Category Archives: dementia

Are You Still There?

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When author, Lisa Genova, wrote “Still Alice” she was hoping to

express the feelings of someone who had early onset Alzheimer’s

Disease. Julianne Moore is up for an Academy Award for her

authentic performance as Alice, someone who wishes to be still

heard and recognized, whether or not she is able to reciprocate

the recognition back to the greeter or family member.

Julianne is a gifted actress who studied and met many people

who were struggling with the challenge of having this disease.

There is a genuine quality I feel while watching her in any of her

various roles. I had recently watched “What Maisey Knew,” and

had mentioned this in the Golden Globes post which held a trio

of events which were meant to cheer the reader up. She played

a rock and roll star who was going on tour, putting her little

kindergartner on the back burner of her life. This has other good

actors and actresses in the movie. It is just my recent movie with

her in it. The one you may wish to seek out at the theaters is

called, “Still Alice.”

Julianne Moore, in an interview in the recent January/February

paper “AARP Bulletin,” she shared her experience of meeting both

caregivers and those who have A. D.  When she met some of the

victims of this ravaging disease she said they still had not lost

their own identities yet. “They were still present.” That is the point

of the title of both movie and book, sort of like saying, “I am still

here.”

Julianne Moore’s thoughts about “Still Alice:”

“People have been so touched by it (the film). There’s a great deal

of shame associated with Alzheimer’s Disease.” (Especially, she

focused and mentioned early onset A. D.)

“Suddenly you have your intellectual capacity diminished at such

a young age, it is embarrassing.”

On the  front page of the January/February “AARP Bulletin” there

are a series of rows of black and white photographs of famous

people who have dealt with and some passed away with, this topic

of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Here is a list of those faces featured:

President~ Ronald Reagan

Author~ Iris Murdoch

Singer~ Perry Como

Secretary of State~ Cyrus Vance

Boxer~ Floyd Patterson

Artist~ Willem De Kooning

Actor~ Beloved Jimmy Stewart

Prime Minister~ Margaret Thatcher

Senator~ William Proxmire

Singer~ The fabulous Etta James

Action Star~ Charles Bronson

Actor~ Peter Falk (“Columbo”)

“Washington Post” editor and journalist, Ben Bradley

Advice Columnist~ Abigail Van Buren of “Dear Abby”

Actor~ The legendary Charleston Heston

Go ahead and add a first or complete name of someone you know.

The numbers and cases are soaring. . . but the funding is dwindling.

Inside the January/February “AARP Bulletin,”  you will find the

devastating facts about this rampant disease.

Including an estimated 5.2 million Americans had this in 2014.

Two/thirds (2/3rds) were women.

The poignant article covering this topic is titled,

“Where’s the War on Alzheimer’s?”  by T. R. Reid.

I have not seen the movie, “Still Alice,” so I am not reviewing it

just featuring it to go along with the AARP information.

Interestingly enough, I sought out the Academy Award-nominated

historical trio of films I have mentioned in other posts. I chose not

to see (yet) “Wild,”  since Reese Witherspoon’s  mother and  the

author of the book, “Wild,” dealt with the deaths of mothers. Reese

used her own mother’s younger self’s angst and her vague childhood

memories of her mother crying over her grandmother’s death as her

inspiration for her portrayal. I was not ‘ready’ to sob or think about

the frailty of life, especially with my mother still here. It will be an

inevitable sorrow I will face someday.

My mother has not been diagnosed with A. D. but has been told her

memory loss is due to low thyroid levels. She is on her medication

and I am doubtful she will ever recuperate fully in her mind. She

is ‘still there,’ most of the afternoon and evening. Sometimes doing

strange and forgetful things so I was not yet prepared to watch,

“Still Alice,” nor read the book.   I will someday.  I  strongly will

recommend the Oscar-nominated film, as both critics and audiences

have found it a true testament to the spirit of those who have A. D.

I think the reason that I respect the movie and subject matter of

“Still Alice,” is due to my working experience of four years as the

Activity Director (1995-999) at a local nursing home. I had taken

the necessary coursework to be prepared to handle all sorts of

debilitating diseases, especially learning about aging processes,

including Alzheimer’s Disease.

