Category Archives: Memories

Never too old to love Santa

Santa Claus

Julia Freeman-Woolpert/Freeimages

Ever since my father died five days before Christmas in 2011, the holiday season has been bittersweet for me. He also spent Thanksgiving of that year in the hospital, so both holidays are associated with sickness and death.

But each year, there are stories that reinforce the wonder of the holiday season and lift my spirits.

The story about a lovely woman named Karen, who has dementia but has maintained her lifelong love of Santa Claus, is one of those uplifting stories.

As Karen has moved into the latter stages of dementia and was recently placed in hospice care, her family made the wise decision to capture a beautiful holiday moment that her family will treasure for generations to come.

If you click through on the Facebook post above, you can read the entire story behind the photo shoot. I love the fact that Karen has a Santa doll and speaks Japanese to it!

Of course, not everyone with dementia reacts to holidays in a positive fashion, so it’s best to follow their lead. But don’t be afraid to indulge in some good old-fashioned fun this holiday season. We can all learn a lesson from Karen and her family.

 

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under Memories

Seeing paradise in a different way

paradise fan

I just got back from a visit to what was my parents’ condo in New Mexico. It will be called that for the foreseeable future because calling it my “second home” or “mountain getaway” makes me sound wealthy and pretentious, which I’m definitely not.

I made some progress, finally donating my parents clothes and a good chunk of my father’s books. I finally cleaned out the pots and pans cupboard and brought a few more mementos home with me. The numerous repairs the unit needs will have to wait a little longer. There were plenty of deer around, and it snowed just a bit. All in all, it was a refreshing getaway.

I had just gotten out of the shower when I glanced over at the decorative fan that has been hanging above the towel rack since Mom placed it there 12-plus years ago. I was thinking about my mother’s final weeks of life, and how much time we spent in that tiny bathroom, where I helped her with toileting and sponge bathed her until she became bedridden. There was a delicate balance of trying to preserve her dignity and privacy but increasingly recognizing that my mother needed assistance. There was a lot of forced optimism on my part, trying to make the daily tasks as distress-free as possible.

How often I must have glanced at that fan during those difficult times, but never really seeing it. It was only this past week that I realized the fan is hanging upside down.

It’s so obviously upside down, I can’t believe I never noticed!

I couldn’t help but think wryly, “Leave it to Mom to turn paradise on its head.” But when I turned it around to depict the tropical scene as it was intended, it didn’t look right. What momentarily struck me as “paradise lost” was just paradise from a different perspective.

Lesson learned: Never question Mom!

 

2 Comments

Filed under Memories

A super-sweet Christmas memory

chocolate cherries

When I reflect upon childhood Christmas memories, I can’t help but think about candy. I always looked forward to the candy-filled candy cane Santa (Mom) would place on my door for me to find Christmas morning. Sometimes it was filled with gold foil wrapped chocolate coins, other times it was M&Ms. I also was fond of the mixed assortment found in holiday-themed boxes of chocolate, like Whitman’s. My favorite holiday candy were the petit fours Mom ordered from a catalog. They were like mini cakes, who could resist?

My mom’s favorite Christmas candy by far were chocolate-covered cherries. Though typically a milk chocolate fan, she preferred the dark chocolate-covered cherries. I remember as a kid sifting through the Queen Anne boxes, looking for one of the elusive dark chocolate varieties. Mom would be over the moon if we found the dark variety.

Back then, your choices were milk or dark. Over the years, the Queen Anne company has introduced some additional flavors, including the one I purchased above, black cherry cola. The clerk at the store said he was a fan of the black cherry flavor, bragging he could eat a whole box in one setting. Yikes!

I could only manage two because they are super-sweet. They do capture the cherry cola taste pretty well, and it’s a unique indulgence for the holiday season. I’m not sure if Mom would approve of this nontraditional flavor, but at least I’m carrying on the holiday candy tradition.

Does your family have a favorite holiday candy?

6 Comments

Filed under Memories

Carve out Time at Thanksgiving to Talk with Family and Friends

Great advice. Take advantage of the upcoming holidays to have “the talk” about end-of-life care wishes.

Dealing with Dementia

carveouttimeThe fact that 9 out of 10 American’s will need someone to speak on their behalf before the end of their life was documented in a joint study done by the National Institutes of Health and Veteran’s Affairs.

Do yourself and your loved ones a favor by having a discussion about this FACT before you are faced with the reality. Those that step in to help will face a lifetime of guilt and doubt if you have not been clear about end-of-life wishes.

