Tag Archives: Alzheimer’s

Our fears are often misguided

Easter makes me think of eggs, of course, and how my dad avoided them like the plague. He feared having a high cholesterol level. Recent studies have debunked many of the previous reported links between egg consumption and high cholesterol, but when I was growing up in the 1970s-1980s, it was a big health focus.

easter eggs

As I got a little bit older and a tiny bit wiser, I thought it was strange that my dad would worry so much about eating one measly egg but smoked a pack or more of cigarettes each day. Surely the coffin nails would kill him via lung cancer before he developed heart disease.

We were both wrong. Despite the decades of smoking and the decades of egg aversion, Alzheimer’s claimed my dad’s life.

It made me think about how often our fears are misguided. We worry about x, when it’s really y that’s getting ready to do harm.

Fear is a valuable self-preservation tool, but it can also hold us back from our potential.

With both dementia and cancer prevalent in my family, I do think about what I eat and other lifestyle choices probably more than the average person.

But I also know I could get hit by a bus on my way to work.

There’s a balance there somewhere, everything in moderation, as the saying goes.

At least I’m going to enjoy my eggs.


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Determination in the face of disease

This week, Richard Glatzer, the co-director of “Still Alice,” died. He was only 63 years old. He had been courageously battling ALS since 2011, another debilitating disease that like Alzheimer’s, takes so much from a person and is devastating to watch as a family.

Glatzer saw the connection too, telling NPR that he almost didn’t want to adapt Lisa Genova’s book for the big screen, because it cut too close to the bone.

But it was Glatzer’s personal connection to independence-robbing illness that gave “Still Alice” a greater authenticity. The movie focused just as much or more on what the main character, dealing with early-onset Alzheimer’s, was feeling about her condition as it did about her family’s reaction to her declining mental state. This is the book’s running theme, and preserving that in the film offers a much more impactful experience than making it just another family illness drama.

But what impressed me most about Glatzer’s direction was his determination. Glatzer used a text-to-speech app on his iPad with one finger to communicate during the film’s shooting.

The next time I make excuses about not focusing upon my personal writing, I’m going to think of the fearless determination that those with devastating illnesses demonstrate, as they strive to leave their mark on the world or accomplish a personal goal before they depart.




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Interesting self-analysis of Alzheimer’s from Greg O’Brien

NPR recently featured an interview with Greg O’Brien, a journalist with early-onset Alzheimer’s.

I found O’Brien’s personal take on Alzheimer’s quite profound.

I like how visually he described the disease, saying, it is like “a plug in a loose socket” that you keep trying to plug in but eventually it stops working and the light goes out.

On Pluto by Greg O'Brien

On Pluto by Greg O’Brien

The one point that really struck home with me was when he describes how having Alzheimer’s disease forces you to find your own identity each and every day. He says the pieces of his self-identity, the who, what, when, where and how are like cards carefully arranged in a file cabinet.

“Then at night, someone comes in and they take all the files out and they throw them all over the floor. And then you wake up in the morning and say, “Oh my God, I have to put these files back before I realize my identity.”

I thought that was a very simple yet powerful way to sum up this disease.

O’Brien has written a memoir, “On Pluto: Inside the Mind of Alzheimer’s” and I plan on reading it soon.

If you have read the book, I would love to hear your thoughts.

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Guest article: Dealing with dementia: What caregivers need to know

By Jesse Waugh from Daughterly Care

Have you been given the rewarding yet challenging task of caring for a loved one with dementia?

Undoubtedly, caring for someone with the affliction can be very demanding both emotionally and physically.

An overall term to describe a dramatic decline in one’s mental ability, dementia can be severe enough to interfere with the patient’s day to day existence.

The following tips will help you care for a patient with dementia effectively, while helping them transition into another phase of their lives with less difficulty.


In most cases, people with dementia will find communicating utterly demanding.

Chances are, they will find it difficult to verbalize, write and express their emotions in general.

In some instances, they have the tendency to also lose sight of conversation basics and might end up ignoring or interrupting you in the process.

Bridge the ‘communication gap’ by keeping in mind the following basics.

• Keep calm at all times and give them sufficient time to comprehend what you are trying to say and wait for them to respond to you.
• Make use of touch and other positive body language when communicating and make it a point to remain consistent in your approach.
• Always opt for simple and short sentences when trying to get your message across. Also, try not to argue and be condescending. Keep in mind that they still have emotions and feelings even if they might have difficulties understanding you.


Part and parcel of fitting elderly home care should involve carefully monitoring the patient’s drinking and eating habits.

There is a possibility for people with dementia to forget to eat and drink so keeping an eye on this key element should be considered vital.

Effectively manage their eating and other nutrition needs by taking the following pointers to heart.

