Donna McCullough, PhD received her Doctorate degree in Clinical Psychology in 1994 from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. She has a private practice in Laguna Hills, CA. Donna has a special interest in spirituality and psychology, and she incorporates mindfulness and meditation into her work with clients. She also worked at the UCSD Alzheimer's Disease Research Center as Senior Psychometrist.
Barbara Klein-Robuck, MS, RN is a Board Certified Holistic Nurse with an MS in Health Care Administration. At her San Juan Capistrano, CA home office, she empowers clients using a unique combination of healing energy modalities: Therapeutic Touch, Jin Shin Jyutsu and Integrative Imagery. She was named Holistic Nurse of the Year by the American Holistic Nurses Association. Barbara is also a case manager in private practice for workers' compensation and long term care insurance clients.
Recently, Donna and Barbara combined their expertise and co-founded Affirmative Therapy Products ©. As my parents still spend a good part of their day caring for my brother (who was born with a disability thirty-three years ago), I was excited to learn more.
Shelly Rachanow: Tell us more about Affirmative Therapy Products.
Donna McCullough and Barbara Klein-Robuck: Affirmative Therapy Products © or ATP are audio CDs with positive messages and inspirational music (specially composed by Mark Romero – http://www.markromeromusic.com/) that support and acknowledge you. The Affirmative Therapy for Caregivers CD is for family and facility caregivers. The positive messages on this CD affirm the importance of their nurturing role and help reduce feelings of depression, anxiety and fatigue sometimes experienced with care giving. Caregivers are reminded of the healing potential of their loving presence. The Affirmative Therapy for Memory and Cognitive Challenges CD affirms health and well being as well as the ability to get along with others. The positive messages on this CD help reduce agitation and increase receptivity to redirection. Both CDs have been referred to as "Respite in a CD."
Shelly Rachanow: What inspired you to develop them?
Donna McCullough and Barbara Klein-Robuck: A series of coincidences unfolded which inspired us to develop ATP. To begin with, Donna's step-father, Pat, had been struggling with Alzheimer's disease for a couple of years. As is typical of someone in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, Pat was experiencing low self-esteem and depression related to his cognitive decline. Donna mentioned Pat's diagnosis to a mutual friend who suggested that she talk to Barbara, who had some information that might be useful.
Barbara had just read about the work of Barbara Derrick, PhD in a newsletter from AHHA (American Holistic Health Association - http://www.ahha.org/). Dr. Derrick had arranged for Alzheimer's patients in a large residential care facility to listen to a positive affirmation CD to bolster their self-esteem and improve the quality of their lives. She used a similar CD for caregivers to support them in their role as caregiver.
Dr. Derrick's research showed that patients who listened to the CD were more cooperative and easier to re-direct than those who did not listen to the CD. Facility caregivers who listened to the CD daily for six months reported greater job satisfaction and their absenteeism dropped from 33% to 3%.
Shelly Rachanow: Being a caregiver for someone, be it professionally or as a friend or family member, can be an incredibly emotional and challenging experience. What’s the best way we can support loved ones who are facing a health issue, and also the people who care for them?
Donna McCullough and Barbara Klein-Robuck: One way to support a loved one who is struggling with a health challenge (or a caregiver to someone with a health challenge) is to be fully present with them with an open heart as they experience various emotions, thoughts, and reactions to their situation. It can be uncomfortable to talk with someone that you love about how they are suffering. Often times it seems better to distract a person from their negative feelings or to minimize these feelings.
However, this does not make the feelings disappear; it just pushes them out of their awareness. It then takes a lot of energy to keep the feelings suppressed, and this energy might be better used to help the person heal (either physically or emotionally). Instead, if you want to provide support to either a caregiver or a patient; start by taking a deep breath, relaxing your chest and opening your own heart. Then ask the person how they are feeling (both physically and emotionally) and listen in order to understand what they are experiencing.
The nature of feelings is for them to pass through a person and it is only by allowing the feelings to come to the surface that they can pass. As our caregiver CD states, "You are a loving presence in the life of this person. Your loving presence has a healing effect on them." By opening your heart and accepting them where they are, you are providing them with the space in which they may begin to heal.
Shelly Rachanow: The National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging estimates that anywhere from 2.4 million to 5.1 million Americans have Alzheimer’s Disease. Tell us more about how Affirmative Therapy Products can help memory and cognition.
Donna McCullough and Barbara Klein-Robuck: Both our Affirmative Therapy for Caregivers CD and our Affirmative Therapy for Memory and Cognitive Challenges CD provide the listener with respite from the worry, disappointment, sadness and fatigue of dealing with a health challenge. This can help to alleviate anxiety and depression, both of which contribute to difficulties with concentration and memory. So by helping a person to feel better about themselves and their situation, they might be able to function better cognitively.
In addition, the body is capable of healing itself in many ways. Providing the right kind of environment (i.e., low stress) can help the immune system, the autonomic system and other parts of the body to function better.
Shelly Rachanow: What kind of benefits have people experienced from your CDs?
Donna McCullough and Barbara Klein-Robuck: Dr. Barbara Derrick's research results show that patients with advanced forms of Alzheimer's dementia demonstrated improvements in their ability to cooperate with others, are less agitated, and are easier to redirect. We conducted a similar study at a local Board and Care facility. Although we did not have a no-treatment control group, our results replicate Dr. Derrick's findings. Caregivers in our study report that the residents were calmer and more cooperative.
In the early stages of his Alzheimer’s disease, Donna's step-father, Pat said that listening to the CD helped improve his self esteem and alleviated his depression. In later stages it helped reduce agitation, restlessness and helped him stay calmer.
The research shows that professional caregivers who listen to the CDs feel more satisfied with the work they are doing and they have a lower rate of absenteeism. Our family caregivers report that they feel more energized and less depressed after listening to the CDs. Clearly this approach is a cost-effective therapeutic tool!
Shelly Rachanow: And last, the 'If Women Ran the World Blog' question for everyone - What would you do if you ran the world?
Donna McCullough and Barbara Klein-Robuck: If we ran the world we would ask each person to consider why we are at war with each other instead of feeding each other? We would ask people to take an honest look and ask themselves why they hold resentments and judgments towards people in their lives, even friends and loved ones? We would educate people about why this happens, including an understanding that this kind of behavior stems from fear (See the book The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer for more information).
We would educate people further about opening their hearts and trusting the process of life. For more information about opening the heart, please see the article by Dr. McCullough called “Caring From the Heart” that was originally published on the Alzheimer’s Reading Room blog http://www.alzheimersreadingroom.com/. We would also ask people to consistently and consciously focus their awareness on the present moment and meet life as it is. We would ask them to open their hearts wide for all of the world. We would ask them to imagine what it would be like to walk into work (or come home from work) and hear, “Oh hi, it's so nice to see you! You are so special to me and I am really glad that you are in my life!” Just imagine how good that would feel.
Now, as Nike says, "Just Do It!”
To learn more about these wonderful products and to listen to a sample of the CDs, visit http://www.affirmativetherapyproducts.com/ or contact:
Barbara Klein-Robuck, MS, RN, 949-493-2534, barbarakr.aol.com, http://www.bkrwellness.com/
Donna McCullough, PhD, 949-246-7724, donnamccullough.cox.net