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Self-Care Caregiver Wellness Retreat

The at-home Wellness Retreat for Caregivers of Alzheimer’s and other Dementias.

Take This Time For You.

Learn practical personal wellness and stress-relieving tools that we feel will become key strategies in building skills to help you thrive in any situation. Your self-care as the caregiver is essential to your physical, emotional, and mental well-being. 
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The Secret to Finding Balance
with Melissa Smith-Wilkinson
Founder of Caregiver Wellness Retreat

Is there a "Secret to Finding Balance"? I’ll confess I don’t believe there is such a thing as a balanced life. Striving for balance is like a pendulum swinging from one side to another always searching for the right mixture of illusive perfection. Consistently reaching the end of the to do list, isn’t necessarily sustainable. So how do we, as caregivers move toward a balanced life? Listen to find out.

Melissa is the Executive Director of Caregiver Wellness Retreat which she founded after her step-mother was diagnosed with Early On-set. Her passion for creating connection through community and offering the gift of wellness to caregivers began with her journey in the wellness industry at the age of 17. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, operates a boutique yoga studio, Pranava Yoga Studio, hosts renewal retreats and is currently in graduate school for clinical mental health. 

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Laughter Tips Just For You
with Dani Klein Modisett

In this video, Dani Klein Modisett touches on two key tools for going the distance, A for Appreciation and L for letting go! Sounds like a nursery school lesson but it’s part of a bigger acronym to create connection through shared laughter.

Dani Klein Modisett is the comedian and author of the book L.A. Magazine picked as one of 7 must read books, “Take My Spouse, Please.” (Shambhala Press, 2015). Her first book, “Afterbirth: Stories You Won't Read in a Parenting Magazine,” (St. Martin’s Press, 2009), was based on a live show she created by the same name. Dani taught Stand-Up at UCLA for 10 years and privately for 10 more. She has also coached keynote speakers, business leaders, and Congressional candidates to use more humor in their interactions. Her writing has appeared in AARP, NY Times, LA Times, Parents Magazine, and many websites.  


After her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Dani had the idea to hire a comedian to cheer her mother up. So she did. The life-changing effect this had on her mother’s life inspired her to launch, "Laughter On Call."


Breath Play
with Mary Oppermann

The breath is something we do without having to think about it— thank goodness! And, yet, through our breath, we can actually regulate our nervous system and help take back our ability to emotionally regulate our moods and actions. It’s the gateway to wellbeing and probably one of the simplest ways to can access calm in any situation.

Your breath has recuperative powers. This Integrative Breathing technique is a tool for bringing us back to a full, complete, connected breath.  Once practiced, it can be used any place, any time to restore ease and vitality in our being. Take just a few moments to settle into a comfortable place and enjoy this peaceful session of BreathPlay with Mary.

Certified through Yoga Alliance at the E- RYT500 level, Mary Oppermann has been a teacher of yoga since 2002. She completed Advanced Teacher Trainings in 2004, 2005, 2006 & 2009, and is also a Thai Yoga Bodyworker, Reiki Master, Life Upgrade Coach and Enlightened Iridologist. Because of Mary’s passion for Breath, her practice led her to become a Breath Facilitator. She completed her breath-work training in 2011, and because of the peace, clarity and joy it has brought into her life, she began integrating conscious breath in all her modalities. Mary was also a caregiver for both her mother and mother-in-law who had Alzheimer's.


Seated Yoga Sequence
with Dawn Ross

Moving your body will positively change your relationship with the day. The research is clear when you move, you feel better, think with more clarity, react less, and improve every system in the body. Movement is the quickest way to improve your mood and decrease stress. It’s more about consistency than it is intensity or duration. Move just enough and often and do it in a way that makes you feel good.

We move so that we can have more comfort and ease in the way that we go about our normal, routine activities. “Comfort doesn't change the challenges around me. It helps me be with those challenges in a way that is softer and gentler.“ - Dawn Ross 

Dawn Ross, our movement specialist has crafted a short segment just for you while you’re seated. It’s something you can do anytime and come back to again and again. Consider moving in such a way that it feels easeful, or if you experience chronic pain, move in a way that it doesn’t exacerbate pain sensations.  

