What does the “what-cheer, what-cheer” song of a northern Cardinal,
an ultra light scooting across the sky,
a fluffy dog-shaped cloud,
and a Little Free Library have in common?
Nothing, really, other than being some of the items I stored together in a “memory chain” in an ongoing quest to challenge my brain.
While visiting my daughter at her new home in Michigan this summer, I was out walking around her neighborhood one evening. I felt grateful for the ability to walk briskly and at the same time, listen to or observe all the sights and sounds nearby. This isn’t something I take for granted, after watching both of my parents lose these abilities when dementia slowly stripped them of their identities. Continue reading →
It starts small. Misplaced keys that turn up in odd places, making you wonder if there are gremlins living in your house. Forgotten appointments you’re sure no one mentioned, until someone points to where you’d written it on your calendar. Other odd happenings disregarded, yet still niggling in the back of your mind.
More time passes, and you begin to think someone has rewritten your familiar cookie recipe in an alien language, because as far as you’re concerned, the words have begun to lose their meaning. They have become a jumble of disconnected letters. You walk into the laundry room to wash a load or two, but have no idea how to operate your washing machine; you then ask yourself, what are all those buttons for, anyway? You get lost walking your dog around the neighborhood you’ve lived in for over 40 years and spend hours finding your way home. A truly terrifying state! Would this be the day your anxiety turned to panic?
Envision a decline which begins without permission or compromise, and chips away at all you hold dear. Would
you, should you, tell anyone? Continue reading →
Would I be cognizant enough to recognize the subtle changes in myself, were I to follow the path of my mother and her father, my grandfather? Should it come to pass, will my husband or my children recognize it in me first, wistfully acknowledging that in the end, my fate has linked itself to these two who went before? There are moments when these fleeting thoughts dart uninvited every which way in the recesses of my mind. I’ve no desire to linger on such thoughts, yet I can’t help but wonder if my family would be as clueless as I was when Mom ever so gradually began her descent into Alzheimer’s disease. And then, I think not, as we all traveled that journey together. They are now savvy, where I was not.
Over a period of a couple of years, the realization finally came to fruition in my brain. Something was not right with Mom and it was more than normal aging. At my continual urging over a period of months, Mom eventually acquiesced and made a doctor’s appointment for a “check-up.” By that time, because of my suspicions, the diagnosis was Continue reading →
Sometimes toddlers have trouble following directions. We kind of expect this as normal for their developmental age. When this inability to follow directions consistently appears in an older person, however, it can be a red flag warning of potential cognitive impairment.
My two college-aged children, both home on spring break, drove with me the two hours to my parent’s home for a visit. Mom anticipated our visit by having freshly baked cookies waiting for us when we arrived mid-morning. Upon entering their home, our noses were assailed by the smell of scorched cookies. Not only had she overcooked them, but they also had a noticeably strange appearance. She met us at the door, holding the cookie sheet in one hand and the spatula in the other, immediately wanting us to try one of her confections. My children grew up knowing her as their “baking” grandma, who always brought Tupperware containers full of homemade cookies whenever she came to visit. Today, it appeared she’d forgotten to add some key ingredient(s) and her concoction was neither tasty nor appealing. Still, each of us accepted one of the proffered cookies, and somehow managed to choke it down while smiling and nodding at the “success” of her baking endeavor. Continue reading →
One spring weekend in May, our extended family gathered to honor my father’s 90th birthday. His 2 children and spouses, several of the grandchildren, nieces and his only living sibling from 2 states away, all came together for the weekend celebration. Saturday morning, we were gathered together in Dad and Mom’s condo, sharing stories and reminiscing. Dad was soaking up all the attention from the comfort of his favorite recliner.
Neither of my parents was aware that their 2 granddaughters from the west coast were arriving as a birthday surprise. The plan was for each of them to arrive separately, to prolong the excitement. At the appointed time, the doorbell rang and everyone waited while Mom walked across the living room to open the front door. There stood the younger of the 2 granddaughters in the doorway. Mom cried out her name in surprise and welcomed her into the living room with a hug. Dad was so pleased to see his granddaughter and she proceeded directly over to where he sat and gave him a big hug and kiss.
About 5 minutes passed before the doorbell rang again. Mom wondered aloud, “Well, who could that be?” seemingly insinuating everyone was already in the room. She opened the door, looked at her oldest grandchild and exclaimed, “Who are you?” Continue reading →
We’ve all heard that hindsight is 20/20. I’d have to agree, but in my case, that clarity might be closer to 20/15 or 20/10. Looking back, the clues were so glaringly obvious! At the time, though, the thought that my bright, energetic mother might be showing signs of dementia, never even passed across my radar screen.
My parents received a hand-me-down computer from one of their granddaughters. It was their first experience with a computer and I must say, Mom, who was in her early eighties, learned the basics of computer use, including how to e-mail, without much trouble. Dad, nearing 90, was mostly interested in learning how to play a few simple games like solitaire, so that was the extent of his computer use. In any case, the extended family certainly encouraged any computer use, thinking it good “brain food” for our elderly parents.
After a couple of years successfully interacting with all of us through e-mail, Mom gradually Continue reading →
What if the person who knew you best and loved you most forgot your face, and couldn’t remember your name? …Blue Hydrangeas
Marianne Sciucco is another of the authors with whom I’ve come together to create more awareness that June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. We hope to accomplish this through a joint promotion of our books about dementia/Alzheimer’s disease. She has agreed to join me today in the “Limelight” to share her thoughts regarding writing, reading, and tips for aspiring writers.
I found her novel Blue Hydrangeas to be more than a story of dementia. It is also a tender love story, in which she describes the plight of an older couple grappling with aging and its many foibles. As readers, we watch as the wife descends further and further into the rabbit hole of dementia, while her husband is doing his very best to honor his commitment to stand by her side, at any cost, to the point of near disaster. If you’ve ever had a loved one with dementia, you’ll find this poignant story rings quite true to the challenges, heartbreak and turbulent emotions that often go hand-in-hand with this devastating disease.
Marianne, thank you for joining us today! Can you share with our reading audience what inspires you?Continue reading →
Four other authors and I have joined forces in recognition of Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. We’re highlighting our books, 2 novels and 3 memoirs, in support of those caregiving for loved ones suffering from dementia/Alzheimer’s disease.
Today, we’ll visit with one of those authors, Jean Lee. Her book, “Alzheimer’s Daughter,” details the true story of the heartbreaking journey she and her sister embarked upon with their parents, both diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease on the same day. Caring for their parents, who insisted they were “just fine” on their own, when Jean and her sister both knew they weren’t, took a great deal of patience and caregiving ingenuity, which Jean shares with the reader in her poignant and heartfelt narrative.
I found this book not only a sweet love story between a husband and wife of many, many years, but also a love story of a daughter and her parents, as she strived to honor their wishes, despite the many obstacles this unrelenting disease placed before her.
With that in mind, Jean has graciously agreed to share the first chapter of her book with us.Continue reading →