Sunday, July 29, 2012

She Is Forgetting More Frequently

Momma was diagnosed about six years ago with Alzheimer's type dementia.  She is very well aware of her disease, and she has grasped a rudimentary understanding of what is happening within her brain.  She is not upset about the process, and she very much wants to live her life to its fullest.

This week, my husband asked if I was aware of how Momma has slipped a little more in the past months.  I instantly became defensive.  “I don’t think she is any different at all.”  Being the kind and patient soul he is, he gently helped me to see Momma is forgetting recent events more frequently.  After I caught my breath, I had to admit he was correct.

So what!  That may seem a strange response to such a big announcement.  However, I believe God has a plan, and His grace is sufficient (II Corinthians 12:9).

I really wish I could change the future into a perfect life for all of us.  I especially wish this for those I love.  I cannot do this, and neither can you.  I can trust in God, lean on my family, and understand the processes that are taking place inside my mother’s brain.  Remember, “Knowledge brings POWER.  Power brings HOPE.  Hope brings SMILES.  We all need more SMILES!"

I like this picture.  I can just hear you saying, "They look like twins."  We hear that quite often. I always take that as a compliment.  I believe my Momma is one more good looking woman.   Momma is 73 years old, and I am, well, less than 73 years old.

                                                 (Photograph by Maggie Bell-Niven)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Don't Startle Me!

I am guessing there are few of us who enjoy being startled.   I recently had the unenjoyable experience of having a teenager hide behind a piece of furniture, wait upon my arrival, and then jump out and startle me.  Let me just explain that I was not happy.  I do not like to be frightened in any way.

Yesterday I watched a caregiver approach a wheelchair bound man, who was sound asleep, from behind.  She grabbed the wheelchair and began moving this man.  He instantly was awakened, and it was obvious he was startled.  Being the good Dementia Specialist, I wanted to sneak up behind the caregiver and startle her!  Fortunately, common sense prevailed.  I held myself back, and I didn’t say a word.  Then she did the same thing to another resident.  UGH!  I wanted to scream.

Don’t do this to your loved one.  It really doesn’t matter if they have dementia, or not.  Do not approach them from behind.  As we age normally, we experience a decrease in our peripheral vision.  Dementia causes this process to accelerate.  It is very important, therefore, to approach from the front, announce your presence, and ask permission to proceed with whatever task you are hoping to accomplish.

You know, it really is just common courtesy.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

I've Got The Bruise To Prove It

This has been my year for medical stuff.  Yes, stuff.  I had surgery in February, five thingies removed from my skin and biopsied in June, skin cancers removed in July, and blood tests along the way.  My most recent blood test was an “Executive Panel”.  (If you are a blue-collar worker, do you still get an “Executive Panel”?  Hmm???)  Now I have a bruise, which is a  very interesting shade of green, on the bend of my left arm.  The blood test was painless, thankfully, but the bruise looks really bad.  It should garner me some sympathy, but, alas, it has not done so.
I am thankful the skin cancers were the “good type of cancer”, and the blood work showed me to be in excellent health. However, did you know that only three out of ten people living with dementia get diagnosed in the early stage of their disease?  That amazes me.  When Momma first began having issues, I threw her in the car, and off to the doctor we headed.  OK, maybe it wasn’t quite that dramatic, but I really did act quickly.  As a result, Momma was started on the medications very early in her disease process.

Why is this important?  First of all, it takes the mystery out of life when we know with what we are dealing.  Secondly, the diagnosis will allow us to learn about the disease and become better caregivers and even better patients.  Thirdly, the earlier dementia is diagnosed and the earlier the individual begins the proper medications, the more effective the medications are in bringing about positive results.

Get diagnosed.  Don’t put it off.  Then seek help to learn about dementia.  I am here to listen.  I am here to help.  Let’s do this together.  Email me at

Sunday, July 1, 2012

To Do List

Do you have a “To Do List”?  I do not have a To Do List at this present time.  I am a bit obsessive/compulsive, and a To Do List can make me crazy.  I get so wound up with the idea of crossing an item off the list, I forget to do things in a logical order.  So, I don’t make these lists.
My daughter has such a list.  Whether mentally or actually written down, I’m not sure.  This week has afforded the pleasure of marking several rather large items off her list.  That is a great feeling for her, and I am happy she has made progress.

However, and I say this with a sigh, don’t give your loved one with dementia a To Do List.  Simply put, it won’t help a dad-gone thing.  In fact, it will become a point of frustration.  If they are like my Momma, the list will suddenly disappear.  Momma only lives in about 400 square feet, but lists, notes, appointment cards and the like are all swallowed up into a black hole that loves to eat paper.  So, I find myself calling Momma with a verbal reminder of things that need to be done.

 Let’s take that thought just a little further.  I don’t call Momma at 3PM and remind her she needs to do something at 4PM.  That is a waste of time for both of us.  Momma will forget,  I will get frustrated because she forgot, and nothing positive will result.   Instead, I call Momma at 3:55 and say, “Momma, you need to be sure and meet Pops in the dining room at 4 o’clock.”  At this, Momma will most likely be surprised at the news, agree to put her shoes on, and out the door she will go.

This method of communication works best.  Expecting your loved one to keep up with a note,or remembering to read that same note, is unrealistic.  Take the time to make either an in-person reminder or a phone call reminder.  It is much more effective.  Even still, don’t be surprised if the relayed information is forgotten before the telephone good byes have been spoken!