Sunday, December 12, 2010

Do You Know Me?

My thoughts are splintered as I think about friends and life experiences.  My husband took himself off the road for medical reasons a year and a half ago.  Unfortunately that cut our income in half.  I feel isolated as I try to figure out the money issues.  I know he is suffering and until a few months ago did not even have a diagnosis. – We found out that he has herniated disks in his lower lumbar region. 

I am always humbled when I read “Living in the Shadows of Alzheimer’s”  She writes from the heart.  She uses words to paint vignettes of dark despair and love.  I remember those days.  I am so glad for the increase in resources and the internet support groups that now exist.  I wish I had reached out more when I was in the eye of the storm.

Yesterday I was at a technology class.  One of the ladies facilitating the class has been a colleague for many years.  She is a librarian at a different school.  I asked her if she had read my blogs?  She said yes my favorite is Windows 2 My Life.  “They were really funny, I was surprised.” Her comment made me laugh.

I smiled and said “You didn’t know I had a sense of humor.”

“No, I didn’t – but you do!”

How often we work and live with people yet never make deep connections.  People only see pieces of who we are.  A lot like the photos that show a small piece of a bigger picture.

Maybe that’s why I feel so fragmented.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What Are You Waiting For?

Always Waiting
I was reading a writing prompt on by Greg Schiller about family stories.  The writing prompt itself seems important to me. 

"Write anything you want, humorous or not, fanciful or factual on the theme of family stories."
  • Tell the stories that your family retells every time they get together.
  • Tell the stories that were never told.
  • Tell the stories that need to be told.
  • Tell the stories that will be lost if you do not tell them."
These prompts bring up so many memories. Some of them are to strong for me to even articulate them.  Some are to recent for me to share them.  Though in my heart I know that I need to share them, at least with myself.  I tried to keep a journal when I took care of mother.  I kept a surface one.  Every time I tried to write about the emotions and what was going on in my mind I couldn't put pen to paper.  
Part of it was facing the facts that I was losing one of the most important people in my life - my mother.  The disease was stole her independence, her ability to communicate it also stole her memories.  It also stole my security -  here was this woman who had been so strong and independent, and now wasn't. A part of me wondered if I was looking at my own future. 
What didn't change was her love for me. The fact she may not have known who exactly I was wasn't important.  She always knew she was loved by me.  
She once told me that we don't always get a choice between good and bad choices.  Sometimes it's between bad choices and worse choices.  Families often face difficult choices when trying to find care for their loved ones. Part of making them comfortable sometimes means re-connecting our loved ones with their past - helping them revisit their life stories.
I have decided to accept the challenge and write some of my family stories.  I hope you accept the challenge too. If you do I would enjoy hearing about it. 

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Breaking Light

Yesterday slips into memory as I ponder life, wondering about the future.  A colleague just lost her husband of 38 years.  I can only imagine the pain.  I think of her as she deals with the grief and all the demands made on survivors when one life ceases.
She is in a new school teaching a new grade.  Lots of new people that are still working separately, who have not integrated as a team.  The support system of colleagues still developing.
This morning I stood in our front yard wrestling with current life struggles.  The morning light begins to break.  This statement rings true for me, as I reflect on my life.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Comforting Hands

I remember sitting beside my Mom, snuggling up close to her on the couch holding her hands.   She would look at me and smile.  How I miss those smiles and the time I had with her. When had she gone from strong to frail? She showed her love through her hands - cooking, touching, comforting - her hands were always busy.  I miss her and her loving hands.

I have memories of my mother's touch as a toddler.  I remember sitting on her bed looking at magazines.  She would reach over and pat my hand and go back to her own reading.  Other memories were of Mother rubbing my back just before I took a nap or went to sleep as a youngster.

Ms Nelson,  in The Power of  Touch - Fall 2010 edition of care ADvantage,  talks about different forms of touch therapy that is being developed for individuals who are frail and or suffer from dementia.  Science is also exploring the benefits of skilled touch therapy.  Touch therapy has been used to lessen agitated and aggressive behaviors.  Physically it helps with circulation, softens contracted muscles, relieves minor aches and pains and of course the age old reason for massage - to help relax and reduce stress.

