Category Archives: Media

On the radio: Where there’s a will, there’s a relative

The Canadian public broadcaster has a Sunday morning omnibus program that this morning did a piece about financial abuse of the elderly through the manipulation of wills. In my case, my bi-polar mother has been trying to bribe her daughter into liking her for decades. Fortunately, my sister is estranged to us but one of my fears is that she’ll come out of the woodwork.

There’s some family experience with this. Another cousin got ahold of his grandmother’s chequebook and helped himself to seveal thousand dollars.

Moreover, my sister has a history of selfishness, I regret to say. She lived rent free for a decade at a relative’s house and I am sure has ‘reframed’ this as a gift in her mind. Anway, although the specifics of legal issues may differ in your jurisdiction but the psychological and social implications of people fighting over an elderly person’s money are probably the same.

In particular, the panelists discuss the well intentioned but potentially disastrous things that families do like apportioning money ahead of the death or incapacity, and conflicts between what the bank wants and what the lawyers want, et cetera.

There is far more at stake now than ever before. According to a study published this year, about one trillion dollars will change hands in this country over the next two decades. This has been identified as the biggest inter-generational transfer of wealth in the west’s history.Sunday-Edition
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On the Radio: How a little town in Belgium may show us how to care for the mentally ill

A documentary aired on CBC Radio 1 that may be of interest to some of you.

Once, there was a tall, elegant woman in her 70’s, who lived with a family in the small Flemish town of Geel in Belgium. Her name was Louise, she spoke four languages and liked to discuss the lives of princes. At night she would stand by her window and pick up messages from the sky. She had spent decades in a mental institution. Then her doctors sent her to live with the family. She stayed for 30 years. The grandchildren loved her. The foster mother grieved when Louise died. Then she took in another “guest”.

That’s what families do in Geel. Look after people who suffer from schizophrenia, from obsessive compulsive disorder; psychiatric patients with serious mental illnesses. And they’ve been doing it for hundreds of years.

There is nowhere on earth quite like Geel.

It all started, legend has it, in the 7th century with a fair haired Irish princess named Dimpna who fled from the advances of her father, across the ocean to Belgium. He followed her, found her and murdered her in the town of Geel. Dimpna was canonized and became St. Dimpna, patron saint of the mentally ill. Geel became a religious shrine, a site of pilgrimage. Today it’s an internationally recognized medical shrine, the gold standard of community care for psychiatric patients.

Karin Wells‘ documentary is titled, “You Belong in Geel“.

Listen here.

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Full-length documentary on-line about bi-polar caregivers

Family Matters: Surviving the Bi-Polar Journey is a 2010 documentary film from Canada about four families, each with a bi-polar person. You can watch it on-line for free at the British Columbia Knowledge Network.

The film is by Marie Frymire. Family Matters follows four families as they struggle to support a loved one with Bipolar Disorder,one of the most commonly diagnosed mental illnesses:

Ted’s daughter Kristy,21,has just been told she has Bipolar Disorder. Both have difficulties accepting the diagnosis and the need to seek help. Theresa’s 27-year-old daughter Valerie was diagnosed several years ago. Now Theresa fears that Valerie might be repeating her own mother’s tragic struggle with depression. Melanie and Keith have been married 24 years and have two young sons. While Keith struggles with the most severe type of the disease,Melanie has been keeping the household together,sometimes by sheer force of will. Melanie finally begins to realize that the one person she’s forgotten to take care of is herself. Denise and Michael,married for 44 years and happily retired,are only now beginning to learn how Michael’s illness affected their daughter Samantha while she was growing up.

Learn more about the film.

Documentary Film — Family Matters

Documentary Film — Family Matters

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Podcast – Living through someone else’s bi-polar illness

There’s a podcast in America called Conversations about Mental Illness. It has many episodes about various mental illness subjects, including PDST for ex-servicemen, parents of schizophrenics and other issues. Its extensive back catalogue may be worth a look for you.

