Archive for June 2012

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When Alzheimer’s Patients Make Perfect Sense: Stunning Moments of Total Lucidity

Thursday, June 28th, 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.

Here are a two examples I describe in more detail in Come Back Early Today.

“Wearing it for Death”

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.

 “Dogs Are Very Selective”

I once took my little Shih Tzu, Peter, to visit Ed. A young man I encountered in the lobby asked me to take Peter to see his mother. He said she loved dogs. This particular woman’s illness was quite advanced and she spent most of her time sleeping.

When I entered her room she was lying quietly with her eyes closed, but she opened them when I softly called her name. I put Peter down next to her on her bed and he started licking her face. I told her that he didn’t usually ‘kiss’ people he didn’t know. She looked up at me and said, “Dogs are very selective.” That was the first lucid comment she’d made for months.

I always wrote down in great detail the incidents that occurred to be sure I’d remember them forever. And that’s what all caregivers need to do – treasure and remember those wonderful times forever. Can any of you readers share your own experiences with a loved one’s moments of total lucidity?

 

 

Overcoming Denial When a Loved One Shows Signs of Alzheimer’s

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

Alzheimer’s is, above all, an insidious disease. Its symptoms often begin so mildly and progress so slowly that it’s easy for friends and loved ones to deny them until one day there’s a ‘defining incident;’ an incident so bizarre that not even the spouse, child or other loved one can ignore it or explain it away.

Yet the disease typically starts with things of little or no significance. Not being able to come up with a common word. Mixing up someone’s name. Forgetting to turn off the stove. Things we all do from time to time. But for the person just entering the fringes of Alzheimer’s these things may begin to happen more and more often.

Years may pass between the earliest occasional confusion and the ‘defining incident.’ And during those years, the person may annoy or even anger friends and family members by being late, forgetting important appointments, being short-tempered, being unable to perform routine tasks, and exhibiting a whole variety of other troublesome behaviors.

But people noticing consistent signs of confusion and forgetfulness in a loved one should not wait for the ‘defining incident.’ One early action to take is to review the Alzheimer’s Association 10 Signs of Dementia and ask yourself whether your loved one is showing one or more of them:

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work and at leisure
  4. Confusion with time or place
  5. Difficulty understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing
  7. Losing things and the inability to retrace steps
  8. Decreased or poor judgment
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities
  10. Changes in mood and personality

The Alzheimer’s Association web site has additional information about each of these items and explains how they differ from things ‘normal people’ do from time to time.

It’s easy to ignore these signs or fail to connect the dots, but when a loved one is showing them it’s essential to dig down deep into your soul and find the emotional strength to get a medical evaluation. No one wants to be evaluated, or have a loved one evaluated, for Alzheimer’s disease, but sometimes it has to be done – and the sooner the better.

 

The Alzheimer’s Reading Room: A Valuable Resource for You

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

The Alzheimer’s Reading Room is the largest blog of its type and the number one source of life news for the entire Alzheimer’s community, with more than 3,500 articles in its knowledge base.  It has more than 7,600 subscribers and averages over 50,000 unique visitors per month. This site is a “must follow” for Alzheimer’s caregivers. Its goal is: to Educate, sometimes Entertain, and Empower Alzheimer’s caregivers, their families, and the entire Alzheimer’s community.

Founded by Bob DeMarco, who cared for his mother with Alzheimer’s for eight years, the articles on the site discuss issues that are important to Alzheimer’s caregivers. They provide specific insight, advice, and solutions based on real life experience. To review the articles I have published there go to the site and type my name in the search box half way down on the home page.

 

Entertaining Alzheimer’s Patients in the Early- and Mid-Stages

Sunday, June 17th, 2012

At the early stage you can often share in whatever fun activities the person enjoyed before developing Alzheimer’s. Some games may need to be adjusted, however, to accommodate your loved one’s diminishing mental capacity. For example, you may need to play a child’s card game instead of bridge; checkers instead of chess. Or, if the person previously enjoyed jigsaw puzzles, you may need to find ones with fewer and larger pieces.

At the mid stage of the disease, people with Alzheimer’s may have more or less the mental and social skills of a toddler. While it’s excellent to do the standbys – things like looking at old pictures or watching movies together, those are somewhat passive.

With a little thought you can find more active ways to spend time together, such as giving your loved one toys or other “props” that the two of you play with together. The key words here are “play” and “together.”  If you find some item the person really likes, you can use your imagination to invent simple games to play together with it.

Some people with Alzheimer’s cannot be reached by any means, but try experimenting with the ideas mentioned here. You may be amazed to find your loved one can suddenly function at a higher level and become happier when involved in these types of activities. And that can bring joy to both of you.

Note: You can find puzzles designed especially for Alzheimer’s patients at Puzzles to Remember. They come in various sizes and number of pieces to accommodate the skills of early or middle stage patient. Other sources for entertainment can be found at Best Alzheimer’s Products, an online store that features games for those with Alzheimer’s.

I Stirred Up a Firestorm of Controversy!

Saturday, June 16th, 2012

Recently I created a heated debate on the Huffington Post when I published an article entitled, “How I Got My Beloved, Demented Romanian Soul Mate to Move to a Nursing Home.”

The post received 98 comments (which is a lot). Basically it was a duel between 1) those who say you should never EVER put your loved one in a nursing home and 2) those who recognize that there may be circumstances in which nursing home placement is the only, or even best, choice.

You can read the post and all the comments here.

Kindle Books Sold

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

In the past I received a couple of tiny checks (under $10) from “Amazon Digital Services.” I didn’t have a clue what they were for. Well yesterday I received a check from them for $117. After scratching my head for awhile I finally figured out that these checks are for the Kindle version of the book.

If my calculations are correct that check represents 34 Kindle books that have been sold  in the past few months!  And I didn’t think I had sold any.

Thanks to all of you who have purchased either the paperback or the Kindle version!

Bickford at Mission Springs: Drop By For My Presentation

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

I will be making a presentation about the book and my experiences as an Alzheimer’s caregiver at Bickford at Mission Springs on Thursday June 28 at 7:00 PM. It’s an Assisted Living Facility located at 5300 W 61st Place in Mission, Kansas. Please drop by to hear the presentation if you’re free that evening. Thanks for your support!

The Little Yellow One: An Award-Winning Story

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

In my last post I mentioned that two stories from Come Back Early Today won honorable mention in the Writers-Editors Network International Awards Competition. One of the stories was “The Little Yellow One.”

This story is about how depressed I was about Ed’s condition, especially the fact that I could no longer have a meaningful conversation with him. I knew I’d never be able to accept his condition.

Then one day on a whim I bought him a little stuffed chick even though I was pretty sure he’d be offended by the gift. But how wrong I was. He absolutely loved it! So I started taking him more stuffed animals and I started interacting with him as though he were a young child.

The results were wonderful. He was so happy. And soon I began to realize I had accepted his condition and I had found new ways to interact with him – ways that were satisfying to both of us. Just seeing him smile and hearing him laugh had become more than enough to make up for losing our previous relationship.

Our love had adapted and endured despite this last and most challenging situation it would ever face.

Come Back Early Today Has Become an Award-Winning Book

Saturday, June 2nd, 2012

I am very humbled by the fact that Come Back Early Today has become an award-winning book that has placed four times in three writing competitions.

It is a Santa Fe Writers Project Literary Awards finalist and an Eric Hoffer First Horizons Award finalist. The First Horizons award is for first-time authors.

More recently I excerpted two stories from the book and rewrote them to be stand-alone pieces, then I submitted both of them  the Writers-Editors Network International Writing Competition. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that both stories were given honorable mention status!