Archive for September 2014

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One Man’s Descent Into Alzheimer’s – Does Any of This Sound Familiar?

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

The Beginning of Ed’s Long Journey Downward

 Ed was my beloved Romanian life partner of 30 years. Today my mind flashed back to the first months of 2000, when his dementia began to become more prominent.

For example, I did all of his grocery shopping. When I suggested some items to buy for him at Krogers, he didn’t recognize several of his very favorite foods. He didn’t even remember Starbucks, which was the only coffee he had used for years.

I mentioned to him that he should put the coffee in the freezer (as he always did) and he asked me where the freezer was. When I told him it was in the kitchen, he didn’t remember what a kitchen was.

I said, “You know, where your stove is.”

“My stove? What is a stove? Do I have a stove?”

I continued, “Yes, where you cook your food.” That didn’t help.

He called me back a little later. He said that he had found his kitchen, but that there were only clothes and shoes in it.

The Continuation of Ed’s Decline

 Beginning in June of 2005, I kept detailed records of Ed’s continuing decline:

June 1: Ed has always taken great pride in his appearance but came to the door to receive expected guests when he did not have his dentures in. The most amazing thing was that he didn’t even seem to care.

June 3:Couldn’t remember how to operate the TV.

June 10:Called me to confirm his phone number, which has been the same for 40 years.

June 12: Couldn’t remember where he keeps his clothes.

June 15:Was terribly distressed because he couldn’t find his pants, which were on the bed right beside him.

And it only got worse as time went by.

 

How to Visit a Friend With Alzheimer’s

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

Family members or other very close loved ones who are accustomed to visiting may have a set routine and may have learned some or all of the tips below. But if you’re a friend visiting for the first time, or if you don’t visit the person very often, you may feel awkward and not know what to do.

I have compiled these tips based on four sources, including an article of mine published on the Huffington Post, an article published by Carole Larkin on the Alzheimer’s Reading Room, and personal communications from Teepa Snow (05.30.13) and Tom and Karen Brenner (10.03.13)

When I reviewed the sources I discovered that several tips were found in two or more of them.

  1. Start off by looking friendly, making eye contact, offering a handshake and introducing yourself (Snow, Larkin)
  1. Be at their level physically – bend down if necessary – for example, if they are in a wheelchair. (Larkin)
  1. Talk about the old times more than recent information (Snow)
  1. Don’t ask if they remember something (Marley; Larkin)
  1. Speak calmly, slowly and in short sentences (Larkin, Snow)
  1. Ask only one question at the time and pause between thoughts or ideas to give them a chance to answer. (Larkin, Snow)
  1. Don’t correct them or argue with them (Marley, Larkin, Snow)
  1. Keep memories positive. Don’t bring up topics that could upset them. Turn negatives into positives (Marley, Snow, Larkin)
  1. Do something with the person rather than just talking to them. Bring pictures, CDs of music the person used to enjoy, or other “props” (such as items related to one of the person’s special interests), to bring up old memories. (Snow, Brenners)
  1. Tell them what you are going to do before you do it – especially if you are going to touch them. (Larkin)

Following these tips should make you feel more at ease and make your visit more enjoyable.

Does anyone have any additional tips for visiting a friend with Alzheimer’s?

 

The Joys of Visiting People With Alzheimer’s

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

After retiring last Spring I’d decided to volunteer to visit a few people at a local memory care facility. I got the idea from my dogs’ veterinarian, Ann McHugh, DVM, who volunteers to visit people in a hospice care facility.

Ann told me it was rewarding, and I’d heard the same thing from other friends and acquaintances. I never believed them. I could understand how the residents could benefit from my visits but not that I would benefit even more.

So it was a surprise to learn it’s true. No matter what mood I’m in when I arrive I always feel better when I leave. I truly do receive so much more than I give.

Carolyn, my first lady to see, was sitting in the lobby with three other residents. I went up to her, introduced myself, and told her I was there to visit her.