When other forms of communication are challenging, physical touch can say so much.  As my mother aged and the AD progressed I relied more and more on physical touch to communicate my love. I would gently stroke her cheek or the back of her hands. Very light touches, feathery whispers.  I encouraged all Mom's caregivers to reassure her in this way.  We were always rewarded with a beautiful smile of love.  The sense of touch brought all of us comfort, as we continued to communicate. I was so very blessed to feel the warmth and love in my Mother's hands.

Touch is a universal language that most of us practice, but it is great to be validated.  It is encouraging to know that we are on the right track.  The article by Dawn Nelson - "The Power of Touch"  in care ADvantage  has lots of food for thought.  In her article she used a phrase that reached out and spoke to my heart - "intentional touch".   How frustrating and scary it must be to be experiencing communication challenges.  How reassuring intentional touch must be to those we love the most.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Opening Doors

He sends his angels.

Confusion and fear can strike at any time.  I remember going shopping one day.  Mom got very antsy while we were in Michaels, craft store.  I got her to the car and she refused to get in.  I tried coaxing, I tried bribing her, begging.  This happened before I had a cell phone, so I could not call for assistance, nor could I leave her by herself to go get help. Our standoff probably lasted 45 minutes when a silver haired gentleman approached and asked: "May I be of assistance?"

I told him my dilemma that Mom wouldn't get in the car.  I remember the angel smiled at Mom.  He spoke gently to her and said "Let me get that door for you".

My Mom's eyes lit up and she grinned.  She was very pleased to have such a gallant man open her door for her.  I was ecstatic.

He turned to me and said, " I understand, sometimes an outsider can do what we can't do ourselves."

I was so grateful for his intervention.  I always worried how are shopping trips would turn out.  I could never predict what would set her off and confuse her.

She loved visiting with people. Most of the time our trips brought her great pleasure.  The other times they brought me great appreciation for the help of strangers.  I also learned to ask other people if they wanted assistance.  Sometimes a simple gesture on our part can make all the difference in the world.
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Monday, July 19, 2010

Critical Choices

I was browsing the current copy of Montana Magazine (July/Aug 2010) in the store.  There was a wonderful article about a casket maker out of Kalispell, MT.  His business is called Sweet Earth Casket and Cradle Shop. He does custom orders.  What intrigued me was his commitment to his customers.  Several of his caskets do double duty they can be other things until they are needed as caskets.  I never thought about pre-ordering my casket.

When we faced Mom's death,  I learned a lot about funeral's and expenses. I wish I had known about his Critical Choices book. We did not have a lot of money and chose to do much of the service and preparations ourselves.  I was shocked at how many mainstream churches refused hosting a funeral because Mom was not a member of their congregation. We designed and printed the funeral program. Hired the musician.

I remember talking with my younger sister and asked what do people do who don't have the resources we do.  Mom's service was very lovely.  The Unitarian Church graciously allowed us to have her service there.  One of the hospice chaplain's officiated.  My 18 year old niece gave the eulogy. My sister and niece sang, and my uncle read a favorite poem.  A friend created a beautiful photo slideshow that was shown during Mom's service.

We were not prepared for all the hoops that needed to be jumped.  It would have been easier if we had known some of the things before hand.  Mom had always told us she wanted to be cremated.  It was not in writing however. According to Montana Law all the siblings must approve cremation if there is no written instructions.  This surprised me because I was the executor of her estate and her guardian.

One of the hardest conversations to have is end of life discussions.  It is so important.  We should be having them with our family regularly, so that people know our wishes. Aging With Dignity has a booklet called the  5 Wishes that lets you write down your wishes for end of life care if you are unable to express your desires.

It is very difficult to make decisions when you are in pain and grieving.  Talking about choices when emotions are not as high is a gift you give yourself and your loved ones.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Locating People Who Wander

What Is Project Lifesaver International?

I first read about this project in the Summer 2010 publication of Care Advantage. This is a program for individuals that wander. Each individual wears a tracking device that allows first responders and volunteers to quickly find them. In 1999 32,000 people with Alzheimer's wandered away. Every year there are numerous cases of people with Alzheimer’s, Autism, Down syndrome and others wandering off and dying from misadventure.

When your loved one is missing it is a terrifying experience and time is critical. As a caregiver I did everything in my power to keep Mom safe and I watched her like a hawk. I wrote about her wandering in a previous post, and some of the things we did to keep her safe. I tried lots of things. I even thought about tracking devices but could not afford what was out there at the time.