I wish all people to treat the elderly, whether or not they know them,

with respect and dignity. Each has such fascinating lives, simple and

complicated lives to share with us. Their stories may not be famous

but they come to life, once you take the time to listen to them.

I still enjoy meeting the few elderly inhabitants of  my building,

having made friends with “Dee” who is in her 70’s,  yet is a helpful

volunteer driver for “Meals on Wheels.” “Delores” tells me rambling

stories about her childhood. I enjoy the one where she dressed up

a piglet to be her ‘baby’ and placed him in her mother’s perambulator

(baby carriage) to take him for a ride! My apartment building has

adults with Special Needs and Ohio Wesleyan University students

here also. I am blessed with many different people housed within.

There is a Dayton, Ohio caregiver and daughter of a mother who

has A. D. and she has a short list of good ideas, to spark ones of

your own to add here in the comments’ section:

1. To get her mother to wear disposable underwear for incontinence,

she calls this her ‘girdle.’ I can picture her saying, “Mom, let’s put on

your girdle” as she helps her to get dressed everyday.

2. She grew tired of arguing with her mother and struggling with her

to take her medicines so she pushes the pills into the soft filling of

her mother’s favorite cookies, fig bars.

3. She incorporates her mother’s past interests and occupation into

her daily routines, crocheting and using a simple math workbook,

(she had been an accountant.)

4. Her mother and she enjoy lighting the candle she bought at Yankee

Candle, called “Sparkling Snow.” It also masks odors at certain times

of the day, she delicately added.

The article inside Jan./Feb. “AARP Bulletin,” was the source for this

information, along with several other suggestions called,  “Being a

Family Caregiver Isn’t Easy.” You will find more to read there. . .

I am encouraging an Open Forum for discussing about anyone

you love or care about, those you have contact with or have

experienced dealing with Alzheimer’s Disease.

I would also like to mention a fellow blogger who writes about this

very subject. Marylin is someone who shares daily wonderful and

meaningful activities she participates with her mother. She writes

such lovely posts about her mother. Her mother has dementia and

her father had Alzheimer’s Disease.

Thank you, Marylin Warner for the gift of numerous special posts.

Marylin includes links to articles and is very informative, while

being a warm and caring blogging friend to many. I am sure she is

a source of comfort to many who have been dealing with elderly

family members with different varying degrees of memory loss.

http://warnerwriting.wordpress.com

Her blog is called, “Things I Want to Tell My Mother.”

And due to not being able to produce another award nomination

post so quickly after my last one, I would like to thank Rashmi for

her nominating me for “Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award.”

I encourage you to read about her perspective, positive and poetic

writing along with her international travels. I have enjoyed her

safari posts immensely! Thank you for taking us on your travels,

as well as lifting our spirits, Rashmi!

Please check out, Soul n Spirit, if you have not already done so!

http://soulnspiritblog.com

A sincere thank you for giving me the award!

On a lighter and happier note about those who are ‘still here’

sending a huge hug, big smiles and lots of love out to

BETTY WHITE!

Happy 93rd Birthday, dear BETTY!

I had a comment that Ian made about a poem/story about

a couple who met in a nursing home. They shared so much

of their present time, although the woman could not tell much

about her past due to her memory loss. It was such a well-

written post that I would hope future visitors will check it out:

Please read Ian’s post titled, “George and Marg” on:

http://aussieian.wordpress.com

Thank you, Ian!

Let’s have a conversation here since it is the weekend.

I plan on being able to respond on Sunday

after the library opens at noon!

Carry On

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Isn’t it marvelous when a burden is lifted from your

shoulders? When you know that everything is finally

going to be all right. I have three grown children who

when they are ‘down’ or have worries, I feel some of

that empathetic worry, myself.

On my way to work, I heard the band, Kansas, singing a

song straight to my heart. It was such an appropriate

song for this first day of freedom from worry for one

of my loved ones! This progressive rock band’s single,

an oldie but goodie, begins like this:

“Carry on, my wayward son,

There’ll be peace when you are done.

Lay your weary head to rest,

Don’t you cry no more.”

(Written by Kerry Livgren, 1976.)

