Tuesday, August 11, 2015

How to Win the Fight: 10 Lessons Learned from the Marriage Equality Movement

by Marc Solomon
National campaign director for Freedom to Marry 
and author of Winning Marriage

As the whole country knows by now, back in June the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples now have the freedom to marry and equal respect for their marriages across America. This ruling has brought immense joy to families and rings out a final victory to the decades-long marriage movement.

Last fall, my book, Winning Marriage: The Inside Story of How Same-Sex Couples Took on the Politicians and Pundits—And Won, came out in the wake of the Supreme Court's overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act, helping set the stage for this year's ultimate historic ruling. And now, as we reflect on this win, I'm thrilled that my book's upcoming release in paperback will include a new afterword—a final chapter, if you will—on the battle we waged to secure the right for all Americans to marry the person they want.

After more than a decade on the front lines of the marriage movement, what’s now most important to me is ensuring that the most crucial lessons we learned from the battle are available to and understood by other social movements. Every movement offers its own opportunities and challenges and I don’t pretend that the marriage playbook provides all the answers. But I do know that whether we’re talking non-discrimination protections for LGBT people, criminal justice reform, gun violence prevention, remedies to economic inequality, or measures to address climate change, there are important lessons to be learned from our fight.

1. Convey a bold, inspirational vision.

Identify a vision of what you really want to accomplish and communicate it early and often. The aspirational possibility of being able to marry spurred hundreds of thousands of regular people to become champions—something a watered-down goal like civil unions wouldn't have accomplished. While half-measures along the way are part and parcel of our political system, accepting increments must not preclude reaching the true goal, reminding people and politicians why it matters, and not ultimately settling for anything less.

Marc Solomon, author of Winning Marriage

2. Have an overarching strategy.

A strategy keeps focus, provides structure, and is crucial when the going gets tough. When Evan Wolfson embarked on winning marriage nationwide, he had a pathway to victory that envisioned a national ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. However, to get the Court to act, he knew—based on the lessons of history—that we needed to rack up victories in a critical mass of states and grow public support beyond a majority. That big-picture strategy for marriage was called the "Roadmap to Victory," and it provided a simple (but not easy!) approach that served us well when the going got tough and people questioned whether we were on the right path.

3. Focus on values and emotions.

With a cause that is as fundamentally important to so many as marriage, tapping into people's fundamental values in making the case is essential. We showed straight America why same-sex couples want to marry: out of profound love and commitment, which are the same reasons they want to! We thus helped them see that supporting marriage for same-sex couples syncs up with their own deep-seated values: the Golden Rule—treating others the way you'd want to be treated—and freedom—the right to live the way you want as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else. Tapping into those values was a powerful antidote to the fear mongering that our opponents employed (e.g., that the freedom to marry would harm children). One of the mistakes some of our campaigns made along the way was in focusing on messages that polled well but that didn't have emotional resonance.

4. Meet people where they are.

To make lasting change in America, it's crucial to make the case to people who are conflicted about your cause and give them time to really think it through. On marriage, we knew that pretty much everyone grew up in a society where they were taught that marriage was between a man and a woman, and in a faith tradition where they were taught that homosexuality was wrong. Many good people were conflicted, so we were asking them to take a journey that challenged some of their deepest understandings about marriage, family, and religion. That required engaging with them, leaving no question unanswered, and tackling their concerns head on. To get people to yes, we had to encourage them to open their minds and hearts, listen, question, and reconsider. That meant starting early and staying with it, and making the case in multiple ways. A shift like that is much less likely to happen if you write someone off or call those who aren't with you yet a bigot or bad person.

Marching through Greenwich Village in an ecstatic NYC Pride celebration after victory in Albany.


5. Find the right messengers.

Who delivers the message and how it is delivered matter as much as what the message is. The target audience—conflicted Americans—must identify with and trust the messenger. It was crucial that same-sex couples made the case in person to family members, neighbors, and friends about why marriage mattered so much. Over the airwaves, however, it was parents who were most effective. They could speak to their own struggle of accepting their child's sexuality and about their journey overcoming that struggle and ultimately wanting their gay kid to have all that they had, including the right to marry. Straight people could identify and empathize with that story. Also, unexpected champions like Republicans, first responders, service members, and clergy were especially effective in explaining and modeling how their own deeply held values of freedom, faith, and service to the country were squarely in line with the freedom to marry.