When I read about Project Lifesaver International, I was thrilled that someone had come up with a tracking device and a way to include first responders into a program to quickly locate people who wander. They even have some family stipends available.

According to Project Lifesaver:

“The U.S. Department of Justice – Office of Justice Programs – Bureau of Justice Assistance has awarded federal funding to assist in education, awareness, equipment, and public policy efforts to help expand Project Lifesaver’s lifesaving program across the country – directly helping individuals that suffer from Alzheimer’s disease/dementia who wander.

Project Lifesaver is a network of first responders who combine the power of simple, effective tracking technologies with proven search and rescue techniques to find your loved one safely and quickly, should they wander. Now, for a limited time, up to 1,800 families may enroll in the program at no cost, thanks to a grant from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance. This is our family stipend program.”

Contact Scott Nester for more information about the stipend program – or 1-757-546-5502 Ext 112.

Raising Awareness

45 states and 1,100 agencies are involved with Project Lifesaver. It is important to get your local community involved if it isn’t already. Regardless it is important to get this information out to families who have loved ones who wander. It is one more tool you can use to protect those you love who can’t protect themselves. There are grants available to communities to set up this program if one is not available. The great thing is that it is currently available in the United State, Canada and Australia. Please encourage the agencies you work with to explore this program and help bring it to more communities. For further information contact or call 1-877-580-5433

Friday, July 2, 2010

Resources for living Gluten Free

If you have Celiac disease life is quite a challenge. My friend Carol has shared her worries and concerns about another friend who is gluten intolerant. I had never thought much about it until she shared her concerns. Since then I have discovered make-up, dog food, lotions, and even some medications may all have gluten in them to ambush the unwary.

Celiac disease (gluten intolerant) is an inherited, autoimmune disease in which the lining of the small intestine is damaged from eating gluten and other proteins found in wheat, barley, rye, and possibly oats.

I recently joined a blog hop and found some great blogs Lisa's Gluten-Free Advise . She has a directory of other gluten-free blogs, restaurants that serve gluten-free cuisine. It is a rich source for people living with this challenge.

I looked at the recipe for her gluten-free Hawaiian Pizza it looks very tasty. At Lisa's site I clicked on the blog Gluten Free Taste of Home. I am so very excited at all the resources I found. If you or someone you know is gluten intolerant please pass on these great blogs.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Digital Storytelling and Our Family History

Story mapping is adding our own photos and stories to digital maps so other people can read them. One of the benefits that I can see is the connection between generations as we go through the photos and hear the stories. Then transcribe them into a digital format.

Research shows that photo albums often unlock memories of people who struggle with talking in the here and now. What a great way to interact. How many great memories they might revisit when they see their old house on Maple Street.

I am including 2 videos about Historypin. Historypin was developed by We Are What We Do in partnership with Google. They say Historypin is "Action 132: Share a Piece of Your History. Part of our campaign to get generations hanging out."

Take a look at the video's. Then invite someone to enjoy the magic of a memory as you go through your pictures. Telling stories so we can all remember.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Reading NPR's Update on Tom DeBaggio

I was blown away by the series Melissa Block wrote about Tom DeBaggio and his experience with Alzheimer's disease.

The early interviews were started in 1999, after Tom was diagnosed with Early Onset at the age of 57, by NPR's Noah Adams. All of the interviews were very poignant.I made some very personal connections as I remembered watching my mother succumb to Alzheimer's.

Tom wrote two books after he was diagnosed. I was particularly moved by an excerpt from "Losing My Mind" by Tom DeBaggio.

"The struggle to find the words, to express myself, has become insurmountable. I must now be done with writing and lick words instead. I will soon be stripped of language and memory, existing in a shy and unsteady forbearance of nature. I am on the cusp of a new world, a place I will be unable to describe. It is the last hidden place, and marked with a headstone.

I must now wait for the silence to engulf me and take me to the place where there is no memory left and there remains no reflexive will to live. It is lonely here waiting for memory to stop and I am afraid and tired. Hug me, Joyce, and then let me sleep."

Such powerful writing as he describes his final journey into the darkness. I am humbled as I read the interviews. I am moved to read both books and continue to learn about this disease. Because you see I am afraid that it may well be my own future that I am reading about.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Do You Know About 2-1-1?

