‘What They Had’ will resonate with dementia caregivers

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I saw an excellent movie recently that I wanted to share with others who are or have been dementia caregivers. The movie is called, “What They Had,” and it has a great cast, starring Blythe Danner, Hilary Swank, Robert Forster and Michael Shannon. The film has a fairly simple plot: matriarch Ruth’s dementia is getting progressively worse, and the family is drawn together to figure out the next steps.

Those of us who have been dementia caregivers know what’s coming next, to a certain extent. The family’s internal dynamics are stretched to their breaking points as they each approach the “solution” to caring for the woman they love who is losing her mind and memories of them.

What is remarkable about the film is how realistically it depicts the challenges of a family grappling with Alzheimer’s. First-time director Elizabeth Chomko, whose grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, captures the raw and complex emotions perfectly. The movie is uncomfortable to watch in a good way, in that the plot, dialogue and acting is so realistic that you feel like you are eavesdropping into a family’s nightmare.

Watch the trailer:

I related quite a bit to the character of Nick, who is the son and brother. He’s the hands-on sibling, because he lives near the parents in Chicago, while Swank’s character Bridget is the sister who moved away to California. Nick has understandably built up some resentment and even though he comes across as pessimistic and critical, he cares deeply and understands the mother’s condition in a more realistic way than the rest of the family. I related so much to Nick’s frustration with the rest of the family who were overly optimistic or avoiding the tough decisions, as I dealt with that with my mother when making medical decisions for my father.

Bridget’s response to being thrown into a family crisis prompts her to question everything about her life, including her marriage. Danner plays the character of Ruth with heartbreaking tenderness, though there are moments of humor as well. And Forster, Ruth’s husband and primary caregiver, demonstrates a loving resilience underneath his gruff, practical exterior.

Both Danner and Swank have experienced real-life caregiving, which I think brought an extra layer of realism to their portrayals.

The film is available on video-on-demand services. (I watched it on Vudu.) It does contain a fair amount of profanity, but it seemed to be a natural fit for the characters’ personalities. If you’ve seen the movie, I’d love to know what you thought about it.

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Protect your loved one with dementia from becoming a victim of a scam

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It’s heartbreaking to hear stories where elder loved ones are scammed out of thousands of dollars. These criminals can be found all over the world, only needing a list of phone numbers or email addresses to find their next victim.

A new study has found that those who are more prone to becoming scam victims may be at greater risk of dementia. In today’s world, it’s not just phone scams that one has to worry about, but online scams as well.

My father was not a phone person, but he did send money to a variety of religious organizations. They were supposed to be representing Catholic churches or charities, and he would get a small token or prayer request in exchange for whatever he sent. It may have been totally legitimate, but after he was gone, I found hundreds of pieces of correspondence from these groups. I wonder if he gave more as his dementia progressed.

My mother was the phone person in our family. She didn’t have dementia but she did have a quality that made her potentially susceptible to scammers: loneliness. She loved to talk on the phone to people, whether she knew them or not! They would be her friend by the end of the conversation. I remember getting upset with my mother when she told a telemarketer that she had won the lottery. Why would you share personal financial information with a stranger? My mom’s response was that the telemarketer had said she was a “nice lady.” Sigh. Fortunately, nothing came of the incident, and to be fair to my mother, she was aware of the scams that were going around targeting seniors.

Credit.com has a nice resource which breaks down the  most common online scams and offers tips to help seniors avoid becoming a victim. Monitoring your elder loved one’s financial statements is key. If your older relatives enjoy going online, there are a set of simple steps you can take to provide them a secure experience. Staying vigilant is the best way to combat such criminal activity.

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I See You, Alzheimer’s Daughter — Life, Love, and Alzheimer’s

This blog post by  Lauren Dykovitz is so beautiful and poignant. It really resonated with me. I think other “Alzheimer’s daughters” will appreciate it as well.

