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Friday, December 7, 2018

GO ASK: Caring for Mom

We are all going to be cared for whether you like it or not – when we reach a certain age. But who? I did not grow up with my mom and in 1995 she moved in with me in California while I was in the Navy. But then I got married so I need to find her a home in 2005, alone and a year later I moved 3,000 miles to Connecticut. It affected her health, dementia and other age-related issues.

Two winters ago, she moved back with me with her diapers and walker like a year-old baby at 88. I remember when I changed my son’s diaper 14 years ago – it was that grim but she’s my mom. For months, we contacted various agencies to find her a home, but we thought she would be better off with us health-wise. My goal was to have my teenager experience having a grandparent. Both his grandfathers died 3 years ago, and her mom’s mother is in the Philippines.

At 630, I wake up mom to get ready and she always greets me in the morning “pengeng cape” or can I have a coffee? In her first few months with us, I dress her up, comb her hair but lately, I have trained her to do it herself and she managed every day – including changing her own disposable pants. For almost six months now, she has been going to a daycare center from 730-330 where she is taken care of. Fortunately, my son is home by 3pm so every day, my son picks up his grandma from the bus and assists her walking all the way to the second floor. It’s a great blessing.

Here are 5 moral & practical things I have learned as I care for my mom from whom I was separated for half of my life – GO ASK: Get, Offer, Accept, Seek, Keep:

1. Get a Power of Attorney. At her age and condition, she needs full support in making big decisions. It is like taking care of a “baby” – a cycle of life.

2. Offer her challenge & responsibility or keep her busy. My wife noticed that she is still able in many ways including picking up her own food from the kitchen and cleaning up the table after dinner. I have also given her the task of sweeping the hallways daily and folding and sorting our laundry.

3. Accept the challenge; it is not that hard. No matter how difficult a task is for someone (diaper, walking), caring for mom comes very naturally. Just don’t overburden yourself and have a good sense of humor. I always tease her and it makes her smile by asking this question because she is bilingual: “Ma, do you like bread, pan or tinapay” and she will say “bread” - bread is also tinapay in Tagalog or pan is Spanish. And I keep asking, “why not bread or pan?” them even though she has no choice – just to get a conversation going - by teasing her & make her say "that is the same".

4. Seek Help. Contact the local Human Services department of your city or non-profit organization that assists the aging community. Provide them the information or assistance you need and build a relationship.

5. Keep her five senses active. I always turn on music she liked when she was young (Elvis Presley and worship songs) and let her dance. I put movies and tv shows like “I Love Lucy” while she also cuts magazines or coupons or something menial like folding plastic bags for her diaper trash.

Lately, I realized that this words from Bernice Johnson Reagon fit right in “Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you; they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.” Besides affecting my time in our business & focus on my career, many of my friends know that with my wife and son together have many adventures and trips but that dynamic has changed since mom moved in, we no longer go on weekends for long travel or short trips, I just thought “An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.” Said G. K. Chesterton. This is our adventure - a family adventure, besides, actor Michael J. Fox said "Family is not an important thing. It's everything." Go figure, GO ASK: taking care of mom.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Group Networking & Life Review for Transitioning: What Can Help?

Joel is a 52-year-old multi-cultural man who recently retired from an executive military position, non-commissioned officer in the US Navy, in a large command with 40 personnel under him. Although he says he looked forward to retirement, he never developed any interests or relationships outside of work or military. He complains of feeling "tired" and "bored." His wife, Joan (not her real name), a small business owner and homemaker. Now that Joel is home during the day, he tries to show her ways to be more efficient in doing the household chores. Joan describes frustration with his "supervision," and the difficulty of finding time for herself or her friends when Joel is underfoot all day.  Now Joel comes up to me for career advice, how would I approach it? 

First, I would state to the client, the two benefits of receiving an individual career counseling or personal branding and more importantly a group-talk between Joel and Joan.  Then I would do the following steps:

  • Identify.  I would try to identify the themes with which I hypothesize Joel is struggling.
  • Networking.  I would also ask, “what would be the benefits of Joel attending networking or transitioning focus-group focusing on retired men?”  “How would intergenerational couple's group benefit Joel and Joan?”