For those of us who have cared for someone with dementia, what we know is that there are years of choices to be made well before end-of-life that can be just as challenging. Telling someone I want to “die in my home” is probably not always practical, so offering some more guidance on ways you would like to spend your time if you have limited mobility or…

View original post 483 more words

Leave a comment

Filed under Memories

Ending the caregiver guilt trip

palliative health care layperson's guide

I think all caregivers end up on a guilt trip at some point, but this blog post from gerontologist Dr. Elaine Eshbaugh is another good reminder to let go of that guilt. She discusses the negative emotions that many family members feel when placing their loved ones with dementia in a nursing home, and why caregivers shouldn’t be so hard on themselves.

 

And then there are people who promise their loved ones that they will never place them in a nursing home. I once had a woman say to me, “My husband and I promised we’d never do that to each other.” I can promise my spouse a lot of things. I can promise I’ll never cheat on him. I can promise I’ll never blow all our money at the casino. I can promise to always take the kitchen trash out when it’s overflowing. (Bill, I promise you the first two–I make no commitment to the third. The third was just an example.) You see, those are things I can control.

via Nursing Homes and Guilt Traps in Dementialand — Welcome to Dementialand

Leave a comment

Filed under Memories

Holograms of the departed

Embed from Getty Images

I watched an intriguing movie recently that I thought might be of interest to those of you who have lost loved ones. It’s called, “Marjorie Prime,” and is based upon a Pulitzer-nominated play.

The movie is set in the near-future, where there are lifelike holograms that can be programmed to act like the dearly departed, and have the ability to learn via artificial intelligence.  The movie’s central concept is: “What would we remember, if given the chance?”

Marjorie, 86, is dealing with memory loss and chooses to create her deceased husband’s hologram when he was in his prime, which her daughter, played by Geena Davis, finds creepy. Davis perfectly captures the reluctant caregiver role, and I could relate to the mix of emotions she expresses in the movie. Lois Smith as Marjorie was brilliant. For you “Mad Men” fans, Jon Hamm plays Marjorie’s husband in hologram form.

I found the film to be very moving and thought-provoking. While you could label it science-fiction, it’s much more rooted in the human condition than in mechanical processes. The holographic “primes” look like normal people, not some CGI monstrosity. It made me think, wow, if I had the option to create holograms of my parents, would I, and if so, how would I program them? Would I leave out my mother’s traits that annoyed me? If I did, would she be an accurate representation of my mother? I think it would be easier with Dad; I would love to hear him sing Bing Crosby tunes and serenade me on my birthday. Still, Dad’s life stories would be incomplete because I don’t remember all of the details.

The film made me think about creating pet holograms, but would that be as rewarding? So much of an experience with a pet is tactile in nature: petting, hugging, stroking their fur.

After we lose a loved one, many of us think about what would we do if we had one more moment with that person. Sometimes it’s expressing things left unsaid, other times it’s apologizing for regretful actions. “Marjorie Prime” is an intriguing study on what technology could offer to help bridge the worlds between the living, the dead, and our memories of them.

 

4 Comments

Filed under Memories

High-tech invention helping those with dementia reconnect with memories

Embed from Getty Images

It only took 25 hours without power post-Hurricane Irma to realize how much we rely upon technology to manage our daily lives. It’s difficult for me to imagine life without the internet, because of its ability to supply endless amounts of knowledge and connect me to people with similar interests around the world. At the same time, I’ve had multiple people who I consider to be tech-savvy who have asked me about paperback editions of my book, because they prefer the feel of a print book versus the digital format.

I understand that preference, as well as the benefits and consequences of living in a digitally-driven world. One often-heard criticism is that technology can divide us, and make us more isolated. And while that can be true, a researcher has utilized a popular program from tech giant Google to develop a tool that can help bring those with dementia closer to the memories of their past.

BikeAround features a stationary bike placed in front of a screen. In tests of the prototype by Swedish engineer Anne-Christine Hertz, those with dementia are asked about where they grew up. Google Street View is used to create a “virtual ride down memory lane.” The theory is that the physical stimulation from pedaling helps stimulate the brain as well, helping those with memory loss recall details of their past more readily. You can see it in action below, I found the video very moving.

It was powerful to see this invention in action. We know that many people with dementia can recall the past, particularly their childhoods, better than they can the present, but the amount of details the man could remember was remarkable.  I would like to see this or similar devices placed in memory care centers and memory cafes.

1 Comment

Filed under Awareness & Activism, Memories