One of my children no longer has to feel like there

isn’t closure in a personal situation. I am so happy that

I will be walking around, sighing in relief, possibly this

could have been noticeable to others, had they been working

in my area today.

I wanted to write a poem expressing this wondrous feeling

of joy and weightlessness, floating around the atmosphere…

but I just couldn’t write poetry today.

Instead I thought of a list, one that would have life’s

irritations and burdens included. Where you, as readers,

may choose one that really had an impact on your life.

A time when it was very challenging to put one foot

before the other one, making moving forward an almost

impossible task.

Here are a few feelings you may relate to, have had

experiences with and have made it through to “the

other side.”

Unfinished business.

Disappointments.

Life’s Abrupt Changes.

Long-Distant Move.

Major Transition.

Debilitating Illness or Disease.

Unresolved Issues.

Disaster.

Death of Loved One(s.)

Death of Friend(s).

Death of a Beloved Pet.

A Series of Uncontrollable Events.

Divorce.

Fire.

Break up/ heart break.

Piles of bills and debt.

Suicide Attempt.

Anorexia/Bulimia.

Alcoholism.

Addiction.

Troubles.

In my family member’s case, something had been left

opened for years, festering, lasting longer than it

deserved to. It had a ‘hold’ on my loved one, who was

dwelling on it and not really enjoying life as much as

they should have been. Closure was reached last night!

Hurray! Yippee!

The more recent American indie band, Fun, put out a great

lively song called, “Carry On,” (2012). The lyrics were

written by a combination of the band members and producer.

Nate Reuss, Andrew Dost, Jack Antonoff and Jeff Bhosker.

Another song with the name of “Carry On,” performed by

the legendary band of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, was

written in 1991,by Stephen Stills. It is meaningfully

written about relationships.

Although the Disney movie, “Frozen,” won for the song,

“Let It Go,” I chose this song because my grandkids love

to belt it out, both boys and girls alike! It gets very

grand at one point, where you need to raise your voice!

This can be very exhilarating and liberating. This helps

to remove any cobwebs that are caught in your mind. It

could raise your spirits considerably. The power in the

words of this song, can alleviate some of your pain and

heartache.

I think the act of singing, while driving down the road,

particularly, can make you feel ‘free’ of sadness.

“Let It Go,” was written by the husband and wife team of

Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, sung by Idina

Menzel. There also is a Demi Lovato cover of the same

song.

In conclusion, music lifts our spirits. Other things

can be chosen depending on your individual tastes and

interests to help release the ‘angst.’

Some very serious problems can not be handled simply by

engaging in walks in parks. That is something for me that

helps me unwind and think. I like to see nature and its

wonder, and sometimes it relieves my temporary depression

by knowing I am but a small part of a greater world.

Meditation can remove the rocks in the way on your journey

through life. Seeking counseling can help you to have a

neutral party to listen, absorb your pains and anger, then

help by gently guiding you to a safer, saner existence.

When was the time you felt heavy in spirit, dragged down so

low it was hard to be motivated to do daily chore? Do you

mind sharing it? If not, please share techniques that helped

you and this will encourage someone, maybe even today, to

be able to…

“Carry on.”

“Mom’s World”

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As we were getting on the elevator, Mom and I met a nice, attractive

elderly resident in the senior apartments. She was wearing a purple

pair of tennis shoes decorated with red flowers on them. She had a

lovely plum colored sweater and hat upon her head. Mom told her

she looked, “quite lovely today.”

The woman responded, “I just came from the Purple Hat Society

meeting down in the Pub.”

Mom smiled and nodded. She really understood that it was a fun

group of women, or seemed to.

Once the woman disembarked from the elevator, Mom turned to me,

in all seriousness,

“Why would someone join a group that only wore purple hats?”

She paused and rethought this question, coming back with another

question,

“Why would I need to belong to a society to wear my purple hat?”

This brought me to the point that I would like to tell you about, my

Mom’s time frame is more aimed towards the past, anything “new”

or more recently happening, is beginning to get lost in her foggy

brain. This was never more evident than after having a delicious and

lively meal with my son, his wife and their kids, my two brothers, my

youngest daughter, Mom and I at the table. We had a wide variety of

pies, thanks to my stopping at Cracker Barrel and purchasing four

delectable pies. I worked there for four years, over eight years ago.

