Shannon Ingram's Place

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Location: Orange County/CA

Musings of a woman who left her corporate career to become a caregiver for elderly parents, wrote a book and found her way back to corporate - with love, instead of fear, leading the way. Now working at my Alma Mater, UC Irvine, as Marketing and Communications Director for the School of Biological Sciences.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Support in Large Doses

I've relished all the e-mail messages from friends and family about the passing of my dear stepdad, Jack. I use the word "stepdad" lovingly because Jack served as my "real dad" for over 35 years. He walked me down the aisle twice and was there for me on many occasions when I needed a daddy's loving counsel. He and Mom could fight like a cat and dog, but they always patched things up, which gave some stability to my extended family life over the years. My stepsister, Meg, is not really "step" to me - she's my sister. We don't always agree on stuff, which can be said for most sisters I know. We adore one another's families and wind up being there for each other when it's important. We've been very close during the past few weeks of Jack's journey. I'm very grateful for that sisterly camaraderie.

Support in large doses works wonders when someone is grieving or confused. My mom is getting it from the members of her community at the wonderful Brookdale Inn at the Park in Irvine, CA. This is an assisted living community that cares about its residents and who's residents care about one another. I have enjoyed my interaction with the staff for several years now, and their ongoing support is part of the reason I sought employment in the field of senior care. I knew from working with them how rewarding a career in this realm of health care can be. If it were not for the Inn at the Park, I would never have found my current career position at Silverado Senior Living (, working marketing wonders for a company that cares deeply for people with memory-impairing diseases such as Alzheimer's. It's no wonder that some of the most invaluable support I've received in the past couple of days has been from my associates here at Silverado and from my Mom's "community" at the Inn at the Park. I doubt my mom would be getting out of bed each day this week were it not for the help and reassurance of the team of professionals and her resident friends at the Inn.

If you are struggling with a decision to move an aging parent or relative into assisted living (because in my experience, they seldom want to move of their own volition), remember this piece about support in large doses. Once they have moved, they will ultimately adjust and finally grow to love the lifestyle. And when something awful happens, they will have the comfort of lots of friends.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Jack has Left the Planet...

Jack Garner had a great life. He had more enchanting stories to tell than anyone I've ever known. Jack was a wonderful dad and grandfather, a good friend, a fun husband to Mom. He was a cowboy-adventurer who loved to fly planes and drive fast cars and boats. We will miss him.

Determined not to let anyone in the family share in his departure, Jack left the planet around 12:30 AM today. Meg, Ted and Hannah were at the ranch. Gary and I were home from the cruise, and asleep in our own bed. Mom was resting comfortably at the Inn at the Park with Bailey-dog, albeit looking forward to going to see Jack with us this afternoon. Alas, that was not to be. We went to her home at 6 AM and shared the news.

That's about all I can write at this time. Will share more soon.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Pet Therapy

Today we continued the painful process of what Gary calls "packing 200 pounds of stuff into a 20 pound house." We unloaded more boxes and then re-packed them with items for the Goodwill. Unpacking was something to keep us busy while we awaited word from my sister about Jack's condition. We had to stay home most of the day waiting for the latest visit from the Cox Cable Guy. You see, we have these two new TVs that don't seem to like the set-up here. One day they don't have color, the next they don't have sound, and the next they have no signal at all. Nothing like having a big "moe-foe" flat screen TV on the wall that you can't watch. Instead, while unpacking and waiting for news of Jack, we watched the pets. Bindi Sue and Vanna were outside in the rain for awhile. It took 30 seconds to dry Vanna with a beach towel, but low-to-the-ground Bindi took a few minutes to dry because of her fat legs and sopping wet tummy. After I dried her, she raced into the master bathroom where my good friend and cleaning lady Celina was scrubbing out the shower. Bindi jumped right into the shower, leaving me and Celina in shock. Celina turned off the water and of course Bindi then shook water everywhere and jumped out to chase curious Molly cat into the living room. I raced after my wet puppy, scooped her up and took her back outside, laughing all the way. Now I was soaked too. It's hard to feel depressed and serious with pets around the house. Thank GOD. Who needs TV anyway?

Friday, January 23, 2009

A Cruise for Caregivers

Gary and I just returned from a five-day/four-night cruise on the Carnival Paradise out of Long Beach with a couple of dozen family caregivers. Many of the caregivers (some of them pictured here) were fully paid guests of WomanSage, the non-profit mentoring organization for women over 45, thanks to a grant from Dr. Al Gobar. Several WomanSage Board Members (like me, founder Jane Glenn Haas and Dr. Marilyn Ditty from South County Senior Services) were on the cruise and we had a WONDERFUL time! Gary was one of about six men in the entire group which numbered almost 60.

I spent most of yesterday interviewing some of the caregivers. I plan to edit the interviews and air them via the WomanSage web site ( Every interviewee was in tears at least once during our conversation. I was emotionally exhausted by the end of the day. Ninety percent of the women are caring for a spouse or parent with Alzheimer's Disease or dementia. What a rewarding experience to take them on a lovely cruise and give them some time for themselves. We made new friends and had lots of fun on the ship including spa treatments and great food. Carnival was surprisingly good - way better than my low expectation of the "party boat."

The second I stepped outside the cruise ship terminal this morning after disembarking, my phone started ringing with questions or information about my stepdad, Jack. He is now in a Santa Ana skilled nursing community and on hospice. Medically, his health is declining rapidly. The Hospice nurses tell us he may only be alive for a few more days. Mom doesn't understand this. She's very confused and thinks he's coming home soon.

Our family welcomes any and all prayers. Beyond requesting prayer, I'm simply grateful to have been able to go on the cruise, and to have been a caregiver who could truly relate to the women who joined us.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Mucho Trabajo

We moved from Costa Mesa to Mission Viejo last week. Moving is my least favorite activity this lifetime. A week later I'm still in utter chaos. As my wonderful friend, Celina, says, "Mucho trabajo, Mrs. Shannie." She is right on. Of course, Gary and I are trying to cram all the stuff from our previous home into a much smaller space. There is a gigantic garage sale in in my near future.

I've been fighting a cold and now, walking pneumonia, ever since New Year's Day. Gary was so ill on the morning of the 1st that he couldn't come with me to the Rose Parade. Nevertheless, I drove from our hotel in LA to Pasadena at 4:30 AM to join friends from Mission Viejo. Gary and I talked constantly on the cell phone during the parade so I could give him my personal play-by-play rundown of the floats and bands. Our Mission Viejo float won the "Judges Special Trophy," which made us all proud. We were seated just across the street from both ABC and NBC. At one point Gary told me to stand up - and he saw me and my cousin waving at him via the ABC TV camera. Turned out to be a fun time after all.

Unfortunately, Jack is back in the hospital suffering from gangrene. The current plan is for his left leg to be amputated above the knee, probably later this week or early next week. We already got him a "Captain Jack Sparrow" wig and hat to go along with his peg leg. One has to keep a sense of humor in these dark times.

And that's all I have to say about that...