Did you know that as we grow older, our sense of touch diminishes? Sure, I knew that eyesight and hearing often decline, along with our sense of smell and taste, but it was news to me that our sense of touch declines as well. According to a recent *article in AARP, by the time we’re 80, we’ve only a quarter of the touch receptors we had at 20. Because it’s so gradual, many of us may not even notice this loss. While our sense of touch may lessen, our need for touch certainly doesn’t!
Think of what happens to infants that are left untouched–they often do not survive. All human beings need touch. That includes the elderly. Sadly, something else that often diminishes over time is the opportunity for touch. Spouses die, children and grandchildren are far away and the elderly often find themselves living a singular, mostly “untouched” life.
Both my parents had dementia. Mom had Alzheimer’s and Dad, Parkinson’s-related dementia. They lived nearby me in an assisted living facility and I clearly remember what Continue reading →
Redundancy: superfluous, unnecessary, extraneous, beside the point
An encounter while visiting my daughter and her family gave me my first-ever opportunity to personally experience age-related redundancy. Never before have I felt so beside the point.
One afternoon, we walked to a nearby park. Her family had lived in the area for only a few weeks, so there were lots of new people to meet. One of those new neighbors and her children were at the park too, and we began a conversation. First came the introductions. That past, the neighbor looked directly at my daughter and said, “So, how long will your mother be here?” as I stood right beside her, suddenly feeling like chopped liver. It jolted me. Hadn’t I read about this…the marginalization of the elderly? Wow. Was I now an “elderly?” This alone was tough to swallow, without suddenly also feeling I’d become invisible. My daughter answered the woman’s question, while I was left speechless and staring. Quickly searching my own memory, I wondered if I’d ever treated someone this way. It was with a sense of remorse I realized that I was, indeed, guilty. As caregiver to my parents, how many times had I disrespected them, talking over their heads with health care providers or caregivers, treating Mom and Dad as if they were superfluous? How unthinkingly easy it had been! Continue reading →
The holidays have always been a time of togetherness for my family and some of my oldest memories are from this season. It’s only natural for me to “remember when,” so it never comes as a surprise when I develop that unmistakable longing for my mom. If only there were a way to satisfy such a longing with conversation or a hug! Of course, it’s impossible, since Mom passed away in 2008. Recently, a conversation I had with my friend, Jean, about our mothers gave me an idea, and while it can’t help fulfill my yearning as a daughter who has lost her mom, it might make a difference someday for you. After her mother’s death several years ago, Jean found herself hesitating over an old sweater as she cleaned out her mother’s belongings. Rather than going into the donation box, somehow the sweater found its way home with her. In our conversation, Jean told me there have been a few times over the ensuing years that she’s pulled the old sweater off the hanger and actually worn it. She shared that the softness of the sweater next to her skin feels like an embrace from her mom, a sense of being enveloped by her essence and her love. I’m touched by this lovely sentiment. Continue reading →
A French proverb declares that gratitude is the “memory of the heart.” It is with gratitude, the memory of my heart, that I remember Mom and Dad this holiday season.
For many of us, it’s customarily the season we draw family close, spending time together, making new memories. Each family has their own unique traditions, which bind them together into their clan or tribe. As part of our heritage, these rituals are often passed down from generation to generation.
This week, I’ve been daydreaming about my own birth family’s traditions, in an attempt to awaken new memories from my childhood. Both my parents are gone now, so memories are all I have left. As there are few surviving Christmas pictures from that time, I’ve been searching through the cobwebs in my brain for memories, in an attempt to bring Mom and Dad closer to me and keep their memory alive, if only in my own mind. Continue reading →
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 →
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 →
Caregivers, many times, really are unsung heroes. Today, Marianne Sciucco is unveiling her new audiobook short story, “Ino’s Love,” about an elderly woman and a loving caregiver. Check it out! This 28-minute audiobook could help make a daily commute seem shorter or offer a change of pace while you’re out walking your dog.
Marianne, welcome back to my blog. Please, won’t you tell us about your new audiobook?
I adore audiobooks, so naturally I want other audiobook lovers to be able to listen to my stories. This summer I teamed up with veteran television reporter and co-anchor Terry Murphy to bring my short story Ino’s Love to life. Terry is best known for her nine years (1990–1998) anchoring the tabloid show Hard Copy and, since 2003, reporting for the entertainment show Extra. She has done a fantastic job with Ino’s Love and I can’t wait to hear what readers have to say. (Read on for my interview with Terry.)