Archive for May 2012

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Three Myths About Alzheimer’s Disease

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Myth 1: Memory loss is a natural part of aging. Reality: In the past people believed memory loss was a normal part of aging, often regarding even Alzheimer’s as natural age-related decline. Experts now recognize severe memory loss as a symptom of serious illness. Whether memory naturally declines to some extent is a research challenge still being addressed.

Myth 2: Alzheimer’s disease is not fatal. Reality: Alzheimer’s disease has no survivors. It destroys brain cells and causes memory changes, erratic behaviors and loss of body functions, and eventually leads to death.

Myth 3: Only older people can get Alzheimer’s. Reality: Alzheimer’s can strike people in their 50s, 40s or even 30s. This is called younger-onset Alzheimer’s. It’s estimated that there are as many as 200,000 people with Alzheimer’s in the US who are under age 65.

Adapted from:

“Please Wear a Tux!”

Monday, May 28th, 2012

Ed and the Violinist


One time I arranged for a classical violinist to go to the Alois Center and show up in a tux to play a special concert just for Ed in his room. He was positively radiant and clapped enthusiastically after each piece. After the concert he sat on his sofa and the violinist sat down beside him. Ed put his hand on the guy’s arm. He looked so proud you’d have thought he was sitting next to the Queen of England or something. Just a few hours later he’d completely forgotten the concert, but he enjoyed every second of it while it was going on!

When Alzheimer’s Patients Make Perfect Sense!

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

Many people who have cared for a person with Alzheimer’s can tell you shocking stories about their loved ones having moments of total lucidity. I haven’t been able to find any explanation for why or how these moments occur.

These precious events can last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours or even most of a day. I have a friend whose mother actually had an entire week of clarity. Her mind was clear as a bell for seven days, then suddenly she returned to her former state of dementia.

As the person’s illness progresses, these episodes tend to occur less often, and so when they do occur it’s all the more striking and precious.

Here’s the most stunning one described in Come Back Early Today:

When my mother died I was devastated.  I was also sad because I knew my soul mate, Ed, wouldn’t understand it and wouldn’t be able to console me as he would have done before he developed Alzheimer’s. When I told him about it he was thoroughly confused and thought I was talking about his mother. I mentioned it again a few days later and his only response was, “That lady on the television is the Pope.”

I had decided to wear a black blouse or shirt every day for a month to honor my mother’s passing. One day two weeks later when I visited Ed he looked me right in the eye and said in a clear and strong voice, “You look so beautiful in that black shirt even though I know you’re wearing it for death.” I was speechless.

Can any of you readers share your own experiences with a loved one’s moments of total lucidity?



Leeza Gibbons’ Website: A Resource for You

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

Leeza Gibbons’ website ( was named by Best of the Web 2012 in the Social Media Rockstars Organization category. It’s a great resource for caregivers.

Aesthetically pleasing, it is comprehensive and easy to navigate. It contains, among other features, a caregiver blog and a caregiver resource library.

Blog: There are many helpful posts that are designed to help caregivers. It has archives going back to July 2010.

Resource Library: This contains 138 brief articles on relevant topics in the categories of Alternate Housing, Care Providers, Caregiving, Doctors, Elder Issues, Financial Issues, Health Conditions (Numerous conditions – not just Alzheimer’s), Healthy Living, Insurance, Legal Issues, Social Security and a miscellaneous category.

Leeza’s Place: The site also offers detailed description of all the services provided at the four Leeza’s Places across the country.

Leeza’s Book: From the website you can purchase Leeza’s book, Take Your Oxygen First. The book was named one of the Best Consumer Health Books of 2009 by Library Journal.


Leeza Gibbons: Passionate Champion for Alzheimer’s Caregivers

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

Marie and Leeza

I recently had an opportunity to interview Leeza Gibbons. While Leeza does have a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, she is also a powerful star in the world of Alzheimer’s caregiving. Both her mother and grandmother had the disorder. Leeza told me that “caring for an Alzheimer’s patient is a situation that can utterly consume the lives and well-being of the people giving care, just as the disorder consumes its victims.”