  • As a counselor, I cannot imply or discuss the medical condition of the client, but upon disclosure from Joel, I can state that he is suffering from a mild depression brought about by a change of pace from previous 9-5 drudgery (such as multi-tasking of supervising his personnel, military duties, being deployed, etc.) of being a navy ship executive “supervising” his personnel to a slow, less pressure lifestyle. Not all, but various people (civilian or military) react the same way to retirement; some will be looking forward to a chance to relax or relief from the stress of working in a large company or military facility, particularly those who don’t have the many perks and excitements of an executive or military officer.

    For men, retirement is a concern that can affect the very essence of their lives. Many men derive an almost single-minded identity from their work. Many develop no diversified interests outside their employment and are caught up in a narrow definition of who they are and what they are worth as people. Work and life become so interconnected that the loss of a job can eliminate the reason for living (Butler, Lewis, & Sunderland, 1998).

    What Joel needs is to refocus out of his previous lifestyle to his new life and to “seize the day” of being at home enjoying other activities besides “supervising” as the executive boss of Joan so Joan can find more time for herself. Counselors need to help Joel reevaluate his transition through individual mentorship or counseling (and at the extreme maybe recommend for psychotherapy or faith-based group meetings such as Celebrate Recovery). Joel and Joan must first admit to the counselor of having some type of career transitioning concern and be able to move forward in their goals and aspirations. The counselor will conduct individual counseling for the first session through a narrative or life review.

    It is important to consider whether individual difficulties in the cultural transition to specific organizations are a personal failure or an indication of organizational problems.Ryba, T. V., Stambulova, N. B., & Ronkainen, N. J. (2016). The Work of Cultural Transition: An Emerging Model. Front. Psychol., 7. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00427

    Davis and Degges-White (2008) use the term life reviews as a naturally occurring process in which individuals share their stories through written or oral means. Individuals depend on language to make sense of mental images and on constructed symbols to communicate ideas and intents to others.

    A narrative or life review counseling would be a very appropriate technique to know and bring out questions and answers individually like:
    1. What are the things you miss from being an executive? (Question for Joel)
    2. Are there any activities you have done in the past 5 years that helped you not to feel depressed? (Joel)
    3. When and how did you feel that Joel didn’t understand you or supervised you like one of his employees? (Joan)
    4. Have you tried doing something fun together since you (Joel) retired? (Both)

    A counselor would also propose having Joel and Joan try to write down their daily events through a journal for their own exclusive readings. Afterwards, they should individually review anything they write and observe within themselves and at some point, return to the counselor for a follow-up.
    Davis and Degges-White in their studies: Comparing participants' earlier writings with their later writings and asking participants whether they thought the life review activities improved their ability to view themselves gave a more comprehensive perception.

    Overall, the participants viewed the activity as one that provided personal analysis rather than a pure description of past activities or relationships. They generally believed, they did deepen their understanding of themselves, and they felt that the process of looking back did provide opportunity to find connections (i.e., self-actualization). Their comments revealed that the experience encouraged them to undertake a personal search for meaning (Davis and Degges-White, 2008).

    Joel and Joan are going through a transition and together, they should be counseled as a couple and also within a group of adults who are going through similar circumstances.

    Adults continuously experience transitions. Adults’ reactions to transitions depend on the type of transition, the context in which it occurs, and its impact on their lives. A transition has no end; rather, a transition is a process over time that includes phases of assimilation and continuous appraisal as people move in, though, and out of it (Goodman 2006).

    Transition counseling through individual and group is a process that they both must go through formal counseling. Also, I would advise Joel and Joan to have activities together and join a group like the Association of Retired Americans (AARP), local church community groups, networking of like-minded people (such as business networking or toastmasters), cultural meetup (such as FusionMeet) and other local community group of baby boomers or couples. This will keep Joel’s mind out of his previous lifestyle and transitioning both towards being a normal couple and they may see that others are in similar situations in a group including inter-generational.

