Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Where Are My Boots?

I want you to look closely at this picture.  You will notice a pair of men's boots positioned along the curb of a road.  Would someone please explain how these boots landed there?  The road is a busy one in my town, and the boots appear to be in fairly good shape.  Of course when my sister saw them, she knew I should write a story about them.  The picture was taken, and here comes the story and how it relates to dementia.  After all, most EVERYTHING relates to dementia in some way.

"Momma, we need to get going early this morning for our eight o'clock appointment at the chiropractor.  It is time to get snapped, crackled and popped.  Will you get up and start dressing?  I will be at your apartment in about five minutes."  This conversation goes on every Tuesday and Thursday morning between myself and Momma.  Momma is living with mid-stage Alzheimer's, and she forgets lots of things.  Some mornings she will surprise me by actually getting up and starting the dressing process.  Other mornings she will frustrate me by remaining in bed until I arrive.  But every morning we will search for something.  "Carol Lynn (Momma uses both my names when she is irritated) where the devil are my shoes?"  THAT is a common morning question.  Fortunately for me, the answer is followed with something like, "What would I do without you?  You know I love you!"  Ahh.... It is all worth the effort.

I wish Momma always knew where her shoes or glasses or emergency pendant necklace were located.  I wish she could always remember to get up and start dressing for the day timely.  I wish she would never forget anything important.  I wish Momma did not have Alzheimer's, but she does.  She also has a family that loves her and is willing to search for the missing shoes.  I just hope I don't see them alongside the road one day!

Hope that gives you Something To Ponder.

Sometimes, You've Just Got To Laugh

Friday, June 26, 2015

Our Names Were Larry, Moe, and Curly

She was signing herself in for a chiropractor's visit, and Sissy and I were with her. We all three see Dr. Benjamin at eight in the morning every Tuesday and Thursday. We spend the morning making Momma laugh with our silliness while we wait. However, the signing in procedure that morning was no laughing matter.While standing at the sign­-in sheet, Sissy said "Momma sign us all three in”.  Momma signed herself in and started signing our names. She wrote "Sissy", and then paused. She whispered to me as I stood beside her, "Carol, I can't remember her last name." She was disturbed by this lapse in her memory. Sissy and I both felt sick. 
Folks, if you have been reading my blogs, or read my book, or heard me present to groups, you would probably agree I have a fairly good handle on dementia, Alzheimer's and caregiving. However, on this particular morning, my knowledge, education and understanding of dementia did not keep me from being so very sad. 

I realized Momma had forgotten the last names of her children. This was not news that was easy to take, but at least I understood the "why" of the situation. Nonetheless, Sissy and I both felt really sad that morning. 

"That's OK, Momma. Just sign us in as Larry, Moe, and Curly," I said. I could have made a big deal of her memory loss, but that wouldn't have changed or helped the situation in any way. Laughing off the issue, and going on with the day as if nothing had happened, proved to be a good way to handle the sadness we all three felt. 

Life is full of challenges no matter what disabilities, illnesses, or challenges we face. It has been proven repeatedly that laughter is truly good medicine. When someone has dementia, laughter is essential. Momma is a happier person when we are silly. Honestly, there are times it makes us tired to be so very UP all the time, but having dementia is making HER tired, also. We will continue to do our part to make her life happy. You see, her smile brings tons of joy to our day.
Hope that gives you Something To Ponder.