6. Build state campaigns designed to win.

Winning at the state level requires an experienced campaign manager running a professional campaign, with field organizers, communications professionals, and lobbyists reporting to the manager and a tight board managing the campaign and helping raise sufficient resources to carry out the plan. The campaign must also be designed to meet the challenge. For example, when we needed to fight against the repeal of a freedom to marry law in New Hampshire, where the Legislature was 80 percent Republican, we built a campaign heavy on GOP operatives and business leaders.

7. Invest heavily in local organizing.

Inspiring and mobilizing supporters and then enlisting them to persuade undecided elected officials and voters takes a robust organizing campaign. On challenging issues, too often advocates think they can win in a legislature with top-notch lobbyists or at the ballot exclusively with good television ads. That's simply not the case. Lawmakers and citizens are most often persuaded because they hear from people locally—regular citizens, same-sex couples, and influential leaders living in their own communities. On marriage, it's especially crucial to show that we're talking about same-sex couples and families who are active participants in their communities, not "those people out there in the big city."

Available in paperback, Sept. 15, 2015

8. Accept this political reality: Politicians care about re-election above almost everything else.

The most important priority for the vast majority of elected officials is continuing to be an elected official. That means that if elected officials think they're going to lose their seat by supporting your cause, you're going to lose. So you need to be relentless about engaging electorally. First and foremost, that means helping ensure that those who vote with you win re-election. In the first marriage state of Massachusetts, we re-elected every incumbent who voted our way on marriage—195 out of 195 in 2004 and 2006—in spite of a concerted effort by Gov. Mitt Romney and social conservatives to defeat some of them. And there's simply no better way to show lawmakers you're serious than by defeating a small number who vote against you. That means figuring out who is vulnerable, finding quality candidates to run against them, and using tried-and-true campaign techniques to defeat them. Fight Back New York, a PAC that marriage equality advocates set up in 2010, did just that. They took out three incumbents who voted against us on marriage and completely changed the political calculus in New York state.

9. Be serious about reaching across the aisle.

In today's terribly divided political climate, in order to get an issue to break through, it's extremely helpful—and in many cases essential—for the cause to be bipartisan. For causes that begin as liberal or progressive causes, it's so important to have Republican voices making the case. Doing so effectively means years of dedicated and serious work, demonstrating to sympathetic Republicans that you're serious about enlisting them, sensitive to their political concerns, and committed to helping them make the case in a way that serves both your needs and theirs. Having a Sen. Rob Portman, a Laura Bush, or a Dick Cheney speaking out on marriage was worth its weight in gold in shifting the center of gravity politically on the cause.

Launch of the Maine Yes on One campaign in front of Portland City Hall. Photo by Meagan Dobson.


 10. Build momentum every day.

A cause is either moving forward or backward. At the heart of my job as the national campaign director for Freedom to Marry has been figuring out how to grow momentum every single day. That meant being consistently creative and nimble in identifying opportunities to move the ball forward, and building a narrative in the media that your campaign is succeeding. So whether it's enlisting an unexpected Fortune 500 company or a new Republican member of Congress, amplifying a new public opinion poll that demonstrates growth in support, focusing attention on a winning streak in court, or going on television with a TV spot, making real accomplishments and connecting them to a compelling and cohesive narrative demonstrates that you're continuing to progress toward your goal. An especially crucial element of building momentum is conveying optimism—even in the face of defeats. You have to remind the base and the media that you can do this by highlighting the wins, large and small, that the campaign has already secured.

A similar version of this article appeared on Huffington Post. For more about Marc Solomon and his upcoming events, visit marcsolomon.com.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Fruits and Nuts of Prison Reform

by Chris Innes
author of Healing Corrections: The Future of Imprisonment

President Obama’s recent visit to a federal prison has highlighted an emerging bipartisan consensus in support of prison reform. The movement toward reform has been encouraged by the recognition that crime rates have fallen to levels not seen in 50 years while the number of people in American prisons continues to grow, albeit at a much slower pace than in recent decades. Of the interest in reform, the Wall Street Journal said, “Part of the reason is simple numbers: The U.S. is jailing people faster than the public can pay for them.” But even the most ambitious proposals for reform will still leave hundreds of thousands of people incarcerated.