When I could use my 40% discount, I would bring this many and not

even blink an eye at the bill. I have a side comment to the whole Mom

post, these pies had a low “price tag” of $8.49 each!! I ordered an

apple streusel pie, a pumpkin streusel pie, a regular pumpkin and a

pecan pie. All were the same good quality that I had observed being

made in the CB kitchen. (We got spoiled when I had the discount and

I could also, during summer seasons buy the Coca Cola chocolate cake

and the delicious Blackberry or Cherry Cobbler, too.)

Mom ate a slice of the pumpkin and the apple streusel pie, with a big

dollop (served by my son) of vanilla ice cream and a small scoop of

peppermint stick ice cream (served by my brother). She asked for some

whipped cream, too. She told us all,

“I don’t like peppermint stick ice cream but I try it every year, just in

case my taste buds have changed!”

When we got up to leave, shortly after dessert, we had had a lot of

discussions about politics, children (who were a diversion at times),

education (Trista is taking forensic science computer online classes)

and movies recently seen. We had covered a lot of topics, with Mom

putting her “2 cents in,” too.

Mom was able to help carry some leftovers to the car, while holding

her dog’s leash. When we crossed the street, driving in my car, back

to her apartment, only about 45 minutes had elapsed.

Mom, as she was getting out of the car, exclaimed,

“Robin! I am so glad you thought ahead to bringing all those pies to

the dinner, and am especially looking forward to trying some when

we get inside.”

I stopped, looking closely at her face to see if she were ‘pulling my

leg’ but she looked sincere.

I asked her,

“Mom, do you have room for more pie?”

She answered,

“I didn’t have any yet.”

I was saddened by this realization of how her short term memory is

really going fast…

Changing to some funnier things that happened while up at Mom’s.

She had us going to the grocery store, so I checked to see how many

rolls were in her walk-in closet. She had about twenty rolls left, with

her next chance to shop being in five days, with the seniors on the bus,

or with my brother in about 7-8 days.

On her list, she requested me to add ten more packages of four rolls

or the multiple packs with 10 in them, four of those= 40 more rolls

of toilet paper!

She follows me and we both look in the closet and tell her again, there

are 20 rolls left so that should last at least a week.

I give her the straight mathematical solution meaning you could go

through an average of 3 rolls a day!

Mom looks at me askance and says, “Robin, I go through 4 rolls a

day!”

I tell her that she has 64 pads that are needed to do the same job

she is talking about. (Thinking she is wadding the toilet paper into

her underwear, creating her own incontinence pads!)

But, “NO!” She replies back, “I will go through all 64 pads and 40

rolls of toilet paper.”

I stop worrying, thinking that someday my kids may have to be

patient with me. I would not want them giving me their own version

of a “reality check” over and over again. I look at her checkbook,

seeing that she and my brother bought a slew of stuff last week.

She gets a lot of the same items (like a little “hoarder!”)

I had written about the Depression and her favorite Christmas

memory earlier, posted it recently. I felt foolish for making my Mom

think about what she needed when, instead, I could easily treat her

like I used to do with my own children.

You can do this subtly, without the adult (or child) noticing. By

changing the subject while shopping, you can sometimes get the child

(or adult) to quit asking for the treat or toy. Or suggesting an alternative,

like,

“Instead of that toy, how about we buy a pack of bubbles to blow?”

or “Instead of that extra candy, why don’t we get some yogurt to eat?”

Which is how we made it out of the grocery store, without too many

“extra purchases!”

Here are the extras we did get:

We compromised and bought a ten pack of toilet paper.

We bought only a three pack of paper towels.

We bought six bags, combined, of Hershey dark chocolate kisses and

Reese’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups. (You know that the dark

chocolate allows you to eat unlimited amounts by it “cutting all the

cholesterol, fat and calories in 1/2,” Mom boasted.)

We bought a “special offer” double pack of Peanut butter, 16 oz. each.

We bought one box of Special K cereal.

We bought one package of Fig Newtons.

We bought two bottles of Sangria. (“The bus driver complains when

they have to carry heavy glass bottles!” Mom tells me.)

