| AspenTimes.com

Tony Vagneur: Don’t worry, we’ll get there, so … ski ya on the mountain

It was a cloudy, flat light kind of opening day. Thanksgiving, sometime in the 1950s. And not all that unusual. We’d made one run down Ruthie’s, a rocky descent that wasn’t much fun. Similar to hunt-and-peck typing, it was look for a decent place to turn and hope you didn’t hit something. So, we loaded up on #1 again, the old single-seater with the canvas covers, talking up a different plan. “Let’s go to the top, the snow has to be better.” Maybe.

Reaching Midway (top of FIS), I flung the steel gate open with hopes for a finer day. Back then, if you wanted to ski down to #3 (Ajax Express), one had to pole or skate around the bull wheel enclosure at the top of #1, then pack up a way to get to the road and around the bottom of #2. It was all numbers in those days — no one had heard of naming a chairlift.

Red’s and Percy’s hadn’t yet been cut and folks had to ski out to Tourtelotte Park on the road and down to #3. Unless, of course, we got on #2 (which was decommissioned before the naming craze) so we could bail out onto the road just before Bonnie’s current location. The chairs in that spot cruised by at about 4 or 5 feet off the ground, but it never was as much fun as we envisioned it.

Anyway, already feeling sorry for my skis after that Ruthie’s run, and then side-stepping up to get to the Tourtelotte road, I was a little grumpy. You had to pack up over a field of sharp rocks that previous skiers had exposed by doing a side-slip coming the other way off Midway Cut-off. And I got unbalanced or something and slipped just a bit with my downhill ski on those jagged rocks, taking a big gouge out of the bottom.

I’d spent hours in the basement, hand-sanding the bottoms of those skis and then re-applying layer after layer of green, Faski wax, making the bases almost a work of art. Damn. P-Tex hadn’t yet made it to Aspen, at least not for me.

It was almost religion for guys like us, Terry Morse, Spook James and me, to hit Aspen Mountain on opening day. It was the only game in town then, and we knew how to work the mountain, but that first day was generally a refresher. It seems we were always a little short on snow, and there might have been a year the opening was postponed a few days. The day I’m talking about in this column seemed to be one of the worst. Even my grandmother, who didn’t ski, had told me I should stay home.

We used to say that Darcy Brown, the Ski Corp. president¸ had a direct line to Mother Nature for it always seemed to snow in time for Thanksgiving, at least enough to get the lifts open. That is, until the 1976-77 season, when Aspen Mountain didn’t open until January.

That was the winter Buck Deane and I had a tidy little Christmas vacation business of giving horse-drawn lunch rides at the T Lazy 7 for tourists who had little else to do. I’d haul Buck, his guitar and a sleigh load of folks up Maroon Creek to our lunch spot, all of it on private property, drop them off and then return to the ranch to get another group. Buck would cook burgers, sing and entertain, and about an hour later, I’d be back with a new group, returning the first bunch back to civilization. Skiing?

Speaking of snow and the ’70s, Hugh Slowinski, Huck, bartender at the Paragon, horseshoer and general gadabout, and I used to get the annual Christmas tree for the Eagles Club when it was in its original location (Prada). The ceilings were high in there, requiring large trees. Tradition, or availability, one or the other, always led us to Larkspur Mountain, above Lenado, where we usually managed to top out even after December was well-established. In those years, only once did we fail to fulfill our task of a very large tree. The snow was too deep.

So today, we squirm and we wonder, when are we going to get a storm, forgetting every year is different. Thanksgivings come and go, so do the good, early snow years. The Skico was smart and got additional snowmaking to the top, so that coupled with the “ribbon of death” down Little Nell, is enabling us to have our ski season. It just requires a little patience.

As my friend Hesse says, “Ski ya on the mountain.”

Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at ajv@sopris.net.

Proposed changes would impact Aspen home values

Attention, residential property owners! The city of Aspen is currently working on updating its housing mitigation fees and regulations for residential properties which will dramatically, from $60,000 to $474,000 in typical example, increase housing mitigation fees by eliminating credits for existing improvements and changing the definition of square feet for purposes of assessing housing mitigation fees from permitted floor area to gross floor area including all basement space, garages, etc.

