All Born (In) 2012 7th Annual Educational Best Practices and Cross-Disability Inclusion Conference April 28, 2012, 8:30 AM – 5:30 PM Over 20 different
sessions will be offered Ambridge Event Center 1333 NE MLK Blvd Portland, Oregon 97232 Download the postcard (PDF) Working Together for Equity and Best Practices to Challenge Segregation in Tough Times All Born (In) is a parent-driven, best practices initiative created by the Northwest Down Syndrome Association in partnership with Portland State University, the Universal Design for Living and Learning Coalition, and many other innovative parents and professionals. Join us to refresh your skills and commitment to the right to belong for every child. Find capacity, tools, vision and community for the work ahead in these difficult times. Questions? Call 503-238-0522 Email:
Para comunicarse en español, llame a Sheyla Hirshon al 503-239-1509

ASO’s Walkathon aka “An excuse to take your family to Oaks Park for a good cause!”

Registration is now open for the 10th Annual Autism Walk-A-Thon on Sunday, April 15, 2012 at Oaks Park in Portland. Please click here to: Register – Form A Team – and Create a Personal Fundraising Page! New this year: You can purchase Discounted Ride Bracelets on-line with your registration, OR they will also be available at the Walk. Click here for the Walk-A-Thon Flyer. To print out a pledge form for off-line donations, please click here.


Tobi Rates, Executive Director of ASO was interviewed on the KGW-TV (Channel 8) “Hot Box” regarding the 2012 CDC report on the large increase in autism diagnoses nationwide.Click here to see the interview.

Autism and the Brain, A collaborative presentation between the Autism Society of Oregon and the University of Washington Autism Center. Saturday, April 21st, 2012 at the Amphitheater at Providence Cancer Center, 4805 NE Glisan St. Portland, OR 97213. Click here for the flyer.

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Senior Organizing Guide with a smile

Well, it’s been an interesting week around here. Lots of material for future posts on the value of field trips/meaningful activities. But right now, we’re recovering from the reality of coming home to the door broken-down and all my jewelry stolen. Yes, we’re ok and that’s the important part. Security is a real issue no matter where you’re living – because all security is an illusion, yet at some point, you have to be able to say “I’ve done what I can” and relax.

Don’t worry, I’m going to revisit “Security for Seniors” at length, but for now it’s a bit too recent/vivid for rational thought.

On the other hand, as we countdown the final weeks to April 15th, I want to suggest now is the perfect time to commit to better organization for NEXT year. Not a typo. Think about doing more than “getting organized”, make it a solid commitment and an action at once. The heck with New Year’s resolutions - if Tax Time doesn’t motivate you to be better organized, you have a really good CPA or someone else doing your books!

One tool you can use was written by someone who’s been there. Claudia Rumwell is an RN among other things, but was also a distance caregiver for her parents for many years. Between juggling health care visits, coordinating with siblings and talking to care providers, she found it critical to not just be organized but have a system. *You* can also have it. I’ve seen the binder, and it’s similar to the advocacy tools that professionals use – has lots of great suggestions, and because it’s a binder (or use it as a pdf), you can customize it more than some of the books that are available. It’s the nitty gritty, not a lot of background material and chatty stuff (like this blog). It’s a TOOL: from keeping insurance info together, to a form for sharing your loved one’s personal toothpaste preference for a shopping list for anyone to use, it is comprehensive.

The wonderful smile of Claudia Rumwell

Go forth. Peruse it. Use it. Share the love. The price point doesn’t cover the cost of production, so it’s a literal steal. <ouch> huh, hating that word and all the associations right now. Anyway, tell her  Nif sent you… and by the way, she’s a fine human being with a great smile, for those of you to who like to put a face on the folks you deal with!

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We know why we need to be patient. How to grow patience? That’s another question…

You waited for it… and then I delayed an extra day! See how you can easily find everyday lessons for yourself on letting go of outcomes and being patient? It’s rather the opposite of what we’re taught in school. Because while you encounter many of those FIRM deadlines as you work through various systems and establish patterns as a caregiver, you also encounter disruptions, limitations, conflicts and ALL of it on someone else’s schedule.

and learn it NOW, you must!!!

I found myself at not one but TWO workshops yesterday that ended up being completely different than what I had expected from their descriptions. I *choose* to be flexible and open to a different experience, and be patient with how it was presented. And what I learned was useful, even potentially valuable even if unexpected. I try to choose this over and over and over again, and if I find myself too invested in how an outcome or an event works out, I know I went into it with the wrong attitude in the first place.

Patience IS a choice. We are all the sum of our choices and experiences, so we can learn this! 

As a caregiver, to build your patience you also need a personal regimen that manages stress without more burdens. Like you need another reason to feel guilty? C’mon, what works for YOU?

  • yes, standing and dancing at your computer counts as some exercise. not all, but some.
  • get outside. sunshine = vitamin D. decreases depression and insomnia. can you fold laundry on the patio?
  • do something meaningful that has nothing to do with your loved one or daily frustrations. walk dogs at the humane society, plant trees, etc. hey those combine exercise AND getting outside! whoot!
  • just stop. whatever you’re doing, stop and breathe. even Oprah says this builds patience. (i used to have a post-it note on my monitor that said “BREATHE!!!” in heavy purple marker. not exactly calming, but hey, it did remind me.)

What are things you do to help you grow your patience and reduce your stress? I am currently bouncing/dancing at my standing desk, and am heading outside to run errands before it starts raining again. Yep, it’s Portland.
“Do or do not. There is no try.” –  Jedi Master Yoda

“Faith is not simply a patience that passively suffers until the storm is past. Rather, it is a spirit that bears things – with resignations, yes, but above all, with blazing, serene hope.”
Corazon Aquino

“If you can’t choose it for yourself, do it for your loved ones. It’s a way to get started on the right path.” – Nif, impassioned catalyst and caregiver

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Patience. Patients. Why patience for caregivers is important.

Recently I’ve had a lot of lessons from The-Universe-At-Large on patience. None of us have an inexhaustible supply, and I seem to constantly be working on it. My nature is not serene, and there are many times when I have NOT chosen patience. Yes, chosen. Just like you choose to be happy, you can choose to be patient.

But patience for caregivers is important. No, CRITICAL! (and connected to persistence, another essential quality for successful caregiving advocacy.)


Lots of heartwarming stories online about the benefits of patience. But these are what re-catalyzed me recently. Grab some tissues. They’ll just take a few minutes….

What is that?
Back? Dry your eyes, breathe out and really *really* know why patience is so important for caregivers. And so damn hard. But it’s a skill and can be learned.

Experts agree that caregivers need support systems, and this will help you be calmer if not exactly serene:

in keeping with the humor theme...

  • peers to connect with (preferably in-person but at least online or via phone)
  • expert advice (figuring out what questions to ask)
  • humor (your body needs laughter!!! just try not grab someone else’s Depends if you’re laughing TOO hard)
  • respite care  (someone else CAN figure out how to make it work for a few hours while you nap, or even have a date <shock>)


Now for an exercise in patience, the other half of this post (including daily habit suggestions) will have to wait until next week… let me know how you feel about that! ;-)

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