Dawn is a brilliant IAYT Certified Yoga Therapist based in Calgary, Alberta with exceptional ability to link intuition with rationalism and teach other movement educators how to truly meet their students where they are. If you want more simple, usable, and useful body-brain goodness visit the Bit By Bit Bodyworks Online Movement Studio.

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Balancing Heart & Mind Meditation
with Justine Fanarof

We have partnered with the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation from the inception of our retreats to share a form of meditation that is showing evidence toward improving memory for those that practice this technique consistently. It’s called the Kirtan Kriya and is a mixture of chanting, meditation, and breathing. It’s been our most popular session at every retreat. 

To have Justine's guidance is a special treat for us. You’ll want to incorporate these meditations into your daily or weekly wellness routines. You don’t need anything fancy to do this practice, just your body and a chair. Before you play the recording, find a comfortable seat, feet on the ground, hands resting on your thighs. Know that your eyes can softly close if that’s comfortable for you, or you can rest your gaze at something soothing within your visual field. Start to feel your breath, in and out through your nose, releasing the exhale out of the mouth as necessary to let out any frustration, anger, grief, or pent-up energy.
When you finish, take a moment to notice how your body feels now, compared to before you began. Then, continue with
the next meditation, as the first has prepared you well to receive it.  

Justine K. Fanarof, JD, MPH, E-RYT 500 has been teaching yoga since 2004. Justine has extensive experience teaching a range of students and excels at creating a warm and welcoming yoga practice and learning environment where each student is met with care and attention. Justine, is the owner of Fanarof Law and Justine Yoga and the creator of Mindful Law Firm™. A yoga and mindfulness teacher and practicing lawyer, Justine combines her expertise to offer a much-needed alternative to the often aggressive culture of law.

Justine is on the faculty of The Jung Center, Houston and co-teaches Jewish Mindfulness retreats with Rabbi Ariel Sholklapper. When not teaching yoga, she can be found practicing mindful law, walking her rescue dog Lulu-Jai, ocean swimming, and being of service to her family, friends, and community.

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Let it Be-Mindfulness Meditation
with Chris Webb

Music has the mystical power of pulling us into an experience in which we might not have had otherwise. The arrangement of harmony through coordinated notes can draw us into the moment, or it can lure us into the past. The power of music for a person with dementia is undeniable. Memories are stirred, emotions are palpable when they begin to recognize a tune or tap their fingers.  


Music stimulates the brain’s auditory cortex and frontal lobe of the brain. It has the immediate benefits of reducing stress, improving immunity, and even enhancing cognitive function, memory, language, and emotional expression. 

Music therapy is the use of music to reach non-musical goals. For example, teaching someone how to play an instrument for self-expression, to improve self-esteem, or as an alternative coping skill to negative behaviors. Helping someone re-learn how to speak or walk after a brain injury by asking them to sing with their favorite song or walk to the rhythm of the music. The benefit of music is that most everyone can relate or connect with it, rapport is built faster and allows us to express ourselves when we may not be able to find the words whether through sharing music, writing music, or playing music. 

Chris Webb, Music Therapist and Senior Rehabilitation Counselor has worked in psychiatry for 27 years. She enjoys helping individuals learn to express themselves, identify their wellness goals and reach.


She teaches cognitive behavior therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, wellness planning, and how to live a balanced life. Additionally, she offers music therapy, functional, leisure, and vocational consults.


STOP: A Mini Mindfulness Meditation
with Beth Reese, PhD

"The practice of mindfulness invites us to see things as they really are. Not as we imagine or wish them to be. It invites us to look deeply into our lives… especially at unpleasant..." (Christiane Wolf, Greg Serpa)

Author Dr. Rick Hanson shares that the brain and body are always looking for 3 things: safety, satisfaction, connection. When they are not present, we can have feelings that show up in the body. Based on all that is happening in your life as a caregiver right now, you may have a lot of feelings!