While the imposition of these fees is only assessed with development, massively increasing fees impacts the value of a home/site as any reasonable developer/builder/buyer takes into consideration all significant costs when considering a site acquisition. Simply put, site costs + design fees + hard construction costs + city mitigation fees + value creation/profit = total budget/value. If the cost of any one of the inputs rises materially, either the total budget/value must go up, or the other costs, most likely site costs, must go down.

For anyone who might be considering redevelopment of their Aspen home, the proposed change to housing mitigation fees adds hundreds of thousands to the cost. In my opinion, for Aspen’s smaller, older homes, the impact on value of this massive increase in fees is several hundred thousand, $410,000 based on the city’s example of typical current build-out.

This change is set for a second hearing before City Council and likely approval on Dec. 14.

Development should pay its fair share of housing and other impacts, but regulations, fees and taxes should be fairly assessed and recognize the many ways that free-market, resident-occupied homes support and satisfy community housing needs.

I urge Aspen’s residential property owners to be aware of new city policies that are being proposed that will impact the value of your home.

Mike Maple


Cornerstone pastor stands up for kids, parents

Reading local articles regarding Cornerstone and the health authority, it appears the pastor and his congregation are a bunch of far-right bigots who want to infect everyone with COVID-19, while the holier-than-thou health authority is only concerned about protecting people.

Here’s the reality when it comes to the great mask debate:

1. Opinion on masks: Cornerstone is neither for nor against masks. The stance is people should be free to protect themselves as they wish. Whether at Sunday service or at the school, the policy is that people should be free to choose how to protect themselves. Wear five masks and get three booster shots, or do nothing at all. Manage risk as you see fit.

2. Pointing out hypocrisy: Yes, Pastor Jim Tarr has made it abundantly clear that he is against the blatant hypocrisy of national, state, local leadership. One example: former president Obama throwing a lavish (and maskless) birthday party as delta is at a high point, whiles schools are told to mask up children.

3. Parent rights: Cornerstone places parents and students above all others, especially unelected bureaucrats. This isn’t an empty promise like most schools where you see presentations or organizational charts that claim parents and students are top priority, while they actually pander to donors and unions. Pastor Jim Tarr is actually fighting and prepared to accept fines/jail to stand up for parents and students.

4. Other school outbreaks: Does anyone find it curious that other schools in our valley are having outbreaks despite following the mask mandate?

Let’s not forget that it was none other than Tony “I am science” Fauci who claimed at the beginning of all this that masks aren’t effective at stopping Covid. Maybe Cornerstone is just “following the science” that was outlined in early 2020 (or other studies since like the one recently from ONS comparing England and Scotland mask v. no mask mandates).

Or maybe the crazy Christians at Cornerstone are actually just thinkers who woke up early to the ruse that this would all end after two weeks to flatten the curve.

Chase McWhorter


Roger Marolt: Sometimes skiing don’t feel like it should: It hurts so good

Roger Marolt

Those claiming they know how to get in shape for skiing are either liars or they don’t know how to ski. Experience is the great teacher. If someone promises fitness for ski season, run as fast and far away from them as possible. And, you still won’t be any more physically prepared to tackle the slopes after you catch your breath and foam-roller you aching legs.

It’s a fact: after each of your first four days of skiing, your legs and lower back will ache. You will be so miserably sore that you will wonder if skiing is worth the effort. You might regret springing for the Aspen Premier pass. Striving for the 100-day pin will seem less a worthy goal of achievement than a prison sentence that cannot be shortened by good behavior. Of course this assumes you are skiing properly. If not, sliding down the mountain on your skis should pose no more day-after suffering than an afternoon of boutique shopping.

It goes without saying that this is a liberal media portrayal of early season skiing. A more balanced reporting of what skiing feels like after the first few runs would include some description saying something like “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” or “Biden sucks in the bumps.” At any rate, the basic message is the same — working into an enjoyable ski season takes time.