I see you, Alzheimer’s Daughter, trying to smile through the pain. I know how much it hurts. You feel as if both of your parents have just disappeared, vanished into some other world. Alzheimer’s World. They are gone forever. Only they’re not really gone. They’re still alive and, maybe, they live just a few miles […]

via I See You, Alzheimer’s Daughter — Life, Love, and Alzheimer’s

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April 10, 2019 · 10:34 pm

Latest Alzheimer’s report demands action

The Alzheimer’s Association released its 2019 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report, and the statistics are sobering. Almost 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and it is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S.

On the caregiving front, more than 16 million Americans are providing unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. The value of their work is approximately $234 billion.

While the numbers are grim, the 2019 report makes crystal clear that we need bipartisan support at the federal level in addressing what is a health care crisis. Alzheimer’s disease is so costly, yet lags in research funds. Alzheimer’s caregivers need far greater support, both financially and in respite care.

Read the full report on the Alzheimer’s Association website.

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(Infographic courtesy of the Alzheimer’s Association)

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CBD for Caregivers book available now

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I’m excited to share my latest book, CBD for Caregivers. This brief but informative e-book will shed light on what is one of the top health trends of 2019: CBD (cannabidiol.) Hemp-derived CBD is being soil in oil-based tinctures, edibles, topicals and infused into tea and coffee. How can this potentially beneficial supplement help caregivers?

I look beyond the hype and take you on the journey of an average middle-aged woman with no marijuana experience who explores CBD with an open mind and a healthy dose of skepticism. What I found is that CBD holds promise as a healthier way to deal with stress and pain. There are no miracle drugs and some of the more fantastical claims are indeed bunk. But I would also challenge those who argue that positive CBD claims are all just a giant placebo effect.

In addition to an overview of what CBD is and how it may help caregivers, the e-book contains a roundup of my CBD product reviews that are a popular feature on my website, CBDforCaregivers.com.

For my loyal blog followers, you can download CBD for Caregivers for free for a limited time. I would kindly ask that you leave a review at your favorite digital retailer if you grab a free copy. The book is available at the following digital book retailers.  There was a hiccup with Amazon but hopefully it will be available via Kindle soon as well.

I look forward to hearing your feedback on the book and CBD in general. If you’ve tried it, I’d love to hear your opinion.

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Painful memories can offer profound insight

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We all have memories that we wish we could forget. Our childhoods tend to have a major impact on the rest of our lives, as do major life milestones.

I sometimes wonder what those with dementia remember from their lives. Good memories, bad memories, or a mix of what had the most impact on them? Or maybe it’s just random. We may never know.

One memory from my adolescence that haunted many of my adult years transformed into a powerful life lesson for me. The story behind that memory, Lesson from a Bully, was recently published on Women For One as part of their project highlighting Truthtellers. I’m honored to share my story with a community focused on empowering women.

I had the pleasure of seeing the Women For One Truthteller Tour in person at the What Women Want conference in Atlanta last year. It was a powerful experience to hear women tell their stories, and how the darkest, most painful life experiences can inspire us to be better people.

As many of you know, I’m a big advocate for caregivers sharing their stories, as I think there is nothing more powerful than sharing your unique experiences with others. It’s a way to personalize the current political debate going on right now around elder care issues. I hope that you are able to share your story with those who need to hear it.

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A reunion with kindness

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I had a chance encounter this past week with a woman who was a true angel to my family several years ago. Sandra went out of her way to care for my mother and myself as my father was dying. She even put her life (and car) at risk, driving through a snowstorm.

Sandra played a role in what was one of the worst moments of my life, but also a moment that helped inspire this blog, The Memories Project.

Over the years, I’ve thought about Sandra and her multiple acts of kindness. Such people seem to appear when you need them the most.

And so it happened that our paths crossed again. You can read about the encounter via my post on Medium or via the Twitter thread below. (Click through to read entire thread on Twitter.)

As I’ve said before, I’m a skeptic, but I’m also not a fool. There can only be so many coincidences. I keep my eyes and heart open for these moments, and try to learn from them. I hope you will do the same in your lives, and also remember that small acts of kindness can have a tremendous impact on a person’s life.

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