Sometimes, You've Just Got To Laugh

Monday, June 8, 2015

Creative Caregiving

Yes, that is a picture of a man atop a very high structure with an umbrella to protect him from the sun. I absolutely had to stop and take a picture. "There is a story in that picture," I thought, and I was correct. Here is the story.
Life is crazy, and sometimes you find yourself in situations that are not comfortable. I think the guy working on the metal structure for the new restaurant in town certainly found himself in an uncomfortable situation, and he found a way to deal with the sun in a creative way. I admire his ingenuity.
When dementia caregiving, there are innumerable opportunities to be creative in response to difficult or uncomfortable situations. In thinking of this, Mrs. Betty comes to mind. Recently we were having private music with her, and things went "crooked". Yes, crooked.
Mrs. Betty has very advanced dementia. She screams, yells, spits, and curses for no apparent reason. Food will often calm her agitation, but there are times when nothing brings her peace. On one particular day, Mrs. Betty was highly (and I do mean HIGHLY) agitated. When Sissy, my Director of Hospice Music, began to sing for her, Mrs. Betty seemed to calm a bit, so Sissy reached for her hand. That was when Mrs. Betty grabbed Sissy's little finger and pulled it opposite of the way God intended that figure to be. A crooked finger was the result. Sissy was in great pain, the staff reacted with much commotion (which actually made Mrs. Betty more agitated and upset), and the situation escalated out of control.
Fast forward two weeks, and it was time to visit Mrs. Betty again. Sissy and I were a bit anxious about the visit. Mrs. Betty was loud when we arrived, but she did not seem as agitated. We had decided to place noise canceling headphones on her as a test. Approaching quietly, and placing the headphones on her head, we played an easy piano version of "Jesus Loves Me". Mrs. Betty instantly became quiet and still. She closed her eyes, moved her head to the music, and obviously enjoyed the sound she was experiencing.
At one point the headphones became disconnected from the iPad, and Mrs. Betty, once again, became loud. Reconnecting quickly, the sound returned and Mrs. Betty said, "one, no maybe two". We suppose she was talking about the music, but we were positive she was enjoying the music.
Finding a creative solution to a difficult situation can be challenging, but thinking outside the box can bring about unexpected results. I hope your results bring as much comfort as the umbrella brought the man on the tall structure in the picture and the headphones brought Mrs. Betty. I also hope that gives you Something To Ponder.

Sometimes, You've Just Got To Laugh

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Dementia and "What Do I Do With This?"

I was in the kitchen preparing a hot drink for Momma.  She had just entered the shower and was comfortably seated preparing to have her morning shower.  I was heating the water for her peppermint tea when I noticed the shower water had not started.  I thought this strange, but I waited a minute more.  Still no sound of running water, I returned to check on Momma.

Opening the shower curtain, I asked, "Momma is everything OK?"  She was looking at her hands with a questioning look.  She held two bars of soap and a bottle of liquid soap.  Her response made my entire being feel sick.  "What do I do with this?"  Her question startled me, but I remained calm.
"You know, Momma, you don't need these, but the liquid soap will work well with your bath scrungie," I said as I took away the bars of soap.  She then quickly remembered and said, " I swear, my brain leaves me sometimes. I know what I'm doing, now."

These moments of confusion are frightening for me, but they are also frightening for Momma.  Momma realizes what is going on in her brain, and that is why it is important I respond with a calm voice and a kind answer.  If I had raised my voice at Momma, or made her feel less of a person because she could not remember what to do in the shower, I would have only succeeded in making a bad situation worse.

Momma knows she has dementia.  She knows it is Alzheimer's type dementia.  She knows she is getting worse.  I want to do everything possible to make life good, relaxed, and as stress-free as possible.  A smile, a warm touch, and a calm demeanor go a long way in making life good for any person on the planet.  This is even more true when that person has dementia.

Hope that gives you Something To Ponder.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Dementia and "What You See"

I am a writer who specializes in dementia. I am always seeking to learn more about dementia in its various forms, and I want to help people who, like me, are loving and caring for someone with dementia. More and more I have come to realize that dementia and ordinary life share many "personality traits". Today let's look at a very common trait between ordinary life and dementia.
We have all heard the phrase, " What you see is what you get." That is very seldom true. We might envision life in a certain way, but reality plays out much differently. For example, we see the new job as being exactly what we have always sought, and reality shows all the flaws and struggles that actually come with the new position. We think the new boyfriend or girlfriend is so much better than last week's option, and then we see personality traits that drive us bonkers. The get rich quick plan seems fabulous, and then we learn we have been scammed. We do not always get what we see when it comes to life.

Dementia is the same way. Many folks enter the home of an individual with advanced dementia, and they see someone who can't remember, can't feed themself, can't read, and can't complete a sentence. They decide what they SEE is not worth their effort. This person has nothing to offer, and they choose not to bother themselves with visiting. The truth, however, is this individual is more than what you see.

Take the time to sit beside them. Position yourself on their dominate side (it will increase their ability to comprehend), place your hand on their shoulders, use the palm of your hand to rub a figure eight onto the top of their back, and look directly into their eyes while you smile broadly. Ask them about high school or growing up or what they did for a living. You might be surprised at what you learn. Be patient while they tell their story. Do not try to help with words, do not correct facts, and do not look away. Allow them to enjoy your undivided attention, and you might discover that “what you see is NOT what you get”.
Hope that gives you Something To Ponder.