The fact that I have used “skiing” or “ski” nine times in the first three paragraphs of this column offers a clue as to why it is impossible to get in shape for this sport. Just as there is no suitable substitute word for “skiing,” there is neither a suitable physical activity to replicate the act of skiing.

You can do deep squats in the gym, but if you incorporate that exaggerated movement into your skiing, you are going to get super sore and/or blow your ACL. If you are into long distance running and try to incorporate that plan of attack into your skiing, you are going to get super sore and/or blow your ACL. If you play a lot of tennis to hone your ability to stop, start, and shift directions quickly and use short twitch muscles that allow you to do these things in your skiing, you are going to get super sore and/or blow your ACL. Bicycling thousands of miles as training for skiing? All that’s going to do is harden your butt for riding old, slow ski lifts and/or blowing your ACL.

In the old days there seemed to be an ongoing debate in town over whether or not skiing was exercise. It seemed to me that more people than not agreed that skiing was not exercise. I never understood this. As an overactive 10-year-old, nothing made my muscles ache except the first couple of days of skiing every winter. There was the time I decided to practice for the sixth-grade standing broad jump the day before the test in gym class until my stomach felt funny and woke up to abdominal muscles that were too sore to touch, but that was the only thing I recall doing that produced anything like the pain of the first day of skiing.

All said, my advice is to forget about the idea of getting into shape for skiing. One of the best things about living where we do is the change of season. Not only does flipping the pages of the calendar bring different temperature ranges and new nature-scapes to look at, the shifting environmental conditions push us into different kinds of exercises. Just as soon as the spring slush starts getting a little too soft and sticky, the shoulders of the roads get swept off and we get out the road bikes. When the summer traffic arrives we move to the trails for running, hiking, and mountain biking. Falls are perfect for casual sightseeing walks after morning yoga. Finally, the first snowfalls of winter bring us around to the inevitably excruciating pain of a new ski season. It’s the beautiful circle of mountain fitness.

What it comes down to is trying to accept the initial pain of not only the first days of skiing, but all activities we eventually get into decent enough shape to kind of enjoy, because, in the end, most of us end up fat and reminiscent. And, the few who don’t, get lots of wrinkles from the long runs they do where the sunscreen was all sweated off after the first three miles.

Roger Marolt thinks the physical pain of early season skiing is better than the pain of remembering where he stored his ski socks, goggles, and gloves last spring. roger@maroltllp.com

High Points: The Broncos — So, you’re saying there’s a chance

I don’t want to jinx it.

But for the first time in a while, a long while, the Denver Broncos have a significant game in December. That’s right the 6-5 Denver Broncos, fresh off a win vs the Los Angeles Chargers face the 7-4 Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City on Sunday Night Football with first place in the AFC West on the line. If the Broncos, the team that lost 4 straight October games, can upset the defending AFC Champion Chiefs they will, after week 13, be in charge of their destiny with five games left in the regular season.

Who would have thunk it? Certainly not I. But since Halloween the Broncos, with a misstep against the Eagles at home, have won three of the last their last four games and they have ratcheted up their play to a level that few would have expected. I’m not sure that even the players are confident in their chances. The bookies aren’t, as they have opened the week by making the Chiefs 9.5-point favorites over the Broncos.

Consider that the Chiefs have been to the last two Super Bowls. They are coming off a bye that followed a four-game winning streak and they seem to have righted a ship that began the year listing, especially on defense. They are led by Patrick Mahomes, one of the, oh, top two or three QBs in the NFL, and the game is being played at their house, one of the loudest places on the planet.

Oh, and the Broncos last beat Kansas City back in week 2 of the 2015 season when Peyton Manning (remember that guy?) led Denver to the win. The Chiefs have won 11, that is eleven, straight games against Denver.

So, what are the Bronco’s chances that they will board a flight back to Denver on Sunday night as the AFC West leaders? Honestly slim and none. But slim has ,on more than one occasion this NFL season, outraced none to victory. I’m just saying….there’s a chance.