Before today I had never heard of 2-1-1. The United Way has a website that gives the history and talks about the importance of 2-1-1.

This number serves as a way to coordinate community services. If you call the number the person who takes your call will help you work through the maze of services that are available in your community. In an emergency it helps people determine what services are available and how to get help.

I went to the United Way website that features 2-1-1 I learned that some states have had this service since 2000. In 2004 after the Katrina and Rita disasters FEMA encouraged states to implement this service in all states.

At the website the United Way is encouraging people to contact their Senators and Representatives to support passing legislature concerning 2-1-1. I would encourage you to find out more about this program.

If you have used this number or know more about it would you leave a comment telling about your experience?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

June 15 - World Elder Abuse Day

Personally I think the Tag should read "Prevent Elder Abuse Day". According to the US Agency on the Administration of Aging 5 million seniors will be abused in the United States this year. That is a frightening statistic. Elder abuse comes in many forms: financial, physical, emotional, sexual and by neglect. They also say only 1 out of every 5 instances of abuse is ever reported.

There is a website that provides ideas on how you can get involved

How Did Father's Day Start

Father's Day is celebrated today around the world, in at least 50 countries. It got it's start when Sonora Smart Dodd was listening to a sermon, in 1909, recognizing Mother's Day.

She felt that fathers deserved equal recognition. Sonora was inspired to help create a day that recognized fathers. She and the Rev. Dr. Conrad Bluhm - minister at the Central United Methodist Church in Spokane, WA. The approached the Spokane YMCA. The first Father's Day was celebrated June 19, 1910.

In 1924 President Calvin Coolidge recognized Father's Day and urged other states to do likewise. In 1966 President Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed the third Sunday in June as Father's Day. In 1972 President Richard M. Nixon signed a proclamation permanently observing Father's Day on the third Sunday in June.

Father's Day will celebrate 100 years June 20, 2010. Commemorative activities are planned in Spokane, WA check out

Saturday, June 12, 2010

My Mobile Witness

I was going through some archived blogs on ilearntechnology and I found My Mobile Witness. It is a free service that you can sign up for. It is designed that if you are in a scary situation you can take a picture and send it to them. The picture can only be retrieved by law enforcement or a subpoena. They recommend taking pictures before a blind date, on unfamiliar trails take a picture of the sign.

It seems to me your family needs to know about it in order to let law enforcement know to check here for possible leads. But as I was reading about it I th ought about the times my Mother wandered off and before I kept current pictures of her to show to the police.

I also thought of my niece and many young people who in their daily living may be in harms way. I thought of the many hours it might save that would make a difference in finding them quickly.

Take a look at My Mobile Witness

and let me know what you think.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Living With Regrets

Today June 10, 2010 is the 3rd anniversary of my mother’s death. It is still so very difficult. In the beginning I had a very hard time moving past the pain and grief. I would go on - only to be ambushed by overwhelming waves of despair and loss. My tears turned to a deluge, flooding the present.

I felt my life was frozen in time. I was buried in my loss and pain, holding myself prisoner unable to free myself from the grief, consumed by regret.
Recently my friend, Carol, commented how lucky I was. She said, “Your mother was very loving and supportive. Even in her illness you knew she loved you. Some of us never know that kind of love from a parent.”

It is true, I am blessed. As I look back I have some wonderful memories.

I think part of the reason it took me so long to work through the pain was the regret. Mom was in a care facility the last 6 months of her life. She lost a lot of weight and became dehydrated. The hospital was unable to help. I regretted that when she needed me the most I had not been there. I had failed her.

I know that Alzheimer’s affects a person’s ability to swallow. My mother had a lot of dental problems that made chewing painful. I know intellectually that I did the best I could. Emotionally, I blame myself for being unable to take care of her. I know that the facility she was in did the best they could.

December 2006 I was hospitalized with Pancreatitis caused from gallbladder problems. I was in the hospital for 9 days. I did not have enough people to run 24 hour care while I recovered. So we had to move her to a private care facility. I wanted to bring Mom back home as soon as I recovered.

I returned to my teaching job in February. It was taking me much longer to recover than I had expected. Even when I returned to work I was unable to lift my mother by myself. I knew I was unable to care for her at home yet. All mother’s caregivers had other jobs by this point. Knowing this, I had planned to start hiring and training new caregivers as soon as school was out the end of May. Unfortunately, bringing Mom back home was not to be. She was hospitalized Saturday because of dehydration and died about a week later.

