Category Archives: Memories

A Sad Good Bye To An Amazing Woman Shifting Dementia Care and Cure

This is such sad news, and quite a shock, as her death was sudden. Trish was a very active advocate for those with Alzheimer’s and their families. Her legacy will live on and her dedication is an inspiration to all of us.

Alzheimer's Speaks Blog

A Sad Good Bye To An Amazing Woman Shifting Dementia Care and Cure

trish V usagainst alz head shot (2)

Trish Vradenburg

May Trish’s  family and friends feel the love and support the world is sending them

Trish’s Deep-Rooted and Unflinching Passion to Fight Alzheimer’s Creates Admirable and Aspirational Legacy

UsAgainstAlzheimer’s Co-Founder and Vice-Chair Trish Vradenburg’s unflinching spirit – her creativity and imagination, quick-witted humor, empathy, generosity and her exceptional tenacity to stop the suffering of others – was captured in her every action. It is with immense sadness that UsAgainstAlzheimer’s announces her passing, and it is with the utmost gratitude that the organization cherishes her legacy and forges ahead in her memory.

Trish’s life was an inspiring portrait of creativity and versatility, employing her gifts of writing and storytelling throughout a successful professional career. She began her career as a speechwriter in the U.S. Senate. She wrote for various television shows, including Designing Women, Family Ties…

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Missing the milestones

dad-easter

My dad would have turned 85 on Monday. It’s been several years now since his death, and the milestones are starting to become less likely to imagine.

My father has one sister who has lived into her 80s, but most of his family died in their 70s or younger. His immediate family survived the brutalities of WWII so they’re a hardy bunch for sure. Dad made it to 79, and was just 4 months shy of his 80th birthday.

But it’s difficult to imagine my dad at 85. A smoker since his teens, who was diagnosed with COPD and emphysema, those conditions would likely have taken a great toll on him by now, and perhaps he’d be tied to an oxygen machine. He definitely would have hated that. And would he have become so frail as to need a wheelchair? That’s another thing he would’ve loathed. The man loved to walk in a long, fast, striding gait. This was a major problem when he developed dementia, because of his tendency to wander.

So all in all, I’m at peace with the fact that Dad’s not around to be an octogenarian. If I’ve learned anything over the last several years, life isn’t about reaching a certain age but the quality of your day-to-day living.

Since Dad’s birthday is close to Easter this year, I thought it was appropriate to include the one Easter photo I have of us together.

 

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Delivering Bad News in Dementialand (Or Do I Tell Mom Her Sister Died?)

This is such an important topic, and one that I know some readers of The Memories Project have had to deal with in their families. How much bad news do we deliver to our loved ones with dementia, and how many times do we repeat the information?

Thanks Elaine for the thoughtful response.

Source: Delivering Bad News in Dementialand (Or Do I Tell Mom Her Sister Died?)

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Should we reconsider our bucket lists?

Setting new resolutions and goals is a big part of a new year for many people. I’ve never had an official bucket list, but after watching my parents move on from this world, I couldn’t help but wonder if they had any unfulfilled wishes. That in turn, made me think about my own “bucket list.”

But an article I read recently in Aging Today has me rethinking the whole bucket list concept. I discuss this in a post I wrote for The Caregiver Space. The gist of the article is that we may be better off aging with purpose and participating in activities that offer deep engagement versus waiting until we are retired for that dream vacation or grand adventure. The doctor who wrote the article doesn’t think bucket lists are necessarily bad, but encourages a broader perspective so that we can live more fully in the here and now.

I like this approach. While I hope to enjoy a grand tour of Europe some day in the not-so-distant future, I also want to find joy and meaning in the present. Learning and trying new things, writing more and hopefully getting published more, and helping other caregivers, those are more immediate goals that offer true fulfillment.

What do you think? Are you a fan of bucket lists?