If the Broncos are to win, they need to run the ball well using Melvin Gordon III and the emerging rookie Javonte Williams to their advantage. Both of Denver’s running backs have rushed for over 500 yards and are one of just three duos to do so this season. And they can’t turn the ball over. Give the Chiefs extra possessions and the result will be a .500 record by game’s end. And they need to keep Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater standing tall. He has been beaten up with regularity this year and has been sacked 27 times already. Let the Chiefs hit him, and it is a lock (pun intended) that Kansas City will win. That reference is to Drew Lock, the Broncos back up quarterback who is from Lee’s Summit, MO, less than 15 miles from Arrowhead Stadium. Lock has yet to reach his potential.

But despite the odds and the statistics, the reason why the NFL is the juggernaut that it is is because you just never know what will happen next. There are few things less predictable than professional football and that is one reason why we tune in.

So, wrap the weekend up with a Sunday Night football at 6:20 MT. It could mean that the Broncos are in first place on Pearl Harbor Day.

Giving Thought: Start with the why to determine what causes to support

Tamara Tormohlen
Steve Mundinger

Charitable organizations collect the lion’s share of their donations during the “giving season,” the time between Thanksgiving and the New Year. Most nonprofits are sending out their annual appeals, and, quite frankly, the number of printed letters and email pleas one receives can be overwhelming. No one can give to every deserving charity, so the discarded we-need-your-help materials often leave behind a residue of guilt. Fortunately, there’s an alternative to those remorseful feelings.

Meet Danielle Howard, a certified financial planner practitioner who takes a uniquely personal and holistic approach to money management. “Giving and sharing are foundational parts of a healthy financial life,” she says, and she encourages her clients to incorporate giving — whether it’s money, volunteer time or expertise — into their lives and their budgets.

Charitable giving comes in all shapes and sizes, from simply writing a check to actually building homes and wilderness trails. Some of us give to schools or youth programs, while others are more attuned to the environment or social justice issues. In Howard’s view, the key element is identifying the mission or cause that matters most to you.

“What are you passionate about?” she asks. “If you’re reading the paper or watching the news, what brings you to tears or makes you angry? That’s where you should put your money, time or expertise.”

There are also different kinds of givers. Some are systematic and prefer to give a little every month to one or more chosen organizations. Others like to set aside money in their budget for giving, but dole out money more spontaneously, to a fund drive they just heard about, or a cause that a Facebook friend suggested.

Some individuals are motivated by religious or spiritual practices; others may have experienced a health issue or family challenge that made a deep impact. There is no right or wrong in how or where you give. The key is to be deliberate and intentional about it.

“There are only so many hours in a day and so many dollars in the bank,” Howard says. “If you’re using some of your money in service of your core values, then you’re going to be happier. You won’t be giving out of guilt or compulsion or other reasons that we can fall into.”

Here is a question that Howard likes to ask her clients: What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail at it? Perhaps that thing — whether it’s saving whales or curing cancer — is where you should invest some time or money.

Another thing she strongly recommends is an “attitude of gratitude,” which can be a truly liberating force in our lives. “When you appreciate what you have in every area of life — relationships, work, material possessions, financial resources, health, etc. — it frees you from the constant pursuit of more and gives you the freedom to share what you have,” Howard says.

So, if you want to give and share but don’t know how or where to put your energy, if you’re dazed and confused by all those nonprofit pleas in your email inbox, then consider creating a personal mission statement or giving plan to organize your approach. Being clear and intentional about your chosen cause or organizations will feel good. And, on a more practical level, it will enable you to say “no” to the pleas that don’t fit.

If you’re having trouble deciding how much you can afford or navigating other details of your plan, then call a financial advisor. Maybe you don’t know whether to give now, while you’re healthy and can see the impacts of your generosity, or to make your gifts part of your estate. Many people work with attorneys and financial planners to coordinate gifts that occur after they die.

Whatever your financial situation, giving is a good thing. The details are up to you, and the more thought and care you put into your giving, the better it will serve your values and warm your heart.