I still have regrets. There are days the tears cascade down my cheeks as I remember how tiny and vulnerable she was. I am learning to live with my regrets. Some days I just want to shout - "I want my Mom back!"

Sunday, May 30, 2010

You Always Need a Place to Start

My mother loved to cook. She could make a feast fit for a king out of nothing. Mom worked as a cook on a ranch for several summers from 1977 through the early 1980's. She cooked for John Medearis and his family (4 sons 16-25)and usually a hired hand or two.

I had come for a visit during her second summer. We were just finishing lunch. Johnny was in his early twenties and was grumbling about eating to much. My mother smiled and told him he could leave the table whenever he chose. He just had to push away from the table.

I remember this good looking slender young man looking very anguished at her comment. Finally, he responded, "I dieted all winter to loose the weight I gained last summer."

Mom just laughed. It thrilled my mom that these hard working young men gained so much weight eating her cooking. They were never late to a meal! The times I visited the ranch, the boys would usually come in a little early hoping to get a head start on the meal before the others got there.

Mom had a collection of recipes and a few treasured cookbooks. Watching Mom cook - she would add some of this and some of that. I remember asking her why she needed a cookbook when she never followed the recipe. She looked puzzled that I didn't know. Patiently explaining "You always need a place to start."

I treasure the recipes that are in her handwriting and the little notes she would sometimes jot down. In some of the cookbooks she had glued recipes she found elsewhere and liked and made comments about other things that were happening. For a Christmas Present I scanned the recipes Rita and I have, and then retyped them and made copies for all the grandchildren.

Cookbooks are great sources of family and cultural history. Imagine my delight when I found a link online to "Feeding America: The Historic American Cookbook Project". This collection has also been added to the Library of Congress site.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

What I Learned Caring for My Mother

Today would have been my Mother's birthday. I have been reflecting on her life and my family. As with many reflections I can see and understand things better in hindsight than I did in the moment. Perhaps it is because I gained more tools from the actual experience for dealing with daily life.

Care-Giving has been a complex part of my life. It has been diverse and individual as there were people we interacted with. There is no right way nor is there an easy way to take care of someone experiencing Alzheimer's Disease. It is stressful for all concerned. My younger sister was a great strength to me as we dealt with how Alzheimer's affected our Mother.

I think that a crisis brings up old unfinished business between family members. It acts to bring things to the surface. Things we have been stuffing most of our life. Unfortunately most of us struggle with the resurfacing of painful memories and issues when we least know how to deal with them. We often don't know how to mend the cracked places. In some cases the fissures widen as our world rocks from the shocks of our personal earthquakes and only rubble remains when the aftershocks settle.

"An earthquake is caused by a sudden slip on a fault. Stresses in the earth's outer layer push the sides of the fault together. Stress builds up and the rocks slips suddenly, releasing energy in waves that travel through the rock to cause the shaking that we feel during an earthquake." Earthquake Facts

The stresses in our individual lives and the stresses as a family rub against each other until things open up releasing energy that rocks our world. In biology stress refers to the consequence of the failure of an organism – human or animal – to respond appropriately to emotional or physical threats, whether actual or imagined.

What Causes Earthquakes
"Parts of the San Andreas fault system adapt to this movement by constant "creep" resulting in many tiny shocks and a few moderate earth tremors. In other areas where creep is NOT constant, strain can build up for hundreds of years, producing great earthquakes when it finally releases."

Yesterday I was telling my husband about experiences with my older two sisters and how I viewed their treatment of our Mother. Those family connections had been broken and severed for many years. And with Mom's death became final.

As I look at lessons learned, I have tried to use this insight in a positive way with the extended family that is a part of my life now. Like others before me and others who will follow me, it is a work in progress.

What I learned from my Mother was no matter what, she loved all her children and she mourned that her relationship with some of her children was estranged. Naomi Feil said people with Alzheimer type dementia who are in the final stage of life, are trying to resolve unfinished issues in order to die in peace. In the workshop I attended she encouraged us to start at this moment to take care of any unfinished business in our own lives.