    In groups, clients have opportunities to hear about a variety of sources of support and coping strategies used by others. When we ask adults, what has helped them survive, we most often hear about a sense of humour, support from special people, and faith (Goodman 2006).

    By the way, Joel is me.


    Butler, R. N., Lewis, M. I., & Sunderland, T. (1998). Aging and mental health: Positive psychosocial and biomedical approaches (5th ed.). Austin: Pro-Ed, Inc.

    Davis, N. and Degges-White, S. (2008, Fall2008). Catalysts for Developing Productive Life Reviews: A Multiple Case Study. Adultspan: Theory Research & Practice, 7(2), 69-79. Retrieved November 24, 2008, from Academic Search Premier database.

    Goodman, Jane. Counseling Adults in Transition : Linking Practice with Theory (3rd Edition). New York, NY, USA: Springer Publishing Company, Incorporated, 2006. p 53 and p 250

    Friday, October 12, 2018

    Did You Facebook Me?

    (Last year I completed a 3-year qualitative research inductive analysis exploring Facebook and the experiences of 11 counselors who were using Facebook as a platform for communication. Specifically, it answered the question: “What are the experiences of career counselorswho use Facebook for counseling?”.  Here are some of the findings, results and my recent thoughts.)

    Is Facebook or Instagram now becoming the norm or our main source of communication and information?  If you answer yes, you are not alone.  Around 68% of American grown-ups say they get news via social media, as indicated by Pew Research Center study.  We can also see a big change on how teens communicate.  About 35% of teens prefers messaging, trailed by face to face at 32 percent. In 2012, face to face (49 percent) topped messaging (33 percent).  Social networking has turned upside down how we communicate, get information, even dating, shopping, and so on. But it has made a hole in doing some of these things.  But what I want to examine is the responses from my last year’s 3-year qualitative research inductive analysis exploring Facebook and the experiences of 11 counselors who were using Facebook as a platform for communication.
    As Facebook’s algorithm and settings continuously evolve, further research focusing on using social networking sites and Facebook for career counseling will unexpectedly update my research in 2015. The initial findings from my analysis contingent from the recorded interviews of the 11 career counselors have shown that there is no balanced conclusion or even a model supporting that Facebook or social media is a useful tool for career counseling but a very valid way to communicate and receive information.  Whether or not it is reasonable to use Facebook in mainstream counseling, considering that the privacy issues, timeliness, and effectiveness is beyond the scope of my previous research but I would like to share my thoughts on how Facebook may or may not be valid way on how we communicate in business or personal setting more than telephone, email or face-to-face.  Here is why and how we can do it more effectively:

    Be Mobile, Get Fast But Be Alert

    One reason why Social Media (in this case Facebook for the Xenials or Generation X - the age median of the study participants) is so effective is because it is mobile, and the technology attached to it (such as WiFi or 5G) is getting faster.   Would we rather make a phone call and get an answering machine not knowing when we will get a response or sometimes we forgot the actual voicemail we left behind?  Unlike in private messages, we can see what we wrote and share a supplemental information that can be referred back again and again during the later conversation.   In my research, one counselor likes the idea of having a supplemental resource and can always get back to his client based at any time of the day that you cannot do it over the phone or even email that is sometimes block with spam.  His advice, use Facebook for expediency or convenience but with caution and still make a phone call and take advantage of the technology.

    Follow the Routine and Get in with the New Generation

    A second reason why Facebook is so effective is because it may be the preferred method for the New Generation who relies on mobility (powerful phone) and technology (apps and cheaper data signals) that goes with it.  Most of the clients of those 11 counselors I have interviewed (back in 2015) are between the age of 25-40 and most of them are proficient in using smartphone applications including Facebook.  In most cases the clients (or Sailors) contact their counselor using the Private Message and most recently, you can see them post questions on counselor Facebook group page that is usually happening in a face-to-face counseling session such as: “Am I eligible to earn my GI Bill Transfer if I leave the military after 4 years?” that not only gets a faster response but vouch with other counselors for accuracy.  