“The research is out there that more money doesn’t bring you more happiness, and we know you can’t take it with you,” Howard says. “If we’re mindful about where our money goes and grateful for the opportunity we have to choose where it goes, then it creates an upward spiral.”

Tamara Tormohlen is executive director of Aspen Community Foundation.

Help local families fill Holiday Baskets

The Holiday Baskets Program has been supplying new gifts, toys and food to people in need in our valley for 40 years. This program, run entirely by volunteers, is a wonderful community effort with numerous groups and individuals assisting. We serve approximately 250 families, over 1,000 people. The Holiday Baskets program often gives the only gifts families will receive for the holidays.

People are referred to the program by 13 local social service agencies and are then “adopted” by individuals, the faith community, schools, businesses and other groups. The Adopting Angels buy toys, gifts and/or gift cards for each member of the family.

There are always more families in need than are adopted. The gifts for these families are contributed by people who choose a gift tag and then purchase the requested gift. All these gifts are gathered at the Aspen Chapel and St. Peter’s Church in Basalt, where they are sorted and wrapped for individual families. In addition to gifts, each family member receives a generous City Market food gift card.

To adopt a family or an individual person, please send an email to rfvholidaybaskets@gmail.com. We also gratefully accept donations, which are used to purchase food gift cards for over 1,000 people. Checks may be sent to Holiday Baskets Program PO Box 2192 Basalt, Co. 81621. You may also donate on our website: holidaybasketsprogram.com

Thank you to all for your continued support of this program.

Anne Blackwell


Guest commentary: Feeding people matters, and schools like CSU focus on that mission

Dr. Tony Frank

On the same day in 1863, the U.S. government created both its own Department of Agriculture and a new model of higher-education institution — land-grant universities — that also focused on preparing people to feed a growing nation.

Land-grant universities like Colorado State continue to focus on the fight against hunger in their teaching, research and outreach activities. Today, the business of feeding the world has to consider issues around sustainability, the importance of bridging wealth gaps, urban-rural divides, and divisions around size of the production unit. Discussions have to address global protein and calorie insecurity — and consumer preferences for how that protein and those calories are produced. That’s a tall order, and one that can only be met through collaboration and partnerships. But this truth abides: Feeding people mattered yesterday, it matters today, and it will matter tomorrow.

That is the primary driver behind the creation of our CSU Spur campus, which opens in Denver in January. It’s the reason for the critical and ongoing work of our CSU faculty in agricultural sciences, and the shared commitment among all three of our CSU campuses to fighting hunger in our own communities and beyond.

Why does it matter? More than 38 million people in the U.S. experienced hunger last year. One in six American children doesn’t know where they will get their next meal. One in 14 American seniors faced hunger before the pandemic, and that situation has dramatically worsened with COVID-19. And while rural America produces the food that nourishes our planet, 87 percent of counties with the highest rates of overall food insecurity are rural. Black, Latinx, and Native American households all experience hunger at more than twice the rate of white households.

Our CSU campuses and Extension teams have long focused on finding ways to combat these statistics. The Community Alliance for Education and Hunger Relief — a project of the Colorado Agricultural Experiment Station and its Western Colorado Research Center — annually harvests and delivers nearly 100,000 pounds of food grown on the campus to people in need on the Western Slope. Both our Fort Collins and Pueblo campuses are designated as Hunger-Free Campuses by the Colorado Department of Higher Education, and our campuses have focused on programs to combat hunger in their own communities with the Pack Pantry in Pueblo and Rams Against Hunger in Fort Collins.

That commitment to improving lives extends to how we link research and teaching with the real-world food challenges facing Colorado. CSU faculty are critically focused on questions of biosecurity and how to help protect our food system from threats to crop and animal health. They’ve partnered with producers around the state to support long-term productivity through facilities that include the San Luis Valley Potato Research Station and one of the nation’s leading wheat genetics laboratories. We’ve worked to expand access to agricultural education with cooperative degree programs offered jointly with other Colorado campuses. In partnership with donors, alumni and the state of Colorado, CSU has invested millions in additional base funding for its agricultural sciences programs and experiment stations and tens of millions in improved facilities on campus and around the state — because we know there is critical work ahead of us, and it is foundational to who we are to show up with sleeves rolled up, ready to work.