“Me?” she asked, smiling and sounding pleasantly surprised.

“Yes, you,” I answered promptly.

She was delighted to have a visitor even if she had no earthly idea who I was or why I was there to see her. We went to her room, where I gave her a small gift.

She said, “I’m sorry I don’t have anything to give you.”

To help her save face I pointed out that she had some cookies on her table.

“Sure,” she said, laughing. “Take as many as you want.”

Despite her shaky memory, Carolyn’s social skills were so good you would have thought she was volunteering to visit me! And those cookies were some of the best I ever had.

Another one of my favorite ladies is Ruth. She once told me, “You’re the only person around here I can have an intelligent conversation with.”

She and I always have great visits filled with laughter. Ruth has an outstanding sense of humor that Alzheimer’s hasn’t robbed her of. I hope it never will. When it’s time for me to leave we’re both sorry.

Every week I look forward to Thursday’s visits, wondering what my ladies are going to say or do next.

 

 

Man With Alzheimer’s Shows That Chivalry Isn’t Dead

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

Ed, my beloved life partner of 30 years, had been charming and chivalrous for as long as I had known him. One might have expected these qualities to disappear once he developed Alzheimer’s, but the opposite occurred. He became even more charismatic than before.

I was deeply touched one day when out of the blue he announced, “Since I became in such high admiration of you, other beauties didn’t exist.”

I was amazed that this man living with dementia could still express love so poetically.

But although I was his main “lady,” he flirted with others. Whenever any staff woman was preparing to leave his room he would kiss her hand and tell her how beautiful she was. You can imagine how happy they were if they had to go to his room for something or other! Many of them thanked me repeatedly for bringing him there.

And he kissed the hands of his lady visitors. Furthermore, he did the same when he was out and about in the Center. He consistently kissed the cook’s hand until one day she asked, “Where were you when I was looking for a husband?”

I discovered the clearest sign of his chivalry, however, one evening when I was checking out at the front desk. Betty, the receptionist on duty, said, “I’ll bet that Edward was a real lady’s man in his day. Every time he comes up here he tells me `how beautiful I am. And that he really means it from his heart. That it’s not just words from his lips.”

One day when I went to visit, the cleaning lady was there silently mopping his floor. When he saw me he turned to her and said, “Isn’t she beautiful?”

The next day he passed away.

Yes. Ed was a true gentleman and lady’s man to the very end.

 

 

The Profound Innate Joy in Human Life – Alzheimer’s or Not

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

After a pleasant drive to the Alois Center on a crisp fall day, I arrived and walked down the hall to Ed’s room, wondering what type of mood he was in that day.

When he first saw me his eyes lit up and he said “Oh, it’s you! Oh, I am so happy to see you! You are an angel! I am overwhelmed to see you! Oh, I am overwhelmed!”

He took my hand and kissed it several times, continuing to say he was overwhelmed and didn’t have words to say how happy he was to see me.  His eyes were shining, his face was full of joy, and he held my hand, kissing it again from time to time. That was so typical of Ed – ever the quintessential European gentleman.

He was so happy that he was near tears. Now I don’t have words to describe how his joy and his being near tears both at the same time combined to make a unique emotional experience for me. He was so happy that he almost cried.   While we were sitting on the sofa I picked up The Little Yellow One, one of his beloved stuffed animals, and handed it to him. He reacted joyfully and as though he had never seen it before.

“Oh, the little one. I love him so much!” (He referred to all of his stuffed animals as ‘him.’)

His eyes lit up again and he petted the little animal with loving strokes and then kissed it several times on the top of the head with an affectionate expression on his face.   His extreme joy to see me and his intense love for the little stuffed animal affected me to my core and I realized that some people with Alzheimer’s have the innate capacity to experience joy that can’t be put into words by a normal writer like me.

I was so happy to see Ed in that wonderful state of being, and I felt warm inside all the way home.   If only we all could feel such joy from a simple visit from a friend.

Does anyone else have stories to share about joy with your loved one?