The reason is that the current crop of reform proposals focus on a relatively small group that represent the so-called “low-hanging fruit” among the American prison population. Addressing the far larger share of people in prison will be a much harder nut to crack. The President, understandably, is focused on the Federal prison population, about half of whom are drug offenders. He and other advocates for reform have tended to talk most about people serving time for a drug offense and most especially about those people who are non-violent. But there are only about 200,000 Federal prisoners, out of the 1.5 million people serving sentences on American prisons. The fact is that the great majority of the people in prison are serving time for a violent offense, have a history of violence, and/or are repeat offenders with lengthy criminal records.

This raises the question of, after we are successful in accomplishing all the currently proposed reforms, “What’s next?” Mass incarceration is by no means our only problem when it comes to prisons. And the end of mass incarceration, when it comes, will create a future for imprisonment that will be vastly different from the one we now know. It may be that a downsized system will be worse than the one we have because we will be dealing with only the toughest cases. In other words, when we’ve stopped putting in prison all the people we think shouldn’t be there, what are we going to do with all those we think should be locked up? The subtitle of my book, Healing Corrections, is “The Future of Imprisonment.” The book provides a framework for creating healing environments within prisons and jails. It gives the answer to what secure institutions could be in the post-mass incarceration future.

When people first hear about the idea of creating a healing environment in prisons and jails, they often misunderstand its meaning. What is being healed, and thereby becomes healing, are the cultures within them. These cultures have become fragmented under the pressures of conflicting demands, limited resources, and the inevitable stresses and strains that go along with living or working in correctional settings. The focus of the transformation of these cultures is on the people who work there because they are the only ones who can do the work. Healing Corrections shows how people working in prisons and jails can be helped to communicate with each other and with inmates in constructive and compassionate ways to build a better place to work for themselves and healthier place to live for inmates.

Those who see the possibility of fundamental reform on our justice system are right. We are experiencing what could be a historic moment in our collective understanding of how the contradictions of and between our social, legal, and economic systems can be used to catalyze fundamental changes in order to re-create our justice system and redefine its role in society. One source of this change must be a transformation of the culture of corrections, which will, I believe, help initiate a shift in our society’s relationship to both the people who work for and those who literally live within our justice system. But along the way, we have some tough nuts to crack.

To learn more about Chris Innes' book, Healing Corrections, and to read his regular blog on this topic, visit www.healingcorrections.org.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Rainbow Was Real!: Dispatches from the Grateful Dead's Final Tour

By Michael Benson

As I was putting the finishing touches on my new book, Why the Grateful Dead Matter, to be published this winter by ForeEdge, reflecting upon cosmic events a half-century old, the last thing I was expecting was breaking news about the Grateful Dead. But on January 16, 2015, at 10:00 A.M., I received an email from the Dead announcing that Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Bruce Hornsby, with guests Trey Anastasio (uh oh, of Phish) and Jeff Chimenti (of RatDog, Further, and The Other Ones), would be playing three shows at Chicago’s Soldier Field on July 3, 4 and 5, 2015. The event was to be called “Fare Thee Well: Celebrating 50 Years of the Grateful Dead.” The announcement came with a couple of quotes.

Drummer Mickey Hart said, “ I have a feeling this will come out just right. Can’t wait to find out…Here we go!” Drummer Bill Kreutzmann added, “The Grateful Dead lived an incredible musical story and now we get to write a whole new chapter. By celebrating our 50th, we get to cheer our past, but this isn’t just about history. The Grateful Dead always played improvisational music that was born in the moment and we plan on doing the same this round.”

Well, the announcement was only minutes old when social media began to explode with outrage. How dare they? Trey? The Treyful Dead? It was capitalism at its worst. Just wait. Ticket prices were going to explode. Only millionaires would be able to go.