This work ties our modern educational and outreach missions directly to the foundational elements of our heritage as land-grant universities. It challenges us to share our best practices within Colorado and across borders, and to never lose sight of the fact that our actions serve our fellow human beings, regardless of national boundaries, race, religion, or language. Feeding people – all people – matters.

Dr. Tony Frank is the Chancellor of the Colorado State University System.

John Colson: A known killer working at the U.S. Capitol?

The ongoing governmental takeover being engineered by right-wing forces in the United States got a strange little nudge recently with the exoneration of shooter Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old from Illinois who shot two people to death and wounded another during a protest against police brutality in a town near Milwaukee.

It was exceedingly interesting that close on the heels of Rittenhouse’s acquittal on five charges, we learned that a Georgia jury convicted three vigilante-type white men who chased and killed a Black man they caught jogging through their neighborhood.

I’d say observers of all this are to be forgiven if they feel a bit whiplashed by the two cases, as they have been taken by some to be proof that our courts cannot possibly be even-handed in the dispensing of criminal justice, and by others as proof of just the opposite — that our courts are operating just as they should be.

I’m not so sure about all this, but I note that the Kenosha, Wisconsin, jury completely bought Rittenhouse’s claim that he was acting in self-defense against rioters who were threatening him, though his victims were unarmed (the judge ruled that label could not be used during the trial).

In addition, the judge in the case committed what I view as grievous errors, such as his bizarre dismissal of a charge that the defendant was too young to be carrying, and using, a loaded rifle on the streets, although neither of his victims was armed. Testimony revealed that one of the men who died threw a bag of socks and other personal stuff at Rittenhouse, and the other tried to grab the rifle out of Rittenhouse’s hands. The man who was wounded, according to news reports, did have a gun and at one point pointed it in Rittenhouse’s direction out of fear for his own life.

The accusation that Rittenhouse was acting as a provocateur by carrying his assault-style rifle seemed not to have made much of an impression on the jury or the judge.

In any event, many observers see in the Rittenhouse verdict a kind of declaration of open season on protesters around the country, particularly since a number of deranged members of the U.S. Congress, including Colorado’s own Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Rifle), have been doing their best to get close to Rittenhouse by offering him internships in their offices.

It is notable that Rittenhouse’s attorney has denounced these offers as “disgusting” examples of opportunistic politicians trying to cash in on his client’s troubles, which I find supremely ironic given that Rittenhouse’s defense benefited massively by celebrity support and donations from right-wing sympathizers.

In her zeal to use Rittenhouse and to gain some of the shine he’s enjoying, Boebert (along with other Republicans) has tried to inject a little supposed humor in this sordid mess. Representatives Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, Paul Gosar of Arizona and Matt Gaetz of Florida, a triad of deeply authoritarian thugs, began joking about arm-wrestling contests to see who gets to claim Rittenhouse as his own pet thug, leading Boebert to one-up them by challenging Cawthorn (who is wheelchair bound) to a “sprint” race to see who gets to claim Rittenhouse.

So not only is this crew of legislative Neanderthals seemingly endorsing Rittenhouse’s violence and recklessness, they are doing so in the kind of bad taste that should be condemned by the leadership of their party and the nation as a whole.

Instead, we are being treated to silence from the GOP leadership, raucous claims of solidarity with the shooter from some elected officials, and a general circus atmosphere that seems to align well with the Republican Party’s apparent conclusion that government is simply a farcical game.

But I’d like to know if this is how we want our government to proceed into the future.

Do we believe it is right or acceptable to allow this kind of celebration of homicidal recklessness?

Do we think it is just another day at the office when a man who shot two people to death and got away with it is invited to work at the nation’s capitol?

Gosar, I should point out, was recently censured by the House of Representatives for online videos of himself killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) and swinging two swords at President Joe Biden, which if I had done it would likely be considered a crime.

If Rittenhouse does get an internship as a consequence of his actions, might he feel emboldened to bring weapons into the U.S. capitol and, egged on by his cabal of supporters, to use them at some point against perceived political enemies?