I have learned that sometimes our relationships require us to make a decision. Are we going to work on changing the dynamics of the relationship with the hope of making it better, or are we going to move on?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Legacy Project - Across Generations

The Legacy Project has three banner programs: Across Generations, Life Dreams, and Our World. The Across Generations is a project that explores the connections with others. It encourages closer relationships between generations. They strive to examine ways to celebrate the special relationships that can be forged between young and old. The goal is to develop closer relationships between generations of family and community.

The center piece book for Across Generations is the book "A Little Something" (Softcover edition is titled "Something to Remember Me By"). the website has many free articles and activities. They also list available workshops as well as other support materials.

The Legacy Project has an annual contest"Listen to a Life Essay Contest". The next contest starts September 2010. Go online and read some of the winning essays from past contests. I am really excited about this program.

Something to Remember Me By : [An Illustrated Story for Young and Old

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Finding Unclaimed Money

I have always enjoyed treasure hunts even when I don't find the treasure. This morning my husband and I were watching Good Morning America. One of the segments was on Unclaimed Money. These are the five sites they recommended checking. I didn't find any money but I knew several people who were listed. (pension)

Happy hunting.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Favorite Kitchen Tools

Cutting up food for another person can sometimes take longer than the other person wants. Getting the pieces small enough, similar size and doing it consistently. Then I discovered a tool that is in most kitchens. The pizza cutter. I used the pizza cutter to cut pancakes, waffles, some vegetables, hamburger patties and jello jigglers.

I shared this tool with Mom's daily caregivers, they all loved it. My favorite pizza cutter was a promotional gift, it has a hand guard and is completely plastic and comes apart for washing.

I always tried to have colorful place mats for Mom's meals. She loved bright colors. Many of them had different textures that she enjoyed touching. It also helped with clean up.

The stick immersion blender is great for making smoothies and blending soups. When Mom lived with me I used it daily, in fact I had two of them.

I always made sure that Mom had snacks several times a day. jello jigglers, raisins, baby carrots cut up, pieces of cheese, summer sausage. I looked for protein finger foods.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Loving What Is

The title of Byron Katie’s book resonated with me on so many levels. When my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s I was devastated. All of a sudden I was responsible for taking care of the one person I had leaned on all my life. She had always been my greatest supporter. Now I was responsible for Mother’s well being. Providing for her and if possible finding a way that she could still experience happiness and joy in her life. I was committed to caring for her as I grieved for the loss of the articulate expressive woman I knew.

I missed the woman she was, I missed being able to call her for advise. Throughout all the changes she kept her sense of humor and her loving spirit. She touched countless people. Strangers would stop us in the stores. Many would recount their own stories. Many just wanted to give her a hug.

I know when I was caring for Mom I was often functioning at survival mode. I did not know how to achieve more. Some days it was all I could do just to get through the day. It is during these times that you need to take extra care of yourself. It means finding a way to get the needed respite so that you can continue to care for your loved one. Finding time to sooth and restore your energy and refresh your soul isn’t just a luxury. It is critical for both your own well being and the well being of your loved one.

It is also during these vulnerable times that family dynamics usually take center stage to play out. Sometimes taking care of yourself and your loved one also means addressing the past and the unfinished business of family relationships. Families in crisis often need to work through painful family issues and memories. These memories and feelings frequently resurface during times of crisis.

We have stuffed our feelings and memories so long that we are surprised when they erupt in our face. We often are at a loss of how to resolve these issues of anger, resentment, feelings of rejection, competition and jealousy.

Byron Katie’s book “Loving What Is: Four Questions that Can Change Your Life” has some thoughtful suggestions for exploring personal issues and stories. There is never a convenient time to examine the feelings we have stuffed. If we leave these issues unresolved, family crisis’s often result in bigger rifts and greater pain for all involved.

Friday, May 7, 2010


Mother's Day is fast approaching. I think about my step children - this is a difficult day for them. They lost their Mom two months after I lost my Mom. I was so much luckier. I was in my fifties and my stepdaughter was 17. I don't think it matters how old you are the pain is still there and you feel cheated that the time has been all used up.

I was very close to my mother and still miss her so much. I miss her laughter, her courage and her love. There are still times, I don't want to be the adult, I just really want my Mom.