 

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A new year, sparked by old memories

nye

Many people use the new year to try and wipe the old slate clean, and create a new version of themselves that’s thinner or stronger or smarter. There’s nothing wrong with working out more, eating more broccoli and fewer doughnuts and resisting  vices. But what I’ve found in my 40-plus years is that the goals are less important than the journey we take each year on our life’s path.

Caregivers, former and present, understand that life can turn south at a moment’s notice, no matter what the calendar reads, and temporarily disrupt goals, dreams and projects. A “new normal” emerges, and it may not look like what one hoped for at the beginning of a new year. After my father died at the end of 2011, I thought there was a new beginning for my mom and myself, one in which every moment wasn’t spent worrying about my father’s well-being. But just six months later, Mom fell ill and wow, was I ever in for a change. I have no idea what my 2012 resolutions were, but they sure didn’t involve being a caregiver!

So I don’t make resolutions anymore, but I do have goals, which I’m all too aware are subject to change. I’m nearing the completion of my collection of caregiving essays, and I will be working on a prototype for my Respite Care Share concept, which will be presented at the Aging in America Conference in March. These things will keep me occupied for the year, and I’m sure other opportunities will come along the way. New opportunities, but tied to memories of my parents, their lives, the illnesses they battled, and their deaths. While the sharp turn in my life path in 2012 made no sense to me at the time, it got me to this place, where in 2017, I can hopefully give back a bit to the caregiving community.

There is much trepidation about 2017, even though for many, there is a great relief 2016 is coming to a close. Caregivers are survivors, a hardy bunch who push through and find a way to make it another day. Maybe 2017 is the year others will learn the value of caregivers in our society.

I wish you and your family a happy and healthy new year.

 

 

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Merry Christmas memories

I hope everyone has a peaceful, love-filled holiday. Make those moments count with those who mean the most to you.

small-xmas-tree

For those of us dealing with loss, the holiday season is bittersweet. This year, I bought a tabletop tree, and decorated it with Christmas ornaments from my childhood. My family always had a tabletop tree, because we lived in an apartment that didn’t have room for a big tree.

It didn’t matter to me that the tree was small and fake, I loved the magic of Christmas as a child. My parents worked hard to make the holidays special for me, and I am grateful I have those happy memories.

Happy holidays to all. Stay warm and safe, and enjoy the precious moments with loved ones.

 

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Marking five years since Dad’s death

It’s hard for me to believe that five years have passed since my father’s death. So much has happened in those five years that I feel almost like a different person, or that I experienced December 20, 2011 in a different lifetime.

Little did I know at the moment I learned of my father’s death, in the newsroom of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, on a cold and rainy Tuesday, that six months later, I would become caregiver for my mother. Even at that moment, the colon cancer was likely growing inside of her, waiting to make its ugly appearance in our lives. I thought I would spend 2012 grieving for my father, but instead, I had to shelve my grief in order to care for my mother.

I never expected to be virtually unemployed for well over a year after my mother fell ill. It was my father’s death that allowed me to pursue new career opportunities, as I had not wanted to take a new job when I knew he may pass at any moment. It turned out to be a bad move, and when Mom required emergency surgery, I was forced to quit after just two months, to go tend to her in New Mexico.

If I had guessed what my life would be like five years from that dreaded day in December 2011, I would not have imagined my mother being dead for a year and a half. She was 74 at the time of my father’s death, and appeared to be in good physical shape. I was most concerned about her loneliness and depression after Dad’s death.

Sometimes it all seems like a bad dream, but of course, I know all too well that it was real life. Good things have happened over these five years: my writing won an award, I secured full-time employment again, I’m slowly but surely crawling my way out of debt. I’m using my experiences, both positive and negative, in the caregiver advocacy role that I now cherish. The past five years have been turned into essays that have touched people and generated conversation around the topic of caregiving.

I certainly would never want to live the past five years of my life over again, but I am a better person for surviving them, and for taking the lessons my parents taught me to help others in a similar situation.

 

 

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