I remind her that my brother may be taking her next week.

Mom replies, (and this should cover all of the above with this blanket

statement!)

“You can never have too much wine!”

 

“Twins” Can’t Have the Same 1st Name!

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My friend, Melvin, and I were the last ones out in the Mezzanine area

(again!) of the distribution center. As we were walking out, having

chased each other up and down, 72 aisles. Back and forth, sometimes

not having to go down an aisle due to product placement, one or the

other of us would get ahead. Melvyn spotted Robyn and his usual joke

is to say,

“There’s your twin, Robin!”

We laugh sometimes, at the unfortunate differences between the two

of us, my coworker named Robyn and I. But when Melvin jokes, I put

my ‘fake’ frown on and say,

“Hey! That’s not funny! “Twins” can’t have the same first name!”

Our appearances would not make us twins, our ages wouldn’t either.

She is almost ten years older. Robyn had light blonde hair that sticks

up like little feathers in a waif type hair cut. She is “losing it.” Sorry to

say this, but the managers and her coworkers are keeping her on

the payroll in respect for her 40 years of employment with Advance

Auto D.C. #23.  She goes around to our now defunct sign up sheets

for “chores” like sweeping, dusting racks and stacking bin boxes.

She initials these papers that someone posts every Sunday evening

to keep her occupied.

I asked my favorite boss, Jake, one time, “Why doesn’t she switch to

days? You know she may have “Sun Downers” which is often a form

of dementia or Alzheimer’s. As the day winds down, these elderly

people start losing their memory. When we were in the nursing

home, my activity assistant and I tried to engage these particular

patients/clients early in the day while their thoughts seemed to

string together better. Often they were coherent, especially when

remembering their ‘distant’ past memories.

As most of you already know, ‘recent’ memory is harder to pull

out of thin air, but the past is rich in details. Some of you, my age

or older, have been dealing with a parent or relative that has

memory loss.

Jake had no clue (he was in his twenties when I started there and

asked this question) and said he would check with his boss, Mike B.

Never getting back to me, oh well…

Anyway, I want to describe this amusing character while I am not

making fun of her. I am delineating our differences so the chances

of being siblings will seem very slim. Robyn has bleach blonde hair

but either lost her eyebrows or is one of those women who has

plucked their eyebrow hairs all out and then she uses a very heavy

hand with the eyebrow pencil. I mean it is a thick black curved

arch! Her eye makeup has been also given an extra dose of

blue eyeshadow, showing off her blue eyes, we must presume.

She may be losing her sense of smell, also, since she must give

herself an extra ‘dose’ or a big spray of perfume. I cannot

identify it, but it is an older scent that when put on your warm

pressure points in a lighter fashion, can smell misty and sweet.

In the larger doses, Robyn can be identified easily by her trail left

behind or her cloud of scent approaching. She is always dressed

in nice shorts and a nice clean blouse. Robyn has been, sometime

in her past, a careful dresser and she must do her laundry earlier

in the day, because it is fresh smelling amid the odor of the

perfume.

Robyn always  says “Hi, I think you remind me of a friend I know

named Alice.”

I wish I could tape this, so I could prove this is the very same

“opening line” she gives me, whether we run into each other

as she comes in at 3:30 p.m. or in the bathroom, aisles or like

today, in the Mezzanine.  Melvin heard it for the very first time,

being located in the next aisle over; AHEAD of me again! I try

to cut him off at the pass, but he won’t let me. MEN!!

Anyway, today Melvin snickered and then let off a second

sound, a resounding “Snort!”

Now, I will tell you after we went two rows down, crossing

paths, trying to get the last orders done, after having put in

over 10 and a half hours. Don’t tell Melvin, but I loved that

“Snort!” It made me chuckle and it made me smile.

But, here he was face to face, saying the same “tired” joke,

“Hey there, I just saw your twin! And you cannot say you have

the same name! She clearly identified your true identity by

revealing your secret “twin” name: “Alice!”

Oh, groan!!

I replied with a snarl, “I am going to get you back, Melvin!

Just you wait!”

Now, if you wish, help me to plot my “revenge” on Melvin!