Writing helps me reconnect with my memories and helps me see where I am. It helps me heal. As I think back on past Mother's Days - I remember flowers, lavender soap, Baskin Robbins Ice Cream Cake. Feeding the ducks at the local park. Most of all I remember the laughter.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Young Caregivers: Important Pieces of Alzheimer's Care

I was reading the Winter/Spring 2010 issue of care ADvantage. The magazine is a free publication from the Alzheimer's Foundation of America. I am always impressed with what I learn when I read one of the magazines.

Carol Steinberg, Executive Vice President at Alzheimer's Foundation of America, wrote about Max Wallack - Pay It Forward: Teen Puts Pieces in Place for Puzzle Project. He is a 13 year old who started a nonprofit company two years ago - Puzzles to Remember. He has been collecting and distributing them to adult day care centers, nursing homes and other facilities whose residents suffer from Alzheimer's.

Max was one of the 1.4 million young American caregivers aged 8-18 years old; he helped take care of his great grandma. During the last few months of her life she lived in a dementia unit. While visiting his great grandma he noticed other residents working on puzzles. This activity seemed to keep them calm. He did some research and confirmed that he had discovered a piece of the Alzheimer's puzzle.

He discovered that working on puzzles is an example of an activity that helps stimulate the brain cells that may help slow the progression of the symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease. Young Max said the best puzzles have less than 200 pieces and have an adult theme.

In November 2009 he received an American Express grant from the Do Something organization, for his work with Puzzles to Remember. The organization helps young people under the age of 25 by giving them encouragement, resources and grants so they can Do Something to make a difference.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Simply Box - New Tool for Collecting Information

I love my technology class. What great tools we are learning about. One is Simply Box. You can set up an account for free. Sadly you cannot set up an account on a Safari browser.

For people who are visual this tool lets you take a picture of the logo or page and drag it into a box of like items. See an example on the student resource page that I made for my 6th graders. Check out the link Famous Scientists. This is an example of a public box.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Keeping The Brain Active

When I was taking care of my mother I often used kids material and games. I know there is a lot of controversy about using "kids" material with mature individuals. My decision to do it stemmed from several things: 1. My mother had been a elementary teacher and enjoyed children's art and learning 2. It was what I was familiar with 3. I did not find similar leveled things with content for adults.

That said I would like to share a site I found that has many educational games linked to it. I played many of them and found them funny and entertaining. Sometimes it is just quick things to keep our brain thinking in new ways. As an adult you are probably good with multiplication. It is surprising when it is in a game format and speed is a factor how are brain responds to this challenge.

With that in mind I would like to share this site for your enjoyment Fletcher Elementary School Weblinks.

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Slice of Life

Memories - funny, sad, bittersweet, they all swirl together as I remember my mother. I tried to have everyone who took care of Mom keep a daily journal. They usually wrote down what she ate how her day went what her moods were when she took her meds. Sometimes when I was lucky some of the funny things that happened.

I wish now I had known more about keeping journals. Had more experience and knew more about writing than I did. I never knew what to say. Mom's caregivers would ask what I wanted. At the time I wanted to make sure everyone knew what was going on. I wanted a record of how Mom was doing.

Sometimes I felt such a deep grief. I couldn't bare to poke at the pain and examine it. I was afraid that I would lose control. Other times I just felt overwhelmed and I didn't know where to start. I didn't think I could do anymore than what I was already doing.

I was reading a couple of blogs the other day that got me thinking. The first one is the Two Writing Teachers Blog , they have issued a challenge to all their readers to write a "Slice Of Life Story" everyday for the month of March. I started late but believe it is a great challenge. I would encourage everyone to accept the challenge and discover your own insights.

In accepting my "Slice of Life" challenge I decided to focus on the here and now and to try and explore the funny perspective of my life now. I have been writing some brief entries about our newest puppy at The first entry is Lost and Found.

I wish i had accepted a challenge like this while I was still caring for my mother.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Zentangle, Reflecting & Relaxing

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When I was caring for my mother full time; I was always looking for activities that she would enjoy and that she could do. I also looked for ways to let go of the stress. I recently found some sites that are caled Zentangle or Zentangle influenced art. It is doodles taken to an art form.

You can google Zentangle and watch videos as well as go to the website for Zentangle and read back issues of their newsletter. The image on my blog was my 2nd Zentangle. I enjoyed playing with Zentangle and it helped me center and it felt very satisfying.

