This week, I’d like to welcome guest blogger Jennifer Brush, M.A, CCC/SLP, who will share some behavioral insights for caregivers of people with dementia.
Henry walked into the darkened kitchen, felt for the knob and opened the drawer to the left of the sink. He pushed the utensils from side to side, touching and removing each one, inspecting the spoons and spatulas, then shaking his head before placing each one back in a hurried, disorderly fashion. Slam! “Not in here” he uttered as he moved to open the next drawer.
“What in God’s name are you doing in here so early? It’s not even five o’clock. Stop that and come back to bed!” Yelled his wife, Evelyn as she stomped back into the bedroom. Continue reading →
There are few, if any, people in today’s world who will remain untouched by Alzheimer’s disease or dementia in some form, whether caregiver, relative or someone personally affected by the disease. As baby boomers continue to age, the number of those diagnosed is predicted to increase each year. Half of all people over the age of 85 are said to have some form of dementia.
In 2003, my 84-year-old mother was diagnosed with moderate Alzheimer’s disease. After hearing this diagnosis, I wanted to find out all I could about what her future held. After speaking with her health care provider and hearing the medical explanation, I turned to the local Alzheimer’s Association in an attempt to learn even more. I borrowed videos to view and pamphlets to study. I learned my mother had been diagnosed with a grim disease which had no cure and that there was no way to slow its progression. Continue reading →
It is my pleasure to welcome Shannon Wiersbitzky, author of What Flowers Remember, into the Author’s Limelight this week. Although I read her book this past summer, the memory of it has stuck with me. This is the first book about Alzheimer’s that I’ve read which was written from the perspective of a young girl…a young girl named Delia, who’s able to see her elderly friend, “Old Red,” as a person, not a disease. Her endeavors to “help him remember,” are so innocently tender, allowing us, as the reader, to witness his decline through the eyes of a child.
Shannon, in your own words, please tell us about your book.
In What Flowers Remember, due to a shared love of flowers and gardening, Delia and her elderly neighbor Old Red Clancy dream up a seed- and flower-selling business. The two make quite a pair. He has the know-how and she has the get-up-and-go. But something is happening to Old Red. And the doctors say he can’t be cured. He’s forgetting places and names and getting cranky for no reason. As his condition worsens, Delia takes it upon herself to save as many memories as she can. Her mission is to gather Old Red’s stories so that no one will forget, and she corrals everybody in town to help. Continue reading →
In 2004, my father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s-related dementia and a few months later, my mother with Alzheimer’s disease. That was the year I became a caregiver. While my parents didn’t reside with me, I was still intimately involved in their daily care for the next 4 and 5 years. Traveling down that rabbit hole of dementia with my parents was difficult and sad. I watched helplessly as this disease steadily and ruthlessly chipped away at their brains, one memory at a time. That said, it was also a time of considerable personal growth for me. I learned to parent my parents with patience and compassion, caring for them much as they’d cared for me as a child so many years before. Interspersed with the challenges were times of fleeting lucidity, as well as moments of poignant tenderness, which I still remember and cherish, even today. These are moments I would have missed forever, had I not been a family caregiver.
When coping with Alzheimer’s disease, it’s easy to feel alone. The disease can be isolating. Not talked about as often as other ailments, there’s a stigma associated with losing memories, a certain shame. There shouldn’t be. It’s as uncontrollable as cancer, and yet there’s a shroud of silence that surrounds it. This silence leads to a denial of symptoms. Which may be why, according to a 2006 study by the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA), a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is delayed an average of 27.8 months after symptoms appear.
Healing comes from eliminating this silence. Talking enables us to cope, helping us realize Continue reading →