Far-fetched imaginings? Perhaps, but it’s worrying, nonetheless.


Judson Haims: We need to recognize behavior issues related to dementia

When we hire caregivers, we often find that the applicants have a wide range of experiences. Some applicants have been nurses for many years and others are just beginning their nurse training. Regardless of medical training and life experiences, one thing we have noticed is that most persons are relatively unfamiliar with how to work with patients and/or loved ones who exhibit behavior concerns that may be related to dementia.

How would you explain the meaning of the following words to a grade school child?

• Irony

• Symbolism

• Esoteric

Did you have to take a few moments to think about the meanings? What about a proper description using words appropriate for their vocabulary? This could be challenging, even frustrating.

Have you ever awoken in your bed and briefly felt you did not know where you were? If you have, was it briefly unsettling?

For persons with any type of dementia — Vascular dementia, Parkinson’s disease, dementia with Lewy Bodies and Frontotemporal dementia — such frustrations and unsettling occurrences happen regularly.

Often, people with dementia may overreact to an inconsequential setback or minor criticism. This might involve them screaming, shouting, making unreasonable accusations, becoming very agitated or stubborn, crying or laughing uncontrollably or inappropriately. This tendency to overreact is part of the illness and is called a catastrophic reaction.

A caregiver’s role, training and education when dealing with behavior concerns is vital. There may be occasions when the caregiver is no longer a bystander and must intervene in order to prevent an escalation in a behavioral situation from developing. Such situations can be physical, verbal or behavioral concerns. If the caregiver acts to prevent abuse, the caregiver should take steps.

When our prospective caregivers go through our training seminars, we educate them on a number of techniques to deal with behavioral concerns. The following information may be helpful for you when dealing your loved ones.

Deal with behavioral issues in the same way as aggression. The caregiver needs to stay calm and be clear in her/his directions. Do not get drawn into an argument or become aggressive; however, make it very clear that the abusive behavior will not be tolerated. Try asking questions to help understand their frustration, i.e. “I want to see if we can work this out, can you explain to me more about what’s going on?”

The caregiver should only intervene directly if there is immediate risk. The caregiver will need to use their communication skills to ensure that they do not make the situation worse and to ensure the person at risk is protected. Be aware of the level of your voice along with the tone and pitch. Also, if possible, try and speak to the person at an eye level lower than theirs — you don’t want to appear to dominate. Additionally, be aware of your body language, facial expression (try smiling) and eye contact.

If the caregiver must intervene in an abusive situation, they will need to act assertively. The caregiver must state firmly and clearly what they want to happen. Do not shout, panic or get into an argument. The caregiver can deal with the consequences later; the key is to stop the aberrant behavior. This is a time for action on the part of the caregiver, not the time for discussion (that can come later). An article, “Alzheimer’s and Dementia Behavior Management” from HelpGuide.org has some great information as does this article, from the Alzheimer’s Association, “Preventing and managing aggressive behavior in people with dementia.“

Expression can often be frustrating for persons with cognitive disabilities. You need to think out-of-the-box to find solutions that may aid them. We have found that using pictures and iPads are great tools. For persons with artistic abilities, painting and drawing can be not only soothing, but also a means of communicating feeling and emotions. Cooking and music are also great tools.

If you notice the onset of behavior changes with your loved one, be aware of changes to the environment, social interaction and overstimulation. Think about the person’s surroundings, as these will have an effect on their behavior. It may be that you can make small changes to the home that will make it a better environment for the person with dementia.

There are many resources available to provide education both here in the valley and online. Locally, you can call the Hope Center at 970-306-4673. Online, The Mayo Clinic and the Alzheimer’s Association are great resources.

Understanding what is causing the person’s behavior can help you find a solution. Remember, the behaviors are symptoms of dementia and are not meant to deliberately upset you.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Aspen, Basalt, and Carbondale. He is an advocate for our elderly and is available to answer questions. His contact information is www.visitingangels.com/comtns or 970-328-5526.