Category Archives: Memories

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

mom-dad-xmas

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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Pixabay

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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Halloween greetings


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I know not everyone celebrates Halloween, but it’s always been one of my favorite holidays. I don’t dress up in costumes like I did as a kid, but I enjoy watching scary movies and decorating the house with spooky items. Oh yeah, and the candy. You’re never too old for a sweet treat.

If you haven’t had a chance to read The Reluctant Caregiver yet, I have a story in there about my dad in the essay titled, “The Batty Bunch.” I write about how he protected me after a few bullies pushed me at a Halloween party when I was a young child. It’s one of my favorite stories about my dad, who wasn’t the hands-on parent for a variety of reasons, but really came through when it counted. I also wrote about that Halloween party in a previous blog post here on The Memories Project.

Even though the world itself seems like a scary place right now, I still enjoy the Halloween season.

Do you have any favorite Halloween memories?

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6 Skills You Need to Have as a Caregiver

Great list, these are definitely important skills to have as a caregiver. I struggled with a few, but excelled at organization and problem solving.

The Purple Jacket

Whether it’s a career you want to pursue or something you want to do to use your time to give back, being a caregiver is both a challenging and rewarding experience. People do it every day all over the globe to make sure their loved ones and others get the care and help they need. It’s a selfless job for anyone who wants to take it on, and like all other jobs, you should have certain skills before you step into the role.

Beginning your journey as a caregiver before you know if you’re ready for it would be a major problem. Not only would you be putting yourself in a bad position, but you’d be preventing someone from getting the quality care they need. Read on to see which skills are most important for you to have as a caregiver.

Find out what you can do to improve those…

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Bittersweet birthday memories

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Pixabay

For me, July will forever be associated with birthdays. My mother’s birthday was July 6 and my birthday is July 19.

While birthdays should be filled with happy memories, ever since the death of my parents, I’m left with bittersweet memories. There’s a profound quote in the Netflix documentary, End Game, which is about end-of-life care and hospice, that touches upon what I’m feeling this week.

“Suffering is the wedge, the gap between the world you want and the world you got.”

Even though I didn’t spend my birthday with my parents as an adult, they always sang Happy Birthday to me over the phone. It was a fun tradition, and each year Mom would tell me how they practiced all week to make it special. My parents both had some musical talent, with Dad especially fond of singing in the style of his favorite crooner, Bing Crosby.

The year before my father was placed in the memory care center, my parents performed the best rendition ever of Happy Birthday. My dad was in high spirits that day, and even though he was in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s by then, he hadn’t lost his ability to sing or to ham it up. He continued singing, performing a medley of classic show tunes before Mom was able to get the phone back from him. At the time I thought, “I wish I had recorded this!”

As my birthday approached the next year, I was visiting my parents and Mom and I made the trek to the memory care center to see Dad. He was mobile but heavily medicated. I didn’t expect any birthday singing, but Mom insisted. I was torn about recording it, but I knew in my heart that it would be my last birthday with my father alive. Little did I know then that my mother would be in a care center a year later recovering from cancer surgery.

Even though I knew it would be painful, I decided to record it. I’m glad I did, even though it is heartbreaking to watch. (I rarely share this video, but am making an exception here.)

As to the quote about suffering, what I wanted was the sublime Happy Birthday performance from the year before. What I got was my father, addled with medication and his brain ravaged by Alzheimer’s, trying his best to perform one final time, with my mother trying desperately to be upbeat.

Ultimately, both memories are gifts. They are both filled with love.

 

 

 

 

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