• Ensure snacks and meals are offered on a regular basis. While not everyone has the same needs, 5-6 small meals a day is considered ideal.
• When possible, serve foods they are familiar with and patiently demonstrate chewing if the need calls for it.
• In most cases, patients tend to lose a lot of weight especially in the later stages of the disease. With this in mind, consider giving nutritional supplements. Consult a doctor or a dietitian so you will be given appropriate advice as to the supplements that might be helpful.

While not true for all, there are instances when patients with dementia will exhibit some aggression tendencies.

Be on top of any possible outburst by practicing the following essentials.

• Inform friends, family and relevant health professionals if the patient displays any form of aggression.
• If fits happen repeatedly, try to observe so you can figure out what the triggers are. Once you identify what provokes the outbursts, it will be a lot easier for you to steer clear of those triggers.
• If the outbursts become frequent and unbearable, ask for professional advice so you will know how to manage it effectively.

While physically challenging and emotionally devastating, you can do much to help make dementia a bit more bearable for the patient. Equip yourself with all there is to know, seek the help and guidance of the right professionals, and you are on your way to managing dementia with ease.

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Book review: ‘Slow Dancing with a Stranger’

You know you are a caregiver or an Alzheimer’s awareness advocate when books like this appear on your Christmas wish list.

I had read positive reviews of the book, “Slow Dancing with a Stranger” by Meryl Comer, a former television journalist.

Courtesy: MerylComer.com

Courtesy: MerylComer.com

In this raw and honest memoir, Comer attempts to illustrate the “unvarnished reality” of Alzheimer’s while describing her life as the primary caregiver for her husband, a former esteemed NIH scientist who was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s in his late 50’s. He is still alive, 20 years later. Comer’s mother, who she’s always had a difficult relationship with, also has dementia and is still alive at age 94. The three live together, and a small group of dedicated caregivers work daily shifts to help with the care.

Comer tries placing her loved ones in facilities, but it is important for people to understand that not all Alzheimer’s patients are suitable for facility care, and that in fact, can be essentially “thrown out” if they are deemed a risk to themselves, staff, or other residents. Yet home care brings its own set of challenges, and neither road is an easy one to navigate.

I also think Comer does a good job of demonstrating that some people with Alzheimer’s don’t respond to the more positive therapy methods that are popular nowadays, such as music therapy, exercise, etc. Comer tries everything imaginable to reduce her husband’s anger and anxiety, but nothing seems to work. Comer’s husband has a form of Alzheimer’s that causes violent, physical outbursts, and both Comer’s husband and her mother were extremely manipulative, with her mother calling the police to claim she had been abandoned by her daughter.

I found beauty and awe in Comer’s resilience to take care of her loved ones in spite of all of the setbacks they faced together. Comer has given up her career and essentially her life to take care of her husband and mother. It’s a sacrifice that not everyone could make. To say this is a depressing book would be an understatement, but I hope it will help raise awareness of the debilitating emotional, physical and financial impact of this disease.

100 percent of the proceeds of the book will go towards Alzheimer’s research.

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The beautiful and ugly world of Alzheimer’s

I read a lot of personal essays written by those who have been impacted by Alzheimer’s, but this one really moved me emotionally. It was published on Huffington Post and titled, “I Never Expected My Mother to Be Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s When I was 26.” Not only does the essay give us a glimpse into how the younger generations are being touched by this disease, it is beautifully written.

mirror person

In the essay, Rebecca Emily Darling discusses some of the upsides of her mother’s Alzheimer’s, such as a greater appreciation of ordinary things, and a nicer demeanor. Yet even these “benefits” are tinged with sadness, because they only illuminate how much the disease has changed the personality of her flawed but beloved mother.

The essay by Darling sums up the good and the bad of this disease so eloquently. If you have a chance to read it, let me know what you think.

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A sweet and simple connection

I watched a video that has been making the rounds on Facebook lately, and I thought it illustrated how we can still reach those in the latter stages of Alzheimer’s, we just have to be flexible in our approach.

Musician Joe Fraley’s mother has Alzheimer’s, and back in October, before she was moved to assisted living, Fraley recorded a video of him and his Mom sitting on the porch while he strummed a guitar and sang.

Clearly, the woman is confused and asks poignant questions like “Who are we?” Fraley’s approach is refreshing because he keeps things light and conversational, while still addressing her concerns and not being dismissive. The woman responds to the music, and you can see how it lights up her face, even if it is just temporarily.

Not only is it important for those with Alzheimer’s to still connect with their family members in small but meaningful ways like this, I believe it is equally important for the family caregivers. While the recorded moment is still tinged with sadness, Fraley was able to reach his mother through the cloud of dementia by their mutual love of music, and that is a memory to cherish.


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