    This is sometimes cannot happen faster or even receive more accurate answers over the phone, email or face-to-face.  But this is not guarantee.  The best way to get a full accurate information is to use the Group Page then also use the Private Message for confirmation and seek outside conversation by phone.  We should ask the preferred communication of the person we are speaking to or how often they uses that medium.

    Know Your Settings and Use it Often

    Most people I have observed uses Facebook just to scoop information and no interaction.  There is a disadvantage to that if using it as communication tool.  Practice makes perfect and this goes to using for two-way conversation.  Being professional, polite and positive in our comments and postings should not only encourage conversation but lead into positive resolution, as an alternative ways to communicate.    
    On my research, a counselor preferred to use email for direction and phone by confirmation but uses a Facebook Counselor group page to communicate with colleagues for advice.  Facebook & other social media such as LinkedIn or Instagram - continues to evolve as tool, one research concluded that the actual potential of any new technology, such as social media, can only be fully actualized in social work if the professionals can take a more hands-on role in both general usage and technology development (Chan &Holosko, 2017).

    Other Findings & Final Thoughts

    Based on my eleven interviews in 2015 and recent findings from others who had some social media research similar to mine, such as Pedersen,Naranjo, and Marshall (2017) demonstrated that Facebook could be used to communicate, approach and retain a diverse sample of young adult veteran drinkers who could benefit from alcohol intercession efforts.    Drogos’ (2015) research revealed that adolescents who utilize Facebook more frequently have more multifaceted self-concepts than their contemporaries who post fewer status updates; teenagers who posted more pictures had stronger self-concepts than the individuals who displayed fewer photos.  

    The number of Facebook consumers has dramatically increased since its inception (Hanna, Kee, & Robertson, 2017). In today’s working environment, with the intention to communicate and reach one another and despite the cynical suspicions, this research suggested that the use of Facebook or social media within the work environment could advance positive forces at work (Hanna et al., 2017).   In my view, Facebook nor any other social media is not yet the main source of how we can talk and listen but social media continues to evolve and should be investigated.   The best way to investigate and be explored is we should use it recurrently but wisely, that means use our Facebook setting accordingly and treat it like how you communicate face-to-face, how you email and how you use your voice telephone.

    Monday, October 1, 2018

    Culture is not Just a Color: On Culturally Diverse Populations and Cultural Intelligence by Tony Astro

    I've written and published this topic about culture back in October 31, 2008 and have updated as I have encountered and learn more about cultural intelligence and how it is more important now than ever before about our perception on Culture and Diversity. Here are my thoughts as a career counselor, business consultant and as entrepreneur.

    The United States has diversity that is rich and trans-cultural and results in different attitudes from different aspect and labels: A closet gay Jewish in his 80s, a family woman African American Islam in her 90s, an Indonesian lesbian with dementia on her early 70s and other categories that should be in consideration on how we communicate specifically in counseling or in commerce - but limiting it into those labels may also be detrimental to making adequate analysis of issues and conclusion / solution to how we communicate our message.  Overall human issues must be dealt with including the significant demographic transformation taking place every day not just in the US but around the globe.

    The West is beginning to experience significant demographic changes, with substantial cultural consequences. Historically, the aged have made up only a small portion of society, and the rearing of children has been the chief concern. Now children will become a small minority, and society’s central problem will be caring for the elderly. Yet even this assumes that societies consisting of elderly citizens at levels of 20, 30, even 40 or more percent can sustain themselves at all (Kurtz, 2005)

    With this new perspective, we will see the children as the new minority; hence a new breed of “younger counselors” will exist. Many ethnically diverse Americans are immersing in so-called “Hollywood culture”. This makes dealing with the younger generation in understanding the older generation’s ethnic diverse culture more challenging.