Every Dead show is different, but the vibe is always exactly the same. (Photo by Dennis Duffy)

By the time summer rolled around, the big stadium Dead tour had expanded, adding two shows in the San Francisco 49ers football stadium in Santa Clara, where there would be accommodations for the tie-dyed Deadheads who couldn’t get close to a ticket in Chicago.

The most ecstatic and controversial moment in Santa Clara came during the first show, in the middle of “Viola Lee Blues” when a rainbow formed over the stadium. The event was largely believed to be a manifestation of the vibes in the stadium and/or Jerry smiling down on the event from heaven, a freaky good feeling that threatened to be dampened, but only somewhat, the next day by a Billboard magazine report that the rainbow was not real, and that the promoters had spent $50,000 for some fantastic projector capable of creating artificial rainbows. As it turned out, the report was based on a tweet hoax. The rainbow was natural—and therefore, in the mind of Grateful Nation, possibly Jerry’s work.

Here are three contrasting first-person accounts of the Santa Clara shows, held in the San Francisco 49ers football stadium in Santa Clara:

Monday, June 15, 2015

Summer Reading Special! Enter to Win!

Spring in New England is blending beautifully into summer, which puts us in a generous mood.

And you're probably starting to make your picks for vacation reading. Let us help!

Let us help you save some dough, too. Through August 31, UPNE is taking 30% off the list price of a boatload of books—a colorful mix of new releases and classics, from true crime to nature writing, from a history of shipwrecks to a history of airships, and just about everything in between.

The discount is available only through www.upne.com. Apply promo code E123EW at checkout.

Peruse the books in the slide show above. Click on the image, then its caption, to read more about each book.

But wait, there's more.

How'd you like to have all of these books...for free? Enter to win the whole lot of these summer reads by signing up for the UPNE newsletter, here. Contest goes through Monday, June 22.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

On a Long-Lost American Masterpiece, and Why Public Museums Matter

The Moving Panorama of Pilgrim’s Progress on view in Building 13 of the Pepperell Mill Campus, Biddeford, Maine, June 18, 2012. Photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette, courtesy Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram.

by Jessica Skwire Routhier, coauthor (with Kevin J. Avery and Thomas Hardiman, Jr.) of The Painters' Panorama: Narrative, Art, and Faith in the Moving Panorama of Pilgrim's Progress

You would think that an 800-foot-long painting, created by leading American artists and seen all over the United States in the 1850s, would be hard to lose track of. But in fact, that’s exactly what happened to the Moving Panorama of Pilgrim’s Progress, the subject of The Painters’ Panorama, new from UPNE this month.

By the time the panorama was rediscovered, in 1996, in the storage vault of Maine’s Saco Museum (then called the York Institute), no one had seen it for more than a century. Historians of panoramas, a kind of mass entertainment medium of the 19th century, as well as scholars of the Hudson River School painters who designed it—Frederic Edwin Church, Jasper Cropsey, Daniel Huntington, and others—were aware of its history and importance in their fields, and they often referred to it in their writings. But they invariably described it as “lost” or “unlocated,” never imagining that this enormous canvas, once the toast of New York and described by one excitable reviewer as “beyond exception the finest work of art ever produced in this country,” lay safe and untouched—albeit utterly forgotten—within the walls of one of America’s first-generation museums.

Land of Beulah, design attributed to Jasper Cropsey, from the Moving Panorama of Pilgrim’s Progress.

In fact, the reason we know much of anything at all about the Moving Panorama of Pilgrim’s Progress, beyond the historical fact of its existence and the newspaper accounts of its production and enthusiastic public reception in 1851, is that it was donated to a public museum. It’s a historical coincidence that just as panoramas were falling out of fashion—they were being replaced, in the second half of the 19th century, by magic lantern shows and other novelties derived from the alluring new art of photography—museums were being established all over America. As the U.S. passed the benchmarks of its 50th, 75th, and 100th anniversaries, and as American towns, especially in New England, passed even more impressive anniversaries (Saco was founded in 1636), citizens were inspired to create institutions that would preserve their history and artifacts that embodied it.