One episode that goes back a few years is with a mental health expert  and social worker whose own husband — a psychiatrist no less — suffered a massive bi-polar episode after going off his medications. One of the things that comes out of her interview is that she and her husband isolated. They had no outside support, lived in a remote location, and tried reinventing the wheel in managing this situation. Amazingly, these two mental health experts had no experience with or knowledge of the caregiver community.

After his final manic episode, her husband sunk into a year-long depression that resulted in his suicide. His wife, Judy Eron, a psychotherapist, wrote What Goes Up, which you can find on-line.

Listen to Episode 23.

You can also visit Judy Eron’s web site to find out about her speaking engagements.


Book cover of What Goes Up by Judy Eron

Judy Eron — What Goes Up

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Video — Living with a bi-polar parent or partner

Several people discuss the massive centre of gravity of having a bi-polar person their lives.

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Video — Women living with men who have depression

Take home points: take care of yourself and get help.

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Entertainment for Caregivers

Dramas  for caregivers. Let me re-phrase that…filmed dramas for care-givers

  • Away from Her (2007) – A man coping with the institutionalization of his wife because of Alzheimer’s disease. This Canadian drama stars Gordon Pinsent and is based on a short story by Nobel Prize winner Alice Munro.
  • Harvest (2011) –  Three generations are drawn together by their patriarch. This film portrays a family that awkwardly yet delicately hanging on to what was, what now is and to one another.
  • Dear Frankie (2005) – This Scottish film is about a single mother who keeps a secret from her young deaf son in an attempt to protect him, but ends up having to hire a man to portray the boy’s father for a day.
  • The Straight Story (1999) – An old gent wants to visit his sick and estranged brother but has no car. So, he climbs on his lawnmower and sets out on a rather unusual road trip.  Oscar-nominated performance by Richard Farnsworth.


  • Return to Me (2000) – A man unwittingly falls for the woman who received his late wife’s heart through a transplant in this gentle comedy.
  • Throw Momma From the Train (1987) – Crossed signals between strangers result in a half-arsed plot to kill the world’s most irritating mother.

Other  films addressing care giving issues

  • Dad (1989) – A man returns home to his mother care for his ailing father in this multigenerational look at the various joys, sorrows, and opportunities that caregiving affords to family relationships.
  • Marvin’s Room (1996) – This beautiful and truthful film follows two sisters, one of whom has given up her own pursuits to be a caregiver to her father and aunt. When the caregiver herself becomes ill , the other sister and her two sons come to help out. The depiction of the nature of caregiving is amazing.
  • Proof (2005) – A young woman caring for her mentally ill father confronts family issues and fears of inheriting her father’s disease. Literate adaptation of the stage play makes a touching statement about trust in relationships being more important than gaining empirical evidence.
  • The Wedding Gift (1994) – A British couple faces the challenge of a lifetime when the wife contracts a mysterious and debilating illness. Wry humor helps them cope in this lovely, bittersweet depiction of the unique difficulties faced by spousal caregivers.
  • Harry Brown (2011) – A pensioner whose wife is passing is prevented from being with her during her final moments because of thugs running amok on his estate, so he does what Michael Caine does best. Yes, this  isn’t a movie about caregiving for the mentally ill but it’s Michael Fucking Caine.

Audio: Caregiver Burnout and a Depressed Family Member

About Families for Depression Awareness is an organization in America helping recognize and cope with depressive disorders to get people well and prevent suicides. According to their web site, the group’s mission is to:

  • To help families recognize and manage the various forms of depression and associated mood disorders.
  • To eliminate the stigma associated with depressive disorders.
  • To unite families and help them heal in coping with depression.

The group has several podcasts, but one is of particular interest to us. One of their recordings deals specifically with family caregiver burnout.

Bring Me Sunshine

Bring Me Sunshine

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Audio: Family Caregivers Unite — A radio program

Physician Gordon Atherley was born in Britain, practiced in Canada and now is retired in America. His golden years are being filled with activism for family caregivers.

He has a weekly radio program about the subject of family caregiving called Family Caregivers United. You can listen to the program over the internet. Some of the past episodes have covered topics such as family caregiving and:

I encourage you to visit the web site and browse the back catalogue of shows.