In 2002 she established the Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation and launched Leeza’s Place.  With four locations across the country, Leeza’s Place aims to provide a safe, home-like setting where family caregivers feel comfortable with their new caregiving challenges and can put together a team of support and resources to create their own strategy for coping.

Leeza said that “if caregivers are not healthy, mentally well-balanced and spiritually sound, then those for whom they care will suffer. Alzheimer’s caregivers are heroes. It’s such an incredibly difficult and isolating job. We need to provide a life raft to these people who are in a river of pain which quickly turns into a tsunami.”

In 2009, just a year after her mother’s death, Leeza published a book, Take Your Oxygen First,which I reviewed in this blog on May 1.

Leeza Gibbons’ book, her foundation, and the four locations of Leeza’s Place are all amazing resources for caregivers. You can learn more at




Tips for Getting Your Loved One With Alzheimer’s to Stop Driving Before It’s Too Late

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Getting a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease to stop driving is one of the most difficult tasks you will ever have to accomplish.

Clear Signs that the Person Should Stop Driving:  Although there are many signs that a person should stop driving, the Alzheimer’s Association lists five primary ones:

  1. Forgetting how to locate familiar places
  2. Failing to observe traffic signs
  3. Making slow or poor decisions in traffic
  4. Driving at an inappropriate speed
  5. Becoming angry or confused while driving

Six Tips for Getting the Person to Stop Driving:

  1. Have their primary care provider or attorney talk to them.
  2. Have another family member or friend they respect talk to them.
  3. Take away the car keys
  4. Mechanically disable the car.
  5. Park the car around the corner or elsewhere out of their site.
  6. Report them to the state Department (or Bureau) of Motor Vehicles, which in most states will make them take a driving test. If they fail, their license will be revoked.

When they stop driving you will, of course, need to arrange transportation for them. You can do this through a combination of driving them yourself, arranging for others to drive them, and having them use taxis, buses, senior transportation services, delivery services, etc.

Getting your loved one with Alzheimer’s to stop driving will not be a simple task, but remember – it’s your responsibility to get him or her out from behind the wheel before someone gets hurt.





Alzheimer’s and Parenting Your Parent: What You Need to Do When the Tables Are Turned

Sunday, May 6th, 2012

When your mother’s or father’s mind begins to decline you are suddenly cast in the role of being the parent. This role reversal feels uncomfortable at first, but it’s something you will need to get used to.

The Ten Most Important Parenting Duties

There are numerous tasks and responsibilities you will have to assume when parenting your mother or father as their Alzheimer’s advances, and in the early to middle stages, the 10 most important responsibilities include:

  1. Ensuring that their basic needs are met, such as shelter, food, and clothing
  2. Reassuring them that they are safe
  3. Getting them to stop driving when it’s no longer  safe for them to do so
  4. Helping out with simple day-to-day activities such as shopping, cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, or reminding them to take their medications
  5. Determining where they should live (i.e., in their home, with you or another relative, or in an assisted living or long-term care facility)
  6. Arranging for social stimulation by having them spend time around other people
  7. Providing entertainment and engaging them in activities that  are appropriate for their stage of the disease
  8. Handling their legal affairs
  9. Managing their financial affairs
  10. Making their health care decisions

The last three are especially needed for people in the mid – late stages of the disease.

For advice on providing entertainment you can find a list of 101 things to do with a person with Alzheimer’s at



Leeza Gibbons’ Book, “Take Your Oxygen First”

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

Leeza Gibbons, of radio and TV fame, is also a passionate champion for Alzheimer’s caregivers.

In 2009, just a year after her mother’s death, Leeza published a book, Take Your Oxygen First. Co-authored by James Huysman, PhD, and Rosemary DeAngelis Laird, MD, it provides information about memory loss and is packed with advice for caregivers about how to take care of their bodies, their minds and their spirits. It also has a special section with photographs where Leeza tells the story of her family’s struggle with her mother’s Alzheimer’s disease.

Take Your Oxygen First is a book all Alzheimer’s caregivers should read. I only wish I had it during the seven long years I was taking care of my soul mate, Ed. It would have compelled me to take better care of my own health and might have helped me understand and deal with my anguish over losing  the wonderful man I had admired and loved for so long.