At the Saco Museum, which was established in 1866, the founders (which included John Johnson, co-inventor of the world’s earliest commercial camera) were also aware that the technological inventions of their time would bring permanent, global change to the way that we work, make things, and look at the world. They knew that the artifacts of the past, or indeed of their present, would not necessarily be the artifacts of the future. The museum’s earliest formal collections therefore included not only art and historical artifacts, but also geological and natural history specimens as well as technological gadgets, including Johnson’s 1839 camera.

“The Splendid Moving Mirror of the Bunyan Tableaux!” Polytechnic Institute (location unknown), circa 1857. Collections of the Dyer Library and Saco Museum, Saco, Maine. Gift of Kathleen M. Swaim.

So in 1896, when the Bryant family of Biddeford (Saco’s sister city across the river) approached the Institute with the gift of the Moving Panorama of Pilgrim’s Progress (or the “Bunyan Tableaux,” as it was then frequently called)—which had been hanging, neglected, in a family barn for a generation or more—the trustees were probably intrigued by it less as a work of art than as an artifact of American entrepreneurship and innovation. Indeed, in the sparse documentation that exists for the gift of the panorama, there is no indication that anyone at that point remembered that the panorama was associated with major American artists—not even Frederic Edwin Church, who was still very much alive at the time and widely revered as a living patriarch of American landscape painting.

Perhaps this explains why, apart from an apparent exhibition or performance within a year of its donation, the panorama was rolled up, tucked away, and soon forgotten. A century’s worth of museum directors, curators, and trustees must have picked their way around it in the storage vault, assuming that it was nothing more than rolled-up dropcloths. Finally, in 1996, then-curator Tom Hardiman (a co-author of The Painters’ Panorama) decided that it was time to finally take those aging bolts of fabric to the dumpster—but he’d better just look at them first to make sure they weren’t anything important.

You might say, at this point, that “the rest is history”—but to do so might imply that what came before was somehow not history. One of the most engaging things about the panorama is its rich and complex relationship to history, from the work of 17th-century English literature that provides its title and subject, to the simultaneous rise of American art and theater in the pre-Civil War years, to the advancements in travel and textile production that meant it could feasibly be presented to audiences all over the United States, to its quiet berth and century-long sleep in one of America’s earliest public museums, to that same small museum’s extraordinary efforts in 2012 to restore and reinterpret it for a new generation and a worldwide audience—efforts made possible, notably, through advancements in video-sharing technology and digital photography.

Jacob Dallas, Joseph Kyle, and Edward Harrison May, The Moving Panorama of Pilgrim’s Progress (detail), 1851, distemper on muslin, Saco Museum, Saco, Maine. Gift of the heirs of Luther Bryant, 1896. Photo by Matthew Hamilton, Williamstown Art Conservation Center; photo splicing by Portland Color.

The Moving Panorama of Pilgrim’s Progress was created as a teaching object; its Christian message was meant to positively influence those who came to see it (find out more about the book The Pilgrim’s Progress here). To many, those ideals are no less important today than they were in 1851. However, in its current form and context the panorama also provides a broader illustration of the world and human experience—the “humanities,” if you will. It is, for instance, lasting evidence that art, religion, entertainment, technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship are not mutually exclusive endeavors, not then and not now. The panorama gives physical, material weight behind the ideal that these passions and pursuits can exist together, not only in a single, remarkable artifact from a specific moment in time, but also—significantly, satisfyingly, and enduringly—in our public museums.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

How Narrative History Rescues the Past

Battle between Alexander and Darius, Pompeii, House of the Faun, via Wiki Commons
by Russell Lawson
Author of The Sea Mark: Captain John Smith's Voyage to New England

“Narrative History Rescues the Past.” You're not likely to see this headlining the latest news feed, though subtle truth rarely makes the news.

Moreover, narrative history is rarely sensational, rarely fantastic, and is (unfortunately) not imaginary, rather based on real people and real places; reality rarely captivates the way fantasy and the unreal do. Yet fiction is not likely to rescue the past.

Doubtless I appear to be writing nonsense: how can people living in the present, anticipating the future, rescue something that has disappeared, gone, never to be relived? The past can be remembered, recollected, but rescued? Hardly.