Family Caregivers Unite Radio Program

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Radio: Balancing life as a family caregiver

One of the hardest jobs many of us will take on in our lifetimes is caring for loved ones as they live longer. The impact upon our careers will be increasingly significant. Balancing work, with your own health and busy lives can be a real challenge. CBC Radio One has a program in British Columbia called Radio West. You can listen to the April 23, 2012 edition as host Rebecca Zandbergen interviwed columnist Star Weiss to discuss the issue. The interview is very short but one point is hammered home:  financial planning for elder care when your parents have complex co-morbidities will make your life as a family caregiver easier.

CBC Radio West

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Video: Caring for mentally ill family members

The health show Tonic recently broadcast a segment on the difficulties of caring for relations with mental illness. Tonic is shown on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation network and covers health issues generally.


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Video: Caregivers and Bossy Siblings

The sibling, or other family relation who swans in with no end of helpful advice for the caregiver is the subject of this video.  My own family dynamic is not so complicated but for those of you with more centrifugal forces inside your family, this recording may provide a platform for discussion.

I’ve mentioned this video before in another entry, but it might have gotten lost in the shuffle.

Here’s that video again.

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Audio: Caring for a partner

What happens when home is no longer a place of refuge from the world of work, but a place of work?

That was one of the many interesting observations made by a man who is caring for his wife with MS on this interview that was aired on BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour last week. While not directly concerned with bi-polar parents, there’s enough common ground that I believe you will find it of interest. Jenni Murray speaks to Roger Firth, who’s cared for his wife for the past 10 years, and to Jean French from Carers UK.

One of the interesting remarks was not to think about the long term. Of course, this is against what I have been advising. The take on it was that taking too long a view may be morale sapping and you never know what the future holds. Perhaps something that seems impossible this month may be workable next month as circumstances change.  I guess it may be a bit like running up hill: staring at the top when you’re chugging away can be dispiriting. Work on the road immediately before you and let the top of the hill get to you when it gets to you.

All in all, worth a listen.

BBC Radio 4

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Video: Who Cares — A Film for Carers

Who Cares — A Film for Carers is a short film highlighting how mental illness can effect family members who often become carers themselves. It can be overwhelming and these films want to spread the word that carers are not alone in their struggles. Each section is about half a dozen minutes.

  • Part One — The film begins with a mother whose son is at university and begins to have signs of a mental disorder. From then on, Fiona enters the world of the family caregiver for the mentally ill.
  • Part Two — Adam, 26, finds his wife becoming different woman. At first he thinks Sandra has the ‘flu.
  • Part Three — Seventeen year old Rachel observes that her mother’s depression was a long time in the making.
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Audio: Difficult Mothers

I remember being nine or ten, seated at the dinner table, and looking at my mater matris thinking ‘When I’m a grown up I will not be like you.’

Writer and psychologist Terri Apter talks about her new book ‘Difficult Mothers’ on the BBC Radio 4 programme Women’s Hour. On this June 6, 2012 broadcast,host Jenni Murray begins by speaking to a woman identified as Jane about her relationship with her crack-pot mother.  Listen to the broadcast.

Terri Apter Difficult Mothers

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Video: Siblings and Adult Children of the Mentally Ill

Here’s a discussion about the siblings and adult children of the mentally ill with Mary Crocker Cook and Laura King. It’s a general introduction to the subject, and the adult children of the mentally ill parent can skip to the latter half of part two.

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Audio: Advice for newbies — Flush your expectations

This fifteen minute interview about caregiving for severely mentally ill relatives may have some useful advice for newcomers these problems.

  • Forget your expectations for the mentally ill person. Take any ideas about the potential for that person’s life and flush them down the john.
  • Forget your expectations for your family members. Don’t waste your time talking to family members about caregiving if they’re trying to distance themselves.

The interview is from Healthy Place, and features the expertise of a Cindy Nelson works part-time for NAMI Massachusetts and volunteers as a NAMI Family to Family Education Program teacher. She has been helping her schizophrenic sister for several decades.