Anyone can do this; the developers have used this art form with elementary students. I really think individuals in early to moderate stages of dementia would enjoy this activity. I bought a package of micron pens $10.00 and 2 chipboard tiles (scrap booking supplies) $2.50. Then looked at the newsletters and other peoples Zentangle for doodle patterns. If you click on my Zentangle it will enlarge so you can see the pieces better.

Wishing everyone a Happy Valentines Day and relaxation.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Earthquakes that Shake Our World

Haiti has been much on my mind, a very horrific disaster. I’m glad people are reaching out to help the people whose lives have been shattered by the earthquakes in Haiti.

Disasters come in all sizes to all people. We are shaken and broken by the earthquakes in our own lives. The epicenter of our earthquake may be a doctor’s diagnosis. Sometimes, the diagnosis is simply the aftershock.

Looking for a safe haven and seeking treatment sometimes is beyond our ability when we are suffering from shock, denial, or anger. When faced with a devastating prognosis our lives are emotionally savaged. Picking up the pieces, looking for solutions, treatment, and the financial reality can be an overwhelming process. Finding support becomes a necessary first step.

Many disasters are not widely reported, like the ice storm that devastated the Cheyenne River Reservation (January 20-28, 2010). Or the more personal disasters- like Cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s - that strike our world. These diseases don’t just affect the person who has the disease - they impact family and friends as well.

The American Cancer Society chose the daffodil as a symbol of hope. They launch the Daffodil Campaign every spring. The daffodil was chosen because this first flower of spring represents hope, a hope held by every volunteer that a cure will soon be within our reach.

I believe people who have been touched by illness or disease, personal pain and loss – are often the first to reach out a helping hand. They know what it is like to be facing worries and concerns that loom like the Grand Canyon in our minds. They remember the kindness of an encouraging word, a smile, and symbols of hope. Their faith strengthens are ability to cope as the ground shifts beneath our feet and brings the world we know down around our ears.

Research is an outward manifestation in our belief that a cure is possible. Change meets today when we celebrate our own victories, while we search for tomorrow’s cure.

Help fight Alzheimer's disease through vital research and essential support programs and services.

For more information or to find a Daffodil Days campaign near you, click on your state in the map you will find on the following address:

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Tumeric - For the Health of It

Turmeric is a spice commonly found in curry and is also what gives ball park mustard it's bright yellow color. So what does it have to do with care giving and Alzheimer's? Great question!

Turmeric is rich in phytochemicals that rival the best anti-inflammatory drugs when it comes to the benefits; it just lacks the toxic side effects. Turmeric is a rainforest herb rich in a phytonutrient called cucurmin.

There are two inflammatory enzyme pathways that affect cancer, heart disease, and arthritis - COX-2 and 5-LOX. Researchers believe that when these pathways become inflamed due to our diet, sedentary lifestyle, and stress they become contributing causes for heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer's.

Pharmaceutical companies have developed nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen and potent drugs called COX-2 inhibitors. Two such drug examples are Vioxx and Celebrex, these are very effective drugs. Unfortunately, COX-2 inhibitors carry black box warnings because of possible danger. (Black box warning means sometimes it is fatal.)

There are over 2000 published studies in major medical journals on the effectiveness of turmeric's cancer fighting qualities.

The turmeric plant is a member of the ginger family. It is used as a spice and coloring agent. Not only is it a spice but it helps prevent spoilage in food. Turmeric is a powerful antioxidant.

According to the World Health Organizations article "Alzheimer's Disease: Of Emerging Importance" points out that India has a much lower rate of Alzheimer's Disease than the rate in the United States.

Research on turmeric sounds very interesting, so far the research suggests it works better as a preventative and with individuals in early stages. I know that I plan to continue to follow the research and to add more spice to my diet and life

References and Resources

Curry Spice Turmeric May Explain Low Occurrence of Alzheimer's in India

"What Everyday Kitchen Spice Can be Used for Therapy & Prevention" by Decker Weiss, NMO, FASA. of the Dr's Prescription for Healthy Living (Pg 20-22)Vol 13 #7.

Turmeric May Help Prevent Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Disease

Turmeric and Alzheimer's;year=2008;volume=11;issue=1;spage=13;epage=19;aulast=Mishra

Turmeric and Alzheimer's Disease

Turmeric Shown to be Natural Remedy Against Alzheimer's