Stubbornly, perhaps, I maintain that the past can be rescued, and that narrative history wrought by narrative historians is precisely the means to do it; a good narrative historian is a rescuer of the past.

Take my latest book, The Sea Mark: Captain John Smith's Voyage to New England. There have been many books written on John Smith, of course, and movies made, and poems written, and caricatures drawn, and monuments dedicated to—and more. Why would he need to be rescued, if by that obscure, if pithy, word rescue I mean to bring to awareness, to make known, in the present?

No, that's not what I mean by rescue. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me define terms. First, what is meant by narrative history?

Narrative history is an account of sequence of events over time restricted to actual sources or implied events; it uses the historical imagination to re-create a particular episode (if consistent with sources); it uses quotes from writings as a replacement for dialogue; it does not manufacture or imagine a plot, rather the plot occurs as a matter of course based on what really happened; it re-creates scenes based on actual experiences; events and sources guide the imagination and storytelling (not vice-versa); and it relies on honesty: honest use of sources, honest presentation of past, honest evocation of human experience.

A narrative historian must write about a person or topic which they wish to re-live, re-create, re-experience. Sources must exist to allow for this mental exercise, as well as the penchant to understand human nature, which is gained by reflection into self. Added to this is a good imagination: to imagine the past, imagine what happened, imagine the people, then conform the imagination to the sources, to what really happened. Empathy unites, organizes, creates the whole portrait of the past: as the historian researches and imagines, visits places, he/she must feel, must sense the past, must empathize with those who once lived.

Empathy is the means by which the past can, as it were, be rescued. Empathy with another, even another long dead, requires a vicarious dialogue to be created in one's head. This dialogue with the past was perfected by a highly imaginative philosopher of the 14th century: Francesco Petrarca, who conversed by means of his pen and paper with past people, Cicero and Augustine: he asked them questions, and heard, in his mind, a response.

A dialogue with the past: this is how the historian rescues the past. This dialogue is a mixture of the subjective (feeling based on imagination) with the objective (reason based on sources); it is getting to know the past person: their habits, feelings, thoughts, interests, aims, emotions, accomplishments; it is dealing honestly with the past: the honest appraisal of person by not imposing one's own point of view, one's own preconceived notions, on the past, which is anachronistic.

To empathize with the past one must feel the past as well as feel the present. To understand the life of a past person, one must understand his/her own life. The historian's own life helps to write the story of the past: the historian's own feelings helps to understand past feelings; the historian's thoughts helps to understand past thoughts; the historian's experiences helps to understand past experiences.

In short, narrative history/biography is the story of two lives, one life explicitly told (the past person) and one life implicitly told (the historian or biographer). In studying these two lives, the life of the past person is rescued, comes alive in the present, to live again in the historian's mind and in the words put on paper.

Indeed, rescuing the past might be the means of rescuing the present.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

12 Tips for Caring for Someone with Alzheimer’s Disease

by Robert B. Santulli, MD, coauthor (with Kesstan Blandin, PhD) of The Emotional Journey of the Alzheimer's Family

Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s is certainly one of the most stressful challenges a person can undergo. For some, the degree of strain is so great that it can interfere with providing good care, and can lead to hastened placement of the individual in a facility. The stress of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s can be harmful to the care partner, as well. Taking good care of oneself must be the first job of anyone who is caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease. A care partner can only manage the many tasks and challenges involved if he or she is in good shape mentally and physically. With this is mind, here are a dozen pointers that care partners may find helpful. These tips, and others, are discussed in greater detail in the book I co-authored with Kesstan Blandin, The Emotional Journey of the Alzheimer’s Family.

1. Take Good Care of Your Own Well-being 
Care partners frequently neglect their own health needs while focusing on the needs of the person with the disease. Eating and sleeping well are critical. So is regular physical exercise. Have regular visits with your primary physician. A good primary care provider will be sensitive to how you are managing stress and will intervene when it appears necessary.

2. Get As Much Help As Possible 
You will feel much less stressed if you get as much help as possible with the job – other family, friends, paid assistants. Sometimes the greatest hurdle in achieving this goal is not the lack of availability or willingness of others to help, but the reluctance of the primary care partner – particularly a spouse – to acknowledge the need for assistance, and allow others to help.