A Sunday school teacher was telling her class the story of the Good Samaritan.  She asked the class, "If you saw a person lying on the roadside, all wounded and bleeding, what would you do?"

A thoughtful little girl broke the hushed silence, "I think I'd throw up."

Sometimes, You've Just Got To Laugh!

Friday, March 6, 2015


She remembers less and less everyday.  She still smiles.  She is still active in her assisted living.  She still recognizes her family.  But she is forgetting things.  There are days when her forgetfulness causes us both to feel as if we are drowning.  Hold on, though, we will not drown.  We are not traveling this journey alone.  Hallelujah!

I am participating in a daily on-line Bible reading called “She Reads Truth” (and you should check it out).   Recently we read through Esther and remembered how God used Esther to bring about a plan.  It was not the road Esther would have ever dreamed she would have traveled.  It probably was not a plan Esther would have chosen for herself.  Yet it was God’s road and God’s plan for her, and it was the BEST road and the BEST plan.

One particular day's devotional commentary stated,  "God's hand of rescue uses all of the moments - small or silly or confusing or isolating or terrifying though they may be - as pieces of our own rescue story."   Can I begin to explain how comforting that is when I see Momma leaving me a little more each day?  My love for this woman is deeper than even I realized, and I am becoming acutely aware of how difficult life is for HER.  I also am amazed at how much I still need my Momma.  You would assume a 53 year old, successful, independent woman would have worked past a “need” for her mother, but you would be wrong.  

I need my Momma to listen to my stories and laugh with me.  I need my Momma to listen to my stories and cry with me.  I need my Momma to say the funny things she says so I can come back with my usual smarty-pants response.  I need my Momma to put her arms around me and say, “Come crawl in the bed with me, and we will spend the morning being lazy.”  I need my Momma to say, “I love you, Carol Lynn, do you know that?”  I need my Momma to smile at me when I enter the door.  When this ceases, I am afraid my heart will shatter deeply.

For now, I wipe the tears, and I concentrate on the quotation from today’s reading.  Let me remind us both of those words - "God's hand of rescue uses all of the moments - small or silly or confusing or isolating or terrifying though they may be - as pieces of our own rescue story."  Thank you, God, for being MY rescuer.  

Hope that gives you Something To Ponder.

Thursday, February 26, 2015


I am hoping the title of this blog captured your attention.  What could it possibly mean?  I am excited to share the story.
My company offers Hospice Music for those individuals who are in their final days.  It is a meaningful experience for both the patient and for us as providers of the music.  It is very common for our clients to be experiencing dementia brought on by any of over 200 different reasons.  (Yes, there are over 200 reasons an individual may have dementia!)

Recently, a client captured the attention of Sissy, Director of Hospice Music, and she captured the attention of everyone else in the room, also.  However, that attention may not have been positive attention.

"Did you know I speak six langauges?" she asked Sissy.

"No.  I had no idea.  That's wonderful," Sissy replied.

"Would you like for me to say something in Spanish?"

"Ok.  I might not understand you, but go ahead."  Sissy, however, was in no way prepared for what the client offered.

"Whackado whackado, go to H E _ _!"  Sissy is a trained Dementia Specialist.  She understands why individuals may use curse words, and she does not pass judgment.  This response, however, was so unexpected that Sissy had a hard time keeping her composure.  To make the situation even more interesting, Sissy and the client were seated in a common area of an assisted living.  The client made her pronouncement very loudly, and everyone turned to see what was happening.  Sissy was somewhat embarrassed, and she was trying hard not to laugh.

Alzheimer's type dementia destroys the frontal lobe.  This lobe is where the ability to process what is appropriate and inappropriate is formed.  The individual may loose this ability, and they cannot be held responsible for what they may say or do.  To make things even more interesting, often times the most commonly used words are curse words.  These words are available in the brain when socially acceptable words are often lost.

The best response to someone who is being inappropriate is diversion.  Not responding may be hard, but it is a good plan.  "Well, how about we have a snack now."  Or, "Did I tell you I have a grandson?"  Change the topic, quickly, and pray the individual follows your lead.  Never get angry with them or correct them.  This is not a good response, and it will most likely cause additional inappropriate behaviors to come forth.

Life is interesting.  Keep on smiling.  Hope that gives you Something To Ponder