    Hispanics are not culturally heterogeneous; they have a separate culture within their culture (Council, 2001). Generalizing that they rely heavily on their families for long-term and other care may not be right but keeping it in mind that most Hispanics do, it helps. Elderly Mexican Americans have the highest rate of poverty among Hispanic subgroups, while elderly Puerto Ricans report the worst health status (Butler, Lewis, Sunderland, 1998) will help counselors capture the need when counseling an elderly Hispanic.

    If in the case of a homosexual 63-year-old Hispanic male, we as a culturally intelligence and effective communicator, counselor or consultant must know his family and how he was treated during the course of his life being a homosexual. Discrimination abuse is most common to many particularly to the Catholic community because of biblical teachings and Hispanics are in general Catholics (Liu, 2014). Counselors and cultural intelligence advocate must be cautious but candid in bringing the issue of religious and family implications of the person or client’s homosexuality.

    Another culturally diverse group would be the Japanese. Old age ideally represents a time of relaxation of social obligations, assisting with the family farm or business without carrying the main responsibility, socializing, and receiving respectful care from family and esteem from the community (Dolan, 1994).

    Many Americans make generalizations with Asians and do not consider that Asian may consist of Japanese, Filipino, Singaporean and even some Indian (People of India). It is dangerous to limit diverse group into Asian American when this group has different geographical and cultural upbringing and being among them.  As to my experience as a Filipino-Asian-Pacific Islander-Spanish-Ilokano-Manileno American-Christian-Generation X –Straight-Military-Family man, the difference is vast when a cultural intelligent advocate and as a counselor or consultant could dissect further.
    Vision loss is among the most frequently reported disabilities affecting older people (Butler, Lewis & Sunderland, 1998). For an 81-year-old blind woman, she is expected to be cared for by the society including sponsored child or government. Due to this slowness in visions, counselors must give importance to lighting and other ways to improve visual difficulty. The common restrictions, stigmatize and the stereotype of blindness is more severe than hearing hence extra caution must be practiced.

    It is assumed that older people do not have sexual desires, could not make love even if they want to, too fragile physically and it might hurt them (Sex & Aging, 2018). These suppositions among the elderly make a 71-year-old impotent man comes to counseling with fewer expectations. But according to study, older man does not lose his facility for erection as he ages unless physical illness or emotional anxiety interferes (Butler, Lewis and Sunderland, 1998)

    Afterthoughts and Advice
    As a consultant and cultural intelligence advocate I recommend that we energize forthright, deferential exchanges about individuals' disparities (cultural differences) with the goal that our client, customers, stakeholders, workers build up a characteristic interest about one another's points of view and thoughts.

    On his book Driven by Difference, David Livermore points out that on the off chance that you shun political accuracy, everybody will understand that numerous measurements – parentage (married or single or divorced), race, ethnic beginnings, training, religion, nationality, age associate, et cetera – add to every individual's character.   He offers this following perspective:  “Ideas are the holy grail of innovation. When used with cultural intelligence, a diversity of perspectives almost always trumps individual perspectives when coming up with better ideas.” (Livermore, 2018).


    Council, N. R. (2001). America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I. doi: 10.17226/9599
    Lewis & Sunderland, 1998) and so counselors must not make the general assumptions as mentioned. Counselors must advise clients to a healthy lifestyle in order to get the goal or proper treatment if necessary for the patients.

    Butler, R.N., Lewis, M. and Sunderland, T. (1998). Aging and Mental Health Positive Psychosocial and Biomedical Approaches 4th Edition Macmillan Publishing Company

    Dolan, R. E. Dolan, and Worden, R. L., (1994) Japan: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress

    Kurtz, S., (2005) February, Journal of Demographics and the Culture War, Policy Review, Hoover Institution.
    Liu, J. (2014). The Shifting Religious Identity of Latinos in the United States. Pew Research Center's Religion & Public Life Project. Retrieved from

    Livermore, D. (2016). Driven by Difference: How Great Companies Fuel Innovation Through Diversity. AMACOM. Retrieved from