3. Have Regular Periods of Respite 
Respite means not only that you have time when he you are not engaged in providing care, but also, time when you are relieved of the psychological burden of worrying about the person with the disease. In order for this to be possible, you need helpers who are trustworthy, and with whom the person with Alzheimer’s is reasonably comfortable. This can take some doing, but is well worth the effort.

4. Maintain a Social Life and Interests 
Separate from the Person with Alzheimer’s Disease You need to maintain you own sense of identity, independent from that of being a care partner, and continue to pursue those activities that have been important to you previously. This should include social contact with persons other than the individual with Alzheimer’s.

5. Learn as Much as Possible about the Disease 
Knowledge is critical in managing any chronic illness, but this is especially true in the case of Alzheimer’s disease. Learning about the behavioral challenges that are common in Alzheimer’s disease, and how to manage them, may be more valuable than any medication currently available for this.

6. Engage in a Comfortable, Open Dialogue about the Disease with the Person with Alzheimer’s 
While it may sometimes seem that talking about the disease with the person with Alzheimer’s will create additional stress, usually the opposite is the case. Family members – care partners and those with the disease alike – often report that they are much more comfortable once they have been able to talk openly about this previously - avoided “elephant in the room”. Of course, this must be done in a way that is not judgmental, and is sensitive to the self-esteem of the person with the disease.

7. Talk with Close Family and Friends About the Illness 
Perhaps you feel that discussing the situation with other family members or friends is unnecessary and perhaps even disloyal. While that sentiment is understandable, it is based on the false premise that Alzheimer’s is something about which one should feel ashamed, and that it should be hidden from others. It is important not to let old-fashioned notions about the illness interfere with you getting all the support you can from friends, family, and other confidantes. Doing so will help you be a better care partner, and that should be the goal that overrides almost anything else.

8. Attend a Support Group Regularly 
Support groups offer unique and powerful benefits, and many care partners indicate that their group has become a vital lifeline at a very difficult time in their lives. Even people who initially feel they don’t need to go to a support group find them extremely beneficial, once they start attending regularly. You are not alone in trying to cope with this.

9. Find Activities Your Loved One Will Enjoy—Especially Activities You Can Appreciate Together
A common challenge family care partners face is being able to identify activities that are appropriate, achievable, and enjoyable for the person with the illness. Take careful note of those abilities that have been preserved in the person with the disease, and focus on activities that make use of the capacities that remain. Finding the right activities and pursuing these depends on your motivation and creativity, more than anything else. Usually, the person with Alzheimer’s is no longer able to initiate this type of spontaneous activity. In addition to identifying suitable activities for the person with the disease, it is especially valuable to identify activities that the two of you can enjoy together. Try going for walks together. Not only is there benefit in the activity itself, but also, walking together promotes another crucially important activity: talking to each other.

10. Find and Celebrate the Positive Aspects of Providing Care 
While there are many difficult and stressful aspects of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, it is not all negative; nearly every care partner can point to positive aspects of the undertaking. Being able to focus on the positives of any difficult task is good for your mental wellbeing, and that is especially true for this task.

11. Focus on What You Can Control, and Learn to Accept the Rest
People who have a very strong need to feel “in control” tend to have a very difficult time as care partners. But the nature of Alzheimer’s is that the disease is generally in control - not really your loved one, and certainly not you, unfortunately. Try to determine which aspects of the situation you are able to predict or control, and focus on those, while recognizing and accepting the many aspects of the situation that are not in your control. Things you can control are your own behavior and emotional reactions to the situation. This is where you should focus your efforts.

12. Know When You Have Reached Your Limits, and Act Accordingly 
There may come a point when you feel you are no longer able to continue the tasks of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s at home. It is neither shameful nor disloyal to recognize the point when a change needs to be made, and act accordingly. Making preparations for this ahead of time should not be viewed as a sign of weakness or disloyalty, but instead as a concession to reality, and as an act of love for the person with the illness.

A version of this post originally appeared on Psychology Today.