In this guided practice with Beth, you’ll experience a simple 3 minute exercise that is designed to STOP negative emotions quickly and give us the pause you need to respond thoughtfully. Practicing mindfulness meditations enable us to cultivate clear vision and compassionate responses amidst most circumstances in our daily lives. Consider that it's like brushing your teeth to support your energy and emotional levels. 


STOP is great to use anytime and anywhere you notice the mind ruminating, or you're not feeling your best and want to cultivate an intentional response. STOP stands for: 


T=Take a breath

O=Observe your outer and inner landscape

P=Proceed in peace

Beth, PhD, E-RYT, RCYT, YACEP, is an educator and single mom of 3 kids, including one who has what many consider to be a spectrum disorder. Realizing that what Beth was learning on her yoga mat could help her daughter—and others— “off the mat”, in 2008 she founded Yogiños: Yoga for Youth®. She leads trainings and offers the Yoga Alliance approved Registered Children’s Yoga Teacher (RCYT) credential, as well as, professional development workshops for individuals, teachers, schools, and museums in numerous cities and states. Beth is also the creator, producer and host of The OHMazing® Way podcast bringing mindfulness and yoga on and off the mat to teachers, parents and families!


Beth's recent focus on practicing and teaching mindfulness meditation stem from commitments to disrupt her habitual reactions to stress (also known as blowing up!) and a tendency to be easily distracted or unfocused. Mindfulness practices awaken and strengthen how we see and experience the present moment—outside and inside—with intention, attention, action, and compassion.

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Tips for Healthy Cooking
with Cara Miller and Megan Magill

At each of our in-person retreats, we take great pride in offering nutritious meals to our caregivers. We work closely with our sponsors and chefs at every retreat to make sure the meals are simple, healthy ingredients that are easily replicable at home. We avoid all processed foods and sugar and make everything from scratch for our caregivers. Our aim is to showcase how food is the source of your energy, as well as, the key to feeling vibrant and sustaining the long hours of caregiving.

Why does our relationship with food matter?  We understand your concerns for your own cognitive health as well as the person you care for with dementia. There are quick changes you can make right away such as choosing whole foods that have the greatest amount of nutritional value and flavor and making them easily accessible during the day.

Looking at overall wellness and not making strict rules makes these changes more sustainable. In Francie Healey’s book, Eat to Beat Alzheimer’s, she writes:


“Living life in a rigid, rule-following fashion regarding diet is not sustainable. Ongoing self-exploration is.  Build the relationship with yourself so that you are at the forefront of your own health journey. Be the student of your needs, and the expert of your own intuition. This kind of alignment with oneself is the very core of flexible, fluid, and loving sustainable care.”

Cara Miller and Megan Magill, Holistic Health Coaches and co-founders of Simply Seasonal, offer in this short video the simplest way to use food to enhance the health for both you and the person you care for with dementia. It’s our hope that you’ll focus more on consistent, sustainable health than rigidity and rules. May the food you eat and share bring comfort and renewed energy.  


For a full list of the recipes from the Houston Caregiver Wellness Retreat, click here. 

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Paying Attention to the Breath
with Kim Taurins

In this video, we take you back to the basics of minding the breath as another tool for managing stressful situations. A simple meditation to settle down the inner emotional weather. Enjoy this seated or lying down with legs elevated and draw your attention to the breath. 

Kim Taurins, one of our consistent volunteer facilitators will guide you through a very practical approach to paying attention to the breath. Her soothing voice and direct guidance will take less than 10 minutes to complete, and we promise, you’ll feel renewed and calm afterward.  

Kim Taurins, a longtime volunteer at our Houston Caregiver Wellness Retreat. She is the Owner of Union Studio and has studied and practiced yoga since 2001. Her certification is a 500 hour E-RYT level with an emphasis in yoga therapeutics, bodywork, and special classes for women. In addition to her yoga studies, she’s a Daoist Priest, Master Reiki, and initiated with the rites of Medicine Buddha Reiki. 

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