Category Archives: Memories

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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Valentine’s card from Dad

My father was not the overtly affectionate type, and I think I can speak for my mom when I say he wasn’t the romantic sort. But when I was a baby, he did turn on the charm for Valentine’s Day.

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I can only guess that this was my first Valentine’s, since there is no date on the card. Dad refers to me by the nickname he gave me, “Wee Tookie,” a term of affection from his Irish upbringing. He signs the card: “Lots of love from Da Da,” which I remember calling him when I was very young.

The card is in excellent condition 40-plus years later, and is something I will always treasure.

Happy Valentine’s Day to you and yours.

 

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Odds and ends on grief — Views and Mews by Coffee Kat

I relate to this post so much. We all have our individual ways of coping with grief, but there are some emotions surrounding grief that many of us feel. I’m sharing this post from a fellow blogger who recently lost her beloved cat. Whether pet or person, losing a loved one is hard. If you are struggling through the grieving process right now, you are not alone. Be kind to yourself.

I forgot how much grief hurts. Sounds stupid but it’s one of those pains I try not to remember. It’s both physically and emotionally exhausting, sucking out joy wherever it goes. It’s not always about death. We grieve many things but the commonality is that it is permanent. We don’t grieve the temporary. There are […]

via Odds and ends on grief — Views and Mews by Coffee Kat

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January 10, 2019 · 1:36 pm

Happy holidays

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Mom and Dad at Christmas, circa mid-1980s.

The holidays can be stressful for caregivers, but they also offer moments of magic and the potential to create memories that you will cherish for the rest of your life.

I hope that you enjoy the time spent with family and other loved ones over the holidays. For those of us remembering those who have departed, it can be a comfort to reflect upon happy moments and favorite memories.

And if you feel yourself being overworked or stressed out, don’t be shy about asking for help!

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Dad gone 7 years now

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Today marks seven years since my father died. The weather today in Atlanta, a steady chilly rain, is exactly the same as it was on that day in 2011, when I took a call from my mom in the newsroom of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She rarely called me at work. I expected the worst, and received it.

That moment, and those right after receiving the devastating news, are forever burned into my memory and play in slow motion. The week after, viewing Dad’s body, trying to be there for my grieving mother but finding that we were clashing, making a desperate attempt to return home in the middle of a freak snowstorm, getting stranded in Roswell, New Mexico for Christmas … are memories I’d like to forget.

But some good did come out of the sadness. While I was stranded in that hotel room in Roswell, eating a microwave dinner, I created this blog, The Memories Project. And over the years, this blog has served me well. Initially, it helped me through the grieving process, and over time, it has become the foundation of my caregiver advocacy platform. Regular writing and exploring ideas helped me publish The Reluctant Caregiver. I’ve made so many wonderful connections over the years through this blog. From appreciative readers to those who have reached out for interviews, I am eternally grateful.

 

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Gift guide for those living with dementia and their caregivers

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The holiday season is in full swing. As you are tackling your shopping list, you may have someone on your list who is living with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia and may be unsure as to what an appropriate gift would be for this person.

I ran into this issue with my father, during his last couple of Christmas holidays at home. One year, I got him a New York Times book reproducing the newspaper from the day and year he was born. While he couldn’t read much anymore, he could look at the images and advertisements and get enjoyment from that.

Here are some gift ideas from The Advocate for those with dementia, and please, don’t forget their caregivers!

Personalized gifts: Like the book I ordered for my father, gifts that evoke memories of the past are a good choice for those with dementia. One could offer to help the family put together a scrapbook or photo album by buying the supplies.

Activity-oriented gifts: One thing that is often overlooked when caring for those with Alzheimer’s or other dementias is that the person often still craves to engage in hobbies or tasks. They don’t want to be left in a room to stare out the window all day, especially in the early to mid-stages of the disease. Adult coloring books, art projects, easy puzzles, etc. make thoughtful gift choices.

Joy-evoking gifts: Those with dementia often still respond to music and other audio-visual cues even as their other cognitive abilities decline. Think about Glen Campbell, and how he could still sing and play guitar well into his battle with Alzheimer’s. If you know the person’s favorite genre of music or a beloved performer, you can give the gift of music, which can soothe and lift the spirits of those with dementia.

For the caregiver: Think about easing the workload when picking out gifts for caregivers. A gift card to a favorite restaurant or a meal delivery/grocery  service would likely be appreciated. Try also to pick out a gift specifically for the caregiver to use for self-care, such as a gift certificate to a spa or movie theater. If you are in the position to do so, offer to give the caregiver a break from duties.

If the dementia caregiver in your life enjoys books, consider The Reluctant Caregiver, my award-winning collection of personal essays on caregiving.

One of the best gifts you can offer those with dementia and their loved ones is simply your time. So many people withdraw upon learning of a dementia diagnosis that it can lead to social isolation. A compassionate ear and an open heart will be appreciated by all.

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