Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Flower Essences for Family Caregiving, Part 1

I currently make my living as a spiritual counselor and healer. I also have a small flower essence & aromatherapy organic, all-natural perfume company. This might seem like a far cry from my work as a Family Caregiving Consultant but in reality it was my work at the Alzheimer's Association and Del Mar Caregiver Resource Center that directly led to the work I do today.

Most of the families I worked with were hungry for alternative resources for helping themselves and their patients. $100/month Aricept prescriptions that didn't seem to do a lot of good after the initial few weeks and months take quite a bite out of the family budget. Plus people really want to know what's best for themselves and their loved ones. What diet seems to help best? Exercise? Herbs? Vitamins? What about healing therapies? I researched many of these topics over the years and wrote about them as best as I could. I'll be sharing excerpts from The Spiritual Journey of Family Caregiving about these things over the next several weeks.

The healing modality nearest and dearest to my heart today is one of the least well-known -- in this country at least -- Flower Essence Therapy, the work of Dr. Edward Bach. Here's an excerpt from The Power to Flower, the book I'm writing today:

In 1996 I had a spiritual crisis that led to an uncontrolled psychic opening that terrified me at first and permanently changed my worldview. Intuitive capacities I used to think were the realm of psychics and mystics became my everyday experience and I had to learn a new way of dealing with life and the part I wanted to play in it. I studied medical intuition and various forms of energy healing and practiced using those skills with clients on my evenings and weekends. During the day I worked in the healthcare system as a family consultant for people taking care of family members with Alzheimer’s Disease or other incurable brain-impairing illnesses.

Many people fearfully talk about an impending healthcare crisis tied to the aging baby boom population but anyone who works with eldercare issues today can tell you that the crisis is already here. Healthcare costs are astronomical yet the amount of time a doctor typically spends with a patient has decreased while the number of pharmaceutical drug-related illnesses has gone up dramatically. According to the Journal of the American Pharmaceutical Association the cost of possibly preventable drug related illness and death in the United States more than doubled in just the five years between the initial study done in 1995 and a follow-up in 2000.

All day long for six years I heard stories about how people’s lives were being devastated by the financial and emotional burdens of 24 hour caregiving and time and again I heard the same stories of how these illnesses appeared to take hold. “Grandma was ok until Grandpa died.” “Auntie has lived alone for years and she has always been anxious. We didn’t even know she had dementia because she’s always acted this way. It’s just worse now.” “Dad was just fine until he was forced into retirement. He didn’t know what to do with his life after that and then everything started to fall apart.” I heard these stories so often that after awhile I deemed it a miracle when I came across a patient whose symptoms did not appear to result from an emotional trauma or a history of isolation, anxiety or depression.

Most of these people were so far into their illnesses that neither conventional nor alternative medicine had much to offer them. Yet doctors would prescribe medications at $100 and up per month that sometimes had serious side effects for many years at a time even though widely available drug trials had shown that, statistically, these drugs were only effective on the average of 6 months to a year. Many of the patients I met were taking 5-6 equally expensive medications at the same time for symptomatic relief of a wide variety of other health concerns.

Meanwhile at home I was experimenting with using flower essences to reverse long-standing emotional problems that I believed could lead to disease and was having interesting results. My remedy combinations never cost more than $10-20, I rarely had to take them for long, and except for the occasional short-lived intensification of symptoms just before healing (which can usually be avoided—I’ll show you how) they had no side effects whatsoever. Yet I couldn’t get people to try them. I wasn’t allowed to recommend flower essences within the confines of my day job, and even though my evening clients appeared to trust me they were too frightened to try a formula their doctor had not prescribed. Besides, who ever heard of using flowers in brandy and water for emotional relief? They didn’t understand it and from my own life experience I understood why and I knew I wanted to do something to change that.

The things that make herbal remedies a solid choice for people dealing with physical complaints could make them an equally appealing choice for people seeking help with emotional problems. However, the vast majority of Americans have little or no idea of how a physical plant substance could possibly be used to help in this way. My book will address these issues and take it further by delving into the world of psychoneuroimmunology to explain from a physiological point of view how health can be affected by emotion through its connection to immune response.

There are times when accidents or exposure to toxic chemicals or air- or insect-borne illnesses make us sick. But it has been shown repeatedly that our susceptibility to illness and our ability to recover has more to do with mental attitude and emotional well-being than any other factor. I believe that if we not only acknowledged the intimate connection between our emotional and physical well-being but gave people tools to work with their emotional distress we wouldn’t have as big a medical crisis today and most people’s medical bills wouldn’t be nearly as high. Dr. Edward Bach, the immunologist and medical doctor credited with originating Flower Essence Therapy, I’m sure would agree. He developed his flower remedies for that very purpose and intended that they be used as a system of self-care accessible to anyone without the need for extensive medical training.

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