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Audio: Cross Country Check-Up

After five years in the making, the Mental Health Commission of Canada released its plan for a national mental health strategy. Many say the changes being advocated are long overdue …but they come with a price tag. It is estimated to cost $4-billion dollars to implement. Supporters say mental illness is right now costing Canada more than ten times as much by not managing it properly. (See a previous post about this report.)

Canada is the only G8 nation lacking a national mental health strategy and that fact became painfully obvious after a 2006 Senate report. Entitled Out of the Shadows At Last it was a hard look at the way Canadians with mental illness often slip through the cracks in the various systems across the country …health, justice, education et cetera. It called for a more organized approach and a structure to manage it. A little later Canadian Prime Minster Stephen Harper, whose sanity is often questioned by onlookers, agreed to create the Mental Health Commission of Canada and named the co-author of the Senate report Liberal Senator Michael Kirby as its first Chairman.

Cross Country Check-Up is broadcast weekly on Sunday Afternoons on CBC Radio One. It is a nation-wide phone-in program for a country five and a half time-zones wide, and spanning three oceans.

Host Rex Murphy heared from individuals and families who have been touched by mental illness and their thoughts and experiences as callers and experts discussed the state of metal health care in the dominion, and the new national mental health strategy that has been proposed. A plan is obviously the first step …implementation brings its own set of challenges especially in a system that is somewhat fragmented by different approaches in ten provinces and three territories.

Listen to the March 13, 2012 broadcast.

Cross Country Check-Up with Rex Murphy of Newfoundland

Update: If you don’t understand something, use this handy lexicon.

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Audio: All in the Mind

All in the Mind is a BBC Radio 4 programme dealing with the limits and potential of the human mind in relation to psychology, neuro science, mental health and the law and is presented by the immensely bone-able Claudia Hammond.

You can listen each week on Tuesday, on demand or subscribe to the podcast. The archives in the first link is worth exploring as there are nearly 100 episodes on file. Three episodes may be of particular interest to you.

  • Schizophrenia  and caregiving — Tim Salmon’s son developed schizophrenia after college and the past twenty years have been a desperate struggle to secure him the care and support he needs. In this episode, Tim tells about the daily reality of living with this little understood illness and criticises the woeful inadequacies of provision in our society for those with mental illness.
  • Dementia — We don’t know the cause, there is no treatment or cure, and it is fatal. Dementia is the health challenge of this generation. This show also examines what is to be expected in the forthcoming UK Dementia Strategy
  • Siblings with Mental Health Problems — While parents often care for young people with mental health problems it can also raise issues for their siblings. They might have fears for their own mental health or worry about the change in their relationship to their brother or sister. How easy is it to share worries about your own mental health if you feel it’s minor in comparison to your brother or sister? And what of the future and the responsibilities you may one day inherit from your parents. Listen to hear about these and other issues.

BBC Radio 4 — All In the Mind

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Article: Caregiving for the mentally ill starts in adolescence

A national survey of 1000 Australians has revealed the vast majority of relatives of people with a mental illness are suffering physically and mentally.  The report by the Wesley Mission has found many carers, especially young carers, are reluctant to ask for help because of the stigma associated with both caregiving and mental illness. The report is called Keeping Minds Well: Caring Until It Hurts.

You can also hear a quick interview from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s AM with Tony Eastley about this survey. According to their web site, the Wesley Mission  provides ministry to  ‘the vulnerable and marginalised. It includes the lonely, hurt and fragile, the homeless, mentally ill, aged, disabled, unemployed.’

Australian Broadcasting Corporation AM with Tony Eastley

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Article: Taking the lead on mental health

How do you co-ordinate mental health services in a country wider than the Atlantic Ocean when it’s not your responsibiliy?

A forthcoming report in Canada addresses how to intervene early with emotional disorders in other to reduce the severity of the impact on the victims. This new report from the Mental Health Commission of Canada hopes to persuade the dominion’s federal government to take a lead role on mental health care even though health administration in this country is a provincial (which is to say regional) matter. Listen to this interview on on